George R.R. Martin’s editor Anne Groell says she has the most amazing job in the world. Anne has been working with George since A Song of Ice and Fire was pitched in a five page outline for a trilogy. She recently participated in a live Q&A session at Suvudu Universe, answering some of the top voted questions submitted by fans.
Did you realize when you started editing the ASOIAF books for George that it would be a lifetime commitment? Do you ever despair of seeing the end of the story?
No. I first fell for the book in summer 1994—twenty years ago, when only 100 pages and that five page outline I mentioned earlier existed. Books one and two came out in fairly short order. And book 3 was not too bad. Then I met and married my husband in the gap while book 4 was late. (I kept worrying that George would deliver and scuttle: 1) Our first Christmas together. 2) Our first summer vacation together. 3) Our wedding and honeymoon. I should not have worried.) In the time George was late with book five, I had a kid. There was this hilarious moment back in late 2008 when I was very pregnant, and both George and Connie Willis were very late with their books. George proposed a race to delivery, and that whoever won could name the baby. I declined the naming thing, but I shouldn’t have worried. Connie DID beat me by two months, but she would have provided a lovely and sensible name, I am sure. However, as I do get a certain perverse pleasure in telling George, I beat him by a two and a half year old walking, talking human being. But I do remain optimistic! I want to take this one from start to finish, whatever it takes.
When will TWOW be released?
For TWOW, when I have a date, you will have a date. I’m now on Twitter, Del Rey Spectra has a number of social media platforms, and I promise you we will put the word out as soon as we know. All I can say is that George is hard at work, and we hope to have it reasonably soon. I currently have 168 pages that he submitted back in Feb 2013 in order to receive a contracted payment, but I know more exists, because he keeps talking about chapter he hasn’t yet sent me. In fact, when we wanted to put an exclusive excerpt on the A WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE app—a magnificent thing which you all should buy and use!—he suggested the second Tyrion chapter, which I then had to remind him was not in the sample I had.
Do you think it will take GRRM more then 7 books to finish ASOIAF?
I begin to wonder—though 7 is what we currently have under contract. I remember when he called me, years and years back, to confess that his little trilogy was…well…no longer a trilogy. He predicted four books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he said five books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he went to six. I said… Well, you get it. Finally, we were on the same page. Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Good. Only, as I recently learned while editing THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE (another awesome thing you must buy when it comes out!), there are really technically eight kingdoms, all having to do with who has annexed what when Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros. So, maybe eight books for Seven Kingdoms would be okay. Also, he has promised me that, when he finally wraps this great beast, I can publish the five page letter outlining the bare bones of the “trilogy.”
We know that the producers of the TV show Game of Thrones know in broad strokes the ending of the main character arcs of A Song of Ice and Fire. Without giving anything away, do you know the ending, too?
No. George is a very secretive fellow, and guards his secrets well. I do know a few things from AWOW, but mainly because we had to shorten a few elements in the book as it was already getting too long, and he had to reveal a few secrets so I could help him redirect parts of the plot a bit. I do know the endpoint of Bran’s story line—and Daniel Abraham, who has been adapting the graphic novel of AGOT for me, knows where Tyrion ends up. (I am jealous of that!) But much in the way all of you have been keeping secrets from show watchers who have not yet read the books (and I continue to be impressed by how secret you all kept the Red Wedding), I also will never tell what I know. George has somehow managed to swear us all to this amazing conspiracy of silence, which I admire and appreciate and fully participate in! I had a very amusing lunch with Daniel in which we very pointedly did not tell each other what the other one knew. In short, like you, I keep George’s Secrets.
What was the most devastating character death for you in all of ASOIAF to date?
I am one of those weird people who loves that George kills main characters, because it adds so much more jeopardy to the story, knowing that absolutely no one is safe. My first hint that this was going to be One Of Those Books was when he killed Lady. Suddenly, I knew we were in an unfair universe—just like our own, and so unlike most fantasy novels, where good usually triumphs over evil. I loved that he killed Ned, though it was hard to read. I loved that he did the Red Wedding, though it was even harder to read. I loved that he totally faked me out on Sansa, who I thought was going to die just when I had finally started to like her. Another thing I love is that he makes me like characters I initially hated, like Sansa. Jaime Lannister is now my second favorite character in the series. Why do I totally root for a guy who PUSHED A KID OUT A WINDOW? That is the genius of George; I just do.
From what you’ve read about The Winds of Winter so far, and, without spoiling anything, how good do you think the book is compared to the others in the series?
It’s amazing. In fact, when I first read the partial back in 2013, I immediately wrote George an impassioned plea to please not let the show get out ahead of him. I can’t predict what will happen from here, but I definitely want his version to be my first version. And I think a lot of you want that, too. His vision started this; I very much want his vision to end it, too.
In other book news, westeros.org has released an excerpt from A World of Ice and Fire on the Rhoynar, The Ten Thousand Ships. Read the excerpt here. The next ASOIAF short story will feature in Rogues, due for release on June 17th.