George R.R. Martin appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this week to meet his Scottish fans. The session was streamed live and will be available on demand in the UK.

Here’s a clip for the rest of us

The Guardian has provided some quotes from the session. Here’s some hi-lights.

On Scottish historical influences

Standing in Hadrian’s Wall on a cold day – not quite cold and grey as this day – I stared off into Scotland and tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary. It was a profound feeling.

Scottish history is very bloody, but so are the histories from most places. I guess what made it special is that it has been extensively chronicled, and that it has been done in English, so I’ve had more access to it.


Yes, he has written some other books!

I’m startled to think that at least half my readers think I came out of nothing with A Song of Ice and Fire. I started writing it in 1991, but I wrote my first story in 1971.

On Tolkien

I revere Lord of the Rings, I reread it every few years, it had an enormous effect on me as a kid. In some sense, when I started this saga I was replying to Tolkien, but even more to his modern imitators.

And Tolkien Imitators

But they cheapened it. The audience were being sold degraded goods. I thought: “This is not how it should be done.” Writers would take the structure of medieval times – castles, princesses, etc – but writing it from a 20th-century point of view. I wanted to combine the wonder and image of Tolkien fantasy with the gloom of historical fiction.

On requests for male sex scenes

I do get letters from fans that want me to present an explicit male sex scene. Most of these letters come from women. I don’t pretend to understand this, I merely read my emails. I’m not going to shy away from doing it if it has to happen, but I don’t think you can just insert things because everyone wants to see them.

On the TV series

In the books I have a very limited third-person viewpoint. It’s the way I prefer to write fiction, because it’s the way we all see and experience life. I put gay characters in the books but they’re not the viewpoint characters. A TV show doesn’t have that limitation. There are some very terrific scenes, such as Robert and Cersei discussing their marriage, which doesn’t exist in the book.

On villains and outcasts

A really nasty piece of work can be amusing to write about. But even those characters, I try to give a dimension to. Tyrion Lannister doesn’t think he’s evil. He has that infamous exchange: “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner.” In my mind that is a good question and I wanted my readers to think about it. I’m not a writer who has a lot of answers, I am a writer who likes to ask questions.

I am attracted to bastards, cripples and broken things as is reflected in the book. Outcasts, second-class citizens for whatever reason. There’s more drama in characters like that, more to struggle with.

Keeping track of characters

Charts, genealogies, but most of it is in my head. I have sometimes said only half-jokingly that it’s because I have a brain defect of some sort: brain parts that most people use to keep track of normal life I use for Westeros.

On readers and spoilers

I struggle with this because I do want to surprise my readers, delight them and take them in directions they didn’t see coming. I hate predictable fiction as a reader. I want to surprise and delight my reader and take the story in directions they didn’t see coming. Some readers in internet boards got the clues. Do I change it? No, I can’t, as I had planted them and it would be a mess.

In an interview with Sky News George made some interesting comments on the fantasy genre, and along with the usual questions discussed his female characters and the controversial rape scene from the Game of Thrones tv series.

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.