George R.R. Martin On Writing, Tolkien, and Why Fantasy Matters


In an interview with Swiss newpaper Tages-Anzeiger, George R.R. Martin addresses concerns from fans regarding the completion of A Song of Ice and Fire before his speculated death (hint: he thinks those concerns are offensive and responds in kind), but elaborates on his writing process and why he has been with the series for so long. He also cites other obligations and jobs he has taken on with the growing popularity of the series, including but not limited to the Game of Thrones show.

“I can’t write any more than one word at a time…  I work at home, when I have a nice, big uninterrupted block of time in which I can really lose myself in my work. And it’s worked for me for my entire adult life. I’m not going to change it now because some people are too impatient to wait for the next book…  This series, Ice and Fire, has taken longer than that. But lately I have been slowing down. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m getting older—it’s partly that, but I also think it’s partly that the series is so much more successful, that there comes demands that come with the success.”

Martin later expresses gratitude for a comparison to Tolkien, whom he believes is “the father of all modern fantasy.” He comes back to Tolkien throughout the interview, noting the importance of Lord of the Rings as a series you can reread many times and always learn or catch something new – a characteristic of great books, according to Martin.

He also defends the importance of fantasy and science fiction literature:

“Fantasy/science fiction is as serious as any other form of literature. It’s one of the oldest forms of literature, it goes back as long as people have been telling stories… I’ve always used as my mantra as a writer William Faulkner’s words when he accepted a Nobel Prize for literature where he said, ‘the only thing worth writing about is a human heart in conflict with itself.’ I don’t think the question of genre enters into that… It’s still characters that matter, it’s still prose that matters, it’s still ‘the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The rest is just furniture.”

Martin explains that writing is a process that takes time and consideration. As with any artist, we fans should expect nothing less. Check out the full interview here.