'Game of Thrones' Author George R.R. Martin Visits Northwestern

George R.R. Martin (Gage Skidmore)George R.R. Martin (Gage Skidmore)

“Game of Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin said Wednesday he never foresaw the popular HBO television series catching up to the books despite it taking an average three years and nine months between each book’s publication.

Martin’s comments came during a visit at Northwestern University this week to accept Medill’s Hall of Achievement alumni award. Speaking before an auditorium of university students, Martin was asked how the critically acclaimed show has affected his writing on the final two books of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series from which the TV show is based on. 

“It doesn’t influence the writing I’m doing now except to turn up the stress,” Martin said. “Because the show of course has caught up to me, which I didn’t actually think would ever happen. I had such a huge lead.”

Martin, who worked for CBS in the late-’80s as a story editor for “The Twilight Zone” and an executive story consultant for “Beauty and the Beast,” said his current writing pace can’t keep up with “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and their writing staff.

George R.R. Martin (Hunter Clauss)George R.R. Martin (Hunter Clauss)

“The truth is that I’m a very slow writer,” Martin said. “And I’m writing 1,500-page manuscripts and they’re writing 60-page teleplays. And, you know, the production machinery is a locomotive that can’t stop, so I’ve been hearing it come up behind me for years, and the question is, ‘Well how can I make myself write faster?’ Well, I think right now the answer is I can’t. I write at the pace I write.”

Like the Red Priests, fans have been reading the tea leaves for clues as to when the next book, “The Winds of Winter,” will be published. Martin gave no clues Wednesday about when the book will come out, though he did joke that had he stuck with his original plan of keeping the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series a trilogy, we would have been finished with the books 15 years ago.

“I’m a very slow writer. I’m writing 1,500-page manuscripts and they’re writing 60-page teleplays. The question is, ‘Well how can I make myself write faster?’ The answer is I can’t. I write at the pace I write.”

–George R.R. Martin


But the speculation mill has been working extra hours lately. HBO’s recent announcement about the February premiere of Martin Scorsese’s rock ’n’ roll drama “Vinyl” has sparked some theories that the next season of “Game of Thrones” won’t air until later next year.

This comes as a Polish translator for “A Song of Ice and Fire” was reportedly asked by the publisher to “reserve time at the end of the year” for the next book. If indeed true, this may placate concerns from some fans that the TV show will completely surpass the books, thereby spoiling the books to a group of people who have long spoiled plots in the HBO series to their parents, friends and coworkers.

Returning to Northwestern is somewhat of a homecoming for Martin, who has denied the same gift to many of his “Game of Thrones” characters. (Chin up, Daenerys, there may still be hope for you.) After stepping off of a plane at O’Hare International Airport, Martin was surprised by a group of fans who somehow figured out where he’d land, a Northwestern employee said.

(Emilia Clarke. photo courtesy of HBO)(Emilia Clarke. photo courtesy of HBO)

In addition to receiving a Hall of Achievement alumni award, Martin is also the subject of a Northwestern course, “Shakespeare & Game of Thrones,” which examines the similarities in both authors’ work. (“The Stark and Lannister families of A Game of Thrones, for instance, share more than just similar sounding names with the Houses of York and Lancaster that figure prominently in the dynastic struggle known as the War of the Roses that Shakespeare treats in his plays,” the course overview states.) 

After graduating from Northwestern with a master’s degree in 1971, a money-conscious Martin moved into a three-bedroom apartment at 932 W. Margate Terrace in the city’s Uptown neighborhood.

“I say ‘three bedroom,’ but for our purposes there were five, once we put a bed in the dining room and another on the back porch,” Martin wrote on his website. “The rent was $150 a month, after all. There was no way a bunch of guys just out of college could afford that without cramming.”

A few years later, Martin moved one block north to 938 W. Argyle Street with his soon-to-be first wife, Gale Burnick. The move sounded like it went almost as horribly as [SPOILER] Stannis’s attack on King’s Landing.

“We did it all ourselves,” he writes. “Down three flights of creaky back steps, through the alleyways, across the street (dodging traffic, since we weren’t about to detour to the corner to cross), then up two flights to our second floor apartment.

“Worst move I ever had, even though I was in much better shape then and did not own near as many books.”

Once settled in, Martin wrote his first novel, “Dying of the Light.”


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