A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has a lot of irons in the fire. Game of Thrones, sure, but also the spinoff books and shows, the histories, the TV show Nightflyers, and much more... all of which is distracting from the completion of the penultimate book, The Winds of Winter. To the ire of all his fans, for sure. But it’s a lot of pressure to add to the source material after it has been made into one of the most popular TV shows of a generation. Martin recently opened up about this hardship and why that book is taking so unbearably long.
There hasn’t been a new A Song of Ice and Fire book since 2011’s A Dance With Dragons, but according to an interview with The Guardian, the 70-year-old considers the follow-up priority number one. “The Winds of Winter is next,” the author said, “then I’ll decide what comes after that – whether it’s to go on to A Dream of Spring, the last one, or whether I switch back into Fire and Blood II, do another Dunk and Egg story or two. But I’ll worry about that one thing at a time – that’s too far ahead.” And getting too far ahead is a problem Martin’s had recently, stacked on top of other creative hurdles.
“I’ve been struggling with it for a few years,” he said. “The Winds of Winter is not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players, antagonists, allies, and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together against the march of time in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging. Fire and Blood, by contrast, was very simple. Not that it’s easy – it still took me years to put together – but it is easier.”
The show, while perhaps not easier, certainly had more pressure to perform in a timely manner. That financial and popular obligation means that it’s eclipsed the books both in narrative progression and, possibly, in prestige. Whatever the case, its success has rendered Martin wary of his legacy. “The show has achieved such popularity around the world, the books have been so popular and so well reviewed, that every time I sit down I’m very conscious I have to do something great, and trying to do something great is a considerable weight to bear,” Martin said.
“On the other hand, once I really get rolling, I get into the world. The rest of the world vanishes, and I don’t care what I’m having for dinner, what movies are on, what my email says or who’s mad at me this week because The Winds of Winter isn’t out – all that is gone and I’m just living in the world I’m writing about. But it’s sometimes hard to get to that almost trance state.”
In the meanwhile, Martin will busy himself poking around at the edges of his world. HBO’s new spinoff series will explore it in more depth, with Martin having even more involvement depending on which ideas see the light of day. “You won’t be seeing the further adventures of Arya, Sansa, or Jon Snow,” Martin said of the potential shows, “you’ll be going back in time. The other four are all over the map, and at least two of them are solidly based on material in Fire and Blood. Those haven’t been greenlit yet.”
Game of Thrones' final season is set to air during the first half of 2019. Whether people feel the need to read the final two books after seeing the show’s conclusion remains to be seen.