While I’m getting my act together to put up some more stuff about book reviewing, please enjoy the interview below with George RR Martin, creator of the Fire and Ice series (Game of Thrones). Even if you are not a GoT watcher/reader, or ‘fantasy person’ (I’m not ordinarily but I will confess to loving this show/these books) there is still value in watching the interview below with Grace Dent for the fiction pointers. (I’m going to look up Grace Dent – how dare she be so poised and articulate and gorgeous. And where did she get her dress? And those earrings? Who is she?)
I’m going to start using his term the ‘ego-boo’* from now on. I also note that while George, by the end of the ’70s, was ‘on his way to becoming a full-time writer’ he was also on his way to becoming a full-time wearer of unusual hats. (His preferred model seems to the the ‘Train Driver Cap.’
I love the way he says about writing the first chapter of the Fire & Ice series:
it came from nowhere… the opening chapter took three days to write.
He had the images of ‘summer snows’ and of a boy and a group of medieval people, finding wolf pups and their dead mother. Once he finished that chapter, he knew what the next chapter would be about, and the one after that. Somewhere in that process of writing the first few chapters, he drew a map, knowing he had to create and name the world for this story.
And on character:
character is the heart of fiction. If you make the characters real then the rest of the furniture around them is almost incidental… for me the characters is what fiction is all about.
I love hearing this, again and again, from writers I respect. Because it’s what I feel too.
The question of sex is interesting too. I avoid sex in my writing, I think because so often when I read sex scenes in literature they are clunky and awkward. It’s hard to write good sex scenes, but really: it’s hard to write good scenes. So maybe, like reviewing, I shall endeavour to change my attitude to this as well. Because as George says:
[sex] makes us do noble things and it makes us do incredibly stupid things – leave it out and you’ve got an incomplete world.
And on violence versus sex:
I can describe an axe entering a man’s head in exquisite detail and describe the blood and brain splattering everywhere: not a peep [from readers]. But I describe a penis entering a vagina in the same detail: the world has ended
And on killing his characters:
If you’re going to write about war and death and intrigue you have to establish to your readers that you’re playing for real
* Short for ego-boost.