Back when George R.R. Martin was penning scripts for TV in the 1980s, long before he became a No. 1 best-selling fantasy author, he had to rewrite a lot. For whatever show he was working on most notably The Twilight Zone and CBS' Beauty and the Beast ''I'd always write a very big, budget-busting first draft,'' says Martin, 59, ''and then have to go back and cut down the number of characters and settings and matte paintings we'd need, and deliver it on budget.'' The experience left him with an itch: ''I wanted to do something with a cast of thousands, and not worry how long it was. I wanted to write a big novel, something epic in scale.''
Cut to 2007, as his legions of fans impatiently await A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in his sprawling hit fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and starring Martin's dreamed-of cast of thousands. The book was supposed to be out by now, and some fans are griping online about the wait. ''I'm working on it as hard as I can!'' protests the author, who's based in Santa Fe, N.M. ''What am I supposed to do, send it off unfinished, or bad?'' In the meantime, disciples can content themselves with two new Martin doorstops, Dreamsongs Vols. 1 and 2, which collect the prolific author's short stories, teleplays, and juvenilia.
Earlier this month, in advance of Dreamsongs, we asked Martin's fans to post questions for the author on our PopWatch blog. Here, finally, are his answers to a few of your (occasionally testy) queries regarding the delay over A Dance With Dragons, the proposed HBO series based on Ice and Fire, and why he's so good at killing off his characters.
I understand that you have a life outside of Ice and Fire, but I feel like you're just being cavalier toward your fans, who've been patiently waiting for you to finish [A Dance with Dragons]. Why do you feel like you can blow off your fans like this? Bridget
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: I've tried many different replies [to these types of questions]. I've tried putting updates on my site, or addressing these things in my live journal. But nothing seems to satisfy some people. Or, you satisfy Bill, but then Fred is angry at the tone of your reply to Bill, or something like that. I certainly don't think I'm being cavalier to my fans. I think I go above and beyond the call of duty in terms of staying in contact. What they want is the fifth book of Ice and Fire, and my editors and publishers also want that, I want that. And I'm writing it! What am I supposed to do, send it off unfinished, or bad? I'm working on it as hard as I can. Writing it tough sometimes, and it doesn't always go as fast as you want it to. [Sighs] One thing I've learned is to stop trying to predict when it's going to be done.
NEXT PAGE: ''Why is A Dance With Dragons taking so long if it's already been written?''