“I’ve been working forty years to be an overnight success.” So speaks creator of imaginary worlds George RR Martin, speaking to Peter Guttridge about his epic journey from childhood storyteller to one of the most popular fantasy authors working in the genre today.
Though his early career selling stories about monsters to his friends in the playground stalled when one of his main customers started having nightmares, Martin was undaunted, writing science fiction and fantasy fiction throughout school and college until he experienced success with his novella A Song For Lya, which won the respected Hugo Award in 1974.
Martin went on to achieve further and consistent success and was asked to contribute to the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone on television. In contrast to the solitary experience of writing books, Martin enjoyed working with other people (and the “wheelbarrows full of money” he facetiously says he was rewarded with).
The thrill of seeing his words brought to life – “vapour in the air becoming tangible reality” – was also a great appeal of writing for television, though he admits he had “a hard time adjusting to the concept of budget”, having to tone down some of his more epic scenes.
This was less of a concern when Martin began to write Song Of Ice And Fire, the epic series which was to become the wildly popular TV series Game Of Thrones. “I didn’t care if it was filmable,” he says. “I went to town on it, made it as big as possible.”
However, largely due to the success of The Lord Of The Rings films, movie studios expressed an interest. Martin turned down most of them, until contacted by HBO. “I didn’t want a bad product,” he says. “I didn’t want to tone it down. HBO was the answer.”
Martin is delighted with how things have turned out, fondly referring to the series as “one of the most faithful adaptations on television” and praising the “outstanding” international cast (“we’ve employed pretty much every actor in the United Kingdom”). He is quick to point out that his focus remains on the writing, however.
“My job is to complete the series,” he says. “My baby is still the books.”