Last night at a fund-raiser for Clarion West, after a wine-and-buffet reception, Connie Willis interviewed George R.R. Martin. It was an entertaining and interesting interview, which opened with Connie saying, "I haven't seen you for a few years, George -- have you been writing anything?" The author of THE GAME OF THRONES series answered at length, saying, "Connie told me at dinner to make my answers long. She doesn't want to work too hard."
Interesting tidbits from George:
As a kid he made up monster stories and sold them to neighborhood children for a penny each. Eventually, the price went up to a nickel. There are no extant copies of these stories: "I hadn't mastered carbon paper."
He was enormously influenced by the movie ALIEN, in which the character who first appeared to be the hero gets killed, and someone else (Ripley) becomes the hero. "That's how it often is in real life -- you don't know who will turn out to do what." This, he says, is the reason so many of fans" favorite characters, such as Ned Stark, end up dead.
When he began to write the series, he didn't realize how long it would be, or how long it would take him to write each book. "That's partly because I've said yes to too many speaking engagements." At one point, his editor was coaxing him to finish a book with a unique ploy: George wanted to see the cover, and she would only mail it to him in little strips after he sent her more pages.
He uses charts, maps, and genealogy trees to keep all those characters straight. ("Don't you have 736 viewpoint characters now?" Connie asked, with wicked innocence.)
No, he does NOT know when the next book will be finished!
His secret vice is chocolate doughnuts.