George R.R. Martin clarifies his publishing plan, talks 'Thrones' changes

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The Thrones-verse rumor mill went into overdrive Tuesday as outlets jumped on a comment attributed to George R.R. Martin’s editor that hinted the New Mexico-based fantasy author might write eight books for his epic Song of Ice and Fire saga instead of the long-planned seven.

The distinction is a big deal since HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on his novels, and the show’sĀ assortment of character narratives is rapidly reaching the point where it’s catching up the stories chronicled in his bestselling books (of which five have been published). We turned to Martin to clear things up. The author explains he’s not secretly plotting eight books and that seven books remains his plan. As always, however, he leaves himself wiggle room in case his tale unexpectedly expands.

“My plan is to finish in seven,” Martin says. “But my original plan was to finish in three. I write the stories and they grow. I deal with certain things and sometimes I find myself not at the end of a story. My plan right now is still seven. But first I have to finish Book Six. Get back to me when I’m half-way through Book Seven and then maybe I’ll tell you something more meaningful.”

Martin has been consistent on this subject, giving basically the same answer when we asked if he was “firmly committed” to seven books back in 2011 (“I’m as firm as I am,” Martin said, “until I decide not to be firm”).

The author also chatted briefly about the current fourth season of Thrones, for which he has high regards.“It’s been a great season,” says Martin, who specifically praised Pedro Pascal for his performance as the doomed Prince Oberyn Martell. “Though by and large we are seeing more differences from the books and I’ve been predicting that from the beginning. There’s a certain snowball effect of making changes and I think that will continue.”

We asked if there was any change he particularly liked, or didn’t. “I like many of the new scenes they’ve inserted along the way, though I miss the things they leave out,” Martin says. “Obviously I put those scenes in the books for a reason, I felt they added to the story. As I’ve been saying for years, I wish they had more hours — every time I see another HBO show I wonder why we only have 10 and they have 13. But we’ve done some major stuff this year. The Purple Wedding and Tyrion’s trial — with incredible performances by Peter Dinklage and Sibel Kekilli. And the trial by combat was amazing, too. I’m really looking forward to next week as I’m told we have a battle that dwarfs the Battle of the Blackwater.”

That said, given the amount of story remaining in his 4000-page saga — much of which hasn’t yet been published — Martin suspects the producers’ plan of making seven seasons will not be enough. “I don’t think it will be enough to tell the story we’re telling in the books,” he says.

Martin also is an advocate for one solution to the books vs. series timeline issue — capping the Thrones with staggered feature films. The proposal (which Martin notes did not originate with him) would give the author more time to finish his saga, while also giving producers the bigger theatrical budget that his as-yet-unpublished climactic battle scenes are expected to require. HBO leadership has been on record as not being a fan of this idea, however, as the network is primarily a television company, and its mission is to create compelling content for its subscribers. “Ever since I heard that idea I’ve been both excited by it — I think it would be great — and I’ve been skeptical about it because I’ve heard of a number of other shows that were [supposedly going to have movies] like Deadwood, Rome and even The Sopranos, and the only one I’ve actually seen is Sex and the City,” Martin says.

Next, Martin has his upcoming Ice and Fire companion book, The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros, which will be published in October. As always, to keep up with Martin’s progress, check out his blog.

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