I used to interview a lot of authors. One of them was George R.R. Martin of A Song of Ice and Fire and (for you non-readers) Game of Thrones fame.
My story on how I discovered A Song of Ice and Fire is rather long and one I’m saving for if I’m ever a guest on a podcast where the story would be applicable but I’ve been a fan for a long time, since I was a young kid, decades before anyone ever thought of it becoming a TV show.
From my first exposure to the series, it became my favorite fantasy series of all time. It has since been supplanted by The Malazan Book of the Fallen but remains way up there amongst my personal faves.
At the time I did this interview, we are talking about early book bloggers years, I think I had some reputation for them. What started as very short, purposely restricted, features to highlight stuff I was reading would later evolve into much longer and more natural feeling conversations resulting from simply becoming better at it as I went. Many authors were very kind and generous with their time for me.
I had a pretty good collection of interviews and while I can tell you there are a couple more I wish I had at the time, the one missing one was GRRM. He was the guy. We were a site about speculative fiction books and while certainly there were authors who at the time moved more units, Martin was the guy. He was the American Tolkien. In hip hop there’s a King of New York, and Martin was the current King of Fantasy. At the time, looking back, we as a people were probably not giving Ursula Le Guin her proper flowers but I’m just saying GRRM was it at the time and remains so.
At the time I had pretty solid relationships with many authors, publishers, and publicists. Some were better than others, some went away, and some are still great, but I had no relationship with George. There was no real reason for it though. Many of my relationships were with writers who came into the game or started bubbling while I was blogging and more established old hands either didn’t know how to use the internet or didn’t need to. As I said, Martin was already the guy and someone who had a very active and strong community built for him and many sites dedicated to his words and work.
I did get this interview opportunity though I was going to pass on it. As big as Martin was and as huge of a fan I was there existed some restrictions that were quite common for writers of his stature that didn’t appeal to me. I liked talking directly to writers, I liked being able to build off their replies and go off script, and I liked talking about what that author was most famous for, both because that’s what I was a fan of and, to keep it all the way real, I was running a website and talking to the guy who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire and not talking about A Song of Ice and Fire felt pretty dumb.
At the time George was doing a marketing run for The Ice Dragon and I was told I’d have this interview filter via a publicist (who I liked), and I had to limit my questions to ones dealing with just that book.
If you know me… that’s an instant no.
It just wasn’t interesting to me and I will admit there is some arrogance involved. I am a human and at that time not only a young human but a young one who was already successful. I don’t mean as a blogger lol but I was swapping emails with publicists at that time from my 4-story villa in Sardinia that was 20 yards from my door to the Mediterranean. Most of the time famous authors who were bestsellers that I may be talking to weren’t living like me and I’ve never talked to J.K. Rowling so I’m fairly sure that’s probably still true (though Anne Rice – who I interacted with a handful of times in my life and was so nice – apparently used to live in my neighborhood). My youth, one marked with the ego of said youth and vanity that I had even when I was broke, sometimes came out when it came to things like scheduling or hoops jumping because in my head, the head of a young guy who at that time counted success in coin and assets, often times my time was literally more valuable than that of whom I was being asked to bend to.
Now I know I’m painting a picture of a basic terrible person but take my word for it, that part rarely came out but it was at least a small part of my inner process. For their part, I’ve only interacted with a small number of authors who were trash people or hard to deal with (and when I say they were trash people I mean they wrote things online of their own accord that identified them as trash people – we didn’t cancel people then, people would just talk). Most of them have been incredibly kind and generous but even from that group, and this is something I liked, you’d see a ego shine through. I remember a couple of times some joy being had in correcting me or taking umbrage with the way I worded something and even some who were critiquing the format. For the last part, I think some people just weren’t up on how we communicate on the internet and where that was going. This wasn’t the ’90s, this isn’t the New Yorker, and girl you aren’t Edith Wharton and I’m not Grammar Girl, so forgive me if I misspelled something or failed to capitalize a letter when I’m sending you questions. Still, I very much enjoyed that interview. I like real people being real or at least who they are.
Now that sounds dickish and you might think that’s how it was but it wasn’t. At least it was never my intent and please believe I have no problem with admitting personal flaws and weaknesses, they are the spice of my life. I was actually much more laid back and had less of an arrogant streak that showed as much as I had a “cool, whatever” attitude. Life was too good to actually care about internet drama and believe me when I say oddly enough book bloggers of that time were fairly – perhaps overly – dramatic. I do know a few people who took it the other (wrong) way and that’s whatever to me because I feel people often see what they want to find, but I’d just say I haven’t had a bad day beyond my dogs passing (which was brutal) in 20 years. I ate a McGriddle two years ago and it was one of the worst days of my adult life. Often times my lack of giving a fuck about dumb shit that occurred online and my complete lack of desire or need to engage in it was interpreted as arrogance or being aloof and in a sense it was but it was never in a vindictive way toward an individual as much as it was “hey guys life is good, I’m right by the beach, and I can either be there with beautiful people having fun or swapping emails with you about you being upset about a decision I made about MY website.” Also, how does anyone have time to rant about advance review copies of some bullshit? I wasn’t saying get a life but I was living mine and sometimes I think people took that a way. I have lost friends who are authors, people I had dialogue with for half a decade in some instances, who took something they heard from upset people and never reached out to me in the way I would expect them to but that’s just life. Then, like now, I take nothing personal and there is no negativity that has weight in my life.
This brings me to why I took the Martin interview.
First, let’s be very clear the guy didn’t need to talk to me. I’m just saying I was offered the opportunity and at first turned it down and eventually did it, and tbh it turned out to be one of my worst interviews. No shade on Martin, I’m a huge fan and from what I’ve read of his words outside of fiction he’s a person that I find agreeable, but the restrictions on the interview just really made it a blah thing I did, going through the motions, and look, no creators like doing the marketing churn, and tbh if I was George R.R. Martin, large coastal villa in paradise or not, who the fuck am I? He had and still has no idea who I am and has no reason to.
Still, I’m a huge fan and like many was fond of one of his more minor players, a major in all of our hearts, yup, I’m talking Bronn. Not Lebron or his eldest son, but the real Bronn Bronn. One of my favorite characters and I think a fan favorite of readers and HBO fans alike.
So I took the stilted interview to do what any of us would do. To give voice to Bronn. That’s my guy. From the heart and for the people. All people.
Jay — Now to the important question! Can you promise a loyal fan that Bronn will survive?
George R.R. Martin — Sorry. No one is safe in my books.
And he shut me down.
As he should.
Decades later, Martin has famously not finished the series and I’m watching the HBO show and I witness at least one version of Bronn’s fate. Maybe he is Lebron because this guy comes from nothing to Lord Paramount of the Reach and a seat on the Small Council. That’s plush af. Out of all the seats you can have, Highgarden is perhaps the most choice. I mean it’s like he’s on The Lakers.
Somewhere I wonder if Benioff and Weiss saw my plea, and moved by my passion and fragility, did this for little me. Did this for us.
Just thinking about this interview reminded me how fannish I was and I know the world online has become mostly just that but it made me laugh that I got my chance to talk to George fucking Martin and broke a rule I was given to follow, just to be there for Bronn. I have a lot of better interviews but I’ve always loved that bit.
If you enjoyed this post you might like some words I wrote about George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood.