Just days after infuriating more or less the entire Internet with the so-called "Red Wedding" episode of
Speaking for many fans, host Conan O'Brien called Martin "sick" for his willingness to dispense with beloved characters.
"I do do that," he admitted, explaining that he likes the unexpected.
"We've all seen the movie where the hero is in trouble, he's surrounded by 20 people, but you know he's going to get away," he said. "I want my readers or my viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page."
But as ruthless as Martin is on the page, even he feels pangs of guilt when it comes to offing characters played by the flesh-and-blood actors on the hit HBO series.
"At the party before the premiere I found myself talking to three actors. I had a delightful moment where I realized they were all dead. They didn't know it," he said, adding, "They would know it if they read the books."
Martin also assured O'Brien that he's hard at work on the sixth book in the series, "The Winds of Winter."
"My great fear is that David and Dan will catch up with me," he said, referring to "Game of Thrones" showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Given the narrative complexity of his fictional world, even Martin needs a little help keeping track of it all. (That makes all of us, apparently.) In fact, he's got a guy in Sweden he calls whenever he needs to do a little fact-checking. As Martin told O'Brien, he tends to get eye color wrong.
Finally, O'Brien noted the irony that Martin, who hails from one of the least exotic places imaginable (Bayonne, N.J.), could have created such a rich fantastical universe.
The author explained that as a kid growing up in a blue-collar family where money was tight, his imagination allowed him to escape.
"I would sit in my living room windows looking at the big ships … and the lights of Staten Island across the way, where we never even went, wondering what exotic mysteries and wonders lurked on Staten Island," he said.
"Wait a minute, Westeros is your concept of what Staten Island is like?" O'Brien asked. "That's fantastic."
"I did finally get to Staten Island and I have to say it was kind of disappointing," said Martin.