George R.R. Martin: ‘They would know it if they read the books’


“Game of Thrones” watchers were surprised by a shocking turn in the HBO series last Sunday. But they needn’t have been.

“They would know it if they read the books,” author George R.R. Martin told Conan O'Brien on Thursday night.

Martin was talking specifically about the actors in the series, but it applies to the viewers, too. “Game of Thrones” the television series comes straight from Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.


First there was “A Game of Thrones” in 1996. Then came “A Clash of Kings” (1998), “A Storm of Swords” (2000), “A Feast for Crows” (2005), and “A Dance With Dragons” (2011). Within those massive books -- more than 8,000 pages -- lie the secrets to every plot twist and tangle in the series. And more.

“You get us to really care about characters, love them, think that they’re central to everything, and then you kill them!” O'Brien scolds. “Why do you do that?”

“I suppose you write the sort of stuff you like to read,” Martin says. “As a reader, or as a viewer of television and film, I always like unexpected things. And I always like the suspense to be real.... I want my readers and I want my viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the next character may not survive it.”

Martin is a more TV-oriented writer than many novelists -- he was twice nominated for Emmy awards in the 1980s for “Beauty and the Beast” -- but the books are clearly top of mind in his Conan appearance. He mimes turning a page; he talks about what writers and readers like, with viewers thrown in almost as an afterthought.

O'Brien asked Martin if actors ever pleaded with him not to kill their characters off. “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,” Martin replies.

“And they didn’t know it!” exclaims Conan.

“Actually, one of ‘em knew it, but the other two didn’t know it,” Martin says. Then, in a burst, he added, “They would know it if they read the books!”

After a burst of applause, Martin continued: “I’m years ahead of them. If they haven’t read the books, they have only themselves to blame.”


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