It was impossible to ignore the May finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. Even if you didn’t watch it, you knew viewers were disappointed with the ending and would soon need a new show to sate their prodigious appetites for intricate stories, complex characters, and unceremonious killings of central characters.
But at least one person saw the finale as a relief: George R.R. Martin, the writer of the books that the series was based on.
The HBO series closely followed Martin’s books for the first four seasons, but diverged for seasons five through eight because the books weren’t done. Martin has been under pressure to finish the last two books, as evidenced by internet memes like “Finish the book, George.”
In a rare interview published in the Guardian today, Martin admits that, for years, he was crushed under the pressure of staying ahead of the series. But, finally, that’s over, and he feels like he’s able to write again. He says:
But having the show finish is freeing, because I’m at my own pace now. I have good days and I have bad days and the stress is far less, although it’s still there…I’m sure that when I finish A Dream of Spring you’ll have to tether me to the Earth.
The show had a mixed impact on Martin and his craft. During the interview, he said the TV series “completely changed my life,” and told several stories about interactions—parties, trivia contests, sing-alongs—with fans that he truly relishes, though he says it got a bit out of control by the end. He’s proud of the emotional responses his works (and their derivatives) elicit from fans. But the books and the series, he notes, “they’re not the same thing, although they are very closely related to each other.”
He adds: “For the average viewer, and I recognize this, Tyrion Lannister will always be Peter Dinklage from this point forward. But it did not work that way for me. I started writing these books in 1991 and [by the time the series started] I’d been with these characters for 20 years. I had them fixed in my mind.”
So, yes, Martin is still committed to finishing his book series, though he offers no new estimate about when that might happen. Will the show’s unpopular ending affect the one Martin writes into the books? “It doesn’t change anything at all,” Martin says. “As Rick Nelson says in ‘Garden Party,’ one of my favorite songs, you can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself.”