To say that The Song of Ice and Fire book series is an international phenomenon would be an understatement. The five published books — out of the seven planned in the series — have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide (as of April 2015) and HBO’s television adaption Game of Thrones has been met with critical acclaim and commercial success as the season 5 finale ratings hit a record high for the show.
The series is written by George R.R. Martin, a man notorious for his incredibly specific writing style and slow pacing. The fourth book, A Feast For Crows took four years to write and the following, A Dance With Dragons took six. As the television show has now surpassed the source material — heading into its sixth season — fans have been clamoring for information about when the next book will be done. We now have more information about why the book has been so delayed, and it is bound to raise more fan ire.
Martin has been working on the upcoming sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, since Dragons was published and has repeatedly refused to give an estimated time of completion. According to Uproxx, Martin recently spoke at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and commented on the book delays, citing not writers block but an onslaught of distractions stating:
“Writer’s block isn’t to blame here, it’s distraction. In recent years, all of the work I’ve been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It’s like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who’s passing up a free trip to Dubai?”
According to Martin, it is a mixture of other engagements and his incredibly specific writing style. It’s not that these things make it impossible to write, it’s that they keep him from writing the only way he is able.
“I don’t write when I travel. I don’t write in hotel rooms. I don’t write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life nobody did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day. I have assistants and minions whose main job is to make sure people don’t bother me so I can actually get writing done.”
While Martin has been busy participating in the numerous promotional tours and events associated with the show in 2014, he, along with Elio M. García Jr. and Linda Antonsson, managed to publish The World of Ice and Fire a companion book, further detailing the Westeros. In the past Martin also wrote one episode for each of the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, but sat out writing on seasons 5 and 6.
A passionate fan base is something that almost all writers and creators seek as they produce their art, but Martin is the perfect example of this being a double-edged sword. Readers have plowed through every book in the series, making all five published books best sellers, but they are also impatient for more and vocal about their discontent, frequently speculating that he may die before he finishes writing the series. After suffering delays while writing A Dance With Dragons, Martin released a blog post titled ‘To My Detractors‘, which essentially defended his right to live his life while writing his opus.
It is certainly easy to criticize his slow pace and stubborn refusal to change or adapt his style, but the pressure to write such an anticipated followup, paired with the constant criticism of a public that always wants you to be doing something else, is practically inconceivable for most people. At this point, it seems the best that fans can hope for is for Martin to receive less appealing trip invitations, and that he stays inspired when at home. In the meantime, at least there is the television show to enjoy while we wait (and wait).
Game of Thrones season 6 begins airing on HBO in April 2016.