Ann Groell, George R.R. Martin’s editor, recently answered fan questions about how she works, why she loves when Martin kills his characters, and how many books it will take to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. The biggest revelation is that there may be a chance for an eighth book. Groell explains:
I remember when he called me, years and years back, to confess that his little trilogy was…well…no longer a trilogy. He predicted four books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he said five books. I said Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Then he went to six. I said… Well, you get it. Finally, we were on the same page. Seven Books for Seven Kingdoms. Good. Only, as I recently learned while editing THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE (another awesome thing you must buy when it comes out!), there are really technically eight kingdoms, all having to do with who has annexed what when Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros. So, maybe eight books for Seven Kingdoms would be okay. Also, he has promised me that, when he finally wraps this great beast [up], I can publish the five page letter outlining the bare bones of the ‘trilogy.
That could be great news, if Martin can ever get the things done. Entertainment Weekly reached Martin for a response, and he said,
My plan is to finish in seven. But my original plan was to finish in three. I write the stories and they grow. I deal with certain things and sometimes I find myself not at the end of a story. My plan right now is still seven. But first I have to finish Book Six. Get back to me when I’m half-way through Book Seven and then maybe I’ll tell you something more meaningful.
When will the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter, hit shelves? Your guess is as good as Groell’s, basically, but she is pretty sure he’s working on it.
All I can say is that George is hard at work, and we hope to have it reasonably soon. I currently have 168 pages that he submitted back in Feb 2013 in order to receive a contracted payment, but I know more exists, because he keeps talking about chapter [sic] he hasn’t yet sent me.
She also explained the decision to remove the three battles from A Dance With Dragons, which seems to have dismayed many fans. Sample question: “Millions of fans cried out in pain when reaching the end of ADWD and not finding the Battle of Ice or the Battle of Meereen. What makes you so cruel?” Basically, it seems to have been a practical decision to get the book wrapped and published.
Yes, the battles. Structurally, it would have been nice to have them. But there were two severe and real limitations. First, there are only so many pages you can actually physically bind between covers, and less than a handful of binderies out there who are actually capable of handling the larger books. When we wrapped ADWD—minus the battles—it was 1513 pages in manuscript. To include the battles… Well, we’d physically not have been able to bind it. We would have had to split it into two books, which would have felt even less satisfying. And it would probably still not be published yet, as he would STILL be writing. So we had to make a call to get the best book possible out of what actually existed at the time, which is what we did. Despite the lack of the battles, I am still really happy with it. And I know a lot of other people were, too.
And finally, here’s a quote from Groell on how much of her life has been spent waiting for Martin to turn in his drafts.
Books one and two came out in fairly short order. And book 3 was not too bad. Then I met and married my husband in the gap while book 4 was late. (I kept worrying that George would deliver and scuttle: 1) Our first Christmas together. 2) Our first summer vacation together. 3) Our wedding and honeymoon. I should not have worried.) In the time George was late with book five, I had a kid. There was this hilarious moment back in late 2008 when I was very pregnant, and both George and Connie Willis were very late with their books. George proposed a race to delivery, and that whoever won could name the baby. I declined the naming thing, but I shouldn’t have worried… But I do remain optimistic! I want to take this one from start to finish, whatever it takes.
You can read more of her answers here.