“… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
Like many people, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire first appeared on my radar when HBO announced it would be adapting the series as Game of Thrones. Hyped as a darker take on the fantasy epic than most were familiar with, loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses, its famously shocking plot twists and epic scale fascinated me before the show even premiered. I was intrigued by its portrayal of magic as something rare and mysterious, something many people didn’t even believe in. I wanted to see the battle scenes, to meet the characters the show’s longtime fans were so invested in, and to find out what happened in the ominously whispered about “Red Wedding.” In short, it was right up my proverbial alley.
The only problem was, I didn’t even have HBO, meaning all those dramatic events had to remain mysterious. That is, until it occurred to me (an embarrassing amount of time later) that, you know, the actual books existed and I could even try reading them. So, I hoofed it down to my college library and walked away with book one, A Game of Thrones, tucked away in my backpack. I subsequently devoured the book over my winter break, the fact that pop culture had spoiled some of its twists doing nothing whatsoever to prevent me from being swept away by Westeros’s brutally escalating conflict between the Starks and Lannisters, by a young girl across the sea who receives a dragon’s egg as a wedding present, and a looming evil in the frozen north none of them are prepared for. I went on to inhale the entire series, completely hypnotized by every one of them; I became just as invested in the Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas as I was the main series. I adored the history books, The World of Ice and Fire and Fire and Blood. Some groused about GRRM’s working on these side projects rather than the next volume, but for me, hundreds of pages of history about my favorite fictional world was fantasy heaven.
All that history was one of the many reasons A Song of Ice and Fire captivated me so, launching itself among my favorite books ever. I wasn’t just absorbed by the misadventures of Jon, Dany and Tyrion. I wanted to read everything there was to read about Aegon the Conqueror and Asshai by the Shadow, The Andals and the First Men, Nymeria’s fleet, the Blackfyre Rebellions, and the Dance of the Dragons (now getting its own moment in the sun courtesy of HBO.)
Once I had done that, I took to the Internet, wanting to find more stories like it, taking my lifelong love of reading to lofty new heights. I found another of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell, as a result of ASOIAF, when I came across GRRM raving about Cornwell’s skill at writing battle scenes. My entire life, I’d had ideas for stories, but all this stoked my creativity more and more, the ideas coming faster and faster. And eventually, I realized I wanted to write an epic fantasy of my own (and a lot more books besides.)
That was how I knew I wanted to become a writer, and start making all those stories a reality. And eventually, that led me to now, about to publish my debut novel. I’d never stopped to fully consider it until I wrote this, but in a very real way, my career as a writer can be traced all the way back to the day I checked A Game of Thrones out of my college library.