Photo: Rich Polk (Getty Images)

George R.R. Martin’s been living a life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams since HBO turned Game Of Thrones into a cultural phenomenon, hobnobbing with celebrities and inking TV deals as if there isn’t an unfinished manuscript gathering dust on his Wordstar 4.0. He’s shared sample chapters from his upcoming The Winds Of Winter to satiate the frothing mob, and even gave a middle finger to those who worry he won’t be able to finish A Song Of Ice And Fire before kicking the bucket. In a new interview with The Guardian, however, he’s opened up a bit about just how hard it’s been to slip into his old writing routine when the world’s pounding on your door.

“I’ve been struggling with it for a few years,” he said. “The Winds of Winter is not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players, antagonists, allies and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together against the march of time in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging.”

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He added, “The show has achieved such popularity around the world, the books have been so popular and so well reviewed, that every time I sit down I’m very conscious I have to do something great, and trying to do something great is a considerable weight to bear. On the other hand, once I really get rolling, I get into the world. The rest of the world vanishes, and I don’t care what I’m having for dinner, what movies are on, what my email says or who’s mad at me this week because The Winds of Winter isn’t out”—sorry about that, George!—“all that is gone and I’m just living in the world I’m writing about. But it’s sometimes hard to get to that almost trance state.”

The good news is that the fire that’s perhaps been flickering these past several years is now burning brightly, as Martin says he’s making the book a priority. “The Winds of Winter is next,” he said, “then I’ll decide what comes after that – whether it’s to go on to A Dream of Spring, the last one, or whether I switch back into Fire and Blood II, do another Dunk and Egg story or two. But I’ll worry about that one thing at a time – that’s too far ahead.”

Also far ahead? More Game Of Thrones prequels. He recently got a slap on the wrist from HBO for spoiling the apparent title of the network’s first Game Of Thrones spin-off, but that didn’t stop him from dropping a few details about what else fans can expect. Though he notes they’re not greenlit as of yet, Martin says that “at least two” of the five in-development prequels center around Fire And Blood, a canon history of the Targaryen conquest of yore.

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Also, he urges you not to expect a return from Kit Harrington, Maisie Williams, or Sophie Turner in any of the new shows. “None of them are traditional spin-offs,” he said. “You won’t be seeing the further adventures of Arya, Sansa or Jon Snow, you’ll be going back in time.”

One wonders if Martin would also like to go back in time these days, back to those blissful, pre-HBO days when the stakes were maybe just a teensy bit lower.