The great man himself, George R. R. Martin, has been doing a Q & A in the Centre Stage Forum of the Barnes and Noble Book Club.
The questions generally focus on the characters and events of A Song of Ice and Fire (including some ridiculous ones - "Will Arya have any significant impact on events later in the series?" Come on, as if he's going to answer that...)
But Martin does however answer some more minor questions, which as ever prove interesting. Only trouble for me is that I've not read the series for a few years, and it's so epic and complex that I can't even remember half the more minor characters. Must remedy that before the next book comes out...
One forum member actually asked a more objective question about characterisation:
"It seems as if the introduction of viewpoint chapters for the "villains" are intended to humanize them, or at least make them somewhat sympathetic. That seems to have not been the case with the recent Circe chapters where we learn that her actions weren't driven by her resentment over being a woman in a man's game, but rather over fear of a prophecy. To me it seemed like you were letting us into her head only to make her less likeable. What was your expectation for her chapters and how do you feel that your approach to her character differed from the way you've treated the more redemptive POVs of Jaime and Tyrion?"
To which Martin replied:
I don't concern myself over whether my characters are "likeable" or "sympathetic." (I had my fill of that in television). My interest is in trying to make them real and human. If I can create a fully-fleshed three-dimensional character, some of my readers will like him/ her, or some won't, and that's fine with me. That's the way real people react to real people in the real world, after all. Look at the range of opinions we get on politicans and movie stars. If EVERYONE likes a certain character, or hates him, that probably means he's made of cardboard. So I will let my readers decide who they like, admire, hate, pity, sympathize with, etc. The fact that characters like Sansa, Catelyn, Jaime, and Theon provoke such a wide range of reactions suggests to me that I have achieved my goal in making them human.
There's a lesson there for all would-be writers, myself included. Wise words indeed.
On a lighter note, my other favourite response was to the question: "Would polygamous marriage be accepted in current Westerosi society especially where the Targaryens are concerned?"
Answer: If you have some huge fire-breathing dragons, you can get people to accept a lot of things that they might otherwise have problems with.
Anyone know where I can get a huge, fire-breathing dragon from? ;)
5 hours ago