David Benioff on Writing: Game of Thrones, City of Thieves and Telling Lies For Grown Ups (The Wordist #02)

David Benioff always knew he wanted to be a writer. But for the novelist and Game of Thrones executive producer and showrunner, there was first a small matter of refocusing his youthful creativity.

“There’s this great I.B. Singer line that said “When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer,” Benioff explained. “It was the same for me.”

As Benioff tells it, for his second grade writing assignment sharing what his father did for a living, he wrote that his dad was a submarine commander. “The teacher thought this was suspicious, since we lived in New York City and there probably weren’t many submarine commander fathers in the class, and called in my parents to speak to them about their son, the liar. My parents thought it was very funny, but I definitely got the lesson very early that it’s not socially acceptable to be a pathological liar and that I should probably try to channel these imaginings into a more productive outlet.”

Benioff seems to have nailed the “more productive outlet” portion of that childhood challenge. With two novels (The 25th Hour and City of Thieves, a short story collection (When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories), several screenplays, including The Kite Runner, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and now as the co-executive producer and show runner for the phenomenally successful HBO series, Game of Thrones, he’s giving his once pathological storytelling skills a serious grownup workout.

Along with partner D.B. Weiss, Benioff co-created this sweeping, medieval fantasy series based on the current 5 books in the Song of Ice and Fire series, with Martin currently projecting two more books coming to wrap up the saga. The Emmy-winning show has gained global cult-following status, with a growing audience each season, leading Benioff and others at HBO to openly contemplate the possibility that the television series, now a force in its own rite, might actually catch up to the Martin’s notoriously measured book-writing pace. Martin, now somewhere in the middle of writing Book #6, has tentatively titled the forthcoming volume, The Winds of Winter.

In this interview originally recorded for Borders, Benioff explains how the Game of Thrones books helped him rediscover his fantasy roots, discusses his love of the New York filmmakers of his 1970s youth, shares stories behind his own successful novels, and talks about the challenges of adapting beloved stories for the big screen.



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