George R.R. Martin says Chicago, NU influenced 'A Song of Ice and Fire,' in town to receive literary award

CHICAGO (WLS) -- George R.R. Martin, author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series that was adapted into HBO's "Game of Thrones" said his time in Chicago and Northwestern University influenced his fantasy world. He was in town Thursday to accept the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Martin got his start at Northwestern before going on to write his wildly popular fantasy novel series, and he said that series contains some influences from his freshman year in Evanston.

"That was my freshman year at Northwestern and that was a life-changing kind of event. It just started snowing and it just didn't stop," he recalled. "It was definitely in the back of my head when I wrote some of those scenes along the wall in Westeros, where the snow is very heavy and the men of the Night's Watch are getting buried."

As a young writer, Martin never could have anticipated how his life would change or be impacted by celebrity.

"I sold my first story in '71. I was living in Chicago, in Uptown, I was writing stories and selling them, I was working as a Vista volunteer," Martin said. "And I had, through most of my career, a fair amount of success on different levels. When the books started hitting the bestseller list and then the show hit, the level of celebrity ratcheted up 10 fold, 20 fold, 100 fold, and suddenly I was being recognized everywhere and you can't turn it off anymore."

Alongside Martin, Dr. Eve L. Ewing is being given the 21st Century Award, which recognizes achievements in writing by an author with ties to Chicago. Ewing is the author of the widely acclaimed "Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side," and her newest book "1919" explores the Chicago Race Riots of 1919 through poetry.

Martin and Ewing received their awards at the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner at the Isador and Sadie Dorin Forum on the UIC campus Thursday evening.
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