Fans were shocked, sad, and even angry after watching Game of Thrones' June 2 episode, "Red Wedding." But George R.R. Martin, who wrote the epic fantasy novels on which the HBO series is based, makes no apologies for the story. In fact, he's glad people are upset. (Major spoilers ahead!)
During an appearance on Conan O'Brien's show on Wednesday, June 5, Martin was shown YouTube clips of fans reacting to Sunday's shocking "Red Wedding" episode, in which three main characters met violent, bloody deaths. (The victims in question were King of the North Robb Stark, played by Richard Madden; his pregnant bride Talisa, played by Oona Chaplin; and matriarch Catelyn Stark, played by Michelle Fairley.)
"My eyeballs melted out of my head," O'Brien (a Game of Thrones fan himself) said of his own reaction to the deaths. Jokingly calling Martin a "sick bastard," the late-night host asked why the author would kill off three such prominent characters.
"I suppose you write the stuff you like to read," the 64-year-old replied. "And as a reader or as a viewer of television and film, I always like unexpected things and I always like the suspense to be real."
"We've all seen the movies where the hero is in trouble, he's surrounded by 20 people, but you know he's going to get away 'cause he's the hero. And you don't really feel any fear for him," he continued. "I want my readers and I want my viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the character may not survive it."
The author said he stands by his decisions but admitted that watching the characters die is harder than just reading or writing about it, especially now that he's gotten to know some of the actors on the show. He recalled one moment at the premiere party when he looked around at all the people he was talking to and realized their characters were doomed to die.
"It's one thing to kill these characters when they're just people on paper," he said, "but when you actually meet the actors who portray them and you know you're making people unemployed, it does bring up a certain amount of guilt feelings."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Game of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin on Red Wedding: I Want Fans to "Be Afraid"