George R.R. Martin started writing A Game of Thrones after moving to Santa Fe:
I was living in Dubuque, Iowa, in the seventies. I was teaching college. And I’d been writing since I was a kid but I started selling in ’71 and had pretty immediate success in a limited way. I was selling everything I wrote. I did short stories for six years and sold my first novel and got a nice payment for my first novel. In 1977 a friend of mine, a brilliant writer, he was like ten years older than me, his name was Tom Reamy, he had won a John Campbell Award for best new writer in his field. He was a little older, he was in his forties, so he’d started writing older than other people, but he’d been a science fiction fan for a long time. Lived in Kansas City. Tom died of a heart attack just a few months after winning the award for best new writer in his field. He was found slumped over his typewriter, seven pages into a new story. Instant. Boom. Killed him. We weren’t super close. I knew him from conventions and I’d admired his writing. But Tom’s death had a profound effect on me, because I was in my early thirties then. I’d been thinking, as I taught, well, I have all these stories that I want to write, all these novels I want to write, and I have all the time in the world to write them, ‘cause I’m a young guy, and then Tom’s death happened, and I said, Boy. Maybe I don’t have all the time in the world. Maybe I’ll die tomorrow. Maybe I’ll die ten years from now. Am I still teaching? I really liked teaching, actually. I was pretty good at it. I was teaching journalism and English and occasionally they would let me teach a science fiction course at this little college in Iowa, Clark College, a Catholic girls’ college. But teaching used up a lot of emotional energy. I would write a few short stories over Christmas break and more stuff over summer break. But I didn’t have time.
I had finished one novel before I took the teaching job and I didn’t know when I would write a second novel. After Tom’s death, I said, “You know, I gotta try this. I don’t know if I can make a living as a full-time writer or not, but who knows how much time I have left? I don’t want to die ten years from now or twenty years from now and say I never told the stories I wanted to tell because I always thought I could do it next week or next year. Maybe I’ll starve to death but then I’ll go back and get another job, if it doesn’t work out.”
Once I handed in my notice, then I said, “Well, I don’t have to stay in Dubuque, Iowa anymore. I can live any place I want.” And in that particular time Dubuque had just had some very, very harsh winters, and I was tired of shoveling out my car out from being buried in snow. I think a lot of the stuff in A Game of Thrones, the snow and ice and freezing, comes from my memories of Dubuque. And I’d seen Santa Fe the previous year while going to a convention in Phoenix, and I loved New Mexico. It was so beautiful. So I decided I would sell my house in Iowa and move to New Mexico. And I’ve never looked back.
George R.R. Martin is not a young man, and A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t done yet.