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There are many things that go into creating a story as epic as Game of Thrones, but which element is most important? Earth? Fire? Wind? Water? Heart? According to A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin, it’s none of the above.

“It all interests me. Battles and wars interest me, medieval feasts interest me (laughs),” George shares with French radio station Le Mouv’, alluding to his habit of writing lengthy food descriptions into his narrative. “But ultimately, as I’ve said before, it’s the human heart in conflict with itself ... Look at the dilemmas, look at the contradictions, look at the problems and the unintended consequences, that’s what fascinates me.”

While it’s true that Game of Thrones certainly derives some of its success from its epic scale and, err, HBOiness, the show would not be the juggernaut it is without the incredibly engaging characters that populate its world. “We are these wonderfully gray and complex creatures, and I want to capture that in my characters. In my mind, that makes them real,” George says. “Even in a fantasy setting the characters, the people, need to be real.”

You can check out George’s entire roughly nine minute interview right here.