If you’ve finished George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, you probably had at least one heart-stopping shock along with more than a few somewhat less cardiac-endangering surprises. Below, Martin answers a few of EW’s burning questions about the novel’s plot twists. But here’s a very serious warning: This post contains major spoilers from the fifth novel in the “Ice and Fire” series. Do not continue reading unless you have finished Dragons.

Also, be sure to check out our spoiler-free Q&A with Martin published a couple weeks back about Dragons and HBO’s Game of Thrones here, and see this week’s print edition for more on Martin. Also, if you happen to be in San Diego today, you’re already in line for Martin moderating the Game of Thrones panel, right?

Okay, final final warning…

Here’s the interview, which was conducted after some copies of Dragons had leaked, but before the book was officially released:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So why did you kill Jon Snow?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?

Well, I guess. Yes. That’s how I took it. The way it was written, it sounded like he was mortally wounded — and, you know, it’s you!

Well. I’m not going to address whether he’s dead or not. But as to why — didn’t you think the text established why they would want to assassinate him?

The narrative made perfect sense. Looking back through the books, all the decisions Jon’s made, and all the foreshadowing that was there, yes, you played fair. At the same time, it was devastating and I suspect fans will howl, the most since–

The most since the Red Wedding, I suspect.

How long have you intended for that incident to happen?

For many years. Some of the stuff about Melisandre warning Jon of “daggers in the dark” was written 10 years ago.

It’s a harsh chapter in terms of fan expectations. You go from this total high of Jon giving this rousing speech about going after the evil Ramsay Bolton, to this utter low of his men turning against him. So fans are not supposed to draw that conclusion he’s dead?

What I’m seeing from early reactions, admittedly just a handful, I think fans are going to split and argue about it until the next book comes out.

I also wasn’t sure whether Ramsay was telling the truth in his letter when he said the battle had already been fought and won, whether we were supposed to take that as gospel.

My readers should know better than to take anything as gospel, unless they see it for themselves, and even then I do sometimes use “unreliable narrator.” No. They should not take that as the truth. What about Mance Rayder, did you think he was really dead?

Yes. And I liked the reveal that he’s the bard in Ramsay’s court at Winterfell, but I was so dense I didn’t realize it was him until I read Ramsay’s letter near the end.

Aside from the fact Mance goes south and says he’s going to take six spearwives, there’s a legend that Jon hears from Ygritte about Bale the Bard who was a King of the North who posed as a bard and infiltrated Winterfell. Mance is calling himself “Abel” which is “Bael” with the letters moved around. It’s amazing what people pick up on and what they don’t. The whole controversy over Renly and Loras, [viewers saying] “HBO made these characters gay!”

It was always firmly hinted

And many got that, but many didn’t. I’m still getting letters about it. They were oblivious when they read the books and [producers] made it explicit.

The one thing I must confess to being frustrated by is the first Tyion chapter where you set up this expectation that he’s going to meet Dany, and I got excited. Then about 600 pages later I’m realizing, “OK, that’s not gonna happen, at least not in this book.”

Yeah, it’s the “kind of bring ’em together but don’t give them the confirmation.” In some ways it’s not so different than the sexual tension in TV shows — are Catherine and Vincent [on Beauty and the Beast] finally going to kiss? Same philosophy. This is the kind of stuff I wrestle with. I could have ended the next chapter: Tyrion gets off the boat and there’s Dany. But the journey itself has its own interest.

One of my favorite chapters, perhaps of the whole series, was Cersei’s walk of shame. I was riveted.

That was an interesting chapter to write, and based on actual medieval events. Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV, was punished that way after Edward died. It’s going to be a controversial scene when it comes out — is it misogynistic or feminist? It wasn’t a punishment ever inflicted on men. It was a punishment directed at women to break their pride. And Cersei is defined by her pride.

Be sure to check out the rest of our Q&A with Martin here and pick up this week’s print edition of Entertainment Weekly for a profile of the author.