In an interview with 92Y for the release of The World of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin talks about The Silmarillion and how he compares as an author.
The World of Ice and Fire is a collaboration between George R.R. Martin and Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson (two Westeros fans) and is a encyclopaedic companion and historical book about Westeros, including family trees and maps.
In the interview he says:
Tolkien really invented modern epic fantasy in its current form. One of things he did which was extraordinary was create Middle-earth in such detail… Tolkien gave us all these histories, all these appendices and genealogies and everything was rooted and seemed as real as England or France or Germany when you read these things and since then that’s become the style for epic fantasy. [Fantasy readers] now expect a fully-realised secondary world as Tolkien called it…. Tolkien was a very unusual writer, he was a linguist, a philosopher [sic], he spoke Old Norse and Old English, he was fascinated by myth – the story was almost secondary to Tolkien. For him the world creation, and the creation of languages, was almost primary.
With a lot of the fantasists that have followed Tolkien it is a magician’s trick – we want you to think there’s this huge edifice underneath just like with Tolkien but there really isn’t in some case. And that was probably true with me in the beginning.
Martin also admits that Drogon couldn’t beat Smaug!