I am so excited that I got the chance to interview Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I’ve never actually read Eragon. I watched the movie several years ago, but I’ve never really had the chance to read it. I remember how popular it was when it first came out. My cousin, Brittany, devoured the series. I remember she would talk nonstop about it. But what really made me want to interview Christopher was the fact that my dad has been reading this series for about 2 years now. He’s a very slow reader and his eyesight is a bit shot. He also just doesn’t have very much time to read. It’s a constant joke between us about how long it takes him to read this series. I remember how excited he got when he told me that he finally finished the first book. Now, I believe he’s on the second in the series. Here’s to hoping that he finishes it by the end of the year!
Christopher Paolini was 15 when he began writing Eragon, Book One of the Inheritance cycle. Now, nearing 30, he enjoys a success that is as magical as the fantasy novels he writes. His Inheritance cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingrand Inheritance) has sold over 35 million copies worldwide and is available in 125 countries in 49 languages. His journey has been extraordinary.
While most kids were playing baseball and soccer, Christopher, who was homeschooled, taught himself how to fence, weave, paint, and read ancient languages, and became expert at woodworking. He built a forge and created his own medieval armor. He read 3,000 books.
After graduating from the accredited distance-learning high school, American School, Christopher put pen to paper on his first novel. Inspired by the fantastic view of the jagged Beartooth Mountains from his bedroom window in Paradise Valley, Montana, he created a vibrant, compelling fantasy world. Helped by his family, Christopher self-published Eragon in February 2002. They sold nearly 10,000 copies through diligent self-promotion (including sales from the family car and Paolini visiting schools to address students his own age, in medieval costume).
In a few short months, everything changed. A Montana bookseller gave author Carl Hiaasen’s 12-year-old stepson—on vacation with his family—a copy of Paolini’s Eragon. The boy devoured it, declaring it better than Harry Potter. Hiaasen called his editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in New York. Quickly acquiring the series, Knopf (an imprint of Random House Children’s Books) edited the self-published Eragon and released it in August 2003, when Christopher was 19. It was an instant bestseller. Six months after publication, Eragon had already sold 1 million copies.
This fall, Knopf will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this worldwide phenomenon with the release of a collector’s edition of ERAGON on October 22, 2013 (9780449819531 / $50.00). This faux-leather bound edition features gold-foil line art on the cover and six glossy, full-color original illustrations on the interior by award-winning artists who inspired Paolini—John Jude Palancar (the Inheritance cycle cover artist), Michael Hague, Donato Giancola, Ciurelo, and Raoule Vitale—as well as Paolini himself.Christopher’s large, diverse and intensely devoted fan base—including many parents who thank him because Eragon turned their reluctant readers into book lovers—are sure to add this special edition to their bookshelves.
Paolini broke sales records from the beginning. His second novel, Eldest, sold more than 425,000 hardcover copies in its first week, making it the greatest single-week sale ever recorded for a Random House Children’s Books title—hardcover or paperback—and the fastest-selling title in the publisher’s history. Brisingr and Inheritance released with 2.5 million copy first printings andInheritance, the fourth and final book in the cycle, achieved the highest first-day sale in 2011 of any fiction or nonfiction adult or children’s title published in the U.S. and Canada, with a staggering 489,500 copies in print, digital, and audio formats. Paolini is greeted at every tour stop by screaming crowds numbering in the thousands.
Can you tell us about Eragon in 15 words or less?
Boy. Dragon. Elves. Dwarves. Monsters. Wise old mentor. Magic sword. Evil villain. Lots of adventure!
It feels so surreal that Eragon has celebrated its 10th anniversary. How are you feeling?
Amazed that so much time has passed and amazed that so many people have enjoyed reading the series over the years. I’m incredibly grateful for the support of each and every reader; without that, I wouldn’t be able to tell stories for a living.
You haven’t released anything since Inheritance came out in 2011. Are you currently working on anything else?
Of course! I spent most of 2012 touring the world for the Inheritance Cycle. As soon as I finished that, I dove back into the writing, and I’ve been working away at several projects. At the moment, I’m trying my hand at some science fiction, which I’m really enjoying. Hopefully readers will as well!
You were only 15 years old when you began writing Eragon. Did you always know that you wanted to be an author?
No. My real goal in life was to be riding dragons and fighting monsters. But, since that didn’t seem to be a viable career path, I decided to try writing my daydreams down instead. Thus, Eragon.
Out of all 4 books in the series, which one was your favorite to write?
It’s probably a tie between Eragon and Inheritance. Eragon because it was the first book I ever wrote and because it was the beginning of the series and contained many of the scenes that inspired me to write the story in the first place. Inheritance because . . . well, it’s the end of the series, and I think it contains some of my best writing.
The Eragon movie released in 2006. I have to ask…did you get to meet Robert Carlyle?
Ha! Yes I did. He was very nice and very polite, but out of all the actors I’ve ever met, he’s the one I’d least like to fight. I have a feeling he’d do just fine if he was dropped into a medieval battlefield. I actually got to sit right next to him during the premiere of Eragon at the Odeon Theater in London. Now that was a surreal experience!
What draws you to Fantasy? Do you ever see yourself branching out to other genres or is fantasy what calls to you?
I like fantasy because it’s the oldest form of storytelling and—done properly—it contains a mythic power that other genres rarely touch. Plus, it allows me to go places and do things that would otherwise be impossible given physics as we know them. That said, I would definitely like to write stories in other genres.
The Eragon series ended with Inheritance. Do you ever plan to go back to that world or is it completely over?
At some point, I do plan on writing a fifth book, which will answer many of the mysteries I left hanging at the end of the series. However, after spending nearly thirteen years working on the Cycle, I need a break!
We asked some of our followers if they had any questions for you , and someone asked why you ended the series like you did. Is there any way you can answer that question without giving away any spoilers?
Hmm. . . . Well, I ended it that way because it was the only way that fit with who the characters were. Even if I wasn’t planning on writing another book set in Alagaësia, I would have done what I did. I know it isn’t a purely happy ending, but then, life isn’t purely happy, and the stories that have stayed with me the most throughout the years have had a touch of the bittersweet about them.
What is the best book that you have read recently?
Hard to answer. . . . An unabridged edition (Penguin) of The Count of Monte Cristo. Lots of fun, and far more complex than the abridged editions. A lot longer too.
What is currently in your TBR pile?
My to read pile is scary big: it contains hundreds of books at the moment, everything from Steinbeck to Apocalypse Cow. Too many books, not enough time!