Updated: Sep 14, 2019
Following absence for seven years from the publishing world, New York Times-bestselling Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini has returned with his brand-new short story collection set in his mystical world of Eragon, THE FORK, THE WITCH, & THE WORM. In my review, I described this release as "...a welcome distraction that whets the appetite of countless readers for the author’s hopefully more ambitious projects." Back in August, HBB Reviews was fortunate enough to sit down with the critically acclaimed author at Dragon-Con 2018 where we asked him about his upcoming releases, including his long-teased science fiction project, advice he would give to aspiring writers, and his impressions about the state of Eragon as a film franchise.
Charlie Jin: As a teenager, were there any books that inspired you to create the Inheritance Cycle?
Christopher Paolini: Yes! There were many, many books that inspired me. I was and am a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan. So I was reading The Lord of the Rings, Jeremy Thatcher's Dragon Hatcher, (which was a big inspiration)...the list goes on and on and on. The thing is all those books touched me deeply. And I wanted to write the feeling that I got from those stories in a book of my own.
Charlie Jin: Do you recall how many drafts of Eragon that you did before its original publication?
Christopher Paolini: That is a great question. I think people get the idea that authors somehow just write books perfectly the first time. That is not the case. It's not the case for me and it's not the case for most of the authors that I know. Uh, Eragon had a major draft, the first draft, and was not very good. In the first draft, let's just say that Eragon was actually named Kevin. (Laughter) And there was a unicorn in it, so it wasn't good at all. And then I did a major rewrite, another draft, and then I probably did three or four substantial editing passes on the book after that. Including one that I did with my editor, Michelle at Random House. Since Random House has picked up the series.
Charlie Jin: As many of your readers will know, your series is one of the longest fantasy works in terms of pages. When drafting the first book, did you have the ideas of the rest of the series in mind?
Christopher Paolini: Yes. I don't think you can write a big epic without building the world and the story before you go into it. Some things did change when I wrote the story, when I got to know the characters and began to understand it better that when I started. Some of the stuff did change, but I would say that 90% of the story and characters were worked up beforehand.
Charlie Jin: Right now, you are currently developing your mystery science fiction project.
Christopher Paolini: Yes.
Charlie Jin: Are you able to provide an update on where that currently stands?
Christopher Paolini: I had to do a fairly substantial rewrite on it, which was something that I was hoping I would not have to do. But it's making the project significantly better and I am a couple months out from finishing that. And then I'm going to have to sit down and read it and see if it works. I've actually been printing it out as I do the rewrite and everyone's been saying "hey, this works," "this works," and "this works." So I have high hopes. I've actually been working on a couple of other things and I've actually been very, very busy this year. Which is why I have a beard because I have not shaved. And I'm hoping to have some things that I'm ready to talk about very soon.
Charlie Jin: Regarding your science fiction project, since it's been a monumental and long journey, how long has the idea for that existed?
Christopher Paolini: Oh, wow, that's a good question. I got the idea back in maybe 2006 when the second book came out, then I wrote a version of the first chapter in 2008-ish. So almost ten years ago now. But it was a version without me not really working out the universe, physics, the science fiction and all sorts of other things. But the version I am working on now, I started in earnest in 2013 or 2014.
Charlie Jin: At multiple points throughout your social media, you have teased your eventual return to Eragon in presumably a fifth book. Was this book always planned in your initial vision?
Christopher Paolini: It was planned about halfway through the writing of Inheritance. I started thinking of how growing up I was reading fantasy series that had sequels and often, the sequels felt unplanned. It was like "oh, the first book sold well, so I need to write a second one," and "we already killed the big, bad villain so we need to bring an even bigger, badder villain in the next book." And there was no mention of that villain in the first book, which bothered me. So that is why I started laying the groundwork during the third book, Brisingr. To be very clear, the stories will not be a direct continuation of The Inheritance Cycle, that story itself is finished, but it's in the same world and has the same characters in it.
Charlie Jin: Well, I can't wait to read it. To those who are currently young, aspiring writers, are there any tips that you would give them?
Christopher Paolini: Yes, if you are an aspiring writer, what I would say is that you need to read, read, read, read read. Read anything you can get your hands on, fiction, nonfiction. Read the things you like and also read the things you don't like. Second of all, it is important to write every single day. Writing is like playing a musical instrument. You need to stay fresh with it; you need practice. Do not wait for inspiration. If you need to write, such as writing in your diary, then do that. But you should try to write something work-related every single day.
Charlie Jin: With the 2006 film adaptation of Eragon being released before the huge tidal wave of other YA book adaptations, did you feel nervous about 20th Century Fox bringing your book to the screen?
Christopher Paolini: Of course. I felt very nervous from the very start of it all the way to the end of it. Here's the thing though. I knew that it was going to be out of my control. They weren't going to let someone, who was my age at the time, take control of the screenplay. And to be fair, I didn't have the time, nor the experience to do that. So it was nerve-racking, and unfortunately, I think it was made at a time just before Hollywood realized that they needed to be a little more faithful to the source material. You see, Eragon hit, and then, also from Fox, was The Darkest Rising adaptation, and then, right after that, we got the Twilight adaptation. In fact, the producer who worked on the Twilight movies worked on Eragon. And the reason they took a different approach with the Twilight franchise was because of the experience they had with Eragon. So I think Hollywood did learn their lesson to a degree. But it's a lesson that they have to keep learning, again, again, and again.
Charlie Jin: So thanks for the interview Christopher, and I can't wait to read your upcoming projects.
Thanks once again to Christopher and Dragon-Con Media Relations to setting the interview up. Our review for Christopher's newest book, THE FORK, THE WITCH, & THE WORM, can be found here.