Superstar YA author Christopher Paolini is busy touring to promote the final volume in the Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance. Happily, he was able to spare a few moments of his very rare downtime to answer some questions about his book and share a few tips for struggling young writers. Enjoy!
It’s been a long journey with the Inheritance Cycle, and one that made your career. Is there any sense of trepidation about leaving it behind?
A bit. It’s definitely somewhat bittersweet to say goodbye to the world and the characters that I’ve been living with pretty much every day since 1998. And it is a bit scary to consider moving on to new and different projects. However, it’s also exciting for me to know that my readers are finally able to read the end of the story—an end that I’ve had in mind for over a decade now—and that I’m going to finally be able tackle some of the other stories that have been bouncing around in my head this whole time.
Can you give us any hints about what you’ll be working on next?
Science fiction I think, but don’t hold me to that. I might change my mind in the next few months. After that, who knows? I’d like to try my hand at stories in all different sorts of genres. That said, I do love fantasy, and I know that I’ll always return to it. And I know I’ll write something more in Alagaësia at some point. The Inheritance Cycle is over, but Eragon’s world goes on.
When I think of Eragon’s journey, I can’t help but to notice that it parallels your own, in some degrees: a young person who discovers that he possesses a powerful gift and grows into a powerful and influential young man. Is there much of Eragon in you?
Well, I hardly think of myself as powerful. But yes, Eragon the character did start as me. However, over the course of the first book (and certainly over the rest of the series), he ended up becoming very much his own person. Mainly because he got to do lots of things I’ve never done, such as riding dragons, fighting monsters, and rescuing beautiful elven princesses.
You are right, though; the arc of the story has mirrored my own life to a certain degree. In fact, in a way, it was only fitting that this last book, Inheritance, was the most difficult to write, because my characters were also facing their most difficult challenges. I, however, was fortunate enough that I didn’t have to face King Galbatorix or his giant black dragon, Shruikan. Only deadlines, which can be equally scary in their own way.
I know that some people are having to wait until Christmas to get that final volume. Is there any kind of hint you’d like to share about what they’re about to experience?
Well, I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, but I will say that I’m extremely proud of Inheritance. I think that it’s the best book in the series, and my hope is that readers find it both a satisfying and a surprising conclusion to the story. In it, readers can expect to find exciting battles, desperate journeys, wild storms, scary monsters, a truly villainous villain, and most important of all, snails.
People are utterly passionate about the Inheritance cycle. I’ve seen and met some very dedicated fans. What’s it like to have written a series that people find so consuming? Have you ever been tempted to wander into the fray on some of the forums and message boards?
No. For the sake of my own sanity, I try not to read anything about myself. At the same time, I’m enormously grateful that so many people have enjoyed reading this series. I poured my heart and soul into each of the books (it was as all-consuming for me as for the fans) and it’s extremely gratifying to receive such heartfelt responses from my readers. And moving forward, my hope is that they will continue to enjoy my work.
I like to think that a good end to a story is as important as the beginning. What was it like typing out those last few pages?
It was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had. I didn’t think it was going to affect me so strongly. I’ve known how the story was going to end for years now, and I thought that writing it would be the same as writing any other scene. However, when I got to the last chapter, I felt this rush of heat pass through me and I began to shake almost as if I had a chill. It was so intense, I had to stop working on the last sentence and come back to it after all of the editing was done. When I did, I changed it completely . . . I added a single word. And that was exactly what it needed.
When I met you at San Diego Comic Con, I was very impressed with the range and breadth of your fantasy fiction knowledge. Would you mind listing a few books for fans to read after they finish the Inheritance cycle?
I would love to. Here goes:
A Wizard of Earthsea and the first two sequels by Ursula K. Le Guin
Dune by Frank Herbert
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
The Mabinogian Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
The Worm Orobouros by E. R. Eddison
Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
Magician by Raymond E. Feist
Finally, do you have any tips for young writers?
1. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read what you enjoy the most, but also read outside your comfort zone. You’ll learn more that way.
2. Learn everything you can about the language you’re writing in. Your language is the tool of the trade, and the better you understand it, the better you’ll be able to get what’s in your head onto the paper and into someone else’s head.
3. Find someone (teacher, family, friend, etc.) who can read your work and give you constructive feedback/editing. I guarantee you will learn more from editing than you ever will from just writing. It can be horribly painful at times, but it’s worth it.
4. Write every day. Unless you’re in the hospital (and maybe even then) write, write, write. Persistence is more important than talent. It’s also harder. Write on weekends, holidays, your birthday. Every day. You can take Christmas off, but other than that, write. Don’t wait for inspiration, write. Writers write, and if you’re not writing, you’ll never get where you want to go.
5. Plot everything out before. Some writers hate this, but it’s the only way that I’m able to get through a book. For me, writing is like music: first you compose a piece of music, then you can concentrate upon performing it as beautifully as possible. However, it’s very hard to compose while performing, especially when you’re creating the world as you go.
6. Write about whatever it is you care about the most. Don’t let other people tell you what you should or shouldn’t write. Writing a book isn’t always easy, and if you truly care about the subject material, that will help you through the rough patches.
7. And lastly, try to have fun. You don’t always have to enjoy your work, but you should enjoy it more than not.