The following transcript is of a talk/question panel given by Christopher Paolini at the Christchurch, New Zealand, Armageddon Expo, June 30th, 2012. Although not a great fan of Paolini, I was nevertheless keen to see him, given his online infamy in writing and sporking circles. Using a tape recorder (if you don’t know what they are, ask your grandmother) I recorded his talk in its entirety, and painstakingly transcribed it for you all to enjoy. Or not.
The one thing I’ve seen plenty of regarding Paolini is criticism: his prose is purple. He rips off Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. He thinks he’s the next Tolkien. He’s somewhat up himself. The latter two are particularly reinforced by the infamous fury-inducing quote: “In my writing, I strive for a lyrical beauty somewhere between Tolkien at his best and Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.” Yeah, not the best way to endear people to your writing…
Yet, in real life, he comes across as just the opposite. Despite being in his twenties, he speaks of his books with a certain childhood enthusiasm, excitedly relating tales of their writing, his life, and everything else. In spite of everything I’ve read (Kippurbird’s sporkings of the Cycle, Impish Idea’s numerous great articles, and of course, Rorschach’s essays on Conjugal Felicity) I found myself, oddly, liking the guy, even though my opinion of the Inheritance Cycle didn’t change much.
Perhaps, from a critical standpoint, he deserves some of the negativity. But he also deserves some praise (however slight) for his persistence in a series that has consumed half of his life, and, if his hints in the below are anything to go by, will continue to do so.
Whatever you may think of him, either as an author or a person, I hope the following transcript will at least provide some insight into the guy. I kept every “um” and “uh”, for better or worse, in order to preserve his rather lively voice. It’s just a shame he didn’t write like this instead of trying to be “epic” like Tolkien.
Please feel free to use any quotations you wish, provided you link to the original article here at Impishidea.com.
Announcer: Can we have a huge round of applause for the American [unintelligible] author, the creator of Eragon, Mr. Christopher Paolini!
Applause and cheering
Christopher Paolini: Thank you. I want to thank all of you for being here today, um, and I want to thank you for reading so long. I know my flight was delayed, but at least I did make it here. Uh, yes, I’m very excited to be here; this is my first time at Armageddon, my first time in the South Island, and my very first time in New Zealand. So, thanks for having me here.
CP: Now it’s really exciting to not only be in New Zealand, but –Oh, cool! Chewbacca! [directed at a little kid in the audience dressed as Chewbacca] Sorry, I’m- What can I say, I’m a fan, too. I just shook hands with Sylvester McCoy; my day is done. Um, in any case, It’s great to be here, because as many of you may know I’ve been writing the Inheritance Cycle from all the way back in 1998, and by the time I finished it, uh, last year, I’d spent just about 14 years working on the entire series.
So, it was pretty much half of my entire life. So it’s really, really good, nice, to have it done, and to be able to come out here and talk about the story, the books, and to know that readers are finally able to experience the series and the story as a whole and not just in individual chunks.
What I want to do today is tell you a little bit about how I got into reading, writing, and tell you some funny stories about the Inheritance Cycle. And if I start boring you instead, let me know and I’ll start doing handstands up here.
Well, I’ll do handstands anyway, so we’ll see.
CP: Umm, so you see me up here today as a published writer, and you might think, you know, “Oh, well, he’s an author, he’s always enjoyed reading and writing. Well, the thing is that I didn’t. When I was really, really young, and my mom was teaching me how to read, I absolutely hated it. Now, I was home-schooled my whole life so my mom was my teacher, and I remember I actually went up to her one time, I marched up to her, and I said: “I. Hate. To read. I’m never going to use it the rest of my life.”
Fortunately, she didn’t listen to me, and she kept teaching me, and eventually she took me to the public library, which was all the way up in Anchorage, Alaska, and uh, Alaska’s kind of a neat place because the sun stays up so late in summertime that we’d have our neighbours out mowing their lawn while the sun was still in the sky at midnight. Uh, and up there you get these giant hordes of mosquitoes that chase you around, and they actually have a different species of mosquito up there. They’re about this big [shows a size of perhaps three inches using thumb and forefinger] and they chase you in these huge, black clouds, and they sound like swarms of fighter jets coming after you, and if they catch you, they suck all of the blood out of your body and leave nothing behind but a desiccated corpse. Nice place, though.
CP: So anyway, as I was going around in the children’s section, I found this series of really big children’s’ detective novels, and I didn’t know what they were about, but they had bright covers, interesting titles, so I pulled one off the shelf and I checked it out. And it was the very first book I’ve ever checked out on my own. And when I started reading it, for whatever reason, it was if a switch just got flipped inside my head. And instead of just seeing the words on the page, I could see the things they were supposed to represent. So instead of seeing the word “sunset”, I could actually see a sunset in my head. And I could hear what the characters were saying, and I could smell the locations. Unfortunately, it’s been so long I don’t actually remember what those, uh, books were called. Ah, but I do remember that one book, the story, it involved tomato sauce being mistaken for blood, which seemed really exciting to me when I was five years old. Uh, and from that moment on I just completely fell in love with reading, and I really do believe that, you know, the power of reading can take us to places that we could never go otherwise, and to let us inside other people’s heads, and to experience things that would otherwise be impossible. To me, that’s the closest thing we have to true magic in the world today.
And I’m sure we’ve all heard phrases that have, you know, changed our lives, changed other peoples’ lives. You know, phrases like, you know, “To be or not to be, that’s the question,” or, “One small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.” Or, a personal favourite of mine, which is a very bad paraphrasing of Tolkien, which is: “Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are small and crunchy and good with ketchup.”
CP: Um, as I said, from now on I read everything I could get my hands on, uh, and eventually I graduated from high school. I graduated from high school at fifteen as, uh, a result of not taking any summer breaks my entire life. Thank you, mom!
And when I graduated my first thought was: “Oh man, this is going to be awesome! No more school. And it was awesome… for about two weeks. And then I got really, really, really, bored. I got so bored that I went into our back yard and I started digging a hole. It was a big hole too; it was about two metres across, it was about three metres deep, and it was circular. And after I dug the hole, we had one of those giant old satellite dishes you used to see everywhere. There was one abandoned on our property, so I went over and I dragged the satellite dish over to the hole, and I tipped it over the hole so it formed a roof for the hole. And then I took a bunch of hay bales, ’cause I live in Montana and there are hay bales everywhere, and I piled the hay bales on top of the satellite dish for insulation, and I covered the hay bales with bark that I’d ripped off of dead trees, so it was like shingles. Now, you might be wondering with the bark on top of the hay bales on top of the satellite dish on top of the hole, how I actually got into the hole. Well, I dug a tunnel into the hole, and then I built an entryway for the tunnel into the hole. And then I started chopping down dead trees along the nearby river, and I chopped them down with a hammer, I might add—
CP: And I dragged the logs up in front of the hole, and I planted them upright in the ground to form the framework for what was going to be a Viking-style mead hall. Now, when you start digging giant holes and building Viking-style mead halls in your back yard, you are officially BORED. And I realised I had to find something else to do with myself, something besides digging holes. And the thing is I didn’t have to do anything. You know, I wasn’t in school, I didn’t have a job, and the nearest town was over half hour [sic] away, and I didn’t drive. So… and I think everyone ought to have experience where no one is forcing you to do anything, and whatever it is you do in that time where you don’t have to do anything, whether it’s playing video games or making video games, or, you know, math or science or fiddling with mechanics or… art or just even being with other people…Whatever it is you choose to do, that’s probably what you should pursue as a career. And in my case, I wanted to try to write the sort of story I’d enjoyed reading growing up. Uh, and of course what I enjoyed reading was fantasy. And so I thought it would be really fun to take all the things I loved about fantasy and put them into one book. So I was going to have the wise old mentor, the young hero, and the magic sword, and the dragons, and the elves, and the dwarves, and the evil villain, and it was sort of my way of paying tribute to the genre, and, uh, also putting my stamp on it, say, you know, this is my version of this very classic coming of age story. So I spent about a month, uh, plotting out the series, plotting out Eragon, all the… all the story after that. And the way I did that was pretty simple. I just asked myself questions. I said: “What would happen if a young man found a dragon egg in the middle of the forest? How would the young man get there? How did the dragon egg get there? Who else would be looking for the dragon egg? What sort of a world would dragons live in?” And just trying to answer those few questions has resulted in thousands and thousands of pages of text, uh, so be careful the questions you ask. They can change your life.
Um, and once I felt like I knew it was the story was going to be [sic], that’s when I finally sat down and started Eragon. And it was very exciting, you know, I just raced through the story, and when I finished the first draft I sat down and read it through. And that was even more exciting, you know, getting to read my own book for the very. First. Time.
It. Was. Horrible.
CP: It was awful.
CP: And just to give you an idea of how bad it was, and I’m kind of ashamed to say this, but, just to give you an idea of how bad the first draft was, in the very first draft of Eragon, Eragon wasn’t named Eragon. Eragon was named… Kevin.
CP: [unintelligible]… if any of you are named Kevin, it’s a great name—
CP: -but I don’t think the series would have had so popular [sic] if it had been about the adventures of the great dragon-rider… Kevin. There was also a unicorn in the book, so… it needed serious help. So I said: “Okay, I’m going to try to fix it,” and I rewrote the book and I changed Kevin to Eragon, and I also removed the unicorn and added in a very small, unimportant character who, you know, didn’t play much of a role in the series at all. Uh, a character by the name of Angela the Herbalist. For those of you who don’t know, I actually based Angela on my sister Angela. And fortunately she has a very good sense of humour about it or else I wouldn’t be standing here right now. Uh, and yes, that is what she’s like. I didn’t exaggerate her. Uh, my sister is an interesting person, to put it… nicely. Um, but anyway, uh, so I rewrote the book and then I gave the manuscript to my parents, and fortunately for me they liked what they read enough that we decided as a family that we were going to try to self-publish the book, take it out into the world, and see if anyone wanted to read it. And that’s exactly what we did.
Uh, I drew the map and the dragon eye inside the book. The dragon eye was actually the original cover, and I travelled all across the western half of the united states doing various promotional events. I did a lot of presentations just like this, actually. Um, I was doing about three to four one hour long presentations every single day for months on end. Uh, although back then I did all of my presentations while dressed in medieval costume.
CP: Which I should have worn here today, but there wasn’t room in my luggage. It was a cool costume too, it was black knee-high lace-up leather boots, billowy black pantaloons, a big black pirate belt, a billowy red swordsman shirt, and a black beret to top it off. Now, the very first presentation I did was in our local high school, and keep in mind, again, I was home schooled my entire life. I had never walked into a public school before. I was 17 years old, I was the same age as the students, and I went in dressed. Like. That.
CP: And when I got into the library where… where I was doing my presentation, from the back of the room I saw some guy look at me, you know, and when I say “guy” he was seventeen, he looked at me, and I heard him say: “ Helloooooo Romeooooo!”
CP: As you can see, I don’t wear that costume anymore. But I had a lot of fun travelling around with Eragon. Uh, and eventually, uh, another author, the author Carl Hiaasen who wrote the young adult Hoot, the young adult book Hoot, which some of you may have heard of, uh, he came up to Montana on vacation, and he brought a copy of the self-published edition of Eragon for his then twelve year old son Ryan. And Ryan read the book, and he liked the book, and most importantly he said that he liked the book. And because of that his dad passed it on to Random House, and eventually Random House contacted me. And I love telling that story, because to me it really… it really demonstrates the power of readers, you know, if Ryan hadn’t have read Eragon, and if he hadn’t liked it, and he hadn’t said that he liked it, none of this would have happened, and millions of readers around the world wouldn’t have gotten the chance to read the Inheritance Cycle. And so to me, again, it demonstrates just the… the power of reading and how you never know how a book is going to change your life, or the lives of the people around you.
Um, in any case, Random House did buy the series, and the rest, as they say, is history. Then I wrote Eldest, and then Brisingr, and finally the fourth book, Inheritance. And again with each book I had a great time, and had some fun experiences. For example, right before I was supposed to go on book tour for Eldest, uh, I was at home, I was preparing for the book tour… well, I was supposed to be preparing for the book tour… I was actually playing video games. Um, I was playing… Jedi Knight Academy II, which is an awesome game, um, great for duelling people with light-sabres, which I think is everyone’s goal in life. Uh, seriously, who doesn’t want a light-sabre, right?
Um, anyway, I was playing the game and I was logged into the internet and I was… I was fighting people from all around the world, and in the middle of the level someone else logged into the game using the name Eragon. And I said to myself: “Oh, I’ve got to fight this guy.” So, I went over and I challenged him to a duel… and he accepted, and we fought, and the horrible thing is… is he was better than me. And he beat me! And across the screen it said: “You gave been killed by Eragon.”
CP: I didn’t need to see that. Uh, and then when I was on tour for Brisingr, I was… I was in the states, and I was in Chicago, and a young woman came through the signing line. It was pretty late in the event, I was tired, but I looked up and I saw on her arm that she was carrying a sugar glider. And for those of you who don’t know, sugar gliders are kind of like flying squirrels, but they’re marsupials, so they have the pouch in front, and they have very, very large eyes, and they’re very, very, very, very, very cute. So I looked at the woman and I said: “Well, that’s an interesting animal. Do you mind if I pet it?” And she said: “Oh, sure, go right ahead, he loves strangers.”
CP: Yeah, you can just see where this is going, can’t you? So, I reached out and I started to pet the sugar glider, and it looked up at me, and then, ever-so politely, it took its hands, now ’cause they have hands kind of like a raccoon, and it wrapped its fingers around my finger, and then it just sort of bent over… and it started to gnaw on my finger. And I was sitting there and there was blood running down my hand, and I was saying to the woman: “Please stop your pet from trying to eat me!” I’m kind of glad that it happened, though, ’cause I’m now on of the few people outside of Australia who can say that I have been chewed on by a marsupial. Which I think is, you know, kind of an achievement in life. It should be an achievement on the Xbox right? “Chewed on by a marsupial: 200 points.”
CP: Uh, and then, when the last book… I was actually in New York City for the last week of work on the book and on the series as a whole at… at the Random House headquarters. And during that last week of work on the Inheritance Cycle, and on the last book, and during that week New York City got hit by both an earthquake and a hurricane. And my editor came to me and she said, she said: “Christopher… Christopher, I love you dearly, but you really, really, really have to finish this series before any more natural disasters occur.” So finish it I did, and again I’m very excited to be out here and talking about it, and, uh, there’s something I want to do now that… I actually wanted to do this ever since Eragon was published, but it hasn’t been possible until just a few months ago. So want I want to do is, I want to read you guys a very short excerpt from each of the four books. You want to hear that? Yep?
Cries of Yes
CP: Now you might notice that I don’t actually have any books up here with me, so who has a copy of_ Eragon_ I can borrow? Whoever can get it to me first…
Okay [taking the book from an audience member], I promise I will give it back. I have a few copies of my own, including one in Russian that I can’t read, but it’s very cool.
Okay, so, as I said, this is very short. Uh, I’m going to read you the very first line of the very first chapter of the very first book of the Inheritance Cycle. Here it goes:
[CP then reads the first sentence dramatically]
CP: By the way, if you need me to speak louder, stick up your hands, because, uh, my ears are partially plugged, so, it’s hard for me to tell. [N.B. The speakers right next to the stage were very loud].
Who’s got a copy of Eldest? [A teenage guy hands him the remaining three in the Cycle.] Oh, you’re cheating! I’ll… I’ll just take the second one.
CP: Alright, alright, now one of the things I did, of course, in writing the books is I created a couple of languages for the world. Which was lots of fun. Uh, the main one is the ancient language, the Elf language, and based it partially on Old Norse, which I think gave it a good sound and feel. So, I’m going to read to you an Elvish blessing in the ancient language, but… I have to apologise, because I have an absolutely horrendous Elvish accent. And that’s partly because I’m not an elf, and also because in the ancient language you re supposed to roll your r’s on the tip of your tongue the way you would in Spanish or Italian. And I can’t do that. In fact, the only way I can roll my r’s, and I apologise because I know this sounds absolutely obscene, but the only way I can roll my r’s is by wiggling my uvula. That’s the thing in the back of your throat. So, I’m going to wiggle my uvula at you guys. And I hope you like it, too.
[CP reads a sentence or two in Elvish from Eldest]
CP: Now that said, um… the dwarf language is actually my favourite because I invented it from scratch, and because it’s just a really meaty language; you just sink your teeth into it. [N.B. CP does not translate the Elvish passage into English] Uh, in fact I’ve always said that if I could go into Eragon’s world, if I could go into Alagaesia, I’d want to be a dwarf. Because they live a really long time, and they have a lot more fun than, uh, elves, and uh, so I’d be a dwarf and I’d write Dwarvish opera. In fact [unintelligible] still write some Dwarvish opera. Uh, every time I mention it though, my agent turns white as a sheet, but we’ll see.
So, here’s a chunk of Dwarvish, and unlike the ancient language I have an excellent Dwarvish accent. And that is because in Dwarvish you are supposed to roll your r’s by wiggling your uvula. So, let the wiggling commence!
[CP reads a sentence or two, from somewhere near the end of Eldest, in Dwarvish]
CP: Alright, thank you. As you might imagine, dwarves are always, usually, very hoarse, and no one much likes listening to their love poems. Except maybe the Scottish.
CP: Okay, so book three. As you might notice, uh, book three is a rather large book. And like most large books, it has a lot of sentences in it. And, you know, there’s some sentences I’m a little bit more fond of compared with others. There’s one, for example, that involves a [unintelligible, starts with B] bumble bee, which I probably should have cut from the book, but I just liked it too much and so I left it. But in any case, among all the many sentences that make up this very large book, there’s one in particular that is my absolute favourite. And I want to read it to you. Uh, I think it’s just a particularly well-written sentence; I think it has a lot of literary merit, and hopefully you’ll agree with me. So, are you ready to hear my absolutely favourite sentence from Brisingr? Yep?
Chorus of Yes
CP: [Dramatically] “Die, puny human!”
Laughter and applause
CP: I mean, really, what’s the point of writing fantasy if you can’t write lines like “die, puny human!”. [To the book’s owner, who is wearing one as he retrieves it] Bow ties are cool!
CP: Thank you, than you. Um, yes, I am a Doctor Who fan.
CP: And in fact some of you may have noticed I slipped some mentions of the good Doctor into both the third and the fourth books in the Inheritance Cycle. Uh, in fact I just got to, as I just mentioned, shake Sylvester McCoy’s hand, and I was at the Super Nova convention in, uh, Australia, and I actually got to meet Eric Roberts, who, uh, as some of you may know played the Master in television movies, so it’s actually kind of creepy to be standing next to the Master. Creepy and cool.
Okay, so, this is going to be… one second… this is going to be a slightly longer reading. Now for those of you who have not read the fourth book, don’t worry. No spoilers. Um, I’m going to read to you from the very end of the very first chapter of the very last book of the Inheritance Cycle. I hope you enjoy it.
[CP reads the section that involves a wall falling on Roran]
CP: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Does he live? Does he die? Read chapter two. Um, I would to try to answer as many of your questions as we have time for now. However, I would ask you to keep in mind that if you have read book four –or three or two or one— there are probably some people here who haven’t, so let’s try not to tell them who lives or who dies. We’ll leave that for the internet comments.
So, who has a question? You do?
[An audience member asks an inaudible question.]
CP: Ah, what was my opinion of the Eragon movie?
CP: I knew someone was going to ask that! Ah, honestly, I’m very happy that the movie was made, because very few books are ever actually adapted into films, and the movie introduced a lot of new readers to the series, which I think is a good thing. I gave as much input as I could into the making of the film, but ultimately the movie reflected the director and the studio’s vision of the story, just as the books reflect my vision of the story. And everyone is free to enjoy them on their own terms. Uh, I… I don’t know if there are going to be any more films. I hope there are, but the decision is up to the studio right now. The first one made money, so fingers crossed. I think the books could make some great movies. Uh, funny story. I was actually supposed to have a cameo in the film. Uh, it didn’t work out because I was on book tour at the time, but they were going to fly me up to Budapest where they were filming And then, I asked for this, this is… I asked for this… I was going to appear in the final battle of the film, and I was going to have my head chopped off by Eragon.
CP: I mean, who doesn’t want to get killed by their own hero on screen? Of course, I only realised later that in order to be killed by Eragon, they would have had to dress me up as one of the monsters, as one of the Urgals, and I probably would’ve been the shortest Urgal ever. BUT it still would have been fun, so maybe in a future movie we’ll still get to see me get decapitated. Good question.Ah, let’s see, yes? Oh, we’ve got a mike? Okay. Yes, there’s a microphone here for questions, so if you want to ask a question, come on up.
[Small exchange about speaking up]
Teenage girl #1: Umm, firstly I’d just like to say thank you for the books because they were a big part of my childhood; they were really enjoyable
CP: Thank you.
TG#1: In terms of languages, you say you based it on Norse and that kind of thing. Umm, did you learn languages… [unintelligible].
CP: Did I… did I learn languages growing up? Uh, only the ones I invented. Uh, I know enough of Old Norse that when I’m in Germany and Scandinavian countries people can ask me questions in German, you know, Swedish or something like that, and I can actually sometimes answer the questions without translation. But I don’t actually speak any other languages, which is something I hope to correct once I’m home, now that I have time to do things aside from the Inheritance Cycle.
TG#1: So, why did you include the languages? Just because you enjoyed [unintelligible]
CP: Uh, why did I include the languages? Because one: I do enjoy it, as you said, and two: because I think having a bit of the languages of your created lands makes your story feel more realistic and, uh, interesting. Great Questions.
TG#1: Thank you!
Teenage boy #1: Yeah, I’ve wanted to ask this question ever since I read the first book, and, uh, this might help [unintelligible]… so don’t worry. “Farm boy who discovers something wanted by an evil emperor goes to see an old storyteller who is part of a mystic group [unintelligible]. They go to an enemy fortress and rescue a princess, but the old teacher dies. They return to the rebel base, where in a battle the main character becomes the hero.” Is this the plot to Eragon or Star Wars: A New Hope?
CP: Weren’t you describing the plot for a [unintelligible name. Kirosawa? Kiro Silent?] film there too?
[Unintelligible back-and-forth as they both recognise said film, mention of some fortress. Part of the title?]
TB#1: But I’m just surprised that a lot of the plot structure and elements are exactly the same.
CP: No, I mean I was, I was completely inspired by all the books and movies that I enjoyed reading growing up. And… there’s a reason why, if you go back to the old myths and legends, that you find all these stories about young heroes with magic swords and wise old mentors, it’s because things continue to appeal to people generation after generation, and by using these very familiar elements it freed me up, it was a safety net, because I knew they worked, and it freed me up to concentrate on the things that I didn’t know if they’d work, such as just figuring out how to tell a story and how to write a story. And I think that with each of the books I was able to sort of expand beyond my original framework and write something that was a lot more in my own voice. Eragon was only supposed to be a practice novel for me. I never actually thought it would be published. I never thought my parents would read it. I certainly didn’t think my sister would read it. Uh, so I’m just very, very grateful that enough people have enjoyed the books, that I get to do what I love to do, which is telling the stories. Great question. Thank you.
Teenage girl #2: I was just wondering if there’s any of your characters which you prefer writing about – [Feedback screech]
CP: Move it away from the speaker. Yes. Any of the characters I prefer writing about? Ah, I think my favourite characters to write are Saphira, of course, especially when the story’s from her point of view. Uh, also Angela the Herbalist, ’cause she’s just so much fun. Uh, in the last book I really enjoyed the chapters about Nasuada, uh, but actually I think I really, really enjoy the girl Elva. Because every time I wrote about her —and I am not exaggerating; this is exactly what I was doing— I was sitting at my keyboard with an evil grin on my face saying: “Oh, this is so creepy, this is so creepy. Can I make it any more creepy? Yes, I can!”
CP: This is what authors do when they’re writing. Um, so I enjoyed all the characters. And Roran, Roran was a lot of fun. And Eragon. And a lot of characters. Good question.
Teenage girl #3: Hi, um, are there any one of those characters that you particularly, um, associate with?
CP: Are there any of the characters I particularly associate with? Uh, if you’d asked me that when I started the series, I would have said Eragon, because he was very much me when I started the books. Nowadays I’d probably say Roran more than anything. Uh, as I get older I find myself empathising more and more with Brom, um, so who knows where I’ll be in ten years. I’ll probably be empathising with Elves more than anything. [Unintelligible three or so words]
Teenage girl #4: [Unintelligible. Something about writing]
CP: Ah, will I be continuing writing or will this be it? In other words, what are you doing, Christopher Paolini? Um, first of all, I’ve been touring with the series. I did a huge North American tour at the end of last year, and this particular tour started on April 9th, and I get home day after tomorrow. Uh, I did all of Europe, UK, Australia, now New Zealand, so it’s been a long tour. Once I’m home, yes, over the past ten years I have actually completely plotted out twenty to thirty new books, and they’re in all different genres: fantasy, science fiction, mystery, [unintelligible due to speed] horror, historical fiction, drama, you name it, I would like to try writing it. Um, I’m pretty sure my next book is going to be science fiction. Uh, yes, lots of space- you know, lasers and spaceships and explosions. It should be awesome! Um, however, and I know this is what you want to know, long-term I definitely intend to return to the world of Eragon and write book five.
CP: In fact, those of you who have read_ Inheritance_ probably noticed that there were a couple of things that I didn’t answer or resolve in the last book. Those are the foundation for book five. And six. But don’t— Ignore that part! Um, I have book five already nam— , book four already named, no book five already named, I have it plotted out. I just have to actually write the darn thing at some point. And, in fact, I’ll give you two spoilers about it; the only two spoilers I’ll give you are, one: you have read the title of book five in Inheritance. And the second spoiler is that the story in book four… book five is going to, uh, reveal quite a bit more about Angela’s back-history. And if I say anything more about that, I’ll have to take you all home with me and lock you up in my basement for the next few years.
CP: And while you seem like perfectly delightful people, I don’t think my mom wants to have to cook for you all for the next few years. So… good question.
Teenage boy #2: Um, Hello.
TB#2: You said Eragon was once called Kevin. Where did Eragon come from?
CP: Ah! Where did the name Eragon come from? All of my names come from three sources: Some are historical names, some are invented according to the rules of my imaginary languages, and some, of course, are actually word-plays, and that’s what Eragon is. Eragon is “dragon” with the first letter changed from “d” to “e”. And it also means “an era gone by”, an era gone, which I thought was really nice. Saphira is a play off sapphire, and uh, there are many other things. Um, as I said I’ve slipped in Doctor Who references, Star Trek references, Blazing Saddles references, uh, Dune references, and references to the Yakuza, among many other things. So, um, there are lots of in-jokes in the series.
Young girl: [Mostly unintelligible]
CP: Is there any specific character that I’d like to be? Uh… Geez. It’s probably going to sound weird, but Angela. Because all the other characters are miserable but Angela isn’t; she’s happy. I remember my favourite theory that a fan ever told me, a reader ever told me, was before book four came out. This person told me, they said that their theory was that Angela was actually Galbatorix. And that Eragon would get to the capital, and that he’d get to the throne room, and the mists would clear, the shadows would clear, and there’s Angela sitting on the throne. Which I thought was awesome. The problem with that theory is that if that’s true, there’s no way Eragon could ever beat her. So, I’d probably be Angela. And now I’m going to have a really weird conversation with my sister when I get home.
Teenage girl #5: I was really, um, inspired to learn that you started off self-published, and I was wondering if you had any, um, advice for self-published authors.
CP: Any advice for self-published authors? Um, well… the… landscape for self-publishing has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Uh, when I started there were no e-books available, among many other things. So I’d say you just need to do a lot of reading, uh, on sources on how to self-publish. The biggest two things, as always, are one: write a book that people want to read, which is the hardest bit; if you can do that, everything else is easy. And two, be willing to get up and do things like this, or dress up in costume and go perform in front of school kids. Uh, you have to really be willing to do what it takes to get the word out about the book, uh, because even if it’s a book people love to read, they won’t read it if they haven’t heard of it. Best of luck with your writing.
Little boy: In your first draft of the first story, was Durza the Shade still a key part?
[Back-and-forth as he little boy tries to make himself heard]
CP: Ah, so the question is, in the very… in the first draft of Eragon, was Durza the Shade still one of the main characters? Yes, he was, he was still in there. Uh, I actually based him partially on my best friend at the time who had red hair, and he and I had an argument, so I gave the villain red hair so…
CP: He forgave me, though.
Little boy #2: Hi, um, where did you get the idea for werecats?
CP: Where did I get the werecats from? I… well… to be truly honest, I got the werecats from my sister. We were having a conversation one day, and she said: “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a werecat?” And I said: “That is cool. Do you mind if I put it in the book?” And she thought about that for a moment, and she said: “Only if you give it to me.”
CP: “Or give me a werecat.” So that’s what I did. So, Angela my sister is responsible for everything with the werecats, uh, everything with her character, for the most part, and a few other interesting bits and bobs throughout the series. Good question.
LB#2: Thank you.
TB#1: Yes, I am, actually. After reading Inheritance I was looking on Shurtugal.com, which I go on, and how did you feel about all the negative feedback that lots of people seem to be… you know… [unintelligible]
CP: How did I feel about the feedback to the ending of Inheritance? Uh, this is tricky to talk about without spoiling the book, so I’m going to use some euphemisms. Um, basically, I wrote the ending that was appropriate for the world and the characters, and I think, uh… I was very, very pleased that the reactions have been emotional and strong. People who didn’t like the ending, people who did like the ending, in wither case they feel very strongly about it, and that tells me that I did my job well as a writer. Um, again I wrote the ending that I thought was appropriate and I think one reason, the two reasons sometimes that people haven’t liked the ending is one: thinking about this book as being the absolute end to the characters and the world, which it isn’t, and two: you know, it’s hard to say goodbye to something that you’ve spent a long time reading. And I’ve felt that way about books myself. Um, obviously you may disagree with me about the choices I made with the characters, but again I did what I thought was appropriate and what I felt was best for the world and the characters. Uh, and that’s all any author can do. Um, and hopefully you’ll enjoy my future books even more.
Ah, let’s see, do we have any more questions? I’m not sure how we’re doing on time. Yes?
Adult Male: At the start of the series, Eragon started off as the archetypal hero, but as the series progresses do you think he sort of… strays… from that path and becomes something of a villain?
CP: Uh… so when Eragon started in the beginning of the series as sort of your, uh, stereotypical, uh… action hero, well not even all that “action-y” at times, like your up-and-coming hero, and then later on he became a little bit more… nuanced, shall we say? Well, to me that was part of the joy of writing the series, that doing interesting things to characters that sometimes… deviate from what you’d normally expect.
Teenage girl #6: [long question, unintelligible due to crowd murmurs]
CP: How did I manage to get a different type of book so popular? Well, the Harry Potter novels… the Harry Potter novels were immensely popular when I started self-publishing Eragon, and of course Lord of the Rings had just come out, so there was a lot of interest in fantasy, and I think that’s part of why readers were hungry for new books like this.
Teenage boy #2: In future books, do you plan for Arya and Eragon to get married to each other?
CP: Uh, this is kind of a spoiler, so I’m not going to answer it for everyone, but I’ll just say that I’ll be happy to tell you after you read book five.
CP: And I think you’ll like book five.
Young girl: Um, have you ever considered getting any of the books made into graphic novels?
CP: Have I ever considered graphic novel adaptations of the books? I have, and I think that’s probably something that will happen at some point. Um, I love graphic novels a great deal myself, uh, but just haven’t had the time to sort of focus on any sort of other adaptations. So, hopefully with some future books. Or some future time.
TB#1: I saw the line running out so I decided, hey.
CP: No problem.
TB#1: How do respond to um, claims, because I realise by looking at forums on the internet that, uh, I’m not the only one that’s noticed these similarities. How do you usually respond to claims of unoriginality?
CP: You know, the thing is is ideas are not important. This is something I’ve talked about with a lot of authors. Ideas are not important; what matters is execution. You can take the same idea, and give the same idea to ten different authors, and you’ll get ten different books back. I mean, how many times have you read a murder mystery that starts with: “Well, found a dead body. Wonder who did it? And it’s not the butler this time.”
CP: It really is what you do with it. Um, and ultimately I just write the sort of stories that I want to read, and… either people want to read them, or they don’t. And… I’m fortunate enough that they seem to want to read them.
TB#1: You did a good job disguising it.
CP: [Laughs] Thank you, thank you. Um, last question, I guess?
AM: How many drafts do you typically write for your books?
CP: How many drafts do I typically write for my books? Um, actually I only write about one draft per book, and then I do a lot of editing. Um, I sort of write two drafts at once as I’m writing, and I revise a lot as I write. And I do a lot of editing. Good writing is re-writing, and, uh, I do re-write a lot. Um, probably too much, but I can’t help it.
So, no more questions here for the moment? So, uh, if any of you have any more questions, I’ll be happy to answer them as you come up to get your books signed. Before you head out though, I’ve just got to say first of all, how much I’ve enjoyed doing this; thank you so much for sitting through this.
Applause and cheering
CP: Thank you for reading the book. And if you want to find some more news about what I’m doing… generally and writing, you can find me on twitter “@inheritancecp”, and there’s lots of strange things like videos of how to shave Angora rabbits. So, be forewarned. “@inheritancecp”.
And lastly, as Eragon himself would say, “[something in Elvish],” or, “May your swords stay sharp.”
[Finally, true to his word, he performs a handstand.]
And now, a bonus for those of you who read right to the end: