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Best-selling author Christopher Paolini to visit Kitsap |Kitsap Week
Best-selling young readers fantasy author Christopher Paolini is on tour promoting his latest book, “Inheritance,” the concluding novel in the Inheritance series.
Paolini will make a stop on his multi-city tour on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at Bainbridge High School Commons, 9330 NE High School Road, Bainbridge Island.
I was able to chat with him in between tour visits to learn a bit about him and his popular series.
EJ: You were raised in a rural, mountainous region of Montana. How did your childhood influence your books?
CP: The books were a natural outgrowth of my upbringing. Living in Montana and getting to see the landscape and wildlife all fed into the story and helped form and enrich it. And, of course, the fact that I was home-schooled played a part.
EJ: How old were you when you came up with the story for “Eragon”?
CP: I first thought of the idea when I was 14, but didn't start working on it until 1998 when I was 15.
EJ: Did being home schooled allow you freedom that you wouldn’t have otherwise had?
CP: Yeah. That was a large part of it. Being home-schooled allowed me to move at my own pace through the subject material, which meant I was able to graduate at 15. Being able to graduate early meant I had the time to write. You can’t write if you don’t have the time. If I'd been in high school and was taking different classes and playing sports and dealing with homework, I never would have been able to write “Eragon.”
EJ: Did you want to be a writer when you were younger?
CP: No, not at all. I wanted to be doing all the things I wrote about in the stories. I wanted to be riding dragons, fighting monsters and having adventures. Telling stories rose out of the desire of those daydreams. I have really fallen in love with this profession. I love writing and telling stories. I am very happy to be doing this.
EJ: I’m a parent of a child not much younger than you were when you wrote “Eragon.” I find it remarkable that your parents had the confidence in you to agree to self-publish the book.
CP: Part of it was they were happy I was writing because it kept me busy. I didn’t have a lot to do because I wasn’t in school and I didn’t have a job. My family was always looking for things we could do together and form a family business. So when I gave the manuscript to my parents and they read it, they really felt that there was something good in it and it was worth pursuing. We all sat down and said, “Is this something worth trying?” And we all decided that it was and we would self-publish it and try to make a go of it. Fortunately for us, it worked out.
EJ: What does your family think now?
CP: We are all amazed by it. On one hand, the sense of disbelief has faded over the years. It’s gotten easier to accept what has happened. But at the same time, it never goes away. On the tour I’m on now, I’m continually amazed by how much these books have meant to people. And the reactions I get from them — the emotions the story seems to have evoked in them. Yeah, it’s really kind of amazing. None of us have ever forgotten how far we’ve come and what an incredible journey it’s been.
EJ: How does it feel to see people reading your book on the airplane, or buying it in the store?
CP: I actually haven’t seen it quite as much as you would imagine because I live in a pretty isolated part of the country and I don’t get out too much except when I’m on tour. When I first did see people with the books and heard they were reading them, it was a little surreal. I never really believed when I was writing “Eragon” that anyone aside from my parents would read it. I wasn’t even sure my sister would read it! And to know that people all around the world are enjoying it is something I am very grateful and humble for.
EJ: Your stories center on an elaborate fictional world. How do you keep all the details straight?
CP: It definitely gets tricky at times. I’m lucky I have a lot of very good readers who look at the book before it’s published and help catch any mistakes on my part. I literally keep hundreds of pages of notes: Lists of character names, place names, histories, family trees and deleted scenes for reference. It’s a big job, but the thing is, you really have to do it. You cannot keep track of it in your head.
EJ: Where did you find your inspiration for the dragons?
CP: Most of the behavior of Saphira came from my knowledge of dogs and cats that I grew up with. And also watching the animals in Montana. I’m glad I had pets growing up, because I think it helped me make the dragon much more realistic than I would have otherwise.
EJ: How does it feel to be finished with the final book in the series?
CP: It’s a little bittersweet to be saying goodbye to the world and the characters. But at the same time, it’s really excting to know the readers are finally able to get their hands on the last book and see the end of the story. I’ve always known where the story was going but, of course, the readers haven’t.
EJ: So you are saying that way back when you began the first book, you knew where the story would lead you?
CP: Oh, yeah. Every writer works differently, but the way I work is I find it basically impossible to write unless I know where I’m going. In fact, I tried writing some books before “Eragon” and never got past the first few pages for that very reason. So before I started “Eragon,” I plotted out the entire story from start to finish.
EJ: Do you plan on continuing to write?
CP: Oh, yes. I definitely have some more stories in Eragon’s world that I would like to tell. At the same time, after working on this series for so long, I think I am going to work on other stories. I basically have 20-30 completely new books all plotted out that I’ve been waiting to write. Some are science fiction, mystery, history, thriller, romance, historical-fiction, you name it, I’d like to try it.
EJ: I read that when you first began touring for “Eragon” you dressed in medieval clothing.
CP: That was an idea to get more attention for the book because no one knew who I was and no one knew what the book was, so yeah, I wore a costume.
EJ: How did that feel being a home-schooled child, dressed in costume and entering high schools?
CP: The first time I was ever in a public high school, I walked in wearing that costume. It was scary, I won’t deny it. But I found very quickly that the students were interested in my story and the story of the book. They wanted to like me. I lost my fear very quickly. And honestly, being home-schooled, I never really had any difficultly speaking in public or interacting with strangers. Having not gone to public school, I never had to experience being beaten down for who I was. I didn’t have the negative experience of people making fun of me in public, so walking out in front of a bunch of high schoolers was scary, but not something I felt I couldn’t do.
EJ: Anything else?
CP: I’m very proud of this last book. I think it’s the best book in the series. For people who haven’t read the first three books, or who don’t read fantasy in general, I say they can easily pick this book up and get into the story. Even though it is fantasy, it deals with universal questions of how to live and what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s a classic coming of age story.
West Sound Reads:
The Nov. 28 free reading and book signing takes place at 7 p.m. at the Bainbridge High School Commons, 9330 NE High School Road, Bainbridge Island.
Fans who purchase “Inheritance” from a local independent bookstore prior to the event will get a ticket, while supplies last, for two preferred seats plus upfront places in the book-signing line.
Participating book stores include Eagle Harbor Book Store (Bainbridge Island), Liberty Bay Books (Poulsbo), The Traveler (Bainbridge Island), and Dauntless Books (Port Gamble).