I never imagined myself being a writer. I always imagined myself actually being smart or something.— Christopher Paolini
Christopher Paolini was born on November 17, 1983 in Southern California. Aside from a couple of years in Anchorage, Alaska, he has spent his entire life in Paradise Valley, Montana, where he still resides. He was homeschooled for all of his younger years and graduated from high school at the age of 15 through an accredited correspondence course at American School, Chicago, Illinois. He currently lives with his parents and younger sister, Angela, in a rustic, two-story farmhouse on the banks of the Yellowstone River. They have two pets: Otis, a black and white cat, and Annie, a frisky cocker/Australian shepherd mix.
The tall, jagged Beartooth Mountains rise on one side of the Paradise Valley. Snowcapped most of the year, they inspired the fantastic scenery in Eragon. A few years ago, Christopher hiked to the top of one peak and could see the Grand Teton mountain range, 100 miles to the south.
Christopher was homeschooled by his parents, often writing short stories and poems in attempt to put his thoughts into words. He made frequent trips to the library and read widely. Some of his favorite books were Bruce Colville's Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, Frank Herbert's Dune, Raymond E. Feist's Magician, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, as well as books by Anne McCaffrey, Jane Yolen, Brian Jacques, E. R. Eddison, David Eddings, and Ursula Le Guin.
Inspiration and Creation of the Inheritance Cycle
Christopher grew up listening to a variety of music, but classical music fired his imagination and helped him write. The final battle of Eragon was written while listening to Carmina Burana. The story of Eragon began as the daydreams of a teen. Christopher wanted to try his hand at telling a story that included all the things he enjoyed in other fantasy novels. The project began as a hobby; he never intended to be published. He took a month to plot out the entire cycle, then sat on the sofa and began writing in a notebook. He wrote the first sixty pages in longhand, after which he learned to type, though he sometimes found the story flowed better by hand. All the characters in Eragon are from Christopher's imagination, with the exception of Angela the herbalist, who is a lampoon of his sister. Many readers find great connections from his characters to others in other fantasy works, but Christopher maintains that they are from his imagination.
It took him a year to write the first draft of Eragon. When Christopher first read the manuscript he was appalled to discover how poorly it was written. The story was there, however, so he took a second year to revise the book, and then gave it to his parents to read. They were astonished by the quality and unique voice of his work, and decided to help him release the book through the family's publishing company, Paolini International. A third year was spent with another round of edits, designing a cover, typesetting the manuscript, and creating marketing materials. During this time, Christopher drew the map for Eragon, as well as the dragon eye that appears inside the hardcover edition. Finally, the manuscript was sent to press, and the first books arrived.
The Paolini family spent the next year promoting the book themselves, beginning with the presentations at the local library and high school, then travelling across the U.S. In all, Christopher gave over 135 presentations at libraries, bookstores, and schools in 2002 and early 2003. He did most of the presentations dressed in a medieval costume of red shirt, billowy black pants, lace-up boots, and a jaunty black cap.
In Summer 2002, Carl Hiassen, the author of Hoot, brought Eragon to the attention of his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, who subsequently acquired the rights to publish Eragon and the rest of the Inheritance cycle. The book was discovered by his stepson in a bookstore, who loved it so much he showed it to Carl.
Eldest (Inheritance, Book II) appeared in August 2005. Christopher embarked on an Eldest tour that lasted until the end of 2005, then returned home to start working on the third book, Brisingr. Eragon, adapted to a movie for Fox 2000, was released on December 15, 2006. Brisingr was released on September 20, 2008. A fourth book, Inheritance, was added to the trilogy, as the original third book (named Empire) proved too long for one volume.
Christopher Paolini is a known lover of fantasy and science fiction literature, as well as literature in general. In his interview with Time for Kids (see Interviews section), he stated that as child the series that he read included the late Brian Jacques's Redwall series, all of the Nancy Drew books, Tom Swift and Beverly Cleary's Ramona series.
Once the cycle is finished, Christopher plans to take a long vacation and ponder which of his many story ideas he will write next. He has already begun and titled his next project, although he would like to return to the Inheritance Cycle. Possible future Inheritance books considered by Paolini include:
- A book set at the height of the Dragon Rider's power.
- A prequel telling the story of Brom, possibly including the seven words spoken by Brom to Eragon just before he died.
- A standalone sequel featuring old and new characters.
- A side-story to the main cycle, featuring the actions of other characters at the time of the Rider War.
- An additional series set in the Inheritance Cycle universe, featuring new characters with returning characters from the Inheritance Cycle.
- A biography of Lord Barst, detailing his life and his rise to power.
His next project will be either a short story or a novella in the science-fiction genre, followed by a science-fiction novel and a fantasy novel set in a world other than the Inheritance Cycle world.
You can send fan-mail to Christopher Paolini through his publisher at:
c/o Michelle Frey
1745 Broadway, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10019
Christopher on becoming a writer
"I have visions of lizards. Not just little rock lizards, or even something as big as an alligator—no, I see gigantic, majestic flying dragons. I have visions of them all the time, whether in the shower, sitting on the couch, or riding in the car. The problem with seeing dragons is that they tend to take over your mind. And once that happens, you can go a little crazy. Which is probably why I became a published author at eighteen.
My novel Eragon is a fantasy story, the first in the cycle Inheritance. It is the story of a young man who unwittingly becomes linked with a brilliant-blue dragon, Saphira, and inherits the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders, who were once peacemakers in the land. The tyrannical King Galbatorix, however, has no intention of letting a Rider challenge his authority, and his dark servants murder Eragon’s family. Bereft of his home, Eragon and Saphira embark on a quest for vengeance—one that soon embroils them in an epic battle between good and evil.
It took me about a year to write the first draft, then another to revise it properly—because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in the beginning—and finally, a third year to complete the editing and prepare the book for publication. In addition to actually writing the manuscript, for the original publication I also illustrated the book-cover and drew the interior maps. That was possible only because I originally chose to publish with print-on-demand, which gives authors more creative freedom to shape the book’s "package" than they would otherwise have.
How was I able to accomplish all this? Let me tell you a story: "I hate to read!" cried the little boy obstinately. "I don’t see why I have to learn this, I’m never going to use it." That's what I said nearly fifteen years ago when Mom was teaching me how to read. Back then I knew that reading wasn’t part of my world and I knew that it was just a waste of time. Mom was patient, though, and carefully guided me until I could read simple words. Then she took me to the library.
It's easy to write those words now, but they cannot convey how that single event changed my life. In the library, hidden in the children's section, was a series of short mystery novels. Attracted by their covers, I took one home and read it eagerly. I discovered another world, peopled with interesting characters facing compelling situations. In fact, I still remember what the book was about; it involved tomato sauce being mistaken for blood! From then on, I’ve been in love with the written word. Instead of toys, my room is filled with books. They’re piled under my bed, on the floor, by my pillow, and overflow into the rest of the house. When we go into town, the only places I want to visit are the libraries, bookstores, and occasionally an art museum.
But it hasn’t stopped there. I enjoy stories so much that I took the next step and started writing them myself. I read college-level courses on the subject, teaching myself about everything from plot structure to descriptions. All of this culminated four years ago, when I sat down and outlined the plot for a cycle of books. For weeks, I struggled to figure out every detail. Then, with everything ready, I began to write.
Don’t let me make this sound too easy, though. Everything I did was only possible because my parents were dedicated and loving enough to homeschool my sister and me. My mother, a former Montessori teacher and author of several children's books, took the time to instruct us every day. Aside from textbook lessons, she had us perform many exercises designed to stimulate our creativity. Even at a young age I enjoyed writing short stories and poems.
It's strange; although I had a strong interest in books and stories, it never occurred to me that I might actually be a professional writer one day. All I really wanted to do was share the epics floating around in my head with other people—writing was just something I had to master in order to make those sagas reality.
Once my first draft of Eragon was finished, I had to learn how to write properly. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it's not. The first step in writing my book was a purely creative phase. After that, however, came the grind of editing the manuscript into readable material. It was there that I learned how to produce graceful and grammatical prose. Doing is the best way to learn, but it helps to read the rules first. In my case, I wish I had learned more about grammar before writing Eragon—it would have saved me an enormous amount of time spent fixing easily avoidable mistakes throughout a gigantic manuscript!
One of my favorite scenes from the book is when my hero Eragon dives into a vast lake on his dragon Saphira. It always strikes me as an enchanting moment. Here is a short excerpt from this section:
The water hit Eragon like an icy wall, knocking out his breath and almost tearing him off Saphira. He held on tightly as she swam to the surface. With three strokes of her feet, she breached it and sent a burst of shimmering water toward the sky. Eragon gasped and shook his hair as Saphira slithered across the lake, using her tail as a rudder.
Eragon nodded and took a deep breath, tightening his arms. This time they slid gently under the water. They could see for yards through the unclouded liquid. Saphira twisted and turned in fantastic shapes, slipping through the water like an eel. Eragon felt as if he were riding a sea serpent of legend.
Just as his lungs started to cry for air, Saphira arched her back and pointed her head upward. An explosion of droplets haloed them as she leapt into the air, wings snapping open. With two powerful flaps she gained altitude.
When I graduated from high school at fifteen, I had planned to go to college. I even applied to Reed College for entrance in August 2001 and was accepted. However, if I had gone I wouldn’t have been able to promote Eragon. Now I have the chance to share my book with the rest of the world, and I hope that everyone can enjoy this story and its many wonders. All I want to do is help you, the reader, experience the drama and beauty contained within these pages.
Right now, I’m working full-time on appearances and book signings for Eragon. It's an exciting, new experience, totally different from anything I’ve done before. Also, I’m writing the screenplay for Eragon and I’ve started the next book in the cycle, Eldest, which promises to be even better than the first. . . .
If all goes well, I’ll still be seeing dragons for many years."
According to a twitter post from August 4, 2012, Chris & Saphira are colorblind.
- Powells.com Interview with Tamora Pierce, Philip Pullman and Christopher Paolini
- Teenreads.com: September 2003 Interview
- Guardian Unlimited Books Interview
- TimeForKids Interview
- WaldenBooks: Coming of Age as a Bestselling Author