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An Evening With Christopher Paolini

In my “From the Editor” column in the November issue of FanActivity Gazette, I stated I was going to see Christopher Paolini here in Kansas City on his current book tour for Murtagh, the next book in The Inheritance Cycle. I went with my friend who introduced me to his work with the promise to never watch the movie Eragon starring Jeremy Irons – regardless how much I like him. I have been faithful to the promise all these years.

This spring, I read and reviewed To Sleep In a Sea of Stars, the online story Unity,  and Fractal Noise, the first three books in his new venture into the world of science fiction, The Fractal Universe, and I really enjoyed them. I feel that he found a good new sandbox to play in for a while.

So you can imagine my surprise when it was announced he was going to be releasing a new book tied to The Inheritance Cycle that was about the character of Murtagh. While my friend was reading up on Paolini and the book, she discovered he’d be stopping here in Kansas City and asked me to go with her. Of course I had to say yes.

I know that it’s likely several readers will already know these stories, but this will be new for others. So here’s my evening with Christopher Paolini.

There was a local fencing group entertaining the audience when I arrived. The gentleman running it had been a fencing coach for my friend and her daughter, so they were excited to see him. When they finished, one of the exhibitioners removed his face guard revealing it was none other than Paolini himself.

After welcoming the crowd, he mentioned that it is the 25th anniversary for Eragon. That was a “wow we’re old” moment. He said 850+ people were there that night and jumped right in so it wouldn’t take four hours for everyone to get their books signed.

Paolini started with the story of growing up in a very rural area of Montana, homeschooled by his folks, and how lucky he was that his mother was a Montessori teacher. Like most kids, he hated reading and told his mom, “I hate to read. I’m never going to do anything that uses reading in my life.” He graduated high school at the age of 15 since he never took summer breaks. However, his sister graduated at 14 because she decided it was a race but didn’t tell him until it was too late for him to have a chance to win.

After Paolini graduated, he thought he was cool because was done with school; however, he also now had nothing to do living in middle of nowhere Montana: no car, not able to drive, nothing. So he dug a hole in the ground that was nine feet deep, used an old satellite dish as a roof cover, and another hole and tunnel to get in. He wanted to create a Viking mead bar. Some of his early publicity photos were taken inside the space.

After fighting his mother over reading, Paolini decided he kinda liked it. The first book he took out at the library was based on the cover. He doesn’t remember the name of it or the author, just the fact he liked the cover. When he decided to try writing he got books on how to write because anything he had written would only be five or six pages, as he had no clue where he was going. He learned that he needed a plan for his stories before he even started writing. So he drafted his idea which ended up turning into The Inheritance Cycle.

The first draft was awful. Eragon’s name was Kevin. But Paolini made changes and had his folks read it. They loved it and encouraged him to try to publish it. They tried, and he understands now just how close they were to having to sell the house and move into a city because his parents put everything they could — both time and money — into backing his dream.

Now I can’t remember how he met author Carl Hiaasen, but Paolini gave him a copy of Eragon to read. Hiaasen is known for the book, Hoot. Anyone not into YA books might recognize his short story “Striptease”, which was turned into the feature film starring Demi Moore. Hiaasen gave the book to his kid, who absolutely loved it. So Hiaasen took to Random House and the rest is history.

After his story, Paolini did some short readings from the first four books, Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance. And I do mean short. Each book got one sentence read. The only book that got more than one sentence was Eldest when he did brief statements in elfish and in dwarvish. One of his self-claimed best sentences is by a dwarf in Brisingr: “Die peuny human!” Fun fact: Paolini would ask an audience member for their copy of the book from which he was reading. The copy of Eragon that one gentleman offered was an original self-published copy. Paolini was floored because he had not seen this edition in years. It was fun seeing him get excited about his own work like that. He then read a page and a half from Murtagh and then turn the floor over to the audience for some Q&A’s.

Now I won’t go through every question but I will give you these answers: he has more plans for Eragon and Saphira, something for Angela, this is not the last we’ve seen of Murtagh, there will be a book six, and he has something from Arya’s point of view.

Two questions did stick out and are worth mentioning.

The first: How involved is Paolini in the Disney+ adaptation of Eragon? Answer: Writing and executive producing. He is excited for the project since Eragon has not been adapted before…

The second: How does Paolini do to write his characters? Emotion. He has to feel for this character whether it’s sympathy, empathy, hate, something. If we feel for that character, you want to know more and continue to follow them. While he was saying this, it reminded me of the last book of his that I read, Fractal Noise, and how mesmerized I was the main character and what he was going through personally. Paolini explained how the book came to be and between that explanation and the book, I would be interested in being a fly on the wall in his brain — but maybe I don’t want to know the magic behind the curtain.

And this brings me to getting my book signed. They were organized like a well-oiled machine and it did not take as long as one might expect. I asked if I could give them a SciFi4Me business card which he took and then signed my book. I did mention I wish he could sign something non-Inheritance Cycle related.  Now, if you have read my review for Fractal Noise you’d know it would be “thump….thump.” This comment took him by surprise and his response was “really?” I took the opportunity to tell him that I think Fractal Noise is the best work he has done because of how very different it is from the fantasy writing of his we know. It shows great growth in his writing, which is expected over time and experience, but to make that deep of a turn to me was amazing. Of course he asked if I had read Murtagh yet, I told him I was almost finished. He chuckled. I did promise him I would finish it and review it as I have the other ones and thanked him for retweeting my review of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. I told him to keep writing the science fiction books, he’s good at it.

 

I will admit the next day I did retweet my review of Fractal Noise in which I tagged Paolini and SciFi4Me. I stated it was a joy meeting him the previous evening and then “thump thump” (figuring it might trigger his memory) and I stand by my statement that Fractal Noise is the best book he’s written yet, I will read and review Murtagh. He liked my tweet and he retweeted it.

My hope is that at some point we can reach out and interview him once things have slowed down with the Murtagh book tour. By then I should have the book read and reviewed so that there’s more to talk about than his other books.

Thanks goes out to my friend Jana Leigh Welch for getting me out on a school night.

 

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