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Christopher Paolini
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Christopher Paolini   Christopher Paolini is the international bestselling author of the Inheritance Cycle, which currently includes Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr. These popular dragon books have been translated into dozens of languages, a movie was made, and over 20 million books have been sold worldwide. In fact the day Brisingr was released, it sold over half a million hardcover copies, making it the greatest one-day sale ever recorded for a Random House Childrenís Book title. With a first printing of 2.5 million copies, it was also the largest first-print run in the publisherís history.

Buy Christopher Paolini's Books at the following locations:
Amazon.com
BarnesAndNoble.com
Audible.com (downloadable audio books)
IndieBound.org (independent bookstores)
Borders.com
  Related Links:
Christopher Paolini's Homepage
Eragon Fan Site

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This episode originally aired on 01/21/2010 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Christopher Paolini

 
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Matthew Peterson: Welcome back to The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction, which can be found at www.TheAuthorHour.com. Iím your host, Matthew Peterson, award-winning author of Paraworld Zero, which some reviewers have compared to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Artemis Fowl.

My next guest is Christopher Paolini, international bestselling author of the Inheritance Cycle, which currently includes Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr. These books have been translated into dozens of languages, a movie was made, and over 20 million books have been sold worldwide. In fact the day the third book, Brisingr, came out, it sold over half a million hardcover copies, making it the greatest one-day sale ever recorded for a Random House childrenís book title. With a first printing of 2.5 million copies, it was also the largest first-print run in the publisherís history. Thatís impressive. Thanks for being on the show today, Christopher.

Christopher Paolini: Thanks for having me, Matthew.

Matthew Peterson: Now youíve been fortunate enough to have the dream-come-true experience that most new authors just daydream about. The hardest thing for most fledgling authors is to get noticed. And you were 15 years old when you first started writing Eragon, and I think this is one of the coolest stories Iíve ever heard, so tell us the story of how Eragon got picked up by a big publisher.

Christopher Paolini: [laughs] Well, itís one of those sort of stories where from the outside it appears to be an overnight success, but an overnight success that took several years to make happen. And it was just an amazing experience because I wrote Eragon while I was living at home and had no contact from the publishing industry, nothing like that. And my family and I decided to self-publish the book and see if we could make a go of it publishing the book and just see if people would enjoy reading it. So for about an entire year, I went around the country doing presentations in schools and libraries, just talking about the book and writing and reading, trying to get people interested in the story. And I did all those presentations in medieval costume too, which I think helped get some attention for it.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah.

Christopher Paolini: And as a result of all those activities, and also you know, just trying to get the book into local bookstores and stuff, eventually the author, Carl Hiaasen, who wrote the young adult book, Hoot, among many others, he was traveling through Montana, and he bought a copy of Eragon from a local bookstore and gave it to his 12-year-old son, Ryan. And Ryan liked the book so much that his father recommended it to Random House and then Random House ended up contacting me and saying that they wanted to buy the entire series.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, wow!

Christopher Paolini: It was an amazing experience because thatís not the normal process of how you get a book published.

Matthew Peterson: That is a great story. It certainly brings hope to a lot of struggling authors. But of course, Random House wouldnít have published Eragon unless they saw the value in it.

Christopher Paolini: No, and thatís one of the nice things about self-publishing is that it allowed us to demonstrate that there was substantial interest for the story already, and that gave them the confidence then to market the book perhaps more than they would have otherwise.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, and although some luck was involved--you know, the moons lining up just right--a lot of hard work on your part was done. I mean, you visited like 135 schools around the country? Thatís what I heard, before your book got noticed.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, before Random House contacted us, I was doing three to four one-hour long presentations every single day while touring.

Matthew Peterson: Wow!

Christopher Paolini: And I got very good at trying to sell the book to people. I remember one time I actually sold a copy of Eragon to a guy who didnít read English.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: And I got him to buy it as a present for his girlfriend.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, okay. I was like, wow!

Christopher Paolini: When I did that I figured that, you know, ďOk, now I can start selling refrigerators to Eskimos.Ē

Matthew Peterson: Thatís exactly what was going through my mind. [laughs] Do have any funny experiences of when you were doing those school visits?

Christopher Paolini: Oh, boy. I mean, Iíve had so many amazing experiences. I had a young boy, I think he was about 12--10 or 12--and he came up to me after a presentation and he did his darndest to sell me a lizard.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: It turned out he raised lizards and sold them as a means of getting money for his family. But he was very funny. On my last book tour when I was in Chicago, I had a woman come through the line and she had a sugar glider that she was carrying with her. And a sugar glider, for people who may not be familiar with them, itís sort of like a flying squirrel, except itís a marsupial. And theyíre very cute and theyíre fairly small and they make good pets, apparently.

Matthew Peterson: Hmm.

Christopher Paolini: So she came through the line with a sugar glider on her arm. And I said, ďOh thatís a cute animal. Do you mind if a pet it?Ē And she said, ďOh yes, yes, go ahead and pet it. It doesnít bite.Ē

Matthew Peterson: How much do you care about your fingers? [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: So I, you know, reach over and pet it, and it sniffed my finger and it was, you know, a very nice animal. And then it very carefully wrapped its paws around my finger and with the cutest expression on its face, started gnawing on my finger.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: And thereís, you know, blood running down my finger and Iím looking up at the woman trying not to howl and say, ďWould you please take your pet off me?Ē

Matthew Peterson: ďYour pet that doesnít bite off me.Ē

Christopher Paolini: Thatís right. Overall, everyoneís been wonderful on the tours, and Iíve just had a ball doing it.

Matthew Peterson: Thatís great. I love doing school visits. Thatís one of my favorite things to do. I definitely relate to you. Well, a lot of people are very familiar with your books. Letís talk a little bit about the Inheritance Cycle for a moment and especially for those who havenít read them yet. Tell us, whatís Eragon all about?

Christopher Paolini: Well, the series, and especially the first book, is the story of a young man, Eragon, who becomes intricately linked with this beautiful sapphire blue dragon named Sapphira. And together they go on a series of adventures and there are duels and dragons and battles and villains and romance and all the good stuff a story needs. And of course, each book in the series expands on those adventures and takes the readers to new places.

Matthew Peterson: These are very intense worlds. Youíve really built a rich environment. And these books arenít little books either. Theyíre pretty big books. And thatís the thing that Iím always surprised at. I see these kids in middle school and they can hardly carry these books and theyíre reading them. Theyíre just devouring these books.

Christopher Paolini: I know. I set out just to tell the sort of story I would enjoy reading myself. And I didnít set out with any sort of guidelines of thinking, ďOh, itís a young adult book, so it needs to be short.Ē Or, ďOh, itís an adult book, so it needs to be long.Ē Itís really, ďHow can I tell the story the best way possible.Ē Although I have to admit, though, my last book, Brisingr, it was so long, especially in the first draft, that I think I kind of hit my limit for the length of a book that Iím willing to write. From now on I would definitely prefer writing something a little bit shorter. I mean, once youíre edging up into a thousand pages long for a book, itís time to start cutting it down.

Matthew Peterson: Yep, you have to call up your publisher, ďIs there any way they can fit more pages in a book? What is the maximum you can fit in a book before the book will fall apart?Ē [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: You know, itís funny you mention that because I started running up against the limits. It turns out that most book printers have a limit of about two inches thick on the spine. If the book is thicker than that, then you have to send the book to printers who can actually handle thicker books.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Christopher Paolini: So I had a special edition of my second book that for various reasons because of the additional material that was included in it ended up going over that size limit, and they had to send the manuscript to specialty printers.

Matthew Peterson: Well, there are some great stories in there. Actually I listened to the audio books. I love the different voices there. And one of your characters, Angela the Herbalist, is based off of your younger sister, Angela, and funny thing is Iíve actually met your sister. I met her at the 2008 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I was signing books and she actually bought one of my books. [laughs] And she talked to me a little bit and finally she says, ďWell, I do have to tell you something: Iím Christopher Paoliniís sister. And she talked to me a little bit about you. All good things. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: Youíre the one she . . . I didnít put two and two together. She told me about you. In fact, I think sheís got your book down in her area. Wow, what a coincidence. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, that was me. [laughs] It was such an interesting experience. Iíd never been to the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and I didnít know what was going to happen.

Christopher Paolini: Well, I remember her telling me how impressed she was that you were actually trying to promote your book.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Which is something, sometimes, I think people who just have a book published fail to do. And part of that is just because writing a book and selling a book are two very different skills. And if you spend three years sitting alone in front of a computer, you donít always get the practice doing the promotion that you really need to have in todayís world. [See the bonus material for more on this topic]

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. And you definitely show a great example of promoting, even before your books became popular. I mean, going to the schools and really just pushing forward. Thatís definitely a good example to me as I was pushing my book. What does your sister think about being in your book?

Christopher Paolini: [laughs] Sheís been very good humored about it. And I feel fortunate that she has been so tolerant of it, because if she hadnít I probably wouldnít be talking to you right now. And the funny thing is her character started off as a bit of a joke between us. And yet, sheís become a very important part of the series. And her characterís appearances and information that sheís conveyed actually has provided the means that I needed to sort of resolve the storyline of the whole series.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Christopher Paolini: So, sheís taken it very well.

Matthew Peterson: Well, thatís good. Well, I know millions of people are excited to get more--to get this final book that youíre writing. Is there anything you can tell us about the next, final book?

Christopher Paolini: Well, it will be the final book--thatís important. The last one was supposed to be the last book, and it got so big I had to split it into two. So this next book is the last book in the series. It is going to have a beautiful green dragon on the cover, which Iím pretty excited about. But more than that, I donít really want to say, Ďcause I donít want to spoil the story for people. But it is going to expand on Eragon and Sapphiraís adventures and hopefully wrap things up in a satisfying and exciting way for everyone.

Matthew Peterson: Well, fans do have something new that they can look at until the next book comes out. And thatís the Eragonís Guide to Alagaesia, which I have in my hands as we speak. And I have to tell you, Iím deeply impressed with it. Itís amazing. Itís got gems and fabric and fold outs. Itís like a sensory overload. [laughs] Which I know younger kids will just love.

Christopher Paolini: I had a real blast working on this book. So far, the response has been very positive. The idea was to put together a book that will show you various places and things and peoples of Eragonís world. And to take you on a tour of this fantastical land.

Matthew Peterson: I just got it yesterday and my wife is like, ďWhat is that? Whoa! Our boys are just going to go crazy over that! Thatís the type of book they keep asking for.Ē

Christopher Paolini: My publisher just did an awesome job with... you know, like you said gems and the fold-out maps and the letters--all the little interesting goo-gahs and stuff you can find throughout the book.

Matthew Peterson: You get the heart of hearts. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: [laughs] That too.

Matthew Peterson: Very cool. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. Iíve been speaking with Christopher Paolini, the international bestselling author of Eragon. Thanks again for being on the show today, Christopher.

Christopher Paolini: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Matthew Peterson: Okay, make sure you visit www.TheAuthorHour.com to listen to Christopher Paoliniís bonus questions. We really got talking, so thereís thereís a lot of great bonus material on the website for you to enjoy. Donít go away, Iíve still got R. L. Stine and Todd McCaffrey coming up next.



  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  



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