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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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Bonus Question(s) that Didn't Air on the Live Radio Show

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Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you a bonus question here. Now I think you are the ideal person for this question. What advice would you give a new writer whoís trying to write a book and whoís trying to break into the industry?

Christopher Paolini: Oh boy, thatís a difficult question. I think the overarching answer is to educate yourself in all aspects of writing and publishing. I would, as far as the professional end of things go, I would recommend getting the Writerís Market book which is published every single year. And Writerís Market contains all the information you need to contact agents, publishers, magazines. You know, wherever youíre trying to get your work published, you can find information in there on how to do that and whom to contact.

As far as the writing itself goes, I would say 1. Read everything you can get your hands on. I donít care what it is. If youíre going to be a writer you need to read. 2. Learn everything you can about the language youíre writing in, whether itís English or not because thatís the basic tool of the trade. And the more you know about the language, the more resources you are going to have at your disposal in order to communicate with your readers. Find someone to look at your work and critique it in a positive way. And, you know, that can be an editing sense, in a story sense. You just need to get some other eyes on your work to tell you where youíve put your foot wrong and how to correct that. You learn more from editing often times than you do from the actual writing. And then be consistent. Sit down and write every single day whether or not you feel about it. I get bolts of inspiration about once every three months. And between those bolts of inspiration the writing, while enjoyable, is definitely work. And I just treat it like a job. Everyday I get up, I sit down, and I work on the book. So being consistent will get you a lot further than just waiting for bolts of white hot inspiration.

And lastly, and this is sort of related to the previous answer, lastly, donít give up. It is so easy to become discouraged in this world, whatever youíre doing. And you have to believe in yourself and believe that if you pursue this long enough and you really work at bettering yourself and bettering your work that you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish. And I truly that is possible. But you have to stay positive and just keep dreaming.

Matthew Peterson: Great. Very good advice. Very good advice, Christopher.

Christopher Paolini: Thank you. So I gotta ask you, are you working on another book or books at the moment?

Matthew Peterson: Okay, so hereís the story. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Okay. You have the dream-come-true story. I have the nightmare-come-true story. [laughs] Get this. Okay, so Iím looking for an agent, canít find an agent, so I start sending my book out to publishers. I get my publisher a year later after sending my book to them. Everythingís hunky dory. I start promoting this book like crazy. I kind of came into a little bit of money and I spent it. I just traveled the country, advertisements, you know, booths, and everything. Iím going crazy. My book comes out. It hits the BarnesandNoble.com bestseller list and starts winning awards. And almost instantly my publisher ran out of money.

Christopher Paolini: Oh, no.

Matthew Peterson: And they stop producing the book. And Iím still traveling the country. Iím standing in front of like 500 kids and the librarianís like, ďYou know, weíre trying to buy your book and a lot of kids want to get your book, but it says itís out of print.Ē What? It just came out two weeks ago, just came out a month ago, what do you mean? [laughs] And so it was just ridiculous. And so I ended up getting my rights back. And I wrote the second book. Barbara Bova was my agent. And we parted ways when all this stuff was going on [Side note: Sadly, she passed away last year]. And literally the day I had chosen to start looking for a new agent and a new publisher--THE DAY--my house was destroyed in a house fire.

Christopher Paolini: Ohhh.

Matthew Peterson: I got called to jury duty the next day, and then I got invited to be the host of this radio show. So it has been a whirlwind experience for me. But I do have the second book and it is finished. Itís finished, but I havenít . . . things have kind of settled down now. Iím in a rental home and so Iím probably going to start looking for a new publisher and a new agent. My book placed in about 15 contests though.

Christopher Paolini: Wow. So were you . . . you were actually going into schools then? And presentations?

Matthew Peterson: Oh yeah. Yeah, I was doing schools. I was on TV. I was on radio. I even put a billboard up. [laughs]

[Side note: In truth, I spent a whole year, full-time, and over $100,000 of my own money promoting Paraworld Zero, from getting booths at the BookExpo America and other book fairs to placing ads in The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, touring the country, and giving away thousands of review copies to bookstores and libraries. See the long, long, LONG list of things I did in my Media Kit. But in the end, my publisher didnít have the money to pay me or to even continue fulfilling book orders. The first and only print run sold out in the first few weeks, but orders (that were never fulfilled) kept coming in month after month from the residual effects of my promotions. It was an utter nightmare.]

Christopher Paolini: Wow.

Matthew Peterson: I was like totally promoting it like crazy.

Christopher Paolini: Well you know, that really... Geez, if you can just get a publisher to realize how much youíre willing to work for them like that and, you know, promote and just flog things. Yeah, I mean, that makes a huge difference for them as well.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. An agent once told me, she said, ďYou are like the ideal author. You know, who will just promote like crazy.Ē

Christopher Paolini: Mm hmm.

Matthew Peterson: But things didnít work out. I guess the economy killed my publisher. I was all excited for everything to happen.

Christopher Paolini: Well, you know, thereís... and I know itís really a question of who will give you an offer, but if you end up at one of the imprints of say, Random House or Scholastic or one of the big three publishers, say, youíre pretty safe then as far as the stability of the publishing company unless the imprint itself goes under.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: ĎCause I know I had some offers from some smaller companies when I was self-publishing, and it wasnít attractive enough to want to relinquish the control when we were self-publishing. Have you ever thought about self-publishing?

Matthew Peterson: The thought did come through my mind. Yeah, after all this stuff and the money spent and all that, and I didnít realize this at the time that distribution is key.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: And my publisher, theyíd been in the business for like 17 years, so I felt that maybe they had some good distribution and some money, but they werenít expecting my book to sell so well right at the get go.

Christopher Paolini: Mm hmm.

Matthew Peterson: And they werenít ready for that.

Christopher Paolini: Well, I mean, it sounds like you need a bigger publisher. Thatís really the solution. If youíre going with a major publisher. I mean, youíre right, with the self-publishing the problem is itís self-publishing, and youíre doing everything by yourself.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: And even with all four members of my family working on what we were doing with Eragon, it was a full time job for the four of us.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Not only is it the promoting, but you know, just designing the book itself to look halfway professional. I mean, that took a huge amount of work. And then, Ďcourse no inventory. We were doing print on demand and it was Lightning Source, which is an affiliate of Ingram.

Matthew Peterson: Ingram, yeah.

Christopher Paolini: So we actually were listed on Amazon and the book could be ordered by any bookstore because it was in Ingramís database. But, Ďcourse, no one knew about the book, so that didnít really help us.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: But yeah, by the end of what we were doing, our house basically turned into a warehouse. Weíre just turning over all these books, but all the books that were getting turned over were because... I mean, I was essentially hand selling all of them.

Matthew Peterson: Hand selling them. Now, I did self-publish the audio book. I kept the rights, Ďcause Iím a little savvy.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: Iím technologically savvy, and thatís one right I did keep from my publisher was the audio. So I was getting the audio, and basically the month I got my rights back from my publisher was the month the audio book came out. Itís on like audible.com and other places. But, you know, itís not as big as a print book.

Christopher Paolini: Well one of the tricks we found that was very helpful was, Ďcause you know, you go into a bookstore to do a book signing, especially if youíre self-published, no one knows about you. So, I mean, on a really good day I might sell 14 books in an 8-hour period.

Matthew Peterson: Uh huh.

Christopher Paolini: So what we found really was helpful is when I went into the schools, when we arranged the event beforehand, we would ask the school librarians if they would mind putting up posters for the event. And taking pre-orders.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: So they would hold the money for us and we would bring the books and then we had an idea of how many books to bring. And instead of selling 14 books in a day, we were selling over 300 books a day.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah. And this is probably the bad thing for me to do. I was actually charging to go to schools.

Christopher Paolini: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I was doing that too!

Matthew Peterson: Oh, okay. So then they would pay me, and I would get a bunch of books sales. And I did the same thing: the pre-orders. I found that was way more successful, Ďcause then they get excited about it.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, Ďcause what I found out is that the schools have, and maybe you already know this, but they have certain amounts of money--and it differs from place to place, but sometimes itís state money and sometimes itís federal money--which is allocated for school events. And they cannot spend it on anything else.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: So instead of feeling guilty about taking money from the school, which sometimes I was, you realize they either have to spend it or lose it.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: I mean, I was doing this back in 2001, I think, 2002, and back then I was getting, I think I was charging about $300 a school.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: You know, it helps cover your travel and everything else, hotel expenses, and it really makes a difference too with your profit margin.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, most of the schools I went to there was about 500 people. Youíre talking about feeling the guilt. I went to California; a library invited me to come, and nobody showed up. [laughs] And sheís like, well hereís your check. And sheís like, ďI donít know, we didnít get the word out. We just didnít tell anybody. Something really horrible happened.Ē And Iím like, ďWhoa, usually I come to an event and thereís like tons of people.Ē And there was nobody. And I was like, ďMan do I take this check.Ē And Iím like, ďWell I did travel all the way here and I donít have any money.Ē [laughs] ĎCause I was totally banking on my publisher like paying me. And they didnít pay me.

Christopher Paolini: Right.

Matthew Peterson: Thatís how I got my rights back, Ďcause they breached the contract.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, I had one event--it was a Renaissance Festival in Idaho, or no, it was here in Montana--and I had one person in my presentation, hour long presentation.

Matthew Peterson: Ohh. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: And I did it. You know, I did the full presentation, but . . . boy that was . . .

Matthew Peterson: Awesome. Do you know? I canít remember his name... He is the doctor on Star Trek, the holographic doctor on Voyager.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, um, Picardo.

Matthew Peterson: Picardo, yeah. Okay, so I was at the WorldCon convention, and Iím like, ďOh, I want to meet him.Ē So I go up there and heís standing in the front and no one else is in the room. And I go in the front and Iím like, ďIs it just me and you?Ē [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Itís this huge room. They got the biggest room in the entire place, in the convention center, and so him and me chatted for about 15 minutes and a couple other people came in. And what happened is they had written the time wrong. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: Ohh.

Matthew Peterson: And so by the end of the hour--we were just chatting for an hour--all of a sudden the whole room fills up wanting him, and heís like, ďWell, see ya later.Ē [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: ďTime for me to go!Ē [laughs] So, yeah, I felt bad for him.

Christopher Paolini: Well, it makes for good stories, you know.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Take those things in stride.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Yep.


Extra Material That was Cut from the Show Because of Time Constraints

Note that you can also listen to this while you read it (you'll need to fast forward past the bonus questions).


Christopher Paolini: But everyone at Random House that Iíve worked with has just been a joy to work with, so we were very happy to collaborate with them and bring the book out then from Random House in the edition that most people are now familiar with.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: So they can print books or bind books that are 2, 3, 4 inches thick, but it costs the publisher more and itís something that they donít really enjoy doing and of course, you know, most people donít enjoy carrying around a book that weighs ten pounds.

Matthew Peterson: Oh yeah, yeah. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: I know I donít.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: The most rewarding thing about it, I think, is just seeing the interest and the excitement from the kids. You always see the articles of people bemoaning the state of reading or the state of todayís youth. And I just donít buy it. I think the energy and excitement and the interest is there on the part of the kids and we just have to do our part in fostering that and encouraging that and developing that. And the fact that Iím able to at least play a small part in that is one of the most rewarding aspects of having gotten published.


* * * * * * * * * *


Matthew Peterson: So Eragon has really become popular throughout the world, and a lot of people were excited for the movie that came out a couple years ago. And I did watch it with my wife. I know it did get some mixed reviews. I wanted to get your opinion. What were your thoughts about the movie?

Christopher Paolini: Well, I mean first of all I think itís just amazing and wonderful that a movie was made at all because so few books ever are adapted into films. And of course, the movie helped introduce many, many new readers to the series. And Iím very grateful for that. Ultimately, the movie represented the film makersí vision of the story. And, you know, my vision of the story is represented in the books, and I think everyoneís free to look at each of those and decide which one they like better or, you know, enjoy each of them equally but on their own terms. I mean, ultimately, a movie and a book are two very different things.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: And I do what I can to tell the story the best way I can in the books.

Matthew Peterson: Are there any plans for a sequel to the movie?

Christopher Paolini: Well itís possible, but I couldnít tell you for sure at the moment.


* * * * * * * * * *


Matthew Peterson: [referring to Angela] She just kind of pops up at the strangest places and, yeah, give them a little bit of info. Very interesting character. And I can imagine your sister needs to stay on your good side or else you might do something . . . [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: Well, we both try to stay on each otherís good side.


* * * * * * * * * *


Matthew Peterson: Do you have a tentative name or a date when it might come out?

Christopher Paolini: Oh, I have a name for the book. I named the book before I even started. But you know, if I tell you that the publisher will probably come after me.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Top secret.

Christopher Paolini: And as far as when it will be released, it will be released as soon as I can possibly finish it. And I am working on it as fast as humanly possible.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: I had a real blast working on the book. The idea, of course, was since enough material has sort of been released about Eragonís world, we could take you on a tour of this fantastical land. So with Eragonís Guide to Alagaesia, you can see dragons, you can see giant bears, you can see races, the elves, the dwarves, the urgals. All this stuff is all collected into one spot and itís been illustrated by a whole bunch of different artists. And some really top notch artists here, worked on this. I got to contribute to some art to the book as well, myself.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Christopher Paolini: Which I really enjoyed. And something else that I think is really interesting about the book is that itís all written as a letter from Eragon, himself, to you the reader. And I donít want to give away a few of the little hints that I drop in the book, but it does give a few more insights into perhaps some story elements in Eragonís world.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: [referring to Eragonís Guide to Alagaesia] Yeah, and the fun thing is, you know, I wasnít planning to put so much into the book. But once I actually got involved in it, it was like, I really viewed it as an opportunity to pull together a lot of the information that Iíve collected about Eragonís world, but has been sometimes a little bit too much to actually put in the main books of the series. But stuff that I still think people would have found interesting.


* * * * * * * * * *


Matthew Peterson: Well, let me ask you one last question. Thereís no doubt that Eragon has made you hugely successful. But with all good things, you know, Eragon too will eventually come to an end--the series will come to an end. What plans do you have for the future? Do you have any ideas for maybe a different series or a different book?

Christopher Paolini: I have a whole host of stories that I would like to tackle once I finish this series. Some are science fiction, some are mystery, thriller, horror... I mean, you name it, I probably have an idea in that genre. I really just want to try my hand at a bunch of different things. And of course, fantasy as well, Ďcause I love fantasy.

And itís entirely possible that I may return to Eragonís world at some point in the future, but that certainly wonít be the thing I do after finishing this series. But the one thing I know for certain is that I want to continue telling stories in one way or another. And that will be what Iíll be doing once I finish this series. But of course, book 4 is the main focus of my life at the moment. So Iím not letting myself think too much beyond that at the moment. I just gotta get this next book done.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well I, like millions of other fans, am very excited for the last book.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: I noticed when I read your bio that you said you were a fan of Babylon 5?

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah! Big fan.

Christopher Paolini: Same here.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] I loved it and . . . did you see the new DVD that . . . well, I guess itís not too new, but they actually made an extra episode.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, yeah, the one with . . . in the cell with the priest?

Matthew Peterson: Uh, huh, yeah, yeah. [laughs] I heard they were going to make a few more, but I havenít seen them yet.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, Iíve always thought [J. Michael] Straczynski sort of... Someone with money ought to just throw money at the guy.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Let him do more stuff.

Matthew Peterson: I am a huge Babylon 5 fan, so, yeah, thatís cool.


* * * * * * * * * *


Matthew Peterson: Well, I have faith in my book [Paraworld Zero]. I did just get a publisher in India who said that they wanted to publish it.

Christopher Paolini: Wow.

Matthew Peterson: And I do have a couple agents in like Korea, Germany, who are trying to push it.

Christopher Paolini: Well, see if you get published by like Random House, for example, you would have the option of allowing them to handle your foreign sales. Basically they can sell the book to the foreign publishers. There is a down side to that in that they take a bigger chunk out of any foreign royalties, so itís a bit of a toss up of whether you would want to do that or not.

Matthew Peterson: Uh, huh.

Christopher Paolini: On the other hand, you wouldnít have to handle any of the accounting separately from each country. It would all be done by the publisher and then you would just get the check.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.


* * * * * * * * * *


Christopher Paolini: [referring to getting his literary agent] Well, you know, do you know how I got in contact with them in the first place?

Matthew Peterson: How?

Christopher Paolini: Well, we got contacted by Random House at one point saying, you know, they were interested in the book. And then two days later we got a competing offer from Scholastic.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Christopher Paolini: Which we realized at that point we didnít know what we didnít know.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: And so my dad went online to some of these publishing forums, chat rooms, that he participated in back then. And he posted a question saying, you know, ďIf we were to get an agent, who would you recommend? How would we contact them?Ē And all this. So someone he trusted recommended Simon. And my dad called Simon and left a huge long message on his answering machine.

Matthew Peterson: Uh, huh.

Christopher Paolini: And turned out, Simon almost deleted the message before he listened to the whole thing, but he called back about two hours later and said, ďOvernight me a copy of the book and if I like it, weíre a go.Ē

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Christopher Paolini: So . . . and I havenít regretted working with him since. Itís been just perfect.

Matthew Peterson: I actually did call Writerís House about a year ago. I had another small publisher and theyíre like, ďWeíll give you ten thousand bucks advance for the book.Ē And I was like I donít know if I want to deal with a small publisher again. And I was like, ďWell, I donít have an agent.Ē And so I actually did call and left a message with Writerís House and they didnít even get back with me. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: [laughs] Well, thatís . . . calling them generally versus calling a specific agent might make the difference.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, it might, yeah, definitely.

Christopher Paolini: Well, I wish you the best of luck with that. I mean, I think youíve . . . .

Matthew Peterson: Thank you. And say ďhiĒ to your sister for me. [laughs]

Christopher Paolini: I will. Boy, I was amazed to hear you say that! Just [laughs] wasnít what I was expecting. [referring to meeting his sister]

Matthew Peterson: Itís a small world. Just totally small world.

Christopher Paolini: Well, she was actually down in LA for . . . she was at film school there. I donít know if she told you that.

Matthew Peterson: No, she didnít. She didnít.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, she was in film school down there and she went to the book fair there. And I remember, yeah, she was telling me all about talking to you.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, she was a little coy at first. [laughs] She was like, ďNow youíre going to have to sell me on this before I buy it.Ē You know. [laughs] So obviously I sold her on it.

Christopher Paolini: I know! And she told me, again, she said that she really admired you because you were the only person who was actually willing to sell her anything.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, really? Oh, yeah, I felt bad. All the people around me werenít selling, and I was like selling things because I was talking to people. And they were just waiting for people to come to them. Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Yeah, I would see that. I would see that at all the book fairs I went to or the, you know, librarian conventions and stuff Iíd go to for the self-published edition. And thereíd be the local authors and theyíre all sitting at their tables with their arms crossed and you know, they just look like they donít want to talk to anyone and so no one talks with them.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Whereas I never used a chair. I always stood up and you know shook peopleís hands and . . .

Matthew Peterson: Oh, I mean, thatís the way to do it. Yeah.

Christopher Paolini: Thatís the way you do it, thatís right.

[Mattís final side note: It takes a tremendous amount of energy to be outgoing, happy, and smiley for an entire day, while standing on your feet trying to sell a book. I sat down twice for about 30 seconds at the 2-day event that was the L.A. Times Festival of Books, because there was a constant stream of people and I didnít want to miss an opportunity. Not every author is cut out to do presentations and hand-sell their book, because you really have to remove yourself from your comfort zone. Writing is normally such a reclusive job, but when youíre promoting your book, youíre then asked to do something on the other end of the spectrum: be extroverted, which can be very difficult for many people.

This was one of my longest interviews, so thanks everyone for sticking with it. Christopher was a complete joy to interview, and I now have newfound respect for him. As you can tell from the interview and extras, we really hit it off. I encourage you all to take a look at his books.]




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