Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Brian Hill & Dee Power

A Conversation with Christopher Paolini
By Dee Power and Brian Hill

       Christopher’s first book, an extremely imaginative fantasy novel titled Eragon, was initially self-published, then picked up by a major publisher Knopf, and soon became a bestseller. What is especially remarkable is that he began writing Eragon when he was just 15 years old. Eragon, planned to be part of an Inheritance Trilogy, is about a young man who meets his destiny armed with a mythic red sword, and aided by a beautiful dragon named Saphira. The second volume of the series, Eldest is now in bookstores everywhere. . Christopher has been hailed as a fresh new voice in the fantasy genre.


Dee Power: You are enjoying some very exciting times. . .

Christopher Paolini: ““That’s a bit of an understatement. I just walk around with my jaw hanging open most days.”


Dee: I can’t imagine you had any idea that the reception to your book would be this great.

Christopher: “Not only that: I never even imagined that the book would actually be published. I just wrote it to please myself, and the fact that so many people have enjoyed it is just amazing.”


Dee: You self-published first. How did you then place the book with a traditional publishing house?

Christopher: “We were approached by Knopf. We never submitted the book to any major publisher. We self-published for creative and financial reasons. We were doing quite well at the time that Knopf approached us. In fact, we were doing so well, we could not even fulfill all the orders we were receiving. We were shipping the books out by the truckload almost, certainly by the mini-van load. So when Knopf approached us it turned out to be the perfect marriage of marketing and timing.

“We were learning that we could not take the sales to the next level without duplicating the process a large publishing house uses—the distribution system, the marketing, etc. Once Knopf had proven they were really serious about the offer, that they would give the book the marketing attention we hoped for, we were happy to have them take Eragon off our hands. It’s worked out wonderfully for both of us.


Dee: With your dedication to promotion, how do you find time to write?

Christopher: “It has been a challenge juggling the promotion with writing. I’m still trying to figure out how to strike that balance. However, the publisher is aware that if they don’t give me time to write, they won’t get the book.”


Dee: After the third book in the series is completed, do you think you will be finished with the fantasy genre and work in another one?

Christopher: “I don’t know. I have about 30 books plotted out that I want to write. They span all different genres. I do have an affinity for fantasy, though. And if you’re going to be trapped in a genre, fantasy isn’t a bad one to be trapped in, simply because it’s such a broad genre. You can do almost anything.

“I do want to try to write other types of fiction. Hopefully, my fans will be interested enough in what I’m doing to follow me from one genre to another.

“Fantasy, especially epic fantasy, is good training for writing other things, because it requires you to write about so many facets of life in order to create a realistic alternate world, that when it comes to writing about this world, or some other genre, you’ve already dealt with aspects of that in the larger epic’s work.

“And I’m young enough that I have to start from scratch in another genre, it’s not something that scares me.


Dee: Some writers discipline themselves by saying they have to sit there and write for three hours without interruption, or produce 2000 words a day. What is your approach?

Christopher: “I just try to work as long as possible. I’m not the fastest writer in the world, so I have to keep at it consistently or I don’t get anywhere.


Dee: How do you feel about being on the Children’s Bestseller List rather than the overall list?

Christopher: “It doesn’t really bother me, especially since novels for young adults are selling so incredibly well. But I don’t think of Eragon as a young adult novel. I wrote the best and most mature novel I could at the time.

“Anyone who read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter and enjoyed those would enjoy Eragon.

“I think it was a marketing choice as well. By labeling the novel ‘young adult’, then there is some difficulty sometimes with reviews or attention for young adult books, but you have less competition as far as making the bestseller list and with placement in bookstores. It is sort of a tradeoff. Fortunately it has worked out very well.


Dee: How did you find your agent?

Christopher: “When we were approached by Knopf, we were in Seattle doing events; that was October 2002. I received an email from my editor-to-be at Knopf. We were cautiously optimistic. Then two days later we were approached by Scholastic with a competing offer. Our first thought was that we could negotiate the deal ourselves. But we changed our minds; we were smart enough to realize we didn’t know what we didn’t know about publishing contracts.

“My father went online to authors’ chat rooms and publishing lists and posted the information about being approached by two publishers and asked, ‘Do we need to get an agent?’ One of the people who responded to the post recommended Simon Lipskar at Writers House in New York. My dad did what you are never supposed to do: found Simon’s phone number online and called him directly. He basically said, ‘You don’t know me from a hole in the wall, but here’s what we’ve done, here’s what my son has done, and we have these two offers. Are you willing to represents us?’

“Ten minutes later, Simon called back. And said, overnight me the book, and if I like it then YES! He turned out to be a wonderful choice.”


Dee Power (Ms.) is co-author with Brian Hill of
The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them, Dearborn Trade, ISBN 0793193087
Over Time, the novel, ISBN 0974075418


2006 Past Columns


© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.