On the back of the release of Inheritance - his fourth book - bestselling fantasy sensation Christopher Paolini joined us (in partnership with Melbourne Writers' Festival) for an hour of lively conversation at the Athenaeum Theatre, during which he discussed the 14 years of his life spent writing the Inheritance series and his gateways into reading and writing.
Paolini revealed that as a child, he ‘absolutely hated’ reading, insisting to his mother - also his homeschooling teacher - that he was ‘never going to use it for the rest of my life’. It was a children’s detective novel from an Alaskan library which turned him onto the pleasures of the page. (He recalls being ‘forced’ to read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss earlier.) Soon, he was obsessed with reading.
Graduating high school at fifteen, he suddenly found himself bored enough to dig a giant hole - in an attempt to construct a Viking-style Mead Hall. While he eventually redirected his energies into writing, he recalled the time with fondness, recommending a similar experience. ‘No-one’s forcing you to do anything, and whatever it is you choose to do in that time… that’s probably what you should pursue as a career,’ he offered.
Eragon was born when Paolini decided to try writing the sort of story that he himself would enjoy reading. He told the audience how he combined all the elements of his favourite fantasy books and reflected on his first reading the completed book.
From there, he discussed the process of self-publishing and touring his debut novel - including an eye-opening description of his promotional dress sense of the time.
Paolini then treated the audience to short readings from each of his books. Whilst it was possible that they were some of the shortest readings ever, his ‘wiggling uvula’ still managed to feature. And speaking of which, he also discussed his favourite of his invented languages.
For the second half of the hour, Paolini took questions from the audience, covering topics such as: how he approached improving his writing, his opinion on the film adaptation of Eragon, writing more than one point-of-view character and his plans for dozens of new books including, most immediately, science fiction.
An enthusiastic and familiar crowd continued to deliver questions to the author. He explained his inspirations for starting Eragon, elaborated on the process of self-publishing with his family, shared his approach to creating his own languages and pondered his favourite book of his Inheritance series.
Ending the session, Paolini thanked the audience, cartwheeled to his phone, photographed the crowd and exited the stage.
Christopher Paolini was educated at home by his parents. His abiding love of fantasy and science fiction inspired him to write his debut novel, Eragon, when he graduated from high school at 15.