Christopher Paolini is a best selling author known most for his work on the Inheritance Cycle book series. Many fans have been wondering what’s next, as he hasn’t released much since the Cycle concluded. In fact all people know is that he has promised a return to the world of Eragon at some point, and that he is currently working on a new Sci-Fi project known only as #TSiaSoS. I got to sit down with him at Dragon Con 2018, and get some updates on what’s next for him.
Russ: I’m a huge fan of your work. Grew up reading the books. Inheritance is one of my favorites. I just want to start out: Dragon Con 2018. Are you excited? What about Dragon Con excited you?
Paolini: Well I came to my first Dragon Con two years ago, and I got talked into it by Brandon Sanderson (?), and I said alright I’ll do it—and I loved the convention. I liked the fact it’s more casual than other conventions. It’s very fan-oriented; it’s not as corporate as other conventions. It’s the cosplay convention—I have a lot of friends here and a lot of authors come here that I know. So it’s a nice vacation for me as well as being work.
Russ: So…you have a sci-fi project coming up. Is there anything you can talk about? I know you’ve been very secretive about it.
Paolini: I had to rewrite the book basically. At least a good chunk of it, and I should be through that rewrite in the next maybe two months-ish? Yea about two months. And then once that’s done I have to sit down and actually read it through and see how it all works. I’ve been printing out each chapter and having early readers look at it, and everyone’s given me thumbs up. So if that goes well, then I should have some news after that about how that project’s moving forward.
Russ: Do you think we can look forward to it within a year?
Paolini: That would be ideal.
Russ: So you’ve ventured into sci-fi…what other genres do you kinda want to go into?
Russ: Okay, so what’s second on the list?
Paolini: I have not chosen my next project yet…but…I have some horror stuff I want to write. I have romance I want to write, some historical fiction, adult fantasy, short stories—the list goes on and on. There just isn’t enough time in the day.
Russ: You need the double length days so you can get all your writing done.
Russ: Now, obviously–when it comes to Eragon, you’ve said that you are going to get back to that land eventually. Do you have anything to tease about that? Any thoughts?
Paolini: *slyly smiling* No comment. *pauses* Any thoughts?
Russ: I know a lot of people are like: “We need more books in this world!”
Paolini: There are things that I want to say, but I can’t say yet.
Russ: That’s fair, I won’t push it out of you.
Paolini: But I’m definitely going to be returning to the world of Eragon—to Alagaesia. But there are a bunch of different ways that I’m going to return to it. I’ve mentioned book five more than once. Book five, while not a direct continuation of the Inheritance Cycle, is its own self-contained story. But it does continue a lot of certain themes and has a lot of the same characters as the Inheritance Cycle. Although it is not the same story, it’s going to fit very nicely with the Inheritance Cycle. But on top of that I have a number of other projects within the same world which are much more stand-alone. And probably not as big or epic as—I mean book five is gonna be a monster of a book.
Russ: I’m looking forward to it.
Paolini: I have it 98/99 percent plotted out. When I actually dive into it, what I’ll do is probably spend a couple of weeks writing out and outlining every single scene. Then I’ll get a sense of whether it’s going to be, you know, 600 pages—which it’s not—or a thousand pages, which it will be closer to.
Russ: That’s a big one. So you know, when I see shows like Game of Thrones, stuff like that, getting these big adaptations with love and care, I always think of Eragon. I always wish that got the same amount of loving care in its adaptation.
Paolini: Honestly, I do think Eragon is more cinematic than television, but I wouldn’t argue if there’s a good TV adaptation. It could certainly do wonders for the story. Unfortunately, Eragon was made right at the time when Hollywood had not yet quite realized that they would do better if they were slightly more faithful to the source material with some of these adaptations. ‘Cause it was Eragon, and Fox also at the same time did The Darkest Rising adaptation—The Seeker. Which did very little business at the box office. Then the producer who worked on Eragon went on and did another little series, using the experience he had with Eragon, called Twilight. Those are much more faithful to the books because of the experience he had on Eragon. You know, it is was it is. Someday I’m going to sit down with Rick Riordan, and we’ll talk about adaptations.
Russ: I would love a huge sprawling epic. When you get into movie territory you run the risk of not having enough space for everything you want to tell.
Paolini: You know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking how it could be done. It could be done. It gets more tricky with the later books, because they get big enough that you either have to split them into two or you have to start chopping a decent amount of material out. I think my concern with a television adaptation is—and again I’m not saying it couldn’t work—if you think about Eragon, specifically the first book, it’s a self-contained story in a lot of ways. It has a beginning, middle, and an end; and it builds to the crescendo of Eragon confronting Durza and the big battle at the end. It has a real sense of this is what we’re culminating with. Television series have a different kind of pacing. It’s more episodic. I think trying to find the balance between those two would be the challenge. The advantage of a TV show is that it let’s you build out the world. If you have the budget, you can see the world, you can luxuriate in a way that you could never do in a film. And you have all of the side characters which have to be trimmed down in the film. Technically they had dwarves in the film—I mean that’s what they are credited as—but you would never know watching the film.
Russ: There are elves in the film without elven ears.
Paolini: Yeaaaaaaa. No comment. *laughs*
Russ: That’s always stuck with me, that they didn’t have elven ears.
Paolini: I mean even Star Trek has elves—it’s the Vulcans right? Or Babylon 5 with the Minbari—space elves.
Russ: We got movies and TV shows, so what about a video game?
Paolini: They made a video game. I played that game. I got every achievement for that game.
Russ: I mean an original, fully-focused and built from the ground up for the world.
Paolini: I mean that would be wonderful. I look at games like Skyrim for example. You can do an entire video game set in Tronjheim, the Dwarven city mountain because it’s so massive. The problem is all of the media rights are tied up with Fox. So that includes video games, and that includes board games. That’s why there has been so little material done with the series over the years, because I can’t do anything with it. It’s all owned by Fox.
Russ: Now don’t those have expiration dates?
Paolini: Not when they actually make a movie out of it. Because then they’ve spent money. Then they own it. Now they can—they don’t own the world. I own the world, but they own all of the characters mentioned in the first book. Another thing is that I did not know the things that I know now when I first negotiated that deal, and I had no real leverage then. It is what it is…I made the best decision I could. Now that Fox/Disney deal is happening, Arya is going to be a Disney Princess. Eragon does seem like the property that Disney very much would want to do something with. It’s family friendly whereas a lot of these projects are not, like Game of Thrones, and Disney is looking for those big tent pole projects that can get both adults and children into theaters. So we’ll see. Once the deal goes through, we’ll have a conversation with them and see if they are interested.
Russ: I assume they haven’t actually reached out or anything—because what I’ve heard is that everyone is kind of quiet about everything.
Paolini: Yea, right now no one’s talking about anything. All the folks at Fox are running around like chickens with their heads cut off because no one knows whose keeping their jobs and who isn’t. Until the ink—the contract isn’t actually signed. So until the deal is actually signed and Disney actually owns the property, nothing is necessarily going to happen. Disney’s looking at the back catalogue that Fox has and saying, “okay this is what we’re buying.” I’m sure they are having conversations internally about what they’ll do with the properties.
Russ: You could be prime for their new streaming service!
Paolini: Yea, there’s a whole lotta stuff they could do. But they’re not gonna actually do anything until they have the contract signed.
Russ: So you’re coming out with this new sci-fi book in hopefully a year—your first book in awhile. What messages are you going to be trying to give your audience—what are you trying to aim for? Without giving away the story obviously.
Paolini: It’s difficult because the themes that I see in my book may not be the themes that readers get out of it. I don’t want to prejudice people against the book or for the book by saying things that may or may not be there. But…it’s a lot of the things that I’ve always been obsessed with as a writer. So questions of loyalty and responsibility. Questions of the relationship of an individual to the larger society. Also questions of bodily anatomy, and how do you mentally deal with it when your body isn’t the way you want it to be, whether because of choices you’ve made already, or external forces. You know, how do you deal with that, and how do you move forward and grow from that. Also, in some ways the destructiveness of anger is a bit of a theme. But overall, I’m trying to tell a good, fun, and entertaining story that will hopefully touch people in the same way that the Inheritance Cycle has. You know I certainly had some big themes in the Inheritance Cycle, but I was always focused too on tying that into a story that people would actually enjoy.
Russ: So this sci-fi story you have is pretty stand-alone? It’s not gonna spiral into a cycle—or you can’t comment on that?
Paolini: No comment.
Russ: No comment. Alright, well is there anything else you’d like to say?
Paolini: I will say this: the setting for the Sci-Fi book is a universe that encompasses the real world. It’s set in the future but it encompasses the real world, and is a setting that I can tell many many many stories in in the future. That’s always been the plan; that’s one reason why it took so long to develop. To take the modern world and develop it into the future, and develop technology that allowed me to have the sort of story I wanted to have, but didn’t contradict physics as we know it. Yet, still allowed for faster than light travel, and yet didn’t allow for time travel, and yet didn’t use some method that everyone else has used, and so forth and so on. So it took some work. And then on top of that you have to actually write a book that works. *laughs*
Russ: That’s the hard part!
Paolini: That is—that is the hard part.
Russ: Well thank you very much for talking to me. I very much look forward to your upcoming work, and I’m sure everyone is as well.
Paolini: Hopefully people will like my upcoming projects as much, if not more so, than the Inheritance Cycle.
Russ: I mean I hope so! I want them all to be good.