We met author Christopher Paolini at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Union Square recently. We love his latest book, “The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm.” We are also big fans of his “Inheritance Cycle” book series.
What was the most difficult part about writing this latest book?
The most difficult part of writing this book was hitting my deadlines because when you’re working with a publisher, you need to deliver your work in a certain time, and that’s important so that the process can move forward. Also just writing different types of stories than the ones I’ve written in the past. And learning how to write a complete story in less than a million words, which is about what the “Inheritance Cycle” is as a complete series. So those were all challenges for me. But it was a remarkably easy book to write.
Did anyone help you with any part of your story?
Yes. I get lots and lots of help from people. My sister is one of my first readers, and she reads the stories and will help edit them. So does the rest of my family, and my agent and my editor. Also my sister wrote a chapter in the book that is from Angela’s point of view in “The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm.” So that’s a lot of fun. And of course, when I’m actually editing the book, the editor helps with the editing, the copy editor helps with strange words and pronunciation, odd uses of commas and things like that.
Who was the first person that acknowledged that you were actually a writer?
I was. I had to tell myself that I could be a writer before I could be a writer. You do need other people to like your work so that you can sell it and support yourself if you want to be a writer. But if you want to be a writer yourself, you have to be the person to say, "I am a writer! I am writing every day. I’m going to become a published author." Outside of myself it was my family — my parents, who read an early version of “Eragon.” And they said, “Hey, we think you have something here.” And I’m very fortunate they said that because if they hadn’t, if they discouraged me, or said, you know, “We don’t like what you wrote,” there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have kept writing or I would have only written in secret. So I was very, very fortunate in that regard.
Does this book have any connection to your life?
Every book I write is my life. And the things that I write about, even though there are dragons and swords and battles and things like that, that I don’t have in my regular day-to-day life, the things I’m writing about, like the deep important things in the story, are the things I think about and worry about and hope for. So even though I don’t have the giant dragons sitting in my backyard — which is both a good and a bad thing — I do think about the things that I write about and care about them.
What does an average day look like for you when you’re writing?
I get up in the morning. I sit down and I attempt to read the entire internet. I fail every day. I get some coffee. I get some breakfast. And after about an hour or so, I feel like my brain is working, so then I sit down and I write. And I usually write from, let’s say, 8 or 9 in the morning until noonish. I’ll get some lunch. And then I write again in the afternoon usually until 3 or 4. And then I will stop, and I will go exercise because I sit all day. So I have to lift weights and run and do things and get my heart moving. And then in the late afternoon, evening, I will have dinner with my family. And I will spend some time with them. We’ll watch a movie together. Maybe I’ll do a little drawing. Maybe I’ll do a little hobby or something in the evening. And then usually I’ll go back and write again for another hour or two before going to sleep. So it’s a full day of writing, and I do that pretty much every single day of the year. Birthdays, holidays, weekends, Christmas, except when I’m on book tour.
In your book, “The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm,” it says that Saphira doesn’t have any eggs of her own. Will she ever have eggs?
I would love to answer that question. That’s a really good question. But if I answer that, it’s going to spoil a future book that I want to write. So we will find out. I will say this, that she is perfectly capable of laying eggs and having offspring, having children. She just hasn’t been able to do so yet.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Read everything you can, both the things you enjoy as well as the things you don’t always enjoy so that you learn new stuff. Write every single day. Treat it like practicing a musical instrument. Learn everything you can about the language you’re writing in. I know diagramming sentences is boring, but it is the tool of the trade, and you need to learn how to use the language. Plot your story out beforehand so you know where you’re going. Find someone in your life — friend, family member, teacher, librarian, someone who’s a good reader who maybe likes the genre you’re writing in, who can help edit your work, that can tell you what you’ve done bad, so you can get better. And write about whatever it is you care about the most. Writing’s hard. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. So pick a subject matter that you truly care about. There are 7 billion people on this planet. No matter what you are interested in, there are millions of other people who are interested in the same thing also. And then lastly, persistence. You know, work every day. Try hard. Realize you’re going to make mistakes. And that’s OK, and then just keep learning and growing.
Karen Murillo's sixth-grade class, Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74, Bayside