“Making Of” The Inheritance Almanac – Part 1

It’s been pretty hard to miss all of the exciting coverage regarding the recently-published Inheritance Almanac here on Shurtugal.com. Originally announced in July of 2010, The Inheritance Almanac is the ultimate and official fan companion guide to the Inheritance cycle. Long-time Shur’tugal readers were shocked and excited to learn that we had been keeping the book a secret for well over two years before finally announcing the project and have since been inquiring as to how all of this came to be. We’d love to tell that story.

This two part behind-the-scenes look at the creation of The Inheritance Almanac, starting with the founding of Shur’tugal and walking through the many inceptions of the book, will hopefully give fans a glimpse into the creation of one of the world’s largest fantasy-oriented fan sites and the process behind creating a 200+ page companion guide. Cycle fans looking to become authors themselves will also enjoy the story and perhaps find inspiration, ideas, and advice for their own personal journey. And so we begin…

View a free sneak peek of The Inheritance Almanac here on Shurtugal.com!

I was a kid who, truth be told, loathed reading. I never enjoyed the books force-fed to me by teachers in middle school; I found them hard to relate to and rarely interesting. These negative experiences with books early on in life pushed me away from the understanding that reading is fun once you find the right books. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I discovered Harry Potter, and soon after, fell in love with reading (but still despised school-recommended books). A year later, in 2003, I discovered the Random House edition of Eragon… and the adventure truly began!

Making of Shurtugal.com

Fan sites have always been my passion. This started early for me; I recall my first fan site being a collection of custom items for early versions of the Sims video game. My first book-related fan site was for the novel Holes by Louis Sachar (and eventually included the movie, though I’m not sure anyone actually visited to notice the additions). I was actively involved in the Harry Potter fandom for several years, most of which was spent working on MuggleNet. It was through the Harry Potter community that I was able to attend the red carpet of the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, help organize a book release party attended by over 15,000 fans, and truly got an understanding of how a proper fansite should function.

In December of 2003, I was introduced to Eragon by a friend from the Harry Potter community, Robby Kolinsky. Eragon was a book that had recently been picked up and published by Random House and carried quite the remarkable self-publishing tale. I was told that the author was fifteen when he started writing the book and that because I loved Harry Potter, I’d fall in love with Eragon. Not one to turn down a good fantasy read, I borrowed a copy from my friend and started the adventure that would shape the next six years of my life. If only I had known then what turning the first page would do!

Needless to say, I was instantly captivated. I fell for the book and its characters, and most importantly, the story of Eragon and his struggle as an “average Joe” thrust into an unanticipated adventure of trials and tribulations; the unlikely hero as a center piece to a truly enjoyable story. Many things set the book apart from others than I had read, and something inside of me told me that I wanted to start a fan site for this book. The series was going somewhere, I was sure of it!

And boy did it go somewhere…

Shur’tugal Grows

Shur’tugal was met with instant success. I first launched the website as a basic news portal to keep up with the flow of publisher and movie news. However, as traffic and fan interest grew, so did demand for a larger website. I began working on content pages for the website during school and as soon as I’d get home, I’d set to work on the community side of the website. Shur’tugal quickly grew to house dozens of pages outlining and exploring various parts of the book — from a close look at the Ancient Language to an online memorial to Brom the Rider — and a rapidly growing community of equally-eager Inheritance fans.

It’s also important to mention that from the start, Random House (Christopher’s publisher) and the Paolini family were beyond supportive of Shur’tugal and the fandom as a whole. The Paolinis would send us a note any time there was news to share (or rumors to smack down), and Random House ensured that Shur’tugal was given access to Christopher and the books for interviews and book tour coverage. Their welcoming treatment and respect from the very start was pivotal to the early and long-term success of Shur’tugal. Without their support, there would be no Shur’tugal.

The site went through multiple phases and underwent dozens of changes over the six years that followed its initial release. Three books, six designs, one movie, four video games, and hundreds of millions of visits later and Shur’tugal is still kicking — stronger than ever, in fact. I’ve traveled the world on behalf of the fans, attending book tours, promotional events, dozens of conventions and conferences, movie premieres, press junkets, viral marketing campaign events, and more. All of this information was stored online and housed in my brain, waiting for the opportune moment to compile it and share it with the fans.

Inspirations and Early Starts

As mentioned above, I was able to learn a lot during my time working with MuggleNet and other Harry Potter sites. The book portion of the Harry Potter franchise was still going strong during my stay with the fan sites; Dumbledore had not yet died, no book had yet been spoiled for me (that ended quickly), and insane theories flew wild day after day. Dozens of authors had popped up to join in the madness surrounding JK Rowling’s books, all hoping to compile information and explore the Harry Potter mysteries in their own companion guides. Many were met with success, such as Galadriel Waters, author of several unofficial Harry Potter fan companion guides. Working with these authors had planted the desire to create my own companion guide within me… a “want” that never left me.

Gathering of Information

At some point during my very boring days in high school, I came to the conclusion that I would write a companion guide for the Inheritance cycle (then still a trilogy). Would it ever be published? Very unlikely. Would it still be fun to write? Of course. If worse comes to worse, I thought, I’ll just self-publish the book online as a free guide for fans. I began planning.

My initial vision for what would become The Inheritance Almanac was very different from what made it to my publisher. Looking through my hundreds of pages of notes, the thousands of marks, highlights, underlines, and post-it notes found within my “work copies” of the Inheritance books, brings back many amusing memories of these early plans. The first book was to be comprised of an “almanac”, similar to what you see within the published book; a list of people, places, and things, with brief descriptions of each. Rather than the way our current Almanac is done, the initial almanac would be limited to one line descriptions of each person, place, and thing in Alagaesia. I also thought I should write detailed summaries of every chapter of the then-currently published books. I would also contribute my personal favorite theories and a random interview with Christopher Paolini.

The book began to take shape during the school days of my boring high school experience. I worked throughout math class and during Computer Science labs. I read, re-read, and re-read again. Each read through would net hundreds of new notes and highlights; post-it notes soon plastered the pages of my very worn copy of Eragon. Outlines were drawn up for the over-all book, and from that, sub-outlines branched out, detailing each unique section of the fan guide. From here I began pulling, moving, and manipulating my notes to create the framework for many of the almanac entries, chapter summaries, and then-relevant theories.The first portion of the book to take form were the chapter summaries, which pulled together fairly easily due to the fact that I had memorized large chunks of Eragon and had my endless pages of notes and highlights at my disposal. This section was first completed and though it shall never see the light of day, still humbles me to know that I pulled off something so cool (and arguably useless).

I wish I could tell you that I immediately realized the failures of my original plans. I didn’t. I spent months working on the book that would never see the light of day, slaving over pages and pages of notes, edits, highlights, and post-its. I was naive then, but had fun working. Though this information never made it further than a now-forgotten folder on my computer, it did help me in a lot of ways. I learned how to properly analyze the books; to find information that other fans had missed or forgotten; to appreciate the books more than I had previously; to memorize parts of the books because I had read them that many times. Most importantly, it gave me the courage to realize that the direction I had been headed in was not the direction I wanted an actual book to take… and that was the most important step in this process.

End of part one! Part two will tackle the process that converted the above guide into The Inheritance Almanac, the road to publication and the rocks along the way, as well as how the final book truly came to be. Plus we’ll thank everyone involved, offer some advice to aspiring authors, and more. Stay tuned!

Learn more about The Inheritance Almanac — including a sneak peek at the book’s contents, ordering information, and more — by visiting Shurtugal.com/Almanac!

  • ShurtugalLiam

    I can’t sign into my account but i would like to say well done Mike, i’ve ordered your book lol. Ignore the idiots who have the NERVE to insult you, Christopher, Inheritence or this site. A lot of effort and passion goes into all these things and people should respect it or, simple thing, GET LOST …
    Now … i, however, am curious as to how everyone is feeling? 😀

    • If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past six years, it’s that you can’t please everyone. There will always be those one or two people who are unhappy for the sole reason of being unhappy. I focus on pleasing the majority, which I think I do fairly well. Thanks for the support!

      • Tulkas Astaldo

        Do other fan sites akin to this one have the same number of detractors?

      • ShurtugalLiam

        You’re qutie welcome Mike, i totally understand how infuriated you may be but you should take a break once in a while (“have a kit-kat” lol!) contrary to what some people feel on here, i often worry you overwork yourself merely to please people. I agree, you do please the majority of people who visit this site, i am one of the many you please. I visit this site rather than go to Alagaesia itself. Haha 🙂

    • jumpergirl93

      I totally agree. Good for you, Mike for making a book! I can’t even imagine the amount of work that must have went into that. That along with keeping this site (amazing site, by the way (=) up and running. You do the best you can and you’re great at it and anyone who expects better has unrealistic expectations and some issues.

  • Tulkas Astaldo

    Quite a saga you have there. Well, I bought the Almanac on Friday, and I’m to the D’s. Two things:
    1. I think you look a bit like a thug… (no offense)
    2. Under Beloth, I think you meant “belt”, not “sword”. Or did I miss the Sword of Beloth the wise?

  • Bobvance1122

    Im sorry, how can there be an almanac when the series is incomplete?

    • How can there be encyclopedias for our own world when our world is still evolving? They track everything up to this point and act as a guide for our future. The same is the case for The Inheritance Almanac. Perhaps it will be updated some day in the future.

      • Bobvance1122

        Your right, of course, thank you.

  • Pazuzu

    Mike’s a bit of a legend. He does a great job running Shurtugal (try setting up you’re own fansite about one of the bestselling authors of the new millennium and getting lots of interviews with him), and he does a great job over on Inheritance Forums (I should know, I’m part of the moderating team there), a reasonably large forum with over 30’000 members (again, try doing that yourself).

    So stop criticizing him.

    • Rootrot

      I fully and heartily agree with that. He does a great job with running the website, and now he’s looking forward to having an awesome book. I say thumbs up to Mike.

  • voldemort

    Wow shurtugal.com sure went through a lot! LOve this website its awsome when i was reading the brisingr i thought i was the only HUGE fan out there untill one day when i came upon this AWSOME website!! I never KNew how many people enjoyed these books! I no longer had to tourment my friends and cousin on my wild theories for the fourth book

    • Nothing is more fun than harassing unsuspecting friends about theories. 😀

    • Rootrot

      I found it shocking too – that faithful day when I typed in shurtugal.com….Sniff*

  • Anonymous

    Mike, that’s awesome! Thanks for all the info. I’m looking forward to part 2 and have yet to read the almanac! =D

  • Rootrot

    I think your book looks pretty cool, Mike. I especially like the cover, and the facts sound interesting. How long did it take you write it?

    • Josh Arnold

      Not to be rude but above he said it took him a couple years.

  • JARH

    The Inheritance Almanac does me think of the ‘Harry Potter Lexicon’. Like you, MIke, I started reading Harry Potter, and then Eragon; both are now my most readed books ever. It inspired me to write my own books, and at this point im working on a four books counting fantasy series – I worked on the plot for over six years.

    Sorry for my bad English (i’m Dutch) 🙂

    • Rootrot

      Diddo!!

  • To the person who’s comment I had to remove because it was highly inappropriate: if you’re unsatisfied with how things are being run on Shur’tugal, please let us know through the feedback form. If you hate the site, please feel free to stop visiting.To address one issue: Christopher gave me full permission to write this book. Christopher and I both share an agent, publisher, and editor. Christopher has been very generous in allowing this book to be created by a fan and for the fans and without his support, the book obviously would not have been possible.To address another issue: The Q&As. I’ve addressed them in two news posts located on the front page and numerous times in the comments.

    • zachamavisca

      You can never fully appreciate how much work an author does to write a book until you hear it from the writer himself. Loved your book!:)

    • Lost Patience

      Everybody wants the Q&A.
      You have to understand that EVERBODY has been waiting for the final book in the series for multiple years, and Christopher Paolini decides to delay the last book (with Brisingr).
      There are little fans left of the series. The ones that remain are only here because of the Q&As that you promised MONTHLY.
      The last Q&A you posted was in May. 5 months ago.

      • Protege

        I had to point out; What about the comic con Q&A?

        • Yea thats what Mike is talking about. It was a 2 part Q&A and both of them were posted as audio files followed by the script.

      • Forest Singer

        You should be glad that Christopher is willing to answer our questions, ungrateful child.

      • Oh really? I distinctly remember us posting a HUGE (and the best) *two part* Q&A in July/August.

        We also revised the “monthly” title after we did the series for a year. Monthly is very hard to keep up with when I get thousands of questions per month to read through and have to coordinate with a very busy Christopher. We do them when I have the time to and when Christopher has the time to. If they happen monthly now, great. If they don’t, oh well — I try.

      • I’m pretty sure that there are still a lot of fans left to read the final book

      • zachamavisca

        Have you no respect?? Mike is here working his butt off for you and all of his other fans. The Q&As will come out when they come out. Second of all, you forget that Mike has just written an entire book for YOU AND ALL THE REST OF THE INHERITANCE FANS. Be grateful for what you get.

    • Rider of Fangs

      How’s the book coming along? Rhetorical I know, but I still thought it would be nice to ask. You should be selling the number of books Paolini has now that the Almanac has come out! You should be proud of yourself. You are probably one of the luckiest man to work with Paolini, especially since every fan (me included) wants to. I’ve been wondering… What will you do after Paolini sells his last book? Surely enough a new author will come along after another, they always do, but it’s hard to surpass one that has sold as much as Tolkien, and Rowing had. Perhaps you might start your own series. That would be worth more than the sun in your pocket. It kills me alot to ask this of you, but if you can take a bit of time from you schedule, would you be able to look at my novel on the site listed below. I would like to see how you would think about it. The comments on it so far are positive, and are interested in continuing it. I perfectly understand if you can’t read it, of course.

      Rider of Fangs
      (Rokutenchi) booksie.com

    • Rider of Fangs

      How’s the book coming along? Rhetorical I know, but I still thought it would be nice to ask. You should be selling the number of books Paolini has now that the Almanac has come out! You should be proud of yourself. You are probably one of the luckiest man to work with Paolini, especially since every fan (me included) wants to. I’ve been wondering… What will you do after Paolini sells his last book? Surely enough a new author will come along after another, they always do, but it’s hard to surpass one that has sold as much as Tolkien, and Rowing had. Perhaps you might start your own series. That would be worth more than the sun in your pocket. It kills me alot to ask this of you, but if you can take a bit of time from you schedule, would you be able to look at my novel on the site listed below. I would like to see how you would think about it. The comments on it so far are positive, and are interested in continuing it. I perfectly understand if you can’t read it, of course.

      Rider of Fangs
      (Rokutenchi) booksie.com

  • Edocsil6437

    If your’ quite through trying to make money off somebody else’s original idea, I’d like to know what ever happened to the “monthly Q&A with Christopher Paolini”? You must know (unless your’ a complete idiot) that it’s the only reason half of us even come to this site!

    We don’t care about your’ almanac, we don’t care about Caleb Nation, and we don’t care what you did at the San Diego Comic-Con that we weren’t good enough to go to. We come to this site because of Eragon! I’ve outgrown the stupid books while I was waiting for the last one to come out, and now I’ve outgrown all your’ money-grubbing bull!

    We waited half a year for the Comic-con interview, and had to sit through a week of random crap updates before it ever came along, and now it’s been more than a month and no sign yet of the next one. Now can you actually do what you promised to do, or is there no reason for any of us to come back to this site ever again? Even if you do more interviews, I can read transcripts on any of a million other fan-sites without having to sit through this arrogant garbage, so what’s the incentive for anybody to ever look at this site? huh? Why shouldn’t we all just Google “Shurtugal Interview with Christopher Paolini transcript” and go over your’ head?

    I’ve tried to be patient but this is just too much. You started an honest site in high school, then you managed to write an acceptable knockoff of the book you adored, and now your’ trying to steal money off CP’s franchise. People like you are the reason Copyright laws are so tight, and the reason that the Eragon Movie was a flop!

    I wouldn’t be mad if you hadn’t specifically said “Monthly Q&A” but you said it, and that makes you a lying piece of crap!

    But we all know you don’t have an answer, so go ahead. Delete my comment and block my computer number. That’s what all the lying pieces of crap do when people start talking about their lies!

    • Kiri125

      Do you realize how rude that was? If you do not like this site you can just leave; nobody will miss you (especially after that). You know what, you should be grateful that Mike Macauley is even doing those interviews because:
      A) THE MONTHLY Q/A’S EXIST.
      B) We get some information about how the fourth book is coming.
      Oh, and congrats on using ‘the royal we’ in the above post because you certainly know what other people are thinking (that was sarcastic). You know that you were only speaking for yourself; just because you do not care does not mean that others do not care.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing! I’m glad to have finally been able to read this stuff. It brings the whole Shurtugal site into perspective. Including the book, which I have yet to read.

    All this is very good to know. Thanks for the post!

  • Night Angel Kage

    Cool this is interesting to know!

  • eraboy

    like