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. With part one already released, it’s now time to share the second and final installment of our “Making Of” series!
If you haven’t already, we highly recommend reading part one of the “Making Of” The Inheritance Almanac before reading the second part. Part one tells the story of Shur’tugal’s creation and interesting history, as well as introducing readers to the original companion guide – the one that didn’t (and never will!) make it to stores.
Interestingly, the tale of my initial failure with a companion guide is slightly more exciting than the success that lead to the release of the Almanac as you see it now. I wasn’t deterred by the “mess
” I realized my first draft of the original companion guide to be; in fact, I was perhaps more inspired than ever to write a book that people would actually purchase. Having those notes and early drafts staring at me from a folder on my desktop while I began work on “Companion Guide 2.0” was key to my inspiration.
I have been fortunate enough to work closely with the Paolinis and the amazing folks at Random House over the past six years on various projects, mostly surrounding the Inheritance cycle. As I mentioned in part one, their success was one of the major driving forces behind Shur’tugal’s initial and long-term success. I was also fortunate enough to work closely with Simon Lipskar, the Paolini family’s literary agent (and a genuinely brilliant and amusing individual).
The spark that ignited the serious attitude toward the guide was an offer I received from a small publisher based in California before I had actually given serious thought to actually publishing a book. To me, the companion guide was never anything more than something I would self-publish or release digitally through Shur’tugal. However, a book offer forced me to begin pondering the prospect of actually publishing a book (in the real sense of the word), and also made me realize that I’d be in over my head when it came to dealing with any sort of book offers or contracts.
When I first mentioned the idea of an official guide to my friends at Camp Inheritance, I was met with positive encouragement… but could not ignore the fact that I brought it up at a very confusing time. Eldest and the Eragon movie had both just released and the folks at Camp Inheritance were more than overwhelmed with preparations for Brisingr. Vroengard Academy was in full swing, Random House was working full-force on the marketing and promotion leading up to the release of the third book, and the Paolinis were working hard to complete editing of Brisingr. Interest existed around a possible companion guide, but any further thought had to wait until people were actually getting sleep. I always admired their drive and was more than happy to sideline the book (especially considering how busy we were with Shur’tugal).
It was during this time that Simon (the Paolini’s agent, as mentioned above) had agreed to represent me in my dealings with publishers regarding the companion guide. I was ecstatic to have Simon’s help, not only because he had been so incredibly helpful and generous over the years with Shur’tugal and all things Inheritance, but because I knew he was the right person to have on my side as we tried to find the right home for the book.
Over the next several months, Simon kept in touch with Random House regarding the companion guide, but Brisingr was still in full swing. Shortly after the Brisingr crunch, which included the brilliant Vroengard Academy viral marketing campaign, the release of Brisingr, and Christopher’s North American post-release tour, I was informed that Random House was officially interested in publishing a fan companion guide to the Inheritance cycle. This awesome news sparked the series of official publisher dealings that I’ll never understand (that’s what your agent is for), and in the end, Random House was the official home for the companion guide. They were the perfect fit; Random House had always been so positive about Shur’tugal; so friendly toward a sixteen-year-old fan site webmaster; and then, so positive about the prospect of a fan guide that they were willing to give it a shot!
Initial brainstorming meetings started shortly after the Brisingr book tour was complete. Mark Vaz, author of many official movie and book companion guides, including Mythic Vision: The Making of the Eragon Movie (and many others), was brought on board as the seasoned project manager/editor/contributor/magic worker. Mark, Michelle Frey (Christopher’s editor at Random House), and I spent several phone meetings discussing how the book would work, what it would contain, and a timeline for when everything would be due. The book’s contents were solidified and the beginnings of a work timeline were established.
Writing began in phases:
- First draft of the book’s outline. What will it contain?
- Outline finalized, work started on an alphabetized list of people, places, and things. (This part was extraordinarily difficult due to the sheer amount of people, places, and things in the Inheritance cycle. The final list of items ended up at around forty pages along… and that was all just names!)
- Initial notes were made for each person, place, and thing that would be entered into the guide. (This is where the dozens of hours spent on the original companion guide became handy. I had already spent hours pouring through Eragon and Eldest, highlighting, post-it-noting, and bookmarking. I used these notes as the basis for much of the information used in this draft of the outline.)
- Notes were elaborated upon. (I used this time to go from rough notes to full sentences, bulletted and not ordered properly, for each entry in the book. This would allow me to easily filter through the facts that needed to be elaborated upon/researched further/cut entirely while entering the final writing phase.)
- Actual writing begins. This meant pulling the bulletted sentences together in a smooth, readable, properly-ordered format for each individual entry. (This process was done in sections. I had divided many parts of the books into sections. An example: all of the Carvahall villagers were put into their own section. I completed sections one at a time rather than completing entries alphabetically. I found this more manageable due to the fact that each grouping usually focused on the same sections of the book, meaning I would be jumping around the books less to complete each section. This also allowed me to stay consistent with my notetaking, which was done by section rather than alphabetically.)
- Editing and finalizing the content began. (This is where Mark’s abilities truly shined. He was able to take the companion guide and ensure that it was published as a brilliant guide for fans. The work he put into finalizing the book sent the book above and beyond. He is a genius.)
- Once the final book was out of my hands, it was off to Random House for final editing, copyediting, formatting, art-adding, and finally printing. It was also during this phase that I wrote the introduction to the book (readable at the front of the book or in our sneak peek).
- The book releases! (You know this part!)
Honestly, this book would not be on shelves if not for the inspiration, help, and hours of work put in by many of my friends and colleagues.
- My immediate family was pivotal in keeping me happy and motivated, and without them, I doubt the book would have made it. I also can’t forget to thank my grandparents with an appreciative chuckle. Although they didn’t fully understand my website, they would ask about the website and the book’s progress every time I would visit them down in Cape Cod. My grandfather passed away this Spring before he was able to see a final copy of the book, but his constant interest, advice (“Always wear a suit to a business meeting, even if it’s informal!”), and kindness shines through. My grandmother was one of the first few to see a printed copy.
- The Paolini family. Christopher and his family have been supportive of the fandom since day one. Their friendship, help, guidance, and permission throughout this entire process made the book possible and has inspired me to stick with the cycle for the past six years (and many more to come).
- Simon Lipskar, my agent, for his endless amounts of help, and for pushing me when I needed it the most.
- Everyone at Random House, including Michelle Frey (Christopher’s brilliant editor), Michele, Nancy Hinkel, Judith Haut, and the entire publicity department for their unwavering support and patience with me, Shur’tugal and the Almanac.
- Mark Vaz, for taking the book and making it brilliant and being completely honest/upfront throughout the entire process (even when I didn’t make it easy).
- My friends! They kept me laughing, helped me research, and constantly distracted me (“Come play a video game!”) in a way that only the best of friends can. There are far too many to name, but every one of them knows who they are and how thankful I am.
- You guys, the visitors of Shur’tugal. Many of you have stuck with us since day one, and those of you just joining us over the past while matter too! Shur’tugal exists for the fans and without your support, we would not be here, I would not have a book on shelves, and the Inheritance fandom wouldn’t be nearly as awesome as it is. Please keep rocking!
I’m sure there are parts of the story that I’ve forgotten, people who were unintentionally left out of my thank you who I still appreciate as much as everyone else, and questions that remain. If you are curious about any part of the process of writing the Almanac, or have any questions on advice I may be able to offer you for your own journey to publication, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments!
And of course, if you haven’t already checked out The Inheritance Almanac, we highly recommend you do so. This book was written for the fans and by a fan as a companion guide to take with you on your first or final trip through Alagaesia. The information, research, and random facts found within are ones you won’t find anywhere else. You can find copies of the Almanac in all book stores or by visiting your favorite book retailer online. Thank you for your support!