Let’s jump right into what the last part of one of our best interviews with Christopher to date has for you:
Mike Macauley: Let’s talk about the Ra’zac for a bit: Were the Ra’zac truly inherently evil? Doesn’t wiping them out constitute genocide? Do they simply kill to survive or do they have another choice?
Christopher Paolini: Not really. I mean, they could probably prey on some other kind of meat, if you will, but as was said a couple of times… basically, they evolved to hunt humans and elves, and dwarves to a lesser extent. But their prey is usually humans and elves. They could pass for humans at a distance if it’s dark and they have a cloak. They can ride and do other things that humans can. They’re really nothing but predators for humans and elves. So it’s really kind of a “kill or be killed” situation. It’s not like vampires where you can feed them fake blood or just feed them blood and leave the victim alive. It’s a little bit more extreme with the Ra’zac.
MM: So they are just inherently evil?
CP: I wouldn’t say they’re evil… they just like to eat humans and elves. That’s what their ecological niche is. They eat humans and elves and a side of dwarf if they can get it, although it tends to be a little hairy for their taste. It’s just like wolves out here in Montana – they hunt elk and deer and any other furry mammal they can get their paws on. Same thing for the Ra’zac; they hunt elves and dwarves and humans.
MM: Hmm, okay. I’ll be sure to stay out of their way! Back to Riders: Now that dwarves and Urgals can become Riders, will their appearance change over time like humans? Will their features start to look more elf-like?
CP: Yes, although in some mythologies, dwarves and elves are actually related, and dwarves already have pointed ears. Obviously I don’t have that in my world. I don’t think the general population of Urgals and dwarves will ever end up with pointed ears. That’s just not going to happen. But over time they will change to a certain degree. And we’re talking a very long period of time. At the very least, it’ll be hundreds of years before any change is going to start showing up, although there may be mental changes which would be a little faster than outward changes.
Long-term, I’ve actually even thought that way back in the beginning, when the elves first joined in a pact with the dragons, elves probably looked more like humans than they do now. So there will definitely be change over the centuries.
MM: But what about a more immediate change for the actual Riders?
CP: Oh, the Riders? The Riders will probably get the same… you know, the pointed ears that most Riders would get. They’ll get a certain amount of increased strength, agility, and endurance. It may not go to the same length as the elves’, but they definitely will get a certain increase. They might be a little bit more graceful in their movements then they might have had otherwise, but I don’t think the changes would be too huge.
MM: Then no height increases for a dwarf then?
CP: Well you certainly wouldn’t want any height increases for a Kull.
MM: No, no, no, no…
CP: In fact, I am wondering how that’s going to work. You get a Kull and a dragon, but the Kull is not going to be able to ride his dragon until like ten years down the road.
MM: We had that question but I actually skipped over it because I saw it as almost being self-explanatory: they’re just screwed.
CP: [LAUGHS] Well it might not be ten years, but it will definitely be a few years before they get to ride their dragon.
MM: Which is a bummer for both the Kull and the dragon.
CP: Yes, but then once they’re able to do that, that’d be pretty scary.
MM: Oh yes, I wouldn’t want that opposing me.
Next question: Will the Eldunari that Galbatorix tortured ever return to their former mental state?
CP: Some of them will and some of them won’t, and the ones that won’t will be cared for by Eragon and the other Eldunari the best they can for the rest of their lives.
MM: It’s a scary thing to think about, actually… that they’re so far gone. All that care they’re hoping to give them might not bring them back. It makes you wonder what Galbatorix did to them.
CP: I think part of it is what he did to them but I also think part of it is being cut off from the environment around you. They were extremely isolated and essentially in a sensory deprivation tank if you will, and that’ll drive anyone mad after long enough.
MM: Speaking of Galbatorix: What were the small strange looking creatures that Eragon sees in the doors leading to Galbatorix’s chambers?
CP: Are we talking about the big…I think they’re talking about the big carving on the doors to the throne room and I mentioned some small creatures hidden in the branches and stuff. Those are various little creatures from around Alagaesia, some we’ve seen, and some we haven’t.
MM: So is there still more we haven’t seen in terms of strange creatures?
CP: Oh yes. Not a lot of big ones, but there are a few interesting ones we haven’t met yet.
MM: I don’t know if we’ve touched on this in previous interviews. I want to say we have or maybe you ‘no commented’ or something: Why were the eyes gold on the cover of Inheritance?
CP: I have no idea.
MM: So that was not of your doing.
CP: I assumed that John [Jude Palencar] did that because he thought it’d make for a good contrast between the green.
MM: Right. So an artistic decision separate from your original idea of Firnen.
CP: I’ve actually been meaning to send him an email asking him to explain that, because I think fans would be interested in his explanation. And I know there were a lot of theories about the eyes being a different color, but that was artistic license on John’s part.
MM: Nifty. Well, next question: Do the purple amethyst crystals that are used to disrupt magic have a name and how do they work?
CP: Well there’s no specific name for them, although I’m sure the priests of Helgrind have a name for the technique or the spell used on them. Basically, what you do is you charge up a crystal or gemstone of some kind with a lot of energy, and the energy is discharged in a very concentrated point. Specifically, I’m thinking of how the elf Wyrden was killed in the tunnels: these crystals basically burn through any wards you might have. It overwhelms the wards you might have through sheer brute force. The amethysts that were set in the floor where Eragon and Arya were chained up, those work on a slightly different principal. Those actually suppress the use of magic and that’s a very old and very tricky spell that obviously Eragon doesn’t encounter anywhere else. It’s something only known by the priests of Helgrind which not even Galbatorix knew.
MM: Is that something that will be lost with the priests in Helgrind-
CP: Well their church is destroyed but-
MM: What I mean is if it is only known to them will it ever be passed beyond them?
CP: No well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Angela knew the spell they were using, because I’m sure you noticed that she knew what to do in order to disable it.
MM: Right. Well perhaps she’s the one who invented it.
CP: [LAUGHS] No comment!
MM: We touched on this a bit but not in depth: What happens to Sloan after Inheritance?
CP: I believe that as time passes, and this is a great deal of time we’re talking about now…well, I actually rewrote the scene with Sloan because the first time I wrote it I had him having progressed and repented of his actions quite a bit further. And I thought it was just a bit too fast. He wouldn’t change that fast, but I do think in time, eventually he will find a certain amount of peace among the elves. Even if he’s never really one hundred percent happy that he ended up there, he will find peace there. He may even end up creating something or making something worthwhile in the long run.
MM: It’s funny how frequently this question was submitted to us. Clearly people care about Sloan and what you tried to do with him.
CP: Well I know there were some people who felt that what Eragon did to him was pretty bad, despite what Sloan did. It was kinder than killing him, but given what he’d gone through with the Ra’zac, what Eragon did was rough in some ways. I’d always intended to bring Eragon and Sloan back together and sort of revisit all of that. I’m glad I did and I’m happy with how it turned out.
MM: I enjoyed it as well. This is something I was very curious about: Did you ever have anything planned for the elven children we encountered in the earlier books?
CP: I did but it didn’t work out. It would’ve been a distraction from the main events of Inheritance. I do plan on doing something with the children long term, possibly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the elves would do their very best to keep those children from any possible danger, so ultimately it did improve a large part of the story.
MM: Can you say at all what your original plans were?
CP: No because I think I may repurpose it. [LAUGHS] And I don’t want to give it away now.
MM: Fair enough. Next question: The dangerous lands of El-Harim are mentioned several times in the last book. Can you give us any more information about this place? Maybe where it’s located in regards to the rest of Alagaesia?
CP: Well it’s north by northwest… let’s put it that way. Well, that’s not actually a compass reading if you know your cinematic history. It is a very bad place. It’s a place where some bad things happened at one point and it’s not a good place to go walking around. I don’t want to get into it too much more because again, it’s a good possibility for another story and I want to keep thinking about it a bit more. It is in Alagaesia and we’ve actually been close to the location.
MM: Well you mentioned that Murtagh went north…
CP: No comment, no comment!
Speaking of names, there’s a city that’s in Surda, the city of Dauth down in the south. In the Ancient Language, if you look it up… you know like the spear that Arya uses, the Dauthdaert… “Dauth” actually means “death”. I actually did that as a joke because I thought what would’ve happened is when the human settlers came to the area and they asked the elves, “Oh, so what’s that place over there? We’re thinking about building a city over there. What’s that place over there called?” And the elves just said, “Dauth! Dauth!” You know, “It’s death! Death!” So the humans just said “Oh, ‘Dauth’! Okay, thanks!” And they went off and built their city.
MM: That’s a fun little story, and it sure would be true to those early humans. [LAUGHS] I like that.
CP: Yeah, I figured there were probably some Ra’zac in the area, or something else very bad, and the humans just went ahead and built their city and called it “Death.” And of course every time the elves hear it, they just roll their eyes.
MM: Do you think the humans ever picked up on that?
CP: Well I think the human scholars picked up on that, but the average inhabitant of Dauth isn’t aware of it.
MM: Right. This may be a bit of a complicated question… well, not a complicated question but it might require a complicated answer: How will Arya and Firnen train as Dragon and Rider without anyone to train them as Dragon and Rider?
CP: I have a very good answer for this and I can’t tell it to you quite yet. (It’s not some future book or anything.) First of all, I think Arya knows a lot of the stuff that she would need to know as a Rider anyway. She grew up in Ellesmera, she knew Oromis, and she knows a lot of the things already that Eragon had to learn from scratch. She’s not starting from ground zero.
Also, I think Firnen got a lot of information on how to be a proper dragon from Saphira in their time together, even though it was very brief. But that is a very good question and I did slightly slip up on that issue. I’ll have some more to talk about that fairly soon but I can’t say any more about it in the moment.
[Editor’s Note: This interview happened before the announcement that Christopher included a new addition to Inheritance in the Inheritance Deluxe Edition which clarified that several of the Eldunarí stayed behind in Du Weldenvarden after Eragon and the others left. These Eldunarí helped to train Arya and Firnen. You can learn more about this change/addition, as well as the rest made in the Inheritance Deluxe Edition, on our official page for the book.]
MM: I have a follow up question: Do you think that at any point Arya visits Oromis’ old house and goes through some of his writings and all that? Will she figure anything out that way?
CP: I think she might’ve already done that once Firnen hatched. It already mentioned, I think, that she went and lived in Oromis’s hut. So she would’ve already done that.
MM: Here’s another good question: What happened to the first Eragon?
CP: Well that is a good question, isn’t it?
MM: It’s always been a question, too. I mean, we’ve been asking that since book one.
CP: No comment.
MM: No comment… as expected! This interview has had some truly great questions, I have to say.
CP: Those were some awesome questions.
MM: Every time I’m going through questions to pick them for interviews I am genuinely surprised.
CP: I want to go back for just a moment, if we can. All the ‘no comment’ answers I’ve given throughout this interview… I’m sure some listeners are wondering how many books would be required to answer all those ‘no comment’ questions.
MM: If you say no comment I’m hanging up on you! [LAUGHS]
CP: [LAUGHS] I think it’s safe to say that of all those no comment answers I gave today, all of them except maybe two or three would be answered in the next book set in Alagaesia.
MM: So in one book you could knock them all out?
CP: In one book. There are a lot of things I set up threads for in Brisingr and Inheritance which would really be resolved in a potential “Book Five”.
MM: Now this “Book Five”, that’s what fans have taken to calling it and you yourself even… it’s not a continuation of the series, is it? It would be a stand-alone?
CP: That’s right. Certainly the events for a potential “Book Five” would be heavily influenced by the events of the Inheritance Cycle, but it wouldn’t be a continuation of the Inheritance Cycle. It would be doing something different.
MM: Interesting. I know you don’t want to commit to anything, but is this a decade out? Is it going to be a tremendously long wait? Or would it be something in the next few books you tackle you hope to include?
CP: It really is hard to say at this point. I have a list of projects on my computer, and these are projects I want to get through before I return to Alagaesia. And as I work on these projects I will probably be thinking of other stories that I want to be working on, but I have a very clear game plan… map… plot, if you will, about how I see my writing career moving forward. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, I’m sure my listeners here know that I love plotting things out, I love working things out in advance, so, I know where I’m going. It’s just going to be a question on how long it takes me to go through each of these projects.
I’m not going to say how many projects there are, but after twelve years working on the Inheritance Cycle, it is time for a break and I also think it would be slightly counter-productive to dive right into a fifth book at this point. I need to step away from it and I think it’s going to actually be good for the franchise, for the Cycle to actually stand on its own for a little while. It does need to stand on its own as a single finished work. Whatever happens after that as far as future works on the Inheritance Cycle, that will be separate. So I think a little break is going to be good.
I hope that people who’ve enjoyed the Inheritance Cycle are going to enjoy these other projects of mine just as much. The long term idea is to have people not only be fans of the Inheritance Cycle but fans of Christopher Paolini and whatever I choose to write. That’s probably a bit optimistic, but I think I’ve got some really good, fun stories to share with people. It’s just going to be a matter of writing them and getting them out the door in a somewhat timely manner. I will say that for various reasons I’m not going to get into at the moment… I think fans can expect me to be a much faster writer in the future then I have been previously. I got some stuff sorted out and I was actually writing very quickly in portions of Inheritance and I have no reason to think that I won’t be able to continue with that in the future and of course obviously without losing any quality at the same time.
MM: Now, you mentioned projects. You like that word here, but the reason I say this is because… are you going to try your hands at things other than books?
CP: Possibly… but that’s as much as I’m willing to say at the moment. I am at a crossroads of my life right now, and I have a lot of options. I am not going to give up writing books, however. I want everyone to understand that.
MM: Well I think that was clear, your passion here even as you were speaking about your projects, ideas, and your plotting. I mean, it’s very clear.
CP: Oh yeah. If I am doing any things other than writing books, I will be scheduling it so that it will not be actually taking away much time if any from the writing.
MM: So you don’t give up one thing to peruse another, basically.
CP: Hopefully not. And again, hopefully if I do something else, fans of the Inheritance Cycle will go, “Oh, that’s really cool too!” and want to participate in that as well. So it’s going to be an experiment.
MM: There are a lot of people out there with successful multimedia careers. You see somebody who writes a book, then writes a movie, and then jumps back into books. I follow this because it fascinates me, but you see their audiences jump from those books to that movie then back to those books because they like that person’s story telling. Their ability to tell a story is not limited to pen and paper. You can do that successfully by other means.
CP: Long term, my kind of literary hero is what Stephen King has done. He’s been writing for a very long time. He does get lumped in to the horror genre but he really does write many different genres, fantasy included. He’s had quite a bit of involvement in film and television as well. So for me that is definitely something I aspire to do, long term. We’ll just have to see how that works out.
MM: I’m glad we brought these up because these are questions you see a lot of. Before we head out, I also want to touch on another thing: Twitter.
MM: You love Twitter!
CP: Yes, my addiction to Twitter.
MM: It’s not a bad thing.
CP: I tweeted while we were talking.
MM: I noticed. I retweeted your tweet while we were talking. I think, obviously my career is a bit different from yours. You write books and I deal with websites and social media and all that. I think seeing what you’ve done with Twitter… you’ve created this community where fans actually have that ability to embrace characters and interact with you and see how your mind works outside of interviews. To see how you are outside of Inheritance. I think it’s so great that something like Twitter has allowed you and so many other authors and creators to do something like that.
CP: Well, I enjoy it because for a very long time I was pretty walled off from readers between books. You know, I’d get off the tours then in between book the only real contact I had with the fans was the fan mail and the occasional newsletters. Twitter is a lot more immediate. It also gives me a place to share the weird stuff I find on the Internet. So instead of just bugging my sister I can bug everyone else.
But no, it’s great and there’s a lot of people who tweet me very regularly and I can see what they’re saying and I’ve gotten to know them. I enjoy it. I try to strike a balance between being enjoyably silly and actually being somewhat informative or engaging as well.
MM: There’s a lot of good stuff on there. Well, first of all let me just say that if I ever owe you something and I don’t get it to you on time – an email reply or an interview we’ve scheduled – it’s likely because the things you’re linking to us on Twitter have distracted me. [BOTH LAUGH] It’s happened! If you remember… the one day when you were quiet, I’m sure you were working away with pen and paper, and there was nothing on your Twitter feed and I challenged you, and you blew that Twitter feed up!
MM: It was almost like you were waiting for somebody to challenge you. You had quite the collection waiting to go.
CP: I do have to say that people who seem surprised by things I tweet always surprise me. It’s almost as if they’re shocked to discover there are unusual things on the Internet. I’m at about thirty-three thousand followers now.
MM: Why don’t you say your name so people can follow you as well?
CP: My twitter handle is @Paolini.
MM: So that is your official account? You are the person who communicates with fans. So if someone gets an @reply that’s from you, it’s not from a publicist, it’s you.
CP: Yes, no one else handles the account but me. I’m hands on it with it every single day, more when I’m traveling than when I’m home. My long-term goal is I’d love to get a couple hundred thousand Twitter followers.
MM: You will! I mean you’re constantly increasing in followers.
CP: Yeah. If I could someday top Will Wheaten on Twitter, I’d consider that a personal victory.
MM: Another thing, your sister is on Twitter too.
CP: Yes, and I often retweet her as well.
MM: And she’s just as fascinating with her tweets and what she shares as you are.
CP: However I ask everyone to please not tweet her questions about Angela the Herbalist because she loathes that! However, if you follow her you will notice that she displays the same eccentricity and nimbleness of mind that Angela the Herbalist has, which of course does come from my sister. She’s worth following.
MM: And it’s important to remember that while Angela (your sister) inspired the actual character, Angela the Herbalist was still written by you. So that’s really where that divide comes in with asking her questions about a character she did not create.
CP: Although she did provide a number of the rather memorable lines that Angela the Herbalist uses. The divide is not quite as broad as you may imagine.
MM: So just to rehash, Christopher is on Twitter. You can follow him at Twitter.com/Paolini. You can follow Angela Paolini at Twitter.com/Angela_Paolini. You can also follow Shur’tugal on Twitter at Twitter.com/ItsShurty. And a little bit of shameless self-promotion: readers can follow me on Twitter at Twitter.com/MikeMacauley, where I tweet a lot of behind-the-scenes Inheritance information and news before it hits the website. Did I get it all?
CP: I believe so. Yes.
MM: Angela plowed ahead of me to many thousands of followers, but I’ve been doing pretty well myself. Every time you retweet me I get about five or ten. I’ve got quite the collection going.
CP: I think so…
MM: There is actually something I do want to add. Back on social networking real quick: Christopher also has an official Facebook fan page.
CP: That’s correct. Random House also has an official Facebook page for the Inheritance Cycle, and you guys have an official Facebook page for Shur’tugal. Be wary of any other pages purporting to be me or an official Inheritance account.
MM: And as a reminder to fans, this will not be our last interview with you. So fans, if your question did not get chosen or you didn’t have the opportunity to get a question in, you’ll have more chances coming soon! We’re going to do this again. Every interview with Christopher is like learning about Angela the Herbalist: you solve one mystery and five new ones pop up.
CP: It’s the nature of the beast.