Our first post-Inheritance interview with Christopher Paolini is now here — and it tackles many of the biggest topics from Book 4 and beyond. Christopher tackles his book tour, the series’ hot-topic ending, Christopher’s shift in thinking and plotting with several major characters, returning to Eragon’s story and love life following the end of Book 4, Book 5 and potential smaller off-shoot stories, Roran, Nasuada, Brom’s seven words, a possible epilogue, and more!
This is the first in a series of interviews with Christopher over the coming months. We didn’t tackle all of the questions fans have had since finishing Book 4 but we made a major dent… and we’re looking forward to incorporating fan-submitted questions in future interviews! As always, this interview is FULL OF SPOILERS!
Mike Macauley: Hello Christopher! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy tour schedule to join us for the first post-Inheritance interview! This interview will not be as long as our normal interviews, as we are aiming to tackle major topics in a series of separate interviews over the coming months.
Christopher Paolini: Thanks for having me!
Mike Macauley: You’ve had a busy few weeks with the launch of Inheritance and the start of your book tour. How has the tour been going?
Christopher Paolini: The tour has been amazing. Almost every event has had 600-900 people showing up — so many that it’s almost too many to sign books for! That said, I’ve really enjoyed meeting the fans and hearing their reactions to the end of the series. I’ve even gotten some marriage proposals too!
Mike Macauley: Glad to hear you’ve been having a good time. Marriage proposals — wow!
Mike Macauley: Like all good series, the Inheritance cycle had to come to an end… and like all good series, the ending you wrote has had fans discussing and debating. We’ve seen some fantastic debates over the past two weeks on how the ending happened and why it had to happen that way. Let’s touch on this as our main topic for the interview.
Christopher Paolini: Sounds good.
Mike Macauley: Did you always plan to end the series the way you did, with Eragon leaving Alagaesia with Saphira and Arya staying behind?
Christopher Paolini: The ending evolved as I wrote the story. Originally, Eragon and Arya were to leave together, Roran was going to become king, and Queen Islanzadí — well, at first I was going to kill her, then I decided to let her live, and then I decided that if Arya was to stay, Islanzadí had to die after all.
Mike Macauley: What caused the major shift in thinking?
Christopher Paolini: Basically, I realized that the characters weren’t the people I thought they were back when I was fifteen, and that if I forced Eragon and Arya together (and it would be forcing them) I would end up breaking Arya’s character. I wrote a big chunk of Inheritance thinking that she and Eragon would be together. However the scenes between them, scenes where they were rather openly flirting, just did not work. Essentially, I was writing Arya the way that Eragon *wanted* her to be, not the way that she actually was. So, I cut back on the flirting. When I did that, I realized that it made no sense for Arya to suddenly turn on a dime at the end and leap into Eragon’s arms. If she did, it would seem as if she was only doing it for the sake of the dragons, not for Eragon, and Eragon himself would have noticed this. It would have left a very bitter taste in peoples’ mouths, I think.
Mike Macauley: That’s always been my argument. When reading, we experienced a strong, independent character struggle through the death of her companion (and potentially more), constantly denying Eragon’s advances… then to turn on that and run away with him? I’m all for happy endings, but I truly feel that would have not felt proper for Arya.
Christopher Paolini: Originally, my idea was that Eragon’s exposure to the Eldunarí in Vroengard would mature him so quickly (sort of like what happened to him physically during the Blood-oath Celebration) that when he returned, Arya would see that he was now grown up and would be willing to have a relationship with him. However, doing that was too big a shift in Eragon’s character. When I wrote those scenes, I realized that even if the Eldunarí exposed him to all of the wisdom of the ages, it would still take him years, if not decades, to understand it all. The thing to keep in mind is that though the series is over, Eragon and Arya’s story will continue. They’re going to live for a very long time, and their relationship is far from over.
Mike Macauley: I think that’s what a lot of fans want to hear, and it’s something everyone should keep in mind. Both are still very young (even with Arya being 100!) and have a long, potentially “limitless” life ahead of them. Besides, both have dragons — traveling to visit isn’t that difficult!
Christopher Paolini: Exactly.
Mike Macauley: Arya chose to become queen — this is something people are torn on. Was it in character? Was it out of character? Arya seems to be a character who has always put the needs of the people around her — family, friends, and her race in general — ahead of herself. We see her do this here with her decision to remain behind and lead her people. Did you struggle with this decision or did you see it as a natural fit? What drove you to want Arya to be queen?
Christopher Paolini: Arya is/was so devoted to the service of her people, she had the yawë glyph tattooed on her shoulder. Remember, the yawë symbolizes selfless service. She left Du Weldenvarden in the first place because of her differences with her mother and her need to serve. Well, now Galbatorix is dead, as is her mother, and it seems entirely reasonable to me that Arya would have no trouble returning to Ellesméra now. Also, keep in mind that as a Rider herself, Arya won’t stay in Du Weldenvarden as much as Islanzadí; she’ll be constantly flying out to participate in the events of the land.
Mike Macauley: Do you ever see yourself returning to Eragon and Arya’s story, possibly giving the hope of having a story with them together, or is that something that will solely be up to the imaginations of your readers?
Christopher Paolini: I have a number of other stories set within Alagaësia that I hope to write. Some of them feature main characters from the Inheritance cycle, others do not. However, I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that we will see Eragon and Arya again at some point.
Mike Macauley: Many fans have wondered why Eragon and the elves simply did not attempt to cleanse Vroengard to raise the new dragons and Riders there, as was done before the Fall. Although I believe this was explained in the book, could you elaborate on why this was not possible?
Christopher Paolini: The contamination on Vroengard goes far beyond just fallout of the sort that Galbatorix’s death produced in Urû’baen. The battle between the Riders and the Forsworn loosed all sorts of forces on the island, many of which were responsible for the creatures such as the shadow birds and the burrow grubs. It would take a prohibitive amount of time and energy (even with the help of the Eldunarí) to attempt to restore the island. And even the most dedicated effort would surely miss some pocket of darkness. In short, it’s really not a healthy or safe place to stay. Not to mention that there are people, of some sort, already living on Vroengard, as Eragon saw during his visit.
Mike Macauley: Reading through Inheritance, paths and clues for future books are fairly evident. We know that you’re interested in some day writing a prequel story featuring Brom. However, we also know now (as you confirmed through Twitter) that the “two mysterious women” from Brisingr (who made a re-appearance with a third party member in Inheritance) are the main characters of their own story. Aside from these two potential tales, do you have any other stories planned?
Christopher Paolini: Heh. Those are actually two of the *smaller* stories I have planned. The main one (a potential book five) involves something else entirely. At last count, I believe I have around seven more stories set in Alagaësia — and one of those is in fact a series.
Mike Macauley: You may be apprehensive to give any sort of timeframe for this, but aside from a Deluxe Edition of Inheritance (which we’ll get to in a bit), do you have any idea how soon (or far away) your return to Alagaesia may be?
Christopher Paolini: It won’t be the next thing I do. That much I know for certain. However, beyond that, it’ll really depend on how I feel. I won’t wait too long, but at the same time, I very much want to try my hand at some other stories. As much as I love Alagaësia, it’s not the only world or story that exists in my imagination.
Mike Macauley: Let’s talk about Roran and Nasuada, as their stories mix a bit in the end due to the debate over who will rule Alagaesia. You mentioned that you had intended to end the series with Roran as king… but that wouldn’t have worked too well when you consider those two characters, would it?
Roran has always fought for his wife, future child, and the home that was taken from him. He had always pledged to return to Alagaesia, presumably to settle down and resume some semblance of a normal life. I can’t see Roran, knowing all of that about his character, throwing everything away to live a life of luxury and politics.
As for Nasuada, can you imagine if you had given her character the boot after so long?! She worked tirelessly as leader, and had perhaps more experience than anyone else at the time. When you were considering making Roran leader, how were you justifying giving Nasuada the boot?
Christopher Paolini: Well, when I first plotted out the Inheritance cycle, I didn’t really know who Nasuada was. In fact, I didn’t really intend to have her character in the series in the first place. All I knew was that I was going to kill Ajihad and that someone within the Varden would take his place. That someone, of course, ended up being Nasuada. Again, all the way back in 1998, it seemed like nice symmetry to have Eragon be the head of the new Riders and Roran the new human king. But as you said, it just wouldn’t have worked for the characters. If nothing else, putting Nasuada aside, or having her step aside after Galbatorix captured her, felt profoundly unfair. I think if I had done that my readers would have rightly been howling for my blood.
Mike Macauley: And it isn’t as if Roran doesn’t get a bit of leadership — he’s now leader of Palancar Valley!
Christopher Paolini: That’s right. He ends up being king of his own home, which is what I think he would have wanted in any case.
Mike Macauley: We’re going to save Galbatorix’s death for our next interview… but while discussing character endings, we can’t avoid Murtagh and Thorn. Was your decision to send them off to re-discover themselves one that came naturally to you? Did you ever plan for a different fate for the pair?
Christopher Paolini: I went back-and-forth throughout the whole series as to what I should do with the two of them. For a long time I was convinced that the best thing to do was kill them both during the final battle. However, as with Nasuada, I ended up deciding that that was just too unfair. George R. R. Martin would have done it, but I couldn’t.
Mike Macauley: Do you think they’ll ever find themselves, or are they doomed to a life of soul-searching on their own? (a.k.a. Any chance for Nasuada/Murtagh in the future?)
Christopher Paolini: Ahh, good question. . . . No comment.
Christopher Paolini: Yes, we’re back to that. 🙂
Christopher Paolini: Read book five, and then I’ll be happy to talk with you.
Mike Macauley: Here I was thinking I’d never see those two words again! But that’s an interesting answer. Fans like hope and I think that gives us some.
Christopher Paolini: [Chuckles.]
Mike Macauley: Let’s talk about Brom’s “seven words”. There are fan theories on both sides of the aisle here — they’re either seven regular words of no real importance, given to Eragon to help him survive the next few weeks (my personal favorite) or they were seven powerful words that Eragon never got around to using. Were these included in the books without mention, or something else entirely?
Christopher Paolini: There is a mention of one of the words (a death word) in either Eldest or Brisingr. However, the words didn’t have a role to play in this series. I tried to find a place to fit them in, but there wasn’t any. Eragon doesn’t use words to defeat Galbatorix, and the one place where it might have made sense to draw upon them (the hallway going into the throne room) Eragon uses what Oromis taught him about teleportation to defeat Galbatorix’s traps. So, a long time ago, I decided to address the seven words separately, in a short story aside from the main series. Again, as I said before, Eragon is going to live a very long time, and the events in the cycle are only at the very beginning of his life.
Mike Macauley: So it’s safe to say that any “loose ends” we may come across are intended for future tales? Such as, perhaps, the belt of Beloth the Wise?
Christopher Paolini: Possibly. The problem is, there are *always* loose ends. If I write another story, it’ll probably raise as many questions as it answers. Still, yes, the belt of Beloth the Wise will pop up again somewhere else. Personally, my favorite theory is that Angela swiped it in Dras-Leona. But then again, I can’t imagine she would have done anything to harm Eragon’s chances of killing Galbatorix.
Mike Macauley: I know that there are a lot of fan questions about Angela (not surprising!), but we’re going to save those for a future interview!
Mike Macauley: Many fans wonder whether you’ve considered returning to the Inheritance Cycle prior to writing a possible future book set in the world to extend or further explain the end of the series?
Christopher Paolini: I’m currently considering writing a short epilogue to the series as a whole, but nothing is set in stone.
Mike Macauley: That’s all for this round of questions, Christopher. We’ll be catching up with you again soon to tackle our next set of questions regarding Inheritance. Until then, enjoy the remainder of your North American book tour and thanks for your time!
Christopher Paolini: Great! Thank you, and thank you to all of the readers of the series. I couldn’t do this without them. Eka elrun ono!