Q&As with Christopher: Writing Advice, Eragon Controlling Spirits, & Tenga

Photo courtesy of Refe.com

These questions are drawn from Christopher’s recent AMA on Reddit. We’re reposting them here for folks who haven’t seen them yet.


figgen: How many times did you go through in your mind how the final battle scenes in Inheritance would pan out? Is this something you knew from the get go, or did you approach it as soon as you started Book 4?

I probably ran through the final battles several thousand times while I was writing the series. Most of them I had a pretty good idea of how they would play out. Some of them, though, I had to actually write to figure out how they would work (Roran’s confrontation with Lord Barst, for example).

scotzorz56: Atra esterni ono thelduin, Your Inheritance series was my favorite growing up. I loved your world, your language, your characters so much. I’d like to thank you for giving me your novels, as they sparked my love of literature, and you yourself inspired me to try and write novels. I’d like to preface my question. I’m not trying to criticize your work, and the choices you made with it. I very much respect your achievements.

I’m in the middle of a reread of your series as an adult now. It’s not the same, but I’m learning quite a bit from you. Eldest felt like a massive departure from Eragon. I know it was much more harshly criticized than Eragon, but I disagree. It felt like a more mature story in a lot of places, and it felt like you were a more mature author in the writing. A way to put it (possibly a little rude) is it felt like you found your feet after writing Eragon and tried to veer it farther away from young adult fiction, to a more adult and serious story.

So here is my question, do you feel like you found your feet at Eldest? And did you try to make the story and character more complex by that book?

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the series.

You’re right, I really tried to stretch my wings as a writer with Eldest. With each book, I’ve pushed myself to try something new, whether with vocabulary, structure, or character. It doesn’t always work, but the process always teaches me something new.

Now of course, with my latest project, I’m tackling (a) sci-fi and (b) a female main character. It’s given me some headaches, but I think it’s making me a better writer. Fingers crossed!

sacrifair: Why did Eragon want to know how to summon spirits (Brisingr, Hands of a Warrior)? It seems out of character since he was earlier disgusted by the thought of controlling them (Brisingr, Shadows of the Past).

I think he’s still disgusted by the idea, but I also think that Eragon is thirsty for knowledge. Most of his dialogue in the series consists of questions. And I think he wanted to know about the spirits on the off chance they might help defeat Galbatorix.

darklingsshadow: What inspired you to create Tenga? I was re-reading the series, and he seems really similar to a slightly nuttier Tesla. 😛

Lol. Never heard that comparison before!

No real inspiration. I was just trying to think of a kooky and slightly ominous character.

Hairomax: Will we ever get to read from Arya’s point of view?? I’m a huge fan of that character!

Maybe! It would certainly be different writing from her point of view.
Hmm . . . now you’ve got me thinking.

Lagerta05: 1. Will there be any conflicts with other nations or civilizations in the lands that Eragon went to? With elves of Alalea? 2. What about Nasuada’s idea of controlling magicians?

  1. I don’t imagine there being any major civilization out east, where Eragon went. Maybe some wandering tribes, or something like that. Eragon and those with him are going to be the ones establishing a new civilization there.
  2. That’s a really, really good question. You just know it’s not going to go as smoothly as Nasuada would like. . . . Stay tuned to Book V for further updates. 😀

YourElf: Hello Christopher. One of my favourite characters is Durza, and I’d like to know more about the race to which he belongs. Is it possible to expel spirits from the body of a person and save him? Who was the prototype this character? Why didn’t he try to depose the king, if he was a canny and power-hungry person?Are shades immortal? I’m looking forward your answer.

Durza is human; he just looks different because of the spirits possessing him. As for his prototype . . . I actually based him off my best friend at the time. He had pale skin, red hair, etc. Lol. Fortunately he had a good sense of humor about it.

Durza (or rather the spirits within him) didn’t care about personal power. They just wanted to cause as much chaos as possible. However, Galbatorix bound Durza with oaths and spells, which kept Durza from flaming out and destroying himself (and others) as fast as most Shades do. (The average life expectancy of Shades is usually only a few months, if that.)

Not immortal, but under ideal circumstances, they could live as long as any healthy human/elf/dwarf. Depends on the host body. In Durza’s case, his lifespan was further extended by his association with Galbatorix. The king-to-be bound Durza with all sorts of spells and energies (powered by the captured Eldunarí), both as a way to preserve the Shade’s existence and to keep him under Galbatorix’s explicit control.


here_for_the_lols: What’s your new Sci fi novel about? How massive is ‘massive’?

Aliens and spaceships and lasers and explosions and all the other fun stuff a sci-fi novel should have.

How massive? Bigger than Eldest.

EbrithilUmaroth: Concerning your upcoming Sci-Fi book: Would you say you’ve taken any influence from Isaac Asimov? His stories have long been my favorite in the Sci-Fi genre and I’m interested to know if your novel will explore any of the same type of philosophical topics.

Some. I was a big fan of his robot books, back in the day. It’s been a long time since I’ve read them. However, I’d say that Dune, Hyperion, and Starship Troopers are all equally important in terms of inspiration.


r/lyrrael: What do you feel is the most exhilarating part of writing? Most rewarding? And most frustrating?

Most exhilarating? Coming up with the story and then, eventually, writing the last words on the last page. Most rewarding? Hearing from people whose lives have been affected by something I wrote. It’s pretty humbling. Most frustrating? When the writing fails to live up to or capture the image/feeling/idea/etc. I had in my head to begin with. (Happens all the time, unfortunately.)

Those_Majestic_Socks: What advice would you give to an aspiring fantasy writer?

Same as I’d give to any writer:

Keep reading! The more you read, the more you can bring to the table as a writer.

Learn everything you can about the language you’re writing in. Language is the tool of the trade, after all.

Plot your story out beforehand. Think of it like music: first you compose the piece, and then you can concentrate on performing it as beautifully as possible.

Find someone to edit your work. Family, friend, author, librarian, etc. Editing can be really hard to swallow, but I guarantee you’ll learn more from editing than you will from the writing itself. (That said, only listen to the opinions of people you trust.)

Write about the things you care about the most! Getting through a book takes a lot of time and energy, so spend them wisely.

Don’t give up. Persistence more than anything is what differentiates professionals from amateurs.

v-tanabata: How do you personally deal with writers block?

Talk out the section with a friend or your family. Usually that helps me identify whatever the problem is (and if I’m stuck, there’s always a problem in the plot).

Can’t get enough? Check out our Q&A archive and FAQ page. Still want more? Submit your questions and follow the latest on Christopher’s Twitter and Facebook page.

Immanuela Meijer

Immanuela is the Paolinis' webmaster, archivist, and all around "make-things-go" Renaissance woman.