Lytherus.com, in partnership with our sister site Shur’tugal, sat down for an extensive and exclusive interview with Inheritance Cycle author Christopher Paolini for his first fan-oriented interview since announcing the title and release date of the hugely-anticipated INHERITANCE (Book 4). The first part of our interview is jam-packed with information hinting at or impacting what we will learn in Book 4!
In part one of our interview, Christopher talks naming his final novel and hints that the name we see now was not his original choice; we learn that humans may not be all that they appear to be, at least compared to our view of humans; Book 4 will not need an epilogue, but he has not ruled out the idea of epilogue for a Deluxe Edition; details on one of Christopher’s favorite scenes cut from Book 4; the fates of several major characters have been completely changed from Christopher’s original outline; Christopher talks what he’d choose if he was forced to re-design each cover, revealing some very interesting information; lots of Shade back story and clarifications on werecats and spirits; gedwey ignasias… and more!
Enjoy part one of our exclusive interview with Christopher Paolini:
Mike Macauley: Hi, Christopher! Thanks for joining us for this exclusive interview. It’s been a while since we last had a chance to catch up with you, and a lot has happened – for starters, you announced that Book 4 will be called “Inheritance” and is set to release in early November!
Christopher Paolini: Hi, Mike! Thanks for having me here. It’s a treat to once again be able to talk about a forthcoming book. Inheritance has taken a long time to write, and I’m delighted that people are finally going to be able to read the end of the story.
Mike Macauley: How does it feel to finally be finished with a story you’ve been living and writing for over a decade now?
Christopher: It’s hard to describe. Part of me is overjoyed to finally have completed such an enormous and challenging project. Part of me is sad to leave the world and the characters behind. And part of me is anxious — anxious to see how people will respond to what I’ve done in the last part of this rather enormous story. Overall, it’s a bittersweet sensation. Especially since the end of this series also marks a significant change for me personally. I’m going to be moving on to other projects now, a prospect that is both exciting and, I’ll admit, a little bit scary.
Mike Macauley: We haven’t had a chance to sit down with you since the announcement of the final book’s title. You chose the name “Inheritance” for Book 4. Was this always intended to be the name of your final book? What made you choose “Inheritance”?
Christopher: “Inheritance” wasn’t always my first choice for Book Four. My first choice was . . . well, I’ll tell you once the book actually publishes. Otherwise, I might give away too much of the plot. That said, I think that “Inheritance” is the proper title for this part of the story, and I think that it will help bring the name of the series to greater prominence. Most people tend to think of the series as the “Eragon series” rather than the “Inheritance cycle”, so it’s nice to be able to bring the concept of inheritance back to the forefront. Besides, I’ve always been rather fond of serial stories that have the title of the series as the title of the last book. Such as in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.
Mike Macauley: It was a nice surprise, certainly. And I know exactly what you mean — I hear “Eragon series” all the time!
Mike Macauley: Random House released a video showing you writing the final words of Book 4 and hand-delivering the manuscript to your editor Michelle at the Random House offices in New York City. The video also revealed a piece of information that excited fans – the book’s subtitle, “Vault of Souls”. Is it safe to assume from the subtitle that this will play a core role in the final book?
Mike Macauley: And we can’t drag anything more out of you on that one, can we?
Christopher: Nope. Not with wild dragons. Angela [Paolini] herself provided that answer. And yes, you can quote me on that.
Mike Macauley: It was worth a try!
Mike Macauley: We’ve always been a fan of John Jude Palencar’s brilliant artwork and covers for Inheritance, as we know you are as well. How much say do you have over the design of each dragon? Past dragons (Saphira, Thorn, etc.) have had eyes that match their scale color, but fans have observed that the green dragon has golden eyes. Do you know why the green dragon has golden eyes? If this was a decision on your part, can it be considered an important clue?
Christopher: John Jude Palencar is a great artist. He once did a painting (for a book) that contained dozens upon dozens of hidden clues (leading to a treasure hunt across the country) only a few of which have ever been deciphered. If the color of the green dragon’s eyes were a decision on my part, then it certainly would not have been an accident. Not that I’m saying it was. . . . Or wasn’t.
Mike Macauley: Every time I feel as though we’ve settled on a specific theory, you come through and demolish said theory — giving us much more to consider. Not that I’m complaining!
Christopher: I feel it’s my duty in life. Just wait until you read what I’ve done with the character of Angela the herbalist.
Mike Macauley: You mention Angela the herbalist, so I’m going to bite. Can you state unequivocally that she is 100% human?
Christopher: You’re assuming that the humans in Alagaësia are the same thing that we would call human.
Christopher: However, I will say that one can never state anything unequivocally about Angela the herbalist.
Christopher: Or my sister.
Mike Macauley: If you don’t mind, another follow-up regarding my personal favorite character: will we ever learn exactly who, or what, she is? Or will Book 4 be ending with us still having that “What the heck?” look on our faces we get each time we see her? (A good version of “What the heck?”, I might add!)
Christopher: That, I don’t think I can answer. Or rather, I could, but it would spoil part of the fun of reading Book Four. Just make sure to read the Acknowledgments — I have a few lines there specifically about this whole issue.
Mike Macauley: Continuing with the Book 4 questions – Does Book 4 pick up right after the end of Brisingr, or is there some sort of time gap?
Christopher: There is a gap, but fairly brief, similar to the gaps between the other books.
Mike Macauley: Can we expect an epilogue at the end of Book 4?
Christopher: Why would I need an epilogue? When the story ends, it ends. I don’t go dragging it on, half-dead for another mile. Although, come to think of it, I did that a bit in the first draft, but my editor and I cut out all of the fat. No, no epilogue for you.
Christopher: But . . . there may be a sort-of epilogue in the Deluxe edition of “Inheritance”. We’ll have to see.
Mike Macauley: Interesting. You mention editing — was there any section of the book that you found yourself forced to sacrifice without really wanting to?
Christopher: Yes. A rather brief and entirely unnecessary confrontation between Eragon and an enemy swordsman during a battle. It got cut, it needed to get cut, and there’s a good chance you may get to read the scene in the Deluxe edition because I’m entirely too fond of it. Lots of nice description, and it had an amusing twist at the end.
Mike Macauley: This question is a tough one and I’m pretty sure it’s a “no”, but it can’t hurt to ask. Are you able to tell us – or even hint at – whether or not the green dragon has hatched by the end of Brisingr?
Christopher: Good question. But no, I can’t answer it.
Mike Macauley: You’ve talked about having most of your story outlined, even as recently as the “Epic in Epic Fantasy” panel at Comic-Con. However, you first started the story over a decade ago. Have you found yourself making any major changes to the plot of Inheritance compared to how they were first conceived/outlined?
Christopher: A few, mainly concerning the fates of a few of the main characters. However, I can’t really discuss what and why I made the changes I did without spoiling the book. Basically, what happened is that I realized that the characters were no longer who I thought they were back in 1998, and I had to make a few story alterations as a result. One of those alterations actually ended up moving the story closer to my original outline, strange as it may seem.
Mike Macauley: That’s a bit of a strange twist! It will be interesting to ask the same question after Inheritance has released, if you’ll be willing to reveal those changes.
Christopher: I’ll be happy to talk about them then.
Mike Macauley: Hypothetical scenario: You’re tasked with re-designing the four books’ covers. Each cover is only allowed to have one “object” and you’re not allowed to use the dragons. What object would you put on the cover of Eragon, cover of Eldest, cover of Brisingr, and cover of Inheritance?
Christopher: 1. Eragon — the gedwëy ignasia on Eragon’s hand 2. Eldest — Zar’roc 3. Brisingr — Brisingr, with Aren, Brom’s ring, on Eragon’s hand, as he half-draws the sword from the sheath 4. Inheritance — a crown, a sword, a shield or the book “Domia abr Wyrda”
Mike Macauley: Interesting answers! Would be nifty to see a fan Photoshop those!
Christopher: Another version would be . . . 1. Eragon — Zar’roc 2. Eldest — Naegling, Oromis’s blade 3. Brisingr — Brisingr 4. Inheritance — Can’t tell you yet, but it would be cool.
Mike Macauley: How do you feel about killing main and fan-favorite characters? Should we expect to shed some tears in Book 4? Is no one off limits?
Christopher: Everyone dies. . . . It’s just a matter of time. Whether or not they die in Inheritance, that’s something you’ll have to wait to find out.
Mike Macauley: Shades are a popular topic this interview — hope you don’t mind!
Mike Macauley: First off, do they age?
Christopher: Yes, but very differently than normal humans/elves/Urgals/what-have-you. The energy coursing through them sustains them far longer than any normal creature could endure.
Mike Macauley: How do Shades “respawn” when they die? Where do they “reform”?
Christopher: Shades reform wherever they feel it’s safe. In the case of Durza, it was far, far away from Eragon, Murtagh, and Saphira in Gil’ead. As for the respawning — it’s not very well understood by the peoples of Alagaësia. The prevailing theory is that the spirits somehow transmute the body of their host into energy, but since the spirits are still bound with magic to that form, they are driven to reconstitute it elsewhere. This is partly a result of the sorcerers who summon spirits linking their heart to the spirits they call forth, which is a very complicated and sometimes unnecessary safeguard that, if the sorcerer ends up becoming a Shade, makes it really, really difficult to kill Shades. The short answer is that no one really knows, save for the spirits themselves.
Mike Macauley: Your answer perfectly segues into our next question, actually!
Mike Macauley: Do you have to guess a Shade’s true name or the true name of every spirit within the Shade in order to gain control over him or her?
Christopher: Technically, the true name of a Shade would include the true names of all of the spirits within, since the Shade is more than the sum of its total parts.
Mike Macauley: Did Galbatorix know the true name of Durza and the spirits within him?
Christopher: I’ve never really thought about it. Possibly. Whatever the case may be, Galbatorix was able to achieve dominance over Durza and thus bend the Shade to his will.
Mike: Are we done seeing Shades in the cycle?
Christopher: No comment.
Mike Macauley: Interesting!
Mike Macauley: Only a few Shades have been noted as being killed in the history of Alagaësia. Does this mean that there has only been a handful of Shades that have roamed the land, or did they meet their end by some other means?
Christopher: Actually, that’s not quite right. What I actually said in Eragon is that only a few people have ever killed a Shade and lived through the experience. A small, but important distinction. There have been an unfortunate number of Shades in the history of Alagaësia. Remember, according to the dwarves, the land is almost eight thousand years old . . . that’s a lot of time for sorcerers to mess up and turn themselves into Shades.
Mike Macauley: An important catch. I’ve seen the topic discussed many times, so I’m guessing that’s something most fans have overlooked. How common are Shades, if that is the case?
Christopher: Not that common, but also not that uncommon. Most of them tend to self-destruct soon after creation, however. Durza was an anomaly in that regard.
Christopher: Spirits are not easy to control, as a rule.
Mike Macauley: Spirits are still quite mysterious in the books. Is there any chance that we may learn more about them in Book 4?
Christopher: Possibly. But then again . . .
Mike Macauley: Now, off the topic of Shades and spirits! Can all elves use magic?
Christopher: Most elves, but not all. There are exceptions.
Mike Macauley: Could you offer an example of an exception?
Christopher: Hmm. I don’t think any appear in the books, but there are certainly elves who, while they can use magic, don’t find it as easy as most of their kind. And there are those who can’t use it at all.
Mike Macauley: Have we seen all that we will see of elven children in the series?
Christopher: No comment.
Mike Macauley: Has it been known or is it possible for a human child under 10 or an elven “child” under 25 to be chosen by a dragon to be its Rider?
Christopher: It’s not unknown, but it’s very rare. There are actually provisions built into the spells set on the eggs given to the Riders to prevent just such a thing. However, the dragons have minds of their own, and the spells aren’t always effective.
Mike Macauley: Back to Angela for a moment here — Was Angela the healer who healed Murtagh’s back after he was attacked by Morzan as a child?
Christopher: Heh. Good question. I’ll have to ask her about that the next time I see her.
Mike Macauley: But it isn’t a no.
Christopher: It isn’t a yes, either.
Mike Macauley: Will we ever learn one way or the other?
Christopher: I hate to answer too many questions about Angela. She has her secrets, and it’s often best not to pry too closely into them.
Mike Macauley: Fair enough!
Mike Macauley: You released a chapter from Book 4 which reveals that the werecats have come out of hiding to fight alongside the Varden. Can you tell us where they were hiding all of these years?
Christopher: Here and there. Remember, they can pass as regular cats at a distance.
Mike Macauley: Our dreams of a far-off werecat colony have been shattered.
Christopher: Oh, I wouldn’t discard them entirely. Not all of the werecats wanted to be around humans or other species. I’m sure that some of them were living in a far-off place of their own.
Mike Macauley: Are there any werecats who oppose the King and most of the werecats’ decision to join with the Varden?
Christopher: I’m sure there are. No group is ever entirely homogenous.
Mike Macauley: This is a question we debated quite frequently on our “Inheritance Cycle Book Club” podcast, and we figured… who better to settle the debate than the author himself? How does the gedwëy ignasia “tingling palm” actually work for Eragon? You have stated it was going to make a comeback in Inheritance, but there is much discussion about the dynamics of it. Mainly, does it only warn Eragon of nearby enemies, or does it warn of possible threats – friends or foe – that may be near? Does it only detect the presence of magic or magical beings?
Christopher: It’s an uncertain effect because it relies on the same mechanism that allows premonitions within Eragon’s world. Basically, the gedwëy ignasia can detect certain possibilities. The more likely something is to happen, the more likely it may be noticed before it actually happens by those who are sensitive to magic. However, since premonitions are chancy things at best, there is never a guarantee that you will always get a warning before something bad is about to happen. And sometimes you get a warning and nothing does happen. It has been noticed by Riders that if they are aware of the impending danger, it’s far less likely that their gedwëy ignasia will itch or tingle. Ignorance seems to be linked to the sensation, and this the Riders attribute again to the dragons’ ofttimes inexplicable use of magic.
Mike Macauley: Interesting clarification. That answers some questions, but I think it opens a few new ones as well…
Christopher: Always. Magic is complicated business.
[END OF PART ONE… PART TWO SOON!]
What do you think of Christopher’s revelations? It’s clear that several of his comments will play serious roles in Book 4. What did he mean when he said humans aren’t exactly what we’d expect of humans? Angela seems to play a serious role in Book 4… but what will that role be? No comments on the elven children — very interesting!
Rest assured, the wait for the second part of our interview with Christopher Paolini will not be long and is expected to release before the end of September! Stay tuned…