While many teens have dreams of superstardom, Christopher Paolini insists he never had any intention of becoming a famous author when he sat down to write his novel, Eragon.
"When I grew up, I wanted to be riding dragons or fighting villains and monsters, so I just wrote those things down," says the teen novelist, who began writing Eragon at age 15. "I didn't write the book to get published. I just tried to write a story that I would enjoy reading."
Based on its popularity, thousands of other young people enjoy reading it too. To date, more than 300,000 copies of his fantasy novel have been printed. Eragon, the first volume of The Inheritance Trilogy, debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times children's chapterbook best-seller list, topping four of the five Harry Potter books. Harry Potter has dominated the list for the last several years.
Christopher's novel tells the story of a young man named Eragon, who stumbles upon a blue stone that magically turns into a dragon. Overnight, the pair are thrown into a new world, where they must battle between good and evil.
With the success of Eragon, Christopher appears to have been thrust into a new world himself—a world filled with TV appearances, book signings, and publicity events. While he may seem like an overnight sensation, Christopher says his recent success has only come after a number of failures.
"I had tried writing a number of different stories before Eragon," he says. "They always flatlined after five or six pages, mainly because I didn't know what would happen next."
So instead of just diving into Eragon, Christopher read several books about the art of writing. These reference materials not only helped the young author to construct a plot, but also to develop a cast of colorful characters.
"You would never expect a professional singer to compose a song while he was singing it," he says. "So I like to figure out what I'm going to write beforehand, so then I'm free to attempt to write my subject in the clearest and most beautiful manner possible."
Christopher spent a year writing Eragon, another year revising it, and a third year preparing the book for publication. Along the way, his editor cut 20,000 words from his original manuscript, which, in the end, made him a better writer, Christopher says.
"It is tough, but you can learn more from constructive criticism than anything else," he says. "You will always miss mistakes in your own work. It's nothing to be ashamed of. If you're really serious about being a good writer, you will seek it out."
So now that he has a 500-page best-seller under his belt, Christopher has plenty of time to kick up his heels, right? Wrong. He's already more than halfway through writing Eldest, his second book, which will be published late next year. The third and final book of the trilogy will follow within a year or two.
So what can readers expect in the ongoing saga of Eragon? Christopher isn't willing to divulge too many details.
"It is continuing adventures of Eragon and Saphira," he says. "They attempt to stay alive and learn something in the process. Beyond that, you'll have to read the book!"