When looking for the publication date of Christopher Paolini’s third book in his Inheritance series (to follow “Eragon” and “Eldest” – it doesn’t appear the date has been announced yet) my son and I discovered this 10 minute interview with Paolini from “Bill Thompson’s Eye On Books” series today. This was included as an external link on the Wikipedia article for Christopher’s “Inheritance Trilogy,” and shows again how WikiPedia can be a great starting point for research in providing additional, related links to a topic of interest.

It is delightful to hear Christopher talk about his writing process, especially how he plans and invents the characters, languages, and events of his novels. This reminds me of some podcasts my wife and I listened to by Diana Gabaldon on a recent car trip, who is one of her favorite authors. (“Outlander” is the first in her Outlander series.) How wonderful it is to live in a day when we can have access to interviews like this, to hear authors talk about their writing process and ideas. This also reminds me of the Guerrilla Season Book Blog project led by Missouri teacher Eric Langhorst. Listening to an author talk about their writing, their perspectives, and their life is really a great opportunity that deepens understanding and appreciation for authors’ work and literary contributions.

Bill Thompson’s interview with Christopher was interesting and worthwhile, but I was disappointed and rather shocked to hear him admit that he had just read the first 30 pages of Eragon before the interview. Some of his questions (the dwarf language doesn’t sound like the Disney “Snow White” dwarves’ language, and the elves of Alagaesia don’t sound like the Keebler cookie elf) were ridiculously shallow and reflected little understanding of the genre in which Christopher is working as well as his actual writings. The background knowledge of the interviewer is always important to insure the questions they ask are relevant and in-depth. Despite Bill’s lack of knowledge and poor questions in this interview with Christopher, I still really enjoyed listening to the discussion and appreciate the fact that this is freely shared online.

Another series of recorded interviews with Christopher is also linked from the same WikiPedia article, from Homeschool.com. This was recorded several years ago, when he was still writing the book “Eldest.” The most interesting comment Christopher made in part 1 of the interview was his refusal to answer the question of a listener, “Are you a Christian?” Christopher told the questioner his mom told him never to talk about politics or religion, and he always does what his mom tells him to do.

I think the beliefs and undergirding life philosophy of authors are important to consider, not because I discount those who have different views than mine– but rather because those ideas inform my understanding of their books and themes. We have great insight into the beliefs of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, less insight into those of J.K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini. In the case of Christoper, as I wrote in my post “Gifts from Christopher Paolini” back in January after I finished reading “Eldest,” I suspect his ontological perspective is largely empirical. In that blog post, I attempted to summarize the view of Oromis (Eragon’s mentor or “Yoda” figure) which I hypothesize is the same as Christopher’s personal view of truth and reality:

Objective science, which only regards that as real which can be directly experienced and replicated, reveals truth. There is no authority outside of objective science.

I think the complexity and depth of Christopher’s writing is enjoyable and particularly remarkable given his young age. As in the case with J.K. Rowling’s novels, however, I find myself wishing there was more theological depth there.

As a final reflection on a different topic raised in this last interview with Christopher, it was enlightening to hear him describe how his entire family put their support (financial, emotional, time, etc.) behind his Eragon book project. His story is an exciting one, and I think it is great for us to have access to his ideas in his own voice via posted audio files like these, as well as access to his outstanding books!

I really enjoyed reading both “Eragon” and “Eldest,” and enjoyed most seeing the book series become the first “home run books” for my 9 year old son. I think in our schools today, we need to be more focused on helping students discover and HAVE TIME to read their own “home run books” than getting completely overwhelmed and focused on high-stakes testing. In order to do that more broadly, we’re going to need legislative changes which end the requirement to stop all learning for several weeks in the spring and focus on testing. How much better it would be (and will it be) to spend those precious hours in the classroom reading, learning, and sharing rather than fearfully and stressfully taking a battery of multiple-choice examinations. 🙁

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One Response to Interviews with Christopher Paolini

  1. John Martin says:

    Wes,

    Have you thought about interviewing Christopher Paolini yourself? Given your obvious passion for his writing and its impact on your son, I think it would be an incredible return to the educational community. Folks settle for the fluff ‘n stuff approach to content (such as the interview you mentioned) all too often. I liken it to the Today show effect (if it can’t fit into a 5 minute plug then we don’t touch it). The lack of depth leads to a lack of comprehension. We should strive for more.

    Actually that would be an interesting endeavor, develop an interview series available to educators that discuss the depth of novels but flavored with the personal passions of their authors. I was thinking about the idea you shared of the “home run book.” Would open sharing of these types of interviews lead to future “home run” authors?

    Keep up the great work Wes, I always enjoy your insights!

    Cheers,

    John

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