Christopher Paolini is a name that resonates in the world of fantasy fiction. Known for being a young author of YA fantasy, his name carries the same weight as JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. While each of them writes a completely different series, they all have huge international fanbases. This trio of authors raised a generation of readers.
Even if you didn’t read young adult fiction in 2003 or just skirted the edges of the genre, Paolini’s story of publication is probably one you heard. It’s passed around writer groups and livejournals in whispered tones that bards of old saved for the tales of Beowulf. Paolini is legend.
And like most legends, there were various versions of the circumstances that led to his being published. The actual story is that his parents self-published Eragon when he was fifteen and then it made its way to a publisher. It was edited and then republished by a major publisher when he was nineteen.
Nineteen years old and a New York Times bestselling author. It’s quite the heroic tale, and it convinced a generation of young writers that your age didn’t determine your chances of being published. Whether or not those young writers get published at nineteen, they want to try—and that’s what matters.
Paolini is also known as an author who made his readers wait. The final book of his epic The Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance, was delayed from its original publishing date; this was after what was originally planned to be a trilogy expanded into a quartet. Brisingr, the third of The Inheritance Cycle, was published just over three years ago. Three years between books is an eternity in the Teen section.
When I first started working in a Chapters store, one of the most common questions asked by customers was: “Do you know when book four is coming out?” The second most-common question was: “Why can’t I find Christopher Paolini?” and was always asked by someone standing in the adult fantasy section.
The Inheritance Cycle has huge crossover power. That’s what puts it on the same level as Twilight and Harry Potter. As big as The Hunger Games is, it hasn’t quite gained the same reach (yet.) The Inheritance Cycle is the last of the trailblazers. Regardless of what you think of the books, you have to admit—like Rowling and Meyer—Paolini has left a huge impression on this genre and expanded its readership. These are the titles that broke down the walls so that adults could cheer as Katniss fired her arrows at the Capital and Clary fought demons with Jace.
I can’t imagine what it must be like more than ten years later to finish something that you grew up writing. That’s the end of a personal era, never mind a literary one. So congratulations, Christopher. May you have the happiest of birthdays on November 17th. I hope you’re celebrating it on the NYT Bestseller List.