Even if you’ve never read it, you know what The Inheritance Cycle is. Maybe not by that name, but Eragon? You know what I’m talking about. You probably know that it involves dragons. You also probably know the movie adaptation totally tanked.
And maybe you have read it, and you’re scratching your head at this post because Eragon? Really?
Before we begin, I’d like to take a moment to preface this with I don’t care whether or not you like Eragon. I don’t care if you think it’s a piece of trash, or, if like me, you have very fond memories of it. This post is not about the writing quality. It’s not about whether it’s good or not. That’s objective. To each their own, right? But this series made me the writer I am today, and it deserves some credit for that.
Good grief, Eragon was published in 2002. 18 years ago! At the time of writing this, Christopher Paolini was 17-years-old or thereabouts. I would have never been capable of something of this level at that age. I wasn’t even kind of close to this. And if you think your 17-year-old self was capable of doing a better job at writing this book, well. You’re clearly far superior than the rest of us mere mortals.
I was 9 when this was published, and I definitely didn’t have to wait in between the first two books, so I think I probably started reading them just before Brisingr was released. Yes, yes, that’s right, because I remember we were all debating on what Brisingr was going to be called and then mad he didn’t stick with the E-titles. So let’s say about 2006? I was about 13, which sounds right, because then I would have been in the seventh grade, which was right before I started writing my own fantasy.
The scene is set. I was 13. I used to wear my band t-shirts inside out because my mom wouldn’t let me have an all-black one. I wore multiple studded belts at one time because that was the punk fashion. I colored my eyelids in with red eyeliner because I wanted to look like Frank Iero. And I was a nerdy, angry little child obsessed with two things: Harry Potter and Good Charlotte.
My dad read Harry Potter to me growing up, and so, by the time I was in the fifth grade (age: 11), I was reading on my own, and I moved to Lord of the Rings. At the start of middle school, I was the tender age of 12 and just beginning to experiment with fanfiction. I would continue with fanfiction, specific to Harry Potter and Good Charlotte, until I found Eragon.
I remember it so vividly. I used to go over my friend’s house all the time, lay on her floor while she and our other friend laid in her bed, and we would just talk about dragons. Magic. Fantasy worlds. It was one of these times, a hood drawn up and my eyes closed, that I said, “I want to write about dragons. If Christopher Paolini can do it, so can I.”
They were fateful words. I knew that he’d been published at 19, that he’d written Eragon at 16-17. I was 13. That meant I had a few years to write my own story filled with dragons and adventure and maybe even some romance, get it out to a publisher, and watch my entire world explode with fame and recognition.
Take yourself back a moment. You’re just barely a teenager. You’ve been fed a steady diet of hidden magical schools and daring adventures with elves, and here comes a tale of dragons. It doesn’t matter who you are, dragons are badass. And, at that age, with that upbringing, dragons are the literal coolest thing in the planet. And not only are they dragons like Smaug or the Triwizard one, who are evil and conniving and hellbent on killing you–the dragons in Eragon care. They want to see the world become a better place. They express emotion. They let people ride them.
Imagine you’re just barely a teenager. Your favorite character in the whole world is Aragorn. You would give anything to go to Hogwarts. And then someone tells you it’s possible to ride a dragon.
I mean. Is anyone really surprised I loved these books so much? They ride dragons, guys. There is literally nothing cooler to me than that. Still, at age 27, over a decade since I first discovered the world of Alagaësia, I’m still welling up with emotion just thinking about it. Dragons.
Now. Here’s the other thing. When I was in the fifth grade, we were all given a piece of homework in English, in which we were supposed to complete the half-sentence. I asked if it would be okay if I wrote paragraphs instead. My teacher said yes. But one of the sentences hit me differently than the rest, so I asked if I could take it home and write a full story.
I was 11. It was the beginning of something incredible.
When I returned the next week, I had my entire story painstakingly typed up on the computer, printed out, and given an illustrated cover. I asked my dad to bind it at work, and when I arrived for school on Monday, I presented it proudly to my teacher. She looked it over, her face full of awe, and asked me something I never expected, “Would you be okay with doing an interview with the rest of your grade about your story?”
I was dumbfounded. She wanted me to get up in front of my peers and talk about my writing?
She arranged it with the other teachers to find a common time when we wouldn’t be disturbing anyone, and I literally stood up in front of my classmates, and they asked me questions about my story. Mrs. Ryan deserves a dedication in every single book I ever eventually publish. I am never going to forget what she did for me that day.
It started with a small series about a princess named Elizabeth who went on her own independent adventures, and it briefly swayed into Harry Potter fanfiction (among others, later), but it stopped, firmly, at dragons for a very, very long time. At 11, I realized I wanted to be a writer. At 13, I saw someone only six years older than me do it. And not only did Paolini get published, he saw success, he was able to publish three more novels, and he’s kind of a household name. I wanted that. If he could do it, and he was still a teenager, so could I.
Because it wasn’t just dragons that I needed. It was encouragement. It was Mrs. Ryan asking me if I would be okay talking about my story. It was Christopher Paolini proving that he could be successful at 19. It was my two friends asking, “Can we read it?” when I said I wanted to write about dragons.
It’s never just been about Eragon, why I love this series so much.
In the end, really, The Inheritance Cycle means so much to me because it opened a lot of doors for me. I’d only ever seen dragons in a negative light, despite thinking they were the coolest things since sliced bread. All of the authors that I looked up to were firmly in the adult category. But Christopher Paolini showed me that not only could dragons be the good guys, they could also be written at an early age.
So, I started writing. I worked on A Chronicle of Kings for twelve years. It went through various name changes, both titles and characters, but that’s the one that still resonates with me. Different friends read different versions of it, some that are miles and miles apart from each other in content. One high school teacher, Mr. Chiasson, read the entire thing (bless his soul for this), told me it was really good, and then gave me constructive criticism on how I could make it even better. I was a punk, so I told him I thought it was fine just the way it was, which I would quickly come to regret as I spent the next decade and change rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. I’ve never quite come to a version of the story that I like enough to do anything with, but it jump-started my entire career as a writer.
I now have a BFA in Creative Writing and a BA in English. I’ve been published twice. I’ve gone on to write at least a dozen other novels. Some of them have even been queried out, and though none have been accepted yet, I think we’re getting closer.
And all of it–and I mean all of it–was because of that moment, lying on the floor, thinking of Eragon and Saphira as I said, “I want to write about dragons.”
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me what other people think about these books. They changed my life. They’re always going to be special to me.