Tad Williams and Christopher Paolini: Author One-on-One Tad Williams
is the New York Times bestselling author of several epic fantasy series. He lives in California. Read on
for Williams and Christopher Paolini
's discussion about why they write fantasy, their upcoming projects, and more. Tad:
Hi, Christopher. Nice to talk to you, albeit virtually. It was great hanging out with you and your family this summer. Pretty much all of us fell in love with your part of the world, too.
Be warned: this isn't my best time of the day, so if I start calling you "Herman" and asking what it was about whaling that interested you, please forgive.
The first thing I'd like to ask you as a starter question is: why fantasy? I mean, there's the obvious answer (which is also true for me) that it was something I loved to read growing up, but I guess I'm curious what is it that still resonates for you. Why do these kind of stories, these kinds of characters, these kinds of worlds, still speak to you?
In a similar vein, do you have another kind of fiction, another genre, that you'd really like to try? If so, why? Any genres you think you'll never write but wish you could? Christopher:
Hi Tad. Great talking to you as well. We all had a wonderful time when you guys visited. Definitely one Of the highlights of the year.
I'm still waking up as well -- takes a few cups of tea and a few strips of bacon before the little gray cells start firing properly -- so if I sound a bit muddled, that's why. Still, we can make a stab at coherency, eh?
Hmm. Why do I write fantasy? As you said, it's because I enjoy reading it, but I enjoy reading it because . . . well, for a number of reasons, I suppose. First of all, fantasy allows for all sorts of dangerous situations, and those can provide a lot of excitement in a story. And excitement is always fun. Also, epic fantasy usually deals with themes and situations that everyone can relate to, such as the challenge of growing up, or how one is supposed to deal with moral quandaries. Fantasy is the oldest form of literature; the very first stories that humans told while crouched around campfires were stories about gods and monsters and tragic mistakes and heroic feats. Even now, those topics still resonate with us on a primal level, which is one reason I think fantasy will remain popular with readers as long as humans are still human. And I love the sense of awe and wonder one can often find in fantastical literature. . . . Fantasy can allow you to see and hear and experience things that have never existed and never *could* exist. To me, that is the closest we come to real magic in this world.
That said, there are a number of other genres I'd like to try my hand at: mystery, thriller, horror, science-fiction, romance, etc. I love stories of all kinds -- although mythic ones certainly hold the greatest appeal to me -- and I'm very much looking forward to experimenting once I finish the Inheritance cycle. Any genres I think I'll never write but wish I could? . . . Probably long-form epic poetry or a witty comedy of manners. Poetry is fun, but my grasp on it is rather shaky, and a comedy of manners (while I enjoy them) is so different from my usual life, I'm not sure I could pull it off properly.
And now a question for you: You have just finished your third (large) series. What is it about big epic stories that so fascinates you? Why not write small, intimate books about a fishmonger whose greatest love is his toothpick sculpture of the Brooklyn Bridge? Read the full conversation
The much-anticipated third book in Paolini's Inheritance Cycle continues to rely heavily on classic fantasy tropes. The novel launches with magician and Dragon Rider Eragon, his cousin Roran and the dragon Saphira on a quest to rescue Roran's betrothed. The cousins soon split up, and Roran undergoes his own series of heroic tests, culminating in a well-choreographed and intense fight against an Urgal (a ram-human hybrid). Eragon, at the same time, encounters treacherous dwarves, undergoes even more training with the elf Oromis and gains a magical sword suitable for a Dragon Rider. The silly revelations about Eragon's background in the previous book, Eldest, are given a new spin near the end, but the change is neither unexpected nor interesting. Predictably, the book concludes with even more character deaths and another battle, but those expecting a resolution will have to wait until the next novel. The cliched journey may appeal to younger readers of genre fiction. Older teens, even those who might have first cut their teeth on Paolini's writing years ago, are less likely to be impressed. Ages 12-up.
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