This was on www.hslda.com Somewhere along the Yellowstone River, deep in the Beartooth Mountains, sits the backdrop for a land filled with elves and magic, dwarves and Urgals and more specifically, dragons. Last week's premiere of "Eragon" introduced moviegoers to a fantasy world conjured up seven years ago by a teen who calls Montana's Paradise Valley home. Christopher Paolini, 23, was a 15-year-old high school graduate when he started writing "Eragon," a epic fantasy novel in the same vein as J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." "I didn't start 'Eragon' until I had actually graduated. By that time, I didn't have a job, I wasn't in school and my parents didn't feel comfortable sending me to college when I was 15, and I think that was a wise decision on their part," Paolini said during a recent phone interview with the Tribune from New York City, the day "Eragon" was released at movie theaters nationwide. "We were out of town all the way so I couldn't just go to the nearest movie theater or mall or stores and hang out. I really had to find someway to entertain myself and do something with the time I had on my hands. Writing ended up being that thing." Home schooled Paolini's parents decided to home school Paolini and his sister after they realized how advanced their children were when the time came to enroll them in first grade. It didn't help that the family lived 20 miles from Livingston. "I don't think any of us looked forward to having to drive 20 miles every day to school," Paolini said. Paolini attributes his advanced development to his mother Talita's educational background and her fondness for teaching her children when they were little. "My mom was a trained teacher originally, so when my sister and I were born, she started doing projects with us and lessons," he said. "By the time it was time for us to enroll in first grade, we were already several grades ahead." Montana influence Growing up in the beautiful Paradise Valley gave Paolini the perfect topographical starting point when he began forming his magical world of Alagaesia. "The mountains, I think, are just extraordinarily beautiful," he said. "I've hiked and camped in them quite a bit and that opportunity to be around beauty and be able to go out in the forest and get to see the wildlife and get to touch and feel and smell things up close is a great inspiration when you go to write an epic fantasy novel." "If I'd grown up in a large city, I might have still written fantasy, but I think it would've been a fantasy of a very different sort." Montanans can take pride in references to their state throughout, including a map of Alagaesia on the inside of the book that resembles the state, to geographical tributes like Palencar Valley (meant to honor Paradise Valley) and Beartooth River. Paolini's folks stepped in to lend a hand when they published the novel under their own Paolini International, LLC in 2002. Paolini traveled extensively to promote his book, eventually catching the attention of novelist Carl Hiaasen, who told his publisher who in turn purchased the book. "Eragon" went on to become a No. 1 New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller. In 2005, Knopf Publishing released "Eldest," the second in the trilogy. Paolini is still amazed at the attention he's received. "I never even thought 'Eragon' was gonna get published when I started it," he said. "I was just trying to see if I could write a book." Hollywood comes knocking During its opening weekend "Eragon" the movie netted just over $23 million behind the talents of Academy Award winners Jeremy Irons and Rachel Weisz as well as John Malkovich and Robert Carlyle. Newcomer Edward Speleers plays Eragon, a young farm boy who stumbles upon a dragon egg only to be thrust into the role of revolutionary leader. His dragon Saphira (suh-fear-uh) is voiced by Weisz and is represented quite well on the big screen thanks to the magic of computer-generated imagery (CGI). While authors often cringe at the interpretation of their work on the big screen, Paolini respects how difficult it is to condense a 500-page novel into a 120-page script. Many fans of "Eragon" the book have been critical of the abridged version, but Paolini gives it a thumbs up. "I was very pleased with Jeremy Irons as Brom. He did a great job as that," said Paolini, who watched the premiere in London. "I also think that Ed Speleers did a very good job as Eragon as well. Sure, there's certain things that are different in the film with the characters, but that's just the way it goes with an adaptation. My vision is expressed in the books and the books aren't going anywhere." Movie trailers and commercials for the "Eragon" video game have been airing for the better part of the past three weeks. The first time he saw one, Paolini was taken off guard. "The first time I saw a trailer for the movie on television, I was exercising and I had the TV on," he recalled. "All of a sudden there's a trailer for the movie and I felt like someone had hit me or something." Final chapter With two books of the trilogy done and a movie in the can, the constant question from fans is "when will the third book be done?" "I've got a big chunk of it done, and I'm working as hard as I can on it," Paolini said. "I still have a ways to go. The best answer I can come up with as far as when is it coming out is, as soon as I can finish it. I do want it done as soon as possible, so I'm not gonna be lollygagging around and dragging my feet on it." While fans hope Paolini changes his mind about ending the series as a trilogy, the author is standing firm on his plans. "When I began this series, I swore to myself that the series would end," he said. "I'm of the opinion that a good story needs a good ending. However difficult it may be for me as an author, I am going to let go of this world and these characters." Paolini has invested so much of his heart and soul into creating the world known as Alagaesia he knows it will be hard to close the book on his make believe universe. "I've already felt a certain reluctance to let go of the world," he said, offering hope that he'll eventually revisit Alagaesia from a different point of view. "Since I have put in so much effort in creating the world and the people and the race of cultures, I do think that at some point in the future, not necessarily after the third book, but at some point in the future, I will probably come back to Eragon's world to tell some other stories." For now, Paolini is having the time of his life watching his creation take shape. "I'm really grateful and humbled to do what I love and make a living at it," he said. "You can't ask for anything better than this." Douglas can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.