Newsmakers

Living a Real-Life Fantasy

If your kid won't do his homework, this'll really depress you. A Montana teen has not only written a 528-page fantasy novel, but the book, "Eragon," has debuted at No. 3 on The New York Times best-seller list, ahead of every "Harry Potter" except the latest. "It's extraordinary!" says Christopher Paolini. "I mean, good grief, I'm only 19!"

Home-schooled in Paradise Valley, Paolini earned his GED at 15 and began the first part of his Tolkienesque "Inheritance" trilogy, about a 16-year-old boy and a mysterious blue stone that hatches a dragon, a journey of self-discovery and an epic battle between good and evil. His parents, who run a small publishing company, printed it, Paolini did the cover art, and he began hawking "Eragon" in regional schools and bookstores. "I even did a signing in a grocery store," he says.

The book fell into the hands of Carl Hiaasen, who gave it to his editor at Knopf, which won a bidding war; Paolini walked away with a $500,000 advance for all three books. (He's now at work on the second.) And, believe it or not, he isn't buying a BMW. He's not even moving out of his parents' house. "There's a simple rule I learned about money early on," he says, laughing. "If you spend it, you don't have it." But one perk of stardom isn't costing him a dime: now on a 15-city tour, he's discovering that there are "a lot of female readers of the book." So far, though, Paolini's keeping it all in perspective. "You have to learn to deal with a lot of attention," he says. "But even if nothing more happens, it'll be a great story to tell my kids."

Q&A: Sharon Stone

Since Sharon Stone's last film, a Komodo dragon bit her husband's foot, and she had a very public divorce and a brain hemorrhage. After all that--and with a new film, "Cold Creek Manor," to promote--talking to NEWSWEEK's B. J. Sigesmund was all in a day's work.

Let's start with easy stuff before we get...

... To the real tough questions, like how I feel about dating?

You must get that a lot.

Not from anyone who actually wants a date.

Speaking of which--not to kiss up to you at all--you're aging so beautifully.

I've gotten bonier. I get more and more cheekbones, and I just keep getting skinnier. And that's been my good luck. My parents are very young-looking people. They're gorgeous, and they're in their 70s. Have you ever seen my folks? You probably can on the Internet.

You were on "GMA," "The View," then "Letterman." What's it like being back on the PR circuit?

I have to say, it feels very different. Before, it was like I spent my life hanging on to a rocket. And now I've mellowed, and I have the ability to say, "I'd like to talk about this, and I'd really rather not talk about that." I also don't feel like if I don't do everything, it will all go away.

When you had that brain hemorrhage two years ago, did you really have a white-light experience?

I really did. I asked the doctor if I was going to die, and he didn't answer. I started praying for my son. And then it just happened. I don't know how long I was in that experience. It's not exactly like seeing a light as much as a feeling of being drawn to it and being inside of it.

You're about to be on "The Practice."

Yes. I love the kind of writing David E. Kelley does. You drive onto that lot and you can imagine what it felt like at the Globe when they were waiting for Shakespeare.

Um, can we get back to your dating life?

I really don't feel like dating, to be honest with you. I'd go for a cup of coffee, and by the time I was halfway through the second cup there'd be paparazzi outside and it would be turned into something that it wasn't. So that doesn't seem worth it.