In this week’s Behind The Pen I interviewed Robert Beatty, author of the Serafina series, published by Disney Hyperion, which is set during the historic days at Biltmore House.
Q: How did you get into the writing world?
A: As a child, I was an avid reader. I loved the stories of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Dickens. When I was 11 years old, my mother gave me a typewriter to tinker with, and I started using it to write my own stories. I’ve been writing ever since. As an adult, I pursued my passion for writing whenever I could. I took workshops and classes to refine my writing, and studied with editors at Narrative Magazine. Forty years after writing those first stories as a young boy, I had my first published novel, Serafina and the Black Cloak.
Q: What do you love about writing?
A: I love to tell stories. For me, writing has always had an element of oral storytelling. When I write, I often type and speak out loud at the same time, as if I’m telling a tale to a friend or one of my family members. I want people to more than read my stories; I want people to hear them, too.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your books?
A: I’m the father of three girls, so I’m especially interested in strong female characters. I wanted to write stories that would engage them and keep them on the edge of their seats. Serafina is flawed and relatable, a bold and clever girl with a good heart. One minute she’s innocent and frightened, and the next as fierce as can be. She possesses so many traits that young people, my daughters included, can relate to. The character of Serafina was inspired by my middle daughter, Genevieve, who used to prowl around our house and try to sneak up on me in my office when I was writing.
Q: What challenges do you find in writing?
A: The biggest challenge for me in writing the Serafina books was ensuring that the tone and the voice of the story were just right. I wanted to make sure the books were authentic in historical details and in the character traits of a young girl. It took a long time to fine-tune those elements. My wife and daughters helped me a lot with that process.
Q: What is your creative process?
A: A part of my creative process involves engaging my daughters and wife throughout a book project. They have been involved from the very beginning. Early on, they helped me develop the idea of setting a spooky book series at Biltmore, a favorite place of ours to visit and explore. As the books are in progress, I read completed chapters aloud to the girls after they get home from school for the day, and they give me instant feedback that helps me refine the story. Once the books are done, my family helps me create the video trailers that we produce to promote the books, with my two oldest daughters playing key roles in the trailers and my wife designing and sewing many of the costumes.
Q: If you could give an upcoming writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Develop a system of feedback that works for you. For me, that means sharing my work throughout the writing process with a trusted circle of readers to get their reactions to the story. If you can, participate in writing workshops and classes. It’s another very useful way to gain feedback and improve your writing.
Q: Where can people go to see more of your work?
A: I’ve had three books published in the Serafina Book Series – Serafina and the Black Cloak (2015), Serafina and the Twisted Staff (2016), and Serafina and the Splintered Heart (July 2017). The books are spooky, Southern gothic thrillers that mix history, mystery and magic. Although the series is written for middle-grade audiences, many adults are reading and enjoying it too.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or say about yourself and/or your writing?
A: My new book, Serafina and the Splintered Heart, is set for nationwide release on July 3, 2017. It’s the third title in the Serafina Series. After that, I’ll be working on another four books for my publisher, Disney Hyperion, including a new middle-grade duology about a 12-year-old forest spirit named Willa. The first Willa book will publish in Summer 2018, with the second to follow in 2019.
Click here to visit his website and learn more about Robert Beatty and the Serafina series.