Robert Beatty, author of the Serafina books, answered eight of our questions about his books and his writing process.
(1) Approximately, how many books do you read every year?
I read about 20 books a year, including a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. I also do extensive research reading when I’m writing a book.
(2) What were your favourite books as a child?
I loved J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens (especially A Tale of Two Cities), and T.H. White (The Once and Future King, The Sword in the Stone, and The Book of Merlin).
(3) Which books have had the greatest impact on your life?
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
- A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)
- The Man Who Planted Trees (A story by Jean Giono)
(4) Which of your books was the most challenging to write. Why?
The second book in the Serafina series, Serafina and the Twisted Staff, was a challenge because I knew that the success of the first book would set expectations very high. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write a second book that Serafina fans enjoyed as much as the first one. But in the end, much to my relief, almost everyone likes Twisted Staff even more than Serafina and the Black Cloak. Having said all of that, I just completed writing the third book, Serafina and the Splintered Heart. It’s an ambitious and unusual story, and in some ways it was very challenging because I had to get the details and tone just right in order for it to work. Now that it’s done, I can’t wait for people to read it.
(5) Where do you write?
I’m definitely not a coffee shop and airplane lounge sort of writer. I need peace and quiet for long periods of time. I write in my office at home, which is on the second floor of our barn.
(6) Do you plot in detail or do you work out the story as you are writing the first draft?
I envision the whole story in my mind, from beginning to end. I keep working on and refining the story in my mind until I either fall in love with it and have to write it, or I decide that the storyline is flawed and should be abandoned. Sometimes it takes a few seconds to explore a story, see its flaws, and abandon it. Sometimes it takes a few days or weeks. When I decide to move forward with a story, I create a brief outline, basically a list of parts, chapters, big scenes, etc., using my Scrivener software (which combines outlining and word processing). I then take another look at the story. I massage it in my mind, explore it, look for its flaws, and try to think of improvements. After all that, if I still think it looks like a good story, then I start writing it. I then write and flesh out the structure of the story as I go. I also make substantial changes and improvements in the revision process, which is far longer than the conceptualizing, outlining, and the initial writing of the initial drafts.
Definitely Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Book 3) (coming July 2017), which I just finished. It’s an unusual and risky story, in terms of the plot and all the things that happen, but I’m hoping fans will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
My main bit of advice is to read your story out loud to yourself and to others. I believe that in many ways writing is actually a form of oral storytelling. Yes, people are using their eyes to consume it, but in reality, as they are reading with their eyes, they’re going to be subconsciously hearing it in their ears, like someone is telling them the story.
What next? Check out Robert Beatty’s great website.