Q&A Interview with Robert Beatty: Author of the Serafina Book Series

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.

Robert Beatty

(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.


(7) Which of your books surprised you the most? Why?
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.


(8) What advice would you give to young writers?
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.

Kenneth Grahame: Facts About the Author of The Wind in the Willows

Here are some facts about Kenneth Grahame.

  • Kenneth Grahame was born at 32 Castle Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 8 March 1859.

  • His mother died of scarlet fever when he was five, and Kenneth Grahame, his two brothers and his sister went to live in Berkshire with his grandmother, Granny Ingles.
  • It was at Cookham Dean in Berkshire that Kenneth’s uncle, David Ingles, took him boating. The experience of spending time on the river Thames and exploring the riverside is thought to have inspired the setting for The Wind in the Willows.
  • After he left school, Kenneth Grahame worked at the Bank of England.
  • He married Elspeth Thomson in 1899. They had one son, called Alastair. Unfortunately, Alastair was killed by a train just before his twentieth birthday.

Kenneth Grahame

  • Kenneth Grahame’s first stories were published in London periodicals, and in the 1890s he published three collections of stories, Pagan Papers, The Golden Age and Dream Days.
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame’s most famous and well-loved work, was published in 1908.
  • The character of Toad from the The Wind in the Willows was based on his son (a young boy at the time). Ratty was inspired by his good friend Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
  • Kenneth Grahame died in 1932 in Pangbourne, aged 73, Berkshire. He was buried in the same grave as his son, Alastair.
  • William Horwood wrote a series of sequels to The Wind in the Willows in the 1990s.
  • The Wind in the Willows has been adapted for TV, film and stage on numerous occasions.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous authors.


Meg Cabot: Facts and Information

Her are some facts about Meg Cabot, the author of The Princess Diaries.

  • Meg Cabot’s middle name is Patricia.

  • She was born on February 1, 1967 in Bloomington, Indiana, in the United States.
  • Her pen names include: Meggin Cabot, Patricia Cabot and Jenny Carroll.
  • During her writing career, Meg Cabot has written books for adults, teens and children. she has published more than 80 books.
  • When she was at high school she wanted to be a veterinarian.
  • After graduating from Indiana University, Meg Cabot wanted to be an illustrator.
  • She married Benjamin D. Egnatz (a writer and poet) on April Fool’s Days in 1993.
  • She has lived in Indiana, California, France, Florida and New York.
  • The Princess Diaries books are her most well-known works.
  • Disney made two The Princess Diaries movies, starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.
  • She has written more than ten children’s books, including the Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls series, and the Olivia Grace series.
  • Meg Cabot is left handed.
  • When she was at school, Meg Cabot had a speech impediment. She had to leave lessons to visit speech and hearing specialists, and her classmates would sometimes tease her.
  • Meg Cabot writes incredibly quickly. At one point during her career, she was producing almost a book a month.
  • She was thirty years old when her first book was published.
  • She received lots of rejection letters from publishers before she was successful. She keeps these notes in a large US Postal bag under her bed in her New York apartment.
  • Her advice to aspiring writers is – ‘Don’t give up!’

What next? Discover some facts about other writers and authors.




Edward Lear: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Edward Lear.

  • Edward Lear was born on 12 May 1812 in Holloway in Middlesex, England.

  • He was the youngest surviving child of the 21 children of Ann and Jeremiah Lear (his parents).
  • He was raised by his sister, Ann, who was 21 years older than him.
  • When he was four years old, he left the family home and lived with his sister.
  • Edward Lear was often unwell. From the age of six he suffered from asthma and epileptic seizures.
  • Later in life, he became partially blind, and battled severe depression.

Edward Lear

  • In his teens, Edward Lear was becoming an accomplished artist. He got a job as a draughtsman by the Zoological Society.
  • In the early 1830s he was employed by the Earl of Derby to produce drawings of the birds and animals in his private menagerie.
  • When he was 19 his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots was published in 1830.
  • He became one of the best ornithological (bird) artists of his generation.
  • He also painted landscapes, especially during his travels. He visited Italy, Greece and Egypt, and he often spent his summers on Monte Generoso on the Swiss / Italian border.
  • Lear was an excellent musician. He played flute, accordion, guitar and the piano. He composed music for poems – his own, and for the works of famous Victorian poets.
  • In 1846 Lear’s A Book of Nonsense was published.
  • In 1871 his Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets was published. This book included his most famous work, The Owl and the Pussycat.

The Owl and the Pussycat

  • Edward Lear is often credited with popularising the limerick.
  • He craeted the word ‘runcible’, but nobody is sure what it means!
  • He started to write a follow-up to The Owl and the Pussycat, called The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat, but he didn’t get to complete it before his death.
  • He was friends with Alfred Lord Tennyson, and set some of his poems to music.
  • Towards the end of his life, Edward Lear settled in San Remo, in Italy. In 1888 he died of heart disease at his villa. He is buried in the Cemetery Foce in San Remo.
  • In 1988, to mark the centenary of Edward Lear’s death, the Royal Mail produced a set of commemorative stamps in the UK.
  • Both Andrew Sachs and Derek Jacobi have played Edward Lear in radio productions.

What next? Check out some facts about Lewis Carroll (the author of Jabberwocky, another nonsense poem), or discover some more facts about other famous writers.



Giles Andreae: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Giles Andreae.

  • Giles Andreae was born in 1966 in London, UK.

  • He went to school at Eton and then studied English at Oxford University.
  • Giles Andreae created the funny cartoon Purple Ronnie.
  • His wife is called Victoria and they have four children.
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance is his most well-known children’s book. Commotion in the Ocean is incredibly popular, too.
  • Rumble in the Jungle was the first children’s book he had published.
  • His favourite children’s book is Yertle the Turtle by Dr Seuss.
  • Some of the little things that make him happy are: cola fizzes, playing the guitar, Yorkshire puddings, his bed, unexpected kindness, pork scratchings, poetry, long hot baths and dishwashers.
  • To date, he has sold more than 3 million books.
  • Dr Seuss is his favourite children’s author.
  • Giles Andreae says that Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Spike Milligan were big influences on his work.
  • He didn’t enjoy maths lessons at school.
  • He once shared an office with Richard Curtis, the creator of Blackadder.
  • He loved reading the Nicholas books by Rene Goscinny to his own children.
  • Giles Andreae is good friends with David Cameron and was a member of the infamous Bullingdon Club, along with Cameron and Boris Johnson.

What next? Discover some more facts about children’s authors.


Mick Inkpen: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Mick Inkpen, the children’s book author and illustrator.

  • Mick Inkpen was born in 1952 in Romford in Essex, England.

  • He is good friends with the children’s author Nick Butterworth.
  • Mick Inkpen’s is best known for his Kipper the Dog series and his Wibbly Pig series.
  • His books have sold more than 4 million copies.
  • Before he became a writer and illustrator of children’s books, he was a graphic designer.
  • He used to write a comic strip The Blue Balloon (with Nick Butterworth) for the Sunday Express newspaper.
  • He loved English lessons when he was at school.
  • When he was a child he enjoyed painting, but he wanted to be a railway signalman when he grew up.
  • He has collaborated with his daughter, Chloe Inkpen. She is also an illustrator and author of children’s books.
  • He has 2 children.
  • He enjoyed reading Jenning’s Little Hut by Anthony Buckeridge when he was at school.
  • He loves London and says it is his favourite city.
  • He has won many awards for his books, including, The Red House Children’s Book Award for Threadbear and The Smarties Award for Kipper’s A-Z.
  • His earliest memory is watching blue butterflies flying as he ran through a meadow.

What next? Visit our Books & Authors page to discover more facts about famous children’s authors.


Patrick Ness: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Patrick Ness, author of A Monster Calls.

  • Patrick Ness was born on 17 October 1971 in Fort Belvoir, Virginia in the United States.

  • His father was in the military, so Patrick moved quite a bit when he was a child. He lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Washington State and California.
  • Patrick Ness studied English Literature at the University of Southern California.
  • He move to London in 1999.
  • In 2006 he formed a civil partnership with his partner, and in 2013, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in California, his partner and he got married.
  • He taught a creative writing course at Oxford University,
  • His children’s book The Knife of Never Letting Go, published by Walker Books, won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
  • A Monster Calls, published in 2011, is his most well-known book to date.
  • Patrick Ness wrote a Doctor Who spin-off TV series called Class.
  • His Chaos Walking series consists of three books, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men.
  • In 2016 A Monster Calls was released as a movie. Patrick Ness wrote the screenplay, and the film starred Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson.
  • He doesn’t like onions.
  • Her prefers mountains to beaches.
  • He likes reading novels written by Peter Carey, Nicola Barker, Ali Smith, David Foster Wallace and Terry Pratchett.
  • His first  book, The Crash of Hennington, published in 2003, was a book for adults.

What next? Discover more facts about famous authors.


Susan Cooper: Facts About the Author of The Dark is Rising Books

Here are some facts about Susan Cooper.

  • Susan Cooper was born on 23 May 1935 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England.
  • Her most famous for her The Dark is Rising book series.

  • Susan Cooper’s mother was a teacher, her father worked in the Natural History Museum, then went to fight in World War 1. After the war he worked on the Great Western Railway.
  • Susan Cooper went to Oxford University and studied English.
  • After finishing university, she worked as a reporter for The Sunday Times. One of her bosses was Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
  • Her first published novel was a science fiction book called Mandrake. It was published in 1964.
  • In 1963, Susan Cooper moved to the United States, marrying Nicholas J. Grant, a professor.
  • in the US, she became a full-time author, and worked on The Dark is Rising.
  • In 1970, she published Dawn of Fear,  a book about her experiences in World War 2.
  • Her first marriage cam to an end in 1983, and she married her second husband, Hume Cronyn (and actor and author) in 1996.
  • In 2002 she was presented with the Hans Christian Anderson for her contributions as a children’s author.
  • In total, including children’s picture books, she has written more than 20 books. she has also written a Broadway play and several screenplays.
  • World War 2 took place when she was a child and she remembers spending nights in her family’s air-raid shelter as German bombers flew overhead.
  • She was an avid reader as a child,  enjoying everything from fairy stories to the works of Charles Dickens.
  • The famous authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were both teaching at Oxford when Susan Cooper was a student there. She remembers Tolkien shouting the opening lines of Beowulf during a lecture on Anglo-Saxon literature.



The Butterfly Lion: Facts About the Book by Michael Morpurgo

  • Here are some facts about The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo.
  • The Butterfly Lion was first published by Collins in 1996.
  • The book won the 1996 Smarties Book Prize.

  • Natalie Cassidy named The Butterfly Lion as her favourite book on the BBC Bringing Books to Life feature.
  • Michael Morpurgo was unhappy at boarding school, and, when he was seven, he ran away. These experiences made it into The Butterfly Lion.
  • The story was reworked for the stage by Daniel Buckroyd and the show was performed in theaters all over the UK.


  • When Michael Morpurgo was asked to name his favourite of the books he’s written, he named The Butterfly Lion (along with Kensuke’s Kingdom, War Horse and Private Peaceful).
  • The Butterfly Lion is not the only one of Michael Morpurgo’s books to feature a cat. Kaspar – Prince of Cats, Tom’s Sausage Lion, Mossop’s Last Chance, Adolphus Tips and The Nine Lives of Montezuma are also about cats.


  • The story was inspired by a number of different things – Michael’s boyhood memories, the experiences of Chris McBride with the lions of Timbavati, a meeting Michael had with the actress Viginia McKenna – a great supporter of lions and their welfare, the true story of a World War 1 soldier who saved some circus animals in France, and the glimpse from a train window of the chalk white horse near Westbury.


Best Battle of Hastings Books for Kids

Here are some great children’s books on the subject of the Norman invasion in 1066 and the Battle of Hastings.

Non-Fiction

Battle of Hastings

Fiction

  • 1066 (I Was There) by Jim Eldridge. – The story of an Anglo-Saxon page called Edwin and his adventures before and during the Battle of Hastings.
  • Hastings (EDGE Battles Book 1) by Gary Smailes. – A Fighting Fantasy style game-book in which the reader takes on the role of William the Conqueror.

What next? Learn more about the Normans by visiting our resources page, or discover some facts about William the Conqueror, The Battle of Hastings, Edward the Confessor and King Harold.