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.

Cathy Cassidy: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Cathy Cassidy.

  • She was born in Coventry in 1962.
  • When she was a girl, she used to write picture books for her younger brother.

  • She went to art school in Liverpool and then went on to work as fiction editor on Jackie magazine.
  • After marrying her boyfriend, Liam, she trained as an art teacher.
  • She taught for a few years in Coventry, and then she moved to Scotland.
  • Cathy Cassidy is a vegan.
  • She loves vintage clothes and old toys and books.
  • Cathy has two grown-up children.
  • She enjoys walking her dogs, swimming and gardening.
  • When she was a child, she enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Little House on the Prarie by Lauran Ingalls Wilder.
  • Her first book, Dizzy, was published in 2004.
  • On average it takes her between 4 and 6 months to write one of her books.
  • she really admires the YA authors John Green and Meg Rosoff.
  • She has written more than 25 books.
  • Cathy Cassidy writes a daily blog called Dreamcatcher. Check it out here.

Quentin Blake: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Quentin Blake.

  • Quentin Blake is an English writer of children’s books, and an illustrator. He has illustrated several books for children by the popular writer, Roald Dahl, and has won several awards.
  • He was born in Kent in 1932 and had his first drawing was published when he was only 16.

  • He studied English literature at Cambridge before working at London’s Royal College of Art for over 20 years.
  • Quentin Blake has illustrated over 300 books, including over 30 he has written himself.
  • In 1974, he illustrated the first book by Dr. Seuss that Seuss didn’t illustrate himself.
  • As well as illustrating fiction, he has illustrated books about poetry, healthy living and cooking. He has supplied drawings for several classic novels, including and edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • He has also designed store logos and postage stamps, and drawn on the side of buses. He has presented the children’s programme Jackanory and is patron of several charities.
  • One of his biggest projects was a large mural on a disused building near St. Pancras station in London. The mural was designed to greet passengers arriving in London by train.
  • Quentin Blake has been an exhibition curator since the 1990s, working in the British Library and a museum in Paris. He has also created works for British and French hospitals.
  • Quentin Blake has supported the Campaign for Drawing since its creation in 2000. The charity’s goal is to encourage everyone to draw, and other patrons include artists Gerald Scarfe and David Hockney.
  • In his spare time, Blake enjoys giving talks, reading, bird watching and cycling.
  • He owns a home in France and sometimes tries to read books written in French.
  • Blake was awarded the CBE in 2005, and was knighted for his services in 2013. He has won several other awards, including the 1980 Kate Greenaway award for best children’s book illustration.