A Glimpse into the Twisted Staff

Author Robert Beatty opens up about his second Serafina novel.


Published:

Robert Beatty, author of the Serafina series of novels set in historic Biltmore Estate.

Image courtesy of Disney Hyperion

After realizing 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2015 for his debut novel "Serfina and the Black Cloak," Robert Beatty is now preparing for the release of the sequel. "Serafina and the Twisted Staff" will be released nationwide on July 12. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Beatty speak at the 2015 Bookmarks Festival. Before I pulled into my driveway at the end of that day, my husband already had me on the waiting list at our local library for Beatty's book.

I had the chance to read it when my husband and I flew to Colorado in October for a wedding. It was wonderful. I couldn't put it down. When I heard the second book was already set to be released in July, I was thrilled. When I had the opportunity to receive a review copy, I was ecstatic. I'd love to tell you all about it. But I won't, other than to say I predict another six months or more on the Bestseller List. I did, however, have a chance to interview Beatty. Therefore, I'll let him give you a glimpse into the new adventures of a curious cat-like 12-year-old who lived in the basement of Biltmore Estate at the end of the 19th century. 

How long — from the first words through publication — did it take to write the first Serafina novel? In contrast, how long did it take for the second?

Beatty: It took about a year to write "Serafina and the Black Cloak," which is fast for me. Normally, it takes me longer to complete a novel. But it took five months to write Serafina and the Twisted Staff because we needed to complete it in time for publication the following year. I really focused on it.

When you spoke at the 2015 Bookmarks Festival, you mentioned how involved your family was in providing feedback for the first book. Was the process similar this time?

Beatty: Yes, my wife and daughters definitely helped craft and refine the Twisted Staff story, just as before. We worked closely together on it. In some cases, I read pages out loud to one or more of them. In other cases, they would read pages and mark them up for me. We had many long detailed discussions about the plot and characters. That’s what we did at dinnertime each night.

Can you tell us, without giving away too much, what new mischief Serafina will encounter or what new things about her own identity she will learn in this new book?

Beatty: The first book was focused on who and what Serafina is. The second book is focused on who and what Serafina wants to become. Like all of us, young and old, she has many choices in front of her. The question is: Which path will she follow?

Other than the Vanderbilts, will there be other “guests” introduced and involved in the sequel?

Beatty: Yes, readers will be introduced to a few new characters in Book 2. Lady Rowena is a high-born young girl visiting Biltmore Estate from England. Mrs. Vanderbilt asks Braeden to keep her company. Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American landscape architecture and the landscape designer of Biltmore, has a prominent role in the new book. And, of course, there’s a new evil foe for Serafina.

Will any of the guests from the first book be part of the adventures in book 2?

Beatty: None of Biltmore’s guests will be the same as in the last book. But all of the main characters will be. Braeden Vanderbilt returns in Book 2. I see Serafina and Braeden as the main characters of the Serafina series. The friendship between Serafina and Braeden continues to grow, and is tested at times too, as the friends work together to solve another mystery. George and Edith Vanderbilt, and Serafina’s Pa also return. Some of the four-legged kin also return.

Will there be a third novel? A movie or movies?

Beatty: Publisher Disney Hyperion has already requested a third book in the Serafina series. I’m hard at work right now on that book, which is scheduled to publish in 2017. If the book series continues to do well, I'm hopeful that they'll want to turn it into a movie. A number of producers are interested, but we don't have anything definite yet.

What is your favorite aspect of the Serafina series?

Beatty: Wow. That’s a full question. If you’re talking about the story itself, I love how Serafina is so different, quite strange in many ways, but so bold and good of heart. I love to imagine her in action. If you’re asking about the Serafina series in a larger sense, I think the thing I love most is that people are actually reading it. That’s what I’ve been working toward and dreaming of my whole life: to write a story that people enjoy, that they have fun reading, that moves them, and scares them, and keeps them engaged, and just maybe, gets them to notice a little bit of the magic in the world in which they live.

For what ages would you recommend this book?

Beatty: A Serafina fan recently posted a comment that said, “Serafina is for everyone from 9 to 99.” I like that. Disney Hyperion has put the book into the 9 to 12 category, but we actually have as many adults reading the series as we do children.

Anything you want us to know in preparation for the book launch?

Beatty: When you come up to the signing table, don’t be shy. Don’t just wait. Start talking! I want to know about you. Tell me who you are and what you thought about the book. Tell me about your experience with the story, or what to write in my next story, or ask me questions. I love to talk to people, so start talking!

What Triad-area NC venues will you visit after the book is released?

Beatty: We’re excited to be returning to the Triad in July. We’ll be at Barnes & Noble-Greensboro at Friendly Center from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, July 21, for a “Twisted Staff” Book Signing & Author Event. I’ll be doing a presentation about the new book, screening the new book trailer, doing Q&A and signing books. The event also includes free food and drink, Serafina giveaways, and the opportunity to meet other Serafina fans.

Many thanks to Robert Beatty for taking the time to answer some questions about his new book. We are thrilled about his upcoming visit to Greensboro. We are also honored to be giving away three signed copies of "Serafina and the Twisted Staff," which will each include a Serafina swag pack, at the end of July. Register today for your chance to win

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