'Serafina' books are a family affair for author Robert Beatty
Greenville holds a special place in the heart of best-selling author Robert Beatty.
“My very first book signing was in Greenville,” he said. “It was big and many hundreds of people came. It was totally awesome because as an author, that was the first moment I realized, ‘Wow. People actually like this book. There’s going to be a lot of success here.’ The moment I learned that was literally in Greenville.”
Beatty will return to Greenville in July to celebrate the release of his latest book, “Serafina and the Twisted Staff,” which is the eagerly anticipated sequel to his New York Times bestseller “Serafina and the Black Cloak.” He will sign books and meet readers 6 – 9 p.m. July 14 at Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Greenridge in Greenville and 6 – 9 p.m. July 22 at the Barnes & Noble in Spartanburg.
“Serafina and the Black Cloak” is a spooky mystery-thriller for middle-grade readers about an unusual girl who secretly lives in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in 1899. It spent more than 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list following its release last July. The sequel will release July 12, and the story picks up immediately after the events of the first book, he said.
Beatty lives in Asheville with his wife, Jennifer, and three daughters, Camille, 16 Genevieve, 14, and Elizabeth, 5, and attributes much of his book’s success to the trailer created to help promote it. He said many people think the book’s publisher, Disney Hyperion, produced the video. It was actually a family project, he said.
“(Disney Hyperion) gave me permission to do it,” he said. “It was done with me and my family and local people from the region.”
Beatty hired Bonesteel Films to film and produce the trailer, which starred his daughters Genevieve as Serafina and Camille as Lady Rowena. His wife also created many of the costumes seen in the video, including the signature red dress Serafina wears. He and his family also produced a trailer for the second book, which released last week.
He said he was inspired to write the book series by his daughters.
“Serafina’s based on my daughters — in particular, my middle daughter, Genevieve,” he said. “When I wrote the book, she was 11 or 12, and she used to sneak around the house and try to go unseen and unheard and prowl around and sneak up on me. She’d always try to sneak into my office when I was working, so that was one of the original concepts — this little girl who was really good at sneaking around.”
He said his family has also visited the Biltmore Estate numerous times.
“We thought it would be a neat place to have a story about some young characters who live there, and since there are very few fictional books about Biltmore, we thought it would be a good story to write,” he said.
Beatty, who previously wrote only fantasy fiction for adults, said many of the story’s fans are adult readers and parents who enjoy sharing the experience with their children.
“I especially appreciate the fact that people love Biltmore and understand its historical background, but they’re also accepting and love the idea of a fantasy novel taking place there,” he said. “They totally seem to get the idea I’m mixing historical fact with mythological battles between good and evil. I wasn’t sure if people would accept that.”
He also thinks readers enjoy the story because he doesn’t try to dumb it down for younger readers.
“I purposefully wrote it with my full vocabulary and my full skills as a writer for both adults and children,” he said. “I was going for something very realistic and very serious that stays within the point of the view of the characters.”
“Serafina and the Twisted Staff” finds Serafina in a battle against a new sinister force threatening both the animal and human residents of Biltmore Estate. Beatty said the sequel is longer and features more character development for Serafina. It also delves deeper into the history of the Biltmore Estate and highlights the wildlife and natural elements of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A trailer for the second book is now available on www.robert-beatty.com. A third book in the series will publish next summer, he said.
“It’s really great to be able to do all of this and have my family be a part of it and share in it,” he said. “We’re all working together towards it, and we’re having a lot of fun.”