We hope you’re doing beautifully today. We have some beautiful news for you too: Serafina and the Seven Stars, the fourth Serafina book in Robert Beatty’s best-selling series, came out yesterday from Disney Hyperion! And we have an exclusive excerpt you can download and read right here: https://enchantedlivingmagazine.com/exclusive/

Look at this astonishing cover:

And some more info about the book from the publisher, Disney:

Fierce battles have given way to tranquility at Biltmore Estate. Who is Serafina if not the protector of her beloved home? Our heroine must confront deceptively dark and terrifying forces in this return to Robert Beatty’s #1 bestselling Serafina series.

HOTLY ANTICIPATED: Serafina devotees will be desperate for our heroine’s next adventures, especially after a brief and perilous encounter with our beloved girl feline in Willa of the Wood.

DARKER, CREEPIER, AND MORE SOPHISTICATED: In this highly anticipated return to Serafina’s world, an older and wiser Serafina confronts her own personal demons as she finds herself without a real place in the world–and at odds with her best friend, Braeden.

ACCESSIBLE STORYTELLING WITH HEART: Beatty’s storytelling style grabs the reader immediately and the high stakes and gripping mystery will keep them hooked.

INSTANTLY LOVABLE HEROINE: Serafina’s courage, pluck, and quirk—as well as her longing for friendship—make her impossible not to root for.

JUST DARK AND SCARY ENOUGH: The frightening premise and lurking danger is reminiscent of Coraline and A Tale Dark and Grimm.

And then we asked Robert, who is super prolific as well as magically inclined, some illuminating and inspiring questions:

This is your fourth Serafina book. What continues to draw you to this character and world?
The first three books in the series represent a complete story arc, in which Serafina figures out who and what she is, and must battle a great evil that has come to Biltmore Estate. By the time we reach this fourth book, Serafina has grown considerably in strength and character, she has faced many challenges and fought many battles. But now, as peace begins to return to Biltmore Estate, she begins to feel the after effects of all those battles. She’s restless and jittery as she struggles with feelings of worthlessness because there are no more enemies to fight. It’s hard for her brain and her body to accept that it’s over, that peace has finally come. But all is not as it seems. One mysterious event leads into another. She begins to realize that it’s not just her imagination. There is in fact a whole new evil creeping into Biltmore far greater than anything she has faced before.

What drew me into Serafina and the Seven Stars was curiosity about what happens after a hero’s journey is over. What happens after a warrior has fought many battles and defeated many enemies? What happens to her perception of the peaceful world that she has fought so hard to protect? Can she go back to idle ballroom conversation and sipping afternoon tea? And what happens to her ability to identify and overcome the next challenge she must face?

When you began the series, did you have any idea of the life it would take on? 
I had always HOPED that Serafina would be a series, not just one book, and I had always HOPED that people would enjoy it. But the fact that these things actually came true definitely surprised me. For me, being an author, leading a writer’s life, is a dream come true.

Do you have more books planned for the series?
I wrote Serafina and the Seven Stars such that it could definitely be the last of the Serafina books, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. There’s plenty of room for Serafina and Braeden’s story to continue.

This next year, I’m working on the second book in the Willa of the WoodSeries. I have one more book in my contract with Disney Hyperion after that. It could be a Serafina book, a Willa book, or a totally unrelated book. We’ll just have to see how it goes and where inspiration leads.

My storytelling life will definitely continue—in one form or another.

What was your initial inspiration?
When I began writing the Serafina Series, my goal was to write a story for and with my daughters. I wanted to give them the story of a brave and unusual girl—a girl who was actually quite strange in many physical and psychological ways—but who has a good and heroic heart. I also want to show them a girl who has a fierce heart and fights for what she believes in.

And why the Biltmore? You live around there, right? Can you talk about that and the importance of the setting?
Yes, my family and I live near the real-life Biltmore Estate, a historical mansion in the mountains of western North Carolina. It’s a vast and beautiful place that fires the imagination. We thought it was a perfect setting for the tale we wanted to tell. We also had the added benefit that we could explore it, walk through it, see it and touch it. And that’s how we wanted to write the story. We wanted to make it Serafina’s journey in Serafina’s world, both upstairs and downstairs at Biltmore Estate during the Gilded Age of America, as well as outside in the natural world of the forest and mountains that we love.

Can you tell us about some magical experiences that have resulted from these books? (encounters with fans and the like?)
Oh gosh. There are so many wonderful, magical experiences. Here are just a few:

At one of my book signings, a little group came to my signing table and excitedly introduced themselves. They said they all loved Serafina and they had read it together as a family. There was an eight year old girl, her mother, her grand mother, and her great grandmother, four generations all there at once, and all Serafina fans. I thought it was so cool that they were together like this.

Another time, my wife and I were invited to the NC state governor’s mansion in the mountains to be the guests of honor at a United Way fundraiser. There were 50 or so VIPs gathered outside on the terrace and they asked me to read a chapter from my latest Serafina book. As I was reading a tense, action-packed scene with a bear in it, an actual mother black bear and two cubs went running across the lawn behind all the listeners. They were all facing me and listening to me read the story, so they didn’t see the bears. So I gestured toward the bears behind them and said “There are the bears now!” and everyone turned to see them running past. It was awesome. The ultimate in special effects!

One more story. I was invited by the Friends of the Smokies (a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park) to a special, private viewing of the synchronous fireflies**, which the area is famous for. The fireflies are very rare, difficult to find, and only happen in certain places at certain times on certain nights of the year. I wrote about one of the species of these fireflies in Willa of the Wood. That night, as my three daughters, my wife, and myself all watched the amazing, magical display of the synchronous fireflies in the forest I realized “This is what I’ve been doing it for.” For me, it has never been about recognition or money or anything else. It’s about the ones I love and the magical experiences we share.


** As it happens, we wrote about these magical fireflies in our summer 2015 Midsummer Night’s Dream issue; here’s an image from Floris Van Bruegel:


 

What books have inspired you?
When I was younger, I loved the Narnia Chronicles, the Lord of the Rings, and the Once and Future King. Then I shifted into Hemingway (especially A Farewell to Arms), Tolstoy, Jane Austen, and the like.

Today, I read and love a variety of books. The Giver impacted me deeply. I also loved the recent All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Lovely, moving story.

I also like spooky stories from Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King (The Dead Zone), and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce.

But of all books and stories, I have to say that “The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono is one of the most important to me. It’s a simple story, but to me, a very profound story.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who might be reading this?
My main advice is that writing is a skill like any other profession or pastime. It’s no different from being a car mechanic or a software programmer. It’s not some unachievable, magical thing that you either have or don’t have. You aren’t born with this skill. You practice it. You learn it. You become it. If you truly want to be a writer, then writing is the black panther of your life (Serafina fans will know what I mean).

And then finally, how do you, in your life, stay enchanted?
I stay enchanted by enjoying the magic, beauty, and wonder of the world with my wife and three daughters, both here at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains and out in the rest of the world.

Isn’t that lovely?

We’ll leave you with one more magical firefly image from Floris:

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