Words to Live By: Robert Beatty

Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.


March 1, 2022

Robert Beatty

Robert Beatty is the author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Serafina Series published by Disney-Hyperion, a spooky mystery-thriller about a brave and unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate, surrounded by the opulence of the Gilded Age and the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoyed by both young readers and adults alike, the Serafina books are being taught in over one thousand classrooms nationwide.

Robert Beatty lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three daughters, who help create and refine his stories. He loves to explore the historic Biltmore Estate and the darkened forest trails where his novels take place. He writes full-time now, but in his past lives, Beatty was one of the early pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, the co-founder of Beatty Robotics, and the chairman/CTO of Narrative Magazine. In 2007, he was named an Entrepreneur of the Year.


Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

When I was young, I enjoyed many kinds of books, but I especially loved reading medieval fantasies like Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn by T.H. White, and Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, and others.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

When I first started out, I struggled to learn to read, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love with reading fantasies, science fiction, historical fiction, and any novels that took me into other worlds with heroic characters. I also enjoyed reading science books, animal books, and other types of nonfiction.

What book should everybody read before they turn 18?

The Hobbit and The Giver both come to mind.

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

For a while, I kept every book that I read, from engineering textbooks and science books to fantasy and classic novels. I amassed many thousands of books. Eventually, though, it got harder and harder to store and move my books around, so I decided to downsize. I donated 95% of all my books to libraries and schools. Today, I keep a small library of all my favorite classic novels, including the complete works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and many others.

What are you reading currently?

I just read Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage. Before that I read the The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for the second time, East of Eden by John Steinbeck for the third time, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

Robert Beatty at the Serafina and the Black Cloak Production Shoot, Biltmore Estate, May 14, 2015

What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?

I read in a comfortable chair in my home office. I also love listening to audiobooks while working in my workshop.

Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?

I love Aragorn in Lord of the Rings and Merlyn from The Once and Future King.

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

I would like to have afternoon tea with Jane Austen, go marlin fishing with Ernest Hemingway, and go for a walk through the forest with Henry David Thoreau.

What are the children in your life currently reading?

Two of my daughters are major Rick Riordan fans, including the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles. They read everything he writes. They recently completed his newest novel, Daughter of the Deep.

Ernest Hemingway. Photograph: Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

I love Ernest Hemingway and have learned a lot from his writing. My favorite book of his is A Farewell to Arms. One of my favorite pieces in all literature is the opening paragraph of that book, in particular the flow and cadence and evocative power of the words.

“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

Thank you to Robert for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions! You can read more about his work and his books at robertbeattybooks.com.

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