Interview with YA Author Diana L. Sharples

Running Strong

Flannery Moore rides a dirt bike and can’t remember the last time she wore a dress. She’s also in love with her best friend, Tyler Dorset. While nothing else could make her do so, Flannery decides to change herself into the kind of girl she thinks Tyler would fall for. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Flannery knows she has to make sacrifices. But will that include giving up on Tyler? Can “less than” ever really be enough?

Available June 29, 2018, through all major outlets.

 

 

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I fist encountered Diana Sharple’s work when I read her young adult novel, Running Lean. The book stuck in my mind. I would hand Running Lean to any young person to read and feel it is a good book to spark conversation about a serious issue many of our teens face. Running Lean is a Christian young adult novel told from the point of view of the boyfriend. Running Strong is the long awaited sequel.

Diana hit a few bumps in the road, but has been working triple time the last year. She has already had one book come out earlier this year, and four more are on the way.

She is an amazing woman. I appreciate her taking time out to come and talk with us.

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You tackled a tough issue in Running Lean. What was your inspiration?

Running Lean and Running Strong were both “born” at the same time. Years ago, I envisioned a series of books following a group of teenagers at a small, rural high school, and for one book I experimented with an ensemble cast, each member of which either modeling or strived toward the attributes described in the Beatitudes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. I modeled Stacey’s character and problem around “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Except that Stacey’s hunger and thirst was for an unrealistic standard of beauty which causes her to reject food and water. As I wrote, though, it became apparent that Stacey’s story could not be adequately handled in an ensemble situation. Her story needed to be in the spotlight. (Writing an ensemble piece turned out not to be my best idea, anyway!) Thus I took her, and her devoted boyfriend, Calvin (Blessed are the pure in heart…) and dove headfirst into the research necessary to write a realistic story about a girl suffering with anorexia. I needed to know all the hows and whys, and so that research was extensive, consuming, and often heartbreaking. After that, however, the other stories remained to be told! And out of that first ensemble cast came Tyler (Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…), and his awkward relationship with one of his best friends. Running Strong has changed considerably since then, but I always envisioned Tyler as a musician hoping to break away from his small, small world, while that world refused to let him go.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the next titles in the series?

Actually, most of the books I’ve been writing over the years were birthed in that initial series, although I’ve had to make some choices that divided them into different series. Running Strong is a stand-alone sequel to Running Lean, in which the two best friends sort out their awkward relationship and discover more about themselves in the process. (This was a subplot thread intentionally left dangling in Running Lean.) But I needed more than just the fluffy teen drama of a girl falling in love with her best friend. My personal battle with breast cancer gave me the deeper life aspects I needed to explore for the story. And so, the teen drama is interrupted by a parent’s diagnosis, which causes Flannery to realize the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made for love, and Tyler to realize that his small, small world is bigger than his own dreams.

Running Strong is scheduled for publication on June 29, 2018.

Because…Anonymous is the first book in a series of YA mysteries, which takes the bad-boy Romeo from Running Lean, Noah Dickerson, and gives him his own spotlight for growth. While Noah and his mother are in hiding from his alcoholic, abusive father, and Noah is trying to sort out how that negative influence has impacted his own life and personality, he finds himself caught up in a series of mysteries at school. And, of course, there’s always a female crush involved.

Because…Anonymous is available now, and the other two books are coming in the next few months.

And finally, Finding Hero is yet another story that came out of that ensemble cast, but I’ve had to make major changes the characters and the setting, so it is now the first book in its own series. Daniella is a diva forced to move from her artsy environment to a small Appalachian town after her mother inherits a large tract of land there. Devon is a Cherokee boy living in near poverty, whose mother used to work for Daniella’s grandfather. These two have almost nothing in common, but they’re forced together after human remains are found on the Cooper family property, and solving the mystery could send loved ones to jail.

Finding Hero will be available on September 11, 2018, from Clean Reads Publications.

You have several books coming out this year. Do you have a favorite character?

Oh dear, I really do love them all! But I’d have to say that the one character I connect with the most on a personal level—the one that I think is nearest to my own personality—is Flannery from Running Strong. She’s a tomboy, a biker chick, and a romantic dreamer rolled into one. Add red hair and green eyes… yep. You’ve got me in a nutshell. Except I don’t obsessively read cowboy romance novels.

What has been your most challenging project?

The research for Running Lean, as I mentioned above, was heartbreaking and terribly important. I think that book stands above all of my others for the significance of the issue. I believe that body image and self-esteem issues are at the heart of so many problems teenage girls face today. I feel that I barely scratched the surface of the problem of eating disorders, but when I receive an email or message from a young woman who says my book helped her in some way… that is my reward.

However, just from a writing standpoint, the Because… mysteries have proven to be a major challenge! I’ve had to adjust my ways of structuring a plot to accommodate all the subtle clues and miscues and red herrings. It’s a much more complicated method of plotting than I’ve done before!

On a personal level, having been through a battle with breast cancer and having that innate understanding of what Flannery’s mother and her family are going through, Running Strong is the novel that pushed me to dig deepest into myself.

But I think, in order to write compelling stories in any genre, the author has to get personal and find the character’s within herself. Revealing that bit of one’s heart is what connects the story with the reader’s heart.

 

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Thank you Diana!

 

Diana Sharples lives in north Georgia with her husband and daughter, and a house full of rescued pets. She wrote her first teen novel at the age of thirteen. Although she holds a degree in communication design/illustration from the Atlanta College of Art and has won awards for her science fiction and fantasy illustrations, she never lost her love for storytelling. Her debut novel, Running Lean, won several pre-publication awards and was released from Zondervan Books (a division of Harper Collins) in 2013. After a battle against breast cancer, she is resurrecting her career in 2018 with five new books being published. Diana is a motorcycle enthusiast and can be found riding her Harley around the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Visit her website for more news and samples of her artwork, www.dianasharples.com.

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