First, tell us a little about yourself.
Hey, y’all! I’m that crazy lady with the pink-streaked hair who rides that Screamin’ Eagle Harley and has and all the howling huskies! Actually, I’m Diana Sharples, and yes, I do have pink streaks in my hair. Because you gotta have fun in life, right? And I do ride my own Harley. For the same reason. I write clean, contemporary young adult fiction. My debut novel, Running Lean, was published several years ago by Zondervan, but shortly after that I fought a battle against breast cancer. It brought my marketing efforts to a halt but didn’t stop me from writing. So this year I’m finally back with not one, but five new novels.
Because … yes, I am a little insane. One of those novels is the sequel to my debut novel, and another is a much-loved book I’ve had around for a while and have rewritten several times. But what I’d like to talk about today is the new YA mystery series I’m self-publishing over the next few months.
Why do you write?
I write for and about teens because I’m fascinated with the whole scenario of “becoming.” Teenagers don’t just stand between childhood and adulthood, they stand on the verge of becoming something new, and something they were meant to be. There are so many questions in their minds, and so much wonder and enthusiasm for finding the answers. They’re breaking free and finding themselves in a wide world they barely understand but are grabbing with both hands. That’s so exciting and can be so traumatic at the same time. It’s a state of being that is so rich with possibility and conflict. Teens are allowed to make mistakes.
Teens are wide open for learning and growing. This “coming of age” is like a revelation, where every moment can make an impact. And honestly, I can’t imagine myself writing about anything else.
Tell us about your latest book.
Because…Anonymous is the first in a three-book series of short YA mysteries. Noah Dickerson is the bad-boy Romeo from Running Lean. In this book he and his mother are on the run from his abusive father and are trying to live under the radar in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. While his mother begs Noah to stay out of trouble, it seems that trouble finds him when all he does is talk to a pretty girl at school and ends up being accused of stalking her. To prove his innocence, Noah decides to figure out who has been leaving the girl dark, threatening poems in her locker. While he expects to find a social outcast as the stalker, what he finds is something deeper and more dangerous.
What do you love about this book? And what do you hope readers will tell others about it?
I’ve created some really quirky characters for this novel and had a lot of fun writing about them. First there is Simon, a sixteen-year-old boy who looks thirteen, with his hair colored green with KoolAid, wearing clothes that are about six sizes too big. Simon has a propensity to say weird and amazing things out of the blue, like suddenly changing the subject and quoting Aristotle. Then there are the Manganites, a group of kids who are fans of Japanese comic books … who aren’t as harmless as they seem. Writing about people, for me, is what writing is all about. There’s a plot that happens, but the plot happens to interesting people. And interesting teens are just SO much fun! I hope readers will come away from the book loving them and feeling like they could be their friends at school or in their kids’ youth group.
How do you get to know your characters?
When I was a child, I was an expert at pretending. As the only girl in the family, I either had to engage in the things my brothers were doing (which, in part, explains the motorcycle!) or I was left pretty much to entertain myself. Thus, I’m pretty adept at stepping away from my own reality and putting myself in the head of a character. And, having been raised with three brothers, I’m told that I do a pretty good job at writing the male perspective. Additionally, writing deep point of view is something I’ve worked at for a long time. So I guess my imagination often works overtime, and it pulls my heart along. I fall in love with my characters as if they were my own children, and the trials they go through can bring me to tears … even as I guide them through.
What is your writing schedule and where do you write?
This past year a dream of mine was realized. My husband and I purchased a 12x24 foot shed, and I then spent two months working on the interior finishing. I learned about insulation and framing and drywall and flooring. I built closets and a full-wall shelf unit. Half of the shed functions as my office for writing and graphic arts, and the other half is my art studio. Having this “she-shed” on our property allows me to get away from the distractions in the house and to treat my writing like a job. I’m proud to say that after one year, I have yet to toddle out to the shed in my pajamas! But … schedule? My schedule is pretty much dictated by what I’m doing and how deeply involved I am in it. There have been some nights when I was in the shed well past midnight. One of the advantages of having a commute of less than a minute.
Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
I’m a little of both. I do write a loose outline of my plots and then fit the details into a calendar. Their schedule at school dictates a lot of what happens in the lives of teenagers, so knowing when there’s a school holiday, or Homecoming, or exams, helps me come up with plot elements for the story. Once I’ve got that outline down, though, I know that it’s going to change as I write, and as the character takes over. That inevitably happens, because no matter how much I think I know my characters when I start to write, as I get deeper into the story and into their minds, I’m going to discover more about them. I’m going to tap into their voices. As I take them into places they didn’t expect, I often find myself surprised as well. Where I get strict with my outline, though, is when I start the editing process. Then I push the story where I need it to go.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
I am here, still writing, still alive even, because God willed it. I don’t think I was ever afraid of not surviving my fight with cancer, because we caught it so early, but I did despair for my writing career. Even my agent at the time said it was in a “delicate” place. Not being able to market my first book the way I wanted to meant the book itself languished, and I was in danger of “dropping out of the conversation” as they say. But I have trusted God and leaned on Jesus for strength and the understanding that He’s not done with me. That I have five books coming out this year is a testament to His faithfulness! However, my books are not evangelistic. You won’t find a conversion scene in them. If the main characters are Christian, the book will show them living with their faith and responding to their circumstances out of that worldview … or struggling against it. I want my fiction to appeal to a wide audience, and for my Christian characters to appear real, likeable, approachable, with flaws like everyone else and virtues that are attractive.
Do you put yourself in your books?
Not consciously, Although my character, Patty Moore, in Running Strong, who is the mother of the female protagonist, is somewhat like me and her struggle with breast cancer was inspired by my own. Apart from her, I tap into the lives of the people I know, or I will do a lot of research to get the details, emotions, and actions right.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the edits for the next two novels in the Because… series. They’re titled Because…Vengeance and Because…Paranoid, and I’m planning to publish them in May and July. After that, I’ll be working on the second novel that follows after Finding Hero. One project I’m very eager to start on later this year, maybe for NaNoWriMo, is a modern retelling of a Greek tragedy.
If you could interview any character in one of your books which one would it be? What shocking thing might that character say? Why?
I’ve been researching teenagers living with type 1 Diabetes for the next full-length novel I’ll be working on. One of my brothers was diagnosed with “Juvenile Diabetes” when he was eleven. I’d love to be able to go back in time and interview him, as a teen, not just to see what the challenges are (because treatment and management of T1D has changed so much since then), but what it was like for him, emotionally and socially, dealing with his disease while trying to be a “normal” teen.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn about marketing! I know, it’s almost like a four-letter word for most writers. It still is for me. This is not my cup of tea! But branding and platform are among the first words to come out of any agent’s or editor’s mouths these days.
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
I’m sure I would be doing more with my artwork. I have a degree in graphic arts, with a focus on illustration. However, I’ve always tried to infuse my art with some element of storytelling. I can do portraits and still lives, but I always want to say something with those paintings, or at least convey a certain mood. I believe writing and art come from the same place within us.
More About Because...Anonymous
It's tough to be a good guy ... when everyone thinks you're a stalker.
On the run from an abusive father, Noah Dickerson is supposed to be lying low and staying out of trouble.
Mistake #1, falling in with a group of anime fans who aren’t as harmless as they seem.
Mistake #2, crushing on a beautiful girl who isn’t fooled by Noah’s good looks and charm.
Mistake #3, being in the wrong place when she receives threatening notes in her locker.
But the biggest mistake, Noah learns, was when his mother escaped North Carolina with him. Because, it turns out, transporting a minor over state lines in the middle of the night is a felony.
Buy Because...Anonymous on Amazon
Bio: With a degree in art combined with a love for storytelling, Diana Sharples has won numerous awards for both her art and her writing. She writes clean, contemporary young adult fiction. Her first novel, Running Lean, was published in 2013 by Harper Collins. In 2015, her publishing career was derailed temporarily by a battle against cancer, but she's back in 2018 with five new books, including the long-awaited sequel to Running Lean. Her writing is inspired by the people and landscape of the south, especially North Carolina and Georgia. Diana is a wife and mom, a follower of Jesus Christ, a lover of many pets, and an avid motorcycle rider.
Learn more about Diana and her books on her website and Amazon page