Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Diana L. Sharples is an author and artist who also rides a Harley and used to play the drums. She writes contemporary young adult fiction. Her latest releases and projects combine contemporary drama with elements of mystery. Her debut novel, Running Lean, appeared in 2013. Following that, she had a battle against cancer which derailed her writing career for a time, but she is back in 2018 with no less than five new novels. Her most recent release is Finding Hero, published by Clean Reads.
Welcome, Diana! First, tell us a little bit about your newest release.
Finding Hero is a young adult novel about two teens who appear to have nothing in common with each other, but are thrown together to uncover details of a cold case murder. Daniella Cooper is a bit of a diva, a dancer and a thespian, who is taken from her home in Asheville, NC to live in a small Appalachian town. She has no interest in fitting in with the locals, but just surviving her last year of high school so she can get back to pursuing her dream of becoming an actress. When the school drama department auditions for the Shakespearian play, Much Ado About Nothing, Daniella is certain she can obtain the lead role and recapture some of the glory she had before. Devon is a member of the Cherokee Nation, although he and his mother live in the family’s historic home (which is falling down around their ears) outside of the Qualla Boundary. Like Daniella, he’s looking forward to a larger life beyond the small town of Quincy, but first he has to break free of some of his past… a past that drove him to his knees before Jesus to be saved. Devon plays baseball and has a girlfriend who is probably not the love of his life, and is terrified of bad storms and winding mountain roads, both of which took his grandfather Johnnie’s life. Such a storm plows through Quincy one night, forcing Devon to the nursing home to try to comfort his aging grandmother. When she tells him that there’s blood on her hands, she might be imagining something she saw on television, but Devon’s gut tells him it’s more serious than that. When the storm passes through, it leaves behind some washed out land and reveals human remains on what was once the Coopers’ plantation. Old Native burial ground? Or something more recent and troubling? While Daniella’s mother is concerned about her family’s reputation, Devon is worried that whoever was buried there might have some connection to his family. As Daniella and Devon rather unwillingly search for answers, both are made to question their family loyalty. Is it possible to honor your elders when your elders are not acting in honorable ways?
Sounds like a great story! And I love the small Appalachian town setting. My father was from North Carolina and I've spent a lot of time there. Just reading the synopsis conjures up some great images for me!
What is your favorite way to take a break from writing?
My husband and I both own Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A couple of years ago, we packed up the bikes and went on an extended trip. Fourteen days of riding, with a few days staying in one area on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was the best vacation I have ever had! And riding a motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the best way to see it, in my opinion, because you’re not caged up inside a car. The experience is fuller. But I don’t limit myself to long trips to get a break. Sometimes I take my computer with me and ride to a nearby lake. Fresh air, no interruptions or internet… it frees up my mind and I get a lot of writing done!
Here's a picture of Diana's Harley and those Blue Ridge Mountains!
That does sound like a great way to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love writing outside, also! Even if it's right outside my backdoor.
What are the things that inspire you?
Teenagers in general! I love their energy, their passion, the way their brains work (or the way they make mistakes and learn). Although they often have been through a lot already, much of the world is still new for them. And I tend to be a kind of mama bear (ask my daughter!). When I see a child who is hurting, my instinct is to rush in and fix it or turn and fend off the source of the hurt. But I also want to take them by the hand and teach them something that might prevent some hurt. Or just make them smile for a little while. That’s why I write for and about teenagers. A friend asked me recently, when I was fretting about the marketing aspects of writing young adult fiction, why I don’t switch to a genre that might be more lucrative. Writing women’s fiction is something I have considered, but I just don’t have the drive to do it. Or maybe the heart to do it. I still love what I’m doing now.
Teenagers are a lot of fun to be around. I miss having teenagers in the house. Haha, I realize some people might think that sounds crazy. I think it's great that you're writing for young adults. It doesn't seem like there are enough clean books for that audience.
What current song (or old favorite) has you turning up the radio and singing along?
My husband and I met when we were in a band together. I played the drums, and he played bass guitar (still does). As musicians, we exposed ourselves to so many different genres of great music, that I think it would be impossible for me to pick out one favorite tune. Plus, whenever I start a new book, I think about what my characters would be listening to, or what kind of music most sets the mood for the theme of the book. Doing that means I’ve stumbled upon some new types of music that I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve found some things I really like! While working on Finding Hero, I came across some hip hop infused classical violin music that I felt captured Daniella’s mix of contemporary edge with classical artsy-ness. That band (duo) was Black Violin, and that led me to Lindsey Sterling and a host of others. For my Because… series, I felt that Noah would have a wide range of musical tastes, from experimental jazz to metal, with a healthy respect for old school music. I settled on Carole King as my soundtrack for the series. (Now there are some songs I could sing along to! Not well… but when no one else is listening!) For Running Strong, the Allman Brothers jumped out right from the beginning, since that’s most like the music my character’s uncle and mentor would perform. For my personal inspiration, though, Hillsong United’s “Oceans” always makes me stop and listen. Singing brings tears of gratitude and joy.
Yes! I think music helps make those emotional connections with the characters a little more intense.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?
I tear up so easily! That commercial where the guy does little drawings every time he and his girl exchange a stick of gum… yeah. That’s all it takes.
Aww. I love that commercial, too. For anyone who hasn't seen it. Here it is:
Recently, though, listening to Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father hit me deeply, because it made me think of my own father, who also served in the military. When she spoke of that brave soldier carrying his tiny daughter to bed… the water flowed. I was driving my car down the Interstate at the time, so it was a little weird.
I adore the special relationship that can exist between a daughter and her father. Witnessing the deep love and grief of Meghan for her father was so very moving. For anyone who missed it, you can watch it here.
If someone wants to turn your current release into a movie and let you be the casting director, who will we get to see bring your characters to life on the Big Screen?
Can I go back in time? I could see a young Zahn McClarnon in Devon’s role, or maybe even a young Lou Diamond Phillips. For Daniella, I think a young Demi Moore would have the right combination of beauty and sass.
Here's a video clip of a young Demi Moore. Beauty plus sass.
Tell us something unusual about your latest release?
Finding Hero went through quite a few changes from its first draft form, including a new setting and changing the ethnicity of some of the characters. I think there’s only one scene in the book that remotely resembles what was in that first draft. What I think is unusual is that all of these changes resulted in changes in my own life. New friends, new experiences, new wisdom, and even unexpected pain. It was while I was writing this novel that I sent it in for critique through a conference, and thus met Nancy Rue, who has become a dear friend. Changing the setting led me to explore some regions of western North Carolina that I’d only passed through before. It may be in the coming years that my husband and I will buy a small house up there. And changing Devon’s ethnicity—while it was a painful decision to make--took me up to Cherokee and Robbinsville, NC, where I made more new friends. I think every book I write becomes a personal journey for me in some way.
That's awesome. Writing books can be such an amazing learning experience. The things we discover from research and also from our characters can be very surprising!
What are you working on now or have plans to write in the future?
At this moment, I’m working on the final book for my Because… series. I plan to self-publish that book and relaunch the previous two with new covers in October. After that comes the insanity that is Nanowrimo. I’ll be working on a contemporary retelling of the Greek tragedy, Antigone. I’m excited about this project! My daughter had a class in college where she was studying that play, and she asked me to help her find some direction for her final report. I’d never read it before, and I’m afraid I embarrassed my daughter with how much I enthused about it. (Mom being a little weird again!) Beyond that, I’ll be working on the next two novels in the Quincy High Mysteries. Devon and Daniella will be back for cameo appearances, along with members of their nemesis family, the Hardwick’s, playing some surprising roles
Sounds like the remainder of the year will be very busy for you. Thank you for stopping by the blog and sharing a bit about yourself. And congratulations on your new release!
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