Today Diana Sharples, author of Running Lean joins us on the blog and talks about her book, her motorcycle, her faith and her challenges.
Running Lean is my debut novel, published by Zondervan/Blink Books, and I wrote the book for high school-aged readers. The title is an automotive term, relating to the deficiency of fuel to air in a carburetor, but I gave it three definitions for the book, two being metaphors for a deficiency of calories in a person suffering with an eating disorder, and a deficiency of reliance on God during challenging times.
The story focuses on a North Carolina farm boy, a kind of do-it-yourself guy, who tries to “fix” his girlfriend’s eating disorder. That … doesn’t work out so well for him. I did extensive research into eating disorders for the book so I could understand and convey both the struggles of the person who is suffering and the desperation of the people who love her. At it’s heart, however, Running Lean is a love story, and my boy Calvin is a down-to-earth hero my readers have told me they adore.
The story was originally part of another novel with an ensemble cast--a group of friends from one particular rural North Carolina high school. It became clear to me, though, that Stacey’s story demanded its own space and couldn't be contained within that broader context. It was too important. I’ve read other teen novels about anorexia and bulimia that I felt didn't convey the full scope of eating disorders, and really didn’t focus on how the characters’ loved ones dealt with it. For all the more than ten million men, women, and children who suffer with some kind of eating disorder in the United States alone, there are circles of family and friends who are desperate for answers. In my research, however, I found precious little information that helped those other people know how to react, how to help, how to cope. Thus, I decided that Running Lean would be Calvin’s story, and through it I might leave my readers on both sides with some hope.
I’ve always loved the cover, which was put together by the art department at Zondervan. We didn't know who the young model was, but her expression captures Stacey so well, and she looks very much like a drawing I did of Stacey two years before the book was published.
It was a thrill for me after the book came out when the model’s mother found me on Facebook, so excited that we’d featured her daughter on the cover--and when could I come do a book signing in her city? Although we live in opposite corners of the country, I still hope that I can do that someday, and have that beautiful girl by my side signing the books as well.
Growing up, I alternated between wanting to be a writer and an artist … and a drummer! I ended up pursuing all three. I played drums in several rock bands, and actually met my husband in one of those.
For a while I focused my career ambitions on science fiction and fantasy illustration, and managed to win a few awards and have a few pieces published along the way.
I earned a BFA with a focus on illustration and graphics. Yet even with my illustration, story-telling was my passion, and I loved putting story questions into my paintings. I ultimately came back to my first love with stories, writing for teens. Even when I was writing speculative fiction, my characters were always teens (or the elven equivalent of teens).
When my daughter was eleven years old, I had an epiphany of sorts--a divine inspiration--and I started writing contemporary young adult fiction, so I might produce God-honoring stories about real-life teens. I’m not a theologian by any means, but the underlying themes of my stories explore how teens can live out their faith in a world that often tries to stifle it, or when taking other paths might seem like easier options.
My stories aren't preachy, but look at real-life situations and how the characters might spiritually struggle with them. I'm currently working on a sequel to Running Lean, featuring Calvin’s two best friends and dirt bike riding buddies from the first book. (And yes, I should insert right here that I am an avid motorcycle rider! I actually own the same vintage motorcycle that Calvin rides in Running Lean, although I’d probably break a few bones if I tried to take that little bike off road. I love my Harley for getting some wind in my face.)
In the new book, Flannery loves Tyler, but Tyler just wants to be friends, and every aspect of their relationship is challenged when Flannery's mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. Although the story focuses on how the diagnosis spills over into Flannery's life, her mother's “journey" is a very personal one for me, as I'm going through treatment right now. Like Running Lean, the story will end with hope, and it is my prayer that readers will not only enjoy the romantic tension between Flannery and Tyler, but come away encouraged and enlightened. Stay tuned!
You can find Diana's book at your local Christian bookstore or order it Online.
Have any questions for Diana? Post them in the comment section below.