Monday, September 30, 2013

RUNNING LEAN - Diana Sharples - One Free Book

Readers, here's another debut author with an interesting YA book. Welcome, Diana. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I don’t intentionally write myself into my characters, but I don’t think it’s possible to effectively create characters with whom I have nothing in common. The commonality is often below the surface, in their deep emotional battles. I haven’t struggled with anorexia, like my character, Stacey. Much of my understanding of her eating disorder came from my research. Yet at the core of Stacey’s personality are profound emotions and self-esteem issues that I have experienced—especially in my own teenage years. My connection with Calvin is like that as well, although there are more surface things I have in common with him. Like Calvin, I ride a motorcycle! I also grew up three brothers, so I feel I have a good grasp on writing the male perspective … and on what it’s like to grow up in a large family. Recently, I lost one of my brothers to brain cancer. That loss connects me to Calvin’s grief and inner turmoil. How does one get on with life when the grief is just a single thought away? Thus, the experiences I’ve had help me to understand what my characters are going through, even if their situations are not the same in context.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Air drumming. Like, serious, intent-on-getting-it-right air drumming. My husband caught me doing it the other night in my office. My “bass drum” beats on the floor woke him up, and he found me with my eyes closed, hammering away at my invisible drum set, playing along with a 70s prog-rock tune. (I think it was “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.)

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve written stories my whole life, and finished a novel when I was thirteen. (A teen drama story which, of course, wasn’t very good!) But my early career aspirations shifted between being an artist or a musician. After fifteen years working as a secretary and playing the drums at night, I finally went to college to study art and earned a BFA. Then I spent several years pursuing a career in science fiction/fantasy illustration while I worked a day job doing computer graphics for business. I never strayed from writing, however. And I have stashed away several epic elf novels that will never again see the light of day because they were various stages of my learning curve. Eight years ago, however, after a prayer concerning my daughter and the teen world she was about to enter, I came back to young adult fiction and started writing with the intent of getting published. The writing became imperative for me because it wasn’t just to satisfy my own creative impulses, but to reach teens with stories that would be meaningful to them.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’ll read just about any genre of fiction, but I prefer character-driven novels. I read a lot of young adult fiction and mostly love the stories with strong coming-of-age arcs. I think one of the things I really like about YA fiction, both reading and writing it, is that the characters are allowed to make mistakes. There’s a kind of freedom in that, even when there are consequences to be paid. The characters are finding out who they are and they’re able to redefine themselves a lot easier than adult characters might be.

I also enjoy women’s fiction and chick lit, especially when the characters are quirky, not fitting into the norm of society. My most recent favorite series is by Nancy Rue, starting with The Reluctant Prophet. Not just because the main character rides a motorcycle, like me, but because of her out-of-the-box response to the world around her. And Nancy’s narrative voice is so distinct and wonderful!

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I’ve found my favorite place in the whole world right on the front porch of the house in the country my husband and I just purchased. I’ve got a swing, a gentle sunrise, a chat with God, a glass of something cool to drink, and a book to read … I’m good. When I need to blow out the stress or cobwebs, though, I’ll take a ride on my Harley with no destination in mind. Just to feel the wind in my face and a sense of freedom that I can’t achieve on four wheels with a metal cage around me.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
With some basic characteristics in mind, I might look through a list of baby names until something sticks. I might look up the meaning of that name to see if it meshes with the character I’m envisioning. More often a name just comes to me. Recently, however, I realized that some of the character names in Running Lean were actually my sister’s children and grandson! I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me before! But if it had, I would have changed the names … and I’m happy I didn’t do that. Stacey name suits her, as do those of Calvin’s little brothers, even though all three personalities are quite different from their namesakes.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My daughter. I know that sounds cliché, but she is my greatest source of pride. She’s a dancer, and her accomplishments are due entirely to her own efforts and hard work. But my husband and I did do the driving and pay the bills, and we encouraged her all the time to do the one thing she loved most, not what might make her the most money or be the most responsible career in the eyes of critical society. I spent too many years working jobs that I hated in order to get by, putting off my own talents and desires for the sake of a paycheck, that I feel like now I’m trying to catch up with what my life should have been. I didn’t want my daughter to feel that way too.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A horse! Although I’ve always lived with cats and dogs and never owned a horse, they’re such magnificent, spirited creatures and, I believe, a gift from God. Why else would such a powerful animal allow a man to sit on its back? Maybe that’s one of the reasons I like riding a motorcycle, which is sometimes called an iron horse. Power and freedom, and the wind in my face.

What is your favorite food?
Watermelon! No salt, please, and don’t bother cutting it up. Just give me a spoon.

I love watermelon, and I mean the way God created it, not covered with salt either. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
This is a tough question because I can’t recall one particular thing that gave me more trouble than anything else. I’m still learning, and I enjoy exploring the craft of writing. I hope I’ll never get to the point where I think, I’ve arrived! because that’s the moment when I’ll start to stagnate. However, there is one aspect of publishing that I’m struggling with, and that’s marketing. Now that I have my first published novel, I feel like I’m being thrown into on-the-job training for an entirely new career. I know it’s not going to be something I love, like writing or painting or playing the drums, but I’ll have to pound away at it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, because marketing my first novel is what is going to help me have a second.

That is so true. Tell us about the featured book.
Running Lean is the story of two teens in rural North Carolina, whose relationship is solidified after Calvin’s brother dies in Afghanistan, but is challenged when he discovers his girlfriend’s strange diet is actually an eating disorder. Because Calvin can’t face losing someone else he loves, he is determined to fix the problem. What he finds out is that fixing the problem could actually destroy their relationship. Giving in could cost Stacey her life.

This story is not just about a girl suffering with anorexia, but about her boyfriend and how he copes with watching someone he loves slowly starve herself. Calvin is the protagonist in the story, and even though Stacey is his girlfriend, she is almost an antagonist—or more specifically, her disorder is the source of the conflict. There are many excellent books on the market about people living with eating disorders, but very few that focus on the other people who love them. I feel there’s a lot of misunderstandings about eating disorders, especially among teenagers, and it’s my hope that this book will give readers insight into the deeper reasons for EDs and what a friend or sibling might do (or what they shouldn’t do!) to comfort a person facing this struggle.

The title, Running Lean, is an automotive term referring to the mixture of fuel and air in a carburetor—specifically in an older engine like Calvin’s vintage motorcycle. It’s an easy metaphor for Stacey’s eating disorder. Additionally, I’ve used it as a metaphor for the spiritual battle both characters face, as they try to take control of their own problems without turning to God for strength, comfort, and answers. Running lean, if not repaired, leads to overheating, stumbling and stuttering, stalling out, and eventually to seizing up and dying. Twisting this around, Calvin’s old motorcycle in the story actually becomes a metaphor for the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles he and Stacey are facing.

Please give us the first page of the book.
            That flag—folded in a triangle, framed in a box, and displayed on the mantle—drew Calvin’s eyes like an intruder in the room. He stalled halfway down the steps to the living room.
Michael’s flag.

            Calvin stared. Not out of reverence for a fallen American hero. It just freakin’ hurt. Six months after they’d brought his brother’s body home in a casket, that star-spangled fabric could still smack Calvin in the chest like a fall off his motorcycle.

            “Hey, move it. Some of us have to catch the bus, you know.” His younger sister, Lizzie, wedged herself between him and the wall. She bumped the helmet in his hand and broke the flag’s spell. Calvin thundered the rest of the way downstairs behind her.

            “Get it together,” he muttered to himself. He could find a way to walk past that stupid flag without choking on a gob of grief.

            While Lizzie escaped out the front door, Calvin followed the worn path in the shag carpet toward the kitchen. In a corner of the dining room, a computer sat on a desk barely big enough to hold it. Family photos faded in and out on the monitor. Calvin’s feet scuffed, shifted that way. No time to check his Facebook page again. He’d have to deal with a day without one of his girlfriend’s quirky poetic messages or funny good-morning images. He could do this thing.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter by searching for my name. Zondervan has set up a website for their Blink line of young adult books at,

Thank you, Diana, for sharing this new book with us today.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog. Running Lean -
Running Lean -
Running Lean - Kindle

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Linda Kish said...

This sounds like a wonderful story. I look forward to reading it.


lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Mary Preston said...

RUNNING LEAN is going to tug at my heart. Lovely to meet you here today.

Mary P


Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Sharon Richmond Bryant

sam said...

Anorexia has claimed a niece in our family and destroyed her family, herself and other relationships. I'd like a book with that theme. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

bonton said...

Hi, Diana!

I really enjoyed your interview! SO sorry to hear about your brother!

I appreciate the fact that you feel it more important that your daughter follow her dreams, rather than go after a job for the money.

Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of your book!



Library Lady said...

I would love to win this book to add to our Young Adult Fiction in the church library.
Thanks for the opportunity to do so.
Janet E.

Kandra said...

Sounds great!
Kandra in OK

rubynreba said...

I would enjoy this book and would like my granddaughters to read it too!
Beth from Iowa

Diana Sharples said...

I've been on vacation and pretty much away from the Internet, so I'm woefully late in responding to all of your wonderful comments. I'll try to address you all now ...

Linda Kish: thank you for your interest in my novel! I hope you'll enjoy it.

Mary Preston: Praying those heart tugs are warm ones! Thank you for reading the interview, and I hope you have no trouble getting a copy of my novel there in Australia.

Sharon: good luck! :)

Sam: I'm so sorry to hear about your niece. Anorexia is such a heartbreaking thing for both the sufferer and everyone around her/him. I pray that my novel speaks kindly to your heart.

Bonton: Thank you. It was hard, losing my brother, and brain cancer is a horrible thing to go through. My brother was a man who served his country and adored his family. Likewise, my daughter is one of the greatest lights of my life! Seeing her onstage makes every sacrifice we've made for her worth it.
Good luck with the contest!

Library Lady, I would love to know that a copy of my novel is in your church library, and I would pray that young hands would reach out for it and be touched deeply. If you don't win the contest, I'm going to see if I can get you a copy for that purpose.

Kandra: Thanks! And good luck!

RubynReba (Beth): I've received very positive responses from adult readers! This book isn't meant to be enjoyed only by teens. It's a love story, at its heart, about loyalty in the face of serious trials. There's also a lot of information about eating disorders that I hope will help all readers to understand them better. Thank you for your interest, and good luck with the contest!

Blessings, y'all!!!

Diana Sharples

Diana Sharples said...

OH! I meant to add ... if any of you will connect with me through Facebook (just search my name) and send me a private message, I'll be happy to send you an autographed bookmark.


Kristie said...

I don't usually read YA novels but this sounds good. My dad has a Harley and I sometimes ride with him. I love it! I don't ride with anyone else. It's a question of trust! Congrats on your first published novel! Great cover also. Kristie from Ohio. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

Diana Sharples said...

Thank you, Kristi! And I understand about trusting only your dad. When you ride behind someone on a motorcycle, you're putting your safety completely in their hands. That's actually why I ride my own Harley. LOL