My colleague Diana Sharples is debuting a new YA book titled Running Lean. Here’s what the back cover says…
Equilibrium. That’s what Stacey and Calvin found in each other. He is as solid as his beloved vintage motorcycle and helps quiet the constant clamor in Stacey’s mind. She is a passionate, creative spirit—and a lifeline after Calvin’s soldier brother dies.
But lately the balance is off. Calvin’s grief is taking new and more dangerous forms. Voices of self-loathing are dominating Stacey’s life. When struggles with body image threaten her health, Calvin can’t bear to lose another person that he loves. Taking action may destroy their relationship, but the alternative could be much more costly.
Diana was kind enough to send me an advance copy of Running Lean. I enjoyed reading about Stacey and Calvin, and found myself pulling for both of them. This is a story of loss and love and hope. As we chatted about writing and character development, and especially about how this book came to be, I knew I wanted to interview her for the blog.
Here’s what Diana has to say.
What is the message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
At its heart, Running Lean is a love story, not just about Calvin and Stacey’s relationship, but also God’s love for both of them. The title comes from an automotive term referring to a proper mix of air and fuel in the system. When there’s not enough fuel, the engine runs “lean” and can’t function well. It’s easy to see the metaphor for Stacey’s eating disorder. I carry it further, though, to encompass the spiritual elements of the character’s lives. Philippians 4:13 says: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So, while there are clear messages in the novel for all readers concerning the problem of eating disorder and the triumphs that come through loyalty and love, the spiritual message is that through Christ we can find the strength to endure, overcome, understand, love, and grow.
What made you want to write about anorexia?
I didn’t set out to write about eating disorders in the early stages of Stacey and Calvin’s story. I was writing a much larger piece focusing on the lives of several teens, but Stacey’s story dominated and demanded to be told. I did a lot of research on eating disorders, and many times my heart was broken by the individual stories. So much so, that there were times I felt I just couldn’t do justice to the issue. It was too real, too tragic, too complex. But it was also too important. I feel many people have misconceptions about eating disorders, and I hope my readers will learn something that may help them comprehend what a friend, a sister, a brother, a loved one is going through when suffering from an ED.
While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
I connected with my characters on some fundamental levels. While I personally have not struggled with anorexia, like Stacey, I have experienced–especially as a teenager–the emotional turmoil and feeling of unworthiness that are at the core of her disorder. I also grew up with three brothers and was quite a tomboy myself, so I feel I write the male perspective fairly well. (I even ride a motorcycle! Although, not a dirt bike, like Calvin.) Ultimately, I don’t think it’s possible to write a character well if there’s no common ground, even if in an emotional realm.
You’re also an artist, and I’ve really enjoyed your work. Tell us more about that.
I hold a BFA degree in communication design, and for a number of years I pursued a career in science fiction and fantasy illustration, and I worked jobs in graphic arts. I was also a working musician at one time! Creativity and the arts have always been a part of my life. While writing takes up the bulk of my time now, I’m also working on a series of comic-book style videos, called When Pigs Fly, based on one of my stories. My art has made me a very visual writer, I believe, and I’m always looking for ways I can combine the two activities.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
My website is www.dianasharples.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter just by searching my name. The book is listed on Amazon and all the other online book sellers, and will be shelved at both Christian and general market bookstores. Zondervan has set up a website for their Blink line of YA books at www.blinkyabooks.com.