Meet fellow Clean Indie Reads author Diana Sharples

!cid_0E7AC37F-C5F3-409A-87CF-F920A1CE71FDToday I’d like to introduce my fellow CIR author, Diana Sharples.

Diana L. Sharples lives in north Georgia with her husband and daughter, and a house full of rescued pets. She wrote her first teen novel at the age of thirteen. Although she holds a degree in communication design/illustration from the Atlanta College of Art and has won awards for her work in science fiction and fantasy illustration, she never lost her love for storytelling. In addition to infusing her illustrations with narrative, she penned several epic-length fantasy novels. As her daughter was entering her teen years, Diana refocused her writing efforts on contemporary young adult fiction. She has won several pre-publication awards in that genre. Her debut novel, Running Lean, was released from Zondervan Books (a division of Harper Collins) in 2013. After a battle against breast cancer, Diana is resurrecting her career with the sequel, Running Strong, along with the first in a new series, Finding Hero, She is also independently publishing a series of short YA mystery novels, the Because…Mystery series, in 2018. Diana is a motorcycle enthusiast and can be found riding her Harley around the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Welcome, Diana. It’s lovely to have you here.

Hey, Sandy! Thanks again for this opportunity.

Now, we’d all love to hear more about your books, but first I have three questions for you so our readers can get to know a bit more about you. First, what inspired you to become an author, and how old were you at the time?

I was an imaginative child, sometimes to the frustration of my parents! I created imaginary characters and pretended to be them. When I was thirteen, I wrote my first full length novel. It was pretty awful, but a clear foreshadowing of what I would do later in life. I also drew pictures. All… the… time! My favorite novels were animal stories. Lassie Come Home. Call of the Wild and White Fang. When I was in my early twenties, a friend caught me rereading White Fang, and she questioned why I would want to read about animals. She handed me a copy of The Hobbit. At first I thought she’d gone crazy, since it was clearly a children’s story (while White Fang is, ahem, a classic!). But after a few chapters I was hooked. Then came The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia, and a host of other fantasy novels. I got caught up in the sub-culture of speculative fiction, writing an epic length elf novel and striving to become a cover illustrator. Even winning awards for my paintings. And then I had an encounter with Jesus Christ and turned my daily focus on Him. When my daughter was about eleven years old, I saw a distressing news article about teens on television that caused me to worry for the world my only child was about to enter. I prayed for a way that I could protect her… but God had another plan. That day—although I hadn’t written any fiction for more than four years—I had the characters, setting, and basic plot for a contemporary young adult novel. After an extended period of growth as a writer and going through the stormy publishing atmosphere that often had no place for what I was writing, I found an agent. A publisher. A future. The industry continues to have stormy periods, but I’m still here. Doing what I love.

And the world is no doubt a richer place because of what you’re doing! Now, next question. Where are your books set? And have you been there, or spent significant time there?

All the settings are fictitious but inspired by actual places. This allows me to shape the characters’ world in a way that best suits the story, without having to worry about getting something wrong. Running Lean and Running Strong are set in rural North Carolina, in the agricultural area around Rocky Mount. Although I created a fictitious county (Stiles County), I wanted the setting and the characters in it to be as authentic as possible. Thus I have made numerous trips there (500 miles from where I live!), and have met good people along the way, some of whom have become good friends. I was also welcomed as a guest to the Jimmy Weinert Training Facility in Maysville, NC, and the folks there made me a believer in the sport of motocross. Finding Hero was originally in the same setting, but those publishing storms I mentioned forced me to change a lot in the novel, including the setting. I chose somewhere closer to home but with the same rural/agricultural feel. Andrews, NC became my inspiration, and with it, the potential for diversity in my characters. Of my two protagonists, the male character is a member of the Cherokee nation. Again, I made a good many research trips—the closer setting allowing me to be home in time for dinner. And I met some wonderful people who helped me to get the details of Cherokee life right. The Because… books are set much closer to home, inspired by the Atlanta suburban town where I lived before moving myself to a more rural setting. So… yeah. I’ve been there a lot!

Wonderful!  I’ve been to North Carolina, many years ago, and have fond memories of the beautiful countryside. Now, lastly, do you write from your own experiences, or do you simply sit down and make stuff up?

Both! I don’t think it’s possible to write a novel without tapping into personal experiences, even if you don’t spell them out just as they happened. I connect with what my characters are going through because I too have experienced grief, heartbreak, fear, guilt, determination, dreams and nightmares, physical pain and great joy. I may never have bungie jumped off a bridge, but I have ridden with the wind in my face through the clouds touching the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I might never have tearfully sung a love song under a spotlight, but I’ve longed for something that seemed impossible and chased down the dream until I finally touched it. These emotional experiences connect me to my characters, and my characters to my readers, because the emotions are universal, even if the circumstances are not. So, I can sit down and craft a story, write an outline of what happens, analyze the goal, motivation, and conflict of each character, make charts of all the suspects and their opportunities and alibis, but the emotions come in after the planning, and they are what bring the story to life.

Sounds like you have a firm handle on your characters, so I bet your stories are full of emotion. Now that you’ve got everyone interested, let’s hear a little more about your books and where to find them.

The novels, Running Lean, Running Strong, and Finding Hero were written from a Christian worldview, and are written to be read by high school aged teens and up. While they contain issues related to realistic contemporary teen drama (eating disorders, dating issues, bullying, conflict with parents, etc.) they are all “clean” fiction and do not contain highly offensive language or graphic sex or violence. The Because…Mysteries series is also clean, but is more general market fiction. These books would be fine for high school teens who are Christian. All the books (except for Finding Hero, at this time) can be ordered as print books through most online and in store retailers.

The ebooks are available only through Amazon, and can be read for free through the Kindle Unlimited program.

But you can also find me on my website, dianasharples.com

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Meet fellow Clean Indie Reads author Suzannah Rowntree

profileToday I’d like to introduce my fellow CIR author, Suzannah Rowntree.

Suzannah lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, reading academic histories of the Crusades and writing historical fantasy fiction that blends folklore and myth with historical fact.

Sounds like I need to come visit you for inspiration, given my books are SET in rural Australia 🙂

So, we’re going to learn a bit more about Suzannah’s books, but first, three questions to help our readers get to know you. First, what was the inspiration for your latest book?

My latest book, A Wind from the Wilderness, is a historical fantasy epic set during the First Crusade, the first in a projected nine-book series which will cover the whole 200-year history of the medieval Crusader states. I got the inspiration for this series seven years ago now, when I read Ronald Welch’s classic young adult adventure novel, Knight Crusader which is set during the battle of Hattin and the Third Crusade – think the same time period and many of the same characters as the Ridley Scott film Kingdom of Heaven.

Wow, a nine-book series is epic, that’s for sure! Next question, what makes you happiest as an author?

Absolutely the best part is hearing back from my readers and knowing that I thrilled or touched or inspired them! After all, at the end of the day it’s not just about telling the stories in my head—it’s about communicating them to the readers. Whenever someone gets in touch to tell me that my book made them laugh or cry or think more deeply about something in their lives, it’s the best feeling in the world.

You’re certainly spot on there. Reader feedback is the best feeling! Now, one last question. What three things would you say are the most important for an aspiring author to keep in mind as they begin their writing journey?

  1. Remember that writing is a craft, and a lot of it can be learned. Inspiration and brilliance is a vital part of storytelling, but it’s something you’ve already got, and don’t need to learn. Other things, though, the basics of plotting and characterisation and theme, or the nuts and bolts of crafting prose, are things that you won’t necessarily be born with. And trust me: it’s much quicker to learn these things from a book than to painstakingly figure them out as you try to write. Which books? I would highly recommend reading Story by Robert McKee, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain.
  2. Read a lot. Read the kind of books you want to write. Read books on topics that you might have to write about—it’s amazing how much depth this will add to your work, as well as sparking off tons of new inspiration. Read classics, because they’ve stood the test of time and will not just help you learn the rules, but also how to bend them. Read books from genres that you’d never write in—sometimes tropes from a totally different genre can help you freshen a tired formula (Marvel does this all the time with their superhero movies—think of how Winter Soldier borrows from espionage thrillers, while Spider-man: Homecoming is part teen comedy). Basically, read: it’s fuel in your tank.
  3. Criticism can be vital to your success. Look for honest critics who’ll push you to improve, but have the confidence to say, “No, in this case I know what’s better for the story.” Try to steer clear of people who only have positive things to say about your writing; but also don’t trust anyone who doesn’t understand your vision or isn’t excited about what you’re trying to achieve. Above all, remember that there’s a difference between you and your work. Your work is open to criticism; you are not. A bad critic will take your work as an opportunity to criticise you. Steer clear of them, and try not to be the author who takes critcism of the work as a personal attack!

Words of wisdom for any of you aspiring authors!  Now, let’s hear a bit about your books, Suzannah.

All my stories have something in common: a vivid setting in real-world history, and a fantastical twist often inspired by existing myth and folklore! Inside that structure, I get pretty creative. My debut novel, Pendragon’s Heir, is a retelling of King Arthur for everyone who wished the legends had a more hopeful ending. My series of novella-length fairytale retellings is a wild ride through some rather uncommon settings and genres. I did Beauty and the Beast in the style of a Bollywood musical (The Rakshasa’s Bride), Sleeping Beauty as a Chinese martial arts epic (Ten Thousand Thorns), and a bunch of others that roamed from Jazz Age New Zealand to medieval Byzantium! My latest series, for which A Wind from the Wilderness is the first instalment, draws on crusader history as well as the religions of the Middle East – let’s just say I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible.

I don’t write Christian fiction, but everything I write is deeply influenced by my Christian faith, and one of the results of this is wanting to keep things fairly clean. At the same time, I know there’s real darkness in this world, and although I keep really explicit violence, language, and sexual content offscreen, I write stories that can sometimes be dark or include mature themes or frightening villains. I enjoy reading mature books, but I don’t always enjoy the “adult content” – so I do it like JRR Tolkien did it, and keep things clean and grown up at the same time!

And where can we find these awesome books?

My Amazon page, by clicking here.

A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer Book 1) by [Rowntree, Suzannah]

 

 

Two books on special for the month of November, and one FREE over the Thanksgiving long weekend!

For the month of November, e-books 1 and 5, A Chance to Come True A Chance for Snow, part of my Copperhead Creek series will both be just $.99US

And over the Thanksgiving long weekend, e-book 6, Murder at the Creek will be FREE!

Not a bad time to grab them if you haven’t yet read them. Of course, they’re all FREE TO READ if you’re enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Happy Reading 🙂 Click here to go to my Amazon page.

 

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Meet fellow Clean Indie Reads author Carol Beth Anderson

!cid_f_jnj46kmo0Today I’d like to introduce my fellow CIR author, Carol Beth Anderson.

Carol Beth Anderson is a native of Arizona and now lives in Leander, TX, outside Austin. She has a husband, two kids, a miniature schnauzer, and more fish than anyone knows what to do with. Besides writing, she loves baking sourdough bread, knitting, and eating cookies-and-cream ice cream.

Yummm… sourdough is my favourite!  I was born in San Francisco, and it was one of the things I missed most when I moved to Australia (besides family, that is!)  Now Carol Beth recently released the Sun-Blessed trilogy, so as part of learning about it I’ve got a couple of questions for her so my followers can get to know you. So, firstly, what was the inspiration for your book series?

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was passionate about childbirth. I read books, watched videos, and adored the midwives at my birthing center. I had an incredible, beautiful water birth with my son. When I decided to write a fantasy novel, my first idea was to have a magic system based on childbirth.

I also wanted to use a compelling story to share lessons I’ve learned throughout life. Tavi struggles with insecurity, doubts, and vulnerability, coming out stronger each time she faces a challenge.

That sounds like a wonderful series, and one lots of people will enjoy. Now, next question, and we already know a bit about the answer, but here goes–do you write from your own experiences, or simply sit down and make something up?

I saw a quote one time about how writing isn’t just about leaning on your own experiences. It’s about empathy. (It was attributed to Neil Gaiman, but I can’t seem to find the original quote nor any proof that he said it!) I wholeheartedly agree that empathy is one of the greatest traits I can have as a writer. Some parts of my books are based on my life, and of course those parts tend to be simplest to write. But I love digging deep into my empathetic heart to explore stories I can’t personally relate to. There’s a character in my books whose mother has deep depression, another character who has a rocky relationship with her exacting father, and yet another who deals with self-loathing due to a terrible mistake he can’t ever fix. I loved exploring each of these storylines, even though I hadn’t experienced such difficulties myself.

How true is that? I’d never thought of it that way, but it’s what gives depths to our characters and helps us learn at the same time. Now, last question, what makes you happiest as an author?

I love the creative process. My degree is in theatre, but it’s hard to do plays (with time-consuming rehearsal schedules) when I have kids at home! Writing these books is the first thing that’s made my creative side feel alive in the same way acting used to do.

It’s interesting what drives each of us … and yours is an incredible reason! Hopefully one day you’ll get back to the theatre, and who knows, maybe you’ll even be performing in one of your own works! In the meantime, let’s hear a bit more about this series, and where we can find it.

The Sun-Blessed Trilogy is a young adult fantasy series with magic and adventure. After Tavi discovers her extraordinary magical talents, dissidents in a distant city want to capture her to use her gifts for their own purposes.

These are coming-of-age novels with strong themes of friendship, a unique magical system based on childbirth, and a little bit of romance. The books are appropriate for teenage and adult readers. They’re free of bad language and sex scenes, and while there are violent scenes, they aren’t gory.

The entire trilogy releases in quick succession, with the three books launching on 10/25, 11/1, and 11/15. They’re available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook (narrated by the author).  and you can find the first book, as well as the pre-orders,  here, on Amazon.

Facing the Sun (Sun-Blessed Trilogy Book 1) by [Anderson, Carol Beth]

Australian Romance* — boxed set for less than a dollar — limited time only!!

Believe it or not, this entire boxed set of novels by some of the best-loved Australian authors, PLUS my never seen before prequel to my Copperhead Creek series, Taking a Chance, can be yours for less than a dollar!! It’s currently on pre-sale, but it won’t be available for long, so grab it now and enjoy it later 🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠🤠

For Amazon US, click here.    For Amazon Australia, click here.

*Please note, this is not a “Clean Reads” anthology so I can’t vouch for content rating on any of the books other than my own.

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