Recently I was browsing around Amazon and came across a rather interesting series. The description immediately grabbed my attention, not mainly for the drama involved, but the story behind its creation. Author L. Divine is the mastermind behind the ongoing series, Drama High. She hopes to enhance literacy among teens, and with her young adult series she’s aiming at not only giving them something interesting and fun to read, but a story they can relate to as well. Check out our interview with the intriguing writer and discover what truly goes on behind the drama.
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Tell us a little about your life growing up in California and what inspired you to become a writer.
-I grew up primarily in Compton, California with my maternal grandparents, uncles and cousin. My mother lived in Inglewood and my father in Lynwood. I attended elementary school in Compton, but when I moved in with my dad during junior high I attended a primarily white, Christian school, which changed my life. When I moved in with my mother in high school and attended school many miles away in the South Bay of Los Angeles my entire worldview shifted. Several of my friends and family members from my youth are archetypes for the characters in Drama High. I became a writer because I loved reading and enjoyed the lyrics in many musical genres. At one time I thought I would become a lyricists like Queen Latifah or MC Lyte, then a poet like Nikki Gioavanni or Carolyn Rodgers, e.e. cummings or Langston Hughes. Then came Alice Walker, Octavia E. Butler and August Wilson into my world and I was hooked. Their words were so familiar yet foreign at the same time. It was then that I knew that whatever I did with my life, a large part of it would have to involve literature.
Who are some of your biggest influences in the world of literature?
-I love both fiction and nonfiction across various genres. Alice Walker, Octavia E. Butler, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, Jewel Parker Rhodes and August Wilson are my favorite fiction writers by far. I also love the tenacity of Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins and J. K. Rawlings. e.e. cummings, William Shakespeare, Stephen Covey and Stephen King are also admirable.
Why Teen Fiction?
-I love teen fiction because it is raw, limitless and just plain fun to write. It also has the power to transform a young adult’s life within its pages. In my book, that’s the best gift to possess: edutainment. As a middle school teacher it never ceases to amaze me how interested teens can become in a novel when they find a character or a situation that they can relate to. I feel like my job is done if I can introduce a teen to something new through literature and they then become willing scholars on their own.
Where did the idea of Drama High come from and what is your main goal in terms of the outreach?
-The protagonist, Jayd Jackson, actually came from a poem I began writing in graduate school entitled In the Mind of an Angry Black Schoolchild. I quickly realized that the 8-year-old boy was actually a 16-year-old girl who sounded a lot like me at that age. I then began to sketch out the series and the number 44 just popped into my head…divine inspiration, I suppose J Drama High, vol 1: The Fight was actually inspired because of a fight I witnessed in one of my classrooms between two best friends over a boy. As far as outreach, I’ve always wanted to increase young adult literacy and inspire them to read for pleasure while learning a little something, too. I consider myself one of many ambassadors for young adult literature and am honored and humbled every time a reader reaches out to tell me that she/he never liked to read before my series, has read the entire collection and anxiously awaits more books. That alone is a dream come true for me.
Did you anticipate receiving such positive feedback from outlets like Kirkus, Essence Magazine, Ebony, and so much more?
-I hoped for it but no, I could never have anticipated the buzz around my lil ole’ series.
Being that you are an educator, how much of your real experiences provides backdrop for the story?
-Some of the experiences come from being an educator but most of them come from my memories as a young adult or my observances of people in general. I could be at the grocery store or in the mall and see a scene unfold before me or hear it manifest through a passing conversation. Backdrop is everywhere if you’re open.
In 2012, you released book fifteen. What motivates you to keep writing Drama High?
-My fans, of course! The readers keep the series moving forward. Even though I can’t produce the way I did when I had a major publisher behind me I will not stop until all 44 volumes, including Drama U, Jayd’s college years, are written. Drama High is so much bigger than me that it sometimes feels like torture, but all acts of love involve sacrifices along the way.
Are you considering writing in any other genres aside from Contemporary?
-Yes, I do write in other genres, both fiction and nonfiction. I particularly love historical and science fiction and would like to maybe move in that direction sometime soon.
Aside from writing you also provide guest lectures as well as organize workshops for writers. Can you tell us a bit about both endeavors and any other activities you participate in?
-I look at my workshops and lectures as an opportunity to listen and learn from my readers while sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn on my personal and professional journeys as best I can. Most recently I have been a guest of the Pratt Library System in Baltimore, Maryland and have several upcoming dates in the near future. I also volunteer my services for different organizations and truly enjoy reaching out to young readers whenever I can.
What’s next for L. Divine?
-Oh my, what a loaded question! Well, publishing volume 16: No Mercy is my next big challenge and it will get done sooner than later, Jah willing! I am also ready to get Drama U out to the public as they have been steadily requesting it, not to mention growing the Drama High brand to include television, movies and merchandise. There’s always a lot going on behind the scenes at L. Divine, inc.
Thank you for taking the time. Please leave a message for your readers as well as any tips for aspiring writers.
-To my readers and emerging writers alike: Keep reading and writing. Whatever your passion, do it for the sheer joy it gives you to share it. And lastly, fully engage in your God talents and watch the miracles unfold.
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