Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Diana: Ideas come to me at random times—while watching TV, brushing my teeth, driving my car, etc. But for the Anastasia Phoenix series, I can trace the first spark of inspiration back to when I was in high school. I was attending a college fair in Philadelphia, and I was listening to students talk about Boston University. One kid was glowing about the professors—Pulitzer-prize winners from the Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The NY Times. Then he spoke about a former communist spy for Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, Lawrence Martin-Bittman, who now taught budding journalists how to tell if they were being fed false information or “fake news.” I never got to take his class, but years later when I decided to attempt an international thriller packed with super spies, that story came back to me as if it had always been waiting. I wanted my world of espionage to be focused on a unique specialty that offered me some creative freedom, and disinformation fit the bill.
So one day, I drove up to Massachusetts and met with the spy who inspired me, and we had a fascinating conversation that led to many of the espionage elements in my novels. I even named a CIA agent in my books after him, Martin Bittman.
What character do you most relate to and why?
Anastasia Phoenix. Period. I know, in interviews like these, I’m supposed to name a minor character (and I do have readers who rave about Charlotte and Julian), but for me, Anastasia is the character who speaks to me. She’s Nancy Drew meets Buffy Summers in the world of Spy Kids mixed with The Da Vinci Code. She’s a kick-butt heroine who can deliver one-liners in four languages, as she travels the world unraveling conspiracies and searching for answers about her family. Plus Anastasia has become an honest-to-goodness, real-life person to me. I’ve spent years with her. I think about her all the time, and she and I hang out daily–how many people in your life can you say that about?
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now?
To me, young adult books have always been popular. I grew up in the height of the Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club phase. My friends and I collected the entire series, and as I grew older I became obsessed with Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine mysteries. When I published my first novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, in 2008, Gossip Girl was all the rage. Then the trend shifted to wizards, then vampires, then dystopian, then contemporary. It’s all cyclical. I think the biggest difference now is social media and the ability for fans to loudly voice their opinions, so it feels like there are more voices. But I think those fans were always there, even back when I was a kid.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
With her harrowing tale of espionage and near death experiences finally out in the open, Anastasia Phoenix thought things would be better. That she and her friends had outsmarted Department D, the criminal empire her parents helped create.
She thought wrong.
Former friends have turned to enemies, causing more innocent lives to get swept up into the dangerous world her parents created. Now it’s up to Anastasia to stop the damage before anyone else gets hurt—or worse. She embarks on a treacherous trail from Poland to Prague, and old rivals emerge at every turn. But when the final confrontation occurs, will she be too late to protect the ones she loves… or even herself?
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m currently writing my first YA horror novel. It’s a little out of the box for me, but I’m so excited to try something new. I’ve spent seven years with Anastasia voice in my head, and it’s time to make room for more characters!