By Ameerah Holliday
The Drama High Series follows Jayd Jackson, a strong willed teenage girl through her life and experiences in her Los Angeles high school. Jayd however is not like any other teenager, she’s a voodoo queen in training. Mixing magic with cultural history and high school drama, L. Divine’s series has everything and more. Drama High is a relatable novel that seeks to entertain, educate and inspire its readers of all ages.
Divine’s novels contain a unique style of relatability and now seventeen novels in she is continuing to speak to her readers in a voice with which we are all familiar. Divine received her BA and MA in African American studies at UCLA. She then went on to teach with the Los Angeles Unified School District, which inspired the Drama High novels. The seventeenth volume of the series Sweet Dreams was just released, but Divine’s work is far from over. In between studying for her Doctorates, being a mom, and continuing her ventures in self publication, Divine was generous enough to sit down with Beyond to discuss her series and writing process.
Your series involves a lot of cultural history and religion, has this always been an element in your life or was it something you have learned through your college career? What material would you recommend to readers who are interested in learning more about this religion and culture?
My grandmother was a mother of the AME church, and now my mother and aunt have taken over the tradition. Although I was raised in the AME church and very proud of it, I never felt like I was supposed to stay in the church. From a very young age I just felt “different” for lack of a better description. But yes, it was at UCLA that I experienced my first West African dance class, and that was the “religion” I had been searching for. As far as books go, I would start by reading and researching the authors at the back of Drama High: Sweet Dreams, including Luisah Teish and Jewel Parker Rhodes.
The novels are loosely based off of my life, both as an adult and as a teenager. Being relatable is all about infusing the real into the fiction; they go hand-in-hand. I’m just glad that my readers feel my stories…inspiring young adults to read is my passion, and if they can learn something in the process, well, that’s even better. As for the music, I love all kinds! I need music to write, clean, work out, and do anything else active.
Your last four novels were self-published, which has clearly resulted in a lot more work to be done on your part. How would you say your writing experiences have changed or grown as a result of this switch in publication?
Actually my last 3 novels were self-published. And interestingly enough it’s like returning home for me since the very first version of Drama High: The Fight was self-published. Granted, I will be the first to admit that in order to publish a book the right way, doing it solo is indeed a daunting task. There’s nothing like having a great editor on your side, as well as the legal backing of a publisher and the hype that a passionate publicist can bring, etc. That said, I’m so grateful that self-publishing has grown in the last decade, so much so that Amazon/CreateSpace, Nook, etc. have made it possible to continue to publish without a major publishing house behind me/the remainder of the series.
I know you can’t give us any spoilers, but is there anything new we can expect from the series as a whole?
it was at UCLA that I experienced my first West African dance class, and that was the “religion” I had been searching for.
Jayd is growing up! I know this doesn’t please some of my readers, but the truth is that she’s a young woman who is soon to be a grown, college woman in Drama U, and I couldn’t be happier to embark on this new endeavor with Jayd. She shocks me more than anyone, trust, and I think that even though she will make more mistakes, Jayd will always keep a level head no matter how “grown” she gets.
What is one lesson or message that you hope to convey to your readers through your novels?
The one lesson that I hope my readers take away from every book in the series is that no matter where you come from you can create your own path by trusting your inner voice. There’s a reason that the body houses the soul, and that is where your destiny lies. Live your dreams, don’t just settle for what society says you have to. Be the person that you came here to be it and rock it like nobody else can.
Such amazing advice! The seventeenth volume of the Drama High series has just been released, but the series is far from over. With an estimated forty-four novels for the series, as well as a few new projects in store, L. Divine has a definite goal to keep her audience inspired and reading. Be sure to check out the entire Drama High series as well as upcoming projects from L. Divine.