About Diana Urban

a.k.a. my media kit
Diana Urban - Author

Diana Urban is an award-winning author of dark, twisty thrillers, including All Your Twisted Secrets, These Deadly Games, Lying in the Deep, and Under the Surface (coming 08.13.24). Her novels have been published internationally, and when she’s not torturing her fictional characters, she freelances in video game narrative writing. She lives with her husband and cat in Boston and enjoys reading, playing video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance. Visit her online at dianaurban.com.

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Author Headshots

All photo credit goes to Diana Urban. Yep, tripod headshots during pandemic times. More photos available here.

Fun Facts About Me

As much as I’d like to be a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows, I want to make it easy for students to do their homework! So here’s a bit of extra info. (For FAQs about getting in touch with me, visit my Contact / FAQs page.)

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Where did you go to college?

I graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising.

Fun fact: I was one class away from minoring in Psychology, but I had enough credits to take a semester off and work at a tech startup full-time for seven months (summer through fall semester) before doing my last semester of senior year “abroad” in Los Angeles. Taking that semester off gave me invaluable working experience and saved me a boatload of money, and I’m glad I did it! Sometimes you learn as much if not more in your internships than you do in class.

Do you write full time or have a day job?

For many years I wrote while working a day job as a marketing manager at tech startups. I’d wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. to write before heading to the office (or, during the pandemic, before logging into Slack), squeeze in an hour of writing during my lunch break, then would spend most weekends writing. After I secured my third publishing contract, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave my day job to focus on writing.

I now write novels full-time, and also freelance in video game narrative writing. (You can check out a couple of my games on Storyloom: The Last Resort and A Cabin at the Edge of Nowhere.)

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always been a bookworm with a vivid imagination, but I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. In fact, I didn’t think I was even slightly capable of writing a novel. I remember looking at my bookshelves and thinking how impossible writing books seemed. World building, red herrings, character arcs, tension, pacing… might as well be rocket science, as far as I was concerned. The problem was, I envisioned authors plopping at their desks and writing a polished book in one go. I didn’t think of all the outlining that typically comes first, all the rounds of rewriting and revising that come after.

Since it seemed impossible, I didn’t even bother to try. I was too afraid to fail.

Then one day in my mid-twenties while on a business trip, I saw something terrifying happen that inspired me to start writing. The desire to tell that story overpowered my fear of failure. It poured out of my brain—I wrote and revised that book in just three months. It got me my first literary agent, but it didn’t end up selling to a publisher. Still, once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. Four years and three literary agents later, I got my first book deal for All Your Twisted Secrets… and the rest is history.

What are your favorite books?

Growing up, I loved all of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books. I enjoyed getting scared, and lived for his twist endings. I also admired how each chapter ended on a cliffhanger, so you couldn’t stop reading. I learned from the best!

As an adult, my favorite books include but are definitely not limited to: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Martian by Andy Weir, Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

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Where did you grow up?

New York. First Brooklyn until I was seven, then up to suburbia in Westchester until I went to college in Boston and stayed here.

What is your writing process like?

I usually have a high stakes plot idea and a general sense of where the story will go, and then I write an incredibly messy draft that’s just for me to get to know the characters I put into that situation. It’s where I figure out what motivates them, what their backstories are, and their relationships with each other. I call this a “zero draft” because it’s so messy, I don’t even think it should count as the first draft. Then I rewrite the whole thing for a “real” first draft, and revise over multiple drafts… I usually end up emailing draft 4, 5, or 6 to my editor for the first time. With each rewrite or revision, I layer in character motivations, complexity, backstories, red herrings, descriptions, etc. The time it’s taken me to write a complete manuscript has varied widely, depending on the story—ranging from 3 months to 2 years! It depends on the book.

What are your favorite video games?

Listen… if you start talking to me about The Mass Effect trilogy, I will not be able to shut up. It’s my favorite series, hands down. If I’d written These Deadly Games before I discovered Mass Effect, it would’ve been absolutely brimming with references (so maybe it’s for the best lol). There is no Shepard without Vakarian.

Other favorites include: the Dragon Age series (especially Inquisition), Mass Effect Andromeda, Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Sims 4.

Relatedly, MortalDusk in These Deadly Games was inspired by Skyrim and Fortnight (one of my husband’s favorite games)!

If there’s another question you’d like me to answer, let me know here.

Key Information About My Books

For more details, visit my individual book pages.

Title: Under the Surface
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Release date: August 13th, 2024
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audio
Rights sold: TBD
ISBN-10: 0593625080
ISBN-13: 978-0593625088

Ruby is terrified to cave to her feelings for Sean and risk him crushing her heart.

Sean is pumped to spend a week with Ruby in Paris on their senior class trip, and he’ll wait however long until she’s ready to take things further.

But when Ruby’s best friend sneaks out the first night to meet a mysterious French boy, Ruby goes after her with two classmates, but caves to another temptation: attending mystery boy’s exclusive party in the Paris catacombs, the intricate web of tunnels beneath the city, home to six million long-dead Parisians. Only they never reach the party.

Underground, as something sinister chases them, they get lost in the endless maze of bones, uncovering dark secrets about the catacombs….and each other. And if they can’t find a way out, they’ll die in the dark beneath the City of Light.

Aboveground, Sean races to find the girl he loves as a media frenzy over the four missing teens begins.

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets
Publisher: HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Release date: March 17th, 2020
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audio
Rights sold: UK, Canada, Australia, France, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Spain
ISBN-10: 0062908219
ISBN-13: 978-0062908216

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

Title: These Deadly Games
Publisher: Wednesday Books / Macmillan
Release date: February 1, 2022
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audio
Rights sold: Spain, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic
ISBN-10: 1250797195
ISBN-13: 978-1250797193

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Title: Lying in the Deep
Publisher: Razorbill Books / Penguin Random House
Release date: May 2, 2023
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audio
Rights sold: Spain
ISBN-10: 0593527607
ISBN-13: 978-0593527603

A juicy mystery of jealousy, love, and betrayal set on a Semester at Sea-inspired cruise ship, with a diverse cast of delightfully suspicious characters who’ll leave you guessing with every jaw-dropping twist.

After being jilted by her ex-boyfriend and best friend, Jade couldn’t be more ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—11 countries in 4 months, all from the luxurious Campus on Board ship—and to wedge an entire globe between her and the people who broke her heart.

But when Jade discovers the backstabbing couple are also setting sail, her obsession with them grows and festers, leading to a shocking murder. And as their friends begin to drop like flies, Jade and her new crush must race to clear her name and find the killer they’re trapped at sea with….before anyone else winds up in body bags.

News & Buzz

Under the Surface

Coming soon!

All Your Twisted Secrets

Barnes & Noble: 11 YA Mysteries and Thrillers Set on Campus (July 2023)

Collider: 10 Mystery Novels to Read Before Watching 'Glass Onion' (December 2022)

Epic Reads: 14 Whodunit YA Books to Read if You Love Knives Out (September 2022)

Elite Daily: 10 Books to Read if you Love Squid Game (October 2021)

Epic Reads: 2020's YA Fiction Books to Read Before the Year Ends (November 2020)

BuzzFeed: New YA Thrillers and Mysteries You Won't Want to Put Down (July 2020)

The Nerd Daily: Read These 2020 YA Mystery Books for the Ultimate Thrill Ride (April 2020)

Paste Magazine: The Best Young Adult Books of 2020 (March 2020)

Cosmopolitan: The Best Young Adult Books You Literally Won't Be Able to Put Down in 2020 (March 2020)

Goodreads: The Best Young Adult Books of March (March 2020)

Epic Reads: YA Books that Wonderfully Blend Revenge and Romance (March 2020)

Publishers Weekly: Children's Book Review - All Your Twisted Secrets (January 2020)

BookBub: The Young Adult Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020 (January 2020)

PopSugar: New Thriller and Mystery Books to Look Out For in 2020 (January 2020)

PopSugar: Promising New YA Books to Look Out For in 2020 (December 2019)

Forever Young Adult: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 (December 2019)

School Library Journal: All Your Twisted Secrets Review (November 2019)

SheReads: The Most Anticipated YA Books of 2020 (October 2019)

Hypable: ‘All Your Twisted Secrets’ Cover Reveal, Excerpt (July 2019)

The Big Thrill: Unlocking the Allure of Locked-Room Thrillers (March 2019)

 

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