This month, All The Kissing welcomes Alexis Daria, author of 2018 RITA winning book, Take The Lead.
Introducing Alexis Daria
Alexis Daria is an award-winning contemporary romance author, artist, and native New Yorker. Her debut, TAKE THE LEAD, was a 2018 RITA® Award winner for “Best First Book” and was named one of the Best Romance Novels of 2017 by The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly. DANCE WITH ME, book 2 in the Dance Off series, is out now. Alexis is also the recipient of RWA-NYC’s 2018 Golden Apple Award for Author of the Year. She loves social media, and you can find her live-tweeting her favorite TV shows at @alexisdaria, or talking about writing and books on her blog at alexisdaria.com. Sign up for her newsletter to receive exclusive bonus content.
First of all, congratulations on your RITA win for best first book! How are you feeling? What was that experience like for you?
Thank you! It was an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for the way this book has been received. Many people came up to me during the conference offering well wishes and congratulations, or to tell me how my speech affected them. Most of the time you put a book out into the world and all the feedback you get is from your friends or reviews, so the outpouring of support has just been lovely, and I appreciate all the kinds words. The icing on the cake was accepting the award from Beverly Jenkins! I think that’s part of why I was crying so hard. I felt so honored.
In your RITA acceptance speech, you mentioned your Puerto Rican heritage. How has that shaped your stories? What advice do you have for other authors of color getting started in this industry?
There’s a lack of good Latinx representation in…well, in all media, but let’s focus on the romance genre. I decided a while ago that I would contribute by writing positive Latinx rep into my books and signal boosting other Latinx creators.
Supporting others and building your own community around you is one of the best ways to get started.
It takes a village, and we all do better when we form genuine connections and uplift others.
Can you tell me how you became involved in RWA?
I’ve been RWA-adjacent for years (as in, I had lots of friends who were members and I attended writing conferences and romance events), but I didn’t join until 2015 because I mistakenly believed you had to be published before you could join. I signed up in 2015 because I had already completed two romance manuscripts and the national conference was in New York City that year.
As with anything, you get out of it what you put in.
I’m part of my local chapter’s executive board (RWA-NYC), I enter other chapter contests, and being a Golden Heart finalist last year introduced me to even more RWA members from across the country. I know RWA has had its problems, but I believe in the current board’s commitment to change, and I think it’s up to the membership to help the organization evolve, because everyone deserves an HEA.
I adored your debut, TAKE THE LEAD, and clearly, I was not alone. What went into writing that book? How long did it take you to write?
Thank you! Take the Lead started as a proposal. I spent a month planning and writing the first few chapters and synopsis before the open call deadline. At the time, I was querying another novel and trying to revise two more, but I also workshopped the opening pages of Take the Lead and entered it into a bunch of RWA chapter contests. When that other manuscript didn’t go anywhere, I spent two months completing the first draft of Take the Lead, and another month revising so I could enter the Golden Heart contest and send out queries. So in total, four months, but not consecutively. I also had to do a lot more research than I expected—dance styles and history, types of music, spray tanning—and a lot of planning for character details that didn’t make it into the book. Some of that extra content is available on my website, or included in my newsletters.
What are your favorite resources when it comes to writing? Any books or websites you love?
The books I recommend to everyone are Story Genius by Lisa Cron and Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. I used both when writing the Dance Off books, and they’ve been incredibly helpful in deepening character emotions and strengthening plot and pacing.
You seem to be a master at being a published author and your branding is some of my favorite. What has been the most surprising thing that has come with being published?
You’re so sweet! The most surprising thing was overlapping deadlines and tasks. I really tried to prepare myself for being published, but there was nothing I could have done to practice for this aspect.
Being a published author requires wearing many hats and juggling multiple tasks, like writing a new manuscript while doing edits on another and also doing promo for something else.
I definitely recommend that aspiring authors begin building their platforms, branding, and email lists as soon as possible. It will leave you in a better position once you publish your first book.
You are very active online and a co-host of #RWchat. How did all of this come along? Was it a natural progression in your career?
Kimberly Bell (A Scandal By Any Other Name, Entangled) and C.L. Polk (Witchmark, Tor.com) founded #RWchat in late 2014. It’s a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers that takes place every Sunday at 7 p.m. EST. Robin Lovett (Toxic Desire, Entangled) and I became friends with Kim and C, and the four of us started doing weekly video chats, talking about writing and…well, everything. Somewhere along the line, Robin and I got absorbed into chat duties, too. The rest is history! I used to work as a group facilitator, so co-hosting RWchat scratches that itch. I love providing a space where romance writers can come together every week to check in and engage in guided conversation. It encourages learning and also shows us we know more than we think we do!
At All The Kissing, we are big on community. How has the romance community influenced your career?
I love that! Some years ago I did a personal brand assessment, and I identified my core values as creativity, literacy, and community. These three words act as my lodestone in anything I do. Community is incredibly important to me, and if it weren’t for the support of my many circles within the greater world of Romancelandia, I don’t know where I would be right now. Not a RITA winner, that’s for sure! Community is everything.
The Dance Off series is about celebrity dance competition a la Dancing With the Stars and your live tweets of the show are the best. Are you up for a little bang, marry, kill — Dancing With the Stars edition? Val, Gleb, and Keo. Who do you pick?
This is so hard! Ugh. Well, I’d marry Val, even though he just proposed to Jenna. (Have you seen the pics on Instagram? They’re adorable.) Between Gleb and Keo…Keo’s looking real good with that beard, and Gleb is super hot. I can’t decide! Bang both?
And finally, what advice do you have for aspiring authors?
This has been in a theme in my other answers, but it takes a village to write and publish a book. Find your writing tribe. It’s possible to do it alone, but it’s so much easier and more enjoyable when you have your people around you. They make the highs higher and the lows more bearable.