Posted on 06/11/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

It’s easy, popular, and fun to bemoan the sheer amount of reality TV shows.

That said, they’ve yielded some award-winning literature.

Without Dancing With the Stars, author Alexis Daria might not have been inspired to start writing her Dance Off contemporary-romance series.

The first entry in that series, Take the Lead, is a 2018 RITA double finalist and was named one of the best romance novels of 2017 by The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly.

But of course, much more led the computer-arts major to become a celebrated novelist.

Read on to learn about Daria’s journey and what else keeps her busy.

SADYE: How did you react to receiving the RITA finalist nods and national publication mentions?

ALEXIS: I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest at celebrating my own accomplishments.

So my reactions have all been “Omg, wow!” and then either finding ways to diminish the achievement or going back to whatever other stressful work I was doing at the time.

Luckily, I’m surrounded by people who are genuinely happy for me. My boyfriend is always super excited by every success, no matter how small I think it is.

Since my agent and I live in the same city, we get together and do champagne toasts. And I have awesome friends who want to celebrate with me over food and drinks.

Their genuine excitement reminds me to slow down and appreciate these moments amidst the harder work of writing and publishing books.

SADYE: In your official bio, you said your most fulfilling job was as a group facilitator for a women’s empowerment community, where you coached other women in following their creative dreams. Was that also part of why you began writing?

ALEXIS: I started writing longer stories when I was a teenager (hello, fan-fic), and I joined the NaNoWriMo community in New York City when I was twenty-one.

So even though I started writing well before working as a group facilitator, my experience with the women’s group strengthened the emotional depth of my writing and influenced my decision to write romance.

The job involved personal development and coaching, and led me to write characters who overcome the limits of their comfort zones to live fuller lives and find their happily-ever-afters.

SADYE: Another supportive role you’ve taken on is moderator of a weekly romance chat on Twitter (#RWchat). What is that like?

ALEXIS: I first joined as a participant, but as my critique partner Robin Lovett and I became closer friends with the founders, we were drawn in as co-hosts.

Now the four of us run the chat and the behind-the-scenes tasks together, and we all critique each other's writing projects, as well.

My previous work as a group facilitator really comes into play during RWchat, in terms of managing the group through the flow of questions.

We put a lot of thought into the topics and questions, including how they're phrased and the numerical order.

It’s incredibly rewarding work — the community of authors who show up to participate in the chat varies week to week, but the group vibe is open and encouraging, with people often sharing vulnerably.

Part of the purpose behind the chat is to provide romance writers with a space to learn and connect, but also to show authors that they know more than they think they do.

SADYE: With the increasing amount of attention on and discussion of inclusivity in writing, do you think there’s been progress toward a more representative, equal publishing world?

ALEXIS: There has been some progress, but as we've seen from the dismal percentages in the Ripped Bodice's 2017 Diversity Report, there is still a very long way to go.

I've joined forces with three other Latina romance authors — Priscilla Oliveras, Sabrina Sol, and Mia Sosa — to build a community and promote good Latinx rep.

And my experience as a writer has so far been positive — my agent and publishing team have been very supportive of my Puerto Rican heroines and how I wanted the covers to look.

As a reader, however, I've come across a number of books this year that contain problematic Latinx representation, and it's disheartening.

Still, it is my hope that more authors will educate themselves about avoiding harmful stereotypes and continue to attempt writing more inclusively.

SADYE: What other advice would you give an aspiring writer?

ALEXIS: Never stop improving your craft. The wonderful thing about creative pursuits is that you're never finished.

Writing a book isn't the end. Publishing the book isn't even the end. It's an ongoing journey with multiple paths and ways to level up.

With every manuscript I write, I choose an element of writing craft to work on, like deeper POV, more sensory details, or stronger descriptions of setting.

Not everyone likes reading books on writing craft, so if that's not for you, no worries. I enjoy them, however, and I'm always looking for books to help me improve my writing process and understanding of story structure.

As for marketing and promo, start building your platform and your newsletter list now. Future You will be grateful you started early.

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Learn more about Alexis Daria on her website, where her books can also be purchased; like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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Categories: Author Interview

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