Guest host Alisha Fernandez Miranda interviews Alexa Martin about Better than Fiction, a charming new rom-com about a grumpy book hater who inherits her grandmother’s bookstore and has to face its resident book club of meddling old ladies and the gorgeous author they set her up with. ZIBBY ORIGINALLY INTERVIEWED ALEX ABOUT HER NOVEL MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES. LISTEN HERE. Alexa describes the popular book that got her addicted to reading, her discomfort with self-promoting on social media, her love of writing sexy scenes, and how writing this book helped her grieve her mother’s passing. Finally, she reveals her top romantic comedies (both books and movies) and describes her next project.


Alisha Miranda: Hi, everybody. It’s Alisha welcoming you back to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I am here today with Alexa Martin, the author of Better than Fiction, a romantic comedy that is the book that you want. You just want to put a warm blanket over you, maybe a hot-water bottle, a little cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read about Drew and Jasper and their love story. It was such a charming book. Alexa, thank you for joining the podcast today to talk about your work.

Alexa Martin: Thanks for having me on. I’m very excited.

Alisha: Before we jump too much into this, because I have so many things I want to talk about, why don’t you start by telling everybody a little bit about what Better Than Fiction is about?

Alexa: Better Than Fiction is a rom-com about Drew, who has inherited her grandmother’s bookstore. Little problem, she does not like to read. She is really just trying to keep it all together and keep her grandma’s legacy alive. The book club that meets, the Dirty Birds, wants nothing to do with her just coasting along, and so they meddle in her life and set her up with their favorite romance author, Jasper. When he finds out that she doesn’t love to read, he’s determined to make her fall in love with books and him and creates this book bucket list in exchange for her showing him around Colorado for his next book. It’s funny, it takes place during the summer, but it’s such a cozy read.

Alisha: I’m very into, right now, I want to be a little bit escapist. I want to go into the Book Nook. I just want to hang out there. I want to meet Jasper because he’s very attractive. I’m a happily married woman, but he’s a definite romantic hero, for sure. When I first started the book, I was like, god, it must be so hard for a writer to create a character who hates books. That seems to me like it would be such a stretch. I was listening to your previous podcast with Zibby and learned that you were not a book lover yourself until you read Fifty Shades of Grey. I want to hear about your journey to writing and to reading. Tell me a little bit about that story.

Alexa: I will say, to be fair, I think I read Fifty Shades too long of a period of not loving it. I think once you leave school and you have all of the mandatory reading, you are just like, reading’s not that fun, so you don’t read as often. I would read a couple of books. I am an all-or-nothing type of girl, for the most part. If I read a book, I read it in two days. I’m not just taking a book to read for a month because I have an addictive personality, but I only do the good things. My grandma was like, “Have you read this Fifty Shades book?”

Alisha: Your grandma?

Alexa: I was like, “No, Grandma.” She was like, “I keep hearing about it.” Finally, I was like, okay. Yeah, my grandma. Better Than Fiction is dedicated to my grandma because this was very much pulled from the same inspiration where my grandma was really the book lover in my life. She never read Fifty Shades, but she had kept hearing about it. She was like, “Maybe you should read it.” I did. It was my gateway drug. From that point, I just could not stop reading romance. I’d throw all the kids in the back of the minivan, and we’d go to Target or we’d go to Barnes & Noble. Then I found Apple Books. When I tell you my entire life changed — I was like, all of the books in my phone any time of day? I started reading a lot, but I was only reading that way. If you like this book, you might like this. A lot of the recommendations weren’t very diverse reads. I was on vacation with my husband. I think it’s the only way to think of an idea. He was swimming. He’s like, “You want to do the water slides?” I was like, “Absolutely .” My fun is the book uninterrupted by my children. I was sitting reading. An idea just popped into my head. I was like, but you’re not a writer. I wrote blogs, mainly because we live far away and I wanted to update my family. It wasn’t a blog with advertisers. It was a blog that I’d be like, hey, family. I posted one on Facebook, like that little thing. I was like, you’re not a writer. You don’t know how to write. When I got home, I just decided to give it a go. That was my first book, Intercepted, which took me four years to write because I would start, and I would delete. I would start and delete. Then I got pregnant with my fourth child. I didn’t write at all while I was pregnant because my brain was not working.

Alisha: Mush. I’ve been there.

Alexa: Exactly. Then I finished it right after she turned one. I found a writing buddy in my pregnancy group. We were belly buddies. We both found out we wanted to write.

Alisha: How cool.

Alexa: We started sending each other a chapter a week. Her debut book, , actually comes out in February on Valentine’s Day. It’s been fun for our journeys to go from just being pregnant together to here. program. I got my agent. I’ve been able to, thankfully, keep writing. I don’t want to say I fell into it because it was very intentional, especially because moms don’t — we know what we have time for. It doesn’t come easy. It was very intentional to carve out the time to write, even if it was just a little bit at a time. It’s definitely not something that — when I was a kid, I was never like, I want to be an author. I never even thought it was possible. Even when I started writing, I was like, I don’t think I’ll let anybody read it. Then I was like, maybe I’ll self-publish under a pen name. It was very much a journey for me. Reading became something that I also had to do intentionally, and picking up a book instead of just turning on Real Housewives.

Alisha: I love that you talk about this intentional process to do it. When I started writing, my kids were older. It was COVID, so they were home a lot, but they were older and slightly more self-sufficient. You’ve got four kids in a range of ages.

Alexa: Now they’re all in school. This is the second year where they’re all in school. That’s been really nice, to have some time during the day to do things like this and to write not after they all go to sleep at night. When I first started Intercepted, I wasn’t even pregnant with Ellis yet. No, not at all. I had three kids at the time. I had three at first. When I had Dash, my oldest was three. It was three under three. They were probably four, three, and one when I started writing, which was why it took me so long to do it, besides being fully, utterly unequipped, not knowing what I was doing, which was actually probably for the best. If I would’ve read craft books or known what I know now, I think I would’ve been too overwhelmed to start. I think that naïveté — I write words. I cannot pronounce them.

Alisha: I totally feel you. I recorded my audiobook a few weeks ago. In doing that, I realized how many words I did not know how to pronounce that I knew how to write. They kept having to stop me and being like, “Um, that’s not how you say that.” Then because I live in the UK, I’d be like, “Oh, that’s the British pronunciation,” but that was a lie. It was really just I did not know how to say the word.

Alexa: I live in fear of somebody asking me to read my book out loud.

Alisha: You’ve written so many books now. You must get asked to do that a lot. How do you find the balance between promoting your works, writing new works, and then your responsibilities at home?

Alexa: If I’m being honest, I don’t do much promotion. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot and that I need to do more of. I get very uncomfortable. It’s something I probably need to work out with a therapist, about talking about myself. The good things and the bad things, I really struggle with putting it out. If you look at my Instagram, it’s basically like, here are my kids, and then some book things thrown in. My book just came out, so there’s a lot more books things. I’m very lucky to work with Berkley, who’s amazing. They give me really great promotional pictures for me to post. I do really struggle with that. It’s something I need to get better with, especially right now when social media plays such a big part in it. It’s just so hard. Everybody’s doing TikTok now. I’m like, those videos take so long to make.

Alisha: I know. It’s funny to hear you say that because I started following you on social media when I was reading the book, and I love all the bookish content. I love how you talk about your characters and their likes and dislikes. It was one of the things I was going to ask you about. How do you get your social media so good? That’s actually very reassuring to know that you have some help with that.

Alexa: I do have help, especially with the pictures. It’s nice to hear you say that. It’s something I tell my friends all time. It’s so easy to give advice and so hard to take the same advice. The people are there because they’re interested in what you’re doing, so you telling them this is not putting them out. They chose to be in that space to hear it. Even as I tell other people that and I know that, still when I write something, I would say I delete things about fifty perfect of the time. I’m like, nobody wants to hear this, and then just put my phone away.

Alisha: I hate video content. To me, that’s the worst.

Alexa: It’s so awful.

Alisha: I’m a writer. I like to deliberate about the things I say. I’m so in awe of people who can just shoot an off-the-cuff video or, oh, my god, do an Instagram Live. Definitely strikes fear in my heart.

Alexa: It’s so hard. The balance of it all, to write — my kids like to throw me under the bus. They’re just like, it doesn’t matter how much time you have to write a book, you will write it in the last two months. I’m like, how dare you. Just let me do my chaotic process in peace. To write and to be present in your everyday life and to promote, people have to be very organized. I have not gotten there yet.

Alisha: You seem to be doing a pretty good job of it. You wrote this book during 2020, so this was a pandemic book. Is that right?

Alexa: I got this deal in September of 2020. I wrote it and turned it in in 2021. I was one of the people that was still very much staying inside through 2021. I still wasn’t out and about. That’s why when you said this book could be an escape, I love that so much because that’s how I felt writing it. Reading the books and going to the bookstore and going hiking outside while I was inside the house with my four kids and husband, it did very much feel like an escape. I hoped people would feel that as they were reading it.

Alisha: It really does. You take us to all of these great places. Because Drew is so outdoorsy, there’s so much nature around. That’s funny. I didn’t really think about it, but of course, you had to write this outside-y character while you were sitting inside all the time. That must have been very therapeutic for you, although, I imagine, challenging with your kids at home during especially the initial days when everybody was home. Everybody was inside. Nobody was leaving.

Alexa: To do it with everybody around, I watched a lot of YouTube videos of people being outside, which is so ridiculous sounding. Whitewater rafting, it’s one of the dates that they go on. I am not an outdoorsy girl, but whitewater rafting is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never done it. I watched so many of the GoPro videos of people whitewater rafting. I watched so many of them to just make sure it sounded kind of authentic as they were doing it. It was really fun. This whole book was very therapeutic. Also, along with Drew’s journey, I got this book deal the day after my mom’s funeral. To walk through Drew’s journey of grieving her grandmother really was very helpful with my own journey of grieving and getting some of these feelings out, even through another person. Sometimes it’s easier to see these things when you’re not staring at it directly in the face. To have that buffer and go through the steps and some of the grief with her was very nice for me as well. This entire book was just really a gift to be able to write, if I’m being honest. I have a very soft spot in my heart for this story.

Alisha: I’m sorry about your mom. I did read that in the acknowledgments. It’s right up front that Drew is processing her grief at the very beginning. How did you find the editing process, writing a lot of it probably when things were more raw and then having to go back later and edit it for the reader but still talking about this grief that was parallel to your experience? Was that challenging for you?

Alexa: The editing process, I actually really love. I’ve been lucky enough to work with my editor since my first book, so we have this very nice communication and flow. Over the years, I’m more clean with my drafts. They’re never too bad. I will say there’s a scene in this book that does hit me in the feels every single time. It’s towards the end of the book. It makes me cry every time. I think it’s probably my favorite scene of the book because I feel that every time. I’m one of those weird people who, sometimes I really like to talk about my grief. I really like getting it out there. To have this story where I was able to put it and talk about it and go back to it, it wasn’t that hard because, again, that is something — I think if you are a person who has dealt with loss, there’s a part of you that never wants to talk about it but also always wants to talk about it. This really gave me a nice place to package it up. When I say that, it definitely is still a lighter story. She is going through this grief, but it’s not a story that’s going to have you sad and depressed. It’s still a rom-com, I would say. I just have to be careful when I’m saying it. I don’t want people to be like, oh, gosh, it’s just depressing. It’s not.

Alisha: It’s not. I can say from experience it is not depressing. It is not just the author saying that, the reader. That’s another important piece of her story and her journey. It propels where she is at this moment and also how she’s able to love, which is a real thing with grief. Grief impacts your relationships with your loved ones and how you’re able to give yourself in a relationship and not so.

Alexa: I agree. I think it’s part of what makes romance such a beautiful genre. It is a space to explore these hard topics while knowing at the end there is this happily ever after. That makes it very easy to explore these no matter where you are in the process, if you’re at the beginning, if you’re at the end, but to see the growth. I think that’s my favorite part of this book, is the growth in Drew. I love Drew. I’ve heard from a few people that she is an unlikable heroine. I understand that. She is a bit of a grump, but I just think she’s so fun. I love my female characters to be a little grumpier when the expectation for so long — not anymore. I don’t want to say that because there’s so many people writing very dynamic , especially in romance. There’s so many very dynamic characters and dynamic female characters. I really like them to have these imperfections. I do struggle, on the other hand, with my heroes. People are like, they need flaws. I’m like, no, they don’t.

Alisha: No, they don’t.

Alexa: Drew has enough going on in her life. She needs somebody perfect.

Alisha: I know. You’re like, shh, I’m writing my dream.

Alexa: She needs a romance author to woe her.

Alisha: Does your husband read your books and your male characters and feel like, “I should be doing this for you”?

Alexa: I don’t know. People keep asking if he reads mine. No. He did Intercepted on audiobook. I’ve just kind of stopped asking. Intercepted was actually probably the one that I was most anxious about him reading because it was my first. It was very much a woman who had been dating her high school sweetheart who played in the NFL, and then she leaves him. I didn’t want him to be like, hey, what is this? He does some audiobooks. I don’t know if he’s done them. What’s so funny is he did tell me that his dad reads them a lot. His dad’s always like, “I was reading Snapped, and I really…” He has conversations about the characters, which is very cute and fun.

Alisha: There’s some steamy scenes in your books. Your father-in-law is reading those. I really love that. I love that, actually.

Alexa: There are steamy scenes. I will say, going back to this book, that I think the steamy scenes in Better Than Fiction are my favorite that I’ve ever written. They are so much fun.

Alisha: I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Alexa: Thank you so much. I usually dread writing these scenes. I always say I black out, and I don’t remember. I was like, when do I get to write? There’s only one bed, which is, I think, the superior trope. I was so excited to write that one. Then there’s another one. I’m trying to think how many there are. There’s two, the only one bed, and there’s another one towards the end. That was also just so fun to write. I was like, wait, do I love writing sex scenes now?

Alisha: This could open up a whole new world for you.

Alexa: Is this all I wanted to do?

Alisha: I love when that happens. I recommended the Court of Thorns and Roses to a friend of mine. I don’t know if you’ve read those.

Alexa: I haven’t read those.

Alisha: They’re very graphic. Spoilers for everybody. The first book is not that graphic. I read the first one, and I recommended it to a bunch of people, including my husband’s best friend. He was like, “I have a long car ride. I’m going to listen to it on audiobook.” Then I got to the second book, and all this stuff started happening. I said to my husband, I was like, “Oh, my god. I don’t know what to say. I still think Steven should listen to these, but also, he just needs to know I maybe didn’t know that that was happening when I was recommending it to him.”

Alexa: My aunt sent me a message saying she was getting the audiobook. She was going to listen to it in the car with my uncle on a road trip. I was like, “Maybe not.” The audio, hearing it — I have another — I think it’s a funny story. In this book, there’s the Dirty Birds, which is also one of my favorite parts of the story.

Alisha: They’re so great.

Alexa: book club of older women who just meddle. They’re very much pulled from my life and my grandma’s friends. I can point out, this friend is her. This one is her. The one friend who reminds me of Mona, who’s one of the Dirty Birds, I still talk to her daughter occasionally. Her daughter told me that she’s listening to my book on audiobook. She picked up her mom, which was my grandma’s best friend. As her mom sat in the car, one of the sex scenes started playing. I was like, no! That was a story. I was like, well, okay. There we go.

Alisha: Just own it. Listen, own it. They’re beautifully written. They’re romantic. Everybody can use that in their life.

Alexa: We all need it. My grandma’s best friend .

Alisha: Oh, my god, just put it behind you. Put it behind you.

Alexa: It’s something I probably thought about a few times as I was writing the story of them being like, Drew, we know. We know that you’re smiling a little brighter, in that embarrassment. Well, I guess.

Alisha: I’m sure people ask you all the time, what parts are based off your real life? There was one thing I wanted to know if it is based on a real-life experience, which is Tequila Tina. Is that something that happened to you or someone you know?

Alexa: I think a little Tequila Tina lives in all of us.

Alisha: I think so.

Alexa: Was it tequila? No. I have some vodka stories that I don’t know if are appropriate to share, some real mistakes. Now I’m that person who, I count my drinks. Then at a certain point, I’m like, now it’s time for water. I need a piece of bread. That is all I will be drinking tonight because I am too old to throw up. You will not . Vodka is what I drink.

Alisha: Poison of choice.

Alexa: Oh, wait, there might have been a tequila story. Now I’m thinking. Oh, no. I’ve blocked these out.

Alisha: It was one of those things that I read, and I was like, this is such a great detail that it has got to be based in a true experience. It’s just one of those amazing things. It’s towards the end of the book, so I don’t want to spoil for people. Just putting it out there. As a fellow lover of rom-coms, what are your top three favorite romantic comedies?

Alexa: Books, let’s see. Oh, gosh, books are so hard because I love so many of them. I’m trying to think of what I’ve — oh, no. I should’ve known this was coming. I don’t know why I do this.

Alisha: You could also choose movies or TV shows.

Alexa: For books, one of the ones that I hold very dear and near to my heart is The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. I still remember the first time I saw that cover. The main character’s name is Alexa. Loved that book. You know what is another great one? Since it’s the holidays, In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren is one of the most wonderful, gentle — I hugged that book so many times. You can just hug it. I love it so much. There’s a scene where they’re laying underneath the Christmas tree and looking up. It’s my favorite scene.

Alisha: I love that.

Alexa: Then, let’s see, what else? What is another? A lot of the books of romance that I love, I really love a suspense romance. The Roommate by Rosie Danan, was that rom-com? It’s very spicy. I do love that book.

Alisha: I think so. We’ll count it.

Alexa: Okay, thank you so much. My favorite movie rom-com — I don’t even know if it’s rom-com, but my favorite is Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Alisha: Great movie.

Alexa: I could watch that movie every single day. About Time, which I also don’t know is technically a rom-com, I love a time travel — I love that movie so much. Do I want to choose a Julia or a Sandra?

Alisha: It’s tough. I ask this question knowing full well that I would struggle to answer my top .

Alexa: There’s so many of them. I’m trying to think. I watched 10 Things I Hate About You with my daughter. That is a great one still.

Alisha: How did she like it?

Alexa: She liked it. She’s getting into romance. She, right now, is — people will judge me. I don’t care. We watched Bridgerton. I did fast-forward through the sex scenes.

Alisha: Season one?

Alexa: We watched season two together, which was much less spicy.

Alisha: Season two had barely any sex scenes. That’s fine.

Alexa: She’s super into them. Not that she needs press, but Julia Quinn is the kindest person in the entire world. I told her that Harlow loved the books, and so she signed some and sent them to her for her birthday. She signed Bridgerton for her and on the inside of the box, wrote this little poem, like who did it, and put all of our family members in it. I really don’t think I’ll ever get her another gift that tops that.

Alisha: That is so amazing. Oh, my god, the perks of having a mom who’s an author, that’s pretty great.

Alexa: She’s the only person impressed by me. It’s literally only because of that.

Alisha: I love it. Alexa, what’s next for you? What are you working now?

Alexa: Oh, my gosh, I just turned in another book. Some of my other books recently have had the heavier themes. This next one is just pure rom-com delight. It is called Nemesis Next Door.

Alisha: Great title.

Alexa: It’s so fun. It’s about a woman who is a television writer. She gets canceled. She gets caught on video destroying her ex’s car. It ends up on YouTube. It gets songified. She loses her job. She can’t get work, and so she has to move back to Ohio to her suburb with her parents where she finds out that one of her neighbors is her high school nemesis who is now on the HOA board. He also doesn’t like her. He wants her gone, so he issues her an HOA citation. She has to fight it. When she goes to fight it, they find out that the HOA president is moving. He’s going to run for HOA president. Just to get back at him, she runs against him for HOA president. It is just so much fun.

Alisha: That sounds great.

Alexa: The next-door shenanigans, the funny neighbors, the enemies-to-lovers trope, it’s so fun. I love that book so much. I just turned that in. I’m waiting for edits. I’m drafting a new project. Who knows if we’ll get it. I’m calling it my Tina Turner fan fiction book. I am obsessed with Tina Turner. I actually just finished reading I, Tina, her biography with Kurt Loder. Let me tell you, reading books that were written in the eighties versus now, I was like, Kurt Loder, we can’t say that anymore.

Alisha: It was a different time back then.

Alexa: It was a totally different time. So funny to read it then with — obviously, everybody still makes mistakes, but I very much try to be conscious of especially the things that I am writing and to be very inclusive. To see those and be like, you could never say that now, it’s just so funny to see how things have changed. I’m trying to start drafting and seeing if anybody wants it. We’ll see. wanting to write this book for about a year and a half now. I’m really excited to have the time and the space to finally explore it.

Alisha: I can see a whole Tequila Tina-themed Instagram Stories as soon as that book is ready. That’s so exciting. You’re so prolific in terms of your writing. You were on this podcast with your last book. You had some advice for aspiring writers. Do you have anything different having gone through pandemic times and writing a book? Any advice you want to share?

Alexa: I don’t remember what I said last time, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same, which is just to take the time to do it and to not overthink. Really, starting is the hardest part. Finishing is pretty hard too. Don’t let anybody tell you different. To just keep going and to not overthink it. I think it’s why my kids always say I’m so last minute. I know if I have a year to write, it’ll take me a year because I’ll keep going back and stopping. There are so many great resources. There are great craft books, if you’re into them. I love The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass and Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Your story is so important, even if you’re just like, this is — I just wrote a book about the HOA, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. I know that when people read it they’re going to have fun too. Whatever story you’re thinking about, to just not talk yourself out of it. We’re our own biggest critics. Just to allow yourself the time to write and to draft and to edit. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

Alisha: I love that. Your books are fun to read. I’m glad they’re fun to write. Alexa, it has been awesome chatting with you on this podcast. Better Than Fiction is out now. You can get your copy and listen to it in the car with your grandmother if you want.

Alexa: With your grandma’s best friend.

Alisha: Thanks so much, Alexa.

Alexa: Thank you.

Alexa Martin


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