Alexa Martin joins Zibby to discuss her latest novel, Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes, which is also her first standalone project. Alexa shares how she managed to write her first book, Intercepted, in just a month and how she caught the writing bug from a combination of creating a blog and reading the Fifty Shades of Grey series. The two also talk about the conversations around race Alexa seeks to start with her books, notably about the disparities in how Black mothers are treated, and how her fiction has offered her a space to work through grief she has endured in her personal life.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Alexa. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.

Alexa Martin: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.

Zibby: This is really fun. You’re not just the author of this book. You have a whole series of other books, and you have this. You are so prolific. I love it. It’s amazing. For people who aren’t familiar with you yet, please talk a little bit about Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes and what’s that about. I also just want you to describe your whole series, which is the coolest.

Alexa: Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is about two best friends who are kind of struggling and decide to move in with one another to help for financial and emotional support. They’re polar opposite. One is a single influencer. The other’s a single mom who is very by the book. It’s showing how they support each other. It’s really about moms and daughters and friends, just all of the relationships that women tend to have. Then my first series is a sports romance. It is four books. It is very loosely based off of the four years that I spent as an NFL wife. Eight years. Did I just say four years? Four books based off the eight years.

Zibby: Four books, four kids. It’s so funny. I know this will be released later, but as we’re recording it, the Super Bowl was last night. I’ve realized that I’m interviewing two different NFL wives this week. It’s my Super Bowl, NFL wife week or something. I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed an NFL wife before. When it rains, it pours. On your website, you said never ever that you were going to ever write about all this stuff. You said you moved to Green Bay. You had no friends and a baby. You were like, I’m just going to start. Tell me the story. By the way, between your book and your site and your Instagram, just so you know, you come off as the most likeable person ever. It’s basically like an invitation to be your friend.

Alexa: Thank you. That’s all I want. Please be my friend.

Zibby: I nod my head yes to “laugh out loud,” everything you write and say. I’m like, yes. Anyway, keep going.

Alexa: Gosh, my husband got drafted to the NFL when he was twenty-one. I was a baby. I think I moved out there when I was nineteen.

Zibby: You were married at nineteen?

Alexa: We got married when I was twenty. Then I had my first baby when I was twenty. We were in Baltimore. He played for the Ravens for the first three years of his career. Then I was pregnant with my daughter, and he got traded to Green Bay. It was just like, you were traded, move tomorrow, basically. I was, I think, thirty-six weeks pregnant. I was very, very pregnant. I had to pack up our apartment. My mom flew out. We drove from Baltimore to Green Bay. I met my doctor once before I — it was so funny. The people at the hospital were like, “This is your first appointment?” I was like, “Here. It’s my first appointment here.” They thought I was very negligent. I had my daughter Harlow a week or two after moving to Green Bay. I had literally no friends that year because I had an eighteen-month-old and a newborn. It is cold in Green Bay, if people don’t know that, so leaving the house wasn’t really anything — I can be very painfully shy. It’s hard for me to kind of jump into the mix. We were in Green Bay for two years. While were in Green Bay, I started a blog just to keep my family involved in everything that was happening. It was just like, my kids did this today. That was the entire blog. I don’t think anybody read it except for my mom and grandma, maybe my aunt. Then he left Green Bay. So two years in Green Bay. He left Green Bay and was picked up by the Giants. He was picked up for the Giants a few weeks before I gave birth to my third. I had scheduled an induction. They’re like, “Oh, no, he can’t come home on that day. He can come home the next day.” I was like, “Do you know how long twenty-four hours is when you are this pregnant with three small children?”

I think that was around the time I really started reading. I wasn’t a huge reader before. My grandma was like, “Have you read those Fifty Shade books? I’ve seen them everywhere.” I was like, “No, Grandma, I haven’t.” She’s like, “Everyone’s talking about them. Maybe you should read them.” I started reading them. It was like my gateway drug into reading. I just could not stop after that. Then Dash was born. We had to stay in Colorado by myself for three months with the three kids before Dash could fly. Then we went to New Jersey for a few months. It ended up being a couple months longer. I didn’t think they were that good that year. I remember being like, oh, cool, we’ll go home early, but they ended up winning the Super Bowl. It was a very long stretch of being there. Then I think he played a few more seasons before he ended up breaking his collar bone by a car accident right before preseason. That was the end of that. It was a lot of moving. It was a lot of babies. It did not feel glamorous. When I started writing, I was like, I will never write a sports romance. This is not fun. Who wants to read about this? The first version of Intercepted is not a sports romance really at all. I was really lucky. I was picked for this mentorship writing program called Pitch Wars. They were just like, “Why wouldn’t you? You have a really cool perspective. Maybe you should try.” I was like, “I don’t know.” Eventually, I was like, “Okay. Yeah, I’ll give it a go.” Really, I would’ve done anything for them to pick me. I just wanted to learn about writing because I had no idea what I was doing when I started. We got home from a vacation. I was like, I’m going to start writing a book. I locked myself in the basement. I didn’t tell anybody I was writing, not even my husband. Eventually, he was like, “What are you doing in the basement with the door locked?”

Zibby: She starts reading Fifty Shades. Next thing you know, she’s locked in the basement for hours at a time. I don’t even want to know.

Alexa: Exactly. So I was like, “Yeah, sure, I can do that.” The first book took me four years to write. They’re like, “You’d have to rewrite the book in about four weeks. Then we’ll give you rewrites. You’ll do edits in another four weeks. Can you do that?” I was like, “Yeah, sure. No problem.” Meanwhile, I was like, I can’t do that. It took me four years to write this. You want me to do it in a month? I had had my fourth child by then who was about a year. My mother-in-law had just had knee replacement surgery. She was staying with us. We had just moved back from Wyoming to Colorado. I was like, yeah, no problem. It was a lot of Red Bull and a lot of crying. That’s how I wrote Intercepted. It really all just spurred off from there.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. Wait, just because my husband’s a football fan and might care — I wouldn’t even know, but what is your husband’s name? What position did he play?

Alexa: Derrick Martin. He was a defensive back. He played cornerback and safety. He was really great on special teams, though. He was really good on special teams. That’s what he played. I mean, he played all of them.

Zibby: Sorry, that was for him. Intercepted gets picked up. Then did a traditional publishing firm buy the rights to all these other books? Is that what happened? What happened?

Alexa: I signed with my agent from Pitch Wars. Then we sent that out. Berkley picked it up. I got a three-book deal for that. I wrote Intercepted first, then Fumbled, then Blitzed. Blitzed was supposed to be the end of the series. In a wild, crazy, other-world turn of events, it was optioned for TV rights with Starz. They’re like, “Let’s throw one more book in there.” I was like, what do you mean one more book? I don’t know how to write football games any other way anymore. Then I wrote Snapped, which is a little different from the first three books, but I still really love it. Snapped, it’s about Elliot, who is biracial and raised by her white father, and Quinton, who is a quarterback who takes a knee on the field. It’s about Elliot really fully coming to understand her identity. I’m also biracial. I really connected with her. It was a pretty personal book, honestly.

Zibby: Is your dad white, the same as the book?

Alexa: No, it’s a little different. My dad is black. My mom is white. I was raised by my mom’s family. My dad passed when I was really young.

Zibby: I’m sorry.

Alexa: That’s okay. A long time ago, but thank you. I was raised by my white family and always never — I think it was learning to come to terms with my identity as an adult because I didn’t really notice it as much as a child. The microaggressions, you let pass. You don’t see them. Then you’re an adult and you’re like, oh, wait, I have a lifetime of realizing things that happened. They all kind of hit you at once, and especially during — I wrote that book in the end of 2019. Then 2020 happened. It was like, oh, no. The taking a knee, everything was more relevant than it was when it first happened. I was like, oh, this is a little nerve-racking.

Zibby: Then what happened? Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes is a departure, a different story, a friendship story, women-focused, not football. Tell me about how that came to be.

Alexa: Throughout the Playbook series, I really focused on the female friendships within those books. It got to a point where I was like, I kind of like writing these more than I like writing the romantic scenes. I threw out to my agent and my editor, “What do you think if we do one that’s more women’s fiction and more about female friendship?” They’re like, “Cool. Give us a list of four things, themes you would want to talk about.” “Female friendship, identity through mothership, mother-daughter relationships.” I can’t remember what the last one was. They’re like, “Yeah, that’s great. Write that.” My editor was like, “What if it was two moms that moved in together with all their kids?” I was like, “That might be too much mom-ing. I already have four kids.”

Zibby: You’re like, I don’t even want to write about that. I thought this was an escape for me.

Alexa: That stresses me out a little bit. Let’s do a little less kids. I really wanted to discuss, being a millennial type, a mother and a daughter. It really focuses on Lauren and her struggle being a single mom, relationship with her own mother, and then Jude’s relationship with Addy is kind of like a bonus mom, and really, her dysfunctional relationship with her mom and how that works. It was really important for me to use the — I don’t know if I want to say a message, but where it’s okay to set boundaries and protect yourself no matter who you’re protecting yourself from. Me and my mom were best friends. Then some stuff later in life happened. It was really hard. I could never set those boundaries. It’s something that I really wanted to just see. It was really therapeutic for me to write this alternative ending to my life where everything could be . Hopefully, down the line there could be a happily ever after. Right now, just saying “this is what I need” is happy enough, putting myself first.

Zibby: Your mother did not pass away? I thought, from the acknowledgments, she passed away.

Alexa: Yeah, she did.

Zibby: She did.

Alexa: Yeah, at the end of 2020. It was a rough seven years before that. Like I said, my dad had passed away a long time ago. Not to fully turn this, but in the same year, one of her best friends died and her brother died. It was at the time where nobody got therapy. My grandma, I remember her telling me once that her friend had therapy. She was like, “She has seen him for a year now. She’s still going. You only need to go for a few months.” That was the thing. She’s like, “Now he’s just ripping her off.” I was like, “No, I don’t think that’s how it works, Grandma.” We never talked about mental health in that capacity. I think you can only bury trauma like that for so long before it rears its head. It’s something that I’ve been able to kind of understand since she passed. Before, it was a lot of hurts. It was really hard to see past everything that was going on. I was really afraid for her to read this book, so afraid that she would see. Some of the scenes felt like they were just really fully pulled from my life. I was really worried that she was going to see things and be hurt. Then it was wild because she passed before it came out.

Zibby: I’m sorry. That’s a lot to go through.

Alexa: 2020 hit everybody pretty hard.

Zibby: That doesn’t make it any less severe for you. Just because other people have bad years doesn’t make your bad years any less relevant.

Alexa: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Zibby: Wow, I’m really sorry. You’re so young, oh, my gosh. You just have so much on your plate. You’ve done all this great stuff. I’m like you in that I feel like when I have complicated stuff going on, I like to write about it. I’m not a fiction person, but you clearly are using this medium to sort out your stuff in some way, shape, or form.

Alexa: Yeah, everything. It is my nice, little version of therapy some days. I’m like, we’ll just put it in the book.

Zibby: I was just, before this, recording a bunch of my ads that are coming up for this show. I have this new sponsor, Cerebral. I was saying this ad about how mental health is so important. You can get free meds. Not free meds, but you can get medicine and all this stuff. I’m thinking to myself, hmm. I’m like, I better beeline to this app now myself. All to say, therapy never hurt a soul.

Alexa: Ever. It is the best thing. That was the other thing I was really proud of in Mom Jeans, is to show therapy on the page, not just allude to it. There’s therapy. Go to therapy. It is necessary for most people, maybe everyone.

Zibby: I like how in Mom Jeans, too, you also show, because — Jude is an Instagram person. You have all this talk about how she’s being so perfect. Yet that’s not her life either. What does it mean when you’re trying to show that you’re perfect and yet your life is not like that? I’m trying to find one of the many parts here that I dogeared. As I said, some of these, I did a long time ago. Basically, does it make sense to portray a life of perfection when inside — she was saying her mom — in relationship to how her mom did it, here she is taking her life — you know what? Her own life isn’t perfect, but she’s making this her job. So be it. She’s taking the raw material that her mom had to handle in a totally different way. She’s like, yeah, so? You know what? I’m packaging it up in this way. Tell me a little bit about that.

Alexa: I love Jude so much. I think my favorite character is just a hot mess who means well. I think that is Jude to a T. She is such a disaster, but she loves really hard. You can tell. She loves Lauren. She loves Addy. She is a Pilates influencer. Her mom is a Real Housewives-type character who just derailed her life. Her mom was like, come do this, and it kind of snowballed into her life. Now what she was left with was this influencer career that she actually takes very seriously. It’s funny. She’s mentioning her sheets that photograph well, but the rest of her room is covered in boxes and is a mess. She alludes once to, the great thing about vodka is it looks like water in a picture. It’s just showing what you see on Instagram might look really pretty, but if you step away, it really could be a full hot mess. In a time where we’re really comparing ourselves to everything we see as we scroll, it was really interesting to dive into that world and see all of that. I listened to influencer podcasts. I took a few influencer courses to see everything behind them and how they set things up. It really is a job for so many people, a full-time job that takes a lot of time and a lot of planning. I can’t even post on my Instagram every week. For people to have these relevant posts every day, that takes a lot of time.

Zibby: You had the cutest picture on your Instagram of your baby in a football helmet. Oh, my gosh, that was the cutest thing.

Alexa: Our newborn pictures. Yeah, we shoved Harlow in a little Green Bay helmet. So cute. I love newborn pictures.

Zibby: It’s true. I listened to Jo Piazza’s podcast called “Under the Influencer” where she did an exposé on influencers and mom influencers in particular and sites like LikeToKnowIt and all of those places where you monetize everything. You have a picture. You’re like, and now, buy my scarf. I was like, ooh, maybe I could do that. I applied. I actually had COVID at the time, and I forgot I even applied because I was in bed. I was like, let’s see if they take me. Then they took me. I was like, how did I get this? I tried for a day. I was like, oh, okay, how hard can this be? I’ll add these things. I was like, this is a job. I cannot add this job to my plate. You have to be so strategic and focused, and links everywhere. I was like, oh, no, I’m too tired. I’m just letting this one go. I can’t do it right now.

Alexa: At a certain point, I feel like we see those links everywhere. It’s just like, do you really mean this? There are some people that are great for it. I’m like, oh, they posted it. I must buy it now. I will buy anything that you post.

Zibby: I went to Target with my mom a couple months ago. I bought these brown shoes. I literally wasn’t sure if they were hideous or not. I posted a picture of me wearing these. They were clog boots or something. They were super comfortable. I posted a picture in the morning. I was like, are these ugly or not? Then all these people went and bought the shoes. They were like, no, they’re amazing. I was like, oh, my gosh. Then next thing I knew, people were taking pictures of themselves wearing the shoes. Meanwhile, half the people still thought they were really ugly. I was like, this is wild. This is really wild. Accidental bootfluencer or something.

Alexa: What a time to be alive.

Zibby: Right? So funny. Delighted. Great. They’re super comfy. I’m glad anybody bought them.

Alexa: I want somebody to show me comfy shoes because I cannot wear heels anymore. After I had my second or third kid, the bones in my ankles shifted. I don’t know. I tried to put on heels. I’m like, nope. They don’t work anymore.

Zibby: I just went to my dad’s seventy-fifth birthday, this very small thing. I had to wear heels with a red dress. I was like, I’m never doing this again. This is terrible. I’m like, I just can’t. That’s my once-a-year, maybe, moment. The book, so much of this is about relationships and all that, but you do have quite a bit about how black women are treated in hospitals, particularly pregnancy when you are black. Tell me a little bit about that.

Alexa: I am very thankful — it’s probably bad. I had my children so young that I was so ignorant to the numbers and everything that I wasn’t scared. I think if I were to get pregnant now, I would be terrified because the mortality rate for black women is just so much higher. Then you hear these stories of Venus Williams and Beyoncé who also weren’t listened to. You’re like, okay, if they’re not going to listen to them, who are they going to listen to? It’s this really sorted, ugly history that we have of how we don’t really — for one, the strong black woman trope, we think we can just handle more. Also, not believing black women when they say they’re in pain or when they say they need medicine and just not taking these things as seriously. The numbers of black women who die is just so much higher. I’m so glad that people are starting to talk about it. It’s terrifying. Obviously, things can’t change until we talk about it more. It’s something that I wanted to kind of tap into.

In this book, it is pretty underhanded. I didn’t want to hit people over the head with race things. Actually, I feel like most of the conversations dealing with race actually come from Jude, who is white, and not Lauren, who is black. I think sometimes it’s easier to take things in when it feels like it’s just a friend telling you instead of somebody yelling or preaching at you. Throughout the book, Lauren alludes to it. We finally find out what had happened and how she was telling people, I need help. They’re just like, oh, you’re fine, or, if you would’ve told us in a calmer voice, we could’ve listened. It’s that. It’s the aggressive label that gets slapped on black women so easily and how that affects how we’re seen. I would like to say that most times it’s inadvertent. It’s just so built in, these stereotypes, that it’s hard to notice them. I was talking to my friend the other day. When you’re raised in — we all have our prejudices. We all have things we need to unlearn. I think that these past few years have really taught us that we all have things. Unlearning is so important. It’s not enough to just be like, oh, I’m not racist. You have to be fully anti-racist. You have to unlearn all these things that have been slowly ingrained into you without even noticing.

Zibby: Very true. I didn’t mean — it was not being hit on the head. It was conversation. It was very artfully done and all of that, but it made the point because it’s important. It’s really important everybody remember and take it in and do something about it.

Alexa: Yeah, and to understand that these numbers are actually real. This isn’t just people complaining. These are lives being lost. This is something that is actually happening. Like I said before, we have to be aware of it. You can’t change things if people don’t know. I’m not saying that my book is going to make everybody aware.

Zibby: No, but whatever. Have you read a memoir by Jodie Patterson called The Bold World?

Alexa: No.

Zibby: You should read it. She’s so amazing, by the way. Actually, listen to it. I did half listen and half read. She narrates the book, so it’s really good. She has many kids too. She got COVID before COVID was even really a thing. I want to say in February. She had a whole section on how, as a black woman, she was completely not taken seriously and stripped of her glasses and her makeup and her nice clothing. The fact that she was such a badass at work and all this stuff — she was completely ignored. Everybody treated her — it’s not about that. That’s just one little scene in the book, but it’s a great book anyway. I recommend it all the time. Anyway, whatever, I’m getting totally off track. What books do you have coming? Are you writing another book? If so, what’s that about?

Alexa: I just turned in edits for my next book that comes out in the fall. It is another romance. It is called Better than Fiction.

Zibby: I love that.

Alexa: It’s about a woman who doesn’t like books but inherits a bookstore from her grandma. Now she’s a bookstore owner. A very attractive author comes in who’s invited by her grandma’s friends, this old lady book club. They are always meddling in her life, and so they try to set her up with this new author. He is in town writing his book. It’s set in Colorado. She was a photographer, and so the old ladies offer her up to show him, be his guide. In turn, he assigns her a book bucket list and does dates around the books to turn her into a book lover. It’s this really sweet book that, for me, feels so pandemic-written because it is them just exploring the outside world for most of the book. If I can’t get outside, somebody’s going outside. They just wander around reading books and falling for each other. Then also, because apparently, this is just what I do, it also kind of touches on her learning to focus on herself and put herself first and move past the grief of losing her grandma. I was like, it’s going to be light and fluffy. Nothing bad is going to happen. I was like, wait, she just inherited it from her grandma. Never mind. Grief.

Zibby: That sounds amazing. Do you have a pub date for that?

Alexa: I’m not sure of the exact date. I know it’s fall 2022, so fall of this year.

Zibby: So cool. Oh, my gosh, I have to read that.

Alexa: I’m really excited with how it turned out. It was hard for me to write. I think I had a delayed grief after my mom. Right as I was in the middle of this, I was just punched in the face with it. I was like, oh, no. Thankfully, I just reread it while I was doing these edits, and I was like, oh, no, I like it. Then I’m starting to draft my next book. It doesn’t have a full title. In my head, I’m calling it HOA Holes. It’s about a woman who moves back home with her parents and goes to war with the local HOA. I’m really excited for that one. I’ve been wanting to write an HOA book for years.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. You’re really good at titles, by the way.

Alexa: Thank you. My agent was like, “I don’t think that’s going to work.” I was like, “Well, that’s what I’m calling it.”

Zibby: I love it. I think it’s awesome. I am so excited to follow your career because I love your voice. You have such a great voice on the page. It just jumps right off. It makes you love the characters. Seriously, it makes me want to be like, all right, let me get past the characters. Who is this person? Let me peer behind the curtain. I’m delighted to have had a chance to get to know you. You are as delightful as I anticipated, so that’s great.

Alexa: Thank you.

Zibby: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Alexa: I know this is so cliché, but honestly, just write. When I sat down to start writing, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me forever. Just actually starting to write and then reaching out and finding a community. I actually found my first writing partner in a mom group. We were both due in March 2015. She had mentioned, “I want to be an author.” I was like, “Me too. You want to send each other pages?” We really, every week, sent each other a chapter. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. She actually just got a book deal. Her book is coming out now too. It’s really exciting. We were just like, “You’re so good. You’re so good too.” That’s all it was, so finding support because it can be really lonely. Sitting down and finding one person that you can trust not to just stop on you is really important.

Zibby: I love that. Aw, that’s so great. Please send me the next book when it’s —

Alexa: — I will.

Zibby: I really am excited to read. Congratulations. This is really inspiring and really awesome. Thank you.

Alexa: Thank you so much. This was so fun. You made me put makeup on for the first time in months.

Zibby: I barely have any makeup, so sorry.

Alexa: Barely, but something. My kids are going to be like, why are you so dressed up? I’m in a sweatshirt.

Zibby: I’m like, if I can get the mascara on, that’s the biggest thing. If somebody were ever to ask — not that anyone would care what I would bring to a desert island or anything. I would bring mascara. That’s my one beauty thing.

Alexa: Smart. It’s a good one.

Zibby: Otherwise, I look super old. I mean, I still do. Bye. Thank you so much.

Alexa: Bye. Thank you.

Zibby: That was super fun. Thanks. Bye, Alexa.

Alexa: It was nice meeting you. Bye.



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