Neely Tubati Alexander, IN A NOT SO PERFECT WORLD

Neely Tubati Alexander, IN A NOT SO PERFECT WORLD

Neely Tubati Alexander returns to the podcast, this time to discuss IN A NOT SO PERFECT WORLD, a delightful Carribbean-set romp about a quirky video-game designer and the hot next-door neighbor who invites her on a luxurious vacation… to pose as his new girlfriend. Neely talks about the romance genre (and all the fun tropes!), her creative process (and the challenges of crafting dialogue and picking the perfect word!), the evolving landscape of publishing, and the impact of TikTok on book sales. She also offers valuable advice for writers seeking to connect with others and navigate the publishing industry. 


Zibby: Welcome, Nealey. Thank you so much for coming on Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books to discuss in a not so perfect world. 

Neely Tubati: Thank you. I'm excited to chat. 

Zibby: I wish we were on a beach in Turks and Caicos today and not, you know, at our desks doing work and talking about books and all of that. I wish we were just reading on the beach.

Okay, tell listeners what your book is about, please. 

Neely Tubati: Sure, so In a Not So Perfect World is about Sloane, who is a video game designer, doomsday planner who is working towards landing her dream job at a top video game design company. And she is approached by her neighbor Charlie to go on an all inclusive trip to, all paid for trips to Turks and Caicos to a resort and the catch is that he is using her to make his ex jealous. So she decides to go to use the time away to work on building the game design that will help her land her dream job, all while trying to avoid catching feelings for her hot neighbor. 

Zibby: Hot, interesting choice of words since they, one of their first interactions is in this fire room.

You know, smoldering, you know, aftermath of, of a, an apartment fire from their elderly neighbor. So yes. And a very funny meet cute situation. Not really cute. Meet thrust upon. I don't know. Thrust upon cute. I don't know. Attack. Not attack. Anyway, where did this idea come from for you? 

Neely Tubati: Oh gosh, well, my husband and I went to Turks and Caicos, I think what it ended up being our last vacation prior to COVID, we used to take an international trip every year and that was our last before COVID and ironically haven't really done it since, just because of, you know, everything has gotten so busy and life has changed, but, um, I didn't know at the time that I was doing book research, but it was really cool to go back and look at the photos and kind of relive the trip a little bit and look at some of the places and include them in the book, which is always fun.

And my debut Love Buzz was a book that sort of towed the line between women's fiction and romance. And I really wanted to dive into the romance part this time and, and kind of went the opposite direction of where in Love Buzz they didn't spend a ton of time together on the page, the two main characters.

This one, I thrust them into a trapped together in paradise situation so it was really more just wanting to dive fully into the romantic comedy space on this one. 

Zibby: I've learned more lately about the different tropes like for the rom coms and like you know enemies to lovers this and you know how do you feel about Tropes and you know, are there really just these categories?

I don't know, I feel like all books are so different, but can they be reduced to the main tropes of romcoms? 

Neely Tubati: Yeah. I love the tropes and I think that's a lot of why people come to the romance space, because there's a comfort in kind of seeing these same tropes over and over again. You know, what you're gonna get at the end of a book for the most part.

You know, you're gonna get a happily ever after or happily. For now, I tend to stay in more of the happily for now type of camp because I'm, I'm more too much of a pessimist to go all the way to the. But, you know, I think that's why people like this romance space, because there are new ways of being able to, to talk about and incorporate these sort of old tropes.

When you think about movies and romance movies in particular, and rom coms that you watch, they all sort of follow the same, you know, situations. How many movies have you watched where there's one bed, or there's fake dating, or You know, force proximity and we, we still love it, right. We love kind of reliving and having these situations happen over and over again.

There's a sense of comfort in it, which I think is part of why people come to the romance genre to begin with. Do you go to the romance genre for that? I do. Yeah. I think as the world, you know, just continues to feel heavy, it's harder for me to read really heavy books. You know, there's always a time and space and mental space that you're in where, you know, you go to certain books for certain things, but I think more and more, for me at least, and I'm seeing this from readers too, that we really kind of are gravitating towards books that feel really escapist and can feel light and fun and kind of take its out of the heaviness of the real world right now.

So I like the idea of being able to provide that for, for people even for a little bit. 

Zibby: Yeah and tell me more about how you got your start with Love Buzz and writing in general and your background and all of that. 

Neely Tubati: Yeah, so I had kind of always started and stopped over the years, over the course of like 20 years.

I always had this dream of writing a book and never you know, finished it. I have that folder that a lot of authors have on my computer of, you know, 10, 000 words here and 20, 000 words here of just things that I started and never finished. And then COVID hit and my story I think is similar to a lot of other authors that I've heard on your podcast and others talking about, you know, that really was a time of self reflection and I had An online kindergartner at home.

I had a toddler at home. My husband and I were both working from home. I have, I'm an entrepreneur in real life and I, you know, was working with a lot of startups and so they were really going through it. And so I lost kind of half of my business overnight. And so I really, at the end of the day, I would go lock myself in our guest room and pretend I was at a hotel or anywhere else.

And I really viewed it as my self care time of being able to go in there. It was the thing that I started to look forward to at the end of the day and write. And it was the first time that I had written something from start to finish. And I think there's something that sort of unlocks in your brain.

Once you've done it once, you feel like you can do it again. And that was sort of the opening of the floodgates of, of being able to kind of continue to move forward. 

Zibby: And do you work with the same editor as last time? Like, are you in a rhythm now?

Neely Tubati: No, so I, my editor for Love Buzz ended up leaving Harper R.

Collins when, uh, right before the book came out. So then I started working with a new editor on book two. So it's been a great experience because I've gotten to see two different styles of, of of work and how editors can work and how they interact, but with largely the same team because I'm still at St.

Imprint. So that's been a nice, you know, there was still that level of security and similarity of what we went through with the first book to the second book, but got to work with someone new from an editorial perspective. 

Zibby: Very cool. And how was that process? I was, I don't know, I was like looking at one sentence and I was like, I wonder how she got to that sentence.

Like, why did they, she leave this part and like, you use interesting words too when you're like, what did you say? I don't know. Anyway, just like how you pick word choice and how much the editor has to do with that and all of that. Just go from there. Now I'm trying to find this word that I was like, wow.

Neely Tubati: Yeah. Now I'm curious for me. Like if it's always an evolution. So first draft is very much, I consider it unconscious stream. I have to be really disciplined about not moving away from the screen to go look up a word or, you know, do research on anything and just kind of saving it and bracketing it for later.

I'm a real, uh, I, that's the part that I'm the most sort of disciplined about, which is to not distract myself from just kind of unconscious stream in that regard. And then as we got further along, my editor was really great. She does a lot from a copy edit, edit perspective as well. And usually those are things like cutting out any words that we don't need and getting it really crisp and clean.

But the word choice and things like that tends to be, you know, my own. Editors are really, really good at not interfering with. the voice and, you know, word choice and things like that. They are looking at continuity and they're looking at, you know, making things make sense and pointing out potential bad habits that you have.

I think I used goose bumps like 75 times in the book and so that was one of the things that she had pointed out in the chat and said, maybe we don't use it again here. So, You know, things like that I think are really valuable, but I, I really believe good editors know that they go just up to the line, you know, and then, and will kind of help you with everything up to that point, but don't cross that line of interfering with, you know, the voice and tone and integrity of the authorship of the words, if that makes sense.

Zibby: Yeah, of course. Love it. Well, here, I couldn't find the word I was talking about, but as I was flipping through, let me go through a few because it's, I, I'm putting this out because Trying to write novels myself. You always think, like, how can I say said another time? She said, he said, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, so here are a few that you have. Mumbles, she mumbles, she whispers, she squawks. That's a good one. I'm saying this out of appreciation, by the way. This is great. 

Neely Tubati: Well, it's funny you say it because Emily, my editor, had called me out a couple times during edits and said, breeds is not a dialogue tag?

Like I kept saying she breathed. She kept reminding me that that is not a dialogue tag. So I was called out a few times for using ones that were not, were not appropriate. 

Zibby: That's really funny. Well, anyway, what are your thoughts in general on like even the notion that there could be some sort of perfect world?

Like isn't it a not so perfect world for like everyone at every time, particularly now? Like what is the, what are some of the main messages of the book? 

Neely Tubati: Yeah. Well, she's an apocalyptic video game designer and doomsday planner, natural. pessimist. The book is dedicated to the pessimists. I'm one of those people.

And I think it was more about, you know, he's kind of this internal optimist. And so I guess it does have, when we talk about tropes, like kind of that grumpy sunshine aspect as well, but he's the sunshine. And I think it was more about how we You know, everyone is existing in sort of this imperfect, imperfect world.

She's sort of waiting for doom and gloom to happen because she spends her life preparing for it and finding someone who can counter that for you. And they don't make it perfect, but they come in and kind of change your view of the world. And it sort of goes back to that saying of you see what you're looking for, right?

Regardless of where you are. And so helping her just sort of see those things differently, I think was really fun to, to explore. Awesome. Do you play video games? I don't know. I mean, I have some mobile games that I play, but it was really cool to do research, especially when I found out, and I think I even put this sentence in the book, but video games are, that industry is bigger than music and film and TV combined.

It is a huge, huge industry and we don't see a lot of representation in, you know, the film world and TV and in books. So it's cool to see that starting to emerge a little bit. 

Zibby: Are there awards for video games? There must be. What are they called? Like, what's the Oscars of video games? You know? 

Neely Tubati: Yes. I even, I think I have it listed in the book and now it's escaping.

Zibby: You do? Oh my gosh. 

Neely Tubati: There's a full, you know, design and, you know, graphics and characters just like you would have for, for novels or for film and TV.

Zibby: I don't know why that should surprise me. Where did your knowledge about teeth come in? I know this is like the opening page, but where did that come from?

Have you lost a tooth? Did a friend lose a tooth? 

Neely Tubati: No, that was part of the character research. You know, Sloane is someone who, again, is like a doomsday planner. And so she has a lot of tips. She talks about, so that was a very interesting kind of Google search history too of figuring out like all these for chapstick and, you know, and all the things you can do with sort of everyday things in your home.

But no, that was part of the research for Sloan because she's, she's a very prepared person. So I, I very much learned a lot about what you can do to survive in certain situations. 

Zibby: Gosh, I like to think that there are some redeeming qualities, like survival skills that could come out of. Video games since my Oh, for sure.

It's often play . Wait, tell me more about your real job, quote unquote, as you call it, in the entrepreneurial space. What is that? 

Neely Tubati: So I work as an HR consultant, so I work with a lot of startups and small businesses and provide them human resources support in a consulting capacity because a lot of small.

Businesses don't need a full time HR person internally, but they do need directive and support when they have challenges and to helping to build out their internal operations. So yeah, it's really fun to work with kind of other entrepreneurs and just feed off of their energy and excitement and I find that really fun.

Zibby: Have any of the companies you've worked with? Like taken off, Shark Tank style. 

Neely Tubati: Oh gosh, let me think about that. There have been a few that I've really watched. Usually when they come to me, they are in a high growth mode, right, because everything is changing and they need a grasp on what is happening internally to be able to help support that growth.

So most of them are typically in a high growth phase, which is fun to be part of. 

Zibby: And how long did it take for you to write this whole thing? 

Neely Tubati: So I started writing this book when I was querying Love Buzz. And so really I used it as a distraction from the ups and downs of querying, and any author who's queried knows that is a rollercoaster of emotion.

You can get a love buzz. full request and three rejections in the same day from hour to hour, right? So I used it very much as a distraction. I wrote much of the first draft while I was querying and then I kind of worked on it through that process and I had a rough draft that I was able to submit when we went on submission and it was sort of in good enough shape to be able to share as as part of a two book deal, which was exciting.

Wow. Was this always the title? No. No, they've changed both my titles. What were they both? Lovebites was initially One Night on Bourbon Street, and then In a Not So Perfect World was originally If the World Was Ending, which they felt was too dark for a rom com, so I begrudgingly agreed. That's really funny.

Yeah, that would have matched the the song title component with Love Buzz. 

Zibby: And what is coming next? What are you working on now? 

Neely Tubati: Yeah. So my third book is with my editor now for first look. So that's exciting. She's reviewing it now. And then we may go on submission. I don't know. We'll see what happens with it.

And so then It's out in the world. I am drafting book four, trying to keep up with a book a year. We'll see how long I can kind of maintain that. 

Zibby: Do you put it in your calendar? Like the days that you go into the guest room and like hide yourself away and pretend you're not in your life? 

Neely Tubati: How do you know when to do that?

I don't do that so much anymore. I tend to, and I shouldn't even say this, but I tend to write when my kids are at school and kind of really take the morning. I think it's very important to know kind of how you best operate and where you, your creativity kind of works the most. For me, it's in the morning.

When my kids are gone, I need uninterrupted time for writing. I can do, HR work and kind of, you know, other work with some distress level, some level of distraction. So I tend to take the time that my kids are at school. And I would say that one of the life changing things for me was once my kids were all, were both in the same school on the same schedule and not, you know, multiple pickups and drop offs and things like that.

So, you know, there's always a season. That's hard and then it starts to get easier as these things start to align so I've definitely taken advantage of that. 

Zibby: I feel like it's hard to switch gears from like kid drop off to like crazy creativity. You know, that is hard. I'm like imagining authors all over the place, dropping off.

I don't know. I don't know. I feel like I need to write on the weekends or like where there's no big time commitment and I don't know. Um, my, my fiction muscle is not as well developed as yours. 

Neely Tubati: Well, I will say I tend to be getting right into the groove of things right when I have to stop to go pick them up.

Right? So it always seems to end up that way where I'm having to stop at a point that I really don't want to and I'm kind of in it. So that's always a little bit challenging, but, but that's good because it must be easier to pick back up. You would think.

Zibby: Who are some authors that you love to read? Oh, gosh. 

Neely Tubati: Well, in this space in particular, I mean, Emily Henry is obviously one, is the queen. I think she's, every book she writes is fantastic and I really love how great she is at snappy dialogue. That's one of the things that I really enjoy when reading in this space.

Kennedy Ryan is amazing. Tia Williams is amazing. So, you know, I, I tend to enjoy some of the the main folks that other people enjoy as well. I think that there's a lot of up and coming great talent in this space too. Ali Palmer's debut, I think it hasn't come out yet, but I think it's coming out in August, is really great.

Naina Kumar's book, Say You'll Be Mine, that just recently came out is really great. So there's a lot of, there are a lot of newer, um, Roman man's authors that are really breaking into the scene that are, are exciting to watch. And I'm excited to see what they come out with next as well. How do you feel about TikTok?

Well, I am, I've never posted anything. I am a pure lurker, so I'm on there a lot, but I've never actually contributing in any way other than been lurking. You know, I think that it can't be ignored. When we look at the New York Times bestseller list and the books that are selling, TikTok is clearly dominating from an influence perspective of what people are buying, so it can't be ignored.

I think authors feel pressure to participate in some way. My view is If it's not natural to me, that's going to come across. I'm not someone who's like particularly good at or comfortable on camera, especially when I'm recording myself. So I think that the organic component of it, which is other people being really excited about your books and those types of situations are more real and honest than an author trying to put things out and, you know, go viral or whatever it is on TikTok.

So I, I tend to think that there's more opportunity when you write a good book and get it into the people, into the right hands and allowing those people to sort of do those things for you because they're better at it and more authentic when they do. Well, how do you feel about it? 

Zibby: I tried to use it. It takes me so long to do something really short, which I can do in a reel really quickly.

I don't know. I feel like I have spent the time getting to know Instagram. I, but I, I'm aware that I'm like, I'm just missing the biggest steel book platform around. So how can I justify that? I don't know. I haven't been able to master it. And I can't even like figure out how to find the right people. I don't know.

I don't find it intuitive. So I have a hard time with it. 

Neely Tubati: Yeah, it's tough. And I don't know that, you know, publishers don't necessarily know how to. Rain it in either. So it's just sort of this thing that's out there that is hard to, to navigate. 

Zibby: I need to like, like throw a pebble in. Have it ripple. Just like from afar, you know, like I need to like not be in the fountain but anyway, nevermind. What advice do you have for aspiring authors? 

Neely Tubati: I've heard people say on this show. podcast before find your community. And so I hate to say the same thing, but I think that also what I've seen a lot on threads or on Instagram is that people say, you know, I hear, I hear authors say find your community, but where are these people?

How do I actually find them and do it? And so I think the more valuable resource is where do you find these people? And the reality is it does take putting yourself out there a little bit. There are lots of groups online that you just have to do some research on. Moms Who Write is a great Facebook group.

that I found my, my very first writing group through. There are podcasts that will do matchups with authors and, you know, similar genres. Anytime I see someone post in like this Moms Who Write group, for example, saying, Hey, I'm in this area of the world. I write this. Is anyone interested? Or, you know, in meeting up or, you know, doing critique partners, there'll be dozens of responses.

So there are a lot. of ways to find those folks, but you have to kind of put yourself out there a little bit to, to find them but it is invaluable and I think I would go so far as to say necessary to be able to navigate this space because it is hard and it is isolating and you need other people to, to be able to support you and help you navigate it.

Zibby: What three things would make your life more perfect? 

Neely Tubati: Oh gosh, well the next book to y'all, let's put that out there. 

Zibby: Okay. Okay. Universe. 

Neely Tubati: Go ahead. I'm just going to universe that. I would say more time, but that's not really true, right? We're always going to be navigating the time that we have and kind of maximizing it, therefore always feeling like there's not enough.

So I think more than anything, I would want to have the ability to give myself grace more and just be comfortable with, you Some days I'm going to be really good at this, some days I'm going to be really good at this, and they're probably not going to be the same day. And just being kind of comfortable with that I think would be the biggest thing that I could do.

Zibby: Last question, if you could go to a beach anywhere in the world today, where would you go? 

Neely Tubati: Gosh, well I'd like to be back in Turks and Caicos on that, on that beach again. Yeah. Absolutely. That's an easy one. 

Zibby: Even just like looking at this, it's like, ah,... 

Neely Tubati: Yeah, with the rum punch in hand. Yes. 

Zibby: I mean, I, and by this, I mean the cover for people listening.

You can tell the envy feeling and the need for some relaxation and rum punches. Sounds good but that's why it's so great. All you have to do is open up a book and you're right there for those of us who can't hop on and take time off. There you go. In a not so perfect world. Which can make your existing world a little bit more perfect.

There you go. Your ad campaign. 

Thank you, Nealey, so much for coming on. And thank you, by the way, also for coming to the event in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Literary Society of the Southwest that my mom put on. So I loved meeting you in person. 

Neely Tubati: Yes, it was so fun to meet in person and it's, it was really cool, especially after kind of interacting online, when you get to meet someone in person, it's always really fun.

Zibby: Was I different than you thought? 

Neely Tubati: You were exactly what I was hoping for. 

Zibby: Aww. Really? That's such a nice answer. All right, thank you. Have a great day. 

Neely Tubati: Thank you. 

Zibby: Take care. All right. Thank you, Nealey.

Neely Tubati Alexander, IN A NOT SO PERFECT WORLD

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