With her fresh voice, vibrant characters, and modern storylines, Alexandra Warren should absolutely be a staple on your TBR lists.
Here are the highlights from our recent interview with her!
(If you’d prefer to listen to the conversation instead, you can do so here.)
Christina C. Jones: Let’s start off with you introducing yourself
Alexandra Warren: I am Alexandra Warren, I write Black Contemporary Romance with a focus on millennials. I have over 30 books published, and I am a full time author.
CCJ: Let’s get straight into it. From your first published work to your latest, where do you feel like you’ve grown and developed most as an author?
AW: I think just like becoming comfortable in my voice. You know, as you start to do more projects, you realize what you’re good at and what’s your sweet spot. You [realize] what you’re bringing to the landscape and what people appreciate about what you bring to the landscape. You settle into the confident voice [and go from not knowing] what you’re doing to knowing what you’re doing.
[In the beginning] you’re not at all sure what you’re doing and how people are going to respond to it. And now it’s like, OK, it’s really not about how people respond to it, it is more about what do I want to bring, what do I want to say? And how do I want to say it and standing by [that]
CCJ: Yes. And so you would say that coming to that place has been [about] time more than anything?
AW: Yes, definitely time and just more… you know, as you put more stuff out, you find your way. And so 30 books in, have it better figured out.
CCJ: Ok. So like you said, 30 books. That’s a lot of books! Your books are well reviewed, people like them, But with that comes pressure – certain expectations to live up to. Have you ever been tempted to step away from the pressure of all of that and write under a pen name?
AW: You know, I haven’t.
I haven’t gotten to that point, and I think it’s because I found a reader tribe that appreciates when I step out of my lane a little bit. They like to see me flex my writer muscles and do different things. They seem to appreciate that, even when it’s not the typical Alexandra Warren book, so I haven’t needed to yet.
CCJ: If you were to write something completely different from everything else you’ve ever put out but it’s still absolutely an Alexandra Warren project. What would that project look like?
AW: I definitely need to do some romantic suspense dabbling. That’s definitely something that I want to see for myself. I think people are ready to see it from me, too.
CCJ: What do you feel like is holding you back from moving forward with it? What do you feel is the barrier [preventing] you from moving forward with it?
AW: I think, in the beginning when I first thought about it – because this project has been on my mind for years now – it was just being intimidated by writing romance suspense And I think now its just figuring out where it fits into what I see for my writer year, my writer quarter or whatever. Just finding the time – finding the time that it feels right for me to do.
Having grown so much from when I first started that (unpublished romantic suspense) project, it would almost need an entire rewrite. It’s just finding the right time for me to do something like that.
CCJ: So romantic suspense is not really what we would find looking into your catalog, but it’s definitely something you want to get into it. In the meantime, if there was a project that you feel is quintessentially Alexandra Warren – something that would be the perfect introduction to your work?
AW: That would be If Only for the Summer, which is so crazy because [as I was] writing that book, I didn’t know that it was going to stick with me for this long. But I think this is the one that really captures what you’re going to get out of the majority of Alexandra Warren books – just the feel of it; the vibes, a little bit of humor, the super happily ever after and the super cute love story.
CCJ: I can co-sign all of those things as, it’s one of my favorite Alexandra Warren books. Speaking of If Only for the Summer, I’m going to say something about it that I don’t think is too much of a spoiler. The [main] characters are teachers. You were a teacher and so you have [kind of a] bridge between those characters, even if you, as a person, are very different from them.
Have you ever had any characters that were different from you? [Not even necessarily] different, but maybe their experiences, their background, whatever was so different from yours, that in the process of developing them, it caught you off guard and you were able to learn something [and expand] your mind just through the research for creating that character.
AW: So I think the person that comes to mind most recently will be Joella from Love Unsolicited. I don’t think I would’ve been able to write that character five years ago, because you definitely have to understand or have a more open mind to what she was about and what she was doing. I don’t know if I would have been as open or, you know, ready to take on somebody like her. She was a retired grifter. She came out of retirement for a little fun. She had a sweet side to her too, we get to see two sides of her. She definitely challenged me in a way, and I don’t think I would have been able to write her a long time ago. As I’ve gotten further in my career, I’ve felt more comfortable taking on somebody like her that was a lot different than myself.
CCJ: Do you feel like your readers responded well to her, overall? For the most part?
AW: I mean, you have people, you’re always going to have people that just are annoying.But yeah, overall, they loved her and they loved how confident she was. She was who she was. It wasn’t like she was ashamed about anything that she did. She was who she was. I think people really appreciate seeing characters like that.
CCJ: Speaking of the annoying people, do you read your own reviews and why? How did they inform your work, if at all?
AW: So I do read reviews, more so when I first drop something, just to see what people are grabbing from it right away. After the book has been out for a while, I don’t care as much anymore, but I like to see those first couple ones. Those are usually the people that devoured your book really quickly. And so you like to have just a little bit of positive feedback, but they don’t really change my work very much. Like, there’s never been a review that I saw and I’m like, “okay, I really need to think about that.” Because a lot of times it is not constructive criticism as much as it’s just somebody being kind of rude; saying things they wouldn’t necessarily say to your face. So that’s the kind of stuff you kind of just let it roll off your shoulder. There’s never been something that’s actually changed how I move forward in my writing career, thankfully.
CCJ: We like that energy! What about art? You know there’s books, there’s movies, music, paintings, sculptures, whatever. Is there any particular artist or movie or some other form of art other than your own, that you feel influences your work?
AW: Music, definitely. Music is huge for me. Typically, when I’m writing, I have some sort of playlist going, or an actual book playlist that’s already curated for the book that’s going. It just seems to put me in the right headspace, or put me in the certain mood that I need for certain scenes. And then sometimes I hear a song and I’m like, wow, that that could be translated so well into a book. So like Baggage Claimed, I literally heard a song [and] was like there needs to be a book about this song. And it happened. But yeah. Music. Music is huge for me.
CCJ: In a world where writing was not an option, and money and access was not an obstacle, what would you do instead for a living?
AW: For a living? I don’t know if I would make a career out of this, but I could see myself doing a ton of traveling. Not necessarily being like a whole backpacker, but I could definitely see myself exploring the world. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world, and there’s so much to see. There’s so much to learn and be inspired by. If money wasn’t an object, I would be outchea.
CW: Does that passion for travel inform your work, if at all? Like, maybe the characters or setting that you bring into your work.
AW: Absolutely. Any time that somebody references going somewhere or traveling , it is somewhere that I’ve been, because when I go places I’m taking it all in and [wondering] how else can I get people on it and let them know what’s going on in these different places. I really like to infuse some of that when I can. When there’s a travel situation, it’s going to be somewhere that I’ve actually been and can talk about very specific places.
CCJ: Looking back over thirty books and everything that has gone into that, Is there something that you would say, “ No way. Never again.”?
AW: I have a very specific answer to that, and that is to start my career off with a four book series. Like what? What were you thinking? Why? Who told you to do this?
It is so funny because I remember writing Freshman Year, putting it out, meeting readers based on that and them being like, “oh, so we’re going out with a senior year.”
And I’m like, “oh, you know, maybe whatever, whatever it is.” It’s like, girl, of course you are going to do it! Like you’re going to make it happen. But I think that held me back from being able to go into some other stuff earlier just because I needed to finish that off. So I definitely wouldn’t have started my career with a series, I love them. I do. But that was a wild choice.
CCJ: Ok. So speaking of early career, from 2015 to 2020, things have changed as far as being an indie author and the respect level and all these different ways that the landscape of being a black Indie has evolved. What are some trends you’ve seen that make you feel good about what the direction has been? What is something you would like to see less of?
AW: It’s amazing to see just how much this community has grown since the very beginning. There just weren’t very many of us doing this in the indie landscape. And if we were, it was like we were over here, over there, over there.
But to see an actual community form, and create some things and invite more people and really take off in a major way, so that new authors have something to come into. We didn’t really have anything to come into. We just popped on the scene. You know, maybe met each other and, you know, operated how we needed to. But they have different resources to come into. They have an actual community of readers that are looking for them specifically, like they’re not even necessarily looking for traditional books anymore. They’re looking for new, fresh indie voices. So this has been amazing to see. I’m glad to have gotten in on that early because it’s deep!
I don’t think there’s anything that I’d like to see less of.
CCJ: What would it take for you to consider not being in indie anymore? What would somebody have to come with, not even money….
AW: Oh, that was number one on my list, honestly.
CCJ: Which is understandable.
AW: It wasn’t number one. It really wasn’t. It was on the list, but it wasn’t number one. I have to have creative control like that. This is non-negotiable for me. Being an indie, that’s what we know. That’s the part that we love the most, is that we don’t have anybody that we have to please for our work to be able to get to consumers. So, yeah, full creative control is a must. And then a lot of money, a lot of money. We’re not talking baby advances, we’re talking big advances.
CCJ: So all over the Internet, there’s advice everywhere you go about how to be a writer, what romance should look like etc. What is one of those pieces of advice that are stated all the time that actually works; that actually mean something?
AW: Finding your lane. I think it’s like a cute little phrase. Find a lane. You know, do your thing, but like that really matters. We all have a space that we could operate in this grand scheme. If you can find a lane, and not necessarily be influenced by everything else that is going on and do your thing, I think that’s been helpful for me.
CCJ: So on the other side of that, what is advice that you wish would die in a fire?
AW: Outlines! No, just the idea of your romance fitting into a formula. I think sometimes it can limit your thinking in ways and we’ve been blessed as indies that we don’t necessarily have to do it. We do it kind of unconsciously sometimes. But I think if I went into romance thinking that it had to hit X, Y, Z, then my writing wouldn’t be what it is.
CCJ: So you have found your own lane and done it without any outlines.
AW: No, but when I sit down for a project, I don’t have this board of these characters and where they’re from and you know, all this other information about them. [I don’t have that the] first chapter is going to be this and the second chapter is going to be that. I can’t operate in those confines. As I get further into a project, I can start building some of that stuff but starting off, I just have to write.
CCJ: It’s worked for you for 30 books. For five years and 30 books. It works so you’re doing something right. Looking forward, what would you like to see for yourself and what would you like to see from your career, not even just, in the immediate?
AW: I would love to see my work in some sort of film form, whether that be a TV show or Web series or a movie or whatever. I would love to see these stories come to life in that type of format. I would love to see that. But right now, I’m really enjoying what I do and enjoying the pace that I’ve set for myself and, you know, enjoying meeting readers. I really enjoy all the different aspects of what I do so far. So it’s not that I’m pressed that I have to do something else or do something more just yet. But I could definitely see these books ending up somewhere else.
CCJ: We’ll look forward to it! Do you have anything else that you want people to know? Anything you want to say, anything you need to plug or put out there? I know you just had a new release, Oops!
AW: Yes, Oops is live! Cameron and Maverick who started to drive me crazy towards the end, but I love them so much. It’s an accidental pregnancy story. If you look at the cover, you’ll know that. They were a lot of fun and I think, like I said earlier about If Only for the Summer, its’ one of those projects that feels like mine. It has that same type of humor and fun and cutesiness. Not that it’s sweet because there’s definitely some drama too. But it’s a fun read. So, yeah,check that out.
CCJ: Thank you for sitting down with me, and being a part of all of this. I don’t know if y’all know, but when you see those new release lists and stuff like that, Alex is the one doing all of that. If you’re an author and you’ve reached out to Girl, Have You Read to get a feature, Alex is [the one] 99.9% of the time doing the scheduling and responding to your messages and really being on top of all of it. So I just want you to know that I appreciate you, if you don’t nobody else appreciate you.
AW: I appreciate that.
CCJ: For putting the time in, putting the effort to help build this community, you know, because it’s not about us. I still get people who are so surprised, like “wait a minute that’s you and Alex?” I don’t know who they think it is but it’s us.
AW: It’s some magicians back there.
CCJ: We’ve been doing this for a long time. This was going to be year four of our event, and Girl, Have you Read? had been in existence for almost a year, maybe a year when we decided to do the first event.
AW: By the time that the event happened, it was a year for sure.
I love what it has grown to be. I don’t know if either of us knew exactly what we envisioned it looking like years down the road but it’s so much fun. Shout out to you for keeping us together on the tech tip. I can copy and paste, but I aint coding nothing.
CCJ: Again, thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
ABOUT ALEXANDRA WARREN:
Alexandra Warren is a twenty-something year old Nebraska girl who enjoys teaching, blogging, traveling, and of course, writing. Contemporary Romance novellas are her absolute favorite to write as well as to read. With twenty-plus books under her belt, and more on the way, she is excited to see what 2020 will bring!
Learn more about Alexandra at www.actuallyitsalexandra.com , or find her on social media!
Buy her books: https://www.amazon.com/Alexandra-Warren/e/B00U6XWUYA
Sign up for her mailing list: http://eepurl.com/dqVnRz