Interview with Alexis Daria, author of Take the Lead

Check out our interview with Alexis Daria, author of the debut novel Take the Lead.

Please describe what the story is about.

When pro dancer Gina Morales is paired with Stone Nielson for a celebrity dance competition, she thinks the hunky reality TV survivalist is her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up for a showmance by the producers. As a Latina in Hollywood, Gina is hyperaware of her reputation, and Stone struggles with upholding family expectations while being true to himself. When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

She missed the hell out of him. The sex, but also the companionship. And it pissed her off that he made her realize how lonely she’d been before he lumbered into her life.

What do you want people to know about your book?

Take the Lead combines a hero from Alaska with a heroine from New York on the dance floor in LA. If you enjoy sizzling contemporary romance novels, dance movies like Dirty Dancing and Step Up, or dance shows like Dancing with the Stars, I hope you’ll enjoy this book!

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I learned I didn’t know as much about dance as I thought I did! Writing this book also helped me recognize themes that are important for me to include in my writing, such as Nuyorican representation (Gina is Puerto Rican from the Bronx), positive female friendships, and complicated families.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

Take the Lead started as a proposal last summer, and it took about a month to develop the outline, synopsis, and first chapters. I finished the first draft over a month and a half in the fall, and took another month to revise before sending out agent queries in January. Take the Lead is coming out on October 3rd, and the sequel, Dance with Me, will be out December 5th, so it’s been a busy year!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

My favorite part is planning the characters and the story before I start writing. I enjoy the mix of big-picture view (outlining) and detail-oriented thinking (character development). I highly recommend Story Genius by Lisa Cron for this process.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

Take the Lead was influenced by my love of dance shows and movies, and by the Alaskan reality shows scattered across cable TV. I wanted to twist the “fish out of water” trope—rather than throwing a “city girl” into nature, I plucked a guy from the wilderness and stuck him in the ballroom.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

My best thinking usually happens as I’m falling asleep, which is not terribly convenient. But I do my best writing work first thing in the morning.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

People may not know my background is in art. I majored in fine arts in high school, and computer arts in college. Four years ago, I decided to give writing the same attention I’d given art, and seriously pursue publication. And here I am!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Don’t be so precious with your process. I have a tendency to overthink, so this is a good one to remember.

What’s next?

Dance with Me, the second book in the Dance Off series, comes out December 5th, and I’m currently plotting three more stories in that world. I’m also revising a sci-fi romance novella with superheroes.


“A ballroom dance competition is a beehive of activity and emotion, and the intensity of that environment is conveyed very well in the first entry of the Dance Off duology. Personalities are well developed and the storyline flows smoothly, as locations change and the passion of the competition flares higher. Gina and Stone are a lovable couple who make it easy to root for them.”

—4 star review from RT Book Reviews

Available October 3rd from SMP Swerve.
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