In the beginning, Alexa Martin had promised herself she wouldn’t write about football. Given that her debut novel—released on September 11—is named Intercepted, you’d correctly guess that something derailed her plan. Turns out, it was football.
For years, her life has revolved around the game. The Denver native met her husband, Derrick, in their leadership class at Thomas Jefferson High School, where they both served on student council. Weeks before he left Colorado to play defensive back at the University of Wyoming, he swiped Martin’s yearbook and scrawled, “Call me.”
Flash forward a few years of long-distance dating, and Derrick was drafted to the Baltimore Ravens. Martin had yet to declare a major at Colorado State University and planned to transfer, so when Derrick asked her to join him in Maryland, she packed up her Pontiac Grand Am and slipped into the life of an NFL girlfriend. She was a 19-year-old introvert, shocked by the number of BMWs in the parking lot at practice. Not long after she joined Derrick in Baltimore, the pair eloped.
So when, years later, Martin sought refuge from the life of a full-time mom and NFL wife, she hid in the basement with her password-protected laptop—she didn’t think she’d ever let anyone read her writing—and drafted a book. It was a mess, she says, a mishmash of romance and other genres, but it caught the eye of the right person. Martin had submitted a chapter draft and query letter to Pitch Wars, an online mentoring program between agented authors, editors, industry interns and writers, and her mentor gave her a proposition: Rewrite the whole book as a contemporary romance with inspiration from your life. Which meant, of course, Martin would have to write about football.
In five weeks, Martin deconstructed and reassembled Intercepted. The light, snappy romance follows the life and times of Marlee Harper, who’s been dating her NFL-star boyfriend—a player for the fictional Denver Mustangs, no less—for 10 years. Still, no proposal comes, no engagement ring is slipped onto her finger. The Lady Mustangs, a group of catty NFL wives who scorn carbs and adore charity fundraisers, look down on Marlee for her lack of glittering rock. And when Marlee finds out her boyfriend’s been seeing another woman, the future she’s built for herself appears on the brink of vanishing. Enter Gavin Pope: the one-time fling Marlee can’t stop thinking about, who just so happens to be the Mustangs’ new quarterback. If you’ve ever watched a rom-com, you know what happens next.
Still, Intercepted’s predictability and occasional silliness never detracts from its guilty pleasure status or wickedly funny voice. Martin says Marlee is the character she wishes she could be, but judging from her writing, Martin has a hilarious voice of her own. Marlee is whip-smart, audacious, and unafraid to drop a few F-bombs when the occasion calls for it. Intercepted is no work of highbrow art, but then again, neither is professional football.
But that doesn’t keep Martin from addressing the seriousness of the NFL life. Although the book is undoubtedly a snarky romp through athlete relationships, the writer plans to address more crucial topics in her next installment, Fumbled, to be released in June 2019. The story will incorporate the dangers of the sport, including CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease often found in athletes who’ve suffered repeated concussions. She felt it would be irresponsible to avoid these issues if she were to write about pro football, something of a hot-button issue in and of itself. During her appearance at BookBar in Denver on Saturday, September 15, Martin will discuss this journey from NFL girlfriend to NFL spouse and, now, NFL writer.
Although Martin’s husband is no longer playing pro—he’s now coaching football at the high school where they met—Martin’s experience navigating stardom has given her more than novel fodder. It’s allowed her the opportunity to carve out a niche in the world. Derrick has yet to read Intercepted (though he made the front cover his Facebook profile picture in support of his wife), but when she earned her book deal on the same date as the couple’s 10-year anniversary, Martin says it felt both romantic and strangely symbolic. It was “a nice way to kind of merge this life I had built with him to finally finding something that I had built for myself,” she says.
Marlee Harper would be proud.
If you go: Alexa Martin will appear at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St., on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. She will conduct a reading, signing and Q&A.