The first time Alexa Martin saw Taylor Swift in that VIP box at Arrowhead Stadium to cheer on Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs back in September 2023, it felt like she’d written the romance into existence.
In her 2019 novel Fumbled, Martin predicted Kelce as the NFL’s romantic lead. The male love interest in that book, the second in her series of football-themed romance novels, is TK Moore, an enormously tall, green-eyed offensive player equally known for his easygoing nature, on-field dominance, and sharp fashion sense. Sound familiar? It should, and Martin has the Pinterest mood board she used while writing to prove it.
“People were like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I was just like, just google him in a suit,” Martin told Vanity Fair of her initial instinct that Kelce could be the NFL equivalent of a Disney prince. “That guy’s got style on him. I found pictures of him going to the games. And I was like, oh, yeah, that’s a hero. That is a romance hero. And so I just kind of used him as the inspiration behind my second book, Fumbled.”
See, Martin lived a sports romance before she started writing them: She and her husband, Derrick Martin, were high school sweethearts before getting married at 20 years old. Shortly after, in 2006, he was the sixth-round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens, the beginning of an eight-season career as an NFL safety that saw him win two Super Bowls back to back (in 2011 with the Green Bay Packers and 2012 with the New York Giants) before retiring. In addition to those two Super Bowl rings, the Martins share their home with their four children and seven novels written by Alexa.
Fumbled isn’t a “pop star meets football star story”—the female protagonist is a single mom who had a high school romance with the now über-famous TK a decade before the events of the book—but the cosmic Venn diagram alignment of Martin’s interests in romance, Swift, Kelce, and her past as an NFL WAG is eerily specific for a large slice of pop culture spectators.
“When [Swift] showed up I was like, ‘Shut up. No way,’” Martin said of that first VIP box appearance. “Everybody’s gonna fall in love with TK now.”
While Kelce’s profile has definitely risen thanks to interest in the couple’s romance, Martin says Kelce’s leading-man qualities have been there all along, and we’re just paying attention to them now. “He makes bracelets, he loves his mom,” she says. “He’s got a great charity where he helps underprivileged kids. I mean, what’s not to like? You’re written by me. You are written by a woman. It is wonderful.”
Earlier this week, Martin spoke with VF about why the world is so enraptured by Swift and Kelce and the real-life details of Swift and Kelce’s relationship that she wishes she’d written.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Vanity Fair: Can you tell me a bit about how Travis Kelce became the inspiration for your character T.K. Moore?
Alexa Martin: When I start writing I don’t necessarily base them on one person particularly but I will kind of source a bunch of pictures so my copyedits aren’t like, “their eyes have switched colors like 10 times.” Sometimes I need a visual aid so I can make a description in my head, especially with, like, a suit, a man’s suit. And I remember going on Pinterest and finding him and being like, oh, okay, and my character’s name is TK. I’m like, wow, this is like, perfect. And he just kind of really easily fell into that role.
And Taylor Swift is obviously a compelling character in our real-life narrative.