Meet the author
Alexandria Bellefleur is an author of swoony contemporary romance often featuring loveable grumps and the sunshine characters who bring them to their knees. Her special skills include finding the best Pad Thai in every city she visits, remembering faces but not names, falling asleep in movie theaters, and keeping cool while reading smutty books in public. You can find her at www.alexandriabellefleur.com or on Twitter @ambellefleur.
Claudia Neu: Your debut novel Written in the Stars was the recipient of the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Romance! How do you feel that Written in the Stars contributed to the representation of #OwnVoices lesbian and bisexual characters in romance?
Alexandria Bellefleur: I’m over the moon and still in a bit of disbelief about winning the Lammy, to be honest. Above all, I feel supremely honored and humbled to be joining the ranks of so many talented writers who came before me, writers who have been doing the work—often without sufficient recognition—for so long.
In terms of how I feel that Written in the Stars has contributed to representation, it’s hard for me to say, but I can only hope that my book has contributed to the idea that queer joy is worthy of representation. Not all queer romances need to be about coming out or have the characters grapple with their queerness or prioritize angst. No group is a monolith and there’s room for all sorts of stories.
CN: Both Written in the Stars and Hang the Moon make nods to popular romance tropes such as Pride and Prejudice, romantic comedy movies, and more. What inspired you to write with these tropes in mind?
AB: I love romance—novels, movies, romantic subplots in shows, any form I can find it in and have for as long as I can remember. I feel extremely passionate about the genre and where it started and the journey it’s taken, and I really enjoy paying homage to some of my favorites, both novels and films.
In this series, I wanted to create something unique and modern but also full of nods to beloved romance staples. I like to say that this series is my love letter to Seattle as a city and romance as a genre.
CN: As we’re interviewing in June and Pride month, we are currently celebrating numerous queer identities, however, even during a month of LGBTQIA+ celebration, bisexuality tends to be left out or erased from the popular narrative. Why do you believe that bi-erasure is so common in romance/publishing in general and what drives you to add your stories?
AB: For so many years, popular media hasn’t only erased bisexuality from the narrative, but done active harm. Bisexuality has been presented as a phase, a pitstop on the way to coming out as gay or lesbian, an experiment in college fueled by curiosity and alcohol, even depicted through a very cis-male gaze for the purpose of titillation. Bisexual individuals have been portrayed as promiscuous, unable to be faithful, always willing to engage in threesomes, and perpetually indecisive. Sex and the City is a show plagued by all sorts of issues surrounding representation, but I can’t help but cringe and feel sad and angry when I think about one episode in particular where the women discuss, belittle, and dismiss bisexuality. How many people watched that episode and internalized that? These depictions have done an immeasurable degree of harm, the results of which are still being felt and will continue to be felt until drowned out by positive representation and the prioritizing of bi voices.
There’s also the problem of attributing an orientation to a relationship and not an individual when relationships don’t have orientations, people do. Using my own work as an example, Elle in Written in the Stars and Annie in Hang the Moon are both bisexual. Elle finds her happy ever after with a woman and Annie finds her happy ever after with a man, but both characters are still bi at the end of their books. They’re still attracted to multiple genders and that doesn’t suddenly change because they found themselves in these relationships any more than a heterosexual woman in a relationship with a man might still find other men attractive, even if she might never act on that attraction. Too often, I think readers misguidedly boil the relationships in romance down to oh, it’s an f/f or m/m presenting couple so it must be gay or lesbian or it’s a relationship between a man and a woman so it’s a straight romance. That’s a cis-heteronormative reductionist take that I don’t think is always necessarily intentionally harmful, but the impact is. It’s another reason I personally prefer to refer to Written in the Stars as a sapphic romance, since that term doesn’t erase Elle or Darcy’s identities.
Another issue at the center of bi-erasure in media, I think, perhaps is the conflation of action and attraction. It’s asking for, if not demanding, proof of attraction through an individual’s actions or creating some sort of false benchmark that requires that someone must have been in relationships with multiple genders or had certain sexual experiences with multiple genders in order to truly be consider bi. I think there’s also this misguided notion that there must be a reason for a character to be queer, that there must be some point, that a character’s bisexuality must factor into the plot or the conflict and if there isn’t, then the book isn’t queer enough. I think this complaint is most commonly lodged at m/f romances and I don’t exactly know why, but I do feel very strongly that characters need no reason to be queer other than that they simply are queer.
What drives me to write characters who are bisexual, above all else, is that I want readers to be able to see themselves reflected in romance novels and know that they are queer enough regardless of their dating history, regardless of the gender of the person or people they’re in a relationship with, and regardless of whatever they’ve been told to the contrary.
CN: How can readers support your work?
AB: My gut reaction is to say please buy my books, but I think the answer requires a little more nuance than that. In addition to purchasing, requesting that your library carry an author’s work is a great way of showing support! I love libraries and I love hearing from readers that they’ve found my books at their library. Another great way of showing support is by spreading the word and letting your friends know if you enjoyed a book. I definitely don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth, especially today when social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are generating sales in a never-before seen way. I recently stepped into my local Barnes and Noble and was surprised to see an entire as seen on BookTok display. That was really cool.
But yes, at the end of the day purchasing and especially pre-ordering is key. Pre-orders show publishers that the interest is there, and in turn, that can impact how books are marketed. And I always suggest that readers order from their local indie bookstores when possible.
A common—I wouldn’t say complaint, but maybe gripe I hear is that readers feel like there aren’t enough queer books. They want more. And that’s understandable! I want more queer books, too, and I’m optimistic about the trajectory of queer romance in traditional publishing. But the best way to make sure that more queer books are being published is to support the ones that are already out there so that publishers see proof of the demand.
CN: Do readers have the chance of reading more about Elle, Darcy, Brendon, and Annie in the future? Any hints about your current projects?
AB: Definitely! Count Your Lucky Stars, the third book in the Written in the Stars series, comes out February 1, 2022. For those familiar with the first two books in the series, Count Your Lucky Stars will follow Margot as one of the main characters and it’s another sapphic romance. Elle, Darcy, Brendon, and Annie all get plenty of page time and readers will definitely get glimpses at their relationship progression. I think the epilogue, in particular, will—hopefully—leave readers feeling super satisfied!
CN: Over here at Feminist Book Club we are obsessed with books of all kinds and so we are curious- what are you currently reading?
AB: I’ve been on a bit of a historical romance kick and recently reread all eight of the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn. I also just finished The Hellion’s Waltz, the third book in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series, and loved every moment of it.
A few contemporary romances I’ve read recently and enjoyed are The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan, Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters, How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole, and—I’m late to the party on this one—Priest by Sierra Simone.
About Hang the Moon
Released on May 25, 2021, Hang the Moon is Alexandria Bellefleur’s sophomore novel that follows characters that readers met in her debut Written in the Stars.
Brendon Lowell loves love. It’s why he created a dating app to help people find their one true pairing and why he’s convinced “the one” is out there, even if he hasn’t met her yet. Or… has he? When his sister’s best friend turns up in Seattle unexpectedly, Brendon jumps at the chance to hang out with her. He’s crushed on Annie since they were kids, and the stars have finally aligned, putting them in the same city at the same time.
Getting involved would be a terrible idea—her stay is temporary and he wants forever—but when Brendon learns Annie has given up on dating, he’s determined to prove that romance is real. Taking cues from his favorite rom- coms, Brendon plans to woo her with elaborate dates straight out of Nora Ephron’s playbook. The clock is ticking on Annie’s time in Seattle, and Brendon’s starting to realize romance isn’t just flowers and chocolate. But maybe real love doesn’t need to be as perfect as the movies… as long as you think your partner hung the moon.