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Alexandria Bellefleur's Queer romance novel brings Seattle into the new year

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Photo courtesy of Harper Collins
Photo courtesy of Harper Collins

Navigating the holiday season with friends and family can be stressful. So escape from the messy chaos of your real life with a copy of Alexandria Bellefleur's fun and messy rom-com novel Written in the Stars.

Recently I sat down with the author to talk about her holiday-themed novel, as well as her illustrious writing career.

While Written in the Stars is a wonderful contemporary romance, Bellefleur actually got her start in the fantasy genre. Despite those early novels, she said she always wanted to write more realistic stories for readers. "I think it really had always been my plan to write contemporary romance, and the short fantasy novelette that I had published by a small press was kind of just my way of dabbling. It was my way of dipping my toe into the water of publishing."

Queer relationships
Not only is Written in the Stars one of her first contemporary novels, but it is also Bellefleur's first time writing a women-loving-women (WLW) romance. "I kind of got to explore the relationships that I that I wanted to see but hadn't had the access to growing up in major media," she said of Queer fiction.

For Bellefleur, Queer relationships were more commonly found in fanfic than on the bookshelves. The ones she did find in popular media never ended in satisfying and happy ways, either. "All the ships that I liked in TV and films weren't canon, so it was kind of my way of getting to fulfill what I had always wanted to see. Not even what wasn't canon but what wasn't fulfilled. I hated how Willow and Paris ended in Buffy, the whole bury your gays. As well as Clarke and Lexa in The 100."

Image courtesy of Avon  

From the very beginning, Bellefleur knew she wanted Written in the Stars to be a Queer romance. The story was inspired by her love of the classic winter rom-com Bridget Jones's Diary. "That was baked in from the very beginning. My original inspiration was to give nods to both Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones's Diary, but not have a direct retelling beat for beat. I wanted to explore the archetypes and kind of capture that same feeling, but I wanted to make it Queer. From the very beginning, I definitely wanted to make it Queer."

Writing Queer stories is important to Bellefleur, who identifies as Bisexual. The second book in her Written in the Stars series, Hang the Moon, focuses on an M/F couple, but, Bellefleur confirms, it is still a Queer story. "It actually is a Queer romance. Annie is Bisexual, and it was really important for me to portray a Bi woman in a relationship with a man, but she's no less Queer and no less Bi for that. That was exciting for me, to show the different relationships that Queer individuals can be in. I think that a lot of people conflate relationships and individual identities... relationships don't have identities, people do."

Bellefleur finds Bi representation in particular an important part of her writing. In Written in the Stars, she makes sure to include that one of the two main characters is Bisexual. "I always like to sneak that in to affirm that for readers," she said.

Queer joy
For readers of any and all identities, Bellefleur hopes the takeaway from her novel is the same. "I hope that readers can take away the importance of Queer joy. I think that there are a lot of stories out there that are focused on characters coming out or coming into themselves or maybe grappling with who they are in that sense. I think those stories are very important, but I wanted to focus on characters who are comfortable with themselves and their queerness. I wanted to show that Queer joy is really worthy of representation as well."

Fans of Bellefleur know that her books are full of joy, and for those wishing for more joyful reads, the future's looking bright.

Bellefleur's third Written in the Stars novel, Count Your Lucky Stars, will hit shelves in early 2022. Like the previous two, this book also follows a Queer couple finding love in Seattle. "It's a second-chance romance, it has a roommates trope, its Queer: Margo identifies as pan and her roommate Olivia is Bi," she said.

She is also toying with the idea of branching out into more genres. "I have been playing around with the idea of a paranormal novel, maybe. That's something I have been thinking about. Nothing is set in stone," she said.

Seattle and the Pacific Northwest
A Seattle native herself, Bellefleur tries to set as many novels as possible in the Pacific Northwest, hoping her readers can come to love the place she still considers home. "I grew up in Seattle and I still consider Seattle to be home even if I don't live there now. It's the city that has my heart, it's the city I know best, it's amazing in terms of everything you can do. I feel like everyone likes to boil Seattle down to 'it rains a lot,' but there's so much more than that. I'm currently living in Tampa, Florida, but it is my goal to get back to Seattle hopefully in the next few years."

You might just recognize some of the locations Bellefleur includes in her novels. She loves to name-drop some of her favorite digs, and is especially fond of the city's most historic neighborhoods." I grew up on the Eastside, in Bellevue. I love Bellevue, but it's not my favorite place. I always felt like Capitol Hill had such a heart to it, I was always drawn to Capitol Hill, it's where I loved to go with my friends. I was also drawn to the U District. I used to go to improv shows with my friends there," she said.

While some writers tend to make up details about the towns their stories are set in, she likes to keep it real. "I like to plant little Easter eggs of my favorite locations and I wanted to do a mashup of better-known touristy locations and lesser-known locations. In Hang the Moon all the characters are trying to convince Annie to move to Seattle, so I focused on Pike and the Great Wheel, but to give a more accurate reading, I wanted to focus on the thrift shops and local eateries. I set up an escape room in the underground, which doesn't actually exist. I wish there was an escape room in the underground!" she laughed. One of her favorite restaurants, Wild Ginger, also makes an appearance in the novel.

While Bellefleur won't be in Seattle for Christmas this year, she still holds the city close to her heart. She hopes to be back soon, but in the meantime, she has plenty of holiday traditions in Florida. One of her top traditions is baking with family. "My family always bakes Christmas cookies, and we get together and decorate them. We also have gingerbread house contests, where we decorate them and rank them all. We get really into it, but we also give points for effort. Playing board games is also another one, we get really into that," she said with a smile.

A trip to Seattle isn't the only thing on her wish list. Bellefleur would also love a date night at one of her local bookstores. "I would love a trip to a bookstore to pick out books for each other to read and then go back home... and spend some time by the fireplace or space heater, eat Christmas cookies, and enjoy some time together reading the books we picked out for each other," she said of her ideal winter date.

If your ideal winter date also involves books, stop by any of Seattle's bookstores and pick up a copy of Written in the Stars, and read along with us in the SGN Book Club. Let us know what Seattle locations you recognize in the pages, and take some of that joy Bellefleur spices her novels with into your new year.