Alexandria Bellefleur, who grew up on the Seattle area’s Eastside, burst onto the romance novel scene with her debut novel, “Written in the Stars” (Avon, 2020), which was a 2021 Lambda Literary Award winner. It was followed by 2021’s “Hang the Moon,” and the series now includes “Count Your Lucky Stars,” which dropped this month. Seattle features heavily in all three books, and Bellefleur even created a map of all the real-life locations she writes about. All three books feature queer women, and the characters overlap in friend groups, tying the books together. “Count Your Lucky Stars” follows Margot and Olivia, who are thrown together by circumstance in their 30s after having had a brief romance as teens. Bellefleur spoke with The Seattle Times about queer representation and realism in romance, astrology, humor and a perfect Seattle date.

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What is your relationship to Seattle and what is its importance in your work?

I grew up in the Seattle area and I still consider Seattle home, even though I don’t currently live there. But I do hope to get back there soon. Since I’m so familiar with the area and it’s the place that I love the most in the country, I wanted to write a series that was my love letter to the city. I made a trip out to Seattle in November for a future series, but I did some research while I was there. I wanted to make sure that the setting was accurate.

How do you approach or think about realism in your romance books?

Communication is something that I like to focus on in the relationship building; it’s not just physical attraction. I do focus on that as well, but I like to make sure that the characters are connecting on all levels so that the happily ever after is realistic and believable so that the reader, when they close the book, can believe that those characters can last past that epilogue. I focus on compatibility, communication, smaller relationship struggles that are more realistic, jobs, and how they play into relationships, so that the reader can believe that the couple can tackle anything that a couple might face after they close the book.

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What draws you to astrology as a theme and a framing device for the series and this book?

When I first wrote “Written in The Stars,” it was my goal to come up with two professions that were completely opposite. I wanted Elle and Darcy to be polar opposites. I knew I wanted Darcy to be very logistical, so I decided she was going to be an actuary, focused on numbers. And what is more opposite than an astrologer who’s looking at the stars? I did think it was kind of interesting as a framing device for character building, to think about how characters communicate and how they process emotions, and how that might be reflected in their star charts. I’m not a professional astrologer, I’m just a hobbyist, but I did do a lot of research. I think that it helped me in building three-dimensional characters. They’re more than just their sun sign, like their moon sign, and their Mercury, and their rising sign. It started off as an opposites attract framing device and then became a character-building framework.

Why is writing queer romance important or meaningful for you?

I think that everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in romance novels, and everyone deserves to see characters who are like them get that happily ever after. Especially for me, I write a lot of bisexual characters in various different pairings. In “Written in The Stars,” Elle is bi and Darcy is a lesbian. Annie in “Hang the Moon” is bi and she winds up with a cis man, but it doesn’t make her any less bi. I think that it’s just important to show different queer relationships so that readers see themselves reflected and see themselves as worthy of that, and know that regardless of who they’re with, who their partner is with, their relationship doesn’t make them any less queer. I am so excited to see so many queer romances popping up in 2022 because I think the more queer romances there are, the more chance there is of readers seeing their own lived experience reflected.

How do you approach incorporating humor into the book, and being deliberate about keeping the “com” in “rom-com?”

It’s not the easiest, especially when you are potentially tackling heavier backstory issues in romance, but I do try to keep it light. I like incorporating situational comedy, funny high jinks. I love writing those awkward, funny moments because it allows the characters to experience a bonding moment. It’s an icebreaker. I think humor and the ability to laugh is really important in a relationship. It’s not all just attraction and that kind of chemistry. I think the relationships that probably have the most longevity [are ones where] you can laugh at each other or you can laugh at yourself. So I like to put that in as a beat of the characters experiencing something that could be really embarrassing, but with the right person they know they have a soft place to land, and can experience that catharsis. Hopefully it furthers that romantic arc as well.

Is there anything that you particularly love about “Count Your Lucky Stars,” or a part that was really fun for you to write?

I had never really written a second chance romance before and so it was interesting to me to write two characters who were very intimately acquainted in the past, having to relearn each other and let go of what they knew in the past and their feelings about the past to move forward. So just the trope itself was really fun to write. Without being too spoiler-y, one of my favorite scenes was with the cat in the hallway with the vibrator. Without a lot of context it sounds very strange, but that was one of my favorite scenes to write.

What would be your perfect date in Seattle?

I love bookstores, and I think my perfect, very idealized date would be to go to one of my favorite bookstores, Third Place Books or Elliott Bay, and have someone carry all my books for me while I shop and just let me browse. Or maybe we could pick out books for each other to read and then share our thoughts on them, a very one-on-one book club situation. Maybe discuss them over dinner and wine. That would probably be my ideal situation.