The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Ask the Author | TJ Alexander speaks on new queer romance novel

Alexander joined other romance authors in conversation at the 2024 Simon and Schuster Authorfest on April 24.
Photos contributed by TJ Alexander.

TJ Alexander is bringing new depth to the romance genre with their new novel, “Triple Sec,” set to release on June 4. The book follows bartender Mel who is convinced that real romance doesn’t exist. This all changes when she meets Bebe and Cade, a happily married couple who introduce her to new dimensions of love and passion.

Alexander spoke about their book at the 2024 Simon and Schuster Authorfest on April 24, where they were in conversation with several other romance authors, discussing what truly makes a good love story.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Iowan: What changes have you seen in the genre over the years as a romance author?

TJ Alexander: Romance has always been popular. It’s always been a strong seller. We’re seeing some of the early stages of a change, where people who have wanted to feel seen in books are finally breaking into the genre. We’re finally getting a lot more queer romances and a lot more trans romances. We’re getting a lot of romances that star characters of color, or that have disabilities. Ten or 20 years ago, most people wouldn’t think of these books when they think of what a romance is. Well, romance can tell a lot of different stories.

What I would love is for people not to rest on their laurels — a lot is still to be done, especially in the adult space. I’m hoping that we get to see more things that stretch the boundaries of what romance is. I hope, personally, that we also see more men and masculine people feeling comfortable joining this space. It’s not just for women, it’s not just for feminine people. Enjoying a love story is something that we should all give a shot once in a while.

Your upcoming novel will follow three distinct characters — Mel, Bebe, and Kade — in a polyamorous relationship. How did you go about crafting their relationship dynamic?

First of all, I wasn’t sure anyone was going to let me write the novel. Very luckily, they did. Part of the reason this story was so compelling in the pitch was that these three characters are different, but mesh together well in the end. You have these distinctive and intense personalities for all three of them — you couldn’t mistake one for the other. They complement each other and I think that there’s a long tradition in all kinds of storytelling where there are not just two people who are fun to watch on screen. In a lot of different genres, there are often three people who are very fun to watch or read about as a team. I wanted to give this book, “Triple Sec,” that same feeling of having the three people on the heist team, who work together despite their glaringly different personalities, or the three people on the starship who are a better team once they’re playing off each other. That was where I started from. They are archetypes that are going to be fun to see play off of each other.

Where did you first get the inspiration to write Triple Sec?

It was almost two years ago, and I had just finished writing my third book, which has a lot of serious stuff happening with adulthood. [After that] I wanted to do something light and fluffy. I started bouncing ideas off of my friends in a group chat. I would recommend any author to have a friend group chat filled with people who do not know anything about publishing because the minute you start asking people in publishing about your book, they start coming up with all the industry-related reasons why something won’t work, which are very helpful in certain contexts. But at the start of an idea, there’s nothing better than just a group of other people who know nothing about your world saying, “Yeah, why not? I dare you to do it.”

[Triple Sec] snowballed from those conversations because you don’t see a lot of polyamorous romances in traditional books or even most media. This is weird because I feel like there’s a lot of curiosity there for people who don’t know much about it. And I asked, why not? Why not give this a shot? I’ve built a small career so far by writing books that don’t have a lot of comparison titles.

What’s next for you?

Next year, my first historical romance is coming out from, Random House. It’s called “Eden’s End,” and the main character is an Earl who is a trans man. I’m doing copy edits on it right now, which is a humbling experience. But, I’ve always loved historicals, and I’m very excited for this to be out in the world next year.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.