Lexi Blake’s work runs the gamut of contemporary romance, from paranormal and suspense to more gently paced small-town stories. Her latest book, Bayou Baby, may be set in the small town of Papillon, Louisiana, but its family secrets, surprise inheritances and forbidden love make it just as thrilling as her previous works. We talked to Blake about her inspirations for Papillon, whose side she would pick in her main couple’s biggest disagreement and the surprising third POV character who unlocked the story for her.
Your work spans a lot of different romance subgenres. What do you like most about writing a small-town romance? Do you find that your writing changes at all when you’re working in this subgenre?
I think small-town romance fits me really well because the strongest theme in my work is about found family, and that’s super easy to do with a small town. I love the idea that the town becomes a character itself. I think I use softer language when writing a small town. Those books have a dreamier quality to them.
"I think every family has an Aunt Irene who just tells it like it is and takes no gruff from anyone."
Most romances tend to stick to the two leads’ perspectives, but Bayou Baby gives us scenes from the perspective of Celeste, Harrison’s aunt. Did you always know that you would tell part of this story from Celeste's point of view? What did that choice open up for you as a writer?
I started writing it without Celeste’s POV. She was a straight-on villain. That’s when I got stuck. When I get blocked, I’ve learned it’s almost always because I’ve skipped a step. In this case that step was Celeste having her say. I think if you don’t get in her head, it’s hard to believe that she could change. Oddly enough, Celeste was the character I felt most while writing the book. She’s gone through a lot and she’s in a fight with her past and her own grief. I think the book is richer for having Celeste’s POV.
Did you come up with more backstory for Seraphina’s great-aunt Irene than readers eventually get in the book? Were there any other hilarious bits about her that didn’t make it into the final edit?
Great Aunt Irene is the old woman I think a lot of us want to become. Maybe with fewer cats. She had a lot of cats, but she lived life on her own terms. I think every family has an Aunt Irene who just tells it like it is and takes no gruff from anyone. I think a lot of her backstory is in the letter that accompanies her will. But I certainly could see Aunt Irene wrestling a couple of gators in her younger days.
Wes Beaumont, Seraphina’s childhood best friend and Harrison’s cousin, is a complicated figure in the book. How do you personally feel about Wes—do you think you would like him if you met him in real life?
I think Wes is perfectly charming and likely a good friend, but like some men, he views Seraphina as something he can earn. When she turns him down, he has a bad reaction. Wes is that guy who says he’s a friend, but he’s secretly in love, and when the romantic link is rejected, the friendship is over. If he’d stayed in town, I do believe he would have used the pregnancy to coerce a marriage. However, he learns something before he dies. He grows while he’s gone, and that’s important, too. People can change and though Wes dies tragically, his turnaround has a deep and lasting impact on his family.
Seraphina and Harrison have a major disagreement over whether Seraphina should disclose the identity of her son Luc’s father. When you began drafting this moment, did you find yourself more on one character’s side than the other?
Yes, and some of my beta readers totally argued with me about it. I’m 100% Team Sera on this one. It’s her story to tell and no one else’s. She’s the one with the most to lose, and honestly, that family has been hard for her to deal with for years. She’s got legitimate fears. In this case Harry’s need to be the “good guy” leads to trouble. He wants everyone to get along and the world to be this perfect place, but Sera knows better.
Did you base Papillon, Louisiana, on any real-life small towns? Did it have any fictional inspirations?
It’s not based on any particular town, but it was inspired by my best friend’s childhood. She grew up in southeastern Texas, very close to Louisiana, and has such a love for that area. On the fictional front I think Stars Hollow, Connecticut, is always an inspiration. That’s the setting of “Gilmore Girls” for the uninitiated. It’s one of those places you just wish existed. I would absolutely live there.
What books, movies or TV shows have been getting you through the pandemic?
I’ve definitely gone to my favorite authors for comfort. I recently read Rebecca Zanetti’s Disorderly Conduct and loved it. It’s another small-town book. And Jen Armentrout’s new fantasy From Blood and Ash. I’ve watched Eurovision more times than I’m willing to admit and am willing to send stuffed lions to Netflix to get them to do a follow-up for Dan Stephens’s character. I want someone to play “Jaja Ding Dong”! As for TV, I do a lot of binge-watching old favorites right now. I’ve rewatched “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” and now we’re working our way through “The Big Bang Theory.”
Is there a trope or setting you haven’t explored yet in your writing that you’d love to use one day?
Oh, so many settings! I love to travel—this year has been rough on me—and I like to spend some time in the places I want to write about. I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans, which is probably why I set many books in that part of the country. London and New York are settings I’m super comfy with. I live in Dallas so North Texas is a big setting for me. I had trips planned for Romania and Scotland this year. Both were cancelled for obvious reasons, but I hope to get to go and potentially write about both those places. I’m super excited to announce that all of my books for the foreseeable future will be set in my backyard. I know that sucker like the back of my hand now! Also, the squirrels have real drama.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got the last book in The Forgotten series coming up in September, and I’m super excited for that. It’s called No Love Lost and it ties up a bunch of loose ends in my Masters and Mercenaries world and sets up for a new series. In December, I’ve got the third Butterfly Bayou book—Bayou Dreaming. It’s Zep and Roxie’s book and it’s a lot of fun.
Author photo by Annie Ray/Passion Pages.