The woman in red - the gorgeous Belinda Alexandra
Meet Belinda Alexandra, the softly spoken, global-bestselling author of nine exquisite historical fiction novels, two works of non-fiction, and the creator of the most breathtakingly beautiful social media pages I have ever seen.
I first met the enchanting Belinda at her Hornsby library event for the launch of her stunning latest release, The French Agent https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460758519/the-french-agent/ and again when she was a panellist at the inaugural Northern Beaches Readers Festival https://www.nbrf.com.au/ this past September.
Belinda had the audience transfixed with details of her fascinating life and travels. She grew up in Sydney with her Russian mother, who was fluent in five languages, and her former volunteer lifesaver Australian father.
It was after completing an undergraduate degree, at the University of California, that Belinda decided to chase her dreams of becoming a novelist:
'I was inspired enough by the other big dreamers around me to finally go for mine. For the next ten years everything I wrote was rejected. But I persisted. I can’t say that it was because I had incredible confidence in myself and knew that one day I would be published. It was just what I had to do.'
Believe it or not, the eloquent Belinda's first writing gig was actually writing horror movie scripts, 'The Werewolf Tales' & 'Alien Abduction,' in New York between 1999-2001! She wrote, directed and starred in a short horror film, Unexpected Source, back in 2001, which led to more script writing. 'I actually never watch or read horror, but it was a way to learn about film making.'
But all that was about to change.
'After one novel was rejected by every publisher in Australia, I went to lick my wounds in New York, where I had accepted a job with a conference company. Writing at 4am on cold winter mornings, on planes, subway trains and in airports, I finished the book that was to change everything: White Gardenia.' https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780730443841/white-gardenia/ which was published in 2002.
With her extensive historical knowledge, and the ability to weave the darkest moments of history into such an evocative and endearing narrative, it is no surprise that Belinda's novels have sold over one million copies worldwide.
Belinda, a passionate animal advocate, is the patron of the World League for the Protection of Animals (Australia) https://www.wlpa.org/ and mum to three adorable rescue cats, Valentino, Versace & Gucci.
When she's not writing or supporting animal causes, you will find her at regular belly & flamenco dance classes, tinkling the ivories on her piano or out enjoying nature.
But now, without further ado, I will hand you over to the wonderful Belinda.xx
Q1: What was your inspiration for this story and how long did it take you to write the first draft?
A: My family background is Russian and Eastern European (My mother was a White Russian born in China), so from the stories told around the dinner table about my grandparents and great grandparents I was very aware of how wars and revolutions upend people’s lives and change their destinies.
I wanted to write a story set in post-war France and Australia, to show how the Second World War had affected people in each country differently. The French had lived through a brutal occupation, where some people had resisted, and others had collaborated.
After the war there was much bitterness between people. Australia didn’t have a war on its soil, but it did send a million servicemen and women overseas. Those people came back to a country that was more or less the same, while they had been irrevocably changed.
I wrote the book in lockdown, so I wrote the first draft fairly quickly – maybe in four months – because I had few interruptions. But I had also done an online Masterclass in screenwriting, so this was the first book I wrote such a meticulous plan for beforehand.
'On warm days I like to work on my balcony and my cockatoo friend
always joins me.'
Q2: You are hosting a spectacular dinner party. Name four dream guests you would love to have seated around your table, and what would they be dining on and drinking?
A: That is easy. I have a non-fiction book coming out with Affirm Press in May 2023 - Emboldened: Stories of Resilience, and the fire to keep going when all seems lost – where I write about four women who inspired both my writing and my life. They were my beautiful mother, Tatiana Morosoff; Virginia Hall, the American spy in France during the Second World War; Carmen Amaya, the world’s greatest flamenco dancer of all time; and Edna Walling, pioneering Australian landscape designer and conservationist.
I am a vegan for ethical reasons, so there wouldn’t be any animal friends served up for dinner. But I think I could thrill my guests with truffled mushroom risotto or roasted sheet pan ratatouille served over polenta. My mother, myself and Carmen Amaya would all be non-drinkers (dancers rarely imbibe alcohol – not good for those spins! – and Carmen had kidney problems) but we could be adventurous and try Hawaiian Volcanic Water which is supposedly good for your health. My wine buff friend tells me that Virginia and Edna would probably enjoy Verdicchio with their food. Dessert would be a vegan peach Melba or dark chocolate.
Q3: What is your favourite book of all time and why?
A: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I read it as a teenager, sitting in my garden one school holidays. The book made me want to be a writer. Dickens had a great love for humanity with all its foibles and strengths. I loved the coming-of-age genre mixed with mystery fiction.
Q4: If you could travel anywhere in the world to write for a year, where would we find you?
A: In Paris, Provence or the Riviera with a houseful of cats.
'My editorial team hard at work ... Valentino, Versace and Gucci. They are lovely company to have when I write.'
Q5: Describe your go-to reading spot at home and what book/s would I currently find there?
A: I absolutely cannot read lying down, so I never read in my bed. I have three cats that – no matter where they are in the house – seem to know the moment I lie down. They sit on top of me and start purring – which I find hypnotic – and I go instantly to sleep.
My best spots for reading are in an armchair in my living room or sitting on my balcony. On my reading pile I have: Natasha Lester’s new book, The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre https://www.hachette.com.au/natasha-lester/the-three-lives-of-alix-st-pierre , John M. Green’s Framed https://www.panterapress.com.au/product/framed/ and Simon Goodman’s The Orpheus Clock https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Orpheus-Clock/Simon-Goodman/9781451697643
(Ooh some great reads to add to my tbr pile. Shelley.x)
Q6: Tell us a bit about a typical writing day…
A: I get up early and meditate – I find that is key to a productive and creative day. Then I do about half-an-hour of exercise, eat breakfast, and then sit down to work. I take a break every hour or so. I like to do 10 minutes of belly dance practice as it loosens up any muscles that have gotten tight with tension.
If my mind is getting tired by the afternoon, or I’m not sure about a particular scene, I like to go for a walk and ponder for a bit. There is something about the motion of walking and looking and the sky and trees that inspires ideas. Usually by the time I return to my desk, whatever was difficult suddenly becomes easier to resolve.
I have dinner early because I do belly dance classes a few evenings a week – and squeezing my internal muscles on a full stomach would not be pleasant! I like to do research reading after my classes so I can sleep on what I’ve read and wake up with ideas the following morning. If I’m too tired for that though, I’ll chat to a friend on the telephone.
'Where the magic happens.'
(Your office is so pretty Belinda. Shelley.x)
Q7: As a lover of words, is there a special quote you would like to share with us?
A: ‘Be orderly in your life, so you may be violent and original in your work.’ – Gustave Flaubert
Q8: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: My hobbies are dancing and piano. I like to go out with friends to cultural events, but I’m just as happy to stay at home and pat my cats. Also, I’m a life-long learner. I will always be doing some sort of course or masterclass.
'I always like to have animals and flowers around me when I work.'
Q9: Any advice for aspiring authors?
A: Enjoy your writing. To get published and to be good at it will involve hours, days, weeks, months and years of your life: Researching, writing, rewriting, editing etc. Only do it if you have a real fire for it, never to impress anybody else or prove something.
Q10: In a few lines, which debut/emerging Aussie author should we look out for?
A: This is going to sound awful, but I think debut/emerging writers get a lot of attention. I’m more impressed by those who have been sticking it out through thick and thin, always evolving and developing their craft.
For me that would be Judy Nunn http://judynunn.com.au/
Kate Morton https://www.katemorton.com/ and Helen Gardner https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Gardner_(art_historian)
A world in chaos. Two very different women.
And the mystery of the man who may connect them.
From one of Australia’s bestselling authors comes the riveting thriller of revenge, love and secrets in 1946, taking us from Paris, France to Sydney, Australia.
Paris 1946: Sabine Brouillette is a war crimes investigator with the French secret service. She lost her family, including her young son, when her Resistance circuit was betrayed near the end of the war. New evidence comes to light that the traitor was a British double agent who went by the codename ‘the Black Fox’. Now her quest for revenge has a single focus: find the Black Fox and kill him.
Sydney 1946: Landscape designer Diana White has been waiting six years for her husband, Casper, to return from the war in Europe. Her son, Freddy, was only a baby when his British-born father joined the RAF. But Casper is a changed man when he returns from the convalescent hospital in England where he has spent the past year under mysterious circumstances. No longer the easy-going personality Diana fell in love with, he is now darker and more secretive.
Soon Sabine and Diana find themselves on a collision course – one seeking vengeance, the other willing to go to any lengths to protect her family.
Praise for Belinda Alexandra:
‘Reading her novels is like going on holiday for a long time. You don’t want to come back.’ West Australian
‘Belinda Alexandra is a master at keeping the pages turning.’ Herald Sun
‘[The Mystery Woman] leaves you on the edge of your seat.’ Tania Blanchard
Thank you Belinda for being my November 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
The French Agent is available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Belinda, you can find her here: