To put it plainly, Jasmine Guillory has had a year. After eight years of coming home from her job as a lawyer and working on her fiction writing, that side hustle has become a star. In January, Guillory's debut romance novel, The Wedding Date, was covered in major publications and literary publications, and become Target's Diverse Book Club Pick. Roxane Gay calling it a "charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel" didn't hurt, either. Guillory was launched.
Guillory's most recent novel, The Proposal, out in October, turned one of The Wedding Date's supporting characters, Carlos Ibarra, into a leading man. When Nik Paterson declines her boyfriend's excruciatingly public baseball stadium proposal, Carlos, a stranger, whisks her away from the angry crowd. Romance ensues. For fans of Guillory's warm writing and her intelligent, strong heroines who find adoring partners, The Proposal's existence is great news: It signals the start of a unified Guillory universe. Her next novel, The Wedding Party, out in 2019, will also feature characters from The Wedding Date. We spoke to Guillory about public proposals, double lives, and those awesome book covers.
Refinery29: Let’s settle the record on your thoughts on public proposals.
Jasmine Guillory: “I thought the marathon one was terrible. I think there are good ways to go about proposals, especially if both people are into it. But she had 10 more miles to go in the marathon! Not only did he jump into the middle of the thing she was doing, he slowed down her time. She had to run 10 more miles in the marathon with a whole thing to think about. She wasn’t in the zone anymore. It was one of the more terrible ones I’d seen in a while.”
The one in the book is pretty terrible, too. How did you come up with the idea of starting a book with a public proposal?
“A few years ago, during the Olympics, there were a bunch of public proposals. One was a woman who had just won a medal. Her boyfriend jumped out of the stands and proposed to her. I was like, let her have her moment. Let her have her medal and take her out to dinner tonight and then propose. Why are you jumping in the middle of her whole thing? Then, I wondered what happened if someone said no to one of these things. Because they always say yes! I wonder if they really want to say yes. It’s unclear. Some people do not look overjoyed in that moment. That’s how I got the idea for The Proposal.”
You were a lawyer before becoming a writer, right?
"Yeah, still am. It’s been wild. I had been writing by myself and talking to friends about writing for the past eight or so years. Then, at some point, I finally got an agent. A year later, I got a book deal. It was slow. I learned that everything in publishing happens slowly. Then, all of a sudden, my first book was out and things started happening so fast. A lot of stuff started changing. in many ways my life is still the same — I’m still working. I’m still living in the same place. I’m just doing a lot more now.”
How do your writing and lawyer life coexist?
“Usually, at home, I spend the first few hours of the morning doing a lot of ‘author stuff,’ whether it’s interviews, answering emails, or responding to certain things. I didn’t account for all the other tasks you have to do as an author. I write at night. That’s when I work on whatever book I’m in the middle of, whether it’s edits or first drafts. I keep myself a pretty strict schedule. I know if I give myself an inch I’ll take a mile. I mostly write every day. The day my book came out I was still working on the book that comes out next summer. I said, I’ll give myself a day off here.’”
I love the covers of both of your books. On both, it’s obvious that the women are Black. Why was that important to you?
“That was really important to me. When I first talked through the cover of The Wedding Date with my editor, she asked me to show her covers of other books that I liked. I said, ‘It’s really important that we have a Black woman on the cover.’ They haven’t been represented enough in books, especially not in romance. I’ve heard too many stories of other writers who had a white character on the cover of their book about a Black person. I wanted to make that clear from the outset. I’ve also loved seeing how many Black women get excited about that, when they see the covers. That has delighted me.”
What goes into the making of a dream love interest?
“For me, it’s the person who treats the other person with respect. Adoration and respect. They love the small things about each other. You want someone like the meme: “Get yourself someone who looks at you the way…” You want that, but also someone who respects what you do, cares about you as a person, and is excited about the things you’re excited about.”
How do you hope people walk away from your books feeling?
“I want people to walk away thinking, 'This is how I want to be treated in a partnership.’ But I also want people to walk away from my books with a smile on their face.”