One of my favorite parts of the FFL book club each month is getting a chance to talk to the authors of the book we select. I love following authors on social media, probing the mind of great writers, and just chatting about what writers are reading and watching. 

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, authors are trying to write other books, and they’re on deadline, and so they’re doing things a little more important than talking to me. 

That’s the situation we find ourselves in this December–author of Party of Two, Jasmine Guillory, is on deadline for her latest book, and I will not be angry a moment because I am so excited to read her next book. 

But because Jasmine Guillory is such a well-loved, established author–she’s written four other novels!–I was able to pull some of my favorite past-interview questions from Guillory. I hope this will keep you satiated until we announce our January pick, and until we can get our hands on Guillory’s new book. 

Something to keep in mind is that many of these interview questions & responses came from in-person, audio interviews, hence they sound like two people talking. If you want to read more of the original interviews, they are linked in each question.

Before you started being a romance writer, you had a totally different career. So what were you doing and how did you come about to become a romance author writing these amazing stories?

“So I was a lawyer. I don’t want to put that in the past tense. I am still a lawyer. And I feel like once you’re a lawyer, you never give that up. But I am currently not practicing anymore. But for a while, I was both practicing as a lawyer and actively writing. And, you know, I started writing mostly because I needed some other creative outlet other than my job. I needed something to come home and, like, take a break from the world. I’d been out of school for a while, and I think I missed the process of learning something new. So that’s when I started writing. When I first started writing, it wasn’t adult romance. The first thing that I wrote, which was not published, was young adult romance, which I still love. And I still love reading young adult books. And then, you know, it took a few years. I was reading a bunch of romance, but I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to write it. And then once I started . . . I was reading a lot of historical romance, which I love. I didn’t think I could write it in my voice to really translate. And then I started reading more contemporary romance, and I was like, oh, this would be so much fun to write. So then I just sort of dove in and started writing. And I just loved the process and loved writing it and loved reading it. And so that’s kind of how that all happened.”

It took seven years from your decision to write her first book to getting it published. How much of those seven years were spent actually curled around your laptop like a seashell, writing it? Did you write every day? Before work? After work? During work? 

“I can’t write at work; I’m just not in the right mental space for it then. When I’m working on a first draft, I write every day: usually at night from around 9-11 p.m. (sometimes less, sometimes more), and sometimes I bring my laptop to work with me and go to Starbucks mid-day and write for 30-45 minutes. I usually give myself a break of a day or so after the first draft is finished, and then I dive into revisions. Each book so far has gone through about six to seven rounds of revisions before I’ve submitted it; I get to a certain point and know it still needs work but I’m not sure what that work is, and then I send it off to some writer friends who give me notes, and that’s always my last round of revision. But I also always have long fallow periods where I’m not writing and am taking a break/slowly coming up with outlines/jotting down ideas/reading a ton of other books. I have to write from an outline (I’ve tried it without an outline and discovered I absolutely can’t do it that way) and my outlining process takes at least a few weeks of constant thinking and not a ton of writing.”

In this novel, Olivia has started her own law firm, and she’s experienced a lot of sexism in the past working. Can you talk a little bit about that and why it’s important to talk about women in the workplace—especially Black women in the workplace—trying to make a career and, you know, make a name for themselves in that way.. 

“Yeah. I mean, early in the book, you know, Olivia talks about how one of the reasons she finally made the decision to leave her old law firm was because, you know, she had more experience and more seniority, but there were white men who people were paying attention to more than her, listening to. . . . They would, you know, do that thing that I think a lot of women are familiar with, which is repeat what she said in a meeting. And then everyone says, oh, great idea, Jeff. And didn’t pay attention to that Olivia had already said it. You know, those are things that I think so many people have experienced, so many women I know have experienced over and over again. And so, you know, I wanted to make it seem real to people. These are stories that we have all experienced in our lives and have told other people. And this is why Olivia finally just cracked and was like, I’m going out on my own. I can’t deal with these people anymore.”

The hero of this book is a senator. And did you do some research for that job? Because I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea what the day-to-day lives of a senator would look like.

“I did do some research, actually, a long time ago. I worked in a senator’s office. So some of it from that. But also, that was a while ago. So I had to do some research just to see if some of that’s still accurate. You know, how often do they come home? I think most people do come home like every week. So that’s a lot of back-to- back, coast-to-coast flights. You know how their office is set up, where they live. And, you know, lots of senators and members of the House of Representatives do have roommates. Max, in this book, has a roommate in his apartment in D.C., which is often true for especially in the early years because they have to keep two households up. And a lot of people don’t want to have, you know, a whole big house that they live in in D.C. by themselves. So there’s a lot of people who, like, bunk up with other members of Congress. So that was fun to kind of do that research and talk to people and read articles about.”

Why do you think it’s so important to portray interracial couples?

“It’s very difficult for me, and I know for other people, to write a book about people falling in love, and getting to know one another, without talking about something that is core to their identity. I have never had a relationship, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a good friendship, where we didn’t talk about race. My close friends and I talk about race all the time, you know, especially right now in all of the conversations we’re having about race. I mean, I’ve had a number of conversations about race with my white friends in the past few weeks that have not felt stressful or fraught, because I’ve talked to them about that before.

You know, I don’t think that you can have a real relationship with a person without having those conversations and knowing where you stand. And I feel like my characters feel a lot the same way. And so I wanted them to have those conversations — not in a big deal way every time, but just so that they keep referring to it, and know that they’re on the same page for everything.”

Do you have a favorite food-based scene that you’ve written?

“There are two. Both come from The Proposal. I think all of my books talk about food but The Wedding Dateand The Proposal probably do the most. And in The Proposal, Carlos, who’s the main character, really likes to cook. Both of the scenes that I really love in this book are about him cooking. In thinking of this character, I considered why he loves cooking. He’s a busy doctor. Why is he coming home and cooking?

There’s one scene where he’s on the phone with his sister and he’s making pasta for himself and it’s just his break from the world while he’s doing that. I find it to be a very soothing scene. It’s like, I want to make exactly what I’m in the mood for, what will make me happy. And then there was another scene that I love and it makes me laugh because I sort of ripped it from my own life. Which is a scene where he and Nik, his love interest in the book, are making enchiladas. They’re making enchilada sauce and she touches the chilis too much and then touches her face and her face is on fire. And that exact thing happened to me. I was making enchiladas with my mom and I touched my face and my face felt on fire. My sister was frantically Googling what to do to help and I ended up spreading sour cream all over my face, which is what Nik does in the book to fix it. FYI, it works!”

Here is a question I have asked everyone I have ever interviewed: What is something you wish interviewers would ask you, but haven’t yet?

“Jasmine, in your acknowledgements you thank Michelle Obama for all of the pep talks she gave you, even though they were just in your head. What kinds of pep talks did she give you?”

Well, I’m so glad you asked me that. Michelle’s pep talks were encouraging and supportive, they never shamed me for what I hadn’t done, they just made me want to sit up straight and keep going (the way I envision the perfect personal trainer would be). She would say things like “I’m so proud of you for finishing that really difficult chapter! Even though you know it isn’t right now, you just need to have words on a page for now, you’ll go back and edit it later, don’t worry!” or “Don’t feel bad that you only wrote 500 words today when you intended to write 1500, that’s 500 more words than you had yesterday!” or sometimes when she needed to lay down the law a little, she would say “You are not allowed to go to that party until you get your writing done, I know you can do it, and just think of how glad you’ll be at the party to have your day’s writing already done!”

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member