S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: The hardest thing for me in figuring out a book often is why does this person fall in love with that person and vice versa? And so that is the thing that I’m often going towards is like, who are these people? Why do they care about each other? Why do they have this connection? Why would people root for them?
S3: Welcome back to Working. I’m your host, Ramona Long, and I’m your other host. June Thomas. And the voice that we just heard belongs to Jasmine Guillory.
S4: Jasmine is a writer and hers is a name you’re gonna see a lot this summer if your family is anything like mine and spends every free moment at the beach. Jasmine’s new book is called Party of Two, and I just know I’m going to see it the next time that my family treks out to the shore.
S1: Reman In this weird year, I had almost forgotten about the whole concept of B treating. But I’m sure you’re right. It really is the perfect accompaniment to like sand in your shorts and salt on your skin that that kind of reading that we do when we just want to luxuriate in a sea of words in another life under the whole universe. It’s really a very nice distraction from the world.
S4: And I think that’s something we could all use at this cultural moment, regardless of whether we are at home or at the beach. Indeed, June, you strike me as a person of really Catholic tastes because I have heard you enthuse about opera. I’ve heard you talk about prestige television. And I’ve heard you mention YouTube personalities you enjoy. I’ve heard you talk about the serious theater theater spelled with an R e, and now I’m hearing you talk about a romance novel. And I definitely would have assumed that you’d be a reader because it comes with the territory of your profession. But I’m really curious about what you like to read and whether romance is part of that stack of books on your nightstand.
S1: You know, I’m one of those like obsessive people who latches on to a topic and then just reads every book and magazine article, blog post about that topic to the exclusion of almost all else. But when I’m between obsessions, I do read widely or without focus, depending on how you see it. I read a lot of nonfiction. I just finished a book about Scottish independence and I’m about to start the Deviance War, the new biography of Frank Kameny that’s been getting good reviews. But I do read genre fiction with the possible exception of sci fi, which I’ve really just never gotten into. Not a massive romance reader. But there are certain things that I like. I once wrote for Slate about my love for a series of lesbian romances between the first daughter. That is to say, the president’s daughter and the head of her Secret Service detail. I haven’t reread them in a while, but I still recommend the honors series by Radcliffe. If you’ve ever wondered what Secret Service agents do after they clock off. I know. I know that you spend a lot of time reviewing books. Do you get much time to read for pleasure? And and if so, what kind of stuff do you read?
S4: I mean, I’m so lucky because I read all the time, you know, and most often it is for work rather than pleasure. Especially lately. But it’s my great good luck that those two can overlap. You know, right now I’m reading the work of someone who I’m going to interview on this very podcast in a couple of weeks. The comics artist, Adrian Dominie. And that really hardly counts as work. You know, it’s just like a pure pleasure. Yeah. To get back to our guests today, Jasmine Guillory, Jasmine is a real overachiever. She worked as a lawyer for about a decade and a half, and then she reinvented herself as a writer and a very successful one at that. She participated in something that is known as such a mouthful as Nan. No, Remould. I don’t even know if I’m saying that right. It’s a way of abbreviating national novel writing month. And that’s how Jasmine sort of first got her feel for the form. She published her first book, The Wedding Date in 2018, and she’s since published Four More. The Proposal, The Wedding Party, Royal Holiday and Party of two, which just came out last week, five books in two years.
S1: Yes, she’s certainly prolific. And as someone who once did know, Raimo has I think people say it in different ways. But I wrote a piece of very weird fiction that no eyes will ever see. But I thought it was wonderful that she used the structure of that, you know, kind of challenge basically as a challenge to yourself. And she used that structure to kickstart a whole new career, which, as you say, has been very successful. She’s now a full time writer. But the years that she spent working full time and writing every evening clearly paid off.
S4: I’m really excited to listen to this chat with Jasmine Hillary.
S1: So your latest romance novel, Party of Two, is out on June twenty third, and it’s your fifth book to be published in the last two and a half years. I think a lot of writing in a short space of time.
S5: You know, the first few books that the publishing part of them came a lot faster together than the writing did. It is a little bit of the magic of the publishing industry that it looks like I wrote them a lot faster than I did.
S1: I see you well. You’re giving away all their secrets. I know. I know. But still you how telling it take to write these five books.
S5: You know, each book was a little different. So my first book, The Wedding Day, the first half of the first draft I wrote as part of NENO right now, which is the national novel Writing Month. Yeah, their big month is November. And so they have a whole community thing around writing 50000 words of a novel in November. But they also do months throughout the year that are slightly different structure. And so I started the wedding date in April. They have a month in April and also in July. And I wrote the first 30000 words then and then kept going, though not as fast, and finished the first draft sometime in June of that year. And then I spent much longer editing it. That was not the first book I had written. I’d written another whole book and then like sort of part of another before that. But this was my first published novel. And so so that one, it took probably about six months for me to get it into shape, to send out agents. That’s the book that was my first published book and also got me my agent. And so I that one took about six months.
S6: The others have really ranged from significantly longer than that to much shorter, depending on what else I had on my schedule, what else I was working on. Things like that.
S1: Now, I read an interview in which you talked about receiving a lot of rejections from your earliest fiction submissions. What kept you writing and submitting?
S5: You know, I started writing fiction pretty late in life in comparison to, I think, a lot of people. I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in my thirties and I just had so much fun with it. I really loved it. I look forward to coming home from work every night and working on my book. And so I definitely went through periods of like feeling like this was not, you know, I was not going to go anywhere with this. This is not for me. No one cared about what I was doing. But then I just kept coming back to it because I had so much fun with it. And so that was the thing that kept to me coming back was really just enjoying the process of writing and, you know, enjoying getting out of my own head for a while, which is always a nice thing to do, even though while writing your kind of intensely in your own head, you’re also in other people’s heads. So that was nice. So that was really the thing that kept coming back and back.
S1: Well, one of the things we are attempting to do in this newly rebooted working is to help our listeners be better creators, be better whatever that is that they’re wanting to be creative in. And, you know, you said you would write after work. I know that the law, the you know, the legal profession is not something that, you know, is a part time job. Did you have any sort of tricks or tips that allowed you to keep focusing on your writing when you know, when you don’t a full day’s work and in a demanding profession?
S2: I think there’s a lot of discussion in writing world about, you know, writing every day and whether I’ve seen some people say, like in order to be a writer, you have to write every day. I absolutely don’t think that’s true. But I know that for me, writing everyday is important, mostly just because it keeps me on schedule, like in like I know before the day is done. I have to have written something because otherwise then the next day it’s too easy to say, Oh, I didn’t write yesterday, I can wait until tomorrow again and then just keep pushing it out. And so that, like, I, you know, I make spreadsheets and check in with myself every day. I usually say what like my word count is for the day and things like that, not to like prove anything to anyone else, but just like for myself so that I can track what I’m doing, keep myself on track. And also, it’s also nice for me because sometimes, you know, especially when you’re writing a whole book. Right. It’s like anywhere from 80 to 100 thousand words. And it feels so overwhelming at first. And so sometimes I go back and scribble back on my spreadsheet and look like, OK. Like, even though I. Only row 500 words or 300 words or a thousand words or whatever on those days. Look at all that’s added up like. Look at what I’ve done to this day. I can keep going. So those are the things that really like just having that to look back on, because sometimes the the word document doesn’t do it for me. You know, it’s nice to look at the numbers and think that little bit that I did that one day, that writing was so hard and I didn’t want to do it, but I did. That kept me on track. That kept me going.
S1: Well, I’m wondering, is your writing plan or your outline, how do you kind of deal with the structure of your books? Do you write your way into them? Do you figure them out before you start writing? How do you kind of prepare for your novels?
S2: You know, it’s a little bit of both of those things, so I’ve always been in outliner, you know, for most of my life. I was a history major in college and I wrote a lot of research papers and always did an outline. And so when I started writing fiction, I just did it the same way. And then the first novel that I wrote that was not published, I wrote an outline and did it. And, you know, I, I vary from the outline some, but when I tried to write another book, I’d seen so many writers say, I just have an idea. And I just write with it. And so I thought, well, I’ll try that. And that did not work for me at all. And I wrote the first half of that book three times and then kind of eventually gave up on it because I didn’t really know where I was going. And so, you know. But I’m really glad I learned that about myself that I needed at least like now my outlines aren’t MALINS are very detailed. I usually have kind of a vague beginning, middle and end. But having that kind of end point or at least knowing at least the overall arc of the book more or less keeps me on track, even though a lot of times I am writing my way into it. I mean, I’m figuring out the characters as I write the first draft. I know people who kind of do all that character work in advance and, you know, figure out who their helpers are and what they do and where they come from before they start writing the first draft. I try that and I realize that I can’t do it. It doesn’t feel real to me unless it’s on the page. So a lot of my first draft. I’m, you know, having by putting the characters in situations and having them talk to each other, sometimes I write scenes and I realize that’s absolutely wrong for these people. And then I do it over again. But so it’s a little bit of writing my way into things and then giving myself in a structure. And so a lot of times, like, I’ll write kind of chunks and then go back and change the outline based on what I’ve written, and then write more chunks and then change the outline again and things like that.
S1: Interesting. Now, when you are outlining, are you kind of outlining where the characters are going to go? Are you thinking were the the beats of romance between connecting, reconnecting, falling for each other? Sex conflict resolution, happy ever after? How aware of the formula needs are you as you’re planning your books?
S2: I agree that there is a formula for romance, and I, I also don’t say that in a negative way. I think, you know, romance readers come into a book wanting certain things like you think the biggest one is the happy ending. But in order to write that happy ending and to have it resonate and have it work, you have to there’s a lot of work you have to do early on in the book. And so while I said like, yes, when I write an outline, I need to have an ending. I always, always gonna be a happy ending. But that’s not you know, I need to know, like, how these two people come together, what their struggle is, what their conflict is with one another, and then how like how that ending will work and make people happy and care about them and happy that these two people got together. Like, you know, the hardest thing for me in figuring out a book often is I write these two characters and I figure out who they are. But then I need to figure out why does this person fall in love with that person and vice versa. And so that is the thing that I’m often going towards, is like, who are these people? What is the thing that makes them fall in love with one another? Why do they care about each other? Why do they have this connection? Why would people root for them? That is definitely part of it. I think, you know, thinking about, like the beats and stuff of romance novels, I don’t necessarily think in that way. But I think that’s partly because I’ve read a lot of romance novels. And so I kind of know that without without specifically thinking about it. I think more about the characters and what, you know, what are the things that they care about both in the outside world and then about each other and then what their plotlines are going to be to get them to like different points in their lives, in their relationships.
S1: So you wanted to be a writer, but were you always going to be going to be writing romance novels?
S2: No, actually, my the first book that I wrote was young at all, although it was a young adult romance. So I don’t think I was that sort of far away from telling stories about people falling in love with each other. But I read a lot of young at all. Both as a kid and as an adult. And I had a number of other friends who were romance novelists. And so I think that was partly why I started. And I had a lot of fun with that book. And then I tried to write another book and I. I see myself going back to young at all at some point. I love that genre and I like I find teenagers kind of endlessly fascinating. Is it’s such a weird and interesting time in life. Yeah. You know, I was reading a bunch of romance during that and then a lot more, you know, in there was a certain period of my life where it started kind of diving straight in to romance. And I was reading a ton of it.
S1: And that’s when I had the idea for the wedding date when you were starting out. Were there any particular books or resources that help you figure out either structure or writing or just the whole world of being a writer?
S2: I had a big variety of writing books, mostly in the early stages, when I was kind of first thinking like, do I want to try to do this? And so I read, you know, some of the classics like on writing My Stephen King, Bird by Bird. I write Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Yeah. Yeah. And then more recently, I have read Story Genius and Wired by Story by Lisa Crohn, which I really love because they make me think a lot harder about character. And you know where I am taking the story and why. And she kind of differentiates like plot versus story in a way that really helped me think through a lot of stuff in books. And so it’s not like I think one of the great things about reading a whole bunch of writing books is you see the many different ways people do it. And so it makes it easier to pluck out the things in a book that work for you and then easily reject the things in the book that don’t. Because I think, you know, there’s no one way to be a writer. And I think it’s so easy in books. A lot of books can be very dogmatic about like this is the one way to do it. And so I try to just ignore that part and figure out what actually works for me.
S4: We’ll be back with more of Jeunes conversation with the writer Jasmin Guillory. One of the things we’d love to do with this show is help solve your creative problems, whether it’s a specific challenge about your work or a big question about inspiration or discipline. Send it to us at working at Slate dot com. If and when we can, we’ll put those questions to our esteemed guests. Welcome back to working. I’m Ramona Lamb. Let’s hear the rest of June’s conversation with Jasmine Guillory.
S1: So let’s talk about party to your new book. She said, I’m no romance expert, but, you know, I’ve read I’ve read my my share and it felt like the conflict that the characters faced. You know, the obstacles to the couples happily ever after were less heightened, less scary than in many of the other romances that I’ve read. And I’m wondering, was that intentional on your part?
S2: I wanted to write about real people who are grown ups, who have the conflicts that like I’ve had relationships and that my friends have had and that I’ve seen and that feel like this. These are two people kind of figuring out how they can do this together as opposed to something unnatural or scary or, you know, certain like there are different conflicts that you have in a relationship when you’re fifteen versus twenty five versus thirty five versus forty five, you know. Yeah. And so I was thinking about what happens in a relationship with two people who care about their careers a lot, who are have become like fully developed individuals and are used to being alone for the most part and then are like have to come together and compromise in a way that is often hard to do once you’re at a certain age or you’ve kind of figured out your own path and you have to think about other people. So those were the conflicts that I was really thinking about.
S1: What kind of responses do you get when you tell people that you’re that you’re a romance writer?
S5: You know, it hits a real range. Some people get really excited. Some people look confused. Sometimes people get weird about it. Like, I I’ve had to stop, like, if I’m in a cab to the airport or something like that. And people they ask what you do. I’ve just had to go back to telling people that I’m a lawyer because people get like I’ve had drivers or whatever, get really excited in a creepy way when I say that I write romance novels. And so I just don’t tell strangers that anymore.
S1: Writing romances, some of them, anyway, involves writing sex scenes. How do you approach that particular part of the job?
S5: You know, it’s funny because people always ask about writing sex scenes, but it seems to me to be something that grows out of the relationship. Like I think about who are these two people? What are they like? What is the reason that they are having sex today? You know, and so that, like, each sex scene is very different because it feels like, you know, there’s the the first time in the book which depicted depends on the book, whether that’s like it’s just a one night stand. It’s hot and heavy. And then move on. And then, you know, something can build later or whether they have made any sort of commitment to each other or whether, you know, it’s later on in the book and they’re mad at each other and having like. So those are things that I really think about in going into each scene, because you can’t really it’s not like you can, you know, cut and paste and drop that around to four scenes by scenes. It really depends on the characters and who these people are and what they’re doing. Having sex with each other that day. And so that is one of the things that I really think about in approaching vaccines.
S1: I mean, I feel slightly embarrassed even bringing that up, even though, you know, it is a part of the genre and it’s there’s nothing wrong with it by any means. Is this is it part of the of the writing process that you like? Do you find it kind of embarrassing because people bring it up? Is it awkward for YouTube?
S5: You know, it’s funny because it’s not awkward for me at all to write them. But whenever I read the back, I’m always, like, blushing a little. So that is that is always a little funny.
S1: Now, I haven’t read all of your books, so I apologize if this is incorrect, but I understand that the characters in your first five novels are often interconnected. A side character from one will be the main character in another. Is that so? And what appealed to you about doing that?
S5: Yes, all of it. I mean, for all five of the books, they all it’s not that they’re sequels, but they all of the characters kind of the stories all interconnect a little bit. It’s not I didn’t quite plan it that way. It’s just that. Sometimes I write a side character and then I have an idea for a story for them. So so it is just sort of happened naturally, less, less on purpose. But I think, you know, I wrote Olivia. I first wrote in the wedding date my first book. She’s the older sister of the heroine in that book. And when I wrote about her in that book, I kind of had a germ of an idea for a story for her. Then it took me a while to be able to write it. But that is mostly how it’s happened. It’s you know, I’ve written someone and then I think about, well, you know, who would they fall in love with or what would their story be or what are they doing now? And so those are the reasons that I end up writing a book for them.
S1: Now. Does that mean that whenever you’re creating side characters, you always create single characters so that they can later find their happy ending?
S5: No. No. But, you know, there’s definitely some times when I’ve written a character and initially thought like, oh, they’re married. And then I thought. Maybe they’re not married.
S1: You’re female characters. Certainly the ones that I’ve come across so far, they’re into cakes and food that isn’t necessarily a kale salad with the dressing on the side. That feels really great and important, as does, you know, for example, showing characters with a good work life balance who were successful but also want to have a life of their own or people volunteering in their communities. It’s not a political decision to kind of show. I don’t know the not typical people, because that sounds like the people that I know, but it’s not necessarily the kind of characters I often see in genre novels.
S5: I mean, it’s less of a political decision other than, like, just what you said. I mean, they’re like people I know. And so when I when I write a book, I want to write people that feels like someone you know. You know, that like that feels like someone you’re sitting across the table having dinner with. When we were back in the world, we sat across the table having dinner. And so that’s like those of the people that I think about. You know what? Like, if you’re having dinner with them, what would they order if. What were they telling you about their day? What are the things that they care about, you know, in the world or who are their family like? Those are all the things that I think about when thinking through a character.
S1: Yeah. You are also writing about people who are finding each other attractive. What kind of decisions have you made about how you describe your characters?
S5: You know, I try to think about it kind of gradually, like I always have a picture in my head of who they are and what they look like. It’s hard because you don’t. I never want to have, you know, like a two paragraph thing of describing them early on because that when I read that in books, that sometimes kind of takes me out of the book. But I do want people early on to have a picture in their head. So I actually think that I kind of ear on the side of not enough description too early and then I try to put more in. But I’ve definitely gotten, you know, notes from early readers of like, I have no idea what this person looks like. You need to tell me more about that, because I, I, I always know. And so sometimes it feels silly to describe it, even though I know I need, you know, I think back like, oh yes, I should have described what his hair looked like or whatever. So I try it like I often am going back and adding things about what they look like and what they’re wearing or whatever, because even though I know that it’s something that I always kind of forget to put down on the page.
S1: Jasmine, could you read a little bit from Party of two for us? Sure.
S2: So this is the first scene of the book. This is Olivia, one of the main characters when she first meets Max, who is sitting near her at a hotel bar. Olivia is in the middle of a conversation with the bartender and Max jumps in. And so this is when she first really notices him.
S6: What are the chances these cookies are actually good? He asked. Olivia couldn’t help herself from smiling back at him. Oh, slim to none. She said normally Olivia wouldn’t give this guy the time of day. He was too good looking. With those big dark eyes, strong jaw and wide smile, his hair was probably in perfect tussled waves underneath that baseball cap, too. She knew guys like this all too well. They’d been told their whole lives. They were smart and charming and they got away with everything. She’d gone to school with this guy. She’d worked with him. She’d worked for him. But tonight she was in a good mood and full of gin and French fries. And she didn’t work for guys like this or anyone else anymore. Her smile grew wider. Hi, I’m Olivia. She was Shatterhand to him. He glanced out the stool in between them, occupied by her bag. Thank goodness. Just because she told this guy her name didn’t mean she wanted him to sit next to her. Hi, Olivia. I’m Max. His handshake was firm, but not that death grip that so many men had, like they were trying to prove they were so big and strong. So where do you stand on the cake versus pie argument? Olivia waved a French fry at him. I reject the whole idea that I have to choose between them. I love both cake and pie. An excellent version of either is a perfect food, a bad version of either is a crime against humanity. I don’t know why people always want you to choose the team when you can love both. Oh, no. She’s shouting about dessert again. That martini hit her hard. Well, at least you shouting to the sky. She’d never seen again.
S1: So the scene that you just read is effectively the first meeting between the two main characters, the characters who spoiler alert will be the couple in the book. You know, hearing it after I know what having read the Burkean know happens, it really does set up so much of the of the kind of the attitude between them. But tell me kind of what you were trying to do with that initial scene setting.
S5: So in that scene, they are they’re both just meeting there at a hotel bar. They’re both at the hotel for different reasons. And Olivia has a very she kind of looks at Max and thinks she knows exactly who he is. He is not the person who she thinks she is seeing. And so that is a lot of it is you know, she is throughout the book, she’s kind of figuring out who he is, why her impression of him was not the correct one, and whether she trusts who he says he is or whether she should trust, like who she thought he was initially. And so that is kind of a lot of where, you know, especially the first half of the book, how she kind of finds her way into her relationship with him.
S1: One of the things that I don’t know that it’s clear in that in the scene that you read, but Olivier is black and Max is white. Yes. No, I don’t know if that’s the first interracial couple. That’s been your main couple.
S2: No. The wedding date was also black and white couple. And then the proposal, my second book. She was black and he was Latino.
S1: OK. I was writing about a relationship between a black woman and a white man, different from when you were writing about relationships between two black characters or two characters of color.
S2: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know what? Like the race is a part of you. And so a black woman has a different kind of relationship with a black man than she does with a white man than she does with an Asian man or a Latino man, etc.. And so those things like their race is part of them and it’s part of their relationship. And so I try to make that clear. You know, the characters, my books all have conversations about race in very different ways from one another. And I think I also want to make it clear what they have thought about race before coming into the book is.
S1: Yeah, yeah. I mean, and I like very much that what Olivia is kind of monitoring with Max is often, you know, his entitlement, whether he kind of catches himself, whether he recognizes that his situation is not the situation for everyone, that not everyone would experience things the same way that felt very, very kind of subtle, but also very powerful. So I I really liked that about their relationship. Well, thank you.
S4: OK, John. I can’t entirely get over that. Jasmine’s first foray into the novel was taking part a national novel writing month. I mean, this to me is a little like running a 10K, just like, oh, you don’t like the way that people do sometimes, like the day of Thanksgiving and then ending up as a marathon runner. Right. You know, she just sat down and did it, presumably after a lifetime of reading and sort of half dreaming about it. And, you know, so many of us have idle dreams about a different sort of career or a different sort of life. But it’s rare that you meet someone who actually takes some initiative and does something about that.
S1: Yeah, I mean, it’s clearly something that she was really motivated to do. You know, as I think we talked about on the show, you know, the legal profession isn’t one you get into on a lark either. You put in a lot of time, a lot of study.
S4: I mean, she’s an alumna of Stanford Law School.
S1: You know, it’s no, it wasn’t a hobby, clearly. Exactly. But she clearly, again, wanted to dedicate herself to writing. As I mentioned earlier, I also did know RAYMO one year. And for me, it was a lark. It was just I’d never written fiction, probably won’t ever again. And I needed the structure to, like, sit down and just blurt out 50000 words. The expectation when people do this, needless to say, is that you will spend. Then afterward, way more than a month editing and reworking the words that you typed over the course of 30 or 31 days. And there are hundreds of published novels that have started as Ramos’, which, yes, is what they call them, including many from mainstream publishers, including, of course, Jasmin’s. But I think that especially at the intersection of e-books and genre fiction were there are some people I don’t know how many, but, you know, at least some people who make a living by producing a lot of books very quickly, which is almost like a sort of modern version of the fiction factories of the mid 20th century. No, RAYMO is actually a pretty good test of a person’s ability to come up with a cohesive story and get it done pretty quickly. That’s a real world test. And clearly, she passed it.
S4: I’m picturing Charles Dickens sort of scrambling to finish a serial because readers are demanding it. I really liked how Jasmine is so down to earth about what she does. Your conversation really was focused on, you know, things like word count. You know, it’s very obvious as a writer that she’s thinking about more about stuff that’s maybe harder to articulate about language and character and story and logic. But that stuff is really abstract. And she is talking to you in this conversation about the novel as an achievable thing in just the same way. You know, again, like I said about the 10K, it’s like just thinking about running a certain distance or accomplishing a certain task right in front of you.
S1: Yes. I was also struck by that and I enjoyed hearing that perspective. I mean, we know that in life there are people who are drawn to spreadsheets and generally keeping track of all the aspects of their lives. You know, they write down the books that they’ve read and the TV shows they watch and how many steps they take each day. And so it makes sense to me that a person like that would also keep track of how much they wrote on a particular day. That’s just how they’re wired. And and I do think, again, that in the world of genre fiction, where there is an ideal production model, for example, you know, a book in this cozy mystery series will come out every summer or a thriller involving a Marine turned bodyguard will appear every fall in those genres. There’s perhaps extra pressure to write, we might say, efficiently. Ramon, should I conclude that you are not a person who keeps careful track of your word count when you’re writing a novel?
S4: I try not to overthink the word count stuff, but I do identify with the imperative to just put one foot in front of the other to show up and just keep forging ahead. You know, one of the best things that any writer ever said to me at the beginning of my career was no one will ever invite you to write a book. Mm hmm. You know, you kind of have to just sort of take the initiative yourself. And I think that’s absolutely true. And I really enjoyed hearing a similar thing from someone as accomplished, just Jasmyn. Essentially, the way that she does it is the same way that even a first time writer is gonna have to do it. They’re gonna have to do it one word at a time, one day at a time when page at a time, and to her point, eventually to Cruz eventually and turns into a book. And even if you’re doing it over the course of 30 days, you know, at the end of that 30 days, you’re sitting on maybe more than half of a manuscript. Yeah, I’m going to read what The Seattle Times Moira MacDonald said of one of Jasmine’s first two novels quotes, The real pleasure here is the little world Guillory has created and just two books, a Los Angeles populated with a diverse, devoted crowd of nice people who hold each other up, treat each other to cupcakes, have each other’s back and occasionally fall in love. I mean, that sounds great to me. It just feels like pleasure. It just sounds like the kind of work that allows you to parachute into comfort.
S1: Yeah, I have always found comfort in the certainties of genre fiction. You know you know, you will find out who done it. You know that the couple will get together. Whatever they have to go through, they will get together in the end. But I also love that in Jasmine Guillory Spook’s, as she mentioned in our conversation, the characters from the various different adventures that she’s written about all live in a shared universe. And they might turn up, you know, a couple of volumes after their relationship was the main focus. I love it when you’ve read a bunch of books by a particular writer and you are rewarded by a character that you know and love or maybe even hate shows up in another novel that isn’t necessarily part of a series or it’s anything that you would formally expect. Jonathan Coe, whose work I love, is prone to do that. And it’s like a video game, Easter Egg. You know, it’s no harm done if you miss the reference, as I did by reading Jasmine’s fifth book and not really knowing the characters from her previous work. But if you’re a kind of a member of the club, you get that frisson when you recognize someone. It’s like like there are some people in my neighborhood. I don’t know them, but I really enjoy seeing them. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel part of a community when I just kind of this is just looking to not have recognition, even if we’ll never speak. I really enjoy that. I find that a very comforting thing in a book.
S4: I think the conversation around what we tend to call genre fiction content to be really silly or flat, you know, as though writing a book that happened to adhere to conventions of a form, you know, writing a book that happened to be about aliens or falling in love or terror or high text Bycroft, were somehow simpler. Yeah, but, you know, if it were easy to write romance novel that lots of readers loved, then a lot more people would be doing it.
S1: They sure would. I’m always struck by the way that certain multi-million selling page turners are absolutely dismissed as utter trash that anyone could write. But that’s obviously not true or everyone would be writing them.
S3: I mean, it’s like what people say about modern art. You know, oh, I could paint like Rothko, I could paint like Pollock or my kid could paint like Pollock, you know, put up or shut up. Totally. Listeners, if you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate plus Slate, plus members get benefits like zero ads on a measly podcast. Bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Dear Prudence. And you’ll be supporting the work we do here on working. It’s only thirty five dollars for the first year and you can get a free two retrial now at Slate dot com slash working plus. Thank you to Jasmine Guillory for being our guest this week and enormous thanks to our producer, Cameron Drewes. We’ll be back next week for a conversation with the editor Tracy Charade. Until then, get back to work.