While chatting with New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory about her latest novel, recent big-screen romantic comedy “The Lost City” pops up. In the film, Sandra Bullock’s character is a successful novelist but harbors some resentment towards the genre in which she has built her career. She diminishes her devoted readers with stereotypes, only to be reminded by her cover model, played by Channing Tatum, “Don’t belittle the people who love your work by calling it schluck; it’s not fair to them. . . I thought you of all people would know not to judge a book by its cover.” When we chatted, I had recently watched the movie (although Guillory has yet to stream it), and the moment struck me, as a romance fan and someone who has long hated when contemporary literature is likened to a lit chick. I asked Guillory how she, as a writer, tackles these stigmas.
“It’s frustrating for me, because I feel like it’s so grounded in misogyny,” Guillory told POPSUGAR. “You think there’s something wrong with romance writing, because they’re books that women love? It’s like that. Right?” Guillory rejects the idea that a happy ending is “unrealistic”. She said, “I know a lot of people who are happily married. It’s not like they’re together and nothing ever goes wrong in life. That’s not what a happy ending means. But they are. together and happy together…I think it’s great and fun to explore relationships like that.There’s so much about romance that’s about people going through tough things, but treat them together. And I think that’s one of the things I really love about writing romance.
“There’s so much about romance that’s about people dealing with tough things, but dealing with them together. And I think that’s one of the things I really love about writing romance.”
Ultimately, the author of “The Proposal” says, “I don’t understand all the people who despise her. Why despise something that brings people joy?”
And joy is exactly what Guillory’s latest novel, “Drunk in love” brought. The contemporary romance — out September 20 — takes readers to California’s Napa Valley, specifically to a Black-owned family winery. Margot Noble and her brother Elliott operate the vineyard, although their relationship is strained. Loosening up in a rare moment, the ever-focused Margot has a one-night stand with Luke Williams – only to find out he’s the cellar’s new employee. “They have to come to terms with their new relationship as employer and employee and try to ignore all the feelings they had the night before that grow throughout the book,” Guillory teases.
So what comes first for Guillory when crafting a new story? It’s not always the same answer (chicken then egg or egg then chicken) – although an outline is involved. And it is usually prepared with decor. This time, Napa spoke to him. She doesn’t live too far from the popular travel destination, but aside from being a winery tourist, she had to research what’s going on to operate one. “I first started asking a lot more questions every time I went to a winery, asking all the people how long they had been working there, what they were doing, what was really involved their work,” she explains. “And then I spoke to a few people who run wineries, to find out more about the background.”
Image source: Berkley/Penguin Random House
With her set up, she also knew immediately that Luke would be a Napa native, and one who — like many during the pandemic and amid a recent trend dubbed silent abandonment — is grappling with his future after having left an unsatisfying career. “I realized it was about quitting his job, but not knowing if he made the right decision,” she explains. “If that’s what he was supposed to do, why did he give up? Was he disappointing people? Was he disappointed in himself? And what did he really want in life? And I think that’s something a lot of people are exploring, especially in the age group that Luke is in, late 20s, early 30s.”
She says, “I think a lot of people have reached that point in their lives where they’re like, ‘Wait, do I want what I planned to do? Or is it just something I had in mind years ago, or what my parents wanted for me?'”
As with all of Guillory’s works, the black identities of Luke and Margot are also integral to the plot and their development. For Luke, it explored how, as a “person of color, man of color, black man who had been in tech and was sorting out the guy who had done it well,” he deals with feeling let down by people. stepping away from a high profile career to an hourly role at Margot’s winery.
“My books feature black people,” Guillory says. “I want them to feel like they’re real people and they’re in situations that are actually happening.”
And this reality that she integrates into her works has an impact. Guillory recalls a moment at a book signing in fall 2019 when a woman told him, “I just want you to know that I read your books during a really tough time. And they m really helped me out.” Guillory and the fan ended up tearing up, with the former saying the interaction “meant so much to me.”
“Books have gotten me through some really tough times in life, and so it means so much to me that my books can do that for anyone else.”
“Drunk on Love” is available for purchase now.