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When Jasmine Guillory wrote her breakout 2018 debut novel, The Wedding Date, she “didn’t envision” what ended up happening over the next few years. As of this summer, Guillory has published five interconnected stand-alone romances (with several more in the works) and has earned legions of fans, including the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Roxane Gay. It’s easy to see why: Guillory, 45, writes stories that are deliciously fun and sexy, with charming, complicated heroines, irresistible love interests, and scorching chemistry. Over the phone from Oakland, CA, Guillory told me about the romance genre, her new book, Party of Two (out June 23), and her tips on writing about sex and attraction in fiction.

Olivia, the protagonist in your new book Party of Two, was first introduced in your debut The Wedding Date. How did her story come together?

I had the idea for her story while I was working on The Wedding Date. I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun if Olivia started dating a politician? I used to work for a senator, so that’s always been part of my world, but the idea felt too close to me. So, when I initially pitched an Olivia book to my editor, I wrote a very different proposal. But [then] I realized I was dreading writing that, so I went back to the original idea. It was definitely hard to write for a number of reasons, especially the political climate in America, but I was excited to get to write it. I really loved writing about Olivia.

When you’re writing a love story, how do you get your readers invested in a couple before they get together?

It definitely varies from book to book. In The Wedding Party, [the get-together] happened real quick, but then my goal was to get readers invested in their love story throughout. I say readers, but as a writer I also want to know why these two people are falling in love. I think that is what I think about most as I’m writing: Why is this person falling in love with that person? Why would these two people start liking and then falling in love with each other? I try to do that in my head but also, on the page, make it clear what their reasons are for being drawn to each other first—and then falling for each other.

Your sex scenes are always so hot and tender at the same time. Do you have any tips for striking that balance?

My advice is to read a lot first. It helps to read a bunch of sex scenes in other books and see which are the ones that feel loving and tender to you, which are the ones that feel exciting and fun, and then figure out why it is that way. What’s the kind of language they use? Are they touching a lot, or not? What are they thinking? 

Your books really put women’s pleasure at the forefront—there’s no slut-shaming or taboo around your heroines genuinely enjoying and thinking about sex. Is that a conscious decision you made?

Oh, absolutely! I don’t believe in the whole idea of a “guilty pleasure.” If it makes you happy, then go for it. That is my feeling in writing sex scenes and talking about romance novels in general. These are things that we should be excited about and feel joyful about. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re talking about women and our pleasure, and I hope that’s how people feel reading my books. 

By Lydia Wang
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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