[THEME MUSIC IN]
BRITTANY: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod, a show about Black culture from Blackness’ biggest fans. I’m Brittany Luse.
[THEME MUSIC OUT]
BRITTANY: So here we are in week 3 of our summer podcast club! All month long we’re revisiting some of our favorite episodes--the ones that had our group chats blowing up, and our inboxes full.
We have a feeling they’d get your group chats going too, and that’s why we have the summer podcast club—think of it like a book club, but for podcasts.
And we’ve put together a guide for how to form your own club—but basically you just get together some people you like, listen to an episode, and talk about it!
To download our handy guide--and learn about how to get free nod swag—check out the nod dot show slash podcast club. That’s the nod dot show slash podcast club.
So, one of the most talked-about episodes we did this year was our show about romance novels. Part of that episode was an interview with the author that got me into romance in the first place: New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.
Jasmine’s just released her THIRD book, so be sure to stick around for an update from her at the end. But first, here is the episode that started it all, aptly titled “What’s Wrong With a Little Romance?”
BRITTANY: I just wanna give y’all a heads up, things are about to get a little…spicy (breathes in and out). I’m gonna share something with you that I read recently:
"His fingers moved from her back to her neck then to her hair. His lips touched her cheeks, her eyelids, and tip of her nose, which surprised a giggle out of her. Not content to be passive, her hands ran down her chest, dancing over his nipples, pressing into his muscles, squeezing his hips. When her fingers lingered there, he said, “aren’t going to keep going?"
BRITTANY: Today we’re gonna talk about the books seemingly everyone is reading but no one is talking about: romance novels
The excerpt I just read is from The Wedding Date, a book by New York Times bestselling author, Jasmine Guillory. Jasmine’s books are all about putting Black women at the center of their own love stories.
We’re gonna talk with Jasmine later today, but first, I have a confession to make.
I am a romance novel novice...which is strange because the job that I held most consistently while in college was at a Books-A-Million in Washington, DC.
During my shifts, I read whatever I could get my hands on; foreign policy magazines or herbology guides or sex astrology books… literally everything.
Everything...except for anything in the romance section. Unless I was helping a customer, anytime I walked through there, I averted my eyes.
I was just too self-conscious to find out what was actually behind all those vivid illustrations of blonde Fabio wannabes and pale, busty princesses...UNTIL three months ago...I saw this book called The Wedding Date. This book stuck out to me because it had this beautiful illustration of a Black woman on it. And I was seeing this book everywhere. So after all these years, I finally decided to give romance novels a shot.
And BOY, had I been missing out.
I mean first of all, this book was full of sex, which was amazing.
But it also had so much tenderness and cuteness and funny moments that weren’t super corny and it had so much…romance.
So, I was thrilled to have a new genre to dig into. But I was also pissed. Why had I kept all this goodness away from me for so long? And what else had I been missing out on?
I needed answers, so I decided to call for reinforcement. I reached out to the hosts of Thirst Aid Kit, Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins. Their podcast is all about the public ways women express their desire.
BIM ADEWUNMI: Who are we talking about this week, Nichole?
NICHOLE PERKINS: We are talking about Gael Garcia Bernal.
BIM: Yasss! I just wanna- ugh- put him in some like some bread and just eat him like a sandwich.
NICHOLE: Oh my God! Don’t even get me started on sopping him up (laughs)
BIM: (laughs) Like a biscuit. Hahaha!
BRITTANY: Bim and Nichole are romance fanatics. I have them join me in the studio to give me an introduction to this new world. I started off by asking them each of them how they go into romance novels.
BIM: All the girls in my house I had several older girl cousins and they read romance. So, I read romance. It’s that simple. Like every girl that I love and trust growing up. These Black women- this is when we lived in Nigeria- just picking up books and being like-
BIM: “I wanna be like you! Let me read what you’re reading.” And then you read it and you’re like, “Oh, It’s dirty. Yes!”
BIM: So, that’s how I got into it. My older cousins.
BRITTANY: What about you, Nichole?
NICHOLE: Um, my great-grandmother was a domestic worker for some white people back in Nashville and when she passed we got her um-
BIM: Like the armoir, like the dresser?
NICHOLE: Yeah. Yeah. We called it a breakfront.
BRITTANY: So what was in it?
NICHOLE: A bunch of stuff that her white employers had given her and there were like these books in there and my great-grandmother didn’t know how to read so I was like fascinated, why did she have these books in her house? And one of them was this book called The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss she kind of kicked off the whole romance- what we know now as what a romance novel is-
NICHOLE: -and I started reading it and I could not put it down. I was eight-ish nine?
NICHOLE: No older than ten. And I was like I have to keep reading this stuff. And then when I got to fifth grade I did a book report on it. It was in front of the class (laughs). And I- um- my teacher pulled me to the side late and she was just like, "Maybe next time you can find something that's a bit more age appropriate." And then I was really sold. Oh, this is something I should've not been reading, so now I have to read everything like this. And that's how I got started.
BRITTANY: What do you think romance novels about Black women tell us about our relationship with desire?
NICHOLE: That we do desire that we do have desires and that our desires are not- they don't have to be these stereotypical ideas of Black women's desire. Where a lot has Black women's desire gets kinda of pushed into this animalistic behavior or our desire is married to financial gain so that we only participate in certain activities because we want somebody to buy us something or whatever. You know when we think about songs, "my pussy so amazing he bought me a Wraith."
BRITTANY: Yeah a purse.
NICHOLE: Yeah. Something- whatever
BRITTANY: A coat. A car I wouldn't mind it if that were happen.
NICHOLE: Right, yeah. I mean I'm not knocking it you know.
NICHOLE: But in romance novels I guess Black women are allowed to be desired simply because they're beautiful and their bodies are beautiful. They're very intelligent and they're good at their jobs and the men seeing them be good at their jobs turns them on. That's something that we're not really allowed to be too often in mainstream pop culture. We're not allowed to have our skills or expertise be sexy.
NICHOLE: And that happens in romance novels.
BIM: Mhmm. We can be all the other things in addition to this single story idea that you have of us. But what I'm most delighted by in romance novels is that Black women are not one thing. There were all these representations of so many different Black women and that I think is in itself a reward.
BRITTANY: I love the idea that on my commute to work or when I'm like scrubbing my tile grout I just get wrapped up in a romance. And as much as I've been enjoying them though I'm also angry at myself because I waited until I was 31 years old- 31! To get into them. And honestly when I think about what's kept me from reading them it's really like the embarrassment I think of reading something that a lot of people perceive as silly.
BRITTANY: When I think about like what's beneath that the hesitance from me to read some books that were just like fun or the hesitance of some of my friends you know talk about these books that they love so much it becomes clear to me that like the big thing holding everybody back it's just like a bunch of shame.
NICHOLE: There is a lot of shame because even though I would talk about reading romance novels all the time I would keep them in my bedroom away from the public so people-
NICHOLE: -come to my apartment they see all my you know Black women's literature all my feminist literature all my like classic you know literary fiction shit and then the bedroom was where all-
BRITTANY: It's where it went down-
BIM: What a metaphor!
NICHOLE: I know right
EVERYONE: ( laughs).
NICHOLE: So if you didn't go into the bedroom you did not see this very private part of me right. But then I was ashamed of the shame.
NICHOLE: And so I was like why am I bothered by enjoying this stuff. These books are really good. There's this bias. If women do something it must be bad.
BIM: Mm hmm.
NICHOLE: Right. So if women are writing these books that glorify love and make them feel good that must mean it's not well-written, it's too popular-
BIM: It lacks literary might or heft.
BIM: That it must be frivolous, it must be stupid, it must be something less than you know literature and it's like Nichole said it's- it's not even so much the doing of it is doing and enjoying it. It's like how dare you- like enjoying something instantly mocks it as frivolous.
BRITTANY: The two or three romance novels that I read feature women of color and I'm beginning to understand that's not necessarily always the norm.
NICHOLE: When I was younger what I would do I would only read romance novels that had dark haired people in them and I would pretend that they were mixed and passing.
BRITTANY: Okay. So, I mean what- whatever scraps.
NICHOLE: Yeah. And then when Black romance started to take off-
BRITTANY: When was that?
NICHOLE: Ooh, that was early 90s?
NICHOLE: Maybe. Or at least that's when I started to read them. I was a little disappointed to be honest because I felt like they were just chocolate-dipped meaning that they were still white people but now they had been coded Black and there were still this kind of light-skin bias in the Black romance. So that was really they were light-skin, they had green eyes, they had very long hair. They had these incredible jobs.
NICHOLE: I wasn't singing the Black women that I knew-
BIM: Almost all the characters I read growing up the men and the women were white people they didn't make me think oh Black people to come fall in love because there was evidence of Black men falling in love in my life. So that wasn't like it never felt like, "oh my god this impossible dream!"It was just like I guess romance just very white and that's fine. But then I remember reading one of my first0 it was- that the brand was silhouette and she was a Black woman. And I was like wait what's they were like her dark brown skin and I was like, Bitch I'm dark brown. This could be me. And I was fully taken aback.
BRITTANY: When you saw that description like the skin color description. How did that change your experience of reading the book?
BIM: My mind wasn't like blown but it was like, "huh this is something that hasn't been explicitly stated before and now it has." Going forward It just kind of made me feel a little bit more I guess not normal because that's a weird word anyway.
BRITTANY: You feel considered.
BIM: You feel considered- you feel considered. What a beautiful sentence. Yes I felt considered. That's it. After years of kinda of just like reading what I had I'm now able to look into a landscape that is so rich full of all these Black women.
BRITTANY: What does it do for you guys as readers to see yourselves centered in a romantic narrative?
BIM: Okay so this is a great example of this. Every romance novel I read growing up the protagonist at one point or another would blush and I'd be like cool because my cheeks aren't pinking like even now when I put blush on I'm like come on like it looks nice but that's not a natural phenomenon on my face like I get warm in the face and I've something I'll read a romance novel that has a Black woman and it'll be like her cheeks grew warm when I'm like aha that's enough my cheeks were wore well they didn't pink and because I don't pinken.
BIM: And I just think about little things like that or I'm like how nice to read that.
NICHOLE: Yeah I can't remember that book but I remember the first time I read uh a woman had brown nipples I was like, "Oh my God."
BIM: Like these books matter because art matters on a fundamental level it is absolutely changing something in myself and in other people I want to see myself as clearly as I see everybody else. I want people to see me as clearly as they see themselves.
BIM: That really is it.
NICHOLE: In certain erotic books and certain romance novels Black women are allowed to explore being kinky and it's not a race play-
NICHOLE: -you know-
NICHOLE: Which is very important.
NICHOLE: Rebecca Weatherspoon she has this book called Haven which features a Black woman and she ends up in this cabin with this guy in the woods and they start a sexual relationship and it's kinky like she's got a ball gag. And at one point or some kind of gag. And at one point in there there's you know a brief mention of her drooling on herself and how hot that was sometimes you know you just want to be a Black woman who enjoys getting her ass spanked and not a Black woman who is trying to be somebody's slave in the bedroom.
BIM: Romance novels are a kind of possibility model just at its core is kind of like what do I want. And that's not even just sexually. Just what do I want.
BIM: And these books are very good for that. They just kind of put that notion in your head and it doesn't let you go.
BIM: You know you finish one book you start another one and the question starts again what do what do I want-
BIM:-in asking what this woman wants. You're essentially asking yourself what would I do? What do I want?
BRITTANY: Thank you guys so much for coming today.
BIM: Thank you.
BRITTANY: It's so wonderful having you all.
NICHOLE: This has been fun.
BRITTANY: Y'all giving me-
BIM: It's been too much fun.
BRITTANY: ...a lot to think about.
BIM: I'm so glad. I'll have a book list for you later.
BRITTANY: I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm taking all suggestions.
BRITTANY: After the break, we find out how asking herself what she wanted led, one woman to The New York TImes bestseller list.
You’re gonna hear from The author of The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory, who gave me my new favorite mantra.
JASMINE GUILLORY: We don't just have to take the crumbs from the table. We can have the cake too. Black women having their cake was something that was really important to me.
BRITTANY: So I mentioned in the first half of the show how the very first romance novel I read was The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.
Let me be clear. I stan for this book.
So here’s the gist: the main character in the book is a 30-something named Alexa. She’s an ambitious government staffer, and one day, she gets caught in an elevator with a pediatric surgeon named Drew.
Drew, of course, has washboard abs and desperately needs a date to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding that weekend. At the wedding, Alexa pretends to be his new girlfriend and, surprise, sparks fly.
Alexa’s Black and Drew’s white and race comes up in the book frequently and realistically but not in a way that’s corny or distracting. And they have lots of sex and sometimes more sex that people can have in a 24-hour period, and surprise they fall in love. Once I finished that one I moved on to Jasmine Guillory’s second book, The Proposal. It’s about Drew’s best friend Carlos, who’s also a doctor he meets Nick, an accomplished journalist when she turns down a jumbotron proposal in front of thousands of people at an LA Dodgers game. The crowd turns on Nick and the Carlos comes to her rescue they become friends and then they start to fall for each other.
Alex and Nick felt like women I knew and loved and their romances made my cheeks grow warmer than I ever expected and I’m not alone The Proposal is a The New York Times bestseller and Jasmine’s got a third book The Wedding Party set to come out this summer. Reading Jasmine’s summer made me feel seen. I mean that was the reason I decided to give the whole genre a shot. And while I have to wait until the summer to read her next book, I recently got the chance to talk to Jasmine and why she creates these narratives that make me and so many other Black women feel acknowledged.
JASMINE: My name is Jasmine Guillory and I write romance novels.
BRITTANY: I'm so glad you do. I have to tell you- I have to tell you first of all our editor she already read both of your books the first two and then she had mentioned it to you before and I'd seen like word of The Wedding Date around and I was like, "Oh I read this book" and then I basically like to have infected the rest of our team- our production team is mostly women and all of us either have read or are reading your books. So this is a big exciting day for us.
JASMINE: Thank you so much.
BRITTANY: I'm wondering are you a fan of romance novels.
JASMINE: Oh, absolutely I love them. I remember I went to summer camp when I was like twelve or thirteen and my roommate brought a bunch of romance novels and so I was reading her books and I was like, "What are these! They're amazing." But I hadn't- I didn't really become a dedicated romance reader until about six or seven years ago. I had a big health crisis and I started- I was like reading some other books and then a friend of mine suggested some romance to me and I started reading them and I was like, "This is exactly what I want in my life right now."
JASMINE: I didn't want fiction to be stressful for me.
JASMINE: I wanted to be able to go into a book knowing that I wasn't going to be upset at the end.
JASMINE: That year I think I read maybe two to three hundred romance novels
BRITTANY: Two to 300?
BRITTANY: Yeah you were busy.
JASMINE: I was- I was underemployed at the time (all laugh) um but there were a few nights where like I would get in the bathtub with a book read the whole thing on my kindle finish it see that there was another book in the series and then just immediately download it and start reading again (all laugh).
BRITTANY: The life!
JASMINE: Right. Yes. But that really ignited my love of romance novels. I was thinking like these books are so fun to read but I don't think I would be good at writing one.
BRITTANY: Wait, why did you think that?
JASMINE: Well I think because when I first started reading them I was reading a lot of historical romance.
JASMINE: But because I was a history major and because I am a lawyer by trade I know that I would just be too detailed and specific if I tried to do historical fiction and would like want to have footnotes and everything but then I started reading some contemporary books and I was like, "Oh, I- I might be able to I might be able to try this." (all laugh)
JASMINE: And so that's when I started getting the ideas for The Wedding Date.
BRITTANY: That's really amazing to go from being like I am going to sit down and I'm going to do this. And then now here we are the beginning or 2019 and you're like you know what I'm saying like buzz like just buzz everywhere around for like your first two books. And then also I- I will say from my lips to your ear a lot of people are waiting on the third book.
JASMINE: Well- Well so is my editor it's due tomorrow. So- (all laugh)
JASMINE: Fingers crossed that everyone likes it. I'm a little nervous about the third one. I mean I'm nervous about all of them. Honestly I think that's the plight of the writer-
JASMINE: -like every book. I'm like, "oh no everyone's going to hate this one." So I hope no one hates this one.
BRITTANY: I'm pretty sure I feel like it would be really hard looks something that was really appealing to me about The Wedding Date is that I could see from the illustration on the cover that there was this Black woman with natural hair. It wasn't like she was this like super light-skinned woman with like very loosely curled hair and I felt like I was like reading a book about a Black woman who like was I believe Katt Williams says, "Black at a distance." How do you choose your covers?
JASMINE: I wanted it to be a signal to other Black women like this is a book about you pick this book up and read it. I've heard other writers say I read this book about a Black person and then they put a white person on the cover.
BRITTANY: That makes no sense.
JASMINE: And you know sometimes that gets changed before publication. Sometimes it doesn't. But publishing is very white industry I think publishing things that it doesn't sell to make it clear that people of color are on the cover of a book that was also definitely one of the reasons that I said early on to my editor that I wanted a Black woman on the cover. I had no idea if it would sell well or not. That was well before my book came out. But- but that was important enough for me that I didn't care.
BRITTANY: One of the biggest reasons why I was interested in your book is because it was clearly about a Black woman and it wasn't like I didn't get the sense that it was cheesy and I felt like it was happening like in- in like a time and a place that felt familiar to me like I want to read about something that I could see like Regina Hall or Gabrielle Union doing. But I feel like I was having a difficult time finding contemporary romance novels with Black female protagonists. Like why do you think that was?
JASMINE: To a certain extent I think it's because publishing didn't think people would read them. And I think it's not just publishing. I think that there's this idea out in the greater media world that the stories to tell about Black women are the sad stories. The stories of struggle, the stories of pain and this is not to say that those difficult stories don't happen. We all know that they do. But there is a lot of joy in being a Black woman for me. Like there's a lot of celebration in that. And I wanted to tell stories about that. I wanted to tell stories about Black women succeeding and thriving and finding love that was what I really wanted to read for myself. And that's what I wanted to put out into the world.
BRITTANY: After you first published The Wedding Date first romance novel straight out the gate. What was it like to get feedback from readers?
JASMINE: So my editor is women of color. But she's not Black. My agent is white. The majority of the people my publishing house are white. And so I got a lot of feedback from them. But like once the book was out in the world I started hearing from all of these Black women and it was amazing. They loved seeing a Black woman in a book thriving or you know being good at her job or being in a powerful professional job. And then also having a happy ending.
BRITTANY: Why do you think you've had such a strong positive reaction to the book from Black women readers?
JASMINE: You know one of the things that I love about Black women is that we are really great at complimenting ourselves and each other.
JASMINE: You know when I'm out there in the world and like my hair looks good. Strangers- strange Black women will say like your hair looks good today girl and I love that there's never a time where I wear lipstick and public that a Black woman does not tell me that she likes Black women really enjoy seeing Black women succeed. So I think that that's one reason that my books have resonated with Black women is that we love cheering for our home team right.
JASMINE: That's our home team go girl.
BRITTANY: So you have two books that feature interracial relationships Alexa and Nick are both Black but Drew is a white guy. And Carlos is Latino and they talk about race like the characters talk about race with each other with their friends they- they're thinking about it. Your books aren't about race but race is just kind of like present and not like necessarily a feature.
JASMINE: You know I just wanted there like world and their conversations about race to feel like the world that I live in. You know people talk about like having a national conversation about race. We have a national conversation about race every single day. I mean I think about race as part of my daily life walking into a store as someone looks at me weird or walking into a party. Am I going to be I'm the only Black person here.
BRITTANY: Like the moment in The Wedding Date when- when Drew invites Alexa to this wedding and she has to ask him like am I gonna be the only Black person at the wedding like that's such a real moment.
JASMINE: Right. That's a real moment. But it's a paragraph and then it moves on like Alexa is used to being the only Black person in some places because I feel like that's real to many professional Black women. Often you're the only Black person somewhere you kind of like note it and then move on. And that's what I wanted race to feel like is like it's a constant thing in your daily life. But it's not, it's not overpowering.
BRITTANY: And also too I feel like interracial relationships in like movies and television is like a white person and a person of color in The Proposal you had Nick, this Black woman with this Latino man Carlos. And it was like cool to sort of see them have these conversations that were about race but weren't about white people all the time.
JASMINE: About race but not about racism.
BRITTANY: Exactly, exactly.
JASMINE: Yeah. It's like there's lots of stuff to talk about about race it isn't about like other people being racist like that's not all of what race is.
BRITTANY: And there are also conversations that like that people of color will have with each other that have nothing to do with white people.
JASMINE: Yeah, right.
BRITTANY: If you can imagine it (laughs) still but still can have to do with differences that they have between each other and I thought that was- I thought that was really well done.
BRITTANY: It's like oh I was like this is like what if this was a movie. Like is there anything I can like watch this on television every week. Actually I read once that you said that- that you would like to you know in your mind or in real life I'm hoping for cast Gabrielle Union as Nick and Oscar Isaac as Carlos.
BRITTANY: Yeah that would be a great cast. I would love it. The streets are asking we're CLAMORING! Okay. We're clamoring over here. I don't know who you have talk to-
JASMINE: From your lips to God's ears.
BRITTANY: Seriously. But I want to talk about some of the more intimate aspects of- of your books. I've seen some really good writing about this done before by a friend of the show Hannah Giorgis at The Atlantic talking about like how you write consent into your books. It felt like almost like a way of you building trust between the characters in- in the scenes. And there's one- there's one scene in particular at this point in the story Drew and Alexa They've been to the wedding they had a good time pretended to be a couple and now they're back in a hotel room to get busy.
BRITTANY: I'm just going to read a little bit. I'm sure you know it this is true.
Good Lord. "He stared the red lace of her bra and what was underneath it."
That's a nice reaction. "Her hands drifted to his waist and her fingers moved against his skin. As he stared unmoving, she reached up to unbutton his shirt. After she'd unfastened two buttons he growled and pulled the whole thing off over his head. She tried to reach for him again but he pinned her arms against the wall holding both of her wrists with one hand.
"Tell me," he said to her. "Tell me what you want." She hesitated. Her eyes half lit and hazy. "Do you want this, Alexa?" He asked. His free hand moving up and down her torso. "You know I do," she said. Her eyes closed. She pushed her chest against him but he kept his touch gentle. He could sense her frustration. He loved it. "Then tell me what you want me to do to you." Finally she opened her eyes wide and smiled at him. "Kiss me."
BRITTANY: I mean they go on. There's more to it than that is when give people a taste. But I thought that that was so cool. The way that like it was very sexy. But he asked for her to tell him what she wanted. This for me was like reading your books with the first moment where I was like oh like this is this is going differently than like maybe some of the books that I had read lying around you know relatives' houses or while babysitting when I was a teenager.
JASMINE: You know there are those scenes I've read in other books where like the guy is putting the women up against the wall and you're never quite sure. Does she want to be pinned against the wall like that. Yeah. Did she say yes to that. And so I wanted to make sure that they both had agency in what they were doing and to make it clear that she was excited about how this was all going to go. I feel like you know when people talk about consent sometimes it's like oh do you have to like ask if you could kiss someone before every time you do like that would take the fun out of it like I feel like that scene was pretty fun and he's not really specifically asking if he can kiss her right.
BRITTANY: Yeah. Yeah.
JASMINE: There's a lot that you can do with that.
BRITTANY: How do you think that changes the experience for the reader? I think it sort of makes the reader feel all in in everything that the characters are doing. They feel like oh both sides are excited about that. OK let's go.
BRITTANY: I also think you did a really good job in those scenes of like writing from Alexa Nick's point of view and really like having them articulate their desire so much of the media that a lot of Black women consume. We're getting a lot of these messages sometimes literally sometimes subliminally about what we are allowed to express or allowed to say or allowed to ask for really sort of like having our desire policed if it's acknowledged at all. Can you talk to me some about- about what it's like to have these Black women openly desiring and being desired in this way in your books.
JASMINE: Yeah I think both Alexa and Nick have kind of difficulty articulating exactly what they want in the bedroom and in a relationship. And I feel like that also rings true for me for other Black women I know. I feel like there's a lot out there in the world that sort of like you know, "It's hard for Black women to find relationships. It's hard to get married. So if you find someone you got to hold on no matter who what they do to you." And so I- what I really wanted was to have a woman being treated well by the person that they're dating and to both understand that and kind of feel like that's weird which again happens to Black women but also like kind of recognize that we don't just have to take the crumbs from the table.
We can have the cake too and to have Black women having their cake was something that was really important to me even- even when in their mind they're like except that I'm just usually used to the crumbs. So how do I do that? I just don't want us to limit ourselves right. I want us to feel like no I can- I can do better or like I can shoot for the stars. I can get a job that I love. I can find someone who treats me well. I can treat myself well if I'm not dating anyone at all.
I want us to not feel like we are stuck in situations because other people tell us we should be grateful for what we have.
BRITTANY: Hmm! I could have put that better myself.
JASMINE: Thank you.
That idea of crumbs in the cake something I spent time thinking about in my 20s especially especially when I was younger was like not being so afraid to want something or to desire something like not being so afraid that I wouldn't get it that I wouldn't allow myself to openly want something writing these books where you have Nick and Alexa going through these journeys you know you're in their heads you're creating their world you're writing their voices. How has that changed your relationship to sort of expressing your own desires?
JASMINE: It's definitely made me think about that a lot more. It's hard because I think we are all conditioned to be shy about what we actually want and to feel like you know why are you being conceited in thinking you could even think that you could get that basically. That's the thing that I constantly have to push back against. There are things that I have wanted that I like sort of kept a secret that I wanted I really wanted to be on The New York Times bestseller list and I was. But it's hard to say that out loud.It's really work that you have to keep doing on a daily basis.
BRITTANY: It almost seems like it could be therapeutic in a way to be able to express desire through characters almost as like a like a proving ground or something like that.
JASMINE: Yeah absolutely. And sometimes when they do it in fiction it's not specifically the desire I want. Obviously I mean these characters aren't me and they don't have my journey or my story but sometimes writing about people thinking about what they want and asking for what they want makes me think harder about what I want and how I would ask for it.
BRITTANY: What type of impact do you want your books to have?
JASMINE: I want people to just go out and try to get what they want. Read my books and then find that cute doctor. Apply for that job that you may not think that you may be able to get. Sure, why not?
JASMINE: And also read more romance novels. Some of my favorite things that I've seen on social media is Black women on the beach, on vacation, reading my books. That's the ideal. Go to the beach, take more beach vacations. Read romance novels while you're on the beach.
BRITTANY: Jasmine, thank you so much for talking with us today.
JASMINE: Thank you so much for having me. This has been wonderful.
BRITTANY: Coming up after the break, I catch up with Jasmine and see just how well she’s been taking her own advice.
BRITTANY: Welcome back. So, I have already blown through Jasmine's latest book - it's called The Wedding Party and it is fantastic! And since I’ve finished it, I’ve been dying to talk to Jasmine, and finally I managed to get her on the phone as she wrapped up her book tour for The Wedding Party.
BRITTANY: Hi Jasmine?
JASMINE: Yes, hi.
BRITTANY: Hi. It's Brittany. How are you?
JASMINE: I'm good, thanks. How are you?
BRITTANY: I'm good. Is-is now still a good time to talk?
JASMINE: Yes, it's great.
BRITTANY: Great. Great, great, great. One of our most popular episodes from the past year or two, one of the episodes, that- that got the most conversation I would say, was your episode.
JASMINE: That's so nice. That was one of the favorite interviews that I have done, like-
BRITTANY: Oh my gosh!
JASMINE: -so far. Like, I mean I think we talked for twice as much time as we had scheduled, but I just had such a good time talking to you. (laughing) um, I mean, the interviews I’ve done with Black women have been the best interviews of all of them. I had such a great time doing it.
BRITTANY: Thank you. Thank you so much, seriously. Thank you, thank you. So the last time that we talked, you gave this stellar advice, talking about how Black women, I think are so often expected to take the crumbs. And you were saying how we don't have to settle for crumbs. We can have the whole cake. And I want to tell you that those words stuck with me. Stuck with me to the point where I recently bought my first couch ever. I mean, I have had home where I sit on the couch before. It's not like I’m in my apartment, just like sitting on the floor watching television and hurting my back. No, I-I-I guess I'd always thought that like having a nice apartment was like for somebody else- or was like for when I'd reached a certain stage in my life, the goal post for which kept shifting all of the time.
And I bought my first ever couch. And now my fiancée, who is 6'4", we don't have to have one person's feet up on the couch a-at one time. We have a sectional now, so both of us can.
JASMINE: That makes me so happy. I love it.
BRITTANY: And I'm not the only one. Like, we had so many listeners like write in or tweet to us about how that specific line is something that affected them. And it made me wonder, you know, there's always the old adage about taking your own advice. Has there been a point in the past year where you've really had to take that piece of advice that you gave to us?
JASMINE: Yeah, actually. I just finished my book tour for The Wedding Party. It was like two weeks, 10 events, like pretty packed.
BRITTANY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JASMINE: In a lot of different cities and I had, like seven flights during that time. And on the way, my last flight, which was my flight home from Cincinnati, I- you know, was looking at the flight and it said something about like do you wanna upgrade to First Class for this flight? And I was immediately like, that is not for me!
JASMINE: And then, and then I looked at the price and I was like, "I actually can afford this. I should treat myself here." And then but then I also had to make, like I looked to see how long the flight was because I was like well, you know, it has to be over four hours in order for me to do this, which I don't know why I thought that, like why is that my rule? I don't know. But, I'm so glad that I did it. Like, I was already exhausted. I was on my way back from my book tour. I had carried on everything, which is like very heavy suitcase and duffle bags on all of these flights and this time, I didn't have to worry about anything. I sat down and someone asked me if I wanted something to drink before the plane took off and I was like, oh this, this is nice. And granted, I can't afford to take first class everywhere I go, but like as a small treat for myself, yes, absolutely. And it, but for a while, I was like do I deserve this?
And then, you know, I think we need to get out of the, like, do I deserve to have, do something nice? Like no, that's not how it is. It's like, do I want this? Can I, can I afford it and still pay my bills next month? Then, yeah sure. (laughs)
BRITTANY: So the last time that we spoke, you had just released two books in 2018.
BRITTANY: Everybody in my team, we're all super huge fans. And you were working on a third book, which we now know is The Wedding Party and it just came out-
BRITTANY: -last month, so tell us about the book.
JASMINE: The Wedding Party is about Maddie and Theo, who are two of Alexa's' best friends from The Wedding Date.
BRITTANY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JASMINE: They have always hated each other, but they're both in Alexa's wedding party and they keep accidentally sleeping together until they kind of figure out what to do about that.
BRITTANY: (laughing) I like the accidentally sleeping together. It's true. Even I was amazed actually how many times. I was like, "Wow, they really don't intend to do this, and yet it keeps happening." And I don't mind reading about it.
JASMINE: Okay. Well I'm glad, I'm glad.
BRITTANY: I loved it, cover to cover. So good. It was like my-my night time treat when I wanted to like, have a nice mental vacation before I went to sleep at night. And just like, waive my anxiety goodbye. I just was reading about Maddie and Theo.
JASMINE: Oh, that's so nice.
BRITTANY: I found their relationship to be so charming. And like their romance was really irresistible to read. But, something I noticed about The Wedding Party is that Maddie and Theo both seemed to have a lot of anxiety. And I felt like that came up in the book, like them dealing with their own neuroses and their own stresses and- and I really appreciated that because I could relate.
JASMINE: You know, that probably came out because I could relate too. (laughing) You know, other writers talk about second book syndrome where you're like super stressed about writing your second book because your first book is out in the world and people are reading it and you kind of realize, "Oh, people are going to read this book I'm writing now." Well I didn't have that with The Proposal because when I wrote The Proposal, The Wedding Date wasn't out yet, so I was just, you know, like writing a book in my bedroom. I didn't know if anyone was going to read it.
JASMINE: You know, it just felt like writing another one. Then, when-when I was working on The Wedding Party, The Wedding Date was already out. I was working on it in the run up to The Proposal coming out, so it was like, all of this different stress on top of me as I was working on this book. So, probably that's where the anxiety came from. (laughing) Because I was anxious as well working on it.
BRITTANY: Well, I felt like I- I related to it. Like, I felt like Alexa and Nick from The Proposal and from The Wedding Date. I felt like they really were just such sweet people who had their shit together and I felt like Maddie has like, a little bit of a short fuse. I felt like she was somebody where I was like mmm. I feel like she's speaking to me right now.
JASMINE: Well, that's delightful. I'm so glad.
BRITTANY: So, I know that you're hard at work on your next book, The Royal Holiday. Can you tell us about it?
JASMINE: So, Royal Holiday is about Maddie's mom, Vivian, who you meet in The Wedding Party. She and Maddie go to England at Christmas time because Maddie, as people who read The Wedding Party know, is a stylist and Maddie goes to England to style a member of the Royal Family and brings her mom along with her, because she doesn't want to be away from her mom at Christmas time.
JASMINE: While Vivian is there, she meets and has a little fling with the Queen's private secretary and they have a nice little romance.
BRITTANY: I love that. What was the inspiration behind that plot?
JASMINE: Um, so the inspiration was a friend's tweet.
BRITTANY: Uh-huh (affirmative)
JASMINE: Last year, right around October, there was a new story that the Queen had invited Meghan Markle’s mom to Christmas with the Royal Family.
BRITTANY: Oh my gosh.
JASMINE: And my friend Margaret tweeted, "I need a romance about Meghan Markle’s mom falling in love with someone who works for the Queen."
BRITTANY: That's amazing.
JASMINE: And I responded as a joke. I volunteer as tribute, but I was like seriously joking. I had too many other things going on-
JASMINE: I was not planning to do that. But so many people kept responding to it that I emailed my agent and I was like, "Um, so there was this tweet. What do we think about this?" And my agent was like, "Oh, I like this idea. Let me talk to your editor." And my editor was like, "I am in. Let's do this." (laughter). So that's- that's where the idea ... and you know, I was the, basically like a week out from sending a draft of The Wedding Party to my editor when I, when I saw that tweet. So I already had Vivian in the book. I had already actually had ideas about writing a story for her.
JASMINE: But I didn't know if anyone would want a book about a Black woman in their 50's like finding romance.
JASMINE: That's why I checked with my- with my agent first because I was like, I, are people going to want this? I don't know. And the reception has been so excited about it that I was like, I've been thrilled that people, yes, do want books about Black women in their 50's.
BRITTANY: That is going to be amazing and additionally, I just want to say that to me, it just screams Angela Bassett vehicle.
JASMINE: That would be amazing. Oh, I'd love it.
BRITTANY: Oh my God. Angela Bassett could play the mother and then like Meghan Markle could play herself.
JASMINE: (laughing) That would be incredible.
[THEME SONG PLAYS]
The Nod is produced by me, Brittany Luse, with Eric Eddings and Kate Parkinson-Morgan. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman.
This episode was edited by Emmanuele Berry and Sara Sarasohn. Additional editorial support from Jorge Just. Fact-checking by Max Gibson. The show is mixed by Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. For additional music credits visit our website gimletmedia dot com slash the nod.
[THEME SONG ENDS]