We all know that Wellesley alums tend to do big things with their careers. So I wasn’t surprised when I discovered that the New York Times best-selling novel I was reading, “The Proposal,” was written by Jasmine Guillory ‘97 a Wellesley alum! Guillory published her debut novel “The Wedding Date” in 2018. Since then, her second book –– also on the NYT best-sellers list –– “The Proposal,” has been published, and a third, “The Wedding Party,” will be released this July.
I reached out to Jasmine via Twitter to ask for an interview and she gladly accepted. A few weeks later we spoke over the phone and had a lovely conversation about her novels, her career, her Wellesley years and her future.
Throughout the conversation, Jasmine fondly looked back on her Wellesley years. “It is still such a time I treasure,” she said, “My Wellesley friends are people who always, no matter what, are always there for me … Wellesley is always there for me.” During her time as a member of the green class, Jasmine majored in history and was even chief justice her senior year. She also studied political science, but dropped that major right before her senior spring semester started. When discussing dropping her major Jasmine wanted to emphasize that “everything turned out fine” and that you don’t need to worry about dropping a major!
After graduating from Wellesley, Jasmine worked in Washington DC for two years before attending Stanford Law School and working as a lawyer for the next ten years. “I did not think that I was going to be an author at all,” she said, until she found herself thinking “This is fine but I need something else in my life … I’ve always loved to read, maybe I’ll try writing…I just dove in and started writing a novel … I just wanted to see if I liked it … I didn’t know what I was doing, but that was okay, I just sort of had fun with it.”
In April 2015 Jasmine’s friends invited her to partake in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) with them where the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during this month. While Jasmine thought it seemed like too much, she started writing ideas for the novel in the notes app on her phone and, with the encouragement of her friends, wrote the first half of her first published novel “The Wedding Date” that month. But once April was over, Jasmine kept writing. Once her draft was finished and revised by the fall of 2015, Jasmine began reaching out to agents. Jasmine’s advice for dealing with this complicated process is to “learn to roll with the punches”. After five months of trying, Jasmine finally found a publisher and her first novel was released one and a half years after she began writing it. “The Proposal” gained popularity quickly and soon received a two-book deal from her publishers. Soon after publishing, “The Proposal” was on the New York Times Best Sellers List and was also a part of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club! “I had hoped for it but hadn’t expected it … it was so wonderful,” Jasmine said when asked how learning about these accomplishments felt.
Part of what makes Jasmine’s novels so special is that all of the main protagonists are people of color. When asked about what it was like to be a woman of color writing about other POC, Jasmine stated “the publishing industry has a lot of work to do in how they publish women of color and how they promote books like that … give more book deals to women of color.” Luckily, Jasmine has deals to write and publish at least five more books, which will be both entertaining and contribute to the diversity of the publishing industry.
Jasmine was eager to share some advice for aspiring authors. During the interview, she advised that you should “read as much as you can … read books that you like and don’t like because that is how you learn how different people tell stories.” She even wrote in an email to me following the interview, “don’t give up! Publishing is a long game and takes persistence and resilience; there will be lots of rejections, let yourself feel sorry for yourself for a day and then keep going. I got well over 100 rejections for my first (unpublished) book from agents, I got something like 20 rejections from agents for “The Wedding Date,” and once I signed with an agent I got a number of rejections from publishers before I got a deal. It’s ok (and good!) to take breaks, to let yourself recover, but keep coming back to it, keep writing and submitting and learning and trying. One of my favorite books I read last year was “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee, and in one of the essays in it he says ‘What seems to separate those who write from those who don’t is being able to stand it,’ and I think about that a lot. Gather good people around you, have friends who support you in your good times and in your bad and keep going.”
Jasmine’s novels deserve all of the praise they are receiving. Not only is she an inspiring author, but the work she does for the POC community is outstanding. Wellesley alums do a lot of big things and Jasmine Guillory is just another reason why I am proud to attend Wellesley.