Author Interview with Jake Biondi
If you are a fan of gay authors and enjoy reading their books, you’ll love the work of Jake Biondi. He’s the man behind the incredibly successful set of novels, BOYSTOWN.
If the word Boystown sounds familiar, it’s because all of his stories take place on Chicago’s North Side in the legendary gayborhood referred to – you guessed it – Boystown.
As part of our commitment to focusing on gay authors, GPB caught up with Biondi to discuss his books, background and the recent news that his books will now become a television series.
Let’s jump right in!
1. When did you first realize you enjoyed writing?
Ever since I was a little kid I have enjoyed writing. Whether I was rewriting fairy tales with my own endings or creating my own original short stories, I spent a great deal of my free time writing. I even enjoyed writing assignments that I received from teachers in school.
As I got older, I began to write my own novels, films, and plays. In fact, during my senior year at Notre Dame, I received the university’s most prestigious playwriting award.
After graduating from college, I continued to write during my free time. I would write episodes for my favorite TV shows or original full-length film scripts and send them off to Hollywood.
Because I didn’t have an agent, most of my submissions were immediately rejected without even being read, but I saved all the rejection letters, knowing that one day something I wrote would be accepted in Hollywood. I’m excited to say that day has arrived now that BOYSTOWN is being made into a TV series.
2. Tell us how being a Chicagoan inspires your work?
I have lived in Chicago my entire life and have lived in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood for nearly 25 years. I think Chicago is the greatest city in the country, so when I decided to start writing a series, Chicago was the logical place for it to occur.
Ultimately, I decided to name the series BOYSTOWN after the neighborhood that I live in and love because I thought it would provide a vibrant and exciting backdrop for the drama of the series. In fact, I’d say the city itself is a character. As I write the series, I try to include as many real Chicago venues and landmarks as possible.
It was important to me that the neighborhood be portrayed accurately and realistically. Since Boystown itself is constantly getting more diverse, I made sure that increasing diversity was reflected in the series. The books have an incredibly diverse cast of characters that appeals to an incredibly diverse audience of readers.
— BOYSTOWN: The Series (@BOYSTOWN_series) January 17, 2017
3. What part of writing books do you like the most?
The best part about writing has been bringing to life a dynamic cast of characters that readers have come to connect with and love. I created the “core” group of characters before I sat down to start writing; however, several of the most popular characters in the series came to life all on their own.
For example, I created the character of Michael Martinez in Season One because I needed a police officer for one of the story lines.
All of a sudden, he because so closely connected to the core characters – and became such a fan favorite – that he’s now a central character in the series. That has actually happened several times while writing the series – minor characters have taken on lives of their own and grown into main characters. It’s hard to explain, but it’s true.
The other part of writing that has been amazing is hearing from and meeting readers and fans from all over the globe. BOYSTOWN fans are the best. They reach out to me through email or social media to give me their feedback, comments on characters, or suggest future story lines.
I love hearing from them and have made a vow to reply to every email or message that I receive. Connecting with the fans has been an incredible and humbling experience that I have truly cherished.
4. What’s your least favorite part of writing?
My least favorite part about writing is not being able to release books fast enough for fans. I try to release two books each year, but it never seems fast enough for the fans. As soon as I release a book, fans want to know when they can expect the next one. I am so grateful for their dedication and enthusiasm – and I assure them that I am writing as quickly as I can.
5. What’s the BOYSTOWN Series all about?
BOYSTOWN tells the story of the feuding Mancini and Ciancio families and their friends – most of whom are living in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Their romantic relationships, business relationships, and familial relationships provide the series with the twists and turns that have come to fascinate readers and fans across the country.
I have always been a fan of continuing, serialized dramas, whether they be classics such as the novels of Charles Dickens (which were released in magazines in installments, each of which ended with a cliffhanger to keep readers coming back for more) or more contemporary such as Dallas, Dynasty, and Revenge.
I thought it was finally time for a well-written, intriguing drama that had gay characters at its core. And after living in Chicago’s in the neighborhood for twenty years, I thought to myself, “What better place to inspire a continuing drama?” Thus, BOYSTOWN was born.
The series series has a fascinating history. It began as an online story released in installments, each ending with a cliffhanger that left readers wondering what would happen to their favorite characters. Enthusiastic fans from all over the world petitioned me to release the installments more quickly; they simply couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. So I began to write more quickly and now the series already consists of six full-length novels.
6 . For LGBTQ readers, what’s unique about the series of books?
BOYSTOWN is unique for LGBTQ readers because it puts them at the center of the action. Unlike other series that may have one or maybe even two gay characters in the midst of straight characters, This series puts gay characters in the spotlight.
In the characters and in the situations presented in my books, LGBTQ readers see themselves and their friends. Season Six introduces the series’ first transgender character, which I am really excited about and proud of.
7. How do you deal with writer’s block?
Fortunately, I don’t have writer’s block often. My mind is always racing with ideas for the series. However, when it does occur, I just turn off my laptop, go to the gym, and focus on other things. Then I come back to the laptop the next day and try to move forward.
8. Which author inspired you most?
As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge Charles Dickens fan. No other author paints with words as he does – and I love the serialized nature of his stories and his memorable characters. I would also say that TV writers have also been inspiring to me because I have always been an avid TV watcher and many of the TV dramas that I watched while growing up inspired me to write the books.
9. What causes do you care about?
I care about a variety of causes from human rights to animal rights. I especially like to support aspiring artists of all kinds because so many artists have reached out to help me. It’s important to me to “pay it forward” in as many ways as I possibly can.
But there are specific organizations who help people in need that I care deeply about. These include places like Chicago House, an LGBTQ focused social services agency that works with people living in poverty. I also support About Face Theatre; a LGBTQA arts organization that really tries to shine a spotlight on issues impacting the community.
10 What’s your spirit animal?
OMG – I had to look this up online. I didn’t even know what a spirit animal is – so I went online and took a quiz which told me that I’m a “tiger.” According to the website, “In the kingdom of spirit animals, the tiger puts a special emphasis on raw feelings and emotions. The tiger spirit animal symbolizes primal instincts, unpredictability, and ability to trust yourself.”
End of Interview. GPB would like to thank Jake for his time!