A native of Chicago, Jake Biondi has been a resident of Chicago’s BOYSTOWN neighborhood for twenty years.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and have basically lived in the Chicago area my entire life, except for the four years I went away to study at the University of Notre Dame. I have been living in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood for over 20 years and I love it. I love the neighborhood’s people, social life, diversity, culture, and proximity to Lake Michigan. As far as I’m concerned, Chicago is the best city in America.
I have been writing for most of my life, mostly as a hobby in my spare time. I find it to be a great way to relax and put aside the demands of “real life” while focusing on something productive. For me, it’s energizing and relaxing at the same time.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction & what inspired you to create the Boystown series?
I have always been a huge fan of serialized stories of all kinds. In school, I studied many of Charles Dickens’ novels and I fell in love with them – not just his characters, but the way his books were originally published in installments, each ending with a cliffhanger to keep readers coming back for more. He is the master soap-opera writer. I was also a fan of TV shows such as Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest and more recently Revenge and Nashville – shows with characters that viewers love so they keep tuning in week after week.
BOYSTOWN was born out of my love for those stories and my love for the neighborhood. I thought it would be great to create a realistic core group of characters who would be like friends and neighbors I know who are living in Boystown in Chicago. While Boystown is certainly a “gay neighborhood,” it is very diverse and I wanted to make sure my characters reflected that diversity. So while most of my characters are gay, there are some straight characters as well – and the characters are very diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, economics, etc.
I began BOYSTOWN in June as an online story and intended to release one “episode” online per month, each ending in a cliffhanger. The story became so popular — and the online reading audience grew so quickly — that people from all over the country began to email me demanding to know what happened to their favorite characters and wanting the episodes to be released faster. They also had suggestions for future storylines! I was surprised and excited by the readers’ response to BOYSTOWN. So I began to write more quickly and, by November, I had released 10 episodes and readers from all over America and overseas as well.
?Readers then suggested that I publish the first 10 episodes as a book rather than leaving them online. I did — and BOYSTOWN Season One was born. The book was released in mid-November and is selling very well locally and nationally. In the meantime, I continued to write additional episodes and Episodes 11 – 20 were released as BOYSTOWN Season Two in July. Now I am working on BOYSTOWN Season Three.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I love working out, seeing plays, cooking, traveling, hanging out with friends — all the usuall stuff.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Writing the BOYSTOWN series has been one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. From the moment the idea came to me in the Spring of 2013 until now, I have enjoyed every moment of the writing and marketing process. But what I have really enjoyed the most about the entire experience has been the interaction with the BOYSTOWN readers. BOYSTOWN fans are, quite simply, the best.??I have been so touched and humbled by the outpouring of kindness and support I have received from BOYSTOWN readers since the moment the first episode hit the internet in June of 2013. People began to email me from all over the country – and beyond – to share with me their thoughts and ideas about the BOYSTOWN characters and story lines. I made it a priority to respond to every email that I received not only because I valued the readers’ feedback but also because I want my readers to understand that I want them to reach out to me. I want to hear from them — their ideas, their suggestions, their reviews, their feedback. In fact, their comments and ideas actually can and do impact the future of the series because I have written some of their suggestions into the series. In short, by contacting me, the readers can actually impact what happens to their favorite characters.??Several dedicated fans voluntarily created online BOYSTOWN book tours simply because they loved the books and wanted to bring the series to the attention of others. Some readers have allowed me to post BOYSTOWN promotional materials on their websites and blogs, and others have contacted me to see how they can become involved with BOYSTOWN.
Tell us about Boystown series.
BOYSTOWN is the continuing story of several couples living in Chicago’s famed BOYSTOWN neighborhood (recently named the country’s “most incomparable gay neighborhood” by readers of OUT Traveler Magazine and users of its website).??The Mancini brothers — as well as their friends and significant others — are at the core of BOYSTOWN. Emmett Mancini, the youngest of the brothers, is a bright, caring guy whose boyfriend Keith Colgan has a past Emmett knows little about…yet. Derek Mancini, and his wife Joyelle, are BOYSTOWN’s straight couple…but a recent encounter with hunky Cole O’Brien could have life-altering consequences for Derek. And Justin Mancini, the oldest brother, arrives in BOYSTOWN in episode 9 and brings with him a family history that both Emmett and Derek were hoping to forget.??Before long, BOYSTOWN’s newest residents Cole O’Brien and Jesse Morgan find themselves at the core of the drama and intrigue that makes up this adult playground.?
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
”To be continued…”
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Luckily, I can honestly say that the feedback on the BOYSTOWN series has been overwhelmingly positive. Part of the reason for its success, I believe, is that I try to involve the fans in the creative process as much as possible.
For example, when I held a nation-wide photo contest looking for “models” whose images we could use in the BOYSTOWN promotional materials, the response was overwhelming. People from all over America submitted their photos in the hope of becoming one of the “faces” of BOYSTOWN. I ended up selecting five winners for that contest because I wanted to include as many people as possible. Even after the contest was over, people continued to submit their photos asking to be a part of the BOYSTOWN team and I have welcomed several more of them on board.??I met my new BOYSTOWN Director of Art, Design & Advertising, Michael Vargas, and my new BOYSTOWN Director of Social Media, Patrick Murphy, because they were fans of the books. They contacted me on Facebook, we chatted and got to know each other, and now they are running all the promotional and advertising campaigns for the BOYSTOWN series.??I have also been intrigued by the fans’ responses to certain couples in the series. For example, I never anticipated that so many people would be fans of “Kemmett” (Keith and Emmett). Fans are very vocal about what I did to that couple at the end of “Season One” and provided many ideas for how I should write those characters in “Season Two.” Fans of “Dole” (Derek and Cole) are also very vocal. While most readers like and connect with the character of Cole, some like him with Derek and others don’t. Many fans want Derek to stay with his wife Joyelle. Finally, I was really taken aback by people’s reactions to Justin, who only appeared on the BOYSTOWN landscape at the end of “Season One.” Readers really found him appealing and interesting – and wanted to know everything about him: his sexuality, his motives, his plan. Those fans will be happy to know that Justin is a central character in “Season Two.”???People often ask me how many books the BOYSTOWN series will have. I simple tell them this: as long as the fans are interested in the series, I will keep it going. “Season Three” is already in the works and, if the fans want more, “Season Four” will be right behind it. I hope fans will continue to reach out to me and let me know their thoughts and ideas.
BOYSTOWN truly belongs to the fans!