We recently had an opportunity to sit down with author Jake Biondi to discuss his hit book series Boystown. A lot of us are familiar with the series but it was good to get a little more background on where his ideas came from, who gave him inspiration, and what’s in the works. Here’s what we talked about:
TGP: Where does your inspiration for the books come from?
JB: I have always been a huge fan of Charles Dickens whose novels were originally released in installments, each ending in a cliffhanger to keep readers coming back for more. They were really just great soap operaIns with amazing characters and plot twists. I also love television dramas such as Dynasty, Dallas, 90120, and Revenge. In fact, BOYSTOWN is written much more like a TV show than a traditional novel. I thought it would be cool to create a saga in the spirit of these classic novels and TV shows in a gay neighborhood with mainly gay characters. Thus, BOYSTOWN was born.
TGP: Are the experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
JB: I think every author incorporates his personal experiences into his writing. While the characters in BOYSTOWN are fictitious, my experiences with friends and family have certainly influenced them. I know many people like the characters in BOYSTOWN.
TGP: How do you develop your characters?
JB: Every good saga has a family at its core. The Mancinis are my main family. Everyone in the book is somehow connected to them.
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.
I have to admit, though, that some of the characters have taken on a life all their own. Officer Michael Martinez is one example. I created him simply because I needed a police officer for a brief scene and then, all of a sudden, came up with a huge idea and now he is one of BOYSTOWN’s main and most liked characters.
I have 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. Finally, I was really taken aback by people’s reactions to Justin, who only appears on the BOYSTOWN landscape toward the end of “Season One.” Readers really find him appealing and interesting – and want 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.” And then there are the Ciancio twins, who are introduced in “Season Two”…
TGP: Who are the cover models?
JB: I began by using the images of some of my friends who are fans of the books. My dear friend Aaron Savvy has been connected to BOYSTOWN from the start. He appears alone on the cover of the first book and appears along with a few others on the cover of the second book. To me, Aaron is the main “face” of BOYSTOWN so he will always be featured on the book covers.
A while ago, when I held a nationwide photo contest looking for other “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. Brennen Cooper, David Clark Partridge, Brad Jan, Richard Mathews, Justin Rambo, and Cory Zwierzynski have been on the team since then.
I met my BOYSTOWN Director of Art, Design & Advertising, Michael Vargas, and my 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. Their photos are featured in the promotional materials as well.
The BOYSTOWN team of models continues to grow and grow, which is very exciting. Recent additions to the team include Ryan Rose, Armond Rizzo, Ace Stone, Logan Vaughn, Leo Sweetwood, Angel Saez Amador, Scotty Marx, Sergio Vital, and Dominic Colby. In the next few weeks, I’ll be unveiling promotional pics of newcomers Jensen McPherson, Fabio Quintas, and others. I am so lucky to be working with such a great team of guys.
TGP: How did the Boystown Series come about?
JB: BOYSTOWN has a very interesting history. In the spring of 2013, I started to toss around in my head the idea of writing a continuing drama that focused on gay characters. I considered some ideas for characters and storylines. Then I finally began actually writing BOYSTOWN in June of 2013 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 and began to write and release installments more quickly. By November of 2013, I had released 10 episodes and the reading audience had expanded well beyond the borders of America.
Because of BOYSTOWN’s huge success online and the serialized nature of my writing, readers from all over have been able to correspond with me and influence the storylines of the BOYSTOWN saga as I write it. It’s really exciting to interact with fans in this way. I think it’s something very unique to BOYSTOWN.
Readers also suggested that I publish the first 10 episodes as a book rather than leaving them online. I took their advice — and “BOYSTOWN Season One” was published in late November 2013. In the meantime, I continued to write additional episodes. Episodes 11 – 20 were released as “BOYSTOWN Season Two” in July of 2014. I am currently working on “BOYSTOWN Season Three” now.
TGP: What is it like to be a gay author?
JB: It’s been great, although I don’t know how the experience differs from being a straight writer. I guess people write about what they know and share their experiences. My experience happens to be rooted in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.
TGP: Why are the books centered on Boystown?
JB: Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood is a vibrant, diverse, constantly evolving community, so I thought it would be the perfect place for the series. In fact, the Boystown neighborhood is very much a “character” in the series because I try to bring it to life for my readers as much as possible. Boystown was recently named “best gay neighborhood in the country” by a popular gay magazine.
One of the many ways in which Boystown is evolving is that it’s becoming much more “straight.” So I thought to not include some straight characters in the series would be to inaccurately depict the neighborhood. Therefore, readers will find some straight characters in the series as well.
TGP: What are YOU currently reading?
JB: I tend to read the classics — novels by Dickens and others. I like reading them over and over again — and discovering new ones that I haven’t yet read as well
TGP: What type of people read your books?
JB: It’s very interesting because gay men and straight women tend to love my books. In fact, BOYSTOWN fans are the best. I am so grateful for them. 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 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, and 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.t’s very interesting because gay men and straight women tend to love my books. In fact, BOYSTOWN fans are the best. I am so grateful for them. 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 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, and 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.
TGP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
JB: First and foremost, I want to thank them for their unwavering and enthusiastic support of the BOYSTOWN series from the start. They have made it what it is today.
Stay tuned for “Season Three” which I am working on right now — and I am also working to bring the series to television!I love interacting with the readers and always reply when they contact me. BOYSTOWN fans can reach me through my website www.JakeBiondi.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@boystown_series).
In closing, it’s great to know that Boystown (the neighborhood) is part of the great stories being told and that it’s a living, breathing character that we all have already fell in love with. I can’t wait for Season Three to debut so we can find out what everyone has been up to! For more information about Jake Biondi and his Boystown series, visit his site www.JakeBiondi.com.