Checking Back with Jake Biondi on ’Boystown: Season 2’
As any denizen of Chicago knows, summer in "that toddling town" is hot and steamy -- and a new collection of episodes in Jake Biondi's Chicago-set "Boystown" saga are set to amp up the sizzle! Get ready for Book Two in the sexy saga.
When Jake Biondi began writing a serialized story about a group of gay and straight friends in the Windy City, he could scarcely have imagined how quickly and eagerly a readership would emerge.
Biondi calls his ongoing saga "Boystown," after Chicago's gayborhood, and regards each of the chapters he posts online as "episodes," with ten episodes comprising each of the two (so far) "seasons." Biondi also collects each season into book form; Season One has received enthusiastic reviews, and Season Two hits the market on July 7.
EDGE interviewed Biondi earlier this year about the project, and Season One, in which readers got to know the Mancini family: A trio of brothers, one of whom is gay, another of whom is married and on the down low, and a third, elder brother who may or may not be rather sinister. Around the Mancinis there's a tightly-bound cast of characters whose lives intersect in ways sexy and dangerous with those of the Mancinis; Season One saw a multitude of twists and turns, with breakups, new romantic connections, plots, schemes, kidnappings, and a cliff-hanging warehouse shooting. Oh, and let's not forget all the energetic, athletic sex, some straight and a lot of it gay.
With Season Two about to be released in book form and Season Three on the horizon, EDGE revisited Biondi and his busy corner of Chicago.
EDGE: You’re a native Chicagoan. What’s gay life like in Chicago these days, now that marriage equality is a reality in Illinois? Is everyone in a rush to get married?
Jake Biondi: Gay life in Chicago -- and in Boystown, in particular -- is good. Several new clubs, bars and restaurants have opened recently, and that is always good for the neighborhood. It’s a very dynamic community, constantly evolving.
Of course, people are excited about the passage of Marriage Equality in Illinois; it’s a monumental step forward. I wouldn’t say people are "in a rush" to get married, but they are certainly lining up!
EDGE: How about yourself, if I may ask? Married? Thinking about it? "Looking," to borrow the title of the recent HBO series?
Jake Biondi: I myself am not legally married yet but you never know. One day.
EDGE: Is Chicago getting culturally hotter these days?
Jake Biondi: I think in a lot of ways, Chicago is the cultural "hub" of the country. We have it all -- art, theater, film, recreation, etc. The theater scene, in particular, is hotter than ever -- with lots of shows doing their pre-Broadway tryouts here. And with summer here, Chicago has more free festivals and street fairs than any city in the country. It’s a great place to be!
EDGE: You went to Notre Dame. What was that like -- being gay at a Catholic university?
Jake Biondi: Being gay at Notre Dame when I attended the school was very difficult. Things were very "closeted" and there were few, if any, supports in place for gay students. I believe things have improved a great deal since I graduated.
EDGE: The success of "Boystown" is rather startling. Is your head totally buzzing?
Jake Biondi: It has been absolutely amazing; I am so excited by the response that "Boystown" is receiving all over the country. People from all over have reached out to talk to me about the book and ask how they can be involved. I am so lucky to have such a great team of people to work with -- including my new Director of Art, Design & Advertising, Michael Vargas. He has come up with a fantastic new ad campaign for "Boystown" that will be unveiled on July 7 along with the release of Season Two. It showcases many of Chicago’s famous landmarks as well as the "men of ’Boystown’ " that the audience has come to know.
Another new member of the team is Patrick Michael Murphy, the Director of Social Media. He is helping me with online promotion for the books on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
EDGE: It’s been, what? Barely a year, if that long, since you launched this whole thing? And now it’s something of an industry!
Jake Biondi: When I began "Boystown" last summer, never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be talking about a sequel and bringing the books to television. It’s crazy, fun, exciting, and wonderfully stressful all at the same time. I am so flattered and humbled by the fact that "Boystown" Season One has received over 25 consecutive 5-star reviews on amazon.com. It’s incredible!
EDGE: What lessons as a writer and a storyteller did you learn in Season One you were able to bring to Season Two?
Jake Biondi: In Season Two, I worked to make the characters come to life even more -- providing little details here and there to help readers connect with them even better. I also kept the pace of the storytelling very quick because readers seemed to enjoy that in Season One. Season Two has even more twists and turns, so readers will be on their toes throughout the entire reading experience.
EDGE: What did Season Two have to teach you about writing gay erotic fiction and episodic stories?
Jake Biondi: With the addition of several new characters to the story, Season Two allowed me to "mix things up" a little. I think readers will find it even hotter and sexier than season one.
While there are new characters, readers will be happy to know that the characters they loved from Season One are still at the center of Season Two. It’s difficult to juggle all the story lines and give the characters similar amounts of "air time," but I think Season Two delivers.
EDGE: What was, for you, the biggest twist or biggest surprise of Season Two, and how did the inspiration hit you?
Jake Biondi: It’s funny. The warehouse shooting at the end of Season One really frustrated readers -- in the way it was intended to. Readers have emailed me demanding to know who lives and who dies -- and that’s the fun of it for me as an author. I love keeping the readers guessing, but in the end I also enjoy giving them more of the characters that they love.
As far as Season Two’s surprises, there are a ton of them -- more exciting twists and turns than in Season One, and many of the secrets set up in Season One finally are revealed in Season Two. It gives the readers what they have been waiting for -- and more. I had the Season Two finale in mind all along, and the action of the book is constantly building to that moment.
And, yes, it’s another cliffhanger.
EDGE: What do you have in store for Season Three?
Jake Biondi: I have already begun working on Season Three. There’s not much I can reveal about it now because of where the Season Two finale leaves some of the characters. In generic terms, Season Three will propel itself forward from the life-altering situations in the Season Two finale.
EDGE: Your readership continues to grow. Do you have plans to expand your storytelling in other ways?
Jake Biondi: "Boystown" fans are the best. I keep hearing from more and more readers from all over the country (and beyond) -- and it’s amazing. They offer fantastic suggestions about how the stories and characters should evolve, which is so exciting for me to hear. If "Boystown" makes it to TV one day, which is the goal, I’m sure it will reach an even larger audience.
EDGE: And speaking of bringing "Boystown" to TV or streaming video as a dramatic production, is there any news there?
Jake Biondi: All I can say about that right now is that I have converted all of Season One into television script format and it is being reviewed by several people in Hollywood.
EDGE: What do you do when you’re not writing "Boystown?" (That is, what’s your ’day job?’)
Jake Biondi: In a way, "Boystown" has become its own full-time job. Writing takes a great deal of time, energy, and creativity -- but I love doing it. Fans are emailing me left and right telling me to "hurry up" -- I guess they can’t get enough of the stories and characters. Then there’s all the promotion and advertising, which I am so lucky to have some help with from Michael Vargas and Patrick Murphy. Some people have been very generous and reached out to help me with promotions on their blogs as well.
That said, I am having the time of my life. All the effort has been worth it and I am so excited to see what the future holds.
"Boystown" Season One and Season Two can be ordered from Amazon.com, iTunes, or www.JakeBiondi.com