Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Buenos Diaz: A Conversation With Beantown Cuban Johnny Diaz (continued)

CC: This book masterfully focuses on an "aging" gay man and the loneliness he feels at trying to preserve his youth while attempting to find love in a youth-obsessed culture. As a single (wink) gay man in my mid-30s I can certainly relate. What kind of response have you gotten from readers who often feel they don't "fit in?"
JD: From what I have been hearing so far, a lot of gay men in their mid-30s and older are relating to my main character Gabriel who suddenly begins to realize that he is finally that older guy in the bar or club among a sea of twinks and early 30-somethings. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to write the book -- how does an aging gay man fit in today’s youth-obsessed gay culture. Where do we go? Are we relegated to Bingo night?

CC: I like Bingo night… Relationships between your gay characters and their families are a common thread in your books. How much of a role does the relationship between you and your parents play in your writing?
JD: My family and friends fuel my novels. They are my literary muses. With "Boston Boys Club" and "Miami Manhunt," the themes were mostly centered around friendship and finding your place in a new city. With "Beantown Cubans" and now "Take the Lead," I wanted to delve into deeper themes such as our relationships with our mothers and fathers and how they influence and affect our decisions in our private lives especially when we think we meet that special someone.

CC: At the core of "Take The Lead" is the story of "Gabriel" dealing with his father's diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. You write very explicitly about the challenges of living with a chronic illness and how it feels to be a loved one of someone who is suffering. What was your inspiration to tell this story?
JD: My father has Parkinson’s disease and I knew that in my fourth book, I wanted to explore that. Over the past 10 years, I have seen my dad slowly weaken from the condition as it has robbed him of the little everyday things that we may all take for granted such as driving, buttoning your shirt, picking up a spoon or a fork. When I learned of a special dance class for people with Parkinson’s in Boston where I wrote an article on for The Boston Globe, I realized I had a way of telling the story of how a degenerative disease can affect a loved one and the challenges of feeling so powerless to help that loved one. My hope is to raise some awareness on the disease and the impact it has on the patient and the family.

CC: One of your "trademarks" in your books is to have cameo appearances by characters in previous novels. "Tommy Perez," the sexy Cuban-American newspaper writer who is present in all your previous work makes a significant appearance in "Take The Lead." How much of Johnny is in "Tommy?"
JD: I have seen other authors do that, particularly the late E. Lynn Harris. By having previous characters pop up in small scenes in new books, the readers get an update of what that character has been up to. Tommy is pretty close to who I am. He has my professional resume and background and all my little quirks (Diet Coke obsession, mild OCD, etc.). Except he’s 10 pounds thinner and five years younger. I believe most authors have one character who serves as an alter personality.

CC: I agree. Though I’m not an author, I do have an alter personality. She’s a big drag queen named Sharkeetha. Anyway… I have read all your books and find that they all read like really good scripts. Do you have any specific writing “rituals?”
JD: I approach each chapter as a long newspaper features article with at least two to three scenes to help the story flow along. On average, each chapter is anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 words. That’s the formula I use. I also tend to write when I can, on the weekends, at night, during lunch at work. I have a notepad where I jot down scenes, details and dialogue wherever I go. You never know when inspiration strikes.

CC: I’m inspired right now, sexy man…… You have given a positive voice to gay Latinos and exposed us to the vibrant Cuban culture. As a result, I’ve bought all of Celia Cruz’s CDs. You often describe Cuban cuisine in your writing. What is your favorite Cuban meal?
JD: I am a sucker for a grilled chicken breast sandwich on toasted Cuban bread with lettuce, tomatoes and mayo with a side of plantains and a mamey shake. Yum!

CC: I have no idea who Mamey is, but I’m sure her shake is wonderful. In your other life, you write about television and other media for The Boston Globe. As a veteran of early reality television from being on "The Real World: Miami," how do you think reality television has changed?
JD: Reality TV has become more dramatic, in-your-face to get ratings and I think producers are running out of ways to stand out from the crowd. With the fragmentation of media and the ever-expanding cable and Internet universes, we have so many options for programming. That makes it more difficult for network reality shows to get our attention. The standard reality shows, the pioneering ones such as "The Real World" or even "Survivor," aren’t water cooler buzz. Instead of character studies, the shows are more about “what will you watch for a few episodes?”

CC: I agree. I think midgets will be next … Oh, but we already have that. I shudder to think what will be next. Expanding on media, you recently signed a deal with Open Road Integrated Media which optioned your three previous books for television, movies, a digital media. Are there any projects that you can talk about in the works now? What do you hope will come from this deal??
JD: It’s still too early in the process. I am hoping that one of the titles evolves into another platform, whether that it’s an Internet series or a TV one.

CC: Sounds great!! Any book signings coming up? What is in the works for The Beantown Cuban at this time?
JD: I have a reading at Outwrite Books in Atlanta, Georgia on Aug. 18; I plan to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Conference in Philly on Aug. 25. I have two readings in Boston in Sept. and October.

CC: Finally, many readers of Kenneth's blog are extremely slutty. Which of your novels would you recommend for those looking for a very sexy read during these steamy mid-summer days??
JD: My second novel, "Miami Manhunt," is the sexiest … raunchiest! I don’t know why. I think the heat in Miami acts like a natural aphrodisiac and makes the natives and visitors uber horny. When I wrote the book, I just kept thinking … sex, sex, sex.


(You can purchase a copy of Johnny’s new book HERE or the eBook HERE.)