Thursday, July 10, 2008

Catching Up With Johnny Diaz




It’s not just a name—it’s a frame of mind.

Nestled amid peach and candy-pink Art Deco buildings, Score is the hottest gay bar in Miami’s South Beach. And for friends Ray Martinez, Ted Williams, and Brian Anderson, there’s no better way to start the weekend than by checking out the steady stream of beautiful Latin men coursing in and out of Score’s doors…

While Miami is home to the most gorgeous males ever created by God or a lifetime gym membership, Ray, resident movie critic at The Miami News, would give the dating scene a one-star review. Tired of hooking up with sculpted, shallow hunks who use books as towel weights, Ray is thrilled to finally meet a guy he wants to take home to mami and papi…

Ted, host of a popular Miami version of Entertainment Tonight, has enjoyed all the perks of his celebrity status. But being overexposed has its downside. Ted’s longing for a deeper connection spurs a reckless move that could cost him everything…

Brian has a life of leisure with his fabulously wealthy older boyfriend. The key rule to their open relationship: no sleeping with the same guy twice. But ever since Brian met a Puerto Rican love god named Eros, it’s a rule he keeps breaking…

A sexy, smart, and irresistibly witty new novel, Miami Manhunt explores one wild year when love gets crazy, hearts get broken and mended, and the only thing to count on is the fact that life will never be the same again…


Praise for Johnny Diaz and Boston Boys Club

“Racy, funny, and smart. You’re going to love this book.” —Scott Heim, author of
Mysterious Skin and We Disappear

“Fun, well-written, and a great page-turner.” --Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, New York Times bestselling author

"The excellent Johnny Díaz has produced another hilarious arresting novel about that most impossible of all quests: finding love, true love, in Miami." Junot Diaz, author of New York Times bestseller
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Johnny Diaz is a Living/Arts writer for The Boston Globe, where he writes about pop culture, style trends and Hispanic-related arts stories. Before that he worked at The Miami Herald. As a reporter there, he shared in the 2000 Pulitzer award coverage of the federal seizure of Elian Gonzalez and the chaos that erupted in Miami afterwards. He also covered some of the biggest breaking stories in South Florida, such as the Gianni Versace murder. He was also a featured contributor in the first Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. Johnny lives in Boston and readers can visit his website at

We caught up with Johnny just as his new book was ready to launch. For our first conversation with Johnny, just take a peek here.

1. Describe what your life has been life personally and creatively since
the launch of Boston Boys Club?

It's been a non-stop rollercoaster. I find myself much busier than I was before BBC came out. I receive a lot of emails from readers and I answer each one. (I also print them out and save them in a journal.) As I promoted BBC through book readings and interviews last year, I had to
finish Miami Manhunt so I juggled both books in different ways. I felt I was caught between the two. And I also have my day job to do as a full-time reporter at The Boston Globe.

So it's been busy but a good busy. Now I find myself in the same scenario
as last year: I am promoting Miami Manhunt as I finish the last leg of my third book.

The emails from readers and comments make it all worthwhile. I feel my
stories have connected me with others. Hopefully, I won't go completely gray by this time next year.

2. What's been the response regarding BBC from the queer community, the Latino community, and the literary community at large? Do you feel it'sbeen liberating to tell that story and carve out chico lit as a genre?

A lot of different readers connected with each f the characters from BBC. But I did receive a large amount of feedback from fellow younger Latino gay men who felt they finally saw someone like themselves or someone they knew through the Tommy Perez character (Cuban-American writer from Miami where he has a tight-knit overprotective family.) That was one of the reasons I wrote BBC and Miami Manhunt - to add to the small gay Latino presence in American literature where central gay Latino characters are few.

In that aspect, I feel it has been liberating for me and for readers as
well because we should be able to see ourselves reflected in the books we read. We need more gay Hispanic representation, gente! Come out and share your stories.

3. How are you able to juggle journalism and fiction writing?

At times, it's hard, a non-stop juggling act. I can't put them down! I try to write the fiction on the weekends, Friday nights or Sunday mornings or when I go to Miami on vacation to visit my parents. I find that being there completely disconnects me from Boston and work. I can truly focus on the fiction.

The journalism is automatic for me. It's in my blood and flows out of me. I
think it's harder to capture emotions and feelings in first-person as I do for fiction than it is to write about other people in third-person for my articles which I find easier.

In a way, both styles of writing complement one another.
Whatever I am working on for The Globe has a way of inspiring a scene for a chapter in the books. When I go running or cycling to think of scenes or dialogue for the book, I often stumble upon a story idea. I don't think I would be able to do one without the other. They go hand in hand. The key is to stay organized. If I can write a chapter a week or every other week, then I'm on schedule.

Sometimes it's hard to do this because if I had a heavy week of newspaper
writing, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of the computer and write away. But I still do it because each style of writing serves as an outlet for the other. One begats the other.

4. Are there emerging themes that you see yourself being drawn to? What are they and how would you like to address them?

I enjoy writing about family and the dynamics of sibling relationships when one is gay or of a different gender. That has been a running theme in both books and in my third book (which I am currently writing.) Family is a universal theme that anyone can relate to and I plan to keep using it as a backbone for my novels because it resonates with my readers but most of all, with myself. I come from a large Cuban family where my aunts and uncles are second-parents and where my cousins are second-siblings. The ever-evolving structure of family, what does it mean today versus 20 years ago, continues to inspire me. But I also enjoy writing about love - finding it and keeping it. I believe most people can relate to that as well.

5. Who are the writers you enjoy for pleasure's sake ? Why?

I'm a big Nicholas Sparks fan. He writes simple stories in a clean
writing style yet the stories pack an emotional punch. I'm a big Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez fan, who inspired me to write Boston Boys Club, because she writes in a fluid, tongue-and-cheek style that is entertaining and
educational. Dean Koontz is another favorite. I enjoy how he weaves a suspense/mystery with witty rat-tat-tat dialogue and descriptive prose.

6. Who are the writers that raise the bar for you? Why?

Scott Heim, who wrote "Mysterious Skin " and the recent "We Disappear,'' is another favorite writer. His writing radiates a quiet power, a mix of suspense and poetry that gently pulls the reader along in his Kansas-inspired mysteries.

Junot Diaz is another one that has set the bar high for this Diaz He is a perfectionist when it comes to his writing, often taking years to write one book. I wish I can be like that. His writing is like a whole other language, a fast-paced Spanglish pocked with new and old pop culture and
scifi references yet tinged with the duality of being a Latino and American.

7. Do you think chico lit as a niche market will become problematic for you as you move forward. If so, how?

Eventually, it will if I decide to change things up a bit for a fourth novel. Supposed I want to write a novel about a straight married couple, will my readers follow me after reading my novels about gay Hispanic men? I don't know. That's a risk. I have been encouraged by my publisher to keep doing what I am doing but eventually, I am going to want to strike out and do something else. I don't want to be boxed into one genre, even though I put myself there. Readers like consistency and so do publishers. Stay tuned.

8. What do you think will help take your writing to the next level?

Pushing myself harder to challenge myself in the way I write will help me get to the next level. I have become comfortable writing in first-person for fiction. I'm curious to see how I would write in third-person, as I do in my news articles. Would I be a stronger writer that way? I also believe
working with different editors also help writers grow because you are exposed to another sensibility. To grow as a person, you need to change and the same goes for writers. I think by trying to come up with different storylines and characters, I may just grow into the writer I aspire to be one day.

Lisa Alvarado

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