Saturday, September 09, 2017

Where In the World is Johnny Diaz?

Talented. Generous. It's a wonderful happenstance when both qualities are embodied in the same person. This is very much the case with Johnny Diaz. I first came in contact with Johnny via Ann Hagman Cardinal, one of my Sister Chicas co-authors.At that time, he was on the staff of the Boston Globe. He felt we had an interesting backstory and that the novel itself deserved attention. And so, all three of us (myself, Ann, and Jane Alberdeston Coralin) were profiled by Johnny, giving us national attention.

Did I mention his novels describe life, love and loss with a deft hand and a sense of humor? Well, they do, and so you don't miss out on them, a link is provided at the end of this interview.

From Boston Boys Club until now, do you see a larger audience for chico lit and if so, what do you think about the intersectionality of Latinx and LGBTQ?

Yes, there is a larger audience. In the last few years, I have noticed more authors of gay fiction including more Latino characters even though the authors aren’t necessarily Latino or gay.  I see that as nod to Latino gay readers looking for characters who look and sound like them . Traditionally, there haven’t been many gay Latino authors publishing their work besides Michael Nava, Richard Blanco, Alex Sanchez, Jeff Rivera, Charlie Vasquez, Rigoberto Gonzalez and others.

Tell me more about the writers you love. Why them? What stands out in their words How has it shaped your writing?

Two of my favorite authors are Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and Nicholas Sparks.
Alisa knows how to tell a good story about friends and finding love. Her fiction and nonfiction writing is funny, chatty but also dramatic. Her first novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, inspired me to write my first book Boston Boys Club.  All of her characters have felt real to me and I wanted to do something similar with my own writing, making characters relatable and interesting that you'd want to follow along in their lives.

I discovered Nicholas Sparks when I was also living in Boston. I saw "The Notebook'' and decided to read the book. And I was hooked. He knows how to gently pull the reader along in a romance and his descriptions of emotions are spot on. I find myself looking out each October for another one of his books. I've read them all. Although his characters are straight, the romances are universal. Who hasn't had a broken heart and yearned to fall in love again? That's how he has influenced my writing.

Where are you in the "genre fiction" vs. "literary fiction" discussion. Do the labels clarify or limit?

Re: lit fic vs. Genre fic:

I don't think labels hurt in fiction. While literary fiction may seem more seriously taken, I like the fact that there are genres and sub-genres in fiction because that helps readers find exactly what they are looking for (chica lit, m/m romance, etc) i think literary fiction is too big of an umbrella term for all types of fiction. While my novels could be labeled literary fiction, I like that they can also be found under gay fiction and romance fiction and Latin fiction.

What's the same and what's different in your writing process now, as opposed to when you were writing Boston Boys?

The writing process is pretty much the same. For each book, I sit down and write a chapter, about 2,000 words or so (akin to a long features story in the newspaper) and I always include two scenes in each chapter to move the story along.  I find that keeps the reader engaged (at least it does for me as the writer.)

I also give myself a few months, a year or so to write the first draft of a book. Then I revise it over and over again by printing out chapters and taking them with me in my daily travels to read when I have a chance. I purposely pick different places to edit (a park bench, a coffee shop, the backyard, etc) because I find the settings help provide another perspective.

Do you see the arc in a story as being similar to the arc in a love affair?

I hadn’t thought about it that way but yes, now that you mention it.  When I start writing a new book, I am usually creatively excited and enthusiastic to get the words on paper to tell the new story.  It’s like having a crush but on a story. You’re falling and running with it but then you may hit a roadblock and you have to work through it.  And by the time I’m done in writing the story, I want to move on to the next (writing) affair.

Talk about the ways your protagonists have grown in terms of love and relationships?

In each of the books, the main protagonist is single, recovering from a break up and looking for Mr. Right with the help of good friends.  So the books follow their journeys and how these men evolve romantically in their 20s and 30s. One of the main protagonists, Tommy Perez began his journey in Boston Boys Club as a new Bostonian looking for that special guy. He finds that guy but realizes he has issues with alcohol and how does one handle that in a new blossoming relationship? 

Tommy Perez returns in my third novel Beantown Cubans healing from the a broken heart when the ex returns sober and wants to try again.  And then in the last book, Six Neckties,  Tommy is all healed and ready to love again just as all his friends are getting married and he’s the best man and groomsman. So the readers may relate to the universal ups and downs in his love life over the course of ten years.

How would you compare the kind of writing you do as a journalist with that of a novelist?

I find the fiction writing liberating. I feel I can use my humor, my voice and descriptive writing more than in my daily journalism. I tend to write feature stories so those pieces are about trends, personalities, and profiles. The stories are about them, not me so I take a step back and write as a detached observer.  The fiction writing allows me to use the first-person voice and channel various characters. It’s just more fun.

Tell us something that’s not in the official bio?

I’m a huge runner. I enjoy running  two to three miles while listening to meditations by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.  I find the combination of running and the meditations calming even though adrenaline is pumping through my veins.  I find running as liberating as writing.

I also recently recovered from bladder cancer . I kept it quiet last fall and winter as I went through the surgeries and treatments. I am happy to say that so far, so good. I am thankful to be healthy and grateful for the wonderful doctors and the support of family and friends.

All of Johnny's books

And more info on the newest

Now that gays are getting hitched, it seems that everyone is saying I Do. Except for Tommy Perez. He's always the best man or groomsman for his friends' nuptials. And with each occasion, Tommy goes home alone with another necktie. He's already on number four. But things seem to improve for the Maine magazine writer when he suddenly meets Danny, a confident freelance photographer who shoots a friend's wedding in Provincetown. Danny is cute enough that he should be in front of the camera rather than behind it. And complicating matters is the arrival of a sexy and slightly older guest house manager named Ignacio who begins to court Tommy's heart in their small town of Ogunquit. 

But is Tommy ready for love again? As he helps his best friends Rico and Carlos prepare for their weddings, Tommy must reexamine his past relationship with his ex Mikey who had issues with the bottle in Boston. And with two potential love interests on the horizon, will it finally be Tommy's turn to walk down the aisle in his own necktie?

From the author of Boston Boys Club, Beantown Cubans, Take the Lead and Looking for Providence comes another fun, heartwarming story about the power of love and friendship.

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