The world of LGBTQ writing has founds its new star in Chicago-based David Jay Collins.
David has developed a name for himself in the literary community with his amazing novels Gaybash and Summerdale, both of which have two very different but equally compelling stories to them.
Gaybash, first released in 2014, centers on a fictional and very shy character named Matt who doesn’t feel like he fits in the gay community in Chicago. At one point in the novel he’s confronted by two attackers which creates a drastic amount of change in his life.
Summerdale, which just came out in May, is more horror focused, which he goes into in our exclusive interview with him below. David talks about how he got into the literary world, why he’s so passionate about the characters in both novels and if we will see either or both on the big screen sometime soon.
How did you fall into the world of writing?
By sheer determination! When I was growing up, I wanted to be an author. I loved reading and I had a very active imagination, so I began writing short stories. Though I had encouragement, I didn’t pursue writing as a career. Still, the dream never left me.
About ten years ago, the plot and characters of Gaybash, my first novel, appeared to me and I could see the story unfolding as if it were a movie—the scenes around Boystown, how the characters looked, how they talked to each other. I had to write it. After my proposal to publishers was repeatedly rejected, I decided to release it as an ebook and I became an indie author. That was in 2014, and I’ve since released Gaybash a paperback and an audiobook.
By opening myself to the journey of those characters, new characters have appeared to me. And their stories turned into the interweaving plot of my LGBTQ horror trilogy, Summerdale. Looking back on my own journey as a writer, I told myself no more than anyone else did. Today, I love being an indie author. Genuinely connecting with readers through my novels is an amazing feeling.
Who have been your biggest literary inspirations?
Booth Tarkington and Nelson Algren for the way they weave their stories through an incredibly vivid sense of place, and E.B. White and Norton Juster for inspiring me as a child (and reminding me as an adult) that the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination.
Tell our followers about Summerdale and how the series came to be.
Gaybash was a one-and-done novel, so when I began thinking about my next project I considered addiction as a premise. It’s rare for anyone in our community to talk openly about addiction yet it’s affected many of us. So I thought, how I could I tell the stories of relatable characters fighting addiction in a nonjudgmental, nonconfrontational way? The answer was horror.
The possibilities of horror are wide open, versus the restrictions of traditional literary fiction. I’m enjoying the freedom. In Summerdale, I use symbolism and social commentary to confront pressing issues in our community including racism, misogyny, and substance abuse. Summerdale House itself symbolizes the place where addicts disappear from family and friends. Inside the house, they find approval and solace for their addictions and their relapses. Landlord Mr. McGreevy makes sure of that.
I know this has been such a passion project for you over the past couple of years. What made you stick with this particularly?
I say this with a laugh, but the characters won’t leave me alone! Writing is solitary, but at the same time you’re having multiple conversations with several characters—in no particular order. I know the ending long before I know how each character will get there. They’re taking me on a journey and if I’m transcribing it well, readers will see the journey of each character as I do. What keeps me going through the long-form process of writing a trilogy is the positive responses I’ve received from Gaybash and the first Summerdale novel. Readers feel like they know these guys, or they’ve been in similar situations or, worst of all, that they’ve walked away when they should have done something. That makes Summerdale terrifying to write (and read).
What’s going on with the characters in Summerdale?
Each character (tenant) enters Summerdale House for a different reason, a different addiction. Mr. McGreevy has already planned for their arrival and by the time a tenant checks out his bedroom, which is always suspiciously available when the tenant first sees the house, the room looks exactly how the tenant imagined it. McGreevy wants his tenants to feel at home, and it’s in this seemingly perfect old house that they open up to him almost immediately. Over coffee (there’s always a fresh pot brewing!), Mr. McGreevy manipulates and enables his tenants. Initially, they believe their landlord is just a kind old man who runs a beautiful rooming house and listens to all their problems. But to Mr. McGreevy, his tenants are his prey.
Add in the supernatural origin of Mr. McGreevy, and you’ve got one powerful sociopath.
Would you like to option it as a movie if the opportunity presented itself?
Absolutely! Both Summerdale and Gaybash would adapt well to the screen. The Chicago neighborhoods of Boystown (where Gaybash is set) and Andersonville (where Summerdale is set) add character to the stories and a real sense of place.
What are your biggest hobbies outside of writing?
I enjoy reading, working out, and cooking. Over the past two years, I’ve lost 80 lbs. by meal prepping and weightlifting so a regular routine is a big motivator in my life. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and going to the movies and the theatre.
Are you dating? Single? What kind of guys do you usually go for?
I’m single and focused on writing and promoting my books. I also work full-time at Northwestern University. That being said, a beefy bear (with some gray in his beard) who can spot me in the gym and dress sharp for an evening at the CSO would encourage me to close my laptop. Writing is hermetic and as I approach 50, I concede that I should get out a bit more!
In conclusion, why should people read your books?
I write novels with strong, flawed, and relatable characters. I’m proud that gay and female characters are front-and-center in both novels, rather than sidekicks or stereotypes. The storylines of Gaybash and Summerdale may be fictional, but both novels reflect our reality.
Something else that makes Summerdale unique is that the characters who are terrorized are all men. Mr. McGreevy is an ominous and formidable presence, but he has a wicked sense of humor that readers find engaging and even fun.
Finally, I’m proud that Gaybash and Summerdale are sold at Chicago indie bookstores Heirloom Books, Unabridged Bookstore, and Women and Children First and also at Books & Books in Miami, Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC, Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO, Vroman’s in Pasadena, CA, and Little Sister’s in Vancouver, BC. Please support your locally owned bookstores! Readers in the U.S. can also buy signed copies directly from me at davidjaycollins.com with free domestic shipping.
You can learn more about David’s work by clicking on any of his links below:
Studly Author David Jay Collins Talks His Books ‘Gaybash’ and ‘Summerdale’