Native New Yorker Justin Hernandez is the author of the blog Naked in New York City, where he chronicles "life and dating in the Big Apple, with the occasional commentary on gay culture."
According to Justin, "Naked in New York City is a blog about my search for love in one of the most exciting cities in the world. I'm a former stripper, so the title is partially a thinly veiled, tongue in cheek reference to that time. I sometimes mix it up by writing about different aspects of gay culture that I find intriguing because I don't want to be a one-note blogger. In the past, some of the subjects I've addressed have ranged from my observations regarding the bareback sex community, to quickie encounters between men at the gym (or as I like to refer to them, steam room bunnies). I strive to write as honestly as possible, because it took me so long to get to the point where I embrace honesty as opposed to hiding from it."
The success of Hernandez's blog inspired him to write about his life pre-Naked in New York City. Inside the Vortex, a prequel to the blog, chronicles the foundations of a life "based on abuse, denial, cover ups, and secrecy."
Inside the Vortex follows Hernandez's life from a dysfunctional boyhood in the Bronx to a career as a dancer (erotic and otherwise) in Los Angeles; along with addictions and failed love affairs.
"Here are all the highs and all the lows, told through the perspective of a person who is older and definitely wiser. I'm not a martyr. I'm just someone who has learned from the situations I've been in. My journey is far from over."
"It was never my plan to write about my past when I began the blog," Hernandez continues. "I was in a really good place in life when I began Naked in New York City, and I just wanted to write about all the great things I was experiencing. However, as the blog progressed, I realized that there were still some issues from the 'old days' that were occasionally popping up. I alluded to them, and as a result people became curious. I decided a book would be the best way to address the past and show people how I got to the place of honesty that led me to create the blog."
"I don't think my story should be considered a blueprint of what not to do. We all have our own paths to follow. What's amazing about the journey in life is that all the roads, both good and bad, lead us to different places. What happens next depends on what you learn from your experiences. I think my memoir shows that you can walk away from even the most horrific of circumstances and become a better person in the process."
In spite of it all, Hernandez has no regrets. "If anything about my life had played out differently, I might be a completely different person today," he says.
Inside the Vortex is brutally honest about Hernandez's family, friends, and ex-lovers. Has there been a reaction from the people Hernandez wrote about?
"My best friend Ray is very proud of me, as are my parents. I haven't heard anything from my exes, although I did reach out to one of them shortly after the book was published only because I did disclose his HIV status. But I'm not worried though. The truth sets everyone free, and it's not like I went off on some bashing tirade. I aired all of my unsavory moments with them, so I don't come off looking so great either. Besides, with the exception of one, I changed all of their first names and I didn't use their last names."
Outside of Hernandez's own circle of family and friends, the reaction to Inside the Vortex "has been amazing. I'm proud of what I wrote, but as with anything that becomes available for public consumption, I had to be prepared for the possibility that not everyone will love it. So far though, the public response has been favorable. The best has been the messages I have received from outside of the LGBT community. I wrote this book with my target audience in mind, and the fact that somehow this book has wound up on the radar of some heterosexual readers has been incredible."
Will there be a sequel to Inside the Vortex? "Yes there will be," Hernandez says, "but I would like a few years to pass before I consider a direct follow-up. I'm seeing things through a completely different point of view than I did during my twenties and a good portion of my thirties. I equate it to someone who has been in a coma for a long period of time, and then wakes up. I was in an emotional coma for 27 years, and as a result, some things are foreign and feel like brand new experiences. Even things that I took for granted in the past are now exciting to me. So no immediate sequel, but I'm going to keep writing because I absolutely love it! I have plans for two other non-fiction books, and of course, I'll keep blogging."