Matthew Baffoe, 43, has lived a life that seems tailor-made for a career as a writer.
He was raised in Beverly as the youngest of 10 kids and his resume is an eclectic mix of experiences, all of which he draws on in his writing. He spent time as a camera man and once worked for director John Hughes, than spent 10 years working for Ald. Ed Burke and the City Council Committee on Finance. He was the front man for an alternative band, taught in the Chicago Public Schools for four years and now owns his own handyman and contracting business.
Throughout his varied career, Baffoe has always drifted back to writing. In the tradition of a true South Side storyteller, he has set his new novel in the neighborhoods he knows best.
A Handyman’s Guide to Paranormal Events is a sometimes humorous paranormal thriller that documents a local handyman's run-ins with beings not of this world.
Patch checked in with Baffoe just after the release of his novel.
What inspired you to take a shot at writing a novel?
I've been writing for well over 20 years, I think since college. This novel grew out of my work as a handyman. I was actually at someone's house in the middle of winter and they said they had an electrical buzz in the wall. So I went down to check out the electrical and I took out the drywall and found an active bee hive in the middle of January. I told my brother and he said it was something that would only happen to me. From there I just started thinking back to a lot of the most unique jobs that I have had and the most unique people that I met and came up with a novel because of it.
How would you describe the overall tone of the book?
I am normally more of a straight thriller writer. This one is a little more comedic, more of a dark comedy. It has a lot of humor in it, a lot of South Side in it. It takes place almost completely on the South Side of Chicago.
How did your experiences growing up in the neighborhood inform the work you do now?
It's clearly inside of me. I think I'm one of those guys that's a good storyteller and that's South side all the way. It comes from my father too. The South Side is so full of characters that it's not even funny. When I was telling my brother that I was going to write a book about the South Side he was like, no one is ever going to believe these people exist. Who knows, maybe I am one of those characeters too.
What has the reaction to the book been?
One thing I can say is that there is some rich history inside of the book itself. Although it is technically fiction, many of the historical points that I talk about in the book are absolutely true. I tried to be as true to the neighborhoods as I possible can.
What do you hope people take a way from it?
I do want people to take something away from it besides the funny and scary stuff, and it is both.
How have all your careers influenced your work?
It's almost like the writer in me chose the work. Everything you do you draw from. Every walk of life you can draw from as a writer, and both the good and the bad help your prose. I think what has really helped me as a writer is perseverance. It's hard, it's not an easy thing.
Answers edited for space.
Check back Friday for an excerpt from the book.