I’m really excited to say that the writing powerhouse Joe Cosentino has granted me an interview. You all know by now that Joe is one of my favourite humorist writers, which was clearly shown when I received that Restraining Order from him… but we have now moved on and therapy is definitely helping!
TB: So Joe, your latest book “Drama Muscle” has just been released. Can you give us a brief description of what Nicky and Noah are up to this time?
JOE: First, I want to say that I adore you and the site. You are quite witty yourself, and a good writer—and interviewer. Perhaps we can spin this off to a television chat show, or maybe an act a la Sonny and Cher. Hah. And thank you for your support and championing of Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery published by Lethe Press. I am thrilled to announce that it won Best Contemporary Novel, Best Mystery Novel, Best Crime Novel, and Best Humorous Novel for 2015 in the Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Poll Awards!
Okay, I’m Italian-American so I talk a lot. Luckily you can’t see my hands moving. On to “Drama Muscle” and finally answering your question. In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering musclemen in the Bodybuilding Department. In the novel Nicky is directing bodybuilding students in Treemeadow College’s annual Bodybuilding competition on campus. Bodybuilding students and faculty drop faster than barbells until Nicky figures out the identity of the murderer, as well as Noah’s secret revolving around Van Granite, one of the bodybuilding professors. Noah’s hysterically funny parents visit from Wisconsin and are drawn into the action, and Nicky and Noah reach a milestone by the end of the novel.
TB: We have a long standing TV murder series here in the UK that I believe has been aired since 1997. None of us viewers ever query the fact that the number of murders would outweigh the total number of residents in these small quaint English villages. Can you see the same happening at Treemeadow College with Nicky and Noah investigating?
JOE: I love those cozy mystery television shows. In the US it is “Murder She Wrote” and “Hart to Hart.” Noah’s mother has a funny line in Drama Muscle, where she asks why any parent would ever send his/her child to Treemeadow College due to all the murders. Hah. As you know in Drama Queen college theatre professors were dropping like stage curtains and amateur sleuths/college theatre professors Nicky and Noah had to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. So I’ve pretty much managed to wipe out the Theatre Department and Bodybuilding Department. Have no fear. Drama Cruise, the third Nicky and Noah mystery takes place on a cruise ship to Alaska, where Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show. You guessed it! The cast members/theatre professors drop like anchors and Nicky and Noah have to figure out whodunit and why. That book should be released by Lethe Press in about six months. It will give you something to live for. Hah.
TB: Why do you write?
JOE: Since I hear voices in my head, I figure I should write down what they say, rather than committing myself. Hah. Actually, as a kid I created full theatrical, costumed and choreographed musical productions in my neighbor’s garage. After majoring in theatre in college, I became a professional actor, working in film, television, and theatre opposite stars like Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T industrial), Nathan Lane (Roar of the Greasepaint onstage), Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage), Charles Keating (NBC’s Another World), Jason Robards (Commercial Credit computer commercial), and Holland Taylor (ABC’s My Mother Was Never a Kid TV movie). Moving on to playwriting and ultimately writing novels came next. Along the way I received two master’s degrees and became a college professor/department head (like Martin Anderson in the Nicky and Noah mystery series). I’m still telling stories. I can never understand why some authors have writers’ block. For me it’s a challenge to figure out which story in my head to write next!
TB: Where do you get your inspiration from, as it appears to me that every book has its own unique flavour and definitely its own humour!
JOE: True! Maybe I have various people inside me, or perhaps I’m cloned—heaven forbid! As you see I write a great deal about what I know—show business and academia. Both are wacky worlds full of humor, romance, mystery, and definitely drama. My colleagues at my college kid me that if they tick me off, I will kill them. Hah. While the characters aren’t based on my colleagues and students, some things they might have said probably sparked a number of the characters and stories.
Thinking about my Dreamspinner Press novellas, An Infatuation is loosely based on my high school years. A Shooting Star is loosely based on my college years as a theatre major. (By the way, they are doing so well as e-books, Dreamspinner Press is publishing them together as a paperback on March 21.) A Home for the Holidays came about after my trip to the gorgeous, glorious, and magical island of Capri. The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (releasing January 27) are my gay spin on my favorite fairytales like Cinderella, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, and The Snow Queen.
The Nicky and Noah mysteries are the kind of books I like reading: funny, theatrical, sexy, wild, and wacky with a solid mystery full of plot twists and turns at its center—and a surprise ending. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are set in an Edwardian style university founded originally by a gay couple (Tree and Meadow) whose name the university bears: Treemeadow College. It is a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning, and at the center is a touching gay romance between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. In each book Nicky and Noah eavesdrop, seduce, role play, and finally trap the murderer, as pandemonium, hilarity, and true love ensue for a happily ever after ending—until the next book.
As for Drama Muscle, I have always been fascinated with bodybuilders. The concept of eating protein every two hours, lifting weights for three hours a day, shaving every body part, spray tanning, and posing in tiny gold trunks is amazing to me. What dedication! I quickly noticed the link between bodybuilding and theatre. So I realized the second Nicky and Noah mystery would take place in the Bodybuilding Department at Treemeadow College. Since I work out every day (yet see very little results!) and am enamored of the real bodybuilders who are so big they don’t even need to iron their shirts, Drama Muscle holds a special place in my heart (and somewhere else-hah).
TB: Is either Nicky or Noah based on you?
JOE: Nicky definitely has my wacky sense of humor, and like me he is Italian-American. Also like me, he is a one-man man. The similarity stops there. Nicky is not only great looking, he has such amazing wit, perseverance in the face of adversity, and smarts. I love his sense of determination in not only nabbing the murderer, but also getting his man—Noah. Nicky knows what he wants and how to get it. He is genuinely concerned for others, and he wants to help them. He also has no problem taking on the role of hero.
Martin Anderson, Nicky and Noah’s department head, is based on me. He’s a loyal, hardworking department head and professor who fully supports his faculty colleagues, office assistant, and the students in his department. Like me, he is also a little bit, well quite a bit, of a gossip. I also like that he is happily married like me. Though we see him only briefly in books two and three, we get to know Martin’s husband, Ruben, quite well in the third novel, Drama Cruise.
TB: What were your biggest learning experiences or surprises throughout your writing career?
JOE: I learned from the best! I’ve read every Agatha Christie novel and play many times. She is a genius at outlining when and where to give the reader what information. I love the inversion in her books, where she uses sleight of hand to lay out all the information, but not in a straight forward manner. The reader becomes the sleuth to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I also learned how to create quirky, surprising, yet endearing characters from Armistead Maupin.
I also learned a great deal about the amount of time it takes to promote books. Wonderful people like you have helped me to do that, which I deeply appreciate.
TB: On that note, what would you have done differently if you would do it again?
JOE: Stop worrying about reviews. Thankfully most of them have been very good. As for the few bad ones, it’s the reviewer’s karma. Given the amount of time and dedication it takes to write a book, I can’t imagine writing awful things about people’s work. Why not just move on and read something else?
TB: Any regrets?
JOE: That I didn’t start writing novels earlier in life. I feel like I’m playing catch up now.
TB: Best piece of writing advice that you can offer someone who is thinking of writing their first book?
JOE: Write every day. When you have a story you think is perfect, ask someone you trust to read it. Then after doing another draft, email it to a publisher with an open submissions policy who publishes the kind of story you’ve written. If that publisher rejects it, immediately send it to the next one. If you are writing a mystery, give the clues early. There’s nothing worse than reading a mystery and not getting any clues until the end. The writer and reader should fall in love with the leading characters while the characters are falling in love with each other. And try to find the humor in every situation.
TB: Are you a writer who encourages readers to interact with you? And if so, where is the best place to do so?
JOE: I love to hear from readers! They can contact me via my web site at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com.
TB: Can you give us a hint on what you have planned next?
JOE: My upcoming new beach series from The Nine Star Press, Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward is based on my vacations at the New Jersey shore. It’s about a gay man who runs a gay resort on a beautiful beach cover
I also have three new Jana Lane mysteries coming out in 2016. I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press), Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto. In Porcelain Doll (The Wild Rose Press, releasing March 15), Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, Jason Apollo. In Satin Doll (not yet released from The Wild Rose Press), Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (not yet released from The Wild Rose Press), Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.
TB: Thank you for this captivating interview. I hope all of our readers get “Drama Muscle” and all of your books.
JOE: Thank you! We make a great team!
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Nine Star Press), Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press) and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards.
His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers).
Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press).
Here you can find Joe Cosentino:
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com