Welcome back, Joe Cosentino.
Joe: I love basking in the rainbow!
When you visited last, you had just released the first Cozzi Cove novel. Only a year later, NineStar Press is releasing book four.
Joe: I know! The readers keep asking for more. I’m just a boy who can’t say no. My mother said to me, “Don’t you have anything better to do at night than write books?” I replied, “Maybe I should look into nursing homes instead.”
Congratulations on all the books and all the awards?
Joe: Thank you. Unlike the Oscars, thankfully the awards all came to the person who won.
And you’ve won a lot of awards.
Joe: Yes. Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery Novel, Contemporary Novel, and Humorous Novel of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine. An Infatuation came in second place as Favorite LGBT Romance. I won second place as Favorite LGBT Author. In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star also won a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention. The audiobook of The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland performed by Joel Leslie won Favorite Audiobook of the Month at Open Skye Reviews. Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back won TBR Pile Favorite Book of the Month, 3rd Place Favorite Book of the Year at Urban Book Reviews, and a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention. But who’s counting?
Joe: I’d like to thank the academy, and all the little people (like me).
Tell us how you started writing.
Joe: After college I acted in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis, Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Then I became a playwright and finally a novelist and college theatre professor/department chair.
What do your colleagues and students at your college say about your books?
Joe: My colleagues want me to kill them in a Nicky and Noah mystery, and my students want me to cancel class so they can vacation at Cozzi Cove.
Why did you write the Cozzi Cove series?
Joe: I was sitting on the beach at the New Jersey Shore, and the idea came to me to write a series about a gay resort where nothing is what it seems, romance is everywhere, and anything is possible. After Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out released, readers and reviewers praised their romantic, humorous, dramatic, mysterious style, and interwoven captivating stories. Many readers begged for a return trip to Cozzi Cove, so I wrote Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings.
How did it feel revisiting the old characters?
Joe: It was like visiting good old friends to further develop the characters in book four. Bringing in the new characters was also great fun.
What is the storyline of Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings?
Joe: Cal Cozzi opens his string of seven guest bungalows on Cozzi Cove for the fourth summer. We are treated to five interwoven stories about Cal, his family, his friends, and his guests.
Tell us more about the main characters and how they change in book four.
Joe: Handsome and sexy ex-football player Cal Cozzi is now thirty-three years old, and still enjoying his role as owner and manager of his family’s guest bungalows. In book four, Cal finds his great-grandfather’s diary, exposing a shocking surprise. Cal and his husband, Michael Rodgers, a recent college graduate in photojournalism, are expecting a baby.
Cal has a new houseboy, blond and muscular Billy Dean, a red letter Christian college student who signed a chastity pledge in his hometown Alabama. Obviously, that doesn’t last very long at Cozzi Cove.
Cal’s sister, Taylor, drops in from Paris as usual. As a type A personality and top one-percenter, the world revolves around her, which makes her hysterically funny. She is also incredibly devoted to her brother. Taylor’s wife, Carla, plays a pivotal role in book four as she is the surrogate for Cal and Michael’s baby. Michael and Taylor weigh new job opportunities that could take them away from Cozzi Cove.
A bisexual guest, Nijad, can’t decide which sibling guest he prefers: Annabel or Andrew. An occult enthusiast guest, Jonathan, encounters a sexy vampire at the cove. As usual, secrets are revealed and romances blossom in the magical place called Cozzi Cove.
What is the moral of the story?
Joe: We are all connected to our past, present, and futures.
Who is your favorite character in Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings and why?
Joe: That’s like picking a favorite child, though my mother would have no problem picking my sister the accountant who has a “real” job. I love all of the characters, but Cal holds a special place in my heart. I adore his honesty, courage in the face of adversity, and loyalty to his husband, family, friends, and guests. Cal’s connection to his ancestor who built Cozzi Cove is explored in the new book.
Which one of your characters was the most fun to write? And why?
Joe: Billy Dean’s southern expressions and Annabel’s British expressions cracked me up. Of course Taylor is always hysterically funny. Her wife, Carla, gives Taylor a run for her money in book four. I laughed out loud many times while writing her.
Which character was the most difficult to write? And why?
Joe: Guest Vlad was difficult with his vampire persona, but as a huge fan of the old Dark Shadows serial, I was up to the task.
Are you Cal, Michael your spouse, and Taylor your sister?
Joe: Cal is more like the person I’d love to be. One of the guests in book four, Jonathan the tax auditor, is a great deal like me. I want to play him in the movie. I’m also like Harold (An Infatuation), Jonathan (A Shooting Star), and Bobby (A Home for the Holidays). Stuart (An Infatuation) and Barry (A Shooting Star) are based on my spouse. Taylor in Cozzi Cove is very much like my sister, though my sister won’t admit it—in public.
Cal and Michael, and all of the characters, reach a surprising plateau in their relationship.
Joe: That’s Cozzi Cove for you, just when you think you’ve figured it out, there’s a game changer.
Will there be more Cozzi Cove novels?
Joe: If I can keep waking up at 3am with new ideas.
The novels are quite dramatic and the stories are seamlessly intercut. At times they read like a film or television show. Did you do that on purpose?
Joe: Definitely. I love writing quirky and endearing characters in scenes full of emotion with lengthy dialogue. I wrote a screenplay version of the first novel. Come on, producers, make me an offer! Couldn’t you see Matt Bomer as Cal? Actually, I could see Matt Bomer as anybody in anything.
There are also a number of love scenes. How did you go about writing them?
Joe: Lovemaking is a part of life, so it makes sense to include love scenes in novels. I have been told the scenes are character-driven, sweet, and sexy.
Do you react like a reader when you read your books?
Joe: Totally. I just reread Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings and laughed, cried, gasped, and felt romantic. I was shocked at the ending of each storyline.
What advice would you give to other writers in your genres?
Joe: Don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t try to copy anyone else’s style. Discover what’s special about you and your stories and write them without inhibitions. If one publisher isn’t interested, send them to the next. it. Finally, don’t forget the humor! In your books and in your life.
As a college professor/department head, how do you have the time to write?
Joe: I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat overlooking the woods like Martin Anderson, the department head in my Nicky and Noah mysteries. When I complain about my schedule, my mother says, “Just think how hard you would work if you had a real job, like your sister.”
What is your writing process?
Joe: Jumping up awake in the middle of the night, I jot notes on my nightstand with a new book idea. The next day I begin a biography for each character and eventually a plot summary. I write the first draft, then show the second draft to my spouse for his notes. The third draft goes to the publisher. The fourth is after notes from the publisher’s editor.
Tell us about your other gay romance releases.
Joe: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star are first-love novellas loosely based on my high school and college years respectively. They were so popular as individual e-books, Dreamspinner Press published them together in one paperback. I got my own anthology! I still receive comments from readers that those stories made them laugh, cry, feel romantic, and changed their lives. A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press) is my cherished holiday short novella about an American law student who, as I did, takes a trip to the romantic and gorgeous island of Capri, Italy, where he embarks on a relationship with his captivating third cousin. The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press) is my gay take on my favorite fairytales like Cinderella, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Snow Queen. Joel Leslie did the incredible audiobooks.
The Cozzi Cove novels have mysterious elements, but you also have two mystery series.
Joe: Right. My Nicky and Noah mystery series (Lethe Press) are farcical, gay, cozy, who-dun-its. In Drama Queen theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detective more interested in getting into Nicky’s pants than solving the murders, it is up to well-endowed directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza, to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the case, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, gorgeous Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship. In Drama Luau (releasing June 1, 2017), muscular male hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts as Nicky directs the Luau show. It’s up to Nicky and Noah to figure out whodunit and why. Drama Detective and Drama Fraternity will follow.
In the Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters, Jana Lane was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll 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. Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. In Porcelain Doll Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. In Satin Doll 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. In China Doll Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, where she is faced with murder on stage and off. In Rag Doll Jana stars in a television mystery series and life imitates art on the set. The novels are full of mystery, romance, humor, and theatricality. Since they take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s best friends are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.
How can your readers contact you?
Joe: I love hearing from readers! They can contact me at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
So grab your Speedos, suntan lotion, and shades and head back to Cozzi Cove. Cal Cozzi has a bungalow waiting just for you. I hope to see you there!
Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, the fourth novel in the Cozzi Cove series by JOE COSENTINO, published by NineStar Press
Welcome back to the romantic and magical place called Cozzi Cove, seven guest bungalows on the New Jersey Shore. This summer, Cal and his new husband Michael, along with sister, Taylor and her wife, Carla, prepare for the first in the next generation of Cozzis. To add to the action: Cal finds his great-grandfather’s diary, exposing a shocking surprise; Michael and Taylor weigh new job opportunities that could take them far away from Cozzi Cove; red-letter Christian and new houseboy, Billy Dean, gets his wish when meeting Jesus and John at the cove; summer guest, Nijad, can’t decide which sibling he prefers—Annabel or Andrew; and Jonathan, an occult enthusiast, encounters a sexy vampire. As usual, nothing is as it seems when romance blossoms once again at Cozzi Cove. What secrets, mysteries, and passions lie waiting to unfold? Find out in Book Four of the Cozzi Cove series.
An excerpt from Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings:
The sun rose like an erupting volcano filling the sky with shafts of violet, magenta, and gold, which ultimately turned to clear blue. Cal Cozzi stood on the white sand and gazed at the old lighthouse in the distance. At thirty-three, he was in the prime of his life, with thick auburn hair, clear green eyes, and a trim athletic build. Life was good, and as he smiled at the foamy waves teasing the craggy shore, Cal basked in the morning sun and in the beauty of his home.
Cal’s great-grandfather, Calvin Cozzi I, had built the resort at Cozzi Cove and had had a big hand in the development of the town of Cozzi. It had always been home for Cal, and proved to be a solid oasis when as a young man his football and later restaurant careers failed, and nine years ago when his parents died in a car accident. He’d especially felt its comfort when he later lost his husband of five years to cancer. Like the bay water rejuvenated by the golden rays of each sunrise, Cal had put his life back together by managing Cozzi Cove and marrying Michael Rodgers.
It had only been a year since the greatest day of Cal’s life, the triple wedding on the cove sands, attended by family and friends. Cal and Michael had been joined by two other couples in exchanging their vows: Cal’s brother George and his longtime boyfriend, Aaron; and Cal’s sister Taylor and her longtime friend, Carla. Though the Cozzi family was growing in numbers, Cal and Michael had wanted to start their own family right away. They did the happy dance on the sand when Carla offered to act as surrogate for their baby. With Carla’s due date fast approaching, excitement, like the scent of the sea, filled the air at Cozzi Cove.
Michael, clad in a T-shirt and shorts like Cal, appeared at the front doorway of the main bungalow. His stocky build, caramel-colored skin, exotic eyes, and warm smile still caused Cal’s heart to beat faster.
“Then you’d better make breakfast.” Cal enjoyed playing with Michael.
Michael liked it too. “If you make blueberry buckwheat pancakes, I’ll give you a massage.”
“You massaged something pretty well last night.”
They shared a knowing smile.
Michael said, “I know how to get you inside.”
“The guests will be arriving soon.”
At these words, Cal hurried inside the glass-enclosed porch, scooped the twenty-two-year-old into his arms, squeezed Michael’s bubble butt, and gave him a good morning kiss. Then Cal went through the living room, passing the doorway to their front bedroom, and into the kitchen, glancing through the entrances to the rear bedroom and bathroom on the way. Cal was glad his brother’s renovations of the bungalows had kept his great-grandfather’s layout while expanding the rooms, including cathedral ceilings lined with white pine beams. As he gazed at the white wicker and oak furniture laden with flower-print cushions, Cal was thankful his great-grandfather’s heavy nautical-themed furniture had found a home in a local museum. He smiled proudly at his own additions: the prints on the walls depicting lighthouses, seashells, and rocky beaches.
As usual, Michael leaned on the granite-topped island while Cal made breakfast. “Aren’t you going to put more blueberries in the batter?”
Cal raised the mixing spoon. “Do you want to make these yourself?”
“I prefer to critique.”
Cal mixed the buckwheat flour, buttermilk, egg, honey, coconut oil, and blueberries in a large bowl. “Your college degree is in photojournalism, not the culinary arts.”
“A lot of good it did me.”
Michael nodded and his soft chestnut bedhead fell into place. “Four years of college to be a bartender.”
“You’re only a bartender while Tommy is in New York City.”
“Yeah, and when Tommy comes back from visiting Blue, it’s bartender’s assistant time again for me.”
Cal poured the batter in circular mounds on the warm oiled skillet. “What about that gay magazine?”
“It was one freelance job!”
“Something else will turn up.”
“Tell that to my resume on the web. It’s beginning to feel like a wallflower at a party.”
“It takes time. Photojournalism is a specialty field.”
Michael pouted. That turned Cal on every time. He wrapped his arms around Michael and squeezed him into his chest. After a few wet kisses, Cal said, “You can always help me around Cozzi Cove.”
“I thought you hired a new houseboy when Connor and his husband opened their bed and breakfast in town.”
“I’m interviewing him this morning.” Cal smelled the pancakes starting to burn. He grabbed the spatula and quickly flipped them.
Michael licked his lips. “You flipped me over like that last night.”
“And you loved it.”
They kissed again.
Cal felt Michael’s erection pressing against his own. “I’d better concentrate on these pancakes.” He slapped Michael’s backside. “Instead of these cakes.”
“That’s not what you said last night.”
Cal giggled and served the pancakes. They sat at the white oak kitchen table, feeding each other and intermittently licking maple syrup off each other’s chins.
Just as they were finishing breakfast, Carla Mangione lumbered through the back kitchen door and announced, “If this watermelon doesn’t come out of the patch soon, I’m going to kill someone.”
“Hey, you’re talking about our watermelon!” Cal replied as he got up to help her to the table. He put pancakes on a plate as Michael went to pour juice and milk for her.
“It won’t be soon enough for me.” Carla rubbed her enormous stomach; she was only thirty-five, but these days looked more like fifty-five. “I never knew you could get varicose veins on your stomach.”
“And I’m sure yours are beautiful.” Cal served Carla breakfast, kissed the top of her dark hair, and took a seat across from her at the table.
Carla leaned forward to massage her lower back. “I must be the biggest pregnant woman ever.”
“That’s because you’re carrying our big, beautiful baby,” Michael said, joining them.
After taking a sip of juice, Carla gagged. “Why does everything taste like fish or liverwurst?”
“Maybe our baby is the antichrist,” Cal offered.
Carla took a bite of the pancakes. “What kind of huge genes do you two guys have?”
“Don’t blame us.” Cal put his arm around Michael. “It must have been the egg-donor.”
“She must have donated ostrich eggs.” Carla pushed her plate away.
Michael pushed it back in front of her. “Eat up, honey. You’re having breakfast for two.”
She looked down at her enormous stomach. “Really? Do you think?”
Cal finished his juice. “Whatever happened to, ‘As your dear old friend and sister-in-law, it would be my honor to help you and Michael bring a child into this world. I can’t think of anyone who’d make better parents’?”
“That was before I gained forty pounds and my back started aching constantly—before my breasts swelled up like helium balloons and my ankles expanded faster than a conservative politician’s pocket after meeting with a Super PAC.”
Cal fed her another piece of pancake. “But isn’t it all worth it to bring a new life into the world?”
Carla groaned. “I used to get offended when people said God was a man. Now I’m sure of it. No woman would put another woman through this.”
“Did you do your exercises this morning?” Michael asked.
Carla laughed. “I stopped being able to see my toes weeks ago.”
“Have you been meditating with your crystals?” Michael sounded like a teacher with a lazy student.
“I think I threw them at your pictures when the baby kicked me like a Radio City Rockette. Meanwhile, you two were no doubt going at it last night like a running back and a wide receiver.”
“A tight end, please,” Michael said as he handed Carla her glass of milk.
“If I get any more milk in me, my breasts will explode.” She took a sip and swallowed as if drinking fish oil laced with liquid soap.
Cal asked, “Have you been taking your prenatal vitamins?”
Carla nodded. “Maybe that’s why this kid has been jumping around inside me like a Mexican hat dancer. Do either of you have any Mexican blood?”
“African and Scandinavian,” Michael replied.
“Scottish and Italian,” Cal said.
“Well, maybe he was doing a tribal dance and the tarantella.” Carla flicked back her long dark hair. “While I was lying awake in bed, I did the baby’s astrology and numerology charts.”
Michael asked, “How can you do that without knowing his birthdate?”
Carla glared at him. “I decided if he doesn’t come out of me by the end of the week, I’m pulling my nephew out with tongs.”
“What did the charts show?” Cal didn’t believe in the occult, but he was thankful to get Carla’s mind off her discomfort.
Carla smiled. “He’s going to be kind, strong, fair, honest, and quite successful.”
“Of course he is. He’s our son.” Cal kissed Michael’s cheek.
“Let’s hope he’s kind enough to make an appearance soon.” Carla ate more of her breakfast.