Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Joe.
I come from a large, very funny Italian family. When, as a teenager, I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she handed me her kitchen cutting knife and said, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” I became an actor anyway, and my mother survived. I moved on to playwriting, fiction writing, and becoming a college professor/department head.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I blush when writing romance scenes.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
I’m a storyteller from way back. As a kid I was the star of the plays in my friend’s garage. We forced our poor, unsuspecting parents to watch every one—including the lavish musicals! After college I became a professional actor, working in film, television, and theatre opposite stars like Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Bruce Willis, Charles Keating, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. Moving on to playwriting and ultimately writing novels seemed like an obvious next step.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
I had no idea writers are expected to do so many interviews. However, that’s a good thing for me. I really enjoy it! Thank you for inviting me.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
I adapted and extended my most successful one-act play into a novella, An Infatuation. It is personal and important to me. Though the story is fictitious, Harold is based on me, Stuart is based on my spouse, and Harold’s teenage infatuation Mario is based on a number of gorgeous, muscular, supposedly straight guys I knew as a young actor. I love that the story spans twenty years, so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature. I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press, and two months later I received the contract. I hit the ceiling. My spouse and I danced around my study. Then I panicked, worrying if the novella would sell well, and be well reviewed. Thankfully it was both!
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
I approach my writing in the same way as acting. I start with character biographies and ask questions about each character. Who do they love, hate, fear? What do they want? What is standing in the way of them getting what they want? What was their history? Then I get them talking to one another and the magic happens. I love to get into their heads and hearts. Maybe I should have been a psychiatrist or a matchmaker. Hah. I also think all books should have a bit of romance, humor, drama, mystery, and surprise. I’ve always had a funny mind. I can hear almost anything and see the humor in it. I think I get this from my mother. For example, for Christmas one year my parents bought me a sweater and my sister a house. When I asked my mother if I was an orphan, she replied, “Orphans don’t have sweaters. Appreciate what you have.” I enjoy finding the humor in every situation and letting it come out in the scene naturally. I also love writing plot twists and turns, clues, red herrings, surprises, and shocking endings. Finally I love falling in love with my characters as they fall in love with each other. I hope the readers fall for them too.
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
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 try to do the same in my mystery series. I also love Armistead Maupin’s eccentric, wacky, and loveable characters. I try to emulate that in my writing.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
I wrote a straight (with gay supporting characters) mystery/romance series, the Jana Lane mysteries, about an ex-child star making a comeback while solving mysteries—including who is trying to kill her. Paper Doll is out now from Whiskey Creek Press. Porcelain Doll releases from Wild Rose Press in 2016. Satin Doll and China Doll will follow. I wrote MM romance novellas published by Dreamspinner Press. Finally, I wrote the gay comedy mystery series, the Nicky and Noah mysteries from Lethe Press. Drama Queen is out now. Drama Muscle and Drama Cruise will follow. I feel that covers the genres that I am interested in writing.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
Can’t we all use a good laugh, a challenging brain twister, and a bit of romance? Drama Queen (the first Nicky and Noah mystery) is the kind of book I like reading. It is funny, theatrical, sexy, wild, and wacky with a solid mystery full of plot twists and turns at its center. As a college theatre professor/department head I was thinking about how college theatre departments are chock full of romance, intrigue, humor, drama (no pun intended), and mystery. A series was born! In Drama Queen, Nicky and Noah have to uncover why college theatre professors are dropping like stage curtains while Nicky directs the college play production—a murder mystery. In Drama Muscle, Nicky and Noah have 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. Drama Queen hit #18 on the Amazon Kindle Bestseller List, and the paperback is taking off now as well. The audiobook has just been released with the gifted Michael Gilboe miraculously and hilariously performing twenty-four different roles.
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
In addition to the next three Jana Lane mysteries, and the next two Nicky and Noah mysteries, Dreamspinner Press is releasing in September my new romance novella, A Shooting Star, which also takes place on a college campus, this one in Colorado. In December Dreamspinner Press is publishing my holiday romance short novella, A Home for the Holidays, which takes place in one of my favorite places, Capri, Italy. In February they are releasing The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (gay fairytales). I’m working now on a new MM romance novel about the Jersey Shore that could possibly be a series. It’s titled Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back.
Anything you want to say to your readers?
I love to hear from readers. Please contact me via my web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Joe Cosentino’s recent releases:
It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky's huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant...and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino's fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!
With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
Excerpt from Drama Queen:
I left my students to their private discussion and joined my young graduate assistant seated on a red velvet bench in a turreted area of the lobby. As I dug into my sizable piece of cake, Scotty leaned into me like a cat facing a sardine, “Since it looks like the tech rehearsal will run late, I can teach your morning Theatre History class tomorrow.”
“That won’t be necessary, Scotty.” Just stick your finger down your throat then head to the gym as usual.
“With teaching your classes, assessing and updating curriculum, going to faculty meetings, advising students, writing your articles, advising the theatre club, and directing plays, I worry that you may get sick.”
You’d unleash the bubonic plague if it meant getting my job. I patted his shaved and oiled knee, and said a la Margo Channing, “I’m fine, Scotty. Just leave your notes on tonight’s performance in my office box tomorrow.”
“Am I too late for the party?” My knees dipped as Noah Oliver took off his coat and scarf and stood next to me. “Happy birthday, Nicky!” He winked at me.
Maybe we can adopt seven children, run away to the hills, and start a family singing act.
Scotty leapt from his seat like it was a pogo stick. “Have a piece of cake, Noah. No nuts!”
I beg your pardon?
“Thanks for remembering, Scotty.” Noah sat between Scotty and me and dug into the creamy wonder. Was that a familiar smile between Scotty and Noah?!
Scotty explained as if he was Noah’s husband, “Noah is allergic to nuts, Nicky.”
Hopefully not to mine.
Noah took me in with his baby blue eyes. Did I notice a look of lust in them? “How’s the show going?”
What show? Oh! “We’re all exhausted, frazzled, panicked, and certain of a great opening night.”
Noah squeezed my hand. “You’re an amazing director. The creative way you move your characters around the stage, how the elements of design compliment the story, and your unique vision is thrilling to watch. I expect nothing short of brilliance in this production.” Noah beamed with pride. “And you have some powerful student actors in the show.” Scotty collected our empty plates. “Noah is a terrific acting teacher.” He gazed at Noah with pure adoration. “The students are lucky to have you.”
Since theatre is a collaborative art, I said, “Tyler’s execution of David’s scenic design is amazing, and as usual Tyler has been a total work horse. Ariella’s costumes have an incredible gothic look, but they’re light enough for the students to move around in them.”
Noah whispered in my ear, and I restrained myself from throwing myself on top of him. “Can I speak to you about something…personal?”
“Sure.” How about a June wedding?