Thursday, February 04, 2016

Please Welcome Back Mystery Author Joe Cosentino

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Joe Cosentino

We are delighted to welcome back author Joe Cosentino to Omnimystery News.

Joe last visited with us in July when he gave us the backstory to his first in series mystery Drama Queen, and now he has the next in the series out, Drama Muscle (Lethe Press; January 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats). We asked him what he wanted us to know about the series, and he responded with an interview … with himself!

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Joe Cosentino
Photo provided courtesy of
Joe Cosentino

How did you get started writing mysteries?

I had terrible insomnia as a kid. Ironically what helped me sleep was reading cozy mysteries. Though full of murder and mayhem, I loved the quirky characters, warm settings, and puzzling plotlines. Agatha Christie was my favorite, since the mystery was the central focus with red herrings and inversions leading to a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

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 come from a very funny Italian family. It's no surprise that I would combine my love for cozy mysteries, theatre background, and wacky sense of humor to create this series. My mother's response was, "Do people really read your books?" Hm, I wonder if Stephen King's mother asked him that. Hah. Actually, my mother loves the Nicky and Noah mysteries!

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.

How did Lethe Press come to publish the Nicky and Noah mystery series?

I noticed Lethe Press publishes many humorous, theatrically-styled gay books, and the company has been successful for fifteen years. After I submitted the manuscripts, Steve Berman offered to publish them, saying he had great fun reading them. Though the two leading characters are gay, there are many straight characters, so the books have great cross-over appeal for everyone.

Was Drama Queen well received by gay and straight readers?

Yes! Reviewers called Drama Queen "hysterically funny farce," "Murder, She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys," "a captivating whodunit with a surprise ending," and "the funniest book of the year!" Who am I to argue? When the ebook reached the Amazon bestsellers list in its category and the paperback and audiobook (with all twenty-four roles played by Michael Gilboe) sold like tickets to Les Mis after the Tony Awards, it was time for another Nicky and Noah mystery.

What is the storyline of Drama Muscle, the current Nicky and Noah mystery?

In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah don their Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering members of 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. 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. I'll never tell. You have to read the novel to find out.

Since you are a college theatre professor, is the series based on you, your colleagues, and students?

My colleagues kid me that if anybody at my college ticks me off, I kill him/her in the series? Hah. To be honest, I like my colleagues and students too much to murder them in my books. Most of the characters and the location came from my head. As my mother says, "How do you think up all these crazy things? Well, you always were a bit crazy as a kid."

Where do you write?

I have a cozy (no pun intended) home study with a window seat, fireplace with a cherry wood mantel (like Martin Anderson in the Nicky and Noah mysteries), a huge cherry wood desk, and cherry wood bookshelves.

Who was your favorite character to write in Drama Muscle?

Nicky has such amazing wit, perseverance in the face of adversity, and smarts. I love his sense of determination. 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. Finally, he is a one-man man, and Nicky is proud to admit that man is Noah Oliver. However, my favorite character in book two is Noah's mother who is devoted to her son — almost as much as she's devoted to her camera! Noah's father is equally hysterical.

Who was the easiest character to write?

Martin Anderson, the department head, who I patterned after myself was easiest to write. I love his dedication to the college, paternal instincts toward Nicky and Noah, sense of theatricality, and his inquiring mind (meaning he's a bit of a gossip — like me).

Which character was the hardest to write?

The Kim twins bodybuilding students can read each other's minds. So their dialogue is always in answer to something the other has thought. While this is really funny to read, it was quite difficult to write.

What is your writing process?

I go to sleep at night with a pad and pencil on my night table. When I wake up in the morning, my head is full of ideas. 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 write an outline, but I deviate from it constantly. My spouse reads my second draft then I write my third draft, which goes to the publisher.

What are the rules for writing a good mystery?

Give the clues early. There's nothing worse than reading a mystery and not getting any clues until the end. That's cheating. Camouflage your clues and put in a number of red herrings. A mystery should have more than mystery. Like any novel, it should have interesting characters, a strong plot with lots of twists and turns, and a satisfying ending. Getting there should be half the fun.

What advice do you have for unpublished writers?

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.

Tell us about your Jana Lane mystery series.

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 (releasing March 15 from The Wild Rose Press), 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.

How can readers contact you?

I love to hear from readers at my website. I hope everyone gives Nicky and Noah a read. I think you'll have a few good laughs trying to figure out whodunit!

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Joe Cosentino

Actor, playwright, and author Joe Cosentino received his MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, and MA from SUNY New Paltz. He is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York.

For more information about the author, please visit his website and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Drama Muscle by Joe Cosentino

Drama Muscle by Joe Cosentino

A Nicky and Noah Mystery

Publisher: Lethe Press Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)

It could be lights out for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza …

With dead bodybuilders popping up on campus, Nicky, and his favorite colleague/life partner Noah Oliver, must use their drama skills to figure out who is taking down pumped up musclemen in the Physical Education building before it is curtain down for Nicky and Noah. Complicating matters is a visit from Noah's parents from Wisconsin, and Nicky's suspicion that Noah may be hiding more than a cut, smooth body.

Drama Muscle by Joe Cosentino. Use this link to read a preview of the book.


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