An Interview with Joe Cosentino
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s Readers Poll of 2015 for Best LGBT Mystery Novel, Best LGBT Humorous Novel, and Best LGBT Contemporary Novel. He wrote Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back & Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward in the Cozzi Cove beach series (NineStar Press); Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press); In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (The Wild Rose Press), 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. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novel is Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015!
Tell us about something about you (not included in your normal author bio) that maybe not everyone knows about you.
When I was a kid my older cousin and sister wrapped sheets around themselves, stuffed straw in a garbage can and put me on top of it. They charged a nickel admission for family and friends to see our Nativity play. I didn’t mind since I was the star!
There’s been a trend in writing a series. How do you feel about series? Do you write them? Do you think they are easier or harder?
I got hooked on serials as a kid by watching ABC’s Dark Shadows. Later as an actor I played Carl Hutchins’ (Charles Keating) snitch on NBC’s Another World. So it’s no surprise that I write various series. To me the difference between a standalone novel and a series is parallel to knowing someone for a year or knowing him/her for a lifetime. I’m too nosey of a person to be satisfied with a crumb. I want the whole pie. What I love about a series is the ability to get to know characters intimately over a long period of time and grow with them. We can live through the characters highs and lows and become one with them. They are easier to write because it’s like coming home and visiting old friends. I know my series regular characters inside and out. They are more difficult to write, however, since I have to keep detailed notes on how my regular characters look and on the rooms in their homes.
I have quite a few popular series. My In My Heart anthology includes An Infatuation (Divine Magazine Readers’ Choice Award 2nd Place for Best MM Romance) and A Shooting Star loosely based on my high school years and ten-year high school reunion, and on my time as a theatre major in college. They were so popular as individual e-books, Dreamspinner Press published them together in one paperback. I still receive comments from readers that those stories made them laugh, cry, feel romantic, and changed their lives. I am very proud of them.
My popular Nicky and Noah mystery comedy series from Lethe Press are farcical, gay, cozy, who-dun-its. In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary of 2015) 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 (not yet released), 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.
My childhood summers at the New Jersey Shore led me to create a fictitious place I call Cozzi Cove, a gay resort of eight bungalows run by ex-professional athlete Cal Cozzi in a private cove on the Jersey Shore. Assisting Cal is ginger, muscular Connor, the maid packed with muscles and a roving sponge. In Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back the vacationers are two brothers/college students who look alike, but couldn’t be more different. Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. A wealthy older couple, Josh and Greg, play matchmakers for their gorgeous son Christopher. Opposites attract as player Tim meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. Finally computer game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman. Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected for him. After Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back released, many readers and reviewers praised its romantic, humorous, dramatic, mysterious style, and interwoven captivating stories. So I wrote Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, where the vacationers include Rodney Maxwell and Dennis O’Halloran, a Tony Award winning actor and his estranged producer/husband with their two hired bodybuilder studs, Jarek and Zeus. Computer analyst, Sam, enlists his best friend Chase in a scheme to attract Sam’s hunky, unsuspecting best friend, Raul. Hunter, a female gay romance novel enthusiast, wants to experience gay life off the page. Middle aged Gil Van Truren tries to end it all—until he sees a vision of his first love from college. Cal also has his hands full with his boyfriend’s study buddy the gorgeous and muscular Carlo, and resident man of mystery George Valis who seems to know a great deal about Cal’s past. As with the first book, romance is everywhere on Cozzi Cove, and nothing is what it seems.
In the Jana Lane mysteries, 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. 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), 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 (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 flirtation with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (releasing late May 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 best friends are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.
Where do you do most of your writing?
Like Martin Anderson, the theatre department head in my Nicky and Noah mysteries, I have a cozy study with a cherry wood desk, fireplace mantel, bookcases, and window seat looking out over the woods. Since I am a college theatre professor/department head, I write in the evenings. My mother said, “Don’t you have anything better to do at night than write books?” I wonder if Stephen King’s mother asked him that?
What are you currently reading? Any suggestions for your favorite books (beside your own, of course)?
I am currently rereading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books. I love his quirky and likeable characters, plot twists and turns, and surprise endings. I was deeply touched when readers compared my Cozzi Cove beach series to the Tales of the City series.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about writing?
It’s not so different from reading. Writing is about letting yourself be swept away by a story (in your head) and becoming part of the novel. I relish in beautiful locations and captivating characters as I happily enter the portal of my book. I also enjoy humor, romance, mystery, and a good surprise ending.
I’ve also learned that I am quite versatile as a writer. In addition to the four very different series, I wrote A Home for the Holidays (a sweet romance in gorgeous Capri, Italy) and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (my gay take on my favorite fairytales like Cinderella, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, and the Snow Queen) both published by Dreamspinner Press.
What are you working on now?
Given my love for series, I’m writing the next Cozzi Cove novel, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, and the next Jana Lane mystery, Ragdoll.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
My spouse is an audio book narrator. So on a Saturday night I am typically writing a book in my study, and he is typically narrating one in his studio in the next room.
Tell us about the highest HIGH and lowest LOW in your career so far. How has it changed you?
The highest highs are receiving reviews and messages from readers telling me one of my books changed their lives. The lows are the few bad reviews. Why attack a book someone has poured his/her blood, sweat, and tears into? As the saying goes, just say no.
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com