Joe: Hi, Renae. I’m so excited to be a virgin author on your blog! Well, you know what I mean.
Renae: **chokes** Yeah, moving right along. **wink** Now, Joe. What can I offer you to drink? Coffee? Tea? Water? Juice? Wine? I don’t usually have wine in the house, but since this is my blog, I can magically produce anything you ask for.
Joe: When visiting California and Hawaii (I live in New York), I became hooked on smoothies. So I’d like a carrot, beet, kale, Greek yogurt smoothie, please. Thanks!
Renae: Great. Two secs. I’ll be back… **magic happens**
Joe: I forgot the cinnamon. No bother. I have some right here.
Renae: Excellent. You're in charge of the cinnamon. Here you go. **hands over glass** I made myself coffee since I don’t function well without the coffee. I actually think it’s more psychological than physical, but I need to drink the stuff.
Joe: I never acquired a taste for coffee. Herbal tea is my passion. People thought I was insane when I visited the UK. They do love their black tea. They also read my books, so more power to them. I’m not sure what the favourite drink is in Australia. Hopefully something to help your leaders catch up and pass same sex civil marriage equality soon! But back to my books.
Renae: Good call. If I start in on Australian politicians we’ll be here all night. So let’s definitely discuss better topics – like you! **wink** Now, when we discussed which book you would like to promote on the blog, you hit me with an avalanche of releases and release dates. I was astonished and instantly jealous. So let me get this straight: you’ve just released A Shooting Star in September, but you also have A Home for the Holidays in December and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland in February. PLUS you have another SIX set for release next year? Is that right?
Joe: Don’t be jealous. Be happy that, unlike me, you have slept over the last year. AN INFATUATION (In My Heart 1) was released by Dreamspinner Press in February. Whiskey Creek Press released PAPER DOLL the first Jana Lane mystery in March. DRAMA QUEEN the first Nicky and Noah mystery was released by Lethe Press in June. And A SHOOTING STAR (In My Heart 2) was released by Dreamspinner Press in September. My upcoming release this year is A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS from Dreamspinner Press in November/December. My 2016 upcoming releases (written and contracted) are THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND (Dreamspinner Press), PORCELAIN DOLL the second Jana Lane mystery, SATIN Doll the third Jana Lane mystery, CHINA DOLL the fourth Jana Lane mystery (all from The Wild Rose Press), DRAMA MUSCLE the second Nicky and Noah mystery, and DRAMA CRUISE the third Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press). I am currently writing COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK and COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD. I know! A reader wrote to me that I write books faster than she can read them!
Renae: And – just checking – you’re just one person?
Joe: Well, I’m a Gemini, so there may be two of me. But they both reside inside my head. I’ve always had lots of voices in my head. As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto with full scale musicals in the garage starring my sister and me. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me (rather than committed me-hah).
Renae: Right. **not sure she believes Joe is one person** Let’s have a look at the blurb for A Shooting Star and we’ll go from there.
On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star. Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart.
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.
Joe: After reading the A SHOOTING STAR blurb and the DRAMA QUEEN blurb, you probably figured out that I teach Theatre. Actually, I used many experiences from my time as an undergraduate in the Theatre Department for A SHOOTING STAR. Like most college theatre departments, mine was full of comedy, romance, mystery, and of course drama. The flames of love were kindled and hearts were broken while we put up play after play for delighted audiences who never knew the personal secrets behind the stage curtains. There was the star student who got the leading role in every show. Everyone, male and female, was in love with him, and he was in love with himself. David Star is that student.
The Nicky and Noah mystery series takes place at Treemeadow College, a fictitious white stone Edwardian New England college. Though the novel is a farcical, gay, who-dun-it, I again was able to think back to my college days and incorporate some of the people and happenings from days gone by. I was also able to use some scenarios, though grossly exaggerated, from my current stint as a college theatre professor/department head. As they say, “You just can’t make some of this stuff up.” My students say the funniest things.
Renae: And in your spare time you write gay romance, murder mysteries and humour? Makes sense to me. Who wouldn’t understand it?
Joe: This sounds unbelievable tomy writer friends, but working all day at my college and writing at night when I am tired helps unblock my creativity. I don’t censor myself in any way. The stories flow out of me. I have a beautiful home cherry wood study with a fireplace, desk, bookcase, and window seat looking out at the woods. My mother asked me, “Don’t you have anything better to do than write at night?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother asked him that?
Renae: Ha! I’m sure she did. Mothers don’t seem to change that much. The two titles you have with Dreamspinner (An Infatuation and A Shooting Star) are both in the Bittersweet line which do not have a traditional happy ending. Do you have something against happy endings? Huh? Huh? **gives Joe a mock glare**
Joe: Since coming from a funny Italian-American family, I knew humour would play a role in my novels—and it does! My Bittersweet Dreams novellas are not typical. They are full of humour, romance, and quite theatrical. While there is a tragic event in each, the leading character does have a HEA ending. After my Bittersweet Dreams novella, AN INFATUATION, was released by Dreamspinner Press, I received numerous messages from readers telling me how much that novella changed their lives, and they begged for a second novella in the In My Heart series. Since AN INFATUATION was loosely based on my high school days through adulthood, I thought back to my days as a theatre major in college and A SHOOTING STAR was born. Like Harold in AN INFATUATION, Jonathan in A SHOOTING STAR is loosely based on me, though I haven’t won an Academy Award—yet. He is ingenuous, funny, warm, gullible, and has an open heart. As is the case with Stuart in AN INFATAUTION, Barry, Jonathan’s loyal scene partner in A SHOOTING STAR, is loosely based on my spouse. Similar to Mario in AN INFATUATION, David in SHOOTING STAR is a combination of a number of young men I met as a theatre major in college and as a young actor. Each was handsome, muscular, charismatic, sensuous, and almost other-worldly like Greek gods. Though they appeared to hold the world in the palm of their strong hands, they each had a secret weakness. The acting professor, the hysterically hypochondriac Professor Katzer, is a lampooned version of an acting professor I had in college who has since passed away. I want to play him in the movie version (and Principal Ringwood in AN INFATUATION)!
Renae: Okay, I admit that I like my HEAs, but I do realise that it doesn’t always happen like that in real life. But sometimes it does. Do you have some HEAs lined up?
Joe: All of my other releases end in HEA. A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is a sweet romance short story for the holidays about an American law student who goes to gorgeous Capri, Italy (as I did) for the winter holiday and falls in love with his incredibly handsome, muscular, and sensuous Italian third cousin. THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND are four captivating gay fairy tales—spins on Cinderella, Goldie Locks and Three Bears, Pinocchio, and The Snow Queen—each with a HEA.
Each book in my Nicky and Noah mystery series has a funny and very sweet happy ending. 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 (whose tenure application was not supported by the first victim). In DRAMA MUSCLE (not released yet) 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 released yet), 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. As the series progressing, Nicky and Noah fall deeper in love (and the readers have been falling in love with them).
I also have a mystery series, the Jana Lane mysteries, with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters. Again each book ends with a touching HEA. As a child I loved child stars like Shirley Temple, Hayley Mills, and Patty Duke, seeing their movies over and over. So 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, 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 (not yet released), 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), 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 ruggedly handsome detective. In CHINA DOLL (not yet released), 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. Through the course of the books, Jana not only solves the mysteries, but also reclaims the courage and fortitude she had as a child. As one reviewer wrote, she starts out as a wounded bird, and ends as tiger. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s best friends are gay, Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.
Joe: After majoring in theatre in college, I became an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis (A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM on stage), Nathan Lane (THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT on stage), Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T Industrials), Holland Taylor (MY MOTHER WAS NEVER A KID ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (ANOTHER WORLD NBC-TV), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). Morphing into writing plays and now novels seem like the perfect progression. I write very much like I act. I think about the characters, their emotions, their backgrounds, what they want, who they love, what they fear, etc. and they come alive for me. I also love giving back to my students as a theatre college professor. It has brought everything full circle.
Renae: I’ve noticed a trend in the red carpet set lately, where admitting you are somewhere on the queer spectrum seems to be the latest way to generate hype. Of course it’s wonderful for teens and those questioning, to have a role model who’s in the public eye, but how do you feel about it? Is “gay” the latest buzz word in Hollywood?
Joe: When I was a kid, gay people were completely invisible in movies and on television. It was terrifying and depressing. It’s terrific that nowadays gay kids have books (unless their library bans them) and television shows featuring people like them. We still have a long way to go with film. Indie films include gay characters, but many people don’t live near an art house and don’t get to see those films. I often think about what it does to gay teens to go to the mall with their friends and see poster after poster of big studio films without any gay characters in them. So as not to simply complain, I am offering a solution to the big Hollywood studios. Everyone tells me my books should be made into films. Here’s your chance Hollywood. Since you like series, I’ll play Simon Huckby (Jana’s agent) in the Jana Lane series, and Martin Anderson (the department head) in the Nicky and Noah series!
Renae: So obviously “professoring” is your main job – is the writing a hobby? How do you classify it? How do you see your future of writing?
Joe: I certainly make more money as a college professor than as a writer, but I don’t classify one over the other. I love doing both of them, and I hope I can continue for some time.
Renae: And you also have other books out that are not in the gay romance genre? Paper Doll you classify as a M/F romance & mystery while Drama Queen you classify as a comedy/mystery/romance. Is there a particular stream you are more attracted to writing about? A stream you wish to concentrate on more?
Joe: I think a good book will attract readers, regardless of the genre or anticipated audience. Thankfully I’ve received generally good reviews for my books from people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations. (I don’t read the few bad reviews. I mean really, don’t you have something better to do with your time than read and write about a book you didn’t like.) One reviewer wrote that DRAMA QUEEN was like a funny gay Hardy Boys, Murder She Wrote, or Hart to Hart. I love that! Life is funny. Murders, clues, suspects, suspense, plot twists and turns, and a shocking ending make us feel warm and cozy. Since I was a kid I’ve read cozy mystery novels, and I always felt calm, relaxed, and fulfilled afterward. The novels gave me a good brain-teaser, sharpened my puzzle skills, and tickled me inside. You don’t see many cozy gay mysteries out there. I always wondered why. What could be better than a whodunit set in a cozy location, where the reader plays armchair detective along with the novel’s amateur detective, and where many of the characters are gay? So I created the Nicky and Noah mysteries. Both gay and straight people have embraced it, and the novel hit #18 in its category on Amazon Kindle’s bestseller list. It’s available as an ebook, paperback, and audiobook performed by the very talented Michael Gilboe. As for the Jana Lane mystery series, what could be better than a good mystery with lots of suspects and a shocking ending that revolves around moviemaking?
Renae: I keep thinking about A Shooting Star. First love, first serious relationship, etc. I think back on to the first serious crush I had. I think I place a lot unnecessary ideals and emphasis on this relationship because we never had the chance to explore it to its fullest (long story, but let’s just say parental influence kept it from being anything more). I get the feeling that this is what A Shooting Star is like. The fond memories. The rose-coloured glasses. The bittersweetness about never being able to complete the journey of the relationship?
Joe: Yes! I hope you read it, Renae. Jonathan is a freshman who is new to the college and the theatre department. David is a senior and the star of the college play productions. When David takes an interest in Jonathan, it’s not surprising that Jonathan falls in love with him. What readers and reviewers also seem to love about the novella is how Jonathan and David leave their Colorado college community members in an exalted state. They really care about other people, and use the theatre to change lives for the better on stage and off.
Renae: How do you think these early relationships we have in our lives shape us?
Joe: I believe we are the result of everything we have experienced. As you noted, first love can be volatile and deceiving, but it touches the heart like none other.
Renae: A college freshman? Do you think that anyone is ready for the HEA at this age?
Joe: I envy people who find their soulmates early in life. I found mine at twenty-one. But for most people it simply isn’t the case, especially at eighteen. Readers have told me A SHOOTING STAR rings true for them. I think that’s because the story comes from the heart.
Renae: What are you working on now?
Joe: A new series about a gay New Jersey beach resort I call COZZI COVE. I am starting the second novel.
Renae: Where can people contact you?
Joe: I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Renae: Thank you for joining me today. I’ve actually had a lot of fun exploring this subject. Congratulations on your release and I hope it continues to do well.
Joe: Thank you so much. Renae. Until next time, happy reading and writing!