By Mark McNease
One of the great pleasures of doing this website the last four years has been the opportunity to interview and get to know so many wonderful people – activists, advocates, artists, fellow travelers, and authors. Joe Cosentino is one of them, a terrific spirit, engaging personality and, judging from his output, indefatigable writer. His newest book, Drama Queen (A Nicky and Noah Mystery) is just out from Lethe Press and combines high drama with high humor, a delicious combination. (You can read more about the book as a Featured Book at lgbtSr here.) I asked Joe ‘6 Questions’ and he found the time to answer them. I’ll also be speaking with Joe again on an upcoming Live Mic with Mark podcast in July.
MM: Joe, welcome back to lgbtSr. When last we spoke, your new Nicky and Noah mystery series was set to come out in the summer, and here we are! Thanks for answering ‘6 Questions.’ Let’s backtrack a little. The first time we talked, your book, An Infatuation, had just come out from Dreamspinner Press. How has that done and what’s the reaction been?
JC: I am so touched by all the readers who told me they laughed and cried reading An Infatuation, and begged for a sequel. Readers fell in love with Harold and Mario, which thrills me. The ebook novella was released by Dreamspinner Press in February, and it is still selling well. While there isn’t a sequel per se, I have another MM Bittersweet Dreams ebook novella releasing from Dreamspinner Press in the fall. It’s another remembrance piece entitled, A Shooting Star. Like the Nicky and Noah mystery series, it takes place in a college theatre department, however, this college is in Colorado. Also, two minor characters from An Infatuation have large roles in the novel I am currently writing, Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back.
MM: You also have Paper Doll (A Jana Lane Mystery) out from Whiskey Creek Press, as well as several novellas. You’re very prolific. What sort of writing routine do you keep?
JC: I’ve written two more novels in the Jana Lane series: Porcelain Doll and Satin Doll, awaiting publication. As you know, in Paper Doll (book one), ex-child star Jana Lane has to uncover who attacked her on the studio lot at eighteen and who is attacking her twenty years later. In Porcelain Doll, Jana makes a comeback film and solves the murders onset. In Satin Doll, Jana travels to Washington DC and becomes involved in a political murder mystery.
As you know I am a college professor/department head, so I am quite busy during the day. So I write in the evenings after exercise, dinner, and my spouse has gone to bed. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful home office (like Martin Anderson’s, the department head in Drama Queen) with a large cherry wood desk, bookcases, and fireplace mantel.
MM: What inspired the Nicky and Noah series? Can you give us some back (and fore) ground?
JC: College theatre departments are little communities unto themselves full of drama, comedy, romance, intrigue, power plays, and amazingly colorful characters. So I decided to set my comedy mystery series there. While I used a few incidents from my own life as a college theatre professor, and Martin Anderson the department head is based on me, most of the characters and stories came from my overactive imagination. I set the series in a fictitious New England, Edwardian-style college something like Cambridge or Oxford in England. Statues of the two founders, gay couple Tree and Meadow, welcome visitors to the tree-lined campus surrounded by mountains. Each of the books takes place in a different season. So readers can enjoy snow-covered scenes and roaring fireplaces in winter, multi-colored leaves in fall, and luscious gardens in spring.
The hero, theatre college professor/director Nicky Abbondanza, has to flirt his way into some places to get certain information, so his handsome face, muscular body, and huge penis are definitely assets. Even more, however, Nicky and Noah (Nicky’s colleague and heart’s desire) use their theatre skills, including playing other people, to get clues. Most of all, Nicky uses his smarts, always a fine asset in an amateur detective.
I was lucky to find a well-respected publisher, Steve Berman of Lethe Press, who loves comedy mystery. The ebook is currently #36 in its category (Gay Mysteries) on Amazon Kindle’s Best Seller List. The paperback was just released with a gorgeous cover by Ben Baldwin.
Readers tell me they laugh hysterically at the antics of Nicky and Noah, and fall in love with the theatre professors/sleuths as Nicky and Noah fall in love with each other. Also, readers really enjoy solving the complicated mystery along with Nicky and Noah. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and solving puzzles keeps our minds active and healthy!
In the first novel, 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 the upcoming second novel. Drama Muscle, Nicky and Noah investigate why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In the third novel, 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 the fourth novel (not yet written), Nicky and Noah will go to Hawaii to stage a luau show, where muscular dancers are dropping like grass skirts. As the laughs and surprises grow, so will Nicky and Noah’s relationship.
MM: Okay, a writer’s question: marketing. You’ve got reviews all over the place. What advice would you give to other authors on promotion, self- and otherwise?
JC: Each of the three publishers I’ve worked with so far have very different marketing plans. My advice, if you are working with a publisher, is to find out exactly what they are doing to publicize your book. Then do as much as possible to assist them in that effort: live author talks/readings, newspaper and magazine interviews, podcast interviews, and blog interviews. As you know I am also quite active in various gay and mystery groups on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.
MM: We met through your husband, Fred Wolinsky, an audiobook narrator and producer. (Hi, Fred!). Any further word or plans on your books coming out on audio?
JC: As a very talented Audible approved narrator (if I say so myself), Fred (Hi, Mark!) is incredibly busy recording a few fantasy series with umpteen novels in each. Drama Queen is being recorded on audio right now. It should be available in approximately one month. Steve at Lethe Press contracted a very talented performer, Michael Gilboe, who is about Nicky’s age and a college theatre/directing professor. He is doing an amazing job bringing all the zany characters and their antics to life.
MM: Why mysteries? Aside from them being great fun to write and read, what was it about this genre that got you so fully engaged in it?
JC: I’ve read every Agatha Christie novel and Armistead Maupin novel again and again. I thought about combining the two styles to create a whodunit murder mystery with clues, red herrings, reversals, plot twists and turns, and a surprising yet justified ending incorporating quaint, outrageous, hysterically funny, and loveable characters. Since you write mysteries, I know you love them too. What could be more fun than playing armchair detective?