It’s great to be back on your terrific site.
Congratulations on DRAMA QUEEN winning Divine Magazine’s Readers Poll awards for Best Mystery Novel, Best Crime Novel, Best Humorous Novel, and Best Contemporary Novel of 2015!
Thank you! I am still on Cloud 9. What a thrill. It means so much to me that readers love the Nicky and Noah series.
Your humour tickles my funny bone. It’s farcical, witty, just the right amount of over the top and very clever. Does it come easily to you or do you have to work at it. Also, do you know straight away if something is funny, or do you question and rewrite?
I come from a funny Italian-American family. For example, when I received a faculty endowed chair at the college where I am a professor/department head, my father said to me, “You better bring that chair home so I can fix it. What do college guys know about making chairs?” My mother said to me, “Keep working hard. Maybe one day you’ll get a desk too!” I’ve always thought funny, and I love making people laugh. It’s been proven that we get positive health benefits from laughing. I decided early on that the Nicky and Noah mysteries would be gay, farcical, cozy whodunits taking place at an Edwardian style university, Treemeadow College, named after its gay couple founders, Tree and Meadow. I knew the clues, murders, and laughs would come fast and furious with enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning. I also wanted the love story to build from book to book between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. All three books, DRAMA QUEEN, DRAMA MUSCLE, and the upcoming DRAMA CRUISE made me laugh from the first draft. I think a mystery needs more than a whodunit. Getting there should be half the fun. As you know, in DRAMA MUSCLE Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering musclemen as Nicky directs the annual bodybuilding competition on campus. Bodybuilding students and faculty drop faster than barbells until Nicky figures out the identity of the murderer, as well as Noah’s secret revolving around Van Granite, one of the bodybuilding professors. Noah’s colorful parents visit from Wisconsin and are drawn into the action, and Nicky and Noah reach a milestone by the end of the novel.
I’ve gotta ask about the names of your characters. From rhyming to real to the downright ridiculous, they are really amusing. How on earth do you think of them?
I took a writing class back in college, where the professor strongly believed each character’s name should say something about his/her personality. I’ve stuck to that in each of my books, especially in the Nicky and Noah series. For example, the names of the bodybuilding professors in DRAMA MUSCLE are Brick Strong, Cheryl Stryker, and Van Granite.
Nicky and Noah are my favourite of your creations. Nicky though is sneaky, a tad self-obsessed (is that an oxymoron?) and … well let’s just say sometimes his morality leaves a bit to be desired *cough* peeping Tom *cough*. How do you write a character like that who is still likeable?
Nicky has such wit, perseverance in the face of adversity, and smarts. I love his sense of determination in not only nabbing the murderer, but also getting his man—Noah. Nicky is genuinely concerned about others, and enjoys taking on the role of hero. Finally, he is a one-man man, and Nicky is proud to admit that man is Noah Oliver. Nicky is also, tall and muscular with Italian good looks. And his enormous manhood doesn’t hurt. Well, maybe it does. Hah. Nicky is the perfect amateur sleuth because he never loses his sense of humor even when he has to eavesdrop for clues, flirt to get certain information, or use his theatre skills to impersonate others.
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 big gossip. I also like that he is happily married. We get to know Martin’s husband Ruben quite well in the third novel, DRAMA CRUISE.
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 quirky and funny to read, it was difficult to write.
Sex. I really want to talk about sex. There is an ancient Michael Fox film from the eighties called The Secret of my Success, and in it is one of those classic bedroom mix up scenes – you know the ones where everybody is creeping around at night and nobody quite ends up with the bed partner they’d intended. Now, I know this is not reflective of the storyline in DRAMA MUSCLE, but it popped into my head, because there certainly is a lot of who’s shagging who in the story. From sweet and romantic (ish) to lewd and inappropriate, you cover the whole 9 1/2 inches … (I pay attention) – how do you find writing the sex scenes? Fun, difficult, embarrassing, liberating, other … ?
As you know from reading my other novels, my sex scenes are generally on the sweet side. However, in DRAMA MUSCLE I found myself writing about bodybuilders who spend hours in the gym pumping iron, shaving their bodies, tanning, and posing in tiny gold trunks. It seemed fitting to have more sex in this one, even a threesome with three bodybuilding students in the locker room! The scenes were fun for me to write since in every case they furthered the storyline and added to the sexy mystery, mayhem, and merriment.
When you write a whodunit do you know who did it from the start, or are you in the dark until the culprit reveals themselves to you?
It generally starts for me at 3am when I jump out of bed with a terrific idea. I jot it down on the pad on my night table then fall back to sleep. The next morning, if I can read what I wrote, I have a great surprise ending to a mystery. I work backwards from there writing characters biographies and an outline, deciding where and when to place the clues, murders, plot twists and turns, reversals, and of course surprise but justified ending.
There’s a definite cosy aspect to the series. Was that intentional?
Completely. For most of my life I’ve read cozy mystery novels. In DRAMA QUEEN, it is winter, so white snow, cherry wood mantels surrounding blazing fireplaces, and hot chocolate are in abundance. In DRAMA MUSCLE, it is fall, so gorgeous leaves of amber, violet, and scarlet blanket the campus. The third book (DRAMA CRUISE not yet published) takes us on a cruise to Alaska for sights of glaciers and whales while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship.
You were 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). Do you see The Nicky and Noah Mystery Series on television in the future?
I totally see that! Now I need a television producer and network to see it too. Can’t you see Matt Bomer as Nicky, Neil Patrick Harris as Noah, and me as Martin Anderson? Come on, TV producers, make your offers!
Yep - come on TV producers, this would be a fabulously funny TV series!
Tell us about your other mystery series, the Jana Lane mysteries.
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. Jana ventures back to Hollywood and uncovers 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 from The Wild Rose Press on March 15!), 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. I am writing RAGDOLL now. Jana stars in a mystery TV series, where life imitates art. 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.
Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (An Infatuation--(Divine Magazine Readers’ Choice Award 2nd Place for Best MM Romance), A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland) were well received. What do you say to people who loved them and might be surprised that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are quite different?
I’d ask them to give DRAMA QUEEN and DRAMA MUSCLE a try. Like I found eating fried octopus (We’re Italian!) as a kid, they may acquire a different taste.
What’s next for you as a writer?
NineStar Press is publishing my two novels that take place at a gay summer resort on the Jersey Shore, which is ironic since I hide under a beach umbrella at the beach. They are COZZIN COVE: BOUNCING BACK and COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD.
How can readers contact you?
I love to hear from readers via my web site. Let’s pump up!
THank you so much for dropping by Joe - as always it is a real pleasure.
My review of Drama Muscle will be on the blog later, so stop back to see what I thought.
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.
You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining second novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and weights up!
DRAMA MUSCLE (a Nicky and Noah mystery)
a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO from Lethe Press
purchase links: Lethe Press