Q&A with Joe Cosentino, author of Drama Muscle, the second Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel published by Lethe Press
Hi, Joe. Welcome back!
My pleasure. I love visiting with you—though I’m allergic to cats (hah).
As I recall you were an actor playing opposite some pretty famous people. What was it like acting with all those celebrities?
Yes, 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). I’m so glad Holland Taylor recently came out. In each case, I worked with them before they became famous, and in each case they were gracious, hard-working, kind, and very funny. I can see Rosie O’Donnell playing Noah’s mother in a TV version of Drama Muscle!
Speaking of which, 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.
Why did you write a gay comedy cozy mystery series?
The Nicky and Noah mysteries are the kind of books I like reading: funny, theatrical, sexy, wild, and wacky with a solid mystery full of plot twists and turns at its center—and a surprise ending!
How is a mystery cozy?
The Nicky and Noah mysteries are set in an Edwardian style university founded originally by a gay couple (Tree and Meadow) whose name the university bears: Treemeadow College. It is a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning, and at the center is a touching gay romance between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. Along the way, Nicky and Noah fall in love, as I’ve heard the readers fall in love with them. For most of my life I’ve read cozy mystery novels. Though full of murder and mayhem, they always made me smile, challenged my brain, and relaxed me. What could be better than a brain-teasing puzzle taking place in a comfortable environment with lots of gay people? Like an Agatha Christie novel, the mystery is the central focus with red herrings and inversions leading to a satisfying conclusion. As in an Armistead Maupin novel, the characters are wacky, surprising, and endearing. In the first novel, it is winter, so white snow, cherry wood mantels surrounding blazing fireplaces, and hot chocolate are in abundance. In the second book, 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.
Why did you set your series in a fictitious New England university?
As a college professor/department head, I have always been aware that colleges are rife with mystery, romance, and humor. In each book Nicky and Noah eavesdrop, seduce, role play, and finally trap the murderer, as pandemonium, hilarity, and true love ensue for a happily ever after ending—until the next book.
Was Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery, well reviewed?
Reviewers called Drama Queen hysterically funny farce, Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys, and a captivating whodunit with a surprise ending. One reviewer said it was the funniest book of the year! Who am I to argue? 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. 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 Book of Mormon after the Tony Awards, it was time for another Nicky and Noah mystery.
What happens in Drama Muscle, the current Nicky and Noah mystery?
In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering musclemen in 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, as well as Noah’s secret revolving around Van Granite, one of the bodybuilding professors. 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.
How do you think up all the clues, red herrings, and surprises in the novel?
I learned from the best! I’ve read every Agatha Christie novel and play many times. She is a genius at outlining when and where to give the reader what information. I love the inversion in her books, where she uses sleight of hand to lay out all the information, but not in a straight forward manner. The reader becomes the sleuth to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, and upcoming (January 27) The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland) were well reviewed. What do you say to people who loved them and might be surprised that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are quite different?
I love raisins but I also love bananas. It’s the same thing. I’d ask them to give Drama Queen and Drama Muscle a try. Like I found eating lentil barley soup as a kid, they may acquire a different taste.
Which character did you have the most fun writing in Drama Muscle?
Nicky has such amazing 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 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 pretty hilarious too.
When will readers meet Nicky’s parents?
We meet Nicky’s parents in book three, Drama Cruise. They are equally hysterical.
Who was the easiest character for you to write (not that writing is every easy)?
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. Basically, he’s a bit of a gossip like me. I also like that he is happily married. Though briefly in books two and three, we get to know Martin’s husband quite well in the third novel, Drama Cruise.
Which character do you like the least?
Professor of Bodybuilding Van Granite may have muscles and a chin like granite, but he appears to be after Noah, definitely a no-no.
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 difficult to write.
Which authors do you read?
I read Agatha Christie, Armistead Maupin, Alex Sanchez, and countless others. I like authors with great plots and a sense of theatricality who transport me into their unique world, and make me love their characters. Like Chris T. Kat!
Is it hard to write comedy?
I’ve always had a funny mind. I can hear almost anything and see the humor in it. I think I get this from my mother. For example, for Christmas one year my parents bought me a sweater and my sister a house. When I asked my mother if I was an orphan, she replied, “Orphans don’t have sweaters. Appreciate what you have.”
What’s coming up next for you as a writer?
Nine Star Press is publishing my two novels that take place at a gay summer resort on the Jersey Shore: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward.
You are certainly prolific. 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 (The Wild Rose Press releasing 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. 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.
Like Drama Queen is Drama Muscle available as an ebook, paperbook, and audiobook?
The ebook and paperback are out. This gives the reader an option to read it on a Kindle, Nook, computer, or with book in hand on the beach or in bed. The audiobook, again performed by the amazing Michael Gilboe, will be out shortly.
How can your readers get their hands on Drama Muscle, and how can they contact you?
The purchase links for Drama Muscle are below, as are my contact links, including my web site. I love to hear from readers!
DRAMA MUSCLE (a Nicky and Noah mystery)
a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO from Lethe Press
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!
Praise for DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press:
"Without doubt the funniest book I have read this year, maybe ever" "brilliant" Three Books Over the Rainbow
“I cannot stop laughing. Drama Queen is Hardy Boys-meets-Murder She Wrote-meets-Midsummer Murders, with a side of parodic, farcical, satire.” “Who-dunits don't come more whodunnity than this.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews
“I’m hoping that this is just the start for Nicky and Noah. If Jessica Fletcher could have so many murderers in Cabot Cove, why shouldn’t the same hold true for Treemeadow College?” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Reviews
“This fast-paced, hilariously funny, entertaining novel will have you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out who-dun-it!” Joyfully Jay
“a murder mystery, a comedic romp, an investigative caper, and a love story all rolled up into one nifty little novel” The Novel Approach
“The tangled weave of murder mystery and other mysteries comes to a startling conclusion that is both satisfying and mind boggling.” MultitaskingMomma
“I am not used to reading books that make me snigger out loud, but in Drama Queen Joe Cosentino has struck a great balance between his use of tongue in cheek humour and a compelling mystery which we want to see solved.” Divine Magazine
“Nicky and Noah are two sexy leading characters who conduct the investigation in this comedic caper with wit and style.” Vance Bastian Reviews“Cosentino does a wonderful job of writing a mystery that keeps the reader guessing right up until the end.” Barron Owens Reviews
“I love this story, just the right mix, of fun, hilarity and mystery in the mix. The storyline is fresh and well thought out, and the dynamic of the characters is through the roof! Bike Book Reviews
“The author clearly knows of what he speaks on all matters theater, and the kind of authentic details he brings to the table in terms of characters and staging makes this immensely entertaining.” Love’s Last Refuge Reviews
“Joe Cosentino has brilliantly done it again! His latest novel, Drama Queen, is the most fascinating mystery of all time. I loved the laugh out loud moments and the crazy fast-paced plot. Readers will instantly be drawn into Joe Cosentino’s stunning mystery. I recommend this novel to readers worldwide and look forward to reading the next adventure by this talented writer.” Danielle Urban, Universal Creativity, Inc.
Congratulations to Joe Cosentino for winning Best Contemporary Novel, Best Mystery Novel, Best Crime Novel, and Best Humorous Novel of 2015 for DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery published by Lethe Press, in the Divine Magazine Readers’ Poll Awards! http://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p303/Drama_Queen%3A_A_Nicky_and_Noah_Mystery.html
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Nine Star Press), Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press) and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, 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. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press).
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Publisher: Lethe Press
Cover Art: Denny Minonne
Cover Design: Inkspiral Design
Release date: January, 2, 2016
As Mack drank, Jimmy Saline, a theatre major working as a student aide in the gym, said hello to me, then approached Mack shyly. At about a hundred pounds, Jimmy’s whole body could have fit into one of Mack’s muscular legs.
“Excuse me?” said Jimmy hoarsely.
Mack looked at Jimmy like a fly buzzing around his head. “Yeah?”
Jimmy swallowed hard. After clearing his throat, he wiped the perspiration off his freckled forehead, and croaked out, “You looked really up there good.” Jimmy’s face turned the shade of his fire-engine-red hair. “I mean you looked good up there. You should win.”
Mack smiled. “Thanks.”
I pretended to focus and refocus some lighting equipment near them as Jimmy handed Mack a fluffy white towel, then started to walk away.
Mack wiped the sweat off his handsome face. “What’s your name?”
Jimmy looked like a shock victim. “James…Jim…Jimmy.”
“Hi James Jim Jimmy. I’m Mack.” Mack offered his thick hand.
Jimmy’s face lit up like a torch as he stared at Mack’s hand in wonder. Finally his sweaty hand connected with Mack’s.
As they shook hands, Jimmy said, “I didn’t mean to take you away from your rehearsal.”
“You didn’t take me away,” Mack responded. “I’m on a break.”
“I’m glad. I mean, it’s good to have a break once in a while, because you might get tired, and then you’ll need…a break.” Jimmy raised his brown eyes to his mop of red hair. “I’m babbling.”
As Jimmy started to leave, Mack said, “Are you a phys. ed. major?”
Laughing, Jimmy responded, “What gave me away? My skinny arms or skinnier legs?”
Mack put his strong hand on Jimmy’s minuscule shoulder. “Jimmy, you shouldn’t put yourself down.”
“I’ve learned to do it before someone else beats me to it.” Realizing he was still holding Mack’s hand, Jimmy moved away nervously. “I’m a theatre major, working here as a student aide.”
“Why do you want to work in the Phys. Ed. building if you’re a theatre major?”
I’ve been asking myself the same thing.
“You don’t want to know.” Jimmy picked up a broom resting against the gym wall and began sweeping the floor.
Mack held the broom still. “I don’t ask a question unless I want to know the answer.”
Jimmy looked down at his sunken chest. “I took a weightlifting class last semester. Obviously I failed. When I was leaving class one day, I saw you coming into the weight room.”
“That’s why you applied to be a student aide here?” Mack asked in astonishment.
Jimmy nodded. “I hoped I could meet you.”
Jimmy took a step backward. “Please don’t get freaked out.”
Mack raised Jimmy’s chin from his chest. “I’m not freaked out.”
“I’m not a stalker or anything. I know that someone like you would never be friends with someone like me. I just want you to know that I really admire what you’ve accomplished as an athlete. And I’ve watched the way you interact with people, how you listen to them and respect them. I think that’s a really good thing. And I think you’re a really good guy.”
Jillian Flowers tapped Mack’s perfect back, then flicked back her blonde hair. “Mack, you um want to go over our like poses together?” She pressed her strong shoulder against his. “I, you know, promise to go like easy on you.”
Jimmy looked like a squirrel at a demolition site. “I’m sorry I bothered you. Good luck with the competition.” He scurried off to the supply room.
“Wait!” Mack shouted, but Jimmy was gone.