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!
Why did you write a gay mystery/comedy/romance 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 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 set the series in a college 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 received?
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 eighteen on 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 Les Mis after the Tony Awards, it was time for another Nicky and Noah mystery.
What is the storyline of 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.
Nicky is described as having an enormous manhood. Does that help him solve the murders?
It doesn’t hurt. Well, maybe it does. Hah. Nicky 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 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.
Nicky is of Italian-American decent, like you. Is that a coincidence?
Not at all. I come from a very funny Italian family. I use that in a great deal of my writing, though my mother swears nothing I write about actually ever happened.
Noah is eight years younger than Nicky. Does that present a conflict in their relationship?
People who say age is only a number are lying. Age always comes up. Thankfully, Nicky and Noah handle it, like everything else, with great humor, style, and love.
Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland) were so 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 love salmon but I also love chicken. It’s the same thing. I’d ask them to give Drama Queen and Drama Muscle a try. Like I found eating pea soup as a kid, they may acquire a different taste.
Who was your favorite character to write 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! I also love Noah’s father is an amateur sleuth like Nicky. As they say, men marries their fathers. That comes out even more in book three.
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. 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.
What is your writing process?
I approach my writing in the same way as acting. I start with character biographies and ask questions about each character. Who do they love, hate, fear? What do they want? What is standing in the way of them getting what they want? What was their history? Then I get them talking to one another and the magic happens. I write an outline, but I deviate from it constantly. My spouse reads my second draft then I write my third draft.
How do you get your ideas?
I go to sleep at night with a pad and pencil on my night table. When I wake up in the morning, my head is full of ideas. Since I was an actor, playwright, and director, it’s not a surprise that many of my ideas are theatrical in nature. As a college professor, it also isn’t too surprising that many of my plots have to do with the wacky world of academia.
What advice do you have for unpublished writers?
Write every day. When you have a story you think is perfect, ask someone you trust to read it. Then after doing another draft, email it to a publisher with an open submissions policy who publishes the kind of story you’ve written. If that publisher rejects it, immediately send it to the next one.
Tell us about your other mystery series, the 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), 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.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Nine Star Press is publishing my two novels that place at a gay summer resort on the Jersey Shore: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward.
I love to hear from readers. They can contact me at http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com.
PS: 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