I am happy to welcome back Joe Cosentin0 with a look at his latest book. I so enjoy having Joe here, and by the number of page views the blog registers each time he's a guest, you all love his terrific interviews just as much as I do.
So without further ado--Drum roll! Lights up! Curtain up on Joe Cosentino, author of China Doll, the fourth Jana Lane mystery published by The Wild Rose Press.
It’s nice to be back with a fellow thespian.
Ah, but my experience is college and community theatre only. That's nothing like your credentials. Last time you told us a bit about your acting career. We want more. What was it like acting opposite big stars?
May I do some name dropping?
I worked on stage with Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Nathan Lane (The Roar of the Greasepaint) before they were famous. They were quite funny. Some readers may be jealous to find out I shared a dressing room with Bruce Willis! Hah. I also played Rosie O’Donnell’s henpecked husband in an AT&T Industrial. We had great fun improvising. She had just been offered a spot on television’s Star Search, and since she was already a working comedian, she was hesitant to do it. I talked her into it. The rest is history. Acting in films with stars like Woody Allen, commercials with actors like Jason Robards, on NBC-TV’s Another World with Charles Keating, and the ABC-TV movie My Mother Was Never a Kid with Holland Taylor were amazing experiences I will never forget.
And now you are a college theatre professor and department head.
I still act every day. Now it’s in front of a class, or at a meeting (hah).
Your background in show business led you to create the popular Jana Lane mystery series including Paper Doll (where ex-child star Jana Lane solves the mystery of who attacked her and why in the studio lot at eighteen), Porcelain Doll (where Jana at thirty-nine makes a comeback film and solves the real-life murder mystery on set), Satin Doll (where Jana is in Washington, DC to research her next film playing a female senator and discovers political corruption and murder at the Senate building), and now China Doll, where Jana Lane stars in a Broadway murder mystery on stage and off. Tell us how you used your background as an actor to create the latest Jana Lane mystery.
Since I was on many film sets, I used that first-hand knowledge to write the first three Jana Lane mysteries. In China Doll, I used my theatrical experiences when writing about the role of the playwright, director, stage manager, producer, actors, designers, and technicians. I know first-hand what it’s like to do a read through, a blocking rehearsal, rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and performances. All of that, as well as some of the larger than life people I encountered as an actor, are in China Doll, though thankfully nobody was murdered in any of my plays.
Tell us a bit of the plot.
Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play. It is old home week and nepotism in action as the play is produced and written by the same producer (Stanley Rothman) and author (Katrina Wright) who produced and wrote Jana’s first Broadway play when she was five years old, Sweet Nothings.
Jana’s co-star from Sweet Nothings, the aging but still gorgeous and mysterious Savannah Stevens, is co-starring in China Doll, along with Savannah’s incredibly handsome and muscular son, Peter Stevens, in his Broadway debut. Rounding out the cast are Rothman’s granddaughter Bella, Jana’s nephew Brad, and Jana’s youngest son B.J. And the play is directed by Katrina’s new and much younger husband, the studly Tony Cuccioli.
Also in the cast are Sally Chen a recent Tony Award winning actress, and Tate Moonglow a transplant from Off-Broadway. During rehearsals, attractions come to the surface between Tony and Sally, Brad and Bella, Tate and Gary (B.J.’s new nanny), and even Jana and Peter.
Art imitates life as members of the production team of China Doll are murdered, personal secrets are revealed, and Jana once again uses the skills she learned as a child star to solve the crime.
Sounds fabulous! Who is your favorite character in China Doll? And why?
I really enjoyed writing the comically neurotic Gary Royale, B.J.’s (Jana’s youngest son) new nanny, and of course the Broadway musical buff Detective Douglas was great fun.
Which one of your characters was the hardest to write? And why?
Savannah Stevens is an aging beauty with fond memories from her past on Broadway and as a movie star in Hollywood, yet she carries the burden of an aging actress in a youth-oriented society.
With her gorgeous violet eyes, is Savannah based on Elizabeth Taylor?
Savannah is a smart, strong, talented woman like Elizabeth Taylor; however, she doesn’t have anywhere near as many husbands or such a troubled life.
Is Katrina Wright, the highly successful mystery writer, supposed to be Agatha Christie?
They are both very successful, older female writers, but Agatha Christie wrote many novels and a few plays, while Katrina has written many many plays and no novels. Also unlike Agatha Christie, Katrina has a young stud husband.
Like mother like son—and grandfather and uncle.
As in the first three Jana Lane mysteries, Jana is tempted by a gorgeous man, this time the heartthrob younger actor, Peter Stevens. Who do you think should play Peter Stevens in the film version?
And Jana goes through a major personal event.
I love that part of the story. It still brings tears to my eyes when I read it.
Unexpectedly, Jana is reconnected with her nephew?
Who has changed his name and become a hungry for fame actor. Jana tries to give him advice, but like many young people, he doesn’t take it.
I find it fascinating how Jana uses the skills she learned as a child star to solve the crime. How do you remember all of Jana Lane’s old movie titles and storylines?
I keep really good notes on Jana’s old movies, and on each room in her Hyde Park, New York mansion. I also enjoyed writing about Jana’s gorgeous penthouse hotel suite.
Since the book takes place in 1984, you included a great deal of history, music, and fashion from the era.
Though China Doll is a fictitious play, I was able to place the theatre between the marquees of real shows playing at the time: Hurlyburly starring William Hurt and Christopher Walken and The Rink starring Chita Rivera and Liza Minelli. Since the book takes place in 1984, I included a great deal of history, music, and fashion from my favorite era. Layered hair, parachute pants, shoulder pads, lace gloves, leggings, and scrunchies are all there along with music like Bruce Springstein’s “Cover Me.” New York City is prominently featured in the novel with its luxury hotels, Central Park, Washington Square Park, Little Italy, and of course the theatre district. I was also able to include, the still new AIDS epidemic and the devastation it caused when ignored by our political representatives, as once again Jana sponsors a benefit for AIDS research.
You play fair in your mysteries, meaning the clues are there, and so are the plot twists and turns, and white knuckle shocking ending.
I don’t like mysteries where characters are introduced and the writer arbitrarily picks the murderer at the end. The readers feel cheated. At the end of a mystery, the readers should say, “Of course! How did I not see that?” I agree about the ending. It still makes my heart race when I read it—and I’m still surprised.
Do you see the Jana Lane mysteries as a TV show?
Totally! I want to play Simon Huckby!
Who do you see playing Jana Lane?
I’d like the readers to decide. Contact me via my web site with your choice!
As a college professor, you have another mystery series besides the Jana Lane mysteries?
Yes, the Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries published by Lethe Press. The series takes place at an Edwardian style New England college. In Drama Queen theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detectives, it is up to Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the murders, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, handsome Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In Drama Muscle 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.
You have also written various MM novels for Dreamspinner Press and NineStar Press. Is writing a MF series different from writing an MM series?
Not at all. People are people. Love is love. Mystery is mystery. We’re all connected.
As a college professor/department head, how do you have the time to write?
I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat. My mother asked me, “How do you think up all those stories?” I told her I had a colorful childhood. Hah.
Who is your ideal reader of your books?
My ideal reader is a lover of mystery, romance, and Hollywood. Someone who craves being swept away by a story and becoming part of the novel. My reader loves clues, suspects, and plotlines that zigzag with numerous surprises leading to a shocking yet totally justified conclusion. Finally, my reader relishes in beautiful, lush locations and captivating characters as she/he enters the portal of my book.
What are you writing now?
I’m editing the next Jana Lane mystery, Rag Doll, where Jana is offered the leading role in a TV pilot about an amateur sleuth. Of course murder and romance ensue.
Thank you for visiting us again, Joe. I hope to see you back when Rag Doll releases.
Thank you! So everyone take your program and get to your seat. The curtain is going up on China Doll, the fourth Jana Lane mystery!
Tall, muscular, aristocratic-looking with dark hair and blushed cheeks, Peter shook Jana’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lane.”
Feeling the warmth and smoothness of his strong hand, Jana felt like a shut-in at a blind date with Mr America. “It’s Miss Otley…rather Mrs. Lane…Mrs. Otley, but please call me Peter.” Jana turned the color of her avocado dress.
He seemed to enjoy her attraction to him. Amazing dimples emerged as Peter said, “I thought I was Peter.”
Jana giggled in spite of herself. “You are. I’m Nana. I mean…I’m Jana.”
Peter’s peaches and cream complexion complimented his white pants, coral T-shirt, and marigold blazer. He whispered in her ear, and she smelled fresh mint. “I’m nervous too. Everyone’s thinking I got this role because I’m Savannah Stevens’ son. They’re probably right.”
I have to stop gawking at him. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Peter seemed genuinely touched. “That means a lot to me, coming from such a fine actress. I hope you’ll give me a few tips in rehearsals.”
Jana Lane is back on Broadway in 1984—starring in a murder mystery. Life imitates art when members of the company are murdered. As Jana investigates, it’s clear she may be the next victim. Complicating matters is Jana’s uncontrollable infatuation with her leading man, gorgeous and muscular Off-Broadway actor Peter Stevens. Will Jana find the murderer before the curtain comes down on her?
Praise for PAPER DOLL, the first Jana Lane mystery:
“Paper Doll is a superbly crafted mystery with an eclectic cast of characters that will engage you and elicit some very emotional responses as you are completely caught up in the events that unfold in these pages. Everyone has secrets and the people in Paper Doll have them in spades!” Fresh Fiction
“Joe Cosentino is a brilliant mastermind when creating the perfect mystery series. In each novel in this intriguing series of his, Jana Lane Mysteries, readers are blown away by his writing. The instant readers jump into Joe Cosentino's fictional world, the danger feels real, the suspense is killing, and the plot moves so fast. Action, lights, camera!” “A fast-paced murder mystery that readers will easily fall in love with...and one they can't live without. Overall, I highly recommend this new title in the Jana Lane Mysteries and look forward to the next best adventure from Joe Cosentino.” Danielle Urban, Universal Creativity Inc.
Praise for PORCELAIN DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery
Beautifully written and intensely detailed, Porcelain Doll is one not to be missed. Flirtatiously decadent with a strong moral undertone, set in a decade of extraordinary social change this is a story of its period that is as poignant today as it was then. Joe Cosentino controlled the emotions that the book encouraged with a deft but delicate touch. Suspenseful and mysterious, Porcelain Doll is a masterful creation, one that was impossible not to be affected by.” Carol Fenton, BooksLaidBare Reviews
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. He is the author of the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, and China Doll and the upcoming Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press); the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, and the upcoming Drama Cruise (Lethe Press); the Cozzi Cove beach series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (NineStar Press); and the romance novellas: In My Heart anthology (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star), A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com