We are especially lucky today. Joe Cosentino has released his fifth Jana Lane Mystery and Jana and her agent Simon Hucky have stopped by to chat. So help me welcome America’s most famous ex-child star/Academy Award winning actress/sleuth/wife/mother Jana Lane Otley and her agent Simon Huckby.
Jana: Thank you. Five novels. I must be getting old.
Simon: You’re a legend. You’ll be young forever, baby doll.
Barb: Since the readers can’t see you, tell us what you both look like.
Simon: My baby girl is gorgeous, petite, with blonde hair, blue eyes, a button nose, and a loving heart for everyone.
Jana: I’m blushing. Simon is small, balding, and adorable, especially in his chartreuse jumpsuit, scarlet scarf, and lemon waist pouch.
Barb: How did you two meet?
Simon: I discovered my baby doll when she was five years old, starring opposite her father in Sweet Nothings on Broadway. One year later I presented her with a contract from Hollywood’s biggest studio.
Jana: Giving you ten percent of my earnings.
Simon: A guy has to make a living.
Barb: Before we go any further, let's show everyone the blurb to RAG DOLL. The excerpt appears at the end of the interview.
Murder, romance, and scandal on and off the set of Jana Lane’s new murder mystery television show. America’s most famous ex-child star Jana Lane is starring in The Detective’s Wife, a murder mystery television show in 1985. Guest starring on the show is Christa Bianca, a rags-to-riches ingénue who has flooded the entertainment press. Life imitates television as cast members are murdered, and once again it’s up to Jana, along with sexy ex-detective Chris Bove, to save the day before the lights fade to black.
Barb: It sounds so exciting! Jana, you were America’s most famous child star.
Jana: Until I was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen and came back to Hyde Park, New York with my family. A few years later I met Brian, the love of my life and the father of my three children.
Simon: But that’s the boring part. Tell them about the murders you solved!
Jana: In PAPER DOLL at thirty-eight I live with my family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. My flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in my future. I venture back to Hollywood, which helps me uncover a web of secrets about everyone I love. I also embark on a flirtation with the devilishly handsome son of my old producer.
Simon: And she reconnects with yours truly.
Jana: In PORCELAIN DOLL I make a comeback film, co-starring America’s heartthrob, and I uncover who is being murdered on the set and why.
Simon: I’ll take the next one. In SATIN DOLL my baby girl and her family head to Washington, DC, where she plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. My baby doll also embarks on a flirtation the local detective.
Jana: I also rub elbows with senators on both sides of the aisle, a lobbyist, and a Washington reporter. And in CHINA DOLL I head to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by my gorgeous co-star, and faced with murder on stage and off.
Barb: In addition to making a terrific comeback and solving numerous murder mysteries, you seem to have a lot of flirtations with men, Jana.
Simon: I always said she should marry someone in show business. Like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Jana: Brian is the only man for me, but you can’t blame a girl for looking.
Barb: Certainly not, Jana. In addition to your loyal husband, Brian, your agent Simon has been by your side in each book.
Simon: You bet your movie ticket stub.
Barb: How have the reviews been for the series so far?
Simon: How else could they be with my baby girl as the focus?
Barb: Tell us about RAG DOLL, your latest mystery, Jana.
Jana: With the success of Miami Vice and Murder She Wrote, I was excited when Simon told me I would be starring in a new television murder mystery series, The Detective’s Wife. It was quite a surprise when I found out Detective Bove from SATIN DOLL had become an actor and was playing my husband on the series.
Simon: They make an adorable couple. Bove is my client too!
Barb: And rags to riches ingénue Christa Bianca is the guest star for the pilot episode. Jana, you and Christa became fast friends, and wouldn’t you know, there was an attempt on Christa’s life. Before we knew it, murder ensued.
Jana: Christa’s past as a poor, small town girl who the other kids called, “Ragdoll,” touched my heart. I was incredibly concerned about Christa and those dear to her when it became clear there was a murderer on our set.
Simon: I can’t believe anyone works with this woman? She attracts murder like my hairspray attracts bees.
Barb: And the suspects include dominatrix Karen, Bove’s ex-wife who covets Christa’s role, and Herm the director who is enticed by Karen.
Jana: There is also Christa’s pushy agent.
Simon: I hate those.
Jana: And Christa’s uncle who was also guest-starring on the episode.
Simon: And trying to hold on to Christa’s coattails when his career was in decline.
Barb: Who else is suspect?
Jana: Andrew, Christa’s controlling manager/husband. And two couples playing bit roles who have a personal conflict with Christa and Andrew.
Simon: Don’t forget your son’s nanny and her boyfriend, the mysterious prop master with a secret.
Barb: Everyone seems to have a secret in RAG DOLL.
Simon: But Jana Lane exposes them all. Once again The Littlest Detective and School Spy uses her knowledge from her movie roles as a kid and figured it all out in a nail-biting climax.
Jana: This one was quite difficult. The clues somehow didn’t add up, until the final reel.
Barb: Is Christa Bianca, the ingénue, based on any young successful actress past or present? How about Christa’s Uncle Nick, the aging character actor?
Jana: Christa is a beautiful, talented young woman who escapes her impoverished small town life and embarks on a successful film and television career. I’m sure there are many young actresses like her, past and present. In our youth-oriented society, there are also many aging character actors put out to pasture before their time. The interesting thing about Nicholas Hartford is how his niece looked up to him when she was a child, and now he looks up to her—hoping to ride on her coattails back to the top. I think we’ve seen that happen in a number of show business families.
Simon: Like your father with you.
Jana: No arguments there.
Barb: Jana, you are interviewed by a very funny, aging, gossipy female television interviewer in RAG DOLL. Is Harriet Hologram representative of Barbara Walters?
Jana: I believe there are many television reporters and interviewers who wield their power over celebrities. I see it as a love/hate relationship, where both interviewer and star need each other to promote their work and their careers. It’s a shame the process needs to be so hurtful. I believe that is stoked by many viewers’ interest in celebrities’ health crises, divorces, bad reviews, and other misfortunes.
Barb: And you open the Jana Lane AIDS Foundation in this novel. Was that patterned after Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation?
Simon: Though my baby girl is quite different from Elizabeth Taylor, like the great actress and humanitarian of yore, Jana Lane is one of the very few celebrities to pick up the banner and raise money for treatment and a cure while our government representatives ignore the crisis that affected millions of Americans. I am so proud of her for that.
Barb: Jana, in this novel you are again confronted by a character who uses his religious beliefs to attack the rights of others. Do you think Christians will be offended by your reaction to Andrew Bianca’s verbal attacks on your gay co-stars, Jana?
Simon: Jana Lane is a true Christian to me since she tries to love her neighbor as herself, not judge others, and help the downtrodden and outcasts. As my baby doll says, freedom of religion means the freedom to worship as you choose, not try to take away the civil rights or self-worth of others.
Barb: 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 your old movies, Jana?
Jana: Simon never lets me forget.
Barb: Is it fun living in 1985 in RAG DOLL?
Jana: I love the hairstyles, clothing, makeup, music, movies, television shows, and dances. You should see Bove in his parachute pants, colored T-shirt, and white jacket.
Simon: And I do quite a good disco.
Barb: Everyone in RAG DOLL seems to have a secret.
Simon: And Jana Lane exposes each one by the book’s end.
Jana: Yes, each Jana Lane mystery is its own story. Readers get a complete mystery with each novel, as you said, full of revealed secrets.
Barb: You play fair in your mysteries, meaning the clues are there, and so are the plot twists and turns, and white knuckle shocking ending.
Jana: 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 surprise ending. It still makes my heart race when I read it.
Simon: Mine too.
Barb: And everything you do and say comes out of the head of ex-actor/current college professor Joe Cosentino.
Simon: Like me, Joe Cosentino is definitely the man behind the woman.
Barb: Does Joe Cosentino have another mystery series besides the Jana Lane mysteries?
Jana: Yes, the Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries published by Lethe Press. Each novel is loaded with wacky humor and romance in a fast-paced whodunit. Since Joe is a college theatre professor/department head, and theatre departments are havens of mystery, secrets, romance, and high humor; the series takes place at an Edwardian style New England college. In DRAMA QUEEN (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015) 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 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.
Simon: He also has his MM romance novellas published by Dreamspinner Press. They are 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. Finally, there is the MM series COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK, COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD, and COZZI COVE: STEPPING OUT taking place on the New Jersey Shore and published by NineStar Press.
Barb: As a college professor/department head, how does Joe have the time to write?
Jana & Simon: We help him.
Barb: Who is the ideal reader of the Jana Lane mysteries?
Jana: 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.
Interviewer: How can your readers contact you?
Jana: Via Joe Cosentino. He tells us everything.
Simon: Joe loves hearing from readers. Contact him via his web site at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Barb: Thank you both for stopping by.
Jana: It was a delight.
Simon: Back to the books for us.
Jana and Bove did the scene again with a thin piece of gauze over the camera lens aimed at Jana.
Ah, the plight of a middle-aged actress.
Jana felt even better about that take. Their relationship worked, and the energy bounced back and forth between them almost effortlessly. Again Jana wondered what it would be like sharing her days with Bove and kissing Bove in bed before sleep each night.
Herm’s call for action brought Jana back to the scene. Bove’s close-up was even better than the first two takes. It was as if they had been married for years with an easygoing yet emotional rapport.
“Good job, partner.”
Bove smiled at Jana. “Right back at you.”
As she started to rise from the bed, Jana spotted Christa in the distance with a look of horror on her face.
The young woman screamed as a lighting screen headed straight for her. Stu Silverman, standing next to Christa, noticed and pushed Christa out of the way in
the nick of time. The screen crashed to the floor inches away from Christa’s feet.
Standing on the other side of her, Andrew Bianca took his wife in his arms, and shewept on his shoulder.
Bove whispered to Jana, “Here we go again.”