Theater professors and couple, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are going overboard as usual, but this time on an Alaskan cruise, where dead college theater professors are popping up everywhere from the swimming pool to the captain’s table. Further complicating matters are Nicky’s and Noah’s parents as surprise cruise passengers, and Nicky’s assignment to direct a murder mystery dinner theater show onboard ship. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the curtain down on vacationers before it is lights out for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, ribald, edge-of-your-seat entertaining third novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and ship ahoy!
Q&A with Joe Cosentino, author of Drama Cruise, the third Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel published by Lethe Press
Hello, Joe. Thank you for stopping by to chat with us today.
Since you write supernatural novels, will somebody bite my neck?
Only if you’re lucky. When did you start writing?
I’ve always been a story teller. My motto is, there’s no story I can’t embellish and pass on. Hah. The first story I told was the Nativity story. Okay, so I wasn’t original. My sister, older cousin, and I wrapped sheets around ourselves and performed in my cousin’s garage. I think we made twenty-five cents. But I was bitten by the show business bug. So my sister, neighborhood friends, and I created full theatrical, costumed, and choreographed musical productions in the garage. 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). Moving on to playwriting and ultimately writing novels came next. Along the way I received two master’s degrees and became a college professor/department head (like Martin Anderson in the Nicky and Noah mystery series). When I complain about working at the college during the day and writing at night, my mother says, “Just think how hard you’d have to work if you had a real job.” Thanks. Mom.
Wow! What was it like acting with all those celebrities?
They weren’t famous when I worked with them, though in each case I predicted he/she would become famous. Maybe I should be a TV psychic and ask people who they are thinking about with the initials A.J. Anyway, in each case he or she was gracious, hard-working, kind, and very funny. I can see Rosie O’Donnell and Bruce Willis playing Noah’s parents and Nathan Lane as Martin Anderson’s (the department head’s) spouse in a TV version of Drama Cruise! I want to play Martin Anderson!
How did Lethe Press come to publish the Nicky and Noah mystery series?
Lethe Press has been around for sixteen years. I did some research and noticed they publish many humorous, theatrically-styled gay books. After I submitted the manuscripts, Steve Berman offered to publish them, saying he had great fun reading them. I told him I had great fun writing them. It was a match.
Why did you write a gay cozy mystery/comedy/romance series?
There aren’t a whole lot out there. 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!
What does the term, cozy mystery, mean?
The locations are warm and fuzzy, the characters are likeable, humor is a large part of the story, and there is a happily ever after ending (except for the murderer). Though full of murder and mayhem, they always make me smile, challenge my brain, and relax me.
What do you mean when you say you write theatrically?
I write a great deal of dialogue, and my novels are quite cinematic. Hear that film and television producers?
Tell us about the Nicky and Noah mysteries.
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. 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.
In the first novel, Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015), it is winter, so white snow, cherry wood mantels surrounding blazing fireplaces, and hot chocolate are in abundance. College theatre professors are falling like stage curtains (while Nicky directs the college play production), and Nicky and Noah must figure out whodunit and why. In the second book, Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), it is fall, so gorgeous leaves of amber, violet, and scarlet blanket the campus. Nicky is directing the college’s bodybuilding competition, and bodybuilding students and professors are dropping like barbells. 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.
Is it challenging writing a series?
I love it. I feel as if I am visiting with old friends. I also enjoy watching the leading characters and their relationships develop. For example, Martin Anderson’s husband, Ruben, was a minor character in the first two books, but he plays a major role in the third book, and we get to see his dry and wonderful sense of humor, devotion to Martin, and mystery solving chops.
Tell us about the storyline in Drama Cruise, the third Nicky and Noah mystery.
Drama Cruise takes place in summer as Nicky and Noah go on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from all over the world. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. Martin Anderson (Nicky and Noah’s department head) and his husband are also along for the rocky ride. As in the first two books, there are a slew of colorful, hysterically funny victims and suspects like the cruise director who talks endlessly about her glory days as a theatre major in college, the ship’s doctor who is looking for the secret of life, Nicky and Noah’s porter who wants them to adopt him, and the captain of the boat who insists he has seen the ghost of his former sea captain. The theatre professors are equally as colorful, including an alcoholic who believes he has seen a mermaid, a hypochondriac looking for love, a comic with a cat of nine tails in her closet, and a Shakespearian actor who can’t keep his hands off his volume of the Bard—or off anyone else.
Why did you set the third novel on a cruise to Alaska?
A few years back my spouse talked me into going on a ten-day cruise to Alaska. We packed our bathing suits, daywear, nightwear, and credit cards. Prone to motion-sickness, I also packed my ginger capsules and grumbling stomach (and mouth) and we were off. We had amazing meals (after amazing meals), fantastic ocean views, spotted a whale waving its tail at us, and went on a helicopter ride to the glaciers. We also embarked on land excursions to a tramway over the mountains, a totem pole park, a log climbers show, a frontier habitat, and a Native American village. Our cabin sported a private balcony and a gay porter who seemed excited to find a gay couple onboard ship. Onboard ship we raised our noses at an art show, played bingo like senior citizens on church night, gambled like card sharks at the casino, and saw a musical revue with singing and dancing cupcakes. When we returned home, I decided to immortalize our trip by setting the third Nicky and Noah mystery onboard a cruise to Alaska.
How do you think up all the clues, red herrings, and surprises in the novel?
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. She also includes quaint characters and romance.
Since you are a college theatre professor, is the series based on you, your colleagues, and students?
My colleagues kid me that if anybody at my college ticks me off, I kill him/her in the series? Hah. To be honest, I like my colleagues and students too much to murder them in my books. Martin Anderson, Nicky and Noah’s department head, is based on me. He’s a loyal, hardworking department head and professor who fully supports his faculty colleagues, office assistant, and the students in his department. Like me, he is also a little bit, well quite a bit, of a gossip. His spouse, Ruben, is based on mine. My knowledge of theatre is also very evident in the series. The other characters and the location came from my head. As my mother says, “You always thought up crazy stories when you were a kid. And not much has changed!”
Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (An Infatuation—Divine Magazine’s 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 so well received. Two are available as audiobooks performed by Joel Leslie. What do you say to people who loved them and might be surprised that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are quite different?
They may love blonds and also guys with dark hair. Variety is the spice of life. I’d ask them to give the Nicky and Noah mysteries a try. Like I found eating pea soup as a kid, they may acquire a different taste.
Where do you write?
I have a cozy (no pun intended) home study with a window seat, fireplace with a cherry wood mantel (like Martin Anderson), a huge cherry wood desk and bookcase. It’s hard for me to leave that room.
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, which goes to the publisher. The fourth draft is after notes from the publisher’s editor.
How do you get your ideas?
I go to sleep at night with a pad and pencil on my night table, since I get my best ideas when jolting from sleep at three am. 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.
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 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 (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 flirtation with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (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. In Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press), Jana stars in a television mystery series and 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. Chrissa Clark Howe is doing the amazing audiobooks.
And how about your New Jersey beach series?
NineStar Press published Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and the upcoming Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out about handsome Cal Cozzi’s gay beach resort on a gorgeous cove. I spent my summers as a kid on the Jersey Shore, so it’s a special place for me. The first novel was a Favorite Book of the Month on The TBR Pile site. The fourth upcoming novel, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings features a vampire character!
Will there be more Nicky and Noah mysteries?
Drama Luau releases in six months, where Nicky directs a luau show in Hawaii, and muscular male hula dancers drop like grass skirts. Once again it’s up to Nicky and Noah to figure out whodunit and why!
How can readers contact you?
I love to hear from readers via my web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Thank you, Joe.
Thank you! Nobody’s bitten my neck.
Maybe next time.
It is my joy and pleasure to share these stories with you. So take your front row seat. The boat is leaving from port. Lights up and ahoy matey! Alaska here we come!
Excerpt of DRAMA CRUISE, the third Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino, Lethe Press
The stunning movie star’s long jet-black hair created a silky fan on the cold marble floor. Surrounding her were a crowd of guilt-ridden faces: her possessive husband and producer, her handsome young paramour and co-star, her aggressive agent and female lover, her jealous sister and stand-in, and her makeup man who knew all her secrets (and she knew his). A detective arrived on the scene, took one look at the murdered beauty, and fell in love.
“Nice job, people! Let’s take ten.”
That was me, Nicky Abbondanza, Professor of Directing at Treemeadow College, a white stone Edwardian-style private college in the quaint and picturesque village of Treemeadow, Vermont. And how did I become the director of a murder mystery dinner theatre show on a ten-night June cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back? I spotted an online ad seeking theatre professors to present theatrical workshops for passengers on a cruise, culminating in a murder mystery dinner theatre presentation on the last evening. Okay, technically my colleague and fiancé Noah Oliver, Professor of Acting at Treemeadow, spotted the ad in an educational journal, but I applied for my department head and mentor, Martin Anderson (producing the show), my Noah (acting in the show), and me (directing). Martin’s husband, Ruben, came along for the ride. Martin and Ruben are a sweet, elderly couple (don’t tell them I said that) who have been together forever and have two grown daughters. For our part, Noah and I are both tall, but the similarity ends there. I have dark hair, long sideburns, a Roman nose, and a pretty pumped body thanks to the gym on campus. Noah has exquisite curly-blond hair, sky blue eyes, a smooth build, and the most loving heart on land and sea. I am just a tad older than Noah—but what’s seven years? A lot when you are thirty-six and your lover is twenty-nine. Oh, there’s one other little thing. Actually, it’s not so little. I have a thick nine-and-a-quarter inch penis—flaccid. Luckily, Noah is very open (pardon the pun) to my anatomical quirk.
After flying from Vermont to New York to San Francisco and waiting on endless security lines in the airports, the four of us got to the boat, where we waited on a long security line to come onboard. After unpacking in our cabin then getting a quick lunch at the bountiful buffet, Noah and I made our way through the sea of polyester, and somehow remained awake during the life boat drill. Then we dodged photographers, dollar signs shining in their eyes like paparazzi at a closeted gay movie star’s mansion, and headed to our first rehearsal. As the dining room was occupied with guests eating lunch, we rehearsed in a nautical themed lounge onboard ship.
After an hour and a half of rehearsal, it was break time. While the other professors scattered like televangelists near an IRS building, Noah and I sat on a cozy loveseat next to a gas brick fireplace. Noah looked amazing in an aqua polo shirt and white pants, while I was a bit more toned down in yellow slacks and a cranberry hoodie. I took Noah’s soft, warm hand in mine, and said adoringly, “I can’t believe we’re here.”
Noah responded, “My first cruise.”
“My little virgin.” I kissed his cheek. He looked out of the porthole and kissed the cleft in my chin. “The sky and the water are gorgeous.”
“I hope we get to the deck to see them.”
“We won’t be rehearsing all day, Nicky.”
“Don’t you need a break, handsome, young paramour character?”
Noah snuggled his shoulder into my chest. “I’d rather wallow away the minutes with my intended.”
We shared a warm kiss.
DRAMA CRUISE (a Nicky and Noah mystery)
a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO from Lethe Press:
Theater professors and couple, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are going overboard as usual, but this time on an Alaskan cruise, where dead college theatre professors are popping up everywhere from the swimming pool to the captain’s table. Further complicating matters are Nicky’s and Noah’s parents as surprise cruise passengers, and Nicky’s assignment to direct a murder mystery dinner theater show onboard ship. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the curtain down on vacationing theatre professors before it is lights out for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining third novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and ship ahoy!
Praise for DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015):
“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
“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
“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
Praise for DRAMA MUSCLE, the second Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press, Rainbow Award Honorable Mention:
“reading these books is like watching a fabulous comedic, murder mystery, action, adventure, romantic film.” “I was giggle snorting and laughing so much I had to stop reading. Joe Cosentino’s writing is absolutely flawless. He’s a master storyteller and will keep you guessing and utterly riveted until Drama Muscle’s highly satisfying ending. This is an absolute gem of a book, and series.” Divine Magazine
“Book 1, Drama Queen was always going to be a hard act to follow with its belly ache laughter approach but in this “smirkathong” – yes I was smirking throughout the book, my top lip still aches – the author succeeded in delivering another comic classic!” Three Books Over the Rainbow
“a perfect balance of humor and romance into a continuously twisting plot.” “Cosentino will keep you entertained and guessing until the very end.” 3 Chicks After Dark
“As with the first book, there are laugh out loud, completely funny sections. And enough of the mystery and suspense that keeps me reading” “I look forward to the next story” The TBR Pile
“laugh out loud funny” “Readers will be on the edge of their seats waiting for the killer to be revealed.” “As a romance, readers will love seeing Nicky and Noah settling in to living together in their Victorian home.” “I highly recommend this series.” Joyfully Jay Reviews
“This is a wonderful addition to the series! I fell in love with Nicky in the first book and he just gets better. Filled with humor and action. Noah evolves in this story, his character grows into a more mature yet still adorable sidekick to Nicky. They are perfect together, in detective work and in family situations. I hope that there are more to follow.” Crystals Many Reviewers
“This book is a comic romp that simultaneously celebrates and lampoons a mash-up of genres: the bloodless murders (in this case six) of Agatha Christie and her ilk, the screwball movie mysteries of Nick and Norah Charles (it’s Nick and Noah here), and the simile-rich voice-overs of film noir– all updated for a gay context.” Elisa Rainbow, Rainbow Awards
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of 2015 by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle and Drama Cruise (Lethe Press); In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press); Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The 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. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015, and has won many Rainbow Award Honorable mentions including for Drama Muscle. Upcoming novels are Drama Luau (fourth Nicky and Noah mystery) and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings (fourth Cozzi Cove beach novel, NineStar Press).