Saturday, May 28, 2016

Guest Author Joe Cosentino on Acting

Welcome once again to Joe Cosentino, author of the Jana Lane mysteries. This time, Joe joins us for a special interview about his acting career, and how it influenced his novels!

An Actor's Life for Me

I remember my older sister and cousin wrapping a blanket around me, sticking me in a garbage can full of hay, and charging a nickel for our neighbors to see our Nativity play. I didn't mind since I was the star! That morphed into full-scale musicals in our friend's garage for our very patient and supportive family and friends. However, coming from a family with many lawyers, when I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, my mother (cutting vegetables for dinner at the time) handed me the knife and said, "Take this knife and stick it through my heart." She quickly got accustomed to the idea. After I graduated from college and embarked on my acting career, my parents were my biggest fans.

Eventually I became an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night's Dream onstage), Nathan Lane (The Roar of the Greasepaint onstage), Rosie O'Donnell (AT&T Industrials), Holland Taylor (ABC-TV movie My Mother Was Never a Kid), Charles Keating (NBC-TV's Another World), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). One of my jobs was playing Ross (I mean Ross not Hercule) Poirot in a murder mystery dinner theatre show. Since a great deal of that show was improvisation, it occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give writing a try. After writing some plays, I knew my novels would include show business in some way, since show business has always been such a huge part of my life. As an avid mystery reader, it was clear to me that my novels would also be page-turning mysteries with clever plot twists, engaging characters, romance, and lots of clues leading to a surprising conclusion a la Agatha Christie. Since coming from a funny Italian-American family, I also knew humor would play a role in my novels.

As a child, I loved child stars like Shirley Temple, Hayley Mills, and Patty Duke, seeing their movies over and over. So 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. 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. Though I wasn't a child star, my acting background helped me to write the first novel. When Jana ventures back to Hollywood, I wrote first-hand about her production meetings, wardrobe fittings, and press conferences. The characters of Jana's director, producer, hair and makeup artists, screenwriter, and music writer were based on a conglomeration of people I met and worked with over the years.

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, America's heartthrob, Jason Apollo. Again, I used my experiences as a professional actor to create realistic scenes on the set of the film. The various rehearsals, takes, and shots on the set, camera and lighting, wardrobe and makeup were all exactly as I remember them. And once again, the various characters from the film world were based on people I knew and worked with as an actor.

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 romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. Jana's hysterically funny agent and watchdog, Simon Huckby, plays a prominent role in this novel. He is a mixture of agents and managers I knew as an actor. I want to play him in the film!

Now, in CHINA DOLL (current release from The Wild Rose Press), after winning an Academy Award, Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, faced with murder on stage and off. 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. 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.

It was great fun using my vast knowledge of musical theatre to write the Broadway musical theatre buff detective character. I was able to use my knowledge of theatre to create the first read through, blocking rehearsal, rehearsals, and performances for the play within the novel. Though China Doll is a fictitious play, I placed 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. I was an actor living in New York City then, so those shows hold a special place in my heart. 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 within the Broadway theatre community when ignored by our political representatives, as once again Jana sponsors a benefit for AIDS research.

Each Jana Lane mystery is its own story. The clues are there, and so are the plot twists and turns, and white-knuckle shocking ending. I use my professional acting background to make each novel realistic, fun, and theatrical, and give my readers an insiders' look into the world of show business. And don't miss the next Jana Lane mystery, RAG DOLL, releasing from The Wild Rose Press in a few months, where Jana stars in a television murder mystery show and once again, life imitates art! I remember well my time on television sets. You can bet those memories will be included in RAG DOLL.

The curtain is going up. So curl up with CHINA DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery, and let me know what you think. I love hearing from readers. You can contact me at:

About CHINA DOLL by Joe Cosentino

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?

An Excerpt from CHINA DOLL

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."


Barnes & Noble
The Wild Rose Press

About Joe Cosentino

Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino 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. Look for his newest novel, CHINA DOLL, available now from The Wild Rose Press.

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