THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
Q: What inspired you to start writing, especially your novella AN INFATUATION?
Joe: As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto. I played all the characters—male and female. Hm, that explains a lot. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me rather than committed me. I always enjoyed improvisation as an actor, and I see writing as an extension of that. It also keeps the mind sharp, which is much appreciated as I get older.
When I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she said, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” I did it anyway, and acted on stage and screen with stars like Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, Jason Robards, and Nathan Lane. As my students say, “You were cute when you were young!” Anyway, it occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give playwriting a try. When I told my mother I wanted to write fiction, she said, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that?
I knew my first novella would be a bit autobiographical, but have a universal theme. Hasn’t everyone been infatuated with someone? I was thinking back to my high school days, and how difficult it was back then for a gay teen before GLSEN, PFLAG, and Will and Grace. Lab partners, gym locker rooms, and club meetings where super important. At my high school reunion, I realized things weren’t what they seemed back then. A story was born. It began as a one-act play, which I expanded and morphed into a novella.
Q: Tell us about the characters in AN INFATUATION.
Joe: Harold is based on me. Actually, I really admire Harold’s resilience, honesty, intelligence, wit, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.
Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks!
Mario is a combination of many supposedly straight, perfect guys who gay guys so easily become infatuated with every day. I love that Harold and Mario come full circle at their high school reunion.
It is always hard for me to write homophobic characters. How nonsensical is it for someone to spend his/her time, money, and energy trying to hurt, belittle, or take away the rights of someone else? In most cases, the homophobic person is gay him/herself, and due to internalized homophobia, is battling with him/herself via the gay target. That is the case with the two homophobic characters in my novel.
Q: How do you imagine the ideal reader of your book?
Joe: My ideal reader is a lover of a good story, someone who craves being swept away and becoming part of the novel. My reader enjoys humor, and being taken on a roller coaster ride. Finally, my reader relishes in captivating characters and earth-shattering romance, as she/he willingly enters the portal of my book. That’s why I love hearing from my readers!
Q: What tips would you give other writers, when creating comedy in their own writing?
Joe: When a reader finishes a book, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equaled the whole, rather than the author pulling an ending out of the hat. I recommend not writing jokes to try to be funny. Let the humor come out of the situations and the characters naturally. People are funny, but only in real life, believable situations. And don’t forget the yang side of comedy is tragedy, and find the emotional core of your characters and story. As the old expression goes, “Make ‘em laugh then make ‘em cry.” That’s why I love Bittersweet Dreams books.
Q: What other books have you written? And what are you working on now?
Joe: My MF mystery/romance series, the Jana Lane mysteries, premieres March 18 with PAPER DOLL from Whiskey Creek Press. PORCELAIN DOLL will follow shortly. My MM mystery/romance/comedy series, the Nicky and Noah mysteries, premieres this summer with DRAMA QUEEN from Lethe Press. DRAMA MUSCLE will follow shortly. I just finished a new MM romance Bittersweet Dreams novella, A SHOOTING STAR, and am currently working on a new MM romance novella, A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. I am also working on the third Nicky and Noah mystery book (DRAMA CRUISE), and the third Jana Lane mystery book (SATIN DOLL).
Q: Which roles do you want to play in the movie versions of your books?
Joe: I think my books would make terrific films! Here are the roles I would play:
AN INFATUATION: Mr. Ringwood, high school principal
PAPER DOLL: Simon Huckby, movie agent
DRAMA QUEEN: Martin Anderson, college professor/department head
A SHOOTING STAR: Professor Katzer, college professor
A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: walk by in a cameo a la Alfred Hitchcock
So come on movie producers!
Q: What advice would you give to other writers in the M/M genre?
Joe: I love reading and writing stories with engaging characters who I want to spend time with. I recommend letting your characters talk to one another and seeing what happens. An outline is simply an outline. Don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Also, a romance story needs much more than romance. Don’t forget the humor, and the twists and turns in the story. Finally, until gays have equal civil rights, a little politicking never hurt.
Q: What would you like to say to your readers?
Joe: I know this story will touch your heart, because it’s everyone’s story. We’ve all had an infatuation, and this novel is a testament to that. Please email me via my web site and tell me about your experience with the book. I also love answering questions about the novella, so let them fly. My web site is: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Blurb: With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
Excerpt: “Mario, we have a literature quiz tomorrow. You should stay and cram with me?” We can be Anne Frank and Peter Van Daan or Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
He turned around to face me. “It’s just a quiz. No sweat off my ass.”
What a way with words. “Mario, I can’t believe you don’t like books. I’d read all day if I could.” Next to you.
Putting his jacket and the football on my desk, he sat on the floor next to my bookcase. “Books don’t make sense to me, Harold.” He pulled out a book. “Like Romeo and Juliet. If I ever dated a girl whose old man hated my guts, I’d kick his ass. And another thing I don’t get about that book is if Romeo and Juliet were so head over heels in love, how come they don’t end up happily ever after?”
I rested my elbows on the desk. “I guess because sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned. That’s why if we love someone, we need to stay close to him, and commit ourselves to him, whether our family and friends like him or not. And we should never, ever let him go.”
“Will that be on the quiz, Harold?”
Yeah, the test of life. I nodded and hid my erection behind my desk. New tactic. “Mario, did you know that… originally… during Shakespeare’s time, all the roles on stage were played by male actors?”
“So a male… a young male… played Juliet… in love with Romeo.”
“So how come Shakespeare didn’t call it, Romeo and Julio?”
With a book covering my lap, I sat next to Mario on the floor. “Let’s move on to Our Town.”
Mario grimaced like a kid facing a bowl of pea soup. “I hate Our Town. Who is that Stage Manager character anyway? If any guy came into my kitchen and started making comments and rearranging things, my mother would cut his balls off with a steak knife.”
I covered my lap with a second book. “It’s an amazing story, Mario. George and Emily were only… our age… but they were totally in love.
“I don’t get it.”
“That’s because you won’t give it a chance.” I looked into his dark, questioning eyes. Please give it a chance, Mario.
“Okay. Read it to me.” He leaned his back against my bed.
“No, when we’re forty years old in an old people’s home.”
I opened the book. Mario closed his eyes and rested his forearm against mine. Despite my cracking voice, I somehow read the section where George asks Emily if she will write to him if George goes away to agriculture college. After I finished, I asked, “Do you understand?”
Mario looked at me like a Rhodes Scholar. “What do you think I am, stupid?”
How did I not notice that cleft in your chin before this? “What does it mean?”
Mario cleared his throat like an orator. “George wants to keep Emily busy writing letters, so she won’t visit him at college and catch him rolling in the hay with the college babes.
His mouth was inches from mine. “No, Mario, George is testing Emily to see if she loves him.”
“Well, does she?”
“What do you think, Mario?”
“How the hell do I know what’s in some crazy broad’s head in some stupid book?”
I gave him a hint. “Emily marries George, doesn’t she?’
“My old lady married my old man, and no way they’re in love.”
“Trust me, Mario. George and Emily, like Romeo and Juliet, were star-crossed lovers. You should remember that for tomorrow’s literature quiz.” And make sure that we don’t share their fate. I reached over Mario’s muscular arms to take another book. “Let’s move on to A Separate Peace.”
“Another book I hate. Why do the two guys want to hurt each other?”
Here’s my chance. “Maybe because they don’t understand their feelings toward one another.” Our lips were so close they were nearly touching. “Maybe because of pressures from society, the two boys can’t express their… mutual admiration and… caring for one another, so their frustration turned into violence and tragedy.”
“What a bunch of bull. I’d never hurt someone I cared about.”
“You wouldn’t intentionally.”
He grabbed my arm. “I wouldn’t any way at all.”
Somehow, even at my tender young age, I knew that wasn’t true.
About the Author: Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll, the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press-releasing this summer), 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. 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. His upcoming novels are Porcelain Doll (the second Jana Lane mystery) and Drama Muscle (the second Nicky and Noah mystery).
Think back to your infatuation. When was it? Where were you? How did you feel? How did you react? How did it begin? How did it end? Write a paragraph about it and post it with your email address and preferred electronic reading format by Midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The staff at The Novel Approach will select the one that tickles their libido the most and email the information to the author who will email the prize to the winner, on Wednesday, the 18th. Happy Infatuations!