Joe Cosentino, On Writing Mysteries (Author University)
As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me (rather than committed me-hah). Eventually I became an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis, Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. It occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give writing a try.
I like playing and writing engaging characters who I want to spend time with. If acting or directing, I do improvisations with other actors to flesh out the backgrounds or back-stories of the characters. When writing I let my characters talk to one another and see what happens!
Also, by having read hundreds of them, I’ve learned a great deal about mystery writing. I write mystery novels that drop lots of clues leading to the murderer. I also incorporate many other characters with secrets into the story. I create an entire world of suspense above and beyond “who done it.” When a reader finishes my books, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equaled the whole, rather than the author pulling an ending out of the hat. When I read a great novel, I feel as if I am the leading character, going through the story and experiencing all of the emotions right along with him/her. A terrific mystery lays out all the clues and culminates with only one possible ending, unveiling various secrets along the way. I don’t appreciate mystery novels, where authors lay out clues then arbitrarily pick a murderer.
So I knew my first novel would be a show business story, 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 novel would be a page-turning murder mystery with clever plot twists, engaging characters, romance, humor, and lots of clues leading to a surprising conclusion.
In my mystery/romance novel, PAPER DOLL (Jana Lane mystery 1), I share my love of movies and moviemakers with my readers. I have always been fascinated with ex-child stars like Hayley Mills, Shirley Temple, Patty Duke, and Brooke Shields. My heroine, Jana Lane, is an ex-child star who has lost her self esteem as an adult. Through the course of the book, Jana not only solves the mystery of her past, but also reclaims the courage and fortitude she had as a child. This is an important message for all of us.
At the beginning of the first novel, Jana has lost the courage she had as a child. Throughout the novel, she finds the old Jana Lane and recaptures her confidence. I love Jana’s determination, wit, and compassion for others. Since she was a child movie star in adventure films, as an adult Jana uses the skills she learned as a child to investigate and solve the mystery of who attacked her then and who is after her now. Along the way, she uncovers amazing secrets about everyone in her life.
I also admire Jana’s love and devotion for her husband, Brian, while at the same time she finds herself infatuated with her producer, Rocco. Her honesty in this love triangle is humorous and totally realistic.
Jana’s best friend Jackson was the most fun to write because he is so funny, smart, charming, and devoted to Jana (and her husband). I also like that Jackson is a gay activist back in 1980 when it wasn’t so popular.
Jana’s agent, Simon, is my favorite character for five reasons. He is amazingly resilient, old world Hollywood, incredibly funny, loyal to Jana, and most importantly, I want to play him in the movie version!
Jana’s sister, Tamara, was hardest to write since, unlike most of the other characters in the book, Tamara does not have a sense of humor. Tamara is a tortured soul with a secret and painful past. She loves her sister yet at the same time envies her. It was difficult for me to get into her mindset, but once I did, I believe I represented her well.
Since the novel takes place in 1980, I have a great deal of fun with the current events, fashion, and music of the time period.
Jana continues to evolve, and solve mysteries, in the next two Jana Lane mystery novels, PORCELAIN DOLL and SATIN DOLL, coming soon. The wonderful thing about a series is you can watch the characters grow and change through time. It’s like meeting up with an old friend.
Next, I am using my background as a college theatre professor for a new comedy mystery series premiering this summer by Lethe Press: the Nicky and Noah mysteries, beginning with DRAMA QUEEN. Following will be DRAMA MUSCLE and DRAMA CRUISE.
After that, come on movie producers, let’s turn them all into movies!
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), Drama Muscle (the second Nicky and Noah mystery), A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press novella), A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella).
Web site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon
Jana Lane was America’s most famous child star until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. Now a thirty-eight-year-old beauty and mother of two living in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York, Jana’s flashbacks from her past turn into murder attempts in her present. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana visits the California movie studio she once called home. This sends her on a whirlwind of visits with former and current movie studio personnel. It also leads to a romance with the son of her old producer—Rocco Cavoto—the devilishly handsome filmmaker who is planning Jana’s comeback both professionally and personally. With Rocco’s help, Jana uncovers a web of secrets about everyone she loves, including the person who destroyed her past and threatens to snuff out her future.