Hello readers! Today we have author Joe Cosentino over at the website to talk about his brand new story An Infatuation. He also comes bearing gifts. The interview concludes with a give-away, so keep reading to find out what you have to do!
Please give a warm welcome to Joe Cosentino. The floor is his!
Hiya Joe. Welcome to BookWinked. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be an author?
Thank you, Larissa. It’s my pleasure to visit with you today.
As a kid, I was the one always putting on a show in the living room for my incredibly patient family and neighbours. After starring in school plays, I told my mother I wanted to be an actor. Since the other men in my family were lawyers, she said while cooking dinner one evening, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” She eventually got accustomed to the idea and after college I went on to acting on stage and screen with stars like Bruce Willis (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM on stage), Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T Industrial), Holland Taylor (ABC-TV movie MY MOTHER WAS NEVER A KID), Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial), and Nathan Lane (THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT on stage).
Missing the education arena, I went back to school for an MA and MFA and became a college professor and eventually department head.
It occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give playwriting a try. After having some of my plays produced in NYC and in regional theatre, I decided to give fiction writing a try. When I told my mother I wanted to write a novel, she said, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that? Again, she became accustomed to the idea. Since then I have written three MM romance novellas, a MF mystery/romance series, and an MM mystery/comedy/romance series.
AN INFATUATION is my first novella and was released by Dreamspinner Press on February 4. I am hoping the other two, A SHOOTING STAR and A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, will be published soon.
The Jana Lane mysteries (about an ex-child star solving murders) are published by Whiskey Creek Press. PAPER DOLL is being released on March 5. PORCELAIN DOLL and SATIN DOLL will follow.
The Nicky and Noah mystery comedy series (about a college theatre professor who solves murders) is being published by Lethe Press. DRAMA QUEEN releases this summer. DRAMA MUSCLE and DRAMA CRUISE will follow.
You recently released a novella called An Infatuation. What inspired you to write this story?
In talking with friends, I realized most of us have in our past an incredible story about our first infatuation. 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.
Which character from your story did you have the most fun writing?
Harold is based on me, so it’s a no-brainer! 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 also 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!
What did you find hardest to write and why?
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 many 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 who come into contact with Harold in high school then again at their high school reunion.
Is any part of An Infatuation based on personal experience or is it all imagination?
I’ve received many glowing reviews and reader comments stating this must have happened to me since the story is so personal and believable. While Harold is based on me, and Stuart is based on my spouse, Mario is a combination of many supposedly straight, perfect guys who I’ve met in my lifetime and gay men so easily become infatuated with every day. I love that Harold and Mario come full circle at their high school reunion, but that never happened to me.
Time for a fun question. In stories, characters always find themselves in awkward situations or situations they can’t get out of easily. Tell us about a time you were in such a situation and what did you do to get out of it?
There were so many. Here’s one I wrote about in my novella, A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY. Since I come from a large Italian family, Sunday dinners are always a huge feast. Until I was married, I had to sit at the kiddy table in the kitchen with children throwing food like grenades, the dog salivating with her head on my lap, and older relatives sneaking in to steal an Italian pastry before dessert time. I had to get married to escape that!
When I was an actor I did a TV commercial where I had to roller skate, a print job where I had to ride a horse, and a TV movie where I had to speed race an antique car. I had no idea how to do any of those things. I told the producers I was a fast learner and thankfully they gave me lessons.
In An Infatuation, your character Harold goes to that all important 10-year High School reunion. Have you been to yours?
I sure did, and Mario wasn’t there. Hah. It was fun to catch up with my old classmates. I was surprised to see so many of them had stayed in our little town. I laughed when I realized the school troublemakers had become police officers. Since I was acting at the time, they treated me like a celebrity, which was fun. I didn’t go to my twenty-year reunion though.
What would you say to readers to convince them to read An Infatuation?
So many people have found AN INFATUATION hysterically funny, deeply personal, and incredibly moving. I know this story will touch your heart, because it is everyone’s story. We’ve all had an infatuation, and this novel is a testament to that. Please email me via my website and tell me about your experience with the book.
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 at their ten-year high school reunion, the old flame reignites. Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy’s locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).
The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”
“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!
“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”
“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?
“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.
Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?
“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.
“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!
As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.
“I’m voting for your body … I mean I’m voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”
His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”
“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can … ”
Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”
Can I watch?
“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.
He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.
About Joe Cosentino
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 about your first infatuation. Where were you? How did it make you feel? How long did it last? How did it end? Write a paragraph about it, including your email address and preferred electronic format. Book Winked will pick the one that tickles their libido the most, and email the winner’s email address to the author who will email the electronic version to the winner. Good luck!