Is art imitating life in 1982? Jana Lane, ex-child star, is doing a comeback film about murder. When a crew member is killed on the set, it looks like Jana could be next. Thickening the plot is Jana’s breathtakingly handsome and muscular leading man, Jason Apollo, whose boyish, southern charms have aroused Jana’s interest on screen and off. Will Jana and Jason stop the murderer before the final reel, or end up on the cutting room floor in this fast-paced whodunit with a shocking ending?
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As Jana sat waiting for Jack to call for action, she looked up at Jason’s encouraging face. She again was taken aback by his incredible beauty.
Reverend Charlton and Gloria reentered the study.
Jack called for quiet and action. Jana and Jason played the scene, where the detective notifies her of her husband’s death. Jason delivered his lines with warmth, vulnerability, and obvious affection for Jana. In turn, Jana listened then reacted with deep emotions, conveying shock, loss, fear, and hysteria while being comforted by the man she trusted. Jana clutched onto Jason with such force, her fingernail accidently tore a hole in his jacket.
“Cut!” Jack hollered.
While the wardrobe woman repaired Jason’s jacket, Jana noticed Reverend Charlton step out of the study again, this time with Ryan O’Halloran.
After the two men returned, and the jacket was mended, Jack called for slate and action for take two. Jana and Jason did the scene two more times. Each take was more realistic and heart-wrenching than the next, and each appeared as if it were the first time Jana was given the sad news.
After the third take, Jack shouted, “Cut! It’s a wrap. Ryan, let’s move on to the next location.”
Jana wiped the tears from her cheeks.
Jason placed his hand on the side of her face. “You’re amazing.”
“You’re not so bad yourself, partner.”
“You make me better,” he said with adoration in his true-blue eyes.
They shared a smile as again people hurried around the room like ants after a picnic.
Suddenly, Jana heard a loud crash followed by a scream. Leaping from her chair, she followed the horrified gazes of the others in the room to Ryan O’Halloran lying motionless on the floor with a Fresnel tungsten shuttered light next to his head, and blood dripping from his scalp onto the hardwood floor.
PORCELAIN DOLL is the second in your Jana Lane mystery series. Can you give us some background on Jana and the events leading to PORCELAIN DOLL?
I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever and is making a comeback as an adult—personally and professionally. The Jana Lane mysteries are separate novels that can be read in any order. Paper Doll gives us the backstory as to why Jana Lane, America’s most famous child star, left the business at eighteen after being attached on the studio lot. It is 1980 and Jana, a thirty-eight-year-old beauty and mother of two living in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York, suffers flashbacks from 1960 which turn into murder attempts in her present. She visits the California movie studio she once called home and with the help of the handsome son of her old producer uncovers a web of secrets about everyone she loves, including the person who destroyed her past and threatens to snuff out her future. The reviews were amazing. Here are two examples:
“Paper Doll is a superbly crafted mystery with an eclectic cast of characters that will engage you and elicit some very emotional responses as you are completely caught up in the events that unfold in these pages. Everyone has secrets and the people in Paper Doll have them in spades!” Fresh Fiction
“Mr. Cosentino has produced a masterpiece of mystery” “The story gripped me from the start and there were enough twists and turns, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, to keep hold of me until the end of the book.” Readers’ Favorite
When readers asked for more, I continued writing and was thrilled when The Wild Rose Press contracted the next three Jana Lane mysteries. In PORCELAIN DOLL, it is 1982 and Jana is thirty-nine years old. She 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. The other suspects include Jana’s James Dean type young co-star, her older John Wayne type co-star, her children’s Eve Harrington type nanny, the film’s gossipy makeup and hair artist, a local reverend trying to stop the film’s production, and Jason’s agent. The reviews were just as terrific. For example:
“Porcelain Doll is Joe Cosentino at his finest. We are drawn back to the fashions and attitudes of the 1980’s in a character-driven story full of intrigue and passion.” Kirsty Vizard, Divine Magazine
“Beautifully written and intensely detailed, Porcelain Doll is one not to be missed. Flirtatiously decadent with a strong moral undertone, set in a decade of extraordinary social change this is a story of its period that is as poignant today as it was then. Joe Cosentino controlled the emotions that the book encouraged with a deft but delicate touch. Suspenseful and mysterious, Porcelain Doll is a masterful creation, one that was impossible not to be affected by.” Carol Fenton, BooksLaidBare Reviews
You’ve done some acting yourself. Any amusing stories you can share with readers?
As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto with full scale musicals in the garage starring my sister and me. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me (rather than committed me-hah). After majoring in theatre in college, I became an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage), Nathan Lane (Roar of the Greasepaint on stage), Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T Industrials), Holland Taylor (My Mother Was Never a Kid ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (NBC-TV’s Another World), and Jason Robards. (Commercial Credit Computer TV commercial). One interesting story is that Rosie O’Donnell and I were on tour doing an AT&T Industrial in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was playing her henpecked husband. I had a terrible pain in my leg, and she insisted upon taking me to the local hospital’s emergency room. When we got there, she bossed around the nurses in her character from our skits. I found it really funny and my leg stopped hurting. I never did find out why it hurt. Later in New Jersey, Rosie mentioned she received an offer to appear on TV’s Star Search. She didn’t want to do it since she was already a professional stand-up comic. I recommended that she do it, thinking if America could see how good she was, Rosie would become a star. I was right. I have lots more stories, perhaps for future interviews.
Of film, television, and theatre acting, do you have a preference?
I love them all. It’s an amazing high to feel a live audience’s energy, hear their laughter or gasps of surprise, and take in their applause onstage. Film affords the opportunity for multiple takes to get everything just right and work with famous people. TV makes you think on your feet and create very quickly. Acting is great fun. That’s why kids play make believe. As Jana Lane says about her film career in Paper Doll, “I enjoyed the make-believe…playing so many characters in so many different locations.” “I felt like…God’s special child.” My love for film, television, and theatre is evident in the series. Jana stars in the films His Obsession in PORCELAIN DOLL and Madam Senator in Satin Doll. She does a Broadway play, China Doll, in China Doll. In Ragdoll, Jana stars in a television murder mystery series, The Detective’s Wife.
I want to come full circle and play Jana’s comical, old world agent, Simon, in The Jane Lane Mysteries on TV. Hear that TV producers!
Is Jana a product of your acting or does she stem from a love of old Hollywood & movies?
Both! As one reviewer of Paper Doll wrote, I used my knowledge of show business to devilish ends. I used my background in each of the Jana Lane novels, since I know the ins and outs on a movie set, television set, and onstage. Thankfully nobody was ever murdered on my sets. As a kid I loved child stars like Shirley Temple, Hayley Mills, and Patty Duke, seeing their movies over and over. 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. Since coming from a funny Italian-American family, I also knew humor would play a role in my novels.
Satin Doll and China Doll, books three and four respectively, are also being released this year. How many books do you have planned for Jana?
In Satin Doll, 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 ex-professional football player detective. In China Doll, 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. Ragdoll comes next, where Jana stars in a TV murder mystery series, and once again life imitates art. Through the course of the books, Jana not only solves the mysteries, but also reclaims the courage and fortitude she had as a child. This is an important message for all of us. As one reviewer wrote, she starts out as a wounded bird, and ends as tiger. After that, who knows? If readers keep begging for more, I’ll keep writing.
I also have my Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries published by Lethe Press. Since I am a college theatre professor/department head, and theatre departments are havens of mystery, secrets, romance, and high humor; the series takes place at an Edwardian style New England college. In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015 winner for Best Mystery, Best Humor, Best Crime, Best Contemporary) theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detectives, it is up to Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the murders, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, handsome Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why bodybuilders are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In Drama Cruise, Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship.
What is your favorite aspect of writing?
Readers contacting me via my web site or posting reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads telling how much they loved the books. There is no greater high than knowing my many hours of hard worked paid off! Like a reader, I also enjoy being swept away by the stories and becoming part of the novels, relishing in the lush locations and captivating characters, gasping at the plot twists and turns, and being shocked by the ending. I also love my main characters, who are so real to me. Each book is like visiting with old friends. Finally, I adore the decadence of the 1980’s! I had great fun writing about Jana’s mansion, wardrobe, makeup, and hairstyles. I also enjoyed incorporating into the novels some of the music, films, television shows, Broadway shows, and political and social events of the era.
Your least favorite?
On the negative side, in writing a series for continuity I need to keep a notebook full of information on each character and the various repeat locations—i.e. every room in Jana’s Hyde Park mansion. Also, since I am a college professor/department head by day, I have to write at night. My mother asked me, “Don’t you have anything better to do than write at night?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother asked him that? Hah.
Thank you for taking the time to visit with Manic Readers, Joe.
It has been my pleasure. I hope everyone reads Porcelain Doll from The Wild Rose Press, and let me know what you think! http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com