I’m thrilled to be reviewing both An Infatuation and A Shooting Star by Joe Cosentino. These are terrific moment-in-time novellas written with wit and heart.
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.
On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star. Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart.
An Infatuation is a terrific story combining coming-of-age with reconciling the past. What stood out to me immediately (and what made it my kind of story) was that it was funny in such an authentic way. I had a number of laugh out loud moments, most of which the only possible reaction I could give was, “Oh, my goodness. That is so absolutely true.” Harold’s teenage interactions with Mario, his crush, were spot on, proving adolescent puppy love is pretty much universal. Through Harold’s eyes, I grew to understand and love Mario. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the contrast between Mario and Harold’s husband, Stuart. But without giving spoilers, I will say that the resolution to both is pitch-perfect. This is a delightful read with a bittersweet ending.
A Shooting Star is entirely different in character. There is still the tone of humor (clearly a hallmark of Joe Cosentino as a writer, and pretty much what guarantees I’ll be looking for anything else he writes from now on). But there is a much darker underlying theme, and as each layer is peeled back, the reasons for that become clear. I will admit that unlike in An Infatuation (where I could root for Harold and Mario even more or less knowing the outcome), I didn’t care for Jonathan’s near-obsession with David. I didn’t particularly like David, even after understanding his motivations better. However, what’s more important is that it worked well in this story. I’m not sure we were supposed to hope for Jonathan and David, to be honest. Once again, the ending was on point and true to the overall story.
While I loved both, I liked An Infatuation slightly better, mainly because I liked Harold better. Aside from my personal preference, I think these are stories which should be read with a literary eye. There are some terrific metaphors worth exploring further. Both are incredibly well-written and have provided me with plenty of food for thought.
5 Fountain Pens for both.
From An Infatuation:
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.
From A Shooting Star:
As an Italian-American, I subscribed to my mother’s theory that if someone doesn’t want you to see something, he will hide it in a locked vault covered with cement. So I inadvertently took a quick look at my roommate’s things on the other side of the room. He was incredibly neat. Numerous theater textbooks and play scripts lined his bookshelf in alphabetical order. The bulletin board above his desk displayed artistically arranged programs from various comedy, drama, and musical college productions listing the same male lead in each show: “David Star”.
“Do you always look at other people’s things?”
I nearly got whiplash as he entered the room.
Stammering like a kid caught masturbating by his parents, I said, “I… w-was… ad-m-miring y-your… r-room.”
Though it was a fall September day, he took off his scarf (violet) and rested it on a tall coat-rack, which held scarves in various colors like a department store window display. He was taller than me, with a chiseled, handsome face, and straight, shiny black hair, which fell down his thick neck. I admired his perfectly sculpted muscles, housed in a turquoise designer dress shirt. But what captivated me the most were his piercing crystal-blue eyes—and the enormous bulge in his skin-tight, designer beige pants.
“What’s your name?”
He looked at me like a surgeon examining a tumor. “No, it’s not.”
“It’s Jonathan Bello.” He opened a bureau drawer, pulled out a bottle of hair gel, and tossed it to me. “You should gel your hair.” He opened his closet, revealing a multitude of color-coordinated shirts and slacks, and lay some on my bed. “And you can wear these.”
I looked at his perfectly pressed designer clothes. “Where did you get all these things?”
“They were gifts, mostly.”
“You must have some generous friends…. Sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“I’m David Star.” He took a bow.
Looking back at his play programs, I said, “You must have starred in every play at the college over the last three years.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“What happened to your last roommate?”
“He went to LA over the summer break and started auditioning. He got cast in a new TV sitcom. I hope it takes off. It’s called Cosby.”
“At the orientation session, they said freshmen are housed with other freshmen. How did I get a senior for a roommate?”
His eyes twinkled. “Just lucky I guess.”
“Do you think it was some kind of an administrative error or something?”
“Or something.” He added matter-of-factly, “I asked for a freshman roommate.”
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote An Infatuation and A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), 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 A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella), The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press short stories novella), Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery (Wild Rose Press), and Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press).
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Today I’m welcoming Joe Cosentino to chat about writing, life, and his current projects.
Welcome! Let’s talk a little about your two In My Heart novellas from Dreamspinner Press, AN INFATUATION and A SHOOTING STAR, both out as ebooks now, and releasing in one paperback late March.
What inspired you to write these stories?
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 were super important. At my high school reunion, I realized things weren’t what they seemed back then (and all the troublemakers were police officers-hah). AN INFATUATION was born. It began as a one-act play, which I expanded and morphed into a novella. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold and Mario from high school through adulthood. The reviews and reader response was amazing. Three Books Over the Rainbow said, “The author executed his storyline with a marvelous precision that would be the envy of many authors. He draws the readers into the lives of his characters, they become real and in turn, their emotions becomes yours.” “If you can only afford to buy one more book this year, buy this one.”
After AN INFATUATION was released in February by Dreamspinner Press, I received numerous requests from readers for a second novella in the In My Heart series. Since AN INFATUATION was loosely based on my high school days through adulthood, I thought back to my days as a theatre major in college, and A SHOOTING STAR was born. Like most college theatre departments, mine was full of comedy, romance, mystery, and of course drama. The flames of love were kindled and hearts were broken while we put up play after play for delighted audiences who never knew the personal secrets behind the stage curtains. There was the star student who got the leading role in every show. Everyone, male and female, was in love with him, and he was in love with himself. That student is David Star in the novella. Again the reviewer and reader response brought me to tears. Lovebytes called it, “unbelievably beautiful” and “a masterpiece.” GGR Reviews said, “A Shooting Star could easily function as a master class in how to write short fiction (or any fiction). Joe Cosentino has provided a work that will leave you thinking and wanting to savor and re-read it again and again.”
Is there a character(s) you feel especially connected to? Why?
Like Harold in AN INFATUATION, Jonathan in A SHOOTING STAR is loosely based on me, though I haven’t won an Academy Award—yet. They are both ingenuous, funny, warm, gullible, and have an open heart. As is the case with Stuart in AN INFATUATION, Barry, Jonathan’s loyal scene partner in A SHOOTING STAR, is loosely based on my spouse. Similar to Mario in AN INFATUATION, David in SHOOTING STAR is a combination of a number of young men I met as a theatre major in college and as a young actor. They were gay, bi, closet-gay, or straight. Each was handsome, muscular, charismatic, sensuous, and almost other-worldly like Greek gods. Though they appeared to hold the world in the palm of their strong hands, they each had a secret weakness. The high school principal in AN INFATUATION and the acting professor in A SHOOTING STAR are lampooned versions of my past teachers. I want to play them in the movie versions!
What was the hardest part of writing this?
Writing the two homophobic characters in AN INFATUATION, so I had some fun with them. 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. The dodge ball scene in AN INFATUATION was also difficult to write also. It really happened! Again, I had fun with it.
Choose a favorite line or short passage. What do you like about it?
In the excerpt I shared for AN INFATUATION, it still cracks me up how Harold (watching Mario change in the high school gym locker) gets so excited when Mario calls him, “buddy.” I love Harold’s innocence and sweetness in that scene.
I love David’s sense of mystery in the excerpt I shared for A SHOOTING STAR. As the novella progresses, David reveals himself in each scene like a flower opening its pedals in spring.
Tell us a little about any upcoming projects.
Currently on preorder and releasing December 2 is my holiday short story novella, A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. It takes place in the most beautiful island I have ever visited—the Island of Capri in Italy with stunning views of towering mountains, sparkling turquoise water, white sand beaches, savory food, and sensuous people. In the short story, Bobby, a young, Italian American law student, travels to Capri to meet his quaint Italian relatives. Though they get off to a rocky start, he falls in love with his handsome, muscular, sexy Italian third cousin, Paolo. Their relationship with highs and lows and some captivating surprises is the core of the short novella. Since I come from a long line of funny Italian Americans, I included a good deal of humor in the story as well with Paolo’s eccentric family. Bobby’s mother and Paolo’s grandmother are based on mine. (I still laugh when Paolo’s grandmother says, “In this family, a boy leaves home with a wife or in a coffin.”) Readers say it’s like taking a romantic trip to gorgeous Capri, Italy—but far less expensive! Like Harold in AN INFATUATION and Jonathan in A SHOOTING STAR, Bobby is sweet, sensitive, and smart. As a law student, he has buried his head in his books. As the novella begins, he is ready for an adventure—and ready for first love. Like Mario in AN INFATUATION and David in A SHOOTING STAR, Paolo is handsome, muscular, charismatic, and like many people in Italy, much more interested in love than in work. He is also a gifted artist. Unlike Bobby, Paolo is very experienced in matters of the heart. Their ying and yang, surrounding by amazing sounds, views, scents, and passion of Capri, Italy make this story a little gem.
I also have a fourth novella releasing from Dreamspinner Press in February: THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND. It’s my gay take on fairytales like Cinderella, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Snow Queen.
What’s the best vacation spot? Capri, Italy
What’s a charity/cause you support? GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network)
Do the people in your life know about your writing? My mother said, “Don’t you have anything better to do than write books?” (I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that.)
Do you write full-time or part-time? Part-time. (I am also a college professor/department head.)
What makes you unique? I think funny and always have. (Blame my big Italian family.)
We’d like to get to know you better. What are some of the jobs besides writer that you’ve held?
After college 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 (My Mother Was Never a Kid ABC-TV movie), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). It was an amazing time. I’d love to come full circle and act in movies of my books. Hear that, film and TV producers!
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
My friends tell me I write books faster than they can read them. In addition to my four novellas published by Dreamspinner Press, I also have my Nicky and Noah comedy mystery novels from Lethe Press. In DRAMA QUEEN (released in June) theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detective more interested in getting into Nicky’s pants than solving the murders, it is up to well-endowed Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the case, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, gorgeous Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. It is available as an ebook, paperback, or audiobook performed by Michael Gilboe who plays all twenty-four characters. In DRAMA MUSCLE (releasing in 2016) Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In DRAMA CRUISE (releasing in 2016), 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. I want to play the department head in the TV series!
Then there are my Jana Lane mystery novels with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters. In PAPER DOLL (released in March by Whiskey Creek Press), Jana (an ex-child movie star 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. In PORCELAIN DOLL (releasing from The Wild Rose Press in 2016), 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, Jason Apollo. In SATIN DOLL (releasing from The Wild Rose Press in 2016), 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. In CHINA DOLL (releasing from The Wild Rose Press in 2016), 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. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist; the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels. I want to play Jana’s agent in the movies!
I am currently in the signing phase with a publisher for my two new novels set in a gay beach resort in New Jersey, COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK and COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD. Though I hide under a beach umbrella due to my fair skin, I love the beach!
What do you see yourself doing in another 1, 5, and/or 10 years?
Acting in movie and TV versions of my books of course!
Thank you for the interview, AM. It was a pleasure. I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com.