Drama Cruise is available now at
Hello, Joe. It's grate to see you again! Why did you write a gay cozy mystery/comedy/romance series?
There aren’t a whole lot out there. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are the kind of books I like reading: funny, theatrical, sexy, wild, and wacky with a solid mystery full of plot twists and turns at its center—and a surprise ending!
Tell us about the Nicky and Noah mysteries.
The Nicky and Noah mysteries are set in an Edwardian style university founded originally by a gay couple (Tree and Meadow) whose name the university bears: Treemeadow College. The clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning, and at the center is a touching gay romance between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. Like an Agatha Christie novel, the mystery is the central focus with red herrings and inversions leading to a satisfying conclusion. As in an Armistead Maupin novel, the characters are wacky, surprising, and endearing.
In the first novel, Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015), it is winter, so white snow, cherry wood mantels surrounding blazing fireplaces, and hot chocolate are in abundance. College theatre professors are falling like stage curtains (while Nicky directs the college play production), and Nicky and Noah must figure out whodunit and why. In the second book, Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), it is fall, so gorgeous leaves of amber, violet, and scarlet blanket the campus. Nicky is directing the college’s bodybuilding competition, and bodybuilding students and professors are dropping like barbells. In each book Nicky and Noah eavesdrop, seduce, role play, and finally trap the murderer, as pandemonium, hilarity, and true love ensue for a happily ever after ending—until the next book.
Were Drama Queen and Drama Muscle well received?
Reviewers called Drama Queen “hysterically funny farce,” “Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys,” and “a captivating whodunit with a surprise ending.” One reviewer wrote it was the funniest book she had ever read. The readers feel in love with Nicky and Noah as they fell in love with each other. Drama Muscle was equally well received, so Drama Cruise just released and Drama Luau releases in June. I’m writing Drama Detective now.
Is it challenging writing a series?
I feel as if I am visiting with old friends. I also enjoy watching the leading characters and their relationships develop. For example, Martin Anderson’s (theatre department head) husband, Ruben, was a minor character in the first two books, but he plays a major role in the third book, and we get to see his dry and wonderful sense of humor, devotion to Martin, and mystery solving chops.
Tell us about the storyline in Drama Cruise, the third Nicky and Noah mystery.
Drama Cruise takes place in summer as Nicky and Noah go on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from all over the world. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. Martin Anderson (Nicky and Noah’s department head) and his husband are also along for the rocky ride. As in the first two books, there are a slew of colorful, hysterically funny victims and suspects like the cruise director who talks endlessly about her glory days as a theatre major in college, the ship’s doctor who is looking for the secret of life, Nicky and Noah’s porter who wants them to adopt him, and the captain of the boat who insists he has seen the ghost of his former sea captain. The theatre professors are equally as colorful, including an alcoholic who believes he has seen a mermaid, a hypochondriac looking for love, a comic with a cat of nine tails in her closet, and a Shakespearian actor who can’t keep his hands off his volume of the Bard—or off anyone else. And who is the mysterious Professor Nan Joy Hassahl?
Why did you set the third novel on a cruise to Alaska?
A few years back my spouse talked me into going on a ten-day cruise to Alaska. We packed our bathing suits, daywear, nightwear, and credit cards. Prone to motion-sickness, I also packed my ginger capsules and grumbling stomach (and mouth) and we were off. We had amazing meals (after amazing meals), fantastic ocean views, spotted a whale waving its tail at us, and went on a helicopter ride to the glaciers. We also embarked on land excursions to a tramway over the mountains, a totem pole park, a log climbers show, a frontier habitat, and a Native American village. Our cabin sported a private balcony and a gay porter who seemed excited to find a gay couple onboard ship. Onboard ship we raised our noses at an art show, played bingo like senior citizens on church night, gambled like card sharks at the casino, and saw a musical revue with singing and dancing cupcakes. When we returned home, I decided to immortalize our trip by setting the third Nicky and Noah mystery onboard a cruise to Alaska.
Since you are a college theatre professor, is the series based on you, your colleagues, and students?
My colleagues kid me that if anybody at my college ticks me off, I kill him/her in the series? Hah. To be honest, I like my colleagues and students too much to murder them in my books. Martin Anderson, Nicky and Noah’s department head, is based on me. He’s a loyal, hardworking department head and professor who fully supports his faculty colleagues, office assistant, and the students in his department. Like me, he is also a little bit, well quite a bit, of a gossip. His spouse, Ruben, is based on mine. My knowledge of theatre is also very evident in the series. The other characters and the location came from my head. As my mother says, “You always thought up crazy stories when you were a kid. And not much has changed!”
Nicky is described as having an enormous manhood. Does that help him solve the murders?
It doesn’t hurt. Well, maybe it does. Hah. Nicky has to flirt his way into some places to get certain information, so his handsome face, muscular body, and huge penis are definitely assets. Even more, however, Nicky and Noah use their theatre skills, including playing other people, to get clues. Most of all, Nicky uses his smarts, always a fine asset in an amateur detective. And in the third novel he gets some help from Martin, Ruben, and Noah’s father all joining in with hysterically funny role plays to nab the killer.
Nicky is of Italian-American decent, like you. Is that a coincidence?
Not at all. I come from a very funny Italian family. I use that in a great deal of my writing, though my mother swears nothing I write about our family actually ever happened. My sister and I know better.
Who was your favorite character to write in Drama Cruise?
Nicky has such an amazing never say die attitude, wit, smarts, and perseverance in the face of adversity. He is genuinely concerned for others, and he wants to help them. Finally, he is a one-man man, and Nicky is proud to admit that man is Noah Oliver. However, my favorite characters in book three are Jeff and Neem, the hypochondriac professor and other worldly ship’s doctor.
Noah’s parents are pretty hilarious too.
Noah’s mother is totally devoted to her son—almost as much as to her camera. I love how Noah’s father is an amateur sleuth like Nicky. As they say, “men marry their fathers.”
Nicky’s parents are totally devoted to Nicky too.
I love that about them. Also, both sets of parents accept their son’s lover as part of their family. It brings tears to my eyes when Noah’s parents ask Nicky to call them, Mom and Dad.
Who was the easiest character to write?
Ruben and Martin, since they are based on my spouse and me. I love Martin’s dedication to the college, paternal instincts toward Nicky and Noah, sense of theatricality, and his inquiring mind. I also like how Martin and Ruben throw loving jibes at one another yet are totally in love, and can read each other like a book—no pun intended.
Which character do you like the least?
Captain James Vessel is quite vocal about his homophobia due to what he calls his, religious freedom. Religious freedom means you are free to practice whatever religion you like, not take away someone else’s civil rights. But Vessel is in for a huge surprise as the book commences.
Which character was the hardest to write?
Aurora, the cruise director, tells lots of stories about her past as a theatre major in college. While it’s a funny running gag throughout, I had to wrack my brain to keep coming up with stories.
Your Dreamspinner Press novellas (An Infatuation—Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award 2nd Place for Best MM Romance), A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland) were so well received. Two are available as audiobooks performed by Joel Leslie. What do you say to people who loved them and might be surprised that the Nicky and Noah mysteries are quite different?
They may love blonds and also guys with dark hair. Variety is the spice of life. I’d ask them to give the Nicky and Noah mysteries a try. Like I found eating pea soup as a kid, they may acquire a different taste.
You have another mystery series, the Jana Lane mystery series.
Yes, I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll Jana 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. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, 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 (The Wild Rose Press), 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 (The Wild Rose Press), 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 flirtation with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (The Wild Rose Press), 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. In Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press), Jana stars in a television mystery series and life imitates art. 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. Chrissa Clark Howe is doing the amazing audiobooks.
What are the rules for writing a good mystery?
Give the clues early! There’s nothing worse than reading a mystery and not getting any clues until the end. That’s cheating. Also, put in a number of red herrings. A mystery should have more than mystery. Like any novel, it should have interesting characters, a strong plot with lots of twists and turns, and a satisfying ending. Getting there should be half the fun. So don’t forget the romance and humor.
And how about your New Jersey beach series?
NineStar Press published Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and the upcoming Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out about handsome Cal Cozzi’s gay beach resort on a gorgeous cove. I spent my summers as a kid on the Jersey Shore, so it’s a special place for me. The first novel was a Favorite Book of the Month on The TBR Pile site.
Thank you for joining me today, Joe! It was great to have you here!
It is my joy and pleasure to share these stories with you. So take your front row seat. The boat is leaving from port. Lights up and ahoy matey! Alaska here we come!
Read an Excerpt of Drama Cruise
Noah and I left the lounge and took the all-glass elevator down to the main level, marveling at the enormous circular marble stairway opposite us.
Noah took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m so glad we’re doing this, Nicky.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” I replied kissing his cheek.
Kissing my sideburn, Noah replied, “You float my boat.”
I grabbed his bottom as we came out of the elevator. “I wonder what happened to Jeff. We need the star’s confidant character.”
“He probably hasn’t gotten his sea legs yet,” Noah replied with compassion as usual. “We can check on him later.”
We looked at the various stores, restaurants, and four-piece wind orchestra serenading us.
“What do you want to do now?” Noah asked.
“You know what I want to do.” I put my arm around Noah’s welcoming shoulders. “However, I told Martin we would meet him and Ruben at the pool.”
Noah sighed in ecstasy. “Ah, whiling away the afternoon at the pool. I could get used to this, Nicky.”
We walked up the grand staircase, which rivaled the set from Gone with he Wind. In our cabin, we changed into bathing suits—form-fitting for Noah and baggy for me. After a quick elevator ride down, Noah and I sat poolside.
We marveled at the azure sky morphing into the aqua ocean rolling away to the turquoise pool, all reflected in Noah’s gorgeous eyes.
Noah held my hand. “I feel like I’m in heaven, Nicky.”
“Wherever you are is heaven for me.” I kissed his hand.
“Can we stay here forever?” Noah asked as he settled deeper into his overstuffed chaise.
I sipped my lemonade. “Enjoy it now. Treemeadow College owns us come September.”
“And don’t you forget it.” Martin Anderson served us a late afternoon snack of triple decker grilled veggie sandwiches with sweet potato fries and spinach salad from the outdoor buffet. Short, thin, and pushing seventy, my mentor, department head, and best friend sat on the chaise lounge next to me and motioned for his husband to join him on the next chaise. Ruben Markinson, the CEO of a large gay rights organization and Martin’s taller half, followed his husband’s prompting.
“Don’t you two look spiffy?” I said like a teenage son with his parents on the beach.
“What a change to be out in the sun. It’s glorious!” said Martin.
“Amen,” added Ruben.
Martin said, “Though we had to spend a half hour putting on sunscreen.”
Noah and I grinned at Martin and Ruben’s matching attire: enormous beach hats, floor-length white terry cloth robes, and fluffy slippers.
“Is your cabin all right?” asked Noah, always concerned about others.
“How was lunch in the dining room?” I asked, pulling out Noah’s nuts (the nuts on his salad—since he’s allergic).
Martin waved our questions away like mosquitoes at a picnic. “Everything is fine.” His brown eyes doubled in size as he unleashed them behind his giant sunglasses. “Tell me about the rehearsal.” As producer, Martin was in charge of approving our contracts with the cruise line and securing our costumes and props for the dinner theatre production. However, as always, Martin’s main interest was gossip.
I answered, “Noah is terrific as Cheyenne’s young paramour. Cheyenne is the perfect temptress of mystery.”
Martin put his small hand over my mouth. “I’m sure everyone is wonderful.”
He slid to the edge of his chaise. “I want the dirt. How are the cast members getting along…or not getting along?"
When I hesitated, Ruben said, “You’d better tell him, Nicky. If you don’t, this trip will be hell for me. Besides, you know he’ll get it out of you sooner or later anyway. So let’s make it sooner and enjoy the beautiful day.” He winked at Martin.
About Drama Cruise
Theater professors and couple, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are going overboard as usual, but this time on an Alaskan cruise, where dead college theatre professors are popping up everywhere from the swimming pool to the captain’s table. Further complicating matters are Nicky’s and Noah’s parents as surprise cruise passengers, and Nicky’s assignment to direct a murder mystery dinner theater show onboard ship. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the curtain down on vacationing theatre professors before it is lights out for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining third novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and ship ahoy!
Drama Cruise is available now at
About Joe Cosentino