(Jana Lane Mystery Book 5)
Murder, romance, and scandal on and off the set of Jana Lane’s new murder mystery television show. America’s most famous ex-child star Jana Lane is starring in The Detective’s Wife, a murder mystery television show in 1985. Guest starring on the show is Christa Bianca, a rags-to-riches ingénue who has flooded the entertainment press. Life imitates television as cast members are murdered, and once again it’s up to Jana, along with sexy ex-detective Chris Bove, to save the day before the lights fade to black.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been a storyteller. I remember starring in a Nativity play in my cousin’s garage with my sister and older cousin wrapping sheets around us and charging neighbors a nickel. That morphed into full scale musicals including lavish costumes in a neighbor’s garage. 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. 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.
Can you tell us readers a little bit about creating the Jana Lane mystery series?
As a child I loved child stars like Shirley Temple, Hayley Mills, and Patty Duke, seeing their movies over and over. So 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. 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, 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, America’s heartthrob Jason Apollo. 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 muscular detective. Jana rubs elbows with senators on both sides of the aisle, a lobbyist, and a Washington reporter. Her husband also goes through a personal crisis. 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.
Now in RAG DOLL, Jana stars in a new television series, The Detective’s Wife, opposite Chris Bove, the hunky detective who got away in SATIN DOLL. Guest starring on the show is young ingénue Christa Bianca, a rags to riches story who has flooded the press. Life imitates television as Christa’s loved ones are murdered, and Christa and Jana could be next. Once again it’s up to Jana to save the day before the lights fade to black.
Who is your favorite character in RAG DOLL? And why?
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!
Which one of your characters was the hardest one to write? And why?
Jason, the prop man, was difficult to write since he is such a young man of mystery. As he embarks on a romance with Jana’s son’s nanny, he is clearly hiding something.
Is Christa Bianca, the ingénue, based on any young successful actress past or present? How about Christa’s Uncle Nick, the aging character actor?
Christa is a beautiful, talented young woman who escapes her impoverished small town life and embarks on a successful film and television career. I’m sure there are many young actresses like her, past and present.
In our youth-oriented society, there are also many aging character actors put out to pasture before their time. The interesting thing about Nicholas Hartford is how his niece looked up to him when she was a child, and now he looks up to her—hoping to ride on her coattails back to the top. I think we’ve seen that happen in a number of show business families.
Jana is interviewed by a very funny, aging, gossipy female television interviewer. Is Harriet Hologram representative of Barbara Walters?
I believe there are many television reporters and interviewers who wield their power over celebrities. I see it as a love/hate relationship, where both interviewer and star need each other to promote their work and their careers. It’s a shame the process needs to be so hurtful. I believe that is stoked by many viewers’ interest in celebrities’ health crises, divorces, bad reviews, and other misfortunes.
Jana opens her AIDS Foundation in this novel. Was that patterned after Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation?
Though Jana Lane is quite different from Elizabeth Taylor, like the great actress and humanitarian of yore, Jana is one of the very few celebrities to pick up the banner and raise money for treatment and a cure while our government representatives ignore the crisis that affected millions of Americans.
You worked on television as an actor with Holland Taylor (My Mother Was Never a Kid ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (NBC’s Another World), David Paymer (Ruffles Potato Chips commercial), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). Did you use any of those experiences in writing about Jana and company’s shooting of The Detective’s Wife?
Definitely! As one reviewer of PAPER DOLL wrote, I used my knowledge of show business to devilish ends. Actually, 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 theatre stage. Thankfully nobody was murdered on my shows. I’ve been told the television shooting sequences in RAG DOLL are realistic, exciting, and fun to read. I’m sure that’s because I know my way around a real television set, and I tried hard to incorporate that knowledge into those scenes.
As in each of the books, Jana’s goes through a personal crisis. How do you as a man have such insight into a woman’s personal challenges?
Jana, like all my characters, is a part of me. I feel her emotions, suffer through her pain, delight in her successes, and revel in her joys. What she learned on those sets as a child star has prepared her well to not only solve the mysteries in each book and strive for social justice, but also to handle the conflicts that come her way. I believe I can make the same claim.
And then there is the studly ex-professional football player/ex-detective/current co-star of The Detective’s Wife, Chris Bove.
Though Jana and Brian are happily married, you can’t blame her for being attracted to handsome, muscular, smart, food-addict Bove. Jana and Bove are a great team. After what they’ve gone through together in SATIN DOLL, they can be total honest with one another. Their banter is very funny but also warm and precious. Since Jana is not available, their attraction for each other needs to stay at bay, which is quite difficult for both of them at times. I think they put that frustrated energy into solving the case.
In this novel Jana is again confronted by a character who uses his religious beliefs to attack the rights of others. Do you think Christians will be offended by Jana’s reaction to Andrew Bianca’s verbal attacks on Jana’s gay co-stars?
I sure hope not. Jana is a Christian who prays and goes to church on Sundays. She seems like a true Christian to me since she tries to love her neighbor as herself, not judge others, and help the downtrodden and outcasts. Jana would agree with me that freedom of religion means the freedom to worship as you choose, not try to take away the civil rights or self-worth of others.
I find it fascinating how Jana uses the skills she learned as a child star to solve the crime. How do you remember all of Jana’s old movie titles and storylines?
I keep really good notes on Jana’s old movies, and on each room in her Hyde Park, New York mansion.
Was it difficult writing a book that takes place in 1985?
Since I was around back then, and the internet is a wonderful research source, I enjoyed writing about the political and social events, music, movies, television shows, and fashion of that era. Jana is right in line with her hair, makeup, and wardrobe.
Which part of the novel did you enjoy writing the most? And why?
I loved writing Jana’s banter with Bove. It still makes me laugh. I also get tears in my eyes when reading the story of Christa’s rise from impoverished, mocked child (the other children calling her “Rag Doll”) to upcoming star.
Many of the men in the series are strapping, muscular, good looking guys. Did you do that intentionally?
You mean since I’m not? Hah. Many of the women are gorgeous too. I’m enjoying exploring how the other half lives and loves.
Everyone in RAG DOLL seems to have a secret. Thank you for revealing them by the book’s end.
Yes, each Jana Lane mystery is it’s own story. Readers get a complete mystery with each novel, as you said, full of revealed secrets.
Do you have another mystery series besides the Jana Lane mysteries?
Yes, the Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries published by Lethe Press. Each novel is loaded with wacky humor and romance in a fast-paced whodunit. 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 Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015) 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 musclemen 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.
Have you written other books besides mysteries?
My MM romance novellas are published by Dreamspinner Press. They are AN INFATUATION (Divine Magazine 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.
I also have an MM series COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK, COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD, and COZZI COVE: STEPPING OUT taking place on the Jersey Shore and published by NineStar Press.
As a college professor/department head, how do you have the time to write?
I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat. 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.
About the Author
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. He is the author of the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press); the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, and the upcoming Drama Cruise and Drama Luau (Lethe Press); the Cozzi Cove beach series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and the upcoming Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out (NineStar Press); and the romance novellas: In My Heart anthology (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star), A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently head of the department/professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married.