Armed with faith and a Smith Corona typewriter that her beloved grandmother gave her, author Suzanne Corso has written an incredible break-out novel, aptly titled Brooklyn Story. A slice out of Brooklyn life, Suzanne Corso’s triumphant tale of dysfunction, love and redemption will stay with you long after the last page. We spoke with Suzanne in her NYC apartment about Brooklyn, faith, and how she wrote herself into a fantastic new life.
Suzanne, when did you start writing?
I was always writing. I started writing Brooklyn Story when I was 17. Later, I went on to produce an off-Broadway play called Roman Nights. I was very interested in the production side, so I then did a documentary on lions and tigers that Lorraine Bracco narrated. Then, I thought it was time to bring out Brooklyn Story. My voice had to be heard.
The book is absolutely fantastic. Now, I have to ask: How much of it is from your life?
A lot of it is from real life. I enjoy writing from experience. But it’s also fiction. The character Tony Kroon is a compilation of about 4-5 guys I knew from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Let’s talk about the story itself.
Brooklyn Story is about three generations of women. The grandmother is Jewish, and the mother rebels against the grandmother after her Sicilian husband leaves, and then she has Samantha, the lead character. She places a blessed mother on her neck at a young age. It’s about her embracing two religions at once. And then she meets a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, who does a lot of bad things, including stuff to Samantha. All Samantha wants is to get across the Brooklyn Bridge.
There’s one line in the book that I absolutely love. It’s when Grandma Ruth tells her, “If you don’t like this story, write yourself into another one.”
I love that line, too.
That’s my favorite line in the book. It’s so powerful.
It’s so true because it affects me so much. I wrote my story, and I wrote my own way out of something. I was able to do that. I wrote the screenplay for the book, because we have plans to turn the book into a movie. That line will be in the movie.
The relationship with Grandma was a close one for me. I was very close to my own grandmother, and it was similar to how I grew up. On Saturday, you made the sauce, and on Sunday morning, we would eat latkes and whitefish. My grandmother was a rock to me.
The love you have for her is so sweet. I love how you end the book. That last line made me cry.
In real life, they weren’t with me anymore. And I just wanted to get out so badly. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be here now. Just recently I had a party in Brooklyn and it was wonderful. There were people there I hadn’t seen in 26 years. It was amazing, but my life now is different. It’s not because I live in NY; it’s just who I am, my beliefs. I can’t imagine being that Samantha character. It was in me, but it’s gone.
Do you think writing it helped?
Absolutely. It was so therapeutic. Back then, we didn’t have drugs and therapy! [laughs] I had a Smith Corona typewriter that my grandmother gave to me when I said that I wanted to write a book. She was like, ‘Bubelah, write the book.” Thank God I had faith. It’s what gets me through everything on a daily basis.
In a way you’ve come full circle.
I definitely feel that way, especially when I went back to the neighborhood. Everything is still the same. So many of the same people are still there; the foccaceria, Da Vinci pizza, and they all look the same. We have to shoot the movie here.
Yes, let’s talk about the movie.
The screenplay is done. It’s a waiting game now. It took me 21 years to get the book published, but it’ll be sooner to get the movie done. I already have Lorraine Bracco, Olympia Dukakis, and Armand Assante attached. They are fabulous people; they are actors but are friends to me as well.
Who will play you and Tony?
I don’t know. They should be unknown, fresh new and exciting.
It’s interesting that you named the character Samantha, since that is your daughter’s name.
My mother wanted to name me Samantha, but my grandmother said that it wasn’t a Jewish name, so they named me Suzanne with a “z”, whatever this means. [laughs] I write the book when I’m 17 and I thought, “I’m naming her Samantha.” Interestingly, my grandparents were Sam and Rose, and my husband’s grandparents were also Sam and Rose. I was destined to have a Samantha Rose. She’s a fabulous kid, and she can’t read this until she’s 16! She’s not ready for it yet.
Does she like writing, too?
She does. I sometimes refer to her as a mini me. She’s 12 now, and we have lots of fun together. She’s big on creative writing as well; she always wants to write a story. I want her to learn from me, to not go down any roads I went down. I want her to be strong and proud of herself, and never let a man treat her badly.
That’s one of the major themes of the book.
That’s true. And as a young woman growing up amongst dysfunction, it’s important to find your faith and your passion so you can help get yourself out of that situation. After all, everyone has their bridge to cross, no matter how big or small.