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Q&A with Brooklyn writer Andrew Cotto on his new novel

January 21, 2022 Ian S. Maloney
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Brooklyn author Andrew Cotto will have his seventh work of fiction published this week. “Pasta Mike: A Story of Friendship & Loss” is a novella heavily based on the experiences of the author. The Brooklyn Eagle sat down with Cotto to discuss this book, its themes, the unique approach to the narrative and, of course, his party plans. 

Brooklyn Eagle: The characters in the book are Andy Cotto and Mike O’Shea. These are real people based on real events. Why not a memoir?

Andrew Cotto: That was the original intention, but it became too complicated. Mike’s life, even cut short at 42 years, was so enormous. His sphere of influence, so to speak, was so broad it would have been really difficult for me to include everyone and everything worthy of attention. I’ve never known someone who was so loved by so many. Not only was this daunting, but it would also take away from the primary focus on this special friendship we enjoyed. So I fictionalized a world with two real characters. Two friends. Me and Mike. 

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The cover of Cotto’s new book. Image courtesy of the author


BE: Tell us about the friendship.

AC: Mike and I literally knew each other before we were born. Our mother’s were neighbors and due the same week. They bonded over their pregnancies and spent lots of time together during and after with their newborns.. Mike and I were born five days apart. We were best of friends our whole lives. There is nothing we didn’t know about each other. I’m pretty sure I could read his mind…

BE: Was writing about this friendship cathartic at all?

AC: Yeah, it was. I felt like I was spending time with him, but I also felt like I was paying tribute to him. That was the best part. I wanted to create a record, a testimony, to an amazing human being, someone with such a capacity for love. I want his friends and family to have something that memorializes Mike accordingly and also serves as a means of sharing with others. You know, I want his three kids, for example, to introduce their father to those in their lives who never met him.

BE: How hard was it to write about the loss?

AC: That was really hard, but that’s also a really important part of the book. Alongside the tribute to Mike, I wanted to explore generally the power of male friendship and its importance in our lives. I also wanted to reveal the vulnerabilities that can be triggered after loss. Loss is very hard for everybody. I know. I do think that men, though, simply don’t deal with loss in ways that are particularly effective. And this is especially true when the loss involves a friend. We just don’t talk about it; we don’t say that we are hurt and that maybe the hurt – from wherever it comes – is bigger than we are.  

Cotto and O’Shea hug. Photo courtesy of the author

BE: Is that what happened to you?

AC: Oh, hell yeah, and I felt obliged as a writer to put this experience out there. I had written an essay for TalkSpace about the loss of a friend, and I got some really thoughtful notes from men around the country, telling me about their loss, how painful it was and how the essay made them feel less alone. I then thought to do something bigger than an essay, but something bigger than a novella would have been too much for me! 

BE: We covered your last in-person event, for the novel Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure at Littlefield performance space in Gowanus, which was quite a party, with food, drink and live music from Brooklyn’s own Bette Smith and her band. Will you be doing any local events to promote this book?

AC: Absolutely. Since that party, I’ve done two book launches virtually, and both were fun but I’ve had enough fake “Live” in my life. I need a real gig. I had something for Pasta Mike planned  at Littlefield with Bette and her band, but we had to cancel because of the virus bullshit. I’m waiting for the coast to be absolutely clear before going through all that planning again, but I will do it, and I’m going to do something a little more intimate, as well, at The BookMark Shoppe in Bay Ridge with dinner afterward at Cebu Bar & Bistro. I’m thinking March for both, but I’ll be patient. 

Ian S. Maloney is Professor of Literature, Writing, and Publishing at St Francis College and Project Coordinator at the New Literary Project.

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