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Q&A with Lawrence Kelter

Novelist Lawrence Kelter chats about writing BACK TO BROOKLYN, the literary sequel to Dale Launer’s 
classic legal comedy film My Cousin Vinny.
 

How did the chance to write BACK TO BROOKLYN come about?

Lawrence Kelter: There was one specific project I always wanted to be involved in, but like the rock star dream and the Super Bowl victory, I thought it was not to be. You might think this silly or lame. And maybe it is. There was a film I enjoyed so much that every time it popped up on TV, it made me late for an appointment because I just couldn’t pull myself away. I knew the script verbatim and often incorporated the better-known lines into my everyday conversation. That movie is My Cousin Vinny.

It popped up on the tube about two years ago, and I decided to email the screenwriter/producer to tell him how much I loved his film, thinking, Hollywood screenwriter—I’m dirt beneath his boot—He’ll never reply.

But he did.

And somehow we forged a connection. Emails led to conversations. He discussed his upcoming projects with me, and I with him. One day he called up and said, “Hey, I read one of your books and you’re pretty f_ _king funny.”

“So how about you let me turn My Cousin Vinny into a book series?”

“Make me an offer.”

Four attorneys and fourteen months later, BACK TO BROOKLYN was delivered to Eric Campbell, publisher of Down & Out Books.

What was the most rewarding part of writing established characters like Lisa and Vincent? The most challenging part?

Lawrence Kelter: Writing BACK TO BROOKLYN was the most fun I’ve ever had sitting in front of a keyboard. I have high hopes for this book. After all, I love the characters and the backstory—not to mention the two years I have invested in the project. But where it goes from here… I’ve received a great deal of feedback from readers. Almost universally they tell me that that they can hear Lisa and Vinny in their heads playing that cat and mouse game–they visualize Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci as they’re reading. Nothing could be more rewarding than that.

At the onset there were two big challenges that gave me pause. 1) I had to get the voices just right–my Vinny and Lisa had to sound exactly like Vinny and Lisa from the film with the same type of smart Alec rhetoric and the same colloquialisms. They had to think alike and  react alike. In the words of Beechum County DA Jim Trotter III, they had to be, “IDENTICAL!” 2) The movie reveal was just so damn clever and startling that it was a real challenge to develop a plot that felt like the original but was completely different, and at the end … well, it was a serious undertaking to reveal the true villain and his MO without relying on “magic grits” and “Positraction.”


Why should fans of My Cousin Vinny read BACK TO BROOKLYN?

Lawrence Kelter: Fans of the film will instantly fall back in love with Vinny and Lisa and hopefully laugh just as hard as they did the first time they saw the film. In the words of New York Times bestselling author William Landay: “Like visiting with old friends, BACK TO BROOKLYN captures the fun and spontaneity of every lawyer’s favorite legal comedy, My Cousin Vinny. As surefooted as a ’63 Pontiac with Positraction.” 
 

Have you heard feedback on BACK TO BROOKLYN from the original movie cast?

Lawrence Kelter: Both Ralph Macchio and his wife have both read the novel and reported that they really enjoyed it. I tried to get in touch with Joe and Marisa but was unsuccessful. On a lighter note, Nelson DeMille gave his copy of the book to his mother after he read it and she reported, “Nelson, this guy knows Brooklyn a hell of a lot better than you do!”

What are you working on now? Will we see further adventures with Vinny and Lisa?

Lawrence Kelter: I’m working on four or five new books at once. OMG, it’s scary that I can’t remember how many books I’m working on. They’re all in different states of completion. Next up is (insert drumroll) the novelization of My Cousin Vinny. Why you ask? Because it’s bigger, and fresher, with additional scenes, lots of new humor, and sneak peeks into Vinny and Lisa’s history that was not revealed in the film. It’s due for release in March of next year.