Novel self-help approach

Donna Masotto

Donna Masotto has written and published (by Balboa Press) her first book. Consigliere is technically a novel, but functionally it is a self-help book utilizing the genre of a novel.

“It’s anything but a Mafia story,” Masotto said.

“What I would love is to have this book become more of a discussion tool,” Masotto said. “I wanted to highlight the theme of crossroads and how outcomes take one direction or another.”

The designation as a crime novel allows Masotto to entice readers into undergoing an existential journey for change. She hopes the actual theme will be used for discussion in jails including juvenile halls, post traumatic stress disorder groups, religious renewals and retreats, and other venues where discussion of one’s past can lead to healing. Masotto signs her books with “A wound is a place where light can enter”, which she credits to 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

In Italian, and for Italian-Americans involved in organized crime, consigliere is the term for a lawyer. The protagonist of Consigliere, Declan Quinn, is an attorney whose specialty is keeping the Nusco family out of legal trouble.

To some extent the movie “The Godfather” influenced the setting for Masotto’s book. “I would watch that movie with my dad and my brothers and feel so intrigued by the Robert Duvall character as the Consigliere and say ‘now there’s a secondary character who could have a movie made just about him’,” she said.

Masotto, who was born in 1961, is the sixth of eleven children consisting of eight girls and three boys. Most of the characters are modeled after her own immediate family or cousins and given names of her actual family members, although the Nusco men are modeled after characters in The Godfather.

The key to a successful novel is for the author to think like her characters. That allowed Masotto to think like her family members and her mentors but also required her to think like a mob boss. “That was really hard for me quite honestly,” she said.

Since Masotto’s goal with the book is to help people overcome their emotional wounds, a villain was necessary. She noted that she wanted to capture the presence of the mentality of what could be called a non-physical death. “It takes away someone’s soul,” she said.

The father who became abusive after resorting to alcohol wasn’t based on anybody Masotto knows.

The inclusion of Mob violence makes the book more suitable for adults or at-risk adolescents than children, which better suits Masotto’s purpose of using the book to heal.

Masotto’s mother passed away in 2005 at the age of 73. Masotto was also close to her father, who passed away last year at the age of 91. Masotto incorporated the spirits of her cousin Judy and her mother into the book in which Declan and his sister hear their mother’s spirit advising them.

Although Masotto is a lifelong Southern California resident who has lived in La Mesa for the past two years and in the Kensington and Downtown parts of the city of San Diego for 12 years before that, her parents were raised in Brooklyn.

Because the true subject is confronting one’s past rather than an attempt to escape from the Mob, Masotto is concerned that the meaning would be lost if her book was turned into a movie. “I’d be afraid of that – but if Coppola or Scorcese wanted to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse I’d insist on having a chair on their screenwriting team,” she said.