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What does being courageous mean to you and how has courage played a role in your personal and professional lives? 

In contemplating this question, I acknowledged that I haven’t necessarily viewed myself as courageous.   Courageous is possessing the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc – without fear. Fearless is a synonym often used for courageous and while I have confronted many overwhelming obstacles in my life journey, I have never confronted any difficult or daunting task without fear. In fact, there have been many decision points in my life where the fear has been as intense as a vice grip around my lungs, making even the very human task of breathing, difficult. At 17, facing the decision to leave my home in the middle of the night and start life as self supporting adult; at 27, the decision to leave my full time job of almost ten years and attend law school full time with a 10 month old baby at home. And most recently; the decision to walk away from a six figure income as a corporate lawyer, and invest the requisite time and energy into owning my truth and hopefully inspiring others through my writing.  I certainly did not make that decision without fear.

Fear combined with hope, faith and desire, has been a catalyst for me, both personally and professionally.  I know that failure is an inevitable component in any pathway. I’ve had my share of failures so I recognized early that failures always encompass gifts that we learn from. Given all of that, I’d say that being courageous is my ability to use the fear, apprehension and doubt to strengthen me as opposed to immobilize and hold me hostage.

Congratulations on your book.  I was truly compelled by your story.  How did you find your way through to the other side? 

I began the process of self reflection by the time I was in my early twenties.  In full transparency, as a teenager I engaged in a lot of self-deprecating language, e.g., “this treatment is my fault”; “I’m not worthy of being treated well; “I probably deserved to be spoken to in this way…”   However, what you say to yourself resonates and when I got out on my own, I realized I had to stop manifesting negative language about myself if I was going to survive. I quickly understood that I wanted and needed more. I needed to do more than survive; I needed to thrive! My ability to overcome began when as a young adult, I began to achieve life goals that I set for myself, driven by my own determination and grit.  Each accomplishment became an emotional checkmark, an attestation of my ability to overcome.  Examples are; my undergraduate degree that I completed over a nine year period as an evening student working full time during the day and my law degree – which I completed full time with a toddler who was 10 months old when I commenced as a full time law student and who was just shy of 3 years old when I graduated and sat for the NY and NJ the Bar exams.  Regardless of how difficult the road was and how long it took me, the determination and grit required to accomplish it fostered the appreciation of the value of all that I am.  Further, with the birth of my first child, I was filled with the intense burning to give her a life experience very different from my own, which intensified my drive. I overcame because with each accomplishment, I gained confidence.  In my early 40’s I embarked upon therapy, and began a more introspective journey to self awareness and self love.  I continue on that journey today.  

Therapy has become a self preservation tool paramount to my ability to maintain being a survivor that thrives.  

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Through Kyrie, I’d like readers to see that perspective means everything in life, and that it is possible to encounter hard knocks, or strife and find some morsel of value within it.  I want readers to believe that there is a gift within every obstacle, and within every delivery of pain.  Owning that and forcing yourself through the ugly packaging to find and cherish the gift within, iscertainly challenging – but it is how you find your strength in strife.

S.P. BROWN Biography

S.P. Brown’s out of the box acclaim and success with her first novel Gifts in Brown Paper Packages is stunning proof that wherever we may be in our life’s journey, it’s never too late to embrace, share and inspire the world with our inner truths – no matter how raw and painful they may be and how vulnerable they make us feel.

Drawing from some difficult experiences of her own childhood growing up in Harlem, the author uses the fictional character of 17-year old Kyrie as a vehicle to reflect on her ability to overcome the trauma of domestic abuse and somehow, miraculously, turn her physical and emotional survival into a triumphant and thriving life. The New York based author wrote the hard-hitting, flashback driven coming of age narrative over the course of several years while working her demanding high profile job as Vice President, Employment Counsel for a major entertainment conglomerate, often in quiet stolen hours in the middle of the night after her three children (now ages 14, 17 and 23) were in bed.

In the first 72 hours of its Christmas week release, Gifts in Brown Paper Packages debuted at #1 in three categories on Amazon, including ending the second day at #38 in the highly competitive “New Releases Coming Of Age” category and #1 in “Musical Reference” due to her dynamic inclusion of both old school and contemporary artists (from Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell to Deniece Williams, Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars) as the soundtrack to experiences. Currently, it is also ranked on the Kindle Store’s Black & African American Christian Fiction list.

Of the dozens of five-star customer reviews posted so far, perhaps this says it best about the book’s enduring impact on its readers: “I truly enjoyed following Kyrie’s journey through life and how she was able to overcome everything that life threw at her. Reading this story and enjoying every page as much as I did has reconnected me with my love for reading. I cannot wait for more from S.P. Brown.”

The breathtaking journey chronicled in Gifts in Brown Paper Packages hinges on a single life changing question. In the wake of another emotionally and physically abusive episode with the person she refers to as “Man,” should she take the leap through her bedroom window into the unknown? Leaving her mother and young brother behind, she has no idea if she can make it on her own, but choosing the risk of the streets seemed like a better option than staying. With no plan but survival, Kyrie’s story is driven by strength, personal growth, a journey to self-awareness and ultimately acknowledging her deepest realities.

Kyrie’s experiences are sometimes amusing, often shocking and so real and intense that it almost reads like a memoir rather than fiction. Along the way, she learns how to embrace the life lessons (gifts) that strife, struggle, perseverance and the tackling of overwhelming challenges can ultimately grace us with, if only we’re open to seeing life’s hardships that way.

The theme of Gifts in Brown Paper Packages ties in perfectly with Brown’s dedicated involvement with The Safe Center of Long Island (TSCLI), a non-profit agency comprehensively serving the needs of victims of domestic violence and inner personal trauma in Nassau County – and the only organization in the county providing free services to child and adult victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking. In addition to helping to raise funds for a Capital Campaign project to build an expanded new safe house, she has also served on the nominating committee for the past two years, with the goal of helping to identify diverse talent for TSCLI’s Board of Directors; she is currently their only African American Board Member. In 2020, Brown was named Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. She recently agreed to accept the role of President of the Board beginningMay 2022.

Brown laid the foundation for her emergence as an influential first time novelist back in 2009, when she began writing fantasy fiction at night to, as she says, “assuage an undeniable creative itch to write something other than corporate policy and emails chock full of legal advice.” Her choice of genre was inspired by her childhood passion for books, and particularly stories that took her mind far from the day to day dark reality. She wrote seven chapters in six months and received incredible encouragement from her long ago literature professor at Hunter College, where Brown earned her BA in Human Communications. But then, for whatever reason, she got a crippling case of writer’s block and shut down.

As a person of deep faith, the author has come to trust that God sets us on certain paths for specific, sometimes mysterious reasons. In Brown’s case, her creative output was on the back burner for years until a lawyer friend who was running a program at the DA’s office for youth development andcommunity reentry of former felons, invited her to audit a writing program – some of whose attendees were formerly incarcerated felons. Though she attended as an observer, she felt challenged when the facilitator asked, “What is your ‘Day One’ story if you had to talk about a specific time in your life? What is the lightbulb moment your life was changed?’”

She felt prompted to share some of her experiences with the group, and the sense of catharsis she felt led her to write what ultimately became the first chapter of Gifts in Brown Paper Packages that night on the plane en route to a conference. After she had written four or five entries, Brown made the decision that she would develop it into a novel written from a third person perspective, telling parts of her story, with fictionalized elements, through Kyrie’s eyes. For a time, she was concerned about writing explicitly about the domestic violence she endured in her youth, but ultimately decided that the narrative could have tremendous impact on others. She felt it was an important part of her life, even though her life had not historically been defined as a domestic violence survivor.

“For many years, I felt a lot of guilt and shame associated with those stories and so felt like sharing them in my professional circles as a lawyer wouldn’t engender real respect,” Brown says. “Eventually, I realized that my truth is characterized by every aspect of my background, including the terrible, painful memories, which served a purpose and informed what I consider this fabulous end product.  I acknowledged that strength and resilience came from my path. It’s not necessary for readers to know the real life experiences versus the instances where I employed creative license or drew from other’s real life experiences.

“The point of the book,” she adds, “is to motivate people to look at their lives through the proper lens, and allow those hard knocks and terrible experiences to ultimately work towards cultivating greatness in them as opposed to defeat. Those lessons don’t always show up beautifully adorned. Sometimes you have to dig through the ugly wrapping to discover the strength within the package. Everyone goes through difficult trials in their lives. The difference between a person who rises above them and succeeds and the one who doesn’t, is perspective.”

“I am proud of the story I tell in Gifts in Brown Paper Packages, and the way I was able to put it together,” the author says. “In line with all the musical references, I truly feel there is a melody in the way it was written. What will make me the happiest is if the book is exposed to the masses and people get something out of it and feel inspired. I am so grateful for all the wonderful feedback I have received thus far, and I want to put myself in the position where I have more opportunities to speak to people who need to hear it. I want Kyrie’s story – and ultimately my own – to touch people and make an important difference in their lives.”

INSTAGRAM:  @s.p.brownwrites
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