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Q and A with Don Tassone about his new story collection, SAMPLER

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Note: I asked Don to create this Q and A (i.e. a self-interview which literary sites such as The Nervous Breakdown have featured from time to time).

1. Tell us a little about your new book.

Sampler is a collection of 50 wide-ranging short stories. Some are serious, others light. Most are gentle, but a few are disquieting. There is fantasy, spirituality and politics here. Many of these stories are slices of life. Most are short. All are an invitation to think more deeply.

2. For whom did you write this book?

Busy people. We’re all so busy these days, so many of the stories in this collection are short. But I wasn’t just going for brevity. If I had, I could have simply strung together a series of 50 or 500 text messages. And you know, somebody probably would have bought that book! But if I’d done that, I would have deepened no one. I would have moved nobody. So I decided to write a book of metaphors, stories which are short but also serve to illuminate larger points. I hope people find these stories interesting. I hope they invite people to pause for a moment and think more deeply.

3. I’ve noticed this story collection has no theme. Why?

I realize that’s unusual! These stories are eclectic. But stories come from our experiences, and our experiences are diverse. So why limit a collection of stories to just one theme?

4. As both a short story writer and novelist, would you say you prefer one form over the other? Why?

I’ve always been drawn to crisp writing. So “writing short” feels natural to me. That said, I love the challenge of long-form writing too. Besides, novels can be crisp. For me, writing both short-form and long-form, and going back and forth between the two, like a train switching tracks, feels right. It gives me a sense of balance. So that’s my path.

5. What’s your favorite story in this collection and why?

“Flashpoint.” This is my first published story. It’s the only non-fiction piece in this collection. It’s based on an extraordinary experience I shared with my best friend in Alaska some years ago. It was a defining moment in my life. It’s the last story in the book, and there’s a photograph from that trip. I hope readers enjoy it.

6. This is your fourth book published in two years. You’ve really made the pivot from the corporate world to writing. How has that been?

Exciting — and challenging. Writing had always been a passion, but I’m afraid 31 years of business writing had just about killed my creativity. So when I retired from P&G, I had to learn to write again. But I believe we should always pursue our interests and passions. In hindsight, I realize I should have invested the time to write creatively over the years, but I got busy. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to write creatively now. Writing is an important and joyful part of an active retirement.

7. What are you working on now?

I’ve just begun work on my second novel. I love writing short stories, but I’m eager to get back into a long-form writing project. It’s that sense of balance, I suppose.

Don Tassone is the author of a novel, Drive, and three short story collections: Sampler, Small Bites and Get Back. His fourth story collection, New Twists, will be published in October 2020. He lives in Loveland, Ohio and teaches at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

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