Don Tassone and Christine Sneed--One on One about DRIVE

Best-selling author Christine Sneed goes one-on-one with Don Tassone about his just-released debut novel DRIVE.  Sneed's novels include The Virginity of Famous Men (2016), Paris, He Said (2015), and Little Known Facts (2013).

1. Tell us a little about your novel: 

Drive is a story about Nick Reynolds, a highly successful food company executive who’s also a bully — feared by his employees and estranged from his wife and children.  After his latest blow-up at work, Nick’s boss orders him to take the summer off and sort himself out.  Angry and despondent, Nick sets off, alone, from his home in Chicago for Bar Harbor, Maine.  This is the story of what Nick experiences, learns and chooses along the way.  It is a portrait of a man who must rediscover who he is and decide whether he can go on.

2. Nick Reynolds is having what I'd have to say is a mid-life crisis: leaving his high-powered job, hitting the road, trying to come to terms with aspects of his life and personality that trouble him--what inspired you to create this character and tell this particular story? 

In my career, I saw hundreds of men like Nick Reynolds.  Seemingly successful men who struggled with society’s expectations of them and their own self-identity, who were burned out, who lost their way.  These men are everywhere.  Yet there are few contemporary novels devoted to such men and those who care about them.  So I wrote this book.  I hope it will speak to a lot of people and serve as a reminder that, no matter our challenges, there is always an opportunity for renewal.

3. You've published a collection of short stories and now are publishing a novel--what were some of the challenges of writing long-form fiction, as opposed to the short story?  

One challenge was simply devoting the time required.  This book took me a year and a half to write.  I’ve written short stories in a day.  Another challenge was the complexity — subplots, conflicts, flashbacks, location changes and many more characters.  Drive is much more layered than any of my short stories.

4. How many drafts did you do of Drive and did the structure and your plot points change as you progressed? 

Honestly, I lost track — somewhere around fifteen, I think.  Both the plot and the structure changed a lot.  I started working from a 25-chapter outline, which included eight flashback chapters.  I ended up with 46 chapters, which include 19 flashback chapters.  I kept going back and forth, changing the story, filling in gaps. 

5. What were some of the books or films (or songs) that inspired you to write Drive

I read a novel in college called The Human Season by Edward Lewis Wallant.  That book has stuck with me.  I especially admire Wallant’s use of flashbacks to help the reader understand his central character, who, like Nick, is a man in crisis.  I’ve used this technique in Drive to help my readers understand Nick.

6.  Did you travel to some of the places Nick visits and do "hands on" research for this novel?   

I estimate a third of the time I spent on this book was on research.  I have been to most of the places Nick visits.  For some, though — for example, a diner in Liverpool, New York — I shared draft chapters with people who are very familiar.  They set me straight.

7. What are you working on now if you don't mind telling us? 

I’ve just finished a second story collection called Small Bites.  It features thirty short stories, which are divided into three sections — appetizers, entrees and desserts.  It's for busy readers.  I’m seeking a publisher for it now.  I’ve also begun working on a second novel.

Don Tassone has a passion for the written word.  He has a degree in English.  After a long career in the corporate world, Don is returning to his creative writing roots.  Drive is his debut novel.  His debut short story collection, Get Back, was published in March 2017.  Don also teaches at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  He and his wife Liz live in Loveland, Ohio.  They have four children.