I am happy to have short story author, Dan Salerno, on my blog today.
Hello Dan, it’s great to have you here. What genre do you write in? Tell us about your books.
My book, 20 Short Ones, is a collection of short stories that fits into the Christian Fiction – Romance genre. Having said that, I should mention that not all of the stories involve romance. But they are fun and faith-filled ways of looking at the mystery behind human friendships – what attracts people to each other, and what happens when you take a chance and become spontaneous.
What’s the best part of being a writer?
One of the best parts about being a writer is hearing how your work has impacted another person. It’s also fun to get another person’s take on what I’ve written.
Sometimes, I’ll read a review and be amazed at what a reader feels the main idea of a story might be, because it wasn’t what I had in mind at all. I love the fact that as soon as you publicly release something you’ve written, there’s a freedom of interpretation that comes simply by being part of the diversity of the human race.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
The main take away I’d like for readers to have is hope. That’s it. Life can be so complicated. Relationships reflect life. It seems to me that it’s becoming more and more difficult to develop and sustain deep relationships. So much of everyday life makes it difficult to form solid friendships. But we need them. And we can choose to spend the time necessary towards developing them. It’s really our choice, so there’s hope.
Is there one passage that you feel gets to the heart of your book? If so, can you share it?
One of the stories in 20 Short Ones, called Eyre Square, takes place in the city of Galway (Ireland). The core of the story develops around an outreach in Eyre Square (a park in the center of town) and the conversation between Christian outreach workers and a student who comes into their outreach bus. The student is distressed and begins to talk about true love. That conversation was taken, almost verbatim, from one I had with a young man in the early morning hours of the day. He was extremely intelligent but had given up hope that he’d ever find someone to love him.
Our team had driven a big bus from Darkley (in County Armagh) to Galway (about 200 miles) at the request of a local church that wanted us to provide an alternative (tea and biscuits) to university students who had just finished their final exams and were headed across Eyre Square to the pubs. We got to the Square around 8 p.m. and stayed there past 3 in the morning. It was an interesting night!
Where do you get your ideas for your writing?
Life itself. Some of the stories in 20 Short Ones take place in New York City. I lived there for eight years when I was in my mid-20s and early 30s. While I was living in Manhattan I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Research, worked for the National Coalition for the Homeless, worked and lived in community at a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality on the Lower East Side. I moved back to New York for another year and a half shortly after 9/11, working with an organization doing outreach to kids. The team I was part of worked in Harlem.
Some of the stories take place in Northern Ireland. I’ve gone on five mission trips there and lived there for five months. Some of the stories take place in Michigan (in the US), which is where I live.
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors?
I mainly read works of fiction, but not exclusively. Rene Gutteridge (Troubled Waters) is one of my favorite authors along with Mayeve Binchley, Jane Austin, Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts), C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity), Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Tyler, Adrianna Trigiani and Kathleen Norris (The Cloister Walk). I especially enjoyed Mark Helprin’s Ellis Island and other Stories, it set the mark for short story writing quite high!
Do you have any advice for someone starting out as a writer?
I used to teach English Composition and the first thing I’d tell my students is that, somewhere along the line, you need to decide if your writing is for yourself only, or for others. If you write for others, you’ll have to get over the initial fear of rejection. Because it’s inevitable that not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. But, from experience, I can tell you that if your writing is solid and truthful, it will touch people’s hearts and resonate with them.
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
Right now I’m part of the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. He’s a very humble guy who has written hundreds of books, many of them bestsellers. One of Jerry’s main points is to learn how to be your own most-critical editor. Be fiercely attentive to what you write after your first draft.
If you could have dinner with a character from a book, who would you choose and why?
If I could substitute having dinner with a writer, the answer would come easily! I’d love to sit down and chat with Anne Tyler and ask her about her writing process. She’s written so many books, for decades, and they have been consistently good. Ann Voskamp, because she’s written one book (One Thousand Gifts), based on a simple spiritual principle, that has impacted millions of people. And she writes with such grace and compassion. Amy Jill-Levine because of her own life experience of being Jewish and being on the faculty of a fairly conservative Christian college. Plus she’s absolutely brilliant.
Rene Gutteridge is another hero of mine. She is a Mom with two kids and a husband and she has a busy home life. Yet she’s written over 30 books, including novelizations (like Old Fashioned). Her career is really taking off, with one of her own books being turned into a film (Skid) and another into a made-for-tv movie on the Hallmark Channel. Rene is extremely funny and gifted and she freely shares her expertise with others through the Write Well, Sell Well program she’s part of.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My faith is an important part of who I am, so it’s reflected in what I write. And thank you Coreena for this interview! It’s been fun!
Thanks Dan, it’s been great to meet you.
Places you can connect with Dan Salerno and find his book:
Summary of 20 Short Ones:
Human relationships can be intriguing, heartbreaking, funny, frustrating, and soulful (among other things). Sometimes all at the same time.
20 Short Ones takes you from Northern Ireland to New York and places in between. Each story offers a snapshot experience and an opportunity to emotionally relate to the age-old mystery of how friendships (romantic or otherwise) happen, told from a faith perspective.
This book is written from a faith-based (Judeo-Christian) point of view so if you’re a fan of Christian Fiction, 20 Short Ones is for you!
Dan Salerno has traveled to Northern Ireland five times and to Japan (once) on mission trips. This was before he lived in New York City for eight years, earning a master’s degree in social research while working for the National Coalition for the Homeless. After that he worked and lived at the Catholic Worker’s Joseph House near the Bowery, before moving back to the Midwest.
He eventually returned to New York and worked for a children’s ministry in Brooklyn, NY for 16 months soon after 9/11.
20 Short Ones, published by Westbow Press (a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing)is his first book. It’s an engaging collection of short stores each focusing on how relationships (romantic and otherwise) begin, told from a faith-filled (Judeo-Christian) perspective.