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Mario Dell'Olio Interview

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

When and how did you start writing?

I came to writing later in my career. For many years, I told the harrowing story of surviving a sailing accident, complete with a rescue at sea. At a certain point, I realized that I had to write that story. The entire process of writing Coming About made me fall in love with writing.

Tell me about your books

Coming About is my first book. My husband and I quit our jobs, bought a boat and set sail for St. Thomas, VI. The fantasy of living in paradise, sailing the Caribbean turned into a harrowing sailing adventure.

Body & Soul and Forbidden Rome are LGBTQ books in which the characters discover their first loves and struggle with coming out, society, and church.

Letters from Italy is my parents’ love story framed by letters they wrote to each other back in the early 1950s. It is an epic tale of war-torn Italy, New York City during its golden years, and immigrants seeking to live the American dream. Theirs was an enduring story of love.

My latest novel, Tilting Toward the Sun, tells the story of a couple that survives the AIDS crisis. It’s a heart-warming romance that will transport the reader on a solemn voyage through the darkness, eternal brightness, and the unwavering hope of everlasting love.

What inspires your writing?

Each of my stories feature characters searching for deeper meaning in their life experiences. My life’s journey has been imbued with the lessons I’ve learned through the challenges I’ve overcome. Each significant person in my life has taught me more about myself and my ability to love and be loved. This theme is present in all my books, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. Reflecting on one’s life and experiences yields a profound understanding of self and can help guide the individual as they continue their journey. Ultimately, each of my main characters follow a path of self-discovery. This inspires each of my stories.

What do you consider your greatest writing accomplishment?

I suppose Letters from Italy is my greatest work thus far. It has received international attention. I travelled to Rome to receive the Premio Vincenzo Crocitti award for literature and music. It will be published in Italian sometime next year.

The time I spent with my mother as she read each love letter to me was profound. She told tales long forgotten and I wove those memories into a love story that spanned decades. Two issues I found particularly challenging were, 1. Placing the letters into the narrative and 2. Making the historical sections of the book personal, making them come alive with the characters lived experience. Letters from Italy took much more research than my other books. Ultimately, it is a love letter to my parents that is based on the love letters they sent to each other.

What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?

I love when a reader says they couldn’t put down my books. One of the greatest compliments is that the reader could picture each detail or event I describe. In my first book, Coming About, someone wrote that they felt like they were with me every step of the way. They were gasping for air with me as I described being stuck under the boat.

I want my readers to be inspired and moved my my stories. These are my two favorite review quotes:

“The writing squeezes your heart and resonates in your soul.”

“I wept more than once, at broken glass, at broken spirits, at breaking hearts. I could barely read the final chapter, my eyes were so clouded with tears, even as my own heart swelled with understanding, revelation and actual reverence for Mario’s inspirational words. It's rare that I find a new perspective on, or validation of, my own spirituality and values, and I certainly was not expecting it from a memoir or adventure tale. Yet there it was.”

What do you want your readers to feel when they have closed the last page of your book?

I want my readers to feel that they’ve gotten to know and understand my characters, that with them they journeyed through the arc of the story. I hope that they are inspired by whatever revelation my characters experience. I hope readers are moved with compassion and brim with joy with each character.

What advice would you give other writers?

Write whatever is in your mind at the time. Don’t try to start at the beginning or continue where you left off. Just write the scene that comes to mind at the moment. You can re-order, edit, or discard sections later on. For me, this process prevented writer’s block. It kept the flow of thoughts get to the page.

What would you do if you didn’t write?

I am a teacher and musician. I guess I am creating at all times. Writing is another expression of my creative process. Much of what I do in the classroom is reflected in my writing. I seek to inspire people, allow them to find their own voice, and fulfil their potential. Many of my characters do that in my books.

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

I would love it if someone based a movie or series on one of my books. I’d love to see my characters come alive on the big screen.

What are your current projects? What should we be looking out for?

My love for Italian history was piqued when I wrote Letters from Italy. It has inspired my next novel. It will be historical fiction based in Italy. It will take place in the 19th century during the unification of Italy. My characters will be flawed and loveable. They will grapple with the politics of the day as well as love and fidelity.


Dr. Mario Dell’Olio, 2022 winner of the Premio Vincenzo Crocitti International award, is the author of several books. Tilting Toward the Sun was released in December 2022, and Letters from Italy: A Transatlantic Love Story, both published by Black Rose Writing. New Men: Bonds of Brotherhood, published by 5310 Publishing. He published two others, both of which are finalists for the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. The first is a memoir, Coming About: Life in the Balance, about a sailing adventure going terribly wrong. The second book, Body and Soul, is LGBTQ fiction that explores the strife of coming out during the 1980s. Body and Soul is also a finalist. His doctoral project examines the woman’s voice in the music of Hildegard von Bingen. Dr. Dell’Olio has published two articles on He is the music director at an independent school in Sonoma County, California.

Previously, he was chair of the music department and ethics teacher at a school for girls in Manhattan. Dr. Mario Dell’Olio conducted the concert and chamber choirs. He has led his choirs on international and domestic concert tours and released numerous albums on iTunes and Dr. Dell’Olio was director of music at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, California, from 1990 to 2000. He led the Basilica Choir's first international concert tour to Italy in June 1999. Dr. Dell’Olio holds a Doctor of Sacred Music, a Master of Music in Vocal Performance, and a Master of Religious Education. He pursued postgraduate work in Theology as a seminarian at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

With over 35,000 followers on Twitter and a solid social media presence, he actively participates in the Writing Community. Dr. Dell’Olio has scheduled numerous author events, readings, and book signings. In November 2020, The Empire City Men’s Chorus of New York City performed a concert/documentary based on Dell'Olio's book, Coming About.

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