‘Idea magazine ]
Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author who writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for both adults and children. Her work has appeared in over 100 national magazines, newspapers, and journals, including “The Saturday Evening Post,” Billy Graham’s “Decision Magazine,” The Press of Atlantic City,” and “Human Events.” She has also served as head writer for a regional television series titled “Teen Machine.”
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You grew up in a large Italian family. How much did that influence you and in what way?
MaryAnn Diorio: As the eldest of eight children, I had to grow up fast. 🙂 In order to help my mother with all that is involved in rearing eight children, I learned to take care of my younger siblings at an early age. This helped me to develop leadership skills, organizational skills, and relationship skills. Not only that, when I had my own children, I did not experience the “new mother” fears of how to take care of babies because I already had lots of experience. 🙂 In fact, I practically “raised” one of my own brothers who is 15 years my junior. To this day, we are very close.
“As the eldest of eight children, I had to grow up fast.”
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also studied and earned an advanced degree in Italy and speak fluent Italian. Would you say that being Italian had a positive effect on your writing?
MaryAnn Diorio: I would say yes, but only in terms of the cultural backdrop and the setting of my novels that take place in Italy. In other words, the principles of fiction writing are the same regardless of the characters and the setting. But, in my novels set in Italy, my being Italian enabled me to present the Italian culture and mindset, as well as the setting, in a way that a non-Italian, perhaps, could not have. On the other hand, a non-Italian would be better able than I to present the cultural mentality of his own nationality and country of origin. This is the reason we novelists must research when we write about cultures other than our own.
To give an example, a good portion of my novel In Black and White takes place in Ghana. I have never been to Ghana, so I had to do extensive research on the people of Ghana and on the country itself. It helped that I have close friends who are from Ghana.
So, to recap, being Italian had a positive effect on my novels set in Italy with Italian characters, just as being French would have on a French author’s novels with French characters set in France.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your parents’ love story is a wonderful one. Could you tell us more about that?
MaryAnn Diorio: Yes. My father was the son of Sicilian immigrants. He was the first of the five children of his family born in America. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed in Italy. Since he spoke Italian, he was assigned to be an interpreter to American military officials based in Naples after the Allied invasion from Sicily. It so happened that my mother worked in the same building in Naples in which American military personnel had offices and in which my father worked. Their paths crossed in this building, and the rest is history. My mother became one of the first Italian war brides of World War II to marry an Italian-American and to come to America.
“Since childhood, I have been a voracious reader, and I love the sound of words and the way they play out on the page.”
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I can see from your curriculum that you are a prolific writer. What triggered originally your interest in writing?
MaryAnn Diorio: I had never considered becoming a writer, although I had a fleeting moment in high school when I thought of becoming a journalist. But that thought left as quickly as it came.
Since childhood, I have been a voracious reader, and I love the sound of words and the way they play out on the page. When I was a little girl, my father would often read poetry to me. I loved to listen to the lilting sound of his voice as he read. I am sure that those poetry readings gave me a deep love and appreciation for language.
But the chief reason I became a writer is that God called me to be a writer. When I was thirty years old, I began to sense a desire to write. I found this strange because I had never considered becoming a writer. But the desire increased. By this time, I had surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I knew that He had a plan for my life, but that plan was not yet clear to me. At the time, I was still teaching foreign languages.
One day I said to the Lord, “Lord, why do I have this desire to write? Is this desire from You? If so, please increase it. If not, please take it away.”
Well, the desire increased to the point that I could no longer ignore it. I finally realized that the strong desire was God’s way of telling me that He had called me to a writing ministry. God eventually confirmed this calling by allowing one of my poems to be published in The Saturday Evening Post, a feat virtually unheard of for a neophyte writer like me.
God has a call on each person’s life. The only way to discover that call is to discover God first. The only way to discover God the Father is first to discover His Son, Jesus Christ. The only way to discover Jesus Christ is through the power of the Holy Spirit Who draws us to Christ.
God is three Persons in one God. This is a mystery of the Christian faith. Just as an egg is one, single egg made up of three parts (yolk, albumen, and shell), so is God three Persons in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When I discovered Jesus Christ and accepted Him, He began to show me His plan for my life, which is to write for Him.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: So, some of your writing is aimed at bringing the values of Christianity on focus, such as in “Who Is Jesus?” and the recently published “The Iron Saint”. Could you tell us more about this last book of yours?
MaryAnn Diorio: It is no secret that we are living in a world that has gone crazy. Jesus predicted this would happen in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, among other places in the Bible, including the Book of Revelation in the New Testament and the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. In fact, the Bible calls these times we are living in “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3: 1).
“The Iron Saint is modeled after the Iron Man Triathlon.”
As things grow darker in the world, Christians will be persecuted here in America. Of course, Christians have been persecuted in other parts of the world for decades–even centuries. But persecution has not hit our own land. Well, it soon will–and has already begun–as Christians are being increasingly ostracized, maligned, and censored.
Regarding The Iron Saint, on November 3, 2020, I was having my daily time with the Lord early in the morning. In addition to the Bible, I often read from a devotional book called My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. In the entry for that day, Oswald mentions the phrase “iron saint” in reference to a Christ-Follower who remains strong through suffering and persecution.
In that instant, the Lord spoke to me (and, yes, the Lord speaks to His followers, not usually in an audible voice but through their thoughts that arise from their spirits where the Holy Spirit dwells). He said to me, “I want you to write a book called The Iron Saint to prepare the Church in America for the coming persecution. I want you to release the book in January 2021.”
Shortly thereafter, in a Sunday morning service in my church, a prophetic message came forth. The message was, “Prepare for the fire of persecution.” God was confirming the message He had given me.
So, I put aside all of my other writing projects and wrote The Iron Saint. The book was released in January 2021.
The Iron Saint is modeled after the Iron Man Triathlon. The Iron Saint is divided into three main sections that parallel a participant’s preparation for the Iron Man Triathlon: Building, Fueling, and Transitioning. It is a manual for Christians in America to help them prepare for persecution in the days ahead. While it deals with a very sobering topic, it is full of hope in God’s grace to help us overcome and endure till the end.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You had a popular syndicated column, “Winning with the Word,” which appeared in newspapers throughout the state of New Jersey, and it’s now a blog. What is “Winning with the Word” about?
MaryAnn Diorio: Winning with the Word is a combination weekly blog post and podcast that offers Biblical principles for living the fulfilling, abundant life Jesus promises us through obedience to His Word. God has given us His Word, also called the Bible, as a manual for life. Just as we get a manual with a car or a washing machine, so do we get a manual when we are born into this world. But, as with most manuals, few people read God’s manual for life. If we did, we would avoid most, if not all, bad decisions in life. In my 50-plus years of following Jesus, I have learned that only two things are needful: 1) Hear the Word of God and 2) Obey the Word of God. If we consistently do these two things, we will make wise decisions in life.
The Word of God has been my sustenance since I first came to Christ. It has never failed me nor has it ever been proven wrong in my life.
God’s Word is true and everlasting because it was written by the Holy Spirit Who used human beings to pen His words. The Bible is absolute truth, something our culture no longer believes in. It is the standard of measurement by which everything else is evaluated and judged. In Winning with the Word, I present this absolute truth and show how it applies to our daily lives in a very practical way.
Here is a link to a recent Winning with the Word blogpost/podcast titled “Truth and Love: Inseparable Twins”:
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Among the hundreds of articles you wrote, one of them won the Third Place Award in the prestigious Amy Awards Contest. What was the topic?
MaryAnn Diorio: The title of this winning article was “From Feminism to Freedom.” The article was published in Human Events, originally a print newspaper but now published only online in digital format.
“From Feminism to Freedom” is an essay describing my journey from a societal and cultural view of women (although I never condoned abortion at any stage of pregnancy) to a Biblical view of the woman.
The world’s concept of woman is far different from God’s concept of woman. Throughout the centuries, women in virtually all cultures have been viewed as inferior to men and incapable of great achievements. Yet, to the surprise of many, the Bible teaches the opposite.
“Common sense–and our own observation and experience–tell us that men and women are different not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically.”
Feminism is the world’s attempt to give to women the same privileges as those belonging to men. At the root of this desire is the truth that women are equal to men in value.
But there is a logical fallacy that the feminists don’t take into account, and that is that while women are equal in value to men, they are not equal in function. The problem with feminism arises when men and women are viewed as being exactly the same in function as well as in value.
The Bible says that men and women are equal in value but different in function. God intentionally created man and woman to be different in function. If both men and women were exactly the same in function, one of them would not be necessary.
Common sense–and our own observation and experience–tell us that men and women are different not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically. These differences are good because God created man and woman to complement each other. Neither is complete without the other, although each can be whole apart from the other. Together, man and woman make a perfectly functioning whole for the building of a solid society and a solid family.
Only women can biologically produce babies. Men cannot. This does not mean that women are superior or inferior to men. It simply means that women have a different God-given function.
“Interestingly, God created woman last of all that He created. The woman, therefore, can be called the pinnacle of God’s creation.”
Just as a fork is not a knife and performs a function different from a knife, so are women different from men. The fork is not inferior or superior to the knife, just different and made for a different purpose. Both are important and necessary to eat a meal properly.
Jesus Christ honored and venerated women and elevated them to their rightful place in His creation. I find it interesting that the first person to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection was a woman. He also gave to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) the great privilege of being the first person to tell her whole town about Him.
That said, prior to my encounter with Jesus, I held the world’s view of women (albeit, as I mentioned above, I was and always have been strongly opposed to abortion at any stage of pregnancy). I lived in constant competition with men because I espoused the lie that I had to be equal to men in function in order to have value. But when I came to Christ, I learned that I am equal to men in value but that I am different in function. Only as I embrace who God made me to be, can I be truly fulfilled and happy.
So I did. I rejoiced in my womanhood. I also rejoiced in the manhood of men. I recognized that both man and woman were created by God for a special purpose and that both are necessary to His plan.
Interestingly, God created woman last of all that He created. The woman, therefore, can be called the pinnacle of God’s creation. If we assume that God created “from the bottom up,” as it were, then can we assume that woman is God’s masterpiece? I say this tongue-in-cheek.
The truth is that woman was taken from man’s side, clearly demonstrating that she is man’s equal. As Bible commentator Matthew Henry famously wrote: “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Some of the books you wrote for children are for early and reluctant readers. Could you tell us more about them?
MaryAnn Diorio: I wrote the Penelope Pumpernickel books to help counter the lies about human nature and human life that are now being perpetrated through many children’s books. These lies are harming our children. Some of these lies are, in my opinion, tantamount to child abuse.
For example, little children are being taught that they can and should choose their own genders. This is blatantly contrary to what God says in the Bible in Genesis 1: 27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” They are being taught that it’s all right to have two daddies or two mommies, yet another blatant violation of God’s Word.
In addition to my desire to present Biblical truth to young children, I wrote the Penelope Pumpernickel series to help early and reluctant readers enjoy reading. So much of a child’s attitude toward reading develops in the early stages of learning to read. If a child does not find the experience of learning to read enjoyable, that child will tend to shy away from reading for the rest of his life.
So, to make the learning-to-read experience an entertaining one, I created stories that reflect normal situations in a child’s life, and I present those situations in a funny and adventurous way.
I also aim in this series to show children that doing right is always the right thing to do. In a world that has abandoned virtue and values, I aim in this series to offer children the Biblical truth that doing things God’s way is always best for them in the long run.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also published Non-Fiction Books for Junior High School Students…
MaryAnn Diorio: Several years ago, I contracted with Enslow Publishers to write three books for their Understanding Literature series. So, I wrote A Student’s Guide to Nathanial Hawthorne, A Student’s Guide to Herman Melville, and A Student’s Guide to Mark Twain. In writing each of these books, I drew on my broad experience in the field of Comparative Literature and in teaching high school English.
The Guides serve as a wonderful introduction to these famous American authors included in the high school curriculum of both public and private schools. Students also find these books useful in preparing book reports and term papers.
A few years ago, the rights to all three books reverted to me, so I reissued them. They are now available on Amazon and on my website at maryanndiorio.com/book-table. Homeschoolers find them especially useful.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your novels have received a lot of praise from the critics and a great response from the readers. Let’s talk about “Miracle in Milan” since I am from Milan and everything about that city interests me… (Laugh out loud)
MaryAnn Diorio: How special that you are from Milan! Auguri! 🙂 It’s such an amazing city! Miracle in Milan, of course, is set in your native city. It is the story of a young, female auditor who discovers convincing evidence that the man she loves is an embezzler. I chose Milan as the setting for this story because Milan, as the financial and business center of Italy, lends itself perfectly to a plot involving both financial suspense and romance. Moreover, the beauty of the city and its surrounding areas proved to be the perfect place to weave my plot. One of my aunts lived in Milan for several years. I still have a cousin by marriage who lives there with his family. On a visit to Italy some years ago, my first stop was Milano! 🙂
“…there is only one race: the human race…”
LTiziano Thomas Dossena: A preceding novel of yours, “In Black and White,” won First Place for Historical Fiction in the 2020 Christian Indie Book Awards Contest. What is the topic of this novel?
MaryAnn Diorio: This novel deals with the topic of prejudice and its deleterious effects on the human soul. Set in the 1950s, it is the love story between a white woman and a black man amid the insidious and horrendous societal and familial obstacles they must face and overcome in order to preserve their love. Set in the 1950s, both in the United States and in Ghana, the story reflects the futility of racism and presents the Biblical truth that there is only one race: the human race.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are also the author of a popular trilogy, “The Italian Chronicles”. The first of these three books won six awards, a remarkable feat. What inspired you to write these three books and what are they about?
MaryAnn Diorio: The Italian Chronicles Trilogy was sparked by an incident in the life of my paternal great-great-grandmother. During my growing-up years, I heard snippets of this incident here and there from older family members, but I was never able to glean the whole story. Whether my elders considered me too young to know, or whether they simply didn’t want me to know, I frankly do not know.
In any case, the incident would not leave me. I took it upon myself to investigate it. Through a miraculous series of events, God led me to a professional genealogist in Sicily who, amazingly, had close ties with my family.
He did all of the genealogical research for me, sent me copies of original documents, and filled in the gaps to my understanding of what happened.
What happened was that my great-great-grandmother, a peasant in a small Sicilian village, had been raped, resulting in the birth of my great-great-grandfather. It was not clear whether the perpetrator of the crime was a priest or a wealthy landowner. But, regardless, my great-great-grandmother had suffered at the hands of a lustful, greedy man.
After reviewing the research of my genealogist friend, I knew I had to write The Italian Chronicles Trilogy to exonerate my great-great-grandmother’s good name. Those who read the first book of the trilogy, The Madonna of Pisano, will understand how I did this.
“I love writing fiction most of all.”
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In your writer’s curriculum you also have various novellas and short stories, for which you won several awards. Could you tell us something about your novella “A Christmas Homecoming,” please?
MaryAnn Diorio: A Christmas Homecoming is a modern-day prodigal son story, only this story features a prodigal daughter. It is the story of an estranged relationship between a mother and her daughter. When a woman’s teenage daughter suddenly disappears, the woman faces losing her faith, her family, and her mind. While this story occurs against the backdrop of Christmas, it is a story for all seasons.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Of all the awards you have won through the years, which one is the most meaningful for you and why?
MaryAnn Diorio: I would say that the first award I received for a novel is the most meaningful for me. The reason is that, of all the kinds of writing I have done, I love writing fiction most of all. Writing fiction has also been the most challenging type of writing for me. So, to win an award for fiction is an affirmation of sorts that all of my hard work to learn the craft of writing fiction has not been in vain.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Besides being a writer, you are also a Certified Life Coach and the director of Celebration Life Coaching. When did you embrace this activity and why?
MaryAnn Diorio: I have always loved to encourage people. Throughout my life, people have come to me for advice and would tell me how they left uplifted and empowered.
When the coaching phenomenon began to move from the business world to the mainstream world in the late nineties and the early part of the 21st century, it caught my interest. As I explored coaching further and prayed about it, I sensed that God wanted me to use the gift of encouragement He had given me to bless others on a larger scale. So, I enrolled in a life coach training program and became a Certified Life Coach. Thereafter, I opened a coaching practice that I still operate. My life coaching is done entirely from a Biblical perspective. My goal is to work with each client to help him find and fulfill the purpose for which God created him. Your readers can find more information about life coaching as well as some client testimonials here.
L’ITiziano Thomas Dossena: A former university professor of both fiction writing and Romance languages, you are also the founder and director of The MaryAnn Diorio School of Writing where you offer courses on writing fiction. Do you feel that preparing an online course is as fulfilling as teaching a live one? How different are the two concepts, in preparing the materials of the course itself?
MaryAnn Diorio: I much prefer teaching in person, as I love the interaction an in-person setting affords. But, in the world in which we live, I am thankful for online instruction. In fact, while I taught at university, I had the opportunity to teach online courses as well as in-person courses. The two concepts are different in the following ways:
1. In-person (in-classroom) courses provide a type of live interaction that online courses do not. Most online courses are conducted at the student’s availability. Barring scheduled classes held on Zoom, for example, students in online courses do not experience the direct, live intellectual exchange with fellow students. Instead, that intellectual exchange is mostly reserved for commenting on posts. As a result, the stimulating back-and-forth repartee of in-person intellectual discussion is missing.
2. Relationships in online courses tend to be more shallow than relationships in in-person courses. In in-person courses, we deal with live people who are actually present with us in the same location and at the same time. In online courses, students rarely see their professor or hear his or her actual voice or the voices of fellow students. While some may prefer this, I, as a “people-person”, find this much less satisfying than being with students in an in-person setting.
3. Regarding the preparation of course materials, in an in-person setting, I do not have to present all of the materials at once, whereas in an online course, most, if not all, of the material must be uploaded at the beginning of the course. The reason for this is that students usually proceed at their own pace, so all of the material must be readily available to the student.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Is there a new book to be published soon? Are you working on any new novels or other projects at the moment?
MaryAnn Diorio: Yes, I am currently working on a novella, a middle-grade novel, and a chapter book. The novella is titled The Captain and Mrs. Vye and is a romance set in the late-19th-century in Cape May, New Jersey. Here is a summary: When young widow and innkeeper, Loretta Vye, inherits an oceanfront inn upon her husband’s untimely death, she receives more than she bargained for when whaling boat captain, Paul Richards, becomes her first guest and disrupts her heretofore peaceful life.
My middle-grade novel is titled Dixie Randolph and the Secret of Seabury Beach. It is the first of six books I have planned, Lord willing, in the Dixie Randolph series of novels for 8-12-year-old children. While these novels are action-packed adventure stories, they promote Godly values in the lives of the children who read them.
I am also working on Book 3 of The Penelope Pumpernickel Series of Chapter Books for Six-to-Ten-Year-Olds. Book 3 is titled Penelope Pumpernickel: Mystery Maven and picks up where Book 2 left off. In Book 3, Penelope finds herself immersed in another homeschool adventure featuring trouble-maker Grandy Ungerleider and Penelope’s faithful sidekick, Tilly Mendoza.
One of my future writing goals, if the Lord wills, is to write a series of novels on Italian war brides. The series will be titled Ladies of Grace. The first book in the series will be based on my mother’s experience as one of the first Italian war brides of World War II. The other two will likely be based on the lives of two of my mother’s friends who were also Italian war brides and whom my mother met on the ship that brought them to this country. I am especially excited to write this series.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you could define yourself with three adjectives, what would they be?
MaryAnn Diorio: Trustworthy, loyal, resolute.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What other interests do you have, besides writing and teaching?
MaryAnn Diorio: I love to paint in oils and acrylics. I also love to play the piano and the mandolin. I am self-taught in the latter. It is a beautiful instrument with a lyrical sound. My maternal grandfather played the mandolin, and for a long time, I had a desire to learn. So, I finally bought myself a mandolin and have been teaching myself how to play. Other favorite pastimes include spending time with my husband, my children, and my grandchildren, with whom I enjoy making up silly songs. 🙂
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Any secret dreams you’d like to share with our readers??
MaryAnn Diorio: I have a huge dream–and it is no secret–and that is to see every human being come to Jesus Christ. But since I know that the fulfillment of such a dream depends on a person’s free will, I am not so foolish as to think that everyone in the world will accept Christ. But I do know that I can share the good news of salvation with those people in my circle of influence.
And so, I do my best to tell those whom the Lord brings across my path–whether in person, online or through my books–that God loves them and longs to have a personal relationship with them. He wants to forgive their sins and bring them to Heaven to live with Him forever when they die. The only thing they need to do is to repent of their sins and to receive Jesus Christ as the only Person Who can save them. All they need do is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died to pay the price for their sin, that He rose again from the dead, and that He is coming back again.
There is nothing more important in life than to embrace the God Who saved us and made us for Himself. Unless we accept Christ–which is what “being born again” means–we will spend eternity separated from God in a real place called hell, where there is nothing but unending torment. Whether we go to Heaven or Hell is our choice.
We can choose to reject Jesus Christ and spend eternity in hell, in utter torment resulting from separation from God, or we can choose to accept Jesus Christ and spend eternity in heaven, in utter joy resulting from union with God. The choice is ours, and it can be made only while we are still alive on this earth. Once we die, it will be too late to make that choice. I urge all those who read this to make the choice now to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you had the opportunity to meet a character from the past or the present, any person you want, who would that be, and what would you ask?
MaryAnn Diorio: I would want to meet the Apostle John whose writings comprise my favorite part of the New Testament. His heart of love for Jesus, his insight into truth, and his lyrical, poetic style of writing have inspired me and continue to inspire me as I deepen my relationship with the Lord through reading John’s Gospel, Epistles, and the Book of Revelation.
Tiziano Thomas Dossena: A message for our readers?
MaryAnn Diorio: Repent and be born again before it is too late. Jesus Christ is returning soon in a cataclysmic event that the Bible calls the Rapture to remove from the earth all those who follow Him. Those who do not follow Him will be left behind to suffer the most horrific time of human history that the Bible calls the Tribulation. This is predicted in Daniel 9: Daniel 12; Jeremiah 30; Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 4-21.
During that seven-year period of time, the world will be under the dictatorship and tyranny of the AntiChrist. If we think things are bad now, we have seen nothing compared to what the Tribulation will be like. At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will come back to earth with all of His followers to set up a 1000-year reign under His Lordship called the Millennium. All of this is predicted in the Bible. The problem is that most people don’t read the Bible and, consequently, have no clue about what is really going on.
God created each human being ON purpose and FOR a purpose. When we embrace Jesus Christ, we discover our true identity, our purpose, and our destiny.
So, I would urge all of your readers to repent of their sin and come to Christ. Receive Him as Savior and Lord. Then you will be saved and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Nothing else matters more.
Thank you very much, Mr. Dossena, for this wonderful opportunity to interact with your precious readers. May God bless each and every one of them! 🙂