“Search for Deeper Meaning”: An Interview With Dr. Dell’Olio

The cover of Dr. Dell’olio’s book “Coming About”, from Amazon.com

I don’t know Dr. Dell’Olio – but I do follow him on Twitter (he has what I do not, which is book publishing success – although if you want to check out my series, I’m on Amazon!). I decided to interview him, to learn his secrets. Here’s what he had to say.

First, his bio (side note – he gave me this). Dr. Mario Dell’Olio is the author of three books. New Men: Bonds of Brotherhood will be released by 5310 Publishing in December 2020. He has self-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. It also takes place within the world of the Catholic Church. His doctoral project examines the woman’s voice in the music of Hildegard von Bingen. Dr. Dell’Olio has published two articles on Medium.com.

As chair of the music department and ethics teacher at an independent school for girls in Manhattan, Dr. Mario Dell’Olio conducts the Concert and Chamber Choirs. Dr. Dell’Olio is responsible for all Liturgical celebrations for the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. He leads the Choirs on international and domestic concert tours and has released numerous albums on iTunes and Amazon.com. Dr. Dell’Olio was director of music at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, California, from 1990–2000. He led the Basilica Choir on its 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.

  1. Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What’s your background?

I have been teaching at the secondary level for over 30 years. Presently I am chair of the music department at an all-girls school in NYC and direct several choirs. I also teach a required ethics course.

I began writing later in my career. It was only after writing my doctoral dissertation that I was convinced that I could write. The most logical subject was a life-altering experience, which was the subject of my first book, Coming About: Life In the Balance

  1. What do you write about?

I am in continual search for deeper meaning in life’s experiences. Drawing from my own life and my years of teaching, I write in several genres. My memoir, Coming About tells the story of a sailing adventure my husband and I embarked on. Battling stormy weather conditions and near-death experiences, I reflect upon lessons learned and the will to survive.

My two fiction books deal with gay characters who struggle to understand themselves. In different ways, they are coming of age stories, where they learn to love and be loved. 

New Men: Bonds of Brotherhood is inspired by my years studying for the priesthood in Rome. Gathering stories from a number of classmates, I tell the tale of three men with hopes of transforming the world. They travel to Vatican City only to discover a world of faith, deception, and political intrigue. They enter a realm where faith takes a back seat to ecclesial power. Stumbling into sexual relationships, friendships explode into a romantic rollercoaster and contradict time-honored traditions of the prestigious seminary.

I am in the process of querying my fourth book, which is narrative nonfiction about my immigrant parents’ love story. From a town in southern Italy, two romantic lovers are an ocean apart. Framed by letters they wrote to each other from Italy to NYC, I tell a tale of love based on chance.

  1. What challenges have you run into while writing?

Finding time to write while maintaining a full-time teaching position makes it challenging. Most of my work is done during breaks from school and over the summers. 

Writing nonfiction is more challenging for me because I find the need for extensive research. Once all the facts are gathered, I am left with creating a narrative that is interesting and compelling. For me, writing fiction is a bit easier since I can simply create the story.

  1. What responses have you gotten from your writing?

Overall, the responses to my books have been quite positive. Many readers find it hard to believe that Coming About is a true story. Others question the choices we made along the way. With regard to my LGBTQ books, readers relate to the struggle of coming out, learning to accept oneself, and learning to love. 

  1. What advice do you have for other writers?

Write what is in your heart. If you write what you are passionate about, writer’s block may never trouble you. Another piece of advice is to write whatever is in your mind when you sit to write. Get those thoughts down on paper without looking for the perfect word or phrase. That might stop the flow. You can go back and change it later. You don’t have to write in sequence either. Again, you can revisit your work and re-organize it later. It’s more important to get the thoughts onto the page first.

  1. What else do you want to tell readers?

Don’t let rejection or a bad review deter you from doing what you love. If you want to write, write. If you want to be a better writer, read as much as you can. Then find your own voice as you begin your process. Get advice, let other writers read your work, and always find another pair of eyes to edit and proof your work. You won’t find all the errors on your own.

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