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Interview with MaryAnn Diorio

MaryAnn writes ‘Heart-mending books for the young and the young at heart’. In addition to her writing, MaryAnn is highly educated in the fields of language, writing, the behavioral sciences, and Biblical studies. She has held many high-level teaching positions and is a certified life coach. She has won several awards for her writing, taught at writers’ conferences, and appeared on a number of radio, television, and internet talk shows.

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Hi MaryAnn. We’re excited to have you with us today! Your educational background and work experiences are impressive and too numerous to mention here! I’ll leave it to you to share with us what your favorite position was and why.
Hi, Patti! I’m so glad to be here with all of you. Thank you for inviting me. Of the different professions I’ve engaged in, by far I love writing fiction the best. The foremost desire of my heart is to point people to Jesus. While I was able to do that to some degree as a university foreign language professor and a personal life coach, I find that, for me, writing fiction is a much more powerful means of touching hearts for Christ. Jesus told stories, and stories not only touch the heart, they also transform the heart.

You had so many other pursuits up to the age of thirty when you began writing. How did you know God had called you to a writing career?
The Lord confirmed His call on my life to write for Him in a rather funny, but amazing, way. When I turned 30, I started feeling a desire to write. I found this unusual as I had never considered becoming a writer. So, I began to pray in earnest. I said to the Lord, “If this desire is from You, please increase it. If it is not, please take it away.” I also asked the Lord to confirm His will in a way that I would clearly understand.

Shortly thereafter, I was offered an opportunity to attend the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference. Because I had very young children at home, I was able to attend only one morning workshop. I chose a workshop on writing light verse. Although I liked reading light verse, I did not consider myself a funny person. (My husband is the comedian in the family, although I tease him that I make a good audience.) Anyway, I took the workshop, hoping to learn something. It was excellent, but I left thinking that light verse was not my type of writing.

A week later, I was washing dishes when my two little girls got into a big argument in the playroom. I had just read a book on allowing children to work out their own problems, but when the decibel level kept rising, I trashed the book, grabbed my little Italian wooden spoon, and went in to administer discipline. After asking a few questions, I determined that both of my girls needed a little swat on the tush, so I picked up the younger one first and put her over my knee. As I lifted the spoon to spank her, my older daughter shouted, “Please, don’t spank her, Mom!” The one who, five minutes earlier, had been bent on killing her little sister, was now defending her with all of her might.

With my wooden spoon still in mid-air, I burst out laughing. I thought to myself, "This incident would make a really funny poem." So, I wrote a funny poem about it.

Clueless neophyte that I was, I submitted my poem to The Saturday Evening Post, a popular slick of the time which published light verse. I had no clue that it was virtually impossible for a newbie to get published in that magazine. When I got the acceptance letter, I knew instantly it was God’s confirmation of my call to write for Him.

How has your extensive knowledge of foreign languages enriched your writing?
In many ways. First of all, my PhD was in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature. I read many of the great classics of literature in the native languages in which they were written: French, Italian, and Spanish, as well as in English. As a result, my understanding and appreciation for world literature grew immensely. Even now, as I write my own fiction, I find myself drawing on those classics to season my stories with literary allusions that, I trust, add to the reader’s experience.

What obstacles did you encounter during your publication journey?
You name it, I encountered it. Technical obstacles, health challenges, family situations, the death of loved ones, financial issues, submission rejections, confidence issues, discouragement, time management issues. I could go on and on. The enemy is always at work to thwart God’s writers because we proclaim truth, and Satan hates truth. So, we need not be surprised when we encounter trials, but we need to rejoice in the midst of them, as the Word commands. Rejoicing blesses the Lord’s heart because it shows Him that we trust in Him no matter what happens.

You write both fiction and non-fiction. Which is your favorite and why?
Definitely fiction. I have a very vivid imagination (as my family will tell you), and I am happiest when I am creating a story. I like to say that non-fiction appeals to the intellect, whereas fiction appeals to the heart, and the heart is where transformation occurs. I am all about transformation through the power of Christ. I can never thank Him enough for the transformation He has begun in me and promises to bring to completion.

When writing fiction, are you a plotter or a pantser?
I started out as a plotter but, along the way, I discovered that I am somewhere in between. I like to know the beginning and the ending of my story before I start writing, and I have a general concept of the overall direction of the story and the emotional and spiritual character arc of my protagonist. But I love to allow myself the freedom of discovery along the way. While I control where my characters will end up, I like to hold them with a loose grip, so to speak, and to observe them as they reveal to me the hidden twists and turns of their journey.

What motivated you to write your latest novel, Miracle in Milan?
The seed for Miracle in Milan was planted in my heart by the Holy Spirit about 20 years ago, and it slowly germinated and grew. My mother was an Italian immigrant, so my love for Italy goes back a long way. After college, I lived in Italy for a year and fell in love with the people and the country. My trilogy, The Italian Chronicles, is set in Italy. With Miracle in Milan, I wanted to return to an Italian setting, but this time with an element of suspense. Milan is the center of Italian finance and business, a vibrant city offering lots of possibilities for intrigue.

How is your faith reflected in this story?
Interestingly, although I didn’t deliberately plan this ahead of time, the theme of Miracle in Milan is forgiveness. In fact, all of my novels in some way deal with the topic of forgiveness. I think the theme of forgiveness emerges organically in my stories because I have personally needed much forgiveness in my own life from those whom I have hurt, and I have chosen to forgive all those who have hurt me. Forgiveness has set me free. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. One cannot be a Christ-Follower without forgiveness. God has forgiven us, and we must forgive others. Our Lord said that if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us. This is a pretty sobering thought.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you as an author?
A reader wrote to me saying she was no longer a “wanderer” but had drawn closer to Christ because of my stories.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I love to paint in oils and acrylics, play the piano and mandolin, and make up silly songs with my grandchildren. I also love to read and to spend time with my husband.


Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview-style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work for her church or attending her only granddaughter’s sports activities. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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