Last month, I saw a copy of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo. I got excited because I know her from Twitter and purchased the book, which I started reading that evening. Though I fantasy is my most read genre, I also love a good historical fiction. Alyssa's book swept me away. I really enjoyed the story of Simonetta Cattaneo as Sandro Botticelli's muse. After reading it, I picked up her other book, The Violinist of Venice, the story a woman named Adriana d’Amato who learns to play violin and becomes a lover of Antonio Vivaldi. This one also swept me away and because it spans so many years had a more epic feel to it.
I'm excited for her upcoming book about Katrina Van Tassel from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, being a lover of dark and creepy stories.
Since I enjoyed her stories so much, I asked Alyssa if she'd take time to do an interview from my blog and she graciously agreed!
1) What inspired you to write about Adriana, Simonetta, and Katrina? Why was it important to tell their stories?
The answer to this question varies slightly for each character, so I’ll go in order 😊
Simonetta: Simonetta Vespucci was an actual historical figure about whom we know very little, which is a shame because I find her fascinating (obviously, since I wrote a whole book about her!). One of the things that we do know is that she was known throughout Florence, and much of Italy, for her beauty. She was treated in a way that was not too far off from our own celebrity culture today: women copied the clothes she wore, and men waited outside her house hoping to speak to her or even just catch a glimpse of her. I found the parallels really interesting to explore as a writer. And, of course, she is supposedly the model for Botticelli’s famous painting The Birth of Venus. The artist-muse inspiration, and the stories behind great works of art, is another theme that I love to both write and read about (and which I delve into in The Violinist of Venice as well, of course).
Katrina: Katrina Van Tassel is also not a real historical figure, but she is a character in one of America’s best known works of literature, so she feels very real in a lot of ways. I’ve always adored “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but the sexist way that Irving’s narrator describes and speaks about Katrina always got under my skin. I wanted to take this story that I loved and give Katrina a chance to tell it her way. Turns out she had quite a story to tell!
2) Your first two books were set in Italy, how did your visit help you research?
Visiting Venice was absolutely crucial to me in completing The Violinist of Venice. Venice is such a
strange and unique place; a city that floats on the water. I had to see it for myself to make sure that I could write about it in a convincing way. By the time I went there, I had done the research on the time period, Vivaldi and his music, etc., so seeing the city, experiencing how people moved around in, was the last piece of the puzzle. With Florence, it was immensely helpful to visit some of the exact locations that feature in the book, so that I could accurately describe them and place my characters in a firm space. I was also reminded (that research trip was actually my second visit to Florence) that art is just everywhere in that city, and that the period I was writing about – the Italian Renaissance – was the birth of all that. I let art and the love of beauty permeate my writing as I continued to work on the manuscript.
3) How hard it is to write historical fiction when you don’t have lots of information about the figure you want to write about?
4) What do you love most about writing historical fiction?
5) Why do you think it’s important to write strong, independent women, especially ones who lived during times when women were supposed to be submissive?
It’s important to acknowledge that a woman writing in the 21st century can never completely set aside her modern lens; can only imagine what it would be like to live without the rights that we have today. But I try to narrow my focus somewhat and zero in on what is important to the women I am writing about. I think it’s important to show that women – that people in general – were not all that different in the past compared to today. We still want many of the same things, have the same goals and ambitions and desires, enjoy the same things, etc.
7) How much research do you do for your novels?
8) What’s your writing process?
9) What are you currently working on?
10) Are there any historical figures you hope to write?
11) Since we like the same music, I have to ask, what are you listening to now?
Yay, I love this question! 😊 I’ve had Nightwish’s Decades pretty much on loop since I saw them live last week – hearing some of the older songs live gave me a whole new appreciation for them! And speaking of Nightwish, I’m also LOVING the new Auri album, which is Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley’s side project. It’s just gorgeous music; I’m not even sure how to describe it: maybe a touch of Nightwish mixed with folk-rock and classical music? I’ve also had Evanescence’s Synthesis in pretty heavy rotation since it came out in November. Lastly, I’m very much looking forward to Kamelot’s new album, which will be out April 6 – I love the two songs they’ve released from it so far!
Thank you, Alyssa, for doing this interview. It was lots of fun!
Don't forget to pre-order your copy of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel! I can't wait for this one!
About the Author
ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, as well as the forthcoming The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. She lives in Buffalo, New York.