Announcing My Fourth Book, IN THE SHADOW OF SAINTS!

I know I’ve been teasing book 4 quite a bit on social media, so I am SO THRILLED to finally be able to tell you ALL about it! My fourth novel, entitled In the Shadow of Saints,¬†will be coming in Winter 2020 from St. Martin’s Griffin!

Of course, I was always going to write a book about the Borgias ūüôā They’ve been my favorite historical family since I first stumbled on a novel about them as a teenager. They’re often referred to as Italy’s first crime family, and while historically that isn’t really technically true, their story does indeed have all the things that such a moniker suggests: scandal, corruption, politics, shady dealings, wealth, sex, violence, power, murder. It’s rich ground for any storyteller, and I am certainly not the first nor the last to cover it.

My novel, though, does take a bit of a different perspective on the infamous Borgia family. It’s told in alternating points of view, by two different characters: one being Cesare Borgia, the eldest of Rodrigo Borgia’s children, and the second being Maddalena Moretti, a maid who works for the family and is a fictional character of my own invention. My agent has been calling this my “upstairs/downstairs” look at the Borgias, and it is very much that. However, there are several reasons I chose to tell this story from two points of view, and from the points of view of these two characters in particular.

Cesare Borgia (pronounced CHEH-sah-reh – “ce” in Italian is pronounced like “che” in English; think “cello”) is the member of the Borgia family who has always fascinated me the most – perhaps because he was the most brilliant, manipulative, and wicked of the bunch. Most of the novels about the Borgias that I’m aware of usually focus on Lucrezia, as the only sister and most unfairly maligned member of the family. I wanted to really dig into Cesare as a character because, after all, villains don’t tend to start out as villains – they become so over time. I’ve been thinking of Cesare’s portion of this book as his villain origin story, and it was both a lot of fun to write a baddie and at the same time could get rather dark. I definitely drew inspiration from Walter White of Breaking Bad fame when working out Cesare’s character arc: I wanted him to be someone readers would sympathize with and root for in the beginning, then have that sympathy slowly start to erode over the course of the story as his actions become increasingly more awful. It was a challenge that I set myself, and one I embraced eagerly. I’m very pleased with how his character turned out. You all will have to let me know whether I’ve succeeded in my aims!

I had always wanted to write from Cesare’s point of view, but Maddalena’s perspective came about in something of an interesting way. I had written a few chapters from Cesare’s point of view that I showed to my agent at various times – I had actually initially anticipated this being my second book, then my third book (obviously, that didn’t happen). Each time she saw it, she liked what I had so far, but felt like something was missing, and that this project wasn’t quite ready. I agreed with her but didn’t really know where else to go with it, so it continued to sit on the back burner.

Fast forward to the fall of 2016. I had just handed in¬†The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel¬†to my editor and was working on drafting something new. You may have seen me refer to me “sexy opera book” on social media; well, that’s what I was writing, and I was having a blast. It was a book that I was just having a lot of fun writing, and at that point I anticipated that it would be my fourth book, as it was going really well.

Then the 2016 U.S. presidential election happened, and suddenly a fun, sexy book didn’t seem like the thing I should be writing, or the thing I¬†wanted to write just then. I wanted to dig into something darker, something about power and corruption. It seemed like the best way for me to explore all that was to return to the Borgias book. And suddenly I found the missing piece, which had actually been there all along. In college I’d written a short story from the point of view of a maid who becomes involved with Cesare Borgia, and this, I realized, needed to be my second POV in the novel. I needed an outside perspective on this infamous family, someone who was of a completely different socioeconomic class than they, someone who could get entangled with and dragged into their power struggle, so that we might see how an everyday person could be harmed and compromised by the actions of the powerful and also by their potential proximity to that power. It all felt like something important, exciting, relevant, challenging, and interesting to explore.

So I added Maddalena’s POV, and it really was what the book had needed all along. Of course, that didn’t make any of it easier to write. Maddalena is by far the main character who has given me the most difficulty to date: it took me a long time and many rounds of revisions to really get a handle on her voice, to really get to the heart of who she was. She slowly revealed herself to me bit by bit, and as a result she’s a character that I’m really proud of. I hope you all love her like I do.

This is by far the most ambitious book I’ve written to date – I blogged a bit about getting started with it in this post. There were lots of times it felt like it was going to eat me alive. There was so much history to balance, so many tangled politics to keep in mind, dates and timelines to keep straight, lots of plot threads and character arcs to flesh out and bring to completion. I made and wrote from an outline for the first time, which I blogged about in this post.

The title has been another struggle – it had several just on my end before I ever handed it in to my editor, and then she and I changed it a few more times. We had a big Google doc going of title ideas, and would throw them back and forth to each other, but it took us MONTHS to find one we both liked and felt fit well and that the marketing/sales folks at St. Martin’s would go for. I’ve never had this kind of problem with a title before – even if I didn’t have the final title right off the bat, I usually found it without too much trouble – and boy, was it a challenge. This is such a big, sprawling book that it felt difficult to find just one title that encompassed everything, and that fit with both Maddalena and Cesare’s very different characters. I really love¬†In the Shadow of Saints,¬†though – ironically it was a title I first thought of a while ago, but it took me a while to see that it was the best one. I think it’s fitting and contains different layers of meaning that will inform the story as one reads on.

As difficult as writing this book was at times, though, I really did love doing it. I got to write about political dealings (shady and otherwise), a fascinating and large cast of complex characters, war and negotiations, murder, the glory and filth of Renaissance Rome, and a lot of drama that actually happened. So much of that was fun because a lot of it was new for me (especially the politics – I’ve always wanted to write a book that was very “let us sit in this room and plot politics”, and I’ve done it!). And, of course, I got to write about my favorite historical family, and my favorite era of history. I just love writing about Renaissance Italy, and I can promise you that I’m not done doing so.

Because of the many challenges of this book, in some ways perhaps it’s the one I’m most proud of. It’s something different, and it’s definitely my darkest book so far. It’s taken a lot of revision and edits and smoothing over of rough edges, but it is finally the book I always wanted it to be, the book I always knew it could be. A lot of credit goes to my editor as well, for her amazing, spot-on notes and feedback, and always being there for me to bounce ideas off of as I revised. It’s been such an amazing feeling, to keep working at it and see it improve each day. I really believe it’s my best book so far. And I can’t wait for all of you to read it.

As soon as I have a release date, cover, etc., I will be sure to share it all here!

 

Audiobook news!

I’m thrilled to announce that¬†The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is also going to be available on audio! It will be released at the same time as the print book. This will be the first of my books to have an audio version, and as I’m an audiobook fan myself, this is super exciting for me!

I’ll share more information (on narrator, etc.) as I have it!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – Release Day!

The day has finally come! The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is on sale now in the U.S., and will be available tomorrow (April 26th) in Australia.

 

I’m so thrilled and excited that this book is out in the world at last. As those of you who have been reading my blog over the last few years will know, I had a rather difficult time writing this book, due to second book syndrome and a multitude of other things. Yet perhaps because of that, I am so proud of how it turned out, and I can’t wait for readers to discover it and hopefully fall in love with Simonetta and her story just as I did while writing it.

This release day feels very different from that of¬†The Violinist of Venice.¬†Most notably, I’m much more relaxed this time around, and ready to just celebrate and have fun. The release of¬†Violinist,¬†while exciting and thrilling, was also very stressful and emotional: my book baby was out in the world, and I couldn’t take it back, and oh God, what would happen to it next?? It wasn’t all pleasant feelings. Yet this time, thankfully, I’m not feeling that way. I’ve just been enjoying the process and will continue to do so. After all, I’ve done this once before now. I know that, for better and worse, the world doesn’t stop spinning just because I have a book out. So while I don’t think this will ever stop being exciting, here’s hoping it will get less stressful every time, as it seems to be.

So what’s on tap for me today? I took the day off from my day job, so my plan is to hang out, relax after the pre-release hubub, probably work out, maybe do some reading, and then get ready for the book launch party later tonight. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m planning to enjoy every minute!

I hope you all love The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. Happy reading!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – release date and synopsis!

I have some exciting news today about my forthcoming second book with St. Martin’s Press,¬†The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.¬†The novel will be released in the U.S. on April 25, 2017!

Also, below check out the synopsis to learn some more about the book!

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo will never want for marriage proposals in 15th century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Florentine Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome, well-educated, and shares her longtime love of reading. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de‚Äô Medici‚Äôs glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence ‚Äď most notably the rakish Giuliano de‚Äô Medici – become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most.

Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her new home, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a dangerously passionate artist and muse relationship, which will lead to her ultimately being immortalized in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is a story of love and tragedy, of passion and humor, and ultimately, of what happens when love finds us when we least expect it.

I am SO EXCITED for this book to make its way into the world for everyone to read. I hope you will all enjoy it when you do get the chance to read it!

I have seen the cover for this book as well, and hope to be able to reveal it soon – it is absolutely GORGEOUS and just perfect for the book, and I’m sure you all will love it as much as I do!

Stay tuned for more fun book 2 things coming soon!

Milestones

Last week Thursday, July 16th, wound up being something of a banner day for me, though I hadn’t expected it to be so when I woke up that morning. But that was the day that I got my first galleys/ARCs of¬†The Violinist of Venice, and by that evening I had sent off my second book to my editor.

For those of you who don’t know, galleys or advanced reader copies (ARCs) are pre-copies of a book that are printed in advance of the release date for publicity and promotional purposes. They’re not final – all the changes from first pass pages may not have been incorporated, and the cover design isn’t final – but still, the pages are typeset, the copyright page is there, and it is bound into actual book form. So this was the first time I was able to hold my book in my hands when it actually looked and felt like a book – and it smells like a book, too!

I don’t know if there has ever been a more amazing moment in my life. It didn’t hit me right away, but rather it took a few minutes. I was sitting on the couch with one of the copies, flipping through it, and suddenly I burst into (happy) tears. (My dog was quite concerned). I was holding a book,¬†a real book,¬†full of words that¬†I wrote.¬†It was a book like one you might find in a bookstore, like one of the countless books I’ve read throughout my life, except this was one that I wrote.

It was an incredible, wonderful moment. My fondest hope is that anyone who aspires to write and publish a book will one day experience that moment, because there is nothing else like it. I’m still so excited; even driving home from work today I thought back to the day I started writing¬†Violinist,¬†and felt that wonderful sense of disbelief and happiness and accomplishment all over again.

However, once I managed to pull myself together, I had work to do. I had gotten on quite a revising roll with my second book, which wasn’t due to my editor until the end of August. I didn’t have much more to go, so I had a feeling I could finish it that night, as I wasn’t anticipating needing to make too many changes to the last few chapters.

So I did. I finished the second draft and sent it off to my editor.

Anyone who’s a writer will know that wonderful “I-finished-a-draft” feeling, and this was even better. I had come in ahead of my deadline; I had written a book that I loved and was proud of and had worked so hard on in less time that I had thought I could; and, as you’ll know if you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, this book was a problem child almost from day one and gave me no end of problems. That it had come so far after such a difficult and frustrating start – and that I had come so far as a writer in the process – felt amazing. It still does. I’m still riding the end-of-draft-high.

And even though¬†Violinist isn’t even out yet, I’m already excited for this second book to come out into the world, partially because it was such a struggle at times.¬†The first step, of course, is to see if my editor likes it, but I think she will. Though it’s in a different place and time period than¬†Violinist,¬†it’s somewhat in the same vein. It’s still me. It’s reflective of who I am as a writer and a reader and as a woman, and of my interests. In some ways I think it’s a bit darker than¬†Violinist,¬†and maybe deals with some heavier themes – both of which are things I didn’t plan out ahead of time, but which emerged organically as I was drafting, and then got polished up in revision.

But that’s all I’ll say about book 2 for now.

Almost as soon as I hit “Send”, of course, my brain was asking, What next? And I’m not sure. It’s a wonderful and also slightly scary feeling to know that I can start writing something brand new, something that’s anything I want it to be. And I have plenty of ideas, believe me. I’m not sure yet which one I’ll end up going with. My plan is to give my brain a few weeks to rest and refresh itself – something I’ve found that’s always necessary for me after finishing a draft – and then I’ll see which of the ideas I gravitate towards the most.

And there’s now a copy of a book that I wrote on my desk for if and when I need a little confidence boost, a reminder, a reassurance, or just a visit with old friends.