Historical novelist Alyssa Palombo, whose second novel The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is out now, graciously agreed to answer a few questions on writing. You can read her answers here, and be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post.
1) What drew you to write about Simonetta Cattaneo?
There were a few things: the first is that I learned that she is the woman depicted in Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus, which is my all-time favorite painting. I love novels that tell the story (or imagined story) behind a famous work of art, so it seemed natural that I would write a story like that myself. The second thing is that, in my preliminary Googling of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, I learned that Sandro Botticelli had been so in love with her that he asked to be buried at her feet when he died – and he actually was! This seemed such a romantic detail that suggested more than a simple artist-muse relationship, so I knew I had to write about it. Lastly, I don’t think there is nearly enough historical fiction set during the reign of the fascinating Medici family, so the opportunity to write about that era was very exciting to me as well.
2) Did you find it easier to write your second novel?
Absolutely not; it was much harder than the first. Even though The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence took me MUCH less time than The Violinist of Venice, it was more difficult in every other way: I knew, by then, all the work it takes to make a book ready for publication, so I knew exactly how daunting the task that lay ahead of me was; it was the first book I’d written KNOWING it would be published (as it was the second book of my two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press); it was tough to transition from working on Violinist for so long to writing something new; and having sold Violinist I started to be plagued with doubt that I could write something as good that my agent and editor would love as much. I definitely got in my own way on this, but I now know this is a common occurrence for published writers writing their second book (or first under contract).
3) Do you type or handwrite your first draft?
Always type! I tend to write long and then need to cut down (although The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence was an exception in that the first draft was the shortest, and it kept getting longer as I fleshed it out in revision and in edits with my editor) so if I hand wrote, I don’t even want to think about how long a draft would take me!
4) What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love both drafting and revising, because both are exciting in their own way, but I think revising is my favorite. I love the feeling of taking the words I’ve already put on the page and polishing and shining them until they really sparkle. That said, there’s no feeling like writing the first draft of something you really love. And probably the BEST feeling is when you finish a first draft 😊
5) Is there an aspect of writing you struggle with?
Most of my struggles do tend to come during the drafting process, when I have those days where it just feels impossible to get any decent words on the page. I always hit a bit of a lull in my creative energy in the middle of a draft, because that’s when it starts to feel the most like a slog – I’ve been working on the draft for a while and still have a long ways to go before I get to the end. The good news is that I’ve done this enough times now that I know that feeling is coming and can mentally prepare myself to push through it and not let it get me down.
6) Describe your daily writing routine.
I don’t write every day, so I don’t have a daily routine – and I don’t have much of a routine at all, either, come to think of it. What with working full time (and having the same family/personal obligations as anyone else) I just have to make writing time whenever and however I can. I usually write a few nights a week after work and most weekend days when I don’t have other plans. When I’m on deadline or really rolling on a project I also will write on my lunch breaks at work. I also have a writing group that meets Wednesday nights at a café, so that helps me plan writing time into my week and show up and get the work done.
7) Are there any authors who have influenced your writing?
Absolutely! Philippa Gregory was the author who inspired me to write historical fiction. Other big inspirations for me are Sarah Dunant and Margaret George. And, though she’s not a historical fiction writer, I love Ann Patchett and strive to write sentences as beautiful as hers. Her novel Bel Canto is one of my all-time favorite books.
8) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was pretty young – maybe eight or nine? I used to write little one page stories (some made up, and some about things that happened to me throughout the day) and give them to my family and friends. In middle school and high school I started seriously trying to draft novels – those ones were handwritten, because I used to write during my classes when my teachers thought I was taking notes! 😊
9) Name three authors you read for entertainment.
Only three?! Okay, here are some recent favorites: Vanora Bennett, Michelle Gable, and Donna Leon.
A BIG thank you to Alyssa for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to check out her latest novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, on sale now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other stores.
The novel up for grabs is Alyssa’s debut novel, The Violinist of Venice. I chose to do this novel because it left such an impression on me. I knew in the first few pages that I was a fan of the writing, and the story just pulled me in. Click the cover to the left, and you will be taken to the giveaway, hosted on Amazon. The giveaway ended May 20, and the winner was contacted by Amazon. You can still click the cover to the left to bring you to the giveaway page.
Be sure to visit Alyssa’s website for more information on her novels, and her great posts on art and Italy.