Thursday, October 4, 2018

Alyssa Palombo Author Interview

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hark-Hameister

ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. 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.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I don’t think there was one moment when I realized it, necessarily. I’ve always loved to read, and even as a kid I would write down little stories in my free time. As I got older that turned into drafting novels, and probably around the age of 10 or 11 I realized that I wanted to be an author. I’ve basically always had at least one project in the works ever since!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Real life! No, but really, if it was up to me I’d spend way more time writing, but I also have a day job that of course takes up a lot of time during the week. Generally, though, I think I’ve found a pretty good balance between work obligations, writing, and my social life and pastimes. It’s working well for me so far!

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?

Yes, definitely. In high school I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, and that was when I realized that historical fiction was what I most wanted to write. It was definitely an important moment!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding thing has definitely been hearing from readers – whether via email, social media, or in person – who really connected with my books. That something I wrote really meant something to a reader is truly the best feeling, and it makes all the frustrating moments worthwhile.

In your new book; THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about your novel.
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is a retelling of Washington Irving’s famous short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” from Katrina’s point of view. She is the most significant female character in that story, and yet Irving portrays her in, frankly, a rather sexist way. I wanted to give her the chance to tell her own story, and boy, did she have a story to tell. My novel is also something of a continuation of the original story, as it continues on past the point where Irving’s story ends as Katrina seeks to find out what really did happen to Ichabod Crane.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your Katrina and Charlotte?
Well, in researching herbs and herbal medicine for Charlotte’s character, I learned that high enough amounts of nutmeg can cause hallucinations and even death, so that was pretty surprising! J In terms of creating their characters, though, I think Charlotte surprised me the most in that she ended up being perhaps my favorite character I’ve ever written to date. She is both a lot like me and also a woman I wish I was more like.

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
As I mentioned above, I wanted to give Katrina the chance to tell her own story – she is really the focus of Irving’s tale, but is in many ways rather flat. Beyond that, though, I’m someone who loves Halloween and all things spooky and creepy, so I wanted to write a book that would let me play with all those things in a fun and interesting way. And I’m always interested in what women’s lives were like in the past, and in this book it was interesting to explore what the word “witch” might have meant in this time and place, and what consequences came with it.

What was the most magical thing that happened while writing this book? 
I got to write part of the first draft during the month of October, which was magical and a lot of fun! I also got to go to Sleepy Hollow to do some research, and seeing places that appeared in the book, and hearing different folk tales from the Hudson River Valley from people who loved there, was definitely a magical experience.

What part of Ichabod did you enjoy writing the most?
He’s just the sweetest guy! I liked making him into an ideal romantic hero – sure of himself and what he wants, but not arrogant; he respects what Katrina wants and needs; he loves her for who she is, flaws and all. And being handsome and saying romantic things doesn’t hurt either!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
One of my very favorite books that I read this year was From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris, which is set in a fantasy world based on ancient Rome. I think that Charlotte would get on famously with Morris’s heroine, Latona. They both stray outside of the bounds of what is expected of women of their time; they are both loyal friends; and gosh, I would just love to hear the conversations about magic that they would have!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I do have a fourth book in the works, but I can’t say too much about that one yet. Suffice it to say that it is set in Renaissance Italy and is very dark and political – probably my darkest book yet. It’s been a huge challenge, but really satisfying as well when I think how the book has grown and developed.

At the moment I’m playing around with a dual timeline idea – and all I’ll say about that one is that writing Spellbook made me want to write some more witches J

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
I think Kate Warne, America’s first female detective. I didn’t know much about her before reading Greer Macallister’s fabulous novel Girl in Disguise, but what a great heroine she was! It would be fun to get to experience all her exploits – which included saving president-elect Lincoln from an assassination attempt and spying for the North during the Civil War.

Do you scare easily?
Oh, gosh, yes. I am one of the most easily startled people you’ll ever meet. My coworkers think it’s really funny to sneak up behind me and tap me on the shoulder when I have my headphones in. I also can’t go in haunted house-type attractions for that reason. People are also always surprised to learn – since I love Halloween – that I don’t really like horror movies. I like things with just the right amount of creepy – give me a good haunted house movie any day – but anything with a lot of gore or a ton of suspense just makes me really stressed out.

What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema?
Oh wow, I honestly don’t remember – I don’t go to the movies very often! I think it might have been last December, when I went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. That movie best portrays the writing process out of anything I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it!

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I have a wonderful family and had a wonderful childhood, so there’s lots to choose from! We used to vacation in Florida a lot with my parents’ friends and their kids – we’d rent a condo on the beach in Siesta Key – and I have a lot of fond memories of spending time there with everyone. I also have a lot of great memories of spending Halloween trick-or-treating with friends who are still my closest friends to this day.

Can you define love in your own way?
To me, love is when you are willing to put someone else first – but I think the tricky thing is to be able to do so without losing yourself.

  • I first got the idea for The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel while I was in the shower.
  • I based the Van Tassel farmhouse in the novel on Washington Irving’s house, Sunnyside, which sits on the banks of the Hudson. He didn’t live there yet when he wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but the location of the Van Tassel house in his story fits with Sunnyside, and before Irving owned it a woman named Eleanor Van Tassel lived there – some say she as a model for Katrina.
  • I borrowed Charlotte Jansen’s name from two of my favorite singers, who happen to be Dutch themselves – Charlotte Wessels from Delain and Floor Jansen from Nightwish.
  • There are a few little homages to Tim Burton’s film Sleepy Hollow throughout the book – one of which being that, in Katrina’s dreams of the Headless Horseman, he is carrying an axe, which Burton’s Horseman always had as well.
  • One of the albums I listened to most while writing this book was Phantasma’s The Deviant Hearts. Almost all of the songs on that album are on the book’s playlists, and so many of them fit perfectly with the story.
  • The first draft took me almost a year to complete.
  • I love the show Sleepy Hollow on FOX, and as I wrote I couldn’t help but picture Ichabod as Tom Mison, the actor who plays him on the show.
  • One of my favorite scenes in the book is the harvest party the Van Tassels throw. After reading the first draft of this book, my best friend actually threw a harvest party, and everyone dressed in colonial-era costumes.
  • I got obsessed with Hamilton while writing this book, which is pretty much the only reason there’s a duel in it. 

When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won't erase.


"Readers seeking a historical romance or a reboot of an American legend will enjoy this tale." 

"The perfect combination of sweeping romance and eerie thriller, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel will haunt you in all the best ways. Palombo's deft touch brings new life, fierce female spirit, and pulse-pounding suspense to the Sleepy Hollow milieu." Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician's Lie and Girl in Disguise

"Marrying forbidden love, devoted friendship, and the supernatural with Palombo's signature passion for music, storytelling, and heartbreaking choices, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel enchants with a concoction of love, longing, and loss plucked from the bones of one of our most enduring and haunting legends." Erin Lindsay McCabe, USA Today bestselling author of I Shall Be Near to You

"An enthralling lovers' tale woven from 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' Alyssa Palombo's captivating story, told through the eyes and heart of Katrina Van Tassel, is like visiting a treasured childhood friend and finding out all her secrets." Gwendolyn Womack, award-winning author of The Memory Painter and The Fortune Teller

"Palombo has conjured up a dark, sexy twist on Washington Irving's classic tale. The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel will satisfy romance fans who crave a dash of spine-tingling horror."Cat Winters, award-winning author of The Uninvited and In the Shadow of Blackbirds

You can purchase The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ALYSSA PALOMBO for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: 
A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo. 


  1. I live in Western Canada and I think the furthest I've been is the border between Iraq and Syria.

  2. "What's the farthest-away place you've been?" Probably England.

  3. The farthest away place I've ever been is Germany.

  4. the farthest place I've ever been is Italy.

  5. Malaysia or Cambodia. I'm not sure which is farther.