Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Alyssa Palombo Interview - The Borgia Confessions

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.


Greatest thing you learned at school.
In college I took a lot of voice lessons for credit, and that helped me to truly find my voice, in a literal sense. I had always wanted to be a singer, and studying formally helped me to do that.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I’ve always had a creative bent, even as a child. When I was very young (around 6 or 7) I wanted to be a painter, then realized I couldn’t draw nor had any talent related to the visual arts, haha. Not long after that I started writing down little stories, just for fun, and I pretty much haven’t stopped writing since. I’ve always loved to read, so writing felt like a natural next step for me.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There have been a few instances so far where readers have reached out to me to let me know that one of my books helped them get through a really tough time in their lives, and I don’t think that anything else could ever mean as much to me as that. If I’ve made a positive difference in even one person’s life, then all the work is worth it.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My current WIP is another historical, this one set in Renaissance Venice. All I’ll say about this one for now is that I adore my heroine, and the plot has to do with the notoriously shady dealings of the Council of Ten, which was the Venetian Republic’s equivalent to the CIA/Secret Service/NSA/Homeland Security all rolled into one. Additionally, last fall I finished a draft of a witchy dual timeline novel, and that is with my agent right now, awaiting her notes. So once I have that back, I’ll be doing some revisions to that one.

If you could work for anyone you choose, who would it be?
Does Lin-Manuel Miranda need someone to, like, organize his notes or bring him his coffee or something? If so, sign me up. I’d just like to try and soak up his genius by proximity, haha.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS
So a lot of my favorite scenes/quotes would be minor spoilers, but I will say that my very favorite scene in the book is the end of chapter 62 and all of chapter 63, in which Cesare confesses something to Maddalena.

“Take care, Maddalena. Mind that you do not become caught up in their Borgia games.” (Spoken by Maddalena’s friend Isabella)

I knew the rumors about Cesare Borgia, about what kind of man he was and what he was capable of. I knew what kind of power he wielded, and the ways in which he had influenced the politics of the Italian peninsula and all her nations. But more than that, I knew things beyond the rumors, things that the gossips hadn’t even guessed at.

So whatever this was, whatever had happened this night that he sought to protect me from . . . did I truly want to know?

I lowered my hand to my lap. I did not. I did not want to know. (From one of Maddalena’s chapters)

“What is in your heart is of no use to me, nor to this family,” he said coldly. “It is what is in your mind that will serve us, and what I intend to make use of within the Curia.” (Spoken by Pope Alexander VI to Cesare)

“We shall prevail,” Pope Alexander said without hesitation. “God is on our side, for our cause is righteous. Alfonso is Ferrante’s son and heir—God rest his soul—and should by rights sit the

throne of Naples. Our Lord sees this and shall give us victory.”

“And what is the size of Our Lord’s army?” I inquired. “If He would be so good as to let us know, we could refine our strategy, and sleep easier in the coming nights.”

My father clucked his disapproval. “Blasphemy, Cesare.”

I bit down on my tongue to keep from replying. Who could guess at what a pope who kept a mistress and made his son a cardinal might actually find blasphemous? (From one of Cesare’s chapters)

I could not get Maddalena’s face at the moment she’d slapped me out of my head: haughty and imperious in her outrage, like a statue of some ancient Roman goddess. Madonna of Holy Vengeance, I’d called her. By God, but if I was a painter, I would paint her just so, and give the work that title. (From one of Cesare’s chapters)

1. When I was in college I wrote a short story about a maid who gets involved with Cesare Borgia, and I later used that idea as the jumping off point for Maddalena’s character and point of view.

2. I originally started writing this novel years ago, and originally it was just going to be from Cesare’s point of view, but it always felt like something was missing, and so I kept putting it on the back burner. Then I found the missing piece of it in that short story! The prologue and chapter two are the oldest parts of the book – they’re what I wrote originally, along with another chapter that got left on the cutting room floor.

3. I drew inspiration from two great characters in creating Cesare’s character and crafting his arc: Walter White from Breaking Bad and Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Fire and Ice.

4. Cesare’s “theme song” for the book is “Citizen Zero” by Kamelot; Maddalena’s is “Oceans” by Evanescence.

5. My brother went with me to Rome when I researched this book. He very dutifully followed me all over the Castel Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican Museums.

6. I’ve been obsessed with the Borgias since I was a teenager, and have always wanted to write a book about them.

7. I am usually a pantser and like to figure out the plot as I go, but this book was SO big and had so many characters, plot threads, and actual historical events that I couldn’t pants it. So I wrote a big outline before continuing drafting (I had about 10,000 words before I had to stop to outline, and the outline itself was over 5,000 words) and in the end I finished the first draft much faster than I would have normally. I still haven’t really been converted from my pantsing ways, though!

8. This book has had LOTS of titles. When I sold it on proposal it was called “The Keeper of the Keys”; when I handed it in to my editor it was called “Angels of Holy Vengeance”; my editor and I changed it briefly to “The Merciless Ones”; when we announced the book it was called “In the Shadow of Saints” (I still really like that title); and then with some input from the team at St. Martin’s it ended up as “The Borgia Confessions”. And that isn’t even counting the LISTS UPON LISTS of titles my editor and I made to try to find something that fit!

9. My very favorite scene in the book (mentioned above) was the last thing I added to the book, in my final round of developmental edits with my editor.

10. One of my favorite parts of writing this book was getting to write about all the shady political dealings of the Vatican during the Renaissance. The politics of Renaissance Italy are complicated and extremely fascinating, and I loved getting to dive into that world and write about some of the big power players.

No matter where I’m writing, I ALWAYS need music playing; it’s a huge part of my process. If I’m at my desk at home, I always light a scented candle as well (shoutout to Witch City Wicks, one of my favorite candle shops!). I do sometimes go out and write in cafes as well, just for a change of scenery – usually on Saturdays. I also do two solo writing retreats each year, where I go to a little town not far from me and hole up with some snacks, wine, and my laptop – I always get A TON done when I do that, without any of the distractions of being at home and needing to do errands, etc. The writing retreats are always a highlight of my year!

What is the first job you have had?

I worked as a tae kwon do instructor from the ages of 15 to 17.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
“Do I have to get up and go to work, or is it the weekend?”

What is your most memorable travel experience?

Definitely the first time I went to Venice – I had been reading about it/researching it for so long that finally seeing it for myself, and getting to explore it, was magical.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?

I’m all about the “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” idea, which I think is evident in all of my books so far!

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.

Praise for Alyssa Palombo and THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS

"[A] vivacious tale of power and love set in 1492... Excavating the personal relationships and petty disagreements that fueled Pope Alexander VI’s controversial reign, Palombo’s enticing tale will please fans of Sharon Kay Penman." Publishers Weekly

"Readers looking for an immersive, light, romantic read will enjoy this book." Booklist

"Under Palombo’s skillful hand, the entangled world of the Borgias comes vividly to life, exposing the dark facets of class structure and the all-consuming greed that comes with ambition--and love. I was utterly engrossed from page one. A colorful and suspenseful novel, The Borgia Confessions is packed with complex characters and political intrigue, and will leave readers hungry for more." Heather Webb, internationally bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris and Meet Me in Monaco

“Palombo has crafted a sweeping and surprisingly sympathetic portrait of Cesare Borgia, one of history’s most notorious "bad boys,” and the world surrounding him. [A] dark Renaissance parable about the intertwining of lust and power. If you’re as fascinated with all things Borgia as I am, you won’t want to miss this one!” Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of Dreams and Bad Princess

"Handsome. Intriguing. Dangerous. Seductive. [This] is everything you want in a book--it's a romance, a page-turner, and a ride deep into the sumptuous and tumultuous time of Renaissance Italy." Crystal King, author of The Chef's Secret

"Alyssa Palombo’s deft and delicate prose makes a gorgeous contrast against the visceral and cutthroat world of the Borgias. Dark and decadent, THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS is mesmerizing from start to finish." Meghan Masterson, author of The Wardrobe Mistress

You can purchase The Borgia Confessions 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 Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo.


  1. The past & future. Things I cannot change, and things I have yet to experience...

  2. A family member who is really struggling.

  3. What I think about most is how to get enough sleep, eat healthy and get exercise scheduled for my day.

  4. What I think about the most is about paying my bills and putting food on the table.

  5. I think about God and my family the most.