Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Interview with Alyssa Palombo - The Violinist of Venice

It wasn't just the fabulous cover that drew me into wanting to showcase this novel but also the author's backstory and the fact that she and my daughter are both classically trained performers and their shared love of Vivaldi that interested me. I hope you all enjoy the interview!

ISBN-13: 9781250071491
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 12/15/2015
Length: 448pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound

ABOUT THE BOOK:Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

Read en Excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:



The gondola sliced silently through the dark water of the canal. My hired gondolier pressed the craft close against the wall of one of the buildings that lined the waterway, allowing another boat to pass us.

“Ciao, Luca!” he called to the other gondolier, his voice echoing loudly off the stones of the narrow canal, causing me to start.

I drew the hood of my cloak closer about my face, hiding it as we passed the other gondola.

We drew up to a bridge, and I spied a set of stone steps leading up to the street—the street. “Stop,” I said, my voice low from within the hood. “Let me out here,per favore.”

The gondolier obliged, bringing the boat close to the steps and stopping so that I could gather my skirts and step out, giving me his hand to assist me. I pressed some coins into his palm, and he nodded to me. “Grazie, signorina. Buona notte.

I started down the street, peering at the houses, looking for the one where the man I sought was said to reside. I crossed a bridge over another small canal, the water beneath looking deep enough to swallow both my secrets and me and leave no trace of either.

Just beyond the bridge I found it. I took a deep breath, banishing the last of my nervousness, pushed open the door and, without knocking, boldly stepped inside.

The room I entered was not large, and appeared even smaller by its clutter. Sheets of parchment covered the table a few paces in front of me, some written upon, some blank, and many with bars of music scrawled on them. A harpsichord sat against one wall, scarcely recognizable beneath the papers heaped on it. I counted three instrument cases throughout the room that each looked to be the right size to hold a violin, or perhaps a viola d’amore. A lit lamp sat on the table amongst the papers, and another on the desk against the wall to my right. These, plus the slowly dying fire in the grate to my left, were the only sources of light in the dim room.

At the desk, bent over a piece of parchment, quill in hand, sat a man in worn-looking clerical robes. He looked up, startled, and I was able to get my first good look at him. He had hair as red as the embers in the hearth and wide dark eyes that, when they caught sight of me, narrowed on my face in anger, then bewilderment. From what I had heard, he was only in his early thirties, yet the strain of childhood illness and—or so I guessed—the trials that life had seen fit to deliver him had given him the weary demeanor of a still older man. And yet beneath his somewhat haggard appearance there was a spark of liveliness, of fire, that made him appealing all the same.

“Who are you? What do you want?” he demanded, scowling as he rose from his chair.

I took another step forward into the room, pushing my hood back from my face. “I seek Maestro Antonio Vivaldi,” I said. “The man they call il Prete Rosso.” The Red Priest.

“Hmph.” He snorted derisively. “You have found him, although I do not know that I rightly deserve the title maestro anymore. After all, I have been sacked.”

“I know,” I said. All of Venice knew that about a year ago, Maestro Vivaldi had been removed, for reasons largely unknown, from his position as violin master and composer at the Conservatorio dell’Ospedale della Pietà, the foundling home renowned for its superb, solely female orchestra and choir. He had spent the past year since his dismissal traveling throughout Europe—or so the gossip said. Having heard of his return, I took the first opportunity I could to seek him out. “I was thinking that as you are currently out of a job, you might be willing to take on a private student.”

His gaze narrowed on me again. “I might be,” he said.

Clearly he was expecting me to bargain. The corners of my mouth curled up slightly into a smile as I reached beneath my cloak and extracted a cloth purse that was heavy with coins. I closed the remaining distance between us and handed it to the maestro. His eyes widened as he felt its weight, and grew round with disbelief as he opened it and saw how much gold was within.

“I trust that will be sufficient for my first month of lessons,” I said, “as well as your discretion.”

He looked back up at me. “Who are you?” he asked again. When I failed to answer immediately, he went on. “If you can afford to pay me so much, then surely you can afford to have some perfumed, mincing fop or other come to you in the comfort of your own palazzo and teach you. Why come here—in the middle of the night, no less—to seek me out?”

“That is quite a lengthy tale, padre,” I answered. “Suffice it to say that I have heard that there is no better violinist in all of Venice than yourself, and that is why I have gone to such lengths to find you.”

He frowned, not satisfied with so vague an explanation, but he let the matter rest. “You wish to learn the violin, then?” he asked.

I nodded. “I used to play, years ago…” I shook my head. “It has been a very long time.” Five years, to be exact; five years since my mother had died and taken all the music in our house with her.

Vivaldi nodded absently, then turned to remove a violin and bow—which I took to be his own—from a case that sat open on the floor next to the desk. He handed them to me. “Show me what you know,” he said.

Oh, it had been so long since I’d held a violin in my hands, had felt the smoothness of the wood beneath my fingers, had smelled the faint, spicy scent of the varnish. I had not practiced before coming to see the maestro, thinking it best not to tempt fate before I could secure his help. I closed my eyes, savoring the feeling of being reunited with an old friend I had believed I might never see again. Then I began.

I started with the simplest scales: C major and A minor. My fingers were stiff and clumsy on the strings, but after playing each scale twice, the old patterns and habits began to return. When I felt more comfortable, I began to play a simple but pretty melody I remembered playing when I was younger. My memory was imperfect; there were several points where I forgot what note came next and simply skipped ahead to the next one that I could recall. It was rather unimpressive, but it was all I could think of to play. When I came to the end, I began again, this time improvising to repair the sections I’d forgotten. So intoxicated was I with simply playing a violin again that I forgot Vivaldi’s presence altogether, until he lightly placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

“Good,” he said, more to himself than to me. “Good; not bad at all. I can tell that you have a natural talent. And you certainly play with passion.” He smiled, and the expression transformed his face. “I shall teach you. I assume you have an instrument of your own?”

I nodded, thinking of the untouched violin I had stolen from my brother Claudio’s room. It had been given to him as a gift and was of the finest craftsmanship, though he had never played or shown any interest in learning. “Yes, I do,” I answered. “Though it will be … difficult for me to bring it here with me.”

The maestro waved this aside. “I have one that you may use. You wish to come here for your lessons, then?”

“Yes,” I replied quickly. “Yes, if that suits.”

“Very well,” he said, his eyes bright with curiosity. “Shall we say two days hence, around midday? If that is agreeable to you?”

I thought for a moment. I could perhaps get away unnoticed for a time then. “Yes, that is agreeable.”

“Though I do not suppose you will tell me the reasons behind such need for discretion?” he asked.

I smiled. “As I said, that is quite the long story, padre, and one that would be better saved for another time.”Or never.

“I see,” he said.

“Two days hence, then,” I said, moving toward the door.

“Wait,” he said, and I stopped. “May I at least learn your name, signorina?”

I glanced at him over my shoulder. “Adriana,” I said. I could not risk him recognizing my surname; so, before he could press me further, I pulled my hood over my face again and stepped outside into the late April rain, leaving him to think what he would.

Copyright © 2015 by Alyssa Palombo

Alyssa welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell my readers about your debut novel, The Violinist of Venice.
Thanks for having me! The Violinist of Venice is a “what if?” sort of novel that takes place in 18th century Venice and imagines a love affair between composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi and a student of his, the fictional character Adriana d’Amato. The book spans around 30 years of Adriana’s life and traces the impact their relationship – and music – has on her life.

In a previous interview you said that you worked on this novel for five years before looking to have it published.
Were you actually “writing” for five years or was some of that time spent tweaking/revising it?
The first draft itself took a year and a half (I was a full-time college student at that point, so my writing time was limited) and the rest of the time was spent revising and also doing a lot of rewriting. That also includes the time that I let the book sit between drafts; I have to take some time away from a draft before I can revise it so that I can gain a little distance and perspective and then come back to it fresh. So five years was the total time between when I began working on the first draft and when I started querying literary agents – the total time it took me to produce a polished manuscript, essentially.

Alyssa we have something in common, my daughter is a classically trained opera singer and music historian/theorist, and plays many, many instruments including Viola and Violin. She has been teaching at the university level for 10 years and just this year enrolled in a doctorate program so she can eventually become tenured.
Will you tell us about how your career path led from performing to writing?
Oh, that’s awesome! I actually have always been a writer first, so to speak; I’ve wanted to write novels ever since I was a kid. I always loved music as a listener, and in high school and mostly in college got really into the performance aspect of it; I minored in music in college. I considered trying for a performing career and furthering my studies in music, but ultimately I decided to stay focused on writing, though music is and always will be a big part of my life. And, of course, I like to combine music and writing when I can!

You also have in common with her your love of Antonio Vivaldi.
What impressed you most about this composer?
Vivaldi’s music is, to me, so distinctive: vivid, passionate, and of course really beautiful. His range as a composer is also really impressive: he wrote for a wide variety of instruments as well as for the voice – and as a singer I can tell you that his music for the female voice especially is magnificent. Not to mention the sheer amount of music that he composed! I discovered so many of his lesser-known works over the course of researching this novel and love so much of it even more than the more popular works – it would be wonderful for some of those to be heard and performed more widely!

You also mention that Philippa Gregory was one author who inspired you to write historical fiction.
Do you think you’ll stay on this path or perhaps write something contemporary in the future?
Philippa Gregory is amazing, and is still one of my favorite authors! My second novel, which I’m currently working on with my editor at St. Martin’s, is also historical fiction, as is the novel I recently started drafting and which I hope will be my third. I don’t really see myself ever completely abandoning historical fiction; however, with that said, I do have a contemporary manuscript I play around with when I have time and that I really love, so it would be great to see that out in the world someday. I have a few other contemporary ideas on the back burner, so who knows – maybe eventually I will write those as well!

Alyssa it must be equal parts exhilarating/terrifying publishing your first novel.
If you could turn back time would you do anything differently?
You are certainly correct about that! Honestly, though, I can’t think of anything I would really do differently. I’m just so happy everything has worked out so far!

And staying on the topic of publishing, I love hearing author’s “The Call” stories. Will you tell us yours please?
Of course! I was actually at work when my agent called, and so I ran into my office’s break room to talk to her, and she told me about the offer from St. Martin’s. I was obviously EXTREMELY excited, and when I hung up I started crying happy tears!

You’ve received some very nice accolades for The Violinist of Venice.
What means more to you editorial or peer reviews?
I have, and I feel extremely fortunate. To be perfectly honest, whenever anyone reads the book and enjoys it, and/or it speaks to them in some way, then I’m just thrilled. That’s all I can ask for as a writer!

Alyssa thank you so much for taking the time to speak to my readers.
It’s just a few days until 2016; do you make resolutions?
Thanks again for having me! I’m not much of one for New Years’ Resolutions, although I do set a reading goal for myself every year – I think that in 2016 I’ll try to read at least 125 books.

Good luck with the new novel!!

This is one of Vivaldi's pieces featured in the novel that Alyssa has performed
this and more about the novel can be found on Alyssa's webiste.
Stabat Mater – Movement 1

Connect with Alyssa- Website - Twitter

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ALYSSA PALOMBO has published short historical fiction pieces in Black Lantern, Novelletum, and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent a graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively, as well as a trained classical musician. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Tonawanda, New York.

Today's Gonereading item is:
Great Drinkers Shot Glass collection
Click HERE for the buy page


  1. OH how exciting! Vivaldi et al is after all a "rock god" in his time. An old fashioned rockstar romance, how swoony!

  2. What a great sounding story and loved the interview with the author. Oh yes, they must be so excited when they get that 'call'. Especially the first one. Hope your daughter will get to read this one.

  3. I love what if stories that bring in real life and fiction together. And that is neat that Alyssa combines her love of music and writing for this one. Nice interview, ladies!