People In Perfumeland – Alyssa Harad, Author Of Coming To My Senses

There is probably no need to introduce this week’s interview subject Alyssa Harad. She is one of us, a true Perfumista who made her journey down the rabbit hole and the way it changed her entire life into a beautifully written book full of ideas and stories we can very much relate to. Coming To My Senses was one of the best books I have read last year and I want to read it again soon, because in so many ways it feels like my own story.

Alyssa used to write for Now Smell This and Perfume Smellin’ Things before she turned her fragrant experiences into a novel-length book detailing not only her olfactory awakening but also the story of her personal growth and development that got jump-started by perfume.

This month Alyssa is collaborating with Olfactif. Olfactif is a service of monthy curated samples that get delivered to your doorstep. I’m sure you have all heard of founder Tara Sword’s great idea by now. February’s offerings have been curated by Alyssa and consist of two of her favorite perfumes described in the novel and one she has falled for since. Take a look at those three scents here.

But now, let’s hear about Alyssa’s private quirks and routines in the questionnaire:


A good day starts with… tea. Always tea. You don’t want to talk to me before tea.

I’d never leave the house without… locking the door behind me.

I always feel good when… I manage to finish a piece of writing. Until I start wondering how to revise it.

My favorite thing in the world is… a great conversation.

The next thing I want to buy is… a plane ticket to London. I’m hoping to go later this spring.

The place I always come back to is… the couch in my office.

My personal style is… rumpled.

My favorite perfume… oh my god I can’t believe you’re asking me this. How much time do you have? (A: Not enough.)

When I travel I always… eavesdrop.

To relax I need… a cat or a café. Or a couch. That’s the second time I’ve mentioned a couch, but what can I say? The ability to lounge is very important to me.

When I have a bad day… I have to tell stories about it until I feel better. I try not to tell them all to the same person.

I like to gift people with... something they’re denying themselves.

I find my inspiration… everywhere. Listening and watching the people around me, walking down a street, books, movies, music, art, talk. I especially love hearing about process—how a painter paints or a scientist explores a problem, or a chef creates a new recipe. I will listen to anyone talk about work they love to do.

Something I would never want to miss… getting a little lost in a city I love.

My last mistake was… forgetting to take my allergy meds this morning. Ugh. Austin cedar pollen is the worst.

In my fridge there is [are] always… enough condiments to flavor a small whale. If I ate whale. Which I don’t. I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

On my nightstand I keep… a stack of books and an assortment of hydrosols—rose, sweetgrass and frankincense right now.

The perfect weekend starts with… As a writer I don’t really have weekends. Just deadlines. But the farmer’s market is always nice.

My role model is… anyone who manages to pursue their passion and live well at the same time.

Something I always want to be asked in questionnaires like this is… would you like a free place to stay in downtown NYC? (A: Yes.)

Photo by Erin Mayes

Photo by Erin Mayes

I would like that place to stay in NYC as well, please!

Tea in the morning is just as much a must for me as for Alyssa, and a couch and allergy meds are must-haves if a day is to be a good one.

As I said in my introduction, I can relate to Alyssa in so many ways, and it turns out it is not only when it comes to perfume. She appears to me as a lovely, down-to-earth woman I would love to share a pot of tea with. Maybe in London this spring?

Have your read Coming To My Senses?


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29 Responses to People In Perfumeland – Alyssa Harad, Author Of Coming To My Senses

  1. Hey Birgit,
    Another fun interview. I can TOTALLY understand Alyssa’s need to lounge and we have 3 types of lounging couches in our house, all with different levels of loungability and view to get the creative juices flowing, or just to turn off from the world. We say that our house has two speeds: flat out fast and flat out slow. We are all either rushing madly or still.
    I also love that Alyssa gifts people stuff they are denying themselves, that’s cool.
    Yes I read her book and enjoyed the journey immensely.
    Portia xx

  2. Ines says:

    Ah, so lovely to see Alyssa featured here! 🙂 Loved her answers. 🙂

    Btw, I want to add myself to the list of people who’d love a place to stay at NYC. 😉 That was a great idea.

  3. Zazie says:

    Lovely interview, thank you both!
    So many of Alyssa’s answers resonate with me:
    the “bad day” that becomes a funny story to be shared and laughed about, gifting things that people are denying themselves of, enjoying getting lost in a city and eavesdropping while travelling (a highly encouraged practice!)
    Oh, and I’d love to have a couch handy right now! 😉

  4. poodle says:

    I’m on the couch hoping the snow picks up so I can call out and stay home on the couch. It’s a great place to be. I enjoyed Alyssa’s answers. She seems like an interesting person to be around. If I lived in downtown NYC I’d let her stay with me.

  5. Annina says:

    Lovely interview! I’m a big fan of my couch too, and I raise my cup of rose tea in her honor!

    I just finished Alyssa’s book and enjoyed it very much. I also see we have an adoration for Mythique in common!

  6. Cheryl says:

    I loved reading Alyssa’s book and gave it to my dearest friend for Christmas.
    Many thanks for a lovely interview.

  7. Tara says:

    Alyssa sounds just my kind of person too. I wonder what she does with the hydrosols on her night stand? I use rose water in my toner but maybe Alyssa puts a few drops on her pillow.

    To my shame I haven’t read Coming To My Senses yet, but I will put it on my Kindle asap.

    I hope Alyssa comes to London this March and joins the gang 🙂

  8. masha7 says:

    Great interview! I remember Cedar Fever well, it’s the worst hay fever there is. Hope you feel better soon, Alyssa. And I agree with Birgit, Alyssa’s book is just plain wonderful. My DH read it and really liked it, too! I think it helped him “get” perfumistahood.

  9. Sandra says:

    I enjoyed reading Alyssa’s answers very much. I really must buy her book now.

  10. Jordan River says:

    Cool woman and a fierce Twitterer. She Tweets poetry! Entire poems! I read Coming to my Senses on the iPhone screen because I could not wait for the hard copy. Great idea to buy the Olfacftif Alyssa’s selection to smell whilst reading the book if you have not yet read it. What a Zappy Happy interview.

  11. Vanessa says:

    Ah…I loved this interview, and like you, Alyssa’s book was the standout highlight of my reading list last year.

    You don’t talk to me before tea either, haha! Talking out your problems is a very good remedy, though it can be hard to keep track of whose ear you bent in the execution of this cathartic procedure. And I could also relate to the rumpled appearance and the eavesdropping – part of being generally nosy, I guess. 😉 I do hope Alyssa comes over here! I would love to get my book signed. 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      I remember you enjoying the book very much. Knowing you, your chances of getting your book signed are very high, you have the best Perfumista meet-up strike rate after all.

  12. Kandice says:

    I read Alyssa’s book in hardcover and credit (blame!) her for my fall down the rabbit hole. Now I may have to “credit” her with an Olfactif subscription as well 🙂 She seems like a lovely person and one I’d love to have a cup of tea with! Thanks for the interview.

  13. So wonderful to see Alyssa here! Now I am dying to take a look in her fridge. I could maybe season a large sturgeon, but not a whale 🙂

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