Q&A with Rinsai Rossetti ’12
By Carrie Wolf
Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Years after completing her first book — a picture book when she was five years old — Rinsai Rossetti ’12 has finally achieved her dream of becoming a professional writer. Over the summer, at age 21, Rossetti officially became a published author, releasing her debut novel “The Girl with the Borrowed Wings.” Rossetti has always loved writing, but she is also passionate about traveling. She has lived all over the world, including Thailand, Italy, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, among other places. Currently, she resides in a small town in France near the German border where she is continuing to pursue her writing career.
Carrie Wolf: How has traveling influenced your writing and in particular your latest book, “The Girl with the Borrowed Wings?”
Rinsai Rossetti: My years spent in the United Arab Emirates gave me great inspiration for this novel. I spent about 13 years there growing up, and I was very frustrated as a teenager living in the desert. Then I went to Dartmouth, and suddenly it wasn’t normal to be from lots of places. I didn’t like the change in myself, being aware of that, and the book was sort of a way I could get that feeling out. Around the time when I wrote “The Girl with the Borrowed Wings,” I felt a need to find something to help me make sense of my own life. In real life, very seldom do you have the realization, “Oh, that’s what the last two years of my life have meant.”
CW: The idea of freedom appears as a prominent theme in your personal life as well as in your novel. Can you elaborate on this concept?
RR: Freedom versus claustrophobia is one of the main dichotomies in the book. Frenenqer, the main character, lives in the middle of the desert and is unhappy with her life. She believes she was created by her father and sees herself as his puppet. She meets a boy with wings who gives her a chance to escape from her life at nighttime, but she always has to come back in the morning. The boy is a “free person” — meaning he can shape shift — but she is not. It’s really about how Frenenqer finds her own freedom on a realistic level, without necessarily turning into a cat or a bird.
CW: You left Dartmouth after your second year and have been traveling since. What role has freedom played in your life?
RR: Well, I left Dartmouth after I wrote the book. I wonder if the book was part of what allowed me to do that. Maybe I was able to learn a little from my own book. Leaving Dartmouth was probably one of the most real experiences I’ve ever had. I never had considered dropping out, but the day I realized that was an option was the day I left Dartmouth. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done and probably one of the things I’m most proud of. Not that I’m recommending it to everyone, but for me it was the right decision.
CW: How do you relate to the characters in your book? Are you more or less similar to certain ones?
RR: I’d say I’m all of the characters in a way. Many authors say they have to be all of their characters, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to write about them. However, I don’t agree with most of my characters’ opinions. If it were my opinions that the characters took on, people probably wouldn’t read the book.
CW: Is there someone who you’ve looked to for advice or leaned on for support while writing?
RR: Well, no, I write the books by myself. I wrote “The Girl with the Borrowed Wings” when I was working at an animal shelter in Mississippi and finished it in about two weeks. No one knew that I was even writing it. Afterwards, of course, I had an agent, and she was wonderful. Also, I became friends with [professor Earnest Herbert], the head of the creative writing department at Dartmouth. He was very nice to me and always supported me on an emotional level, too. He read the first few chapters of my book, and I continued to talk to him while I was editing it with my agent. Ever since I left Dartmouth, he has continued to reach out to me. He has gone above the call of duty.
CW: Now that you are an established writer, is there any advice you would give to aspiring young writers?
RR: I would say keep your writing separate from your everyday life. It should go on independent of whatever is happening. Try not to rely on other people or positive feedback. It should really just be something that’s important to you. If you can pursue it after being rejected, say 50 times, “You’ll probably get published one day.”
CW: Is there anything in particular that you hope readers take away from your book?
RR: I just want them to feel something. I am not trying to change people’s minds about anything. I just want emotion.