The Girl With Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti is a unique and progressive novel. Exploring oppression, freedom, and the first stirrings of young love, Rossetti’s debut has carved a unique niche in the YA literary world. With supernatural lore, the bound and forbidden lands of the desert, and a female protagonist willing to carve her own fate, The Girl With Borrowed Wings will inspire girls of all ages and walks of life that the path they seek can lead them wherever they most desire.
A stunningly written tale of an isolated girl and the shape-shifting boy who shows her what freedom could be--if only she has the courage to take it
Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje’s life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy--a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. He has everything Frenenqer doesn’t. No family, no attachments, no rules. At night, he flies them to the far-flung places of their childhoods to retrace their pasts. But when the delicate balance of their friendship threatens to rupture into something more, Frenenqer must confront her isolation, her father, and her very sense of identity, breaking all the rules of her life to become free.
Rinsai Rossetti shares how important the ripples of one event are, her definition of freedom, and what she’s working on now.
Who are your influences?
I always feel silly saying this, but I really don’t think I have any. There are many writers I practically worship, but whenever I let myself be inspired by someone’s talent, it just doesn’t work. When I was younger, it was Terry Pratchett. But people read my bizarre attempts and just went, “Huh?” So I honestly only try to do my own thing.
THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS is addictive. It’s also unusual in its setting. You’ve created a realm that is authentic, but rarely seen. From the markets in Dubai to the streets where Fren lives. How important was it to show your readers pockets of the real world as well as new ones?
Thanks for the compliment! I found that I could imagine the settings more powerfully if they were spots around the world where I’d actually been. Even the magical countries are based on real ones. Nowhere is completely made up. At the same time as the flights, I wanted the book to stay grounded—to remain relevant to our lives.
Fren is a remarkable girl who believes herself unremarkable. Would you say that all girls are remarkable in their own way, but don’t see themselves clearly?
I’d say that we all have the potential to be remarkable, but that maybe we’ll only live to that potential if we allow ourselves to.
What do you believe makes a great story? How do you incorporate this element in your own stories?
Great question! I believe that the purpose of a story is simply to make the reader feel something. (This doesn’t apply to all books in the end, but certainly to the ones I wish to write.) So my rule for myself is to never try to force an emotion in a book: I have to truly be inside the character’s head, write as naturally as possible, and leave the emotion I do feel to rise up on its own.
Do you have set ‘writing rules’?
No. Though maybe that’s only because I’m too young to have fully explored my own process yet. As things are now, basically, I’ll do whatever works!
How much of yourself is in Fren and her world?
Her world—a lot of me. Many of the places she visits with Sangris are real spots I’ve discovered myself, though in different (sadly, less romantic) contexts. Frenenqer—well, she’s a multinational like me, and her sense of trappedness and struggling is something I know very well myself. But we have very different personalities. If I met a Free person, I’d say “Yippee” and jump straight out the window.
Fren meets Sangris, and he’s a Free person. Will you share a little about the power of freedom and its role in THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS?
In the end, freedom isn’t about flying and wings. What I call freedom is the ability to choose yourself. Maybe everybody needs a definition (try living without one, like Sangris!) but the important thing is to insist on the right to pick your own. Other people always try to tell you who you are, and they always get it wrong.
When you were a child (or perhaps even today), did you ever wish you could fly? If so, where would you have most wished to travel to and see?
Oh, I wish I could fly all the time. What appeals to me most is the voyage itself. Then once I get to my destination, I’ll probably want to be somewhere else! But when I lived in the UAE, I did really miss forests. As a teenager, I probably would have chosen to fly to somewhere green, anywhere with trees. Trees are amazing.
You wrote the first draft of THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS at eighteen. How important is it to you to show other young writers that their dreams of being published don’t have to wait? That you don’t have to put off pursuing your dreams?
The great thing about writing a book is that you don’t matter. The readers see your words, not your face or your gender or your age. Whatever you produce is what defines you now: it doesn’t matter if you’re six years old, if the words which come out of you are good. But I’m sure young writers already know this—if they love writing, nothing I say could ever stop them, and that’s wonderful.
How important are the ripples of one small incident to the whole of a person’s life?
All-important! I think people tend to believe their own lives are somehow big and slow and out of their control, but in fact, sometimes all it takes to change everything is a single thought. A movement in your mind, and you’re somewhere new.
Will you share a little about your writing process? How much time your invest in revisions and what the biggest distractions are for you?
Well, it depends on the book. The Girl With Borrowed Wings burst out of me in just under two weeks, very inconveniently since I was supposed to be concentrating on something else! Then I spent two years going over and over the story until I understood what I’d written in the first place. The biggest distraction is my own mind. I’m hugely self-critical and I overthink a lot. But fretting over details only carries me further away from the real work.
Finally, what are you working on now?
I’m working on a story which I’m calling HISS. It’s about a girl whose little brother is born without a heart, so she promises to take care of him forever. Until he goes missing, and she’s left behind.
Visit Rinsai Rossetti: http://www.rinsairossetti.com/