After declaring herself a pretty pink princess during her first ballet class, Rachel Corsini dreamt of sugarplums and began pirouetting her way through life. While studying to become a ballerina, she compulsively read books under her covers by flashlight and scribbled in spiral-bound notebooks. The urge to tell stories culminated in her graduation from Columbia College Chicago with a B.F.A. in fiction writing.
Never one to keep her feet on the ground, she traveled the world from Prague to Cape Town. Once settled back in Queens, she dabbled in journalism before working as an Editorial Assistant for a medical publisher. Seeking a more fulfilling career, she earned her MAT from Queens College and currently works as an English teacher in an alternative program in NYC. Rachel spends her time sipping coffee, trying to cook, and practicing her pirouettes. She currently resides in Freeport, Long Island.
Let’s get started with a quick rapid fire.
Q1. If you could be transformed into one animal, which one would you choose?
Q2. What time do you usually go to bed at night?
Too late. Between eleven and one am.
Q3. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Q4. Who is your favorite Disney character?
Q5. Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?
To the future.
Q6. What is your last Google search?
Sushi and Sea Lions!
Q7. What object do you misplace or lose the most?
Q8. What is the kindest thing someone ever did for you?
Paid for a portrait of my cat Regi who recently went over the rainbow bridge.
Q9. Learn by watching or learn by doing?
Q10. Expensive presents or homemade presents?
Q11. What is one missed opportunity that you wish you could have a second chance at?
I don’t have any. Things always happen for a reason.
Q12. What is not a big deal to most people but is torture to you?
It’s time for a more detailed conversation, Rachel.
You’ve answered our rapid fire so well, Rachel. Now, it’s time for our readers to know more about the person behind the book.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that’s going to make us wonder more about you.
The urge to tell stories culminated in my graduation from Columbia College Chicago with a B.F.A. in fiction writing. I am never one to keep my feet on the ground, I have traveled the world from Prague to Cape Town. Once settled back in Queens, I dabbled in journalism before working as an Editorial Assistant for a medical publisher. Seeking a more fulfilling career, I earned my MAT from Queens College and currently work as an English teacher in an alternative program in NYC. I spend my time sipping coffee, trying to cook, and practicing my pirouettes. I currently reside in Freeport, Long Island. I can stand on my tippy toes in regular shoes. Special talent over here.
Q. Well, that will keep you in our thoughts. So, what books did you grow up reading?
I grew up reading many classics from a young age. My dad read to me every night when I was a kid and we worked our way through Grimm’s Fairytales, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland…all those classic kids’ stories from start to finish. When I started to discover my own reading tastes, I dived into every genre, but mostly enjoyed coming of age YA, historical fiction, and fantasy.
Q. Interesting. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
To me, the most important elements of good writing are leaning into the “show don’t tell” aspect of writing. Being able to draw the reader into the story with your words, being able to smell the scents, feel places come alive in that way. Also, to generate deep visceral emotion in their readers. I’ve found that kind of writing lingers with me more than anything. I believe in connection with the characters in story before anything else, so creating well rounded characters is important to me.
Q. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There may be hints about stories that are forthcoming, but it’s nothing that deep at the moment. I think there are more and more secrets as I continue on this writing journey though.
Q. Now comes the most anticipated question that every author must answer. How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
So, I haven’t had to deal with this yet because I haven’t received a totally negative review. There was one where the reviewer said they couldn’t fully connect with Daniela, my MC from Sushi and Sea Lions, and criticized the ending, but I found their reasoning to be valid. Not everyone is going to approach your work the way you too, so I think it is important to be open to that criticism.
Q. What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
Characters. I figure out the plot later. I’m a character driven writer, so I let them dictate where the story is going to go. My stories don’t have any enormous plot beats, but romance and character beats appear for sure.
Q. How do you develop your plot and characters?
I let my characters dictate how the plot is going to go. Some criticism I got for Sushi and Sea Lions while I was querying was that it wasn’t the typical genre romance. Daniela wouldn’t let it be. She was trying to figure herself out and so it veered more toward women’s fiction. I allow the characters to show me what they need and I give that to the reader.
Q. What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success to me would be writing full time. I think it’s very hard to achieve that level of success, but it is something to strive for. I think there are different levels of success. Currently, I’m in the first level. I’ve published a novel and am making some kind of money from it. This sounds a little superficial, but this is how I view it.
Q. Let’s talk about your book. Tell us about it. No major spoilers.
Sushi and Sea Lions is about Daniela Verdi, a former prima ballerina who lost her career and relationship in one go and has to move back to Queens, NY to figure out her life. Upon her arrival, while celebrating her brother’s birthday at their local bar, she is reunited with Vincent LaBate, her brother’s best friend. Throughout the course of the novel, Daniela must figure out how to find herself again, fall in love with everything imperfect about who she is, and how to move forward from the life she was forced to leave behind, in order to get her happily ever after.
Q. What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?
There is a moment in the story where Daniela let’s her ex into her apartment and they sleep together and she doesn’t understand why she allowed him to come back. It’s very emotional. I had a hard time with that because I was working through something similar at the time. I used it as therapy in a way. I kept stumbling my way through the scene, but I got there in the end.
Q. Would you and your main character get along?
Absolutely! We’d have a lot of fun together. I love the zoo just as much as Daniela does.
Q. What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?
Essential characteristics of a hero for me are dependability, loyalty, responsibility. How they choose to reveal those things is up to them as characters. There is a moment in Sushi and Sea Lions where Daniela messes up chicken parmigiana. Vincent, instead of berating her, very gently helps her fix it. The tone and actions of how he does it reveal that he is a hero in his own way.
Q. Let’s talk about the process of writing. When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
When I am writing an emotional or difficult scene I need time to sit and think and process it. I call it wall staring time. I need silence. I know many writers who use mood music, but I can’t do that. I need to be entirely in my head, see the scene play out, and then draft it onto the page.
Q. What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene to write connects to another one I spoke about. After Daniela sleeps with her ex, he does something mean to her cat and she finally realizes that she is loveable and likeable just the way she is. It was a very emotional moment to write that scene because I also had a cat (she recently passed at 22 years old), and have also felt many of the same emotions that Daniela is feeling in the scene. I felt unlovable, unlikeable, undesired. All of the things that Daniela resolves in herself, I’ve been there before.
Q. It’s been fun. Now, before we wrap this up, do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
My advice to become a better writer is to keep writing, no matter what. You can never get better at something if you don’t pluck away at it. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s terrible either, just do it.