Finding Hope in Resilience: An Interview with Rachel Corsini, Author of ‘Sushi and Sea Lions

Interview with Rachel Corsini: From navigating the tumultuous waters of a “situationship” to finding solace in the art of writing, Rachel Corsini shares her journey that led to the creation of her debut novel, “Sushi and Sea Lions.” Drawing from her own life experiences, particularly her background in ballet, Rachel delves into the vulnerabilities of her protagonist, Daniela, exploring themes of resilience, hope, and the power of overcoming adversity. In this insightful interview, Rachel discusses the challenges she faced while crafting her novel, her advice for aspiring writers, the response to her work, and exciting future projects. Her message of perseverance and strength resonates as she encourages readers to keep pushing forward, knowing that brighter days are always on the horizon.

Can you share a bit about your personal journey and how it led you to become a writer and creator of “Sushi and Sea Lions”?

Christmas day. Instead of laughing and shoveling chocolate chip cookies into my mouth, I was curled up on my couch wine drunk and crying. I’d gone through the classic end of a “situationship” that at some point every millennial woman has dealt with. What crushed me primarily was that we’d been friends for years and I felt like maybe I was different, that maybe he wouldn’t do this to me. Oh boy was I wrong. He was the quintessential “situationship” guy; noncommittal and emotionally distant, but he was fun as hell. 

Anyway, back to crying on my couch. My aunt came upstairs and sat down beside me. “You know, you used to write. What happened to that?” Yeah…what happened to that? I needed to do something with myself other than cry. Crying wasn’t serving any purpose. Either was packing back glasses of wine. 

Later that night I cracked open a blank journal and got to work. 

That was the start of Sushi and Sea Lions. 

My writing journey began far before this though. I always kept a journal, starting in middle school. I fancied myself a Jo March, chronicling the minute details of my life each day. Have you ever gone back to reread a middle school diary? Mine was filled with the awkward transition from childhood to adolescence. The trauma of my first period. Trying to fit into a decent bra. My high school writing wasn’t nearly as cringe worthy, but still not great. I was a ballerina in training, and those journals were filled with conversations surrounding my body; that my chest was too big, my ass too fat, my stomach not flat enough. 

During this time, I was introduced to writing through a creative writing elective and that’s where my scribbling changed from personal account to short story. Without this transition I don’t know what I would have done. I continued my writing education by attending Columbia College Chicago and earning a B.F.A. in fiction writing. 

What specific experiences from your own life did you incorporate into the story, and how did they shape the character of Daniela?

Write what you know is something that I realize has helped shape my writing journey. I pulled a wide variety from my own life to shape the story of Daniela. She is not exactly like me, but she is deeply personal. I pulled from many of my life experiences; the trauma of letting go of ballet, the loss of a “situationship,” what it feels like to come back home after a long absence, body issues…all of those things were funneled into Daniela and created the character that she is. 

Your background in ballet is quite intriguing. How did you use this experience to delve into Daniela’s vulnerabilities and emotions?

Ballet is a very strange thing. Once you’re involved in that world it’s so hard to leave even if you know it’s harming you in some way. Daniela’s vulnerability and raw emotions stems from her feelings of imperfection, not being good enough, and of course her issues with her body. There is a quote in Sushi and Sea Lions where Daniela thinks, “There are no good jobs in ballet.” It’s true. There is always room for improvement. Always room to fix the slightest imperfection in the line of the body.  It was important for the loss of Daniela to be real and for buried issues to bubble to the surface with this immense loss. I dug down and unburied a lot of my own unresolved issues behind ballet. I used Daniela to channel most of those feelings. I don’t think everything will go away completely, but writing Daniela; about her feelings of inadequacy, of never being good enough, of always striving for perfection, really helped me to work through all of that as well. Having Daniela overcome these things helped me as well. 

Could you tell us about any struggles or challenges you faced while writing your debut novel, and how did you overcome them?

Writing Sushi and Sea Lions was about discovering my process as a writer and finding my voice. The first draft of the novel was exceptionally long. It was written in two POVs. There was way too much exposition in the front. Daniela’s character was two-dimensional. The list goes on and on. I had a lot to work on to whip the manuscript into shape to be able to query it. However, sometimes as a writer you can’t see these things for yourself. So I sought out a mentorship program, was accepted, and worked closely with my mentor over the summer to help me shape Sushi and Sea Lions into the novel it is now. That’s the book that was published. Writing any book takes courage and resilience and perseverance, let alone a first novel. Weirdly, ballet helped with this process. You can’t give up during ballet, so I never gave up on my writing. I just kept going. 

“Sushi and Sea Lions” seems to touch on themes of resilience and hope after adversity. What lessons have you personally learned about resilience, and how did those lessons influence your writing?

Being resilient is everything. For some reason I picked things in my life that taught me that lesson early on. Ballet forces resilience. Writing forces resilience. If something isn’t the way you want it on day one, keep going because chances are if you do by day forty five or day ninety six, it will become what you need it to be. Resilience and grit go hand in hand and I think that sense of grit is heavily infused into my writing. It’s this feeling of no matter how hard I am beaten down I will get back up. I’ll rise to the occasion and I will figure everything out. That’s where the hope comes into play. I don’t want anyone reading Sushi and Sea Lions to feel like things are hopeless. Just because you have to be resilient doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers and creators who are looking to turn their own experiences and emotions into compelling stories?

Journal first. It helps so much with the process of this. If I hadn’t have been journaling all of my emotions and experiences I don’t think I would have been able to write this book. It may amount to nothing, but you never know. Also, after a journaling session, it can be easier to write a character going through experiences similar to yours a bit more objectively. I found that as well. Again, Daniela isn’t my exact carbon copy, but many things were similar. I still had to think about how she would react to specific circumstances, not how I would. 

Also, live. If you’re going to fictionalize pieces of your own life experiences and feelings, you have to live. Don’t shut your door and throw away the key thinking you have to pluck away at your novel for six hours a day. Writing doesn’t work like that for me. If I am not living I can’t write. You have to experience the world for yourself. You can take those experiences and filter it into whatever story you have to tell. 

How has the response been to your novel, and what do you hope readers take away from it?

The response so far has been favorable. I’ve had few bad reviews which is wonderful, considering it is my debut novel. My hope is that my readers take away the hope. That no matter what happens that things will always turn out okay. That love is real. That life is beautiful. That’s what I want readers to see at the end of the story. That even though Daniela goes through her initial struggles in the end she makes it and she finds her joy again. 

Can you share any future projects or ideas you’re excited about?

I’m currently writing a book from Tricia’s POV. That is Daniela’s best friend. It is so different from Sushi and Sea Lions. She is the polar opposite of Daniela so that has been really fun to explore. I had this idea that all of Daniela’s friends would get their own love story, so that’s something that I am playing around with. 

Lastly, what message or words of inspiration would you like to share with your audience and anyone going through tough times?

Keep going. Nothing is permanent. You are stronger than you think and you will make it out on the other side.


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by Harness Editor

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