Rimma Onoseta is a Nigerian writer whose work explores identity, familial bonds, and the colonial corruption of African spirituality. She holds a degree in Finance from Northeastern University and an MBA from Suffolk University.
Onoseta grew up reading late into the night, under her covers, with a flashlight and snacks. She writes stories she wanted to read when she was younger, stories about young Nigerians girls who are chaotic and fierce, and who question what they’re taught. When she’s not writing, Onoseta enjoys traveling and watching documentaries. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
In this post, Rimma discusses how seeing other Black female authors on bookshelves encouraged her to finish writing her contemporary YA novel, How You Grow Wings, how she learned to trust the process of revision, and more!
Name: Rimma Onoseta
Literary agent: Kari Sutherland
Book title: How You Grow Wings
Publisher: Algonquin YR
Release date: August 9, 2022
Genre/category: YA Contemporary
Previous titles: Yellow Pawpaw
Elevator pitch for the book: Two sisters in a small village in Nigeria want nothing more than to break free of their oppressive home. When one sister is given the opportunity to live with her wealthy aunt, she takes the chance and escapes, starting off a chain of events that leads the sisters on different paths.
What prompted you to write this book?
I wrote the first chapter after an interesting conversation with friends about colorism in Nigeria. Then life happened and I decided to focus on my new job and moving to a new city. Truthfully, I just didn’t feel ready or confident enough in my writing. I told myself that writing was something I would pursue when I was older and wiser.
Then sometime in 2017, in the span of about a week, I came across books by Yaa Gyasi, Tomi Adeyemi, and Ayobami Adebayo. Seeing young black women occupying space, made me realize that I could do it too. That representation gave me the push I needed to open up the manuscript and continue writing.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I started writing the first chapter in December 2016 and the book will be out August 9, 2022. The story started with a vague idea and not much else. The characters’ relationships were the first thing that came to me. I knew who they were and what they wanted, I just didn’t know how to give it to them.
It took about nine months to finish the first draft. I was proud of myself for writing a book, yet I didn’t feel any satisfaction when I wrote The End. It did not feel like the end. It wasn’t even close to being done. I had characters with a lot of heart and no direction.
Multiple drafts and many revisions later, I finally figured out what wasn’t right. There was a particularly stubborn character who was insisting she get a chance to tell her side of the story. I listened.
This meant completely scrapping a character’s POV, deleting 40,000 words, and writing from a different character’s POV. It was the best decision I ever made. I finally knew what the story needed and how to get the characters the ending they deserved.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Publishing is slow and it can feel like a lot of things are out of your hands. I spent a lot of time refreshing my email waiting for something to happen. To get through it, I read everything I could about the publishing process from finding an agent, going on submission, getting a deal, and everything in between. I also asked for advice from writers who had been through the same thing.
The writing community is really wonderful and so many writers were willing to share their experiences. Understanding the process and what to expect gave me some comfort and made the waiting a bit easier.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Writing this book was a very transformative experience. I felt like a different person by the time I was done. I’m more confident and slightly more patient. I would also like to believe that I’m a better listener. So much of writing is listening—listening to what the characters want and the way the story demands to be told.
I was not expecting the way delving into a character’s motivations and fears would make me examine my own personal motivations. After spending so much time in the characters’ heads and learning from them, I felt very protective, and it made me apprehensive about outside eyes—what if readers didn’t understand what I was trying to do?
Surprisingly, revision ended up being my favorite part of the process. When feedback started coming in, it was overwhelming at first. What someone loved is what another person hated. What I thought would make readers laugh, fell flat. I took as much time as I needed with feedback—even feedback I didn’t agree with.
I spent days, sometimes weeks, examining the story in new lights, figuring out what fit and what didn’t. I soon realized that revision is about trust. I needed to trust myself to sift through all the different opinions and make the changes that worked to the benefit of the story.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Reading is such a personal experience. The books that have changed me are the books that made me feel seen, books I could lose myself in. My hope is that the readers who need it, find it. I hope that the words and the characters act as a source of solace, a much-needed distraction, a catalyst to consider a different perspective, whatever it is, I hope readers get exactly what they need from it.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Write. About anything and everything. About what interests you and what confuses you. Write when you feel like it and even when you don’t. Rest. Creating worlds with words is an audacious process so take your time and rest when you need it.