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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Author Interview: Rebecca Lim

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Lim author of the YA angel novel Mercy. Rebecca is great (not only because she answered every one of my long list of questions!) you can tell she really believes in her book which comes through in her great answers to my questions.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Mercy before here’s the blurb

Mercy definitely stands out from the pack of other angel themed books that are currently available, I hope you all have a chance to read it. For my review simply click HERE. To visit the official Mercy website click HERE.

I hope you all enjoy the interview!

How would you describe Mercy for those who have not read the book yet?

Mercy brings together some of the genre-mashing I enjoy as a reader. It’s a YA mystery novel – but with angels and romance thrown in.

Its heroine is an exiled angel who constantly finds herself shifted into an unbroken chain of human lives – she keeps “waking” to find herself inhabiting a stranger’s body and is forced continually to think on the fly, and adapt, just to survive.

I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone with extraordinary powers to be suffering from a bizarre kind of amnesia where she only has prismatic flashes of memory. The inklings of more than one past life, and of what she’s truly capable of, will hopefully keep things interesting.

I was fascinated in the concept of Mercy being continually forced to return to Earth could you explain a bit about how you came up with the concept.

Mercy thinks she’s stuck on earth for a crime she’s committed in the past that she can’t remember. And at the risk of including a spoiler, the reason she “fell” has a more complicated basis than that, but she’s in the dark as much as the reader is until “Muse”.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “the fall” (whether of humans or of Lucifer and the angels that fell with him). There’s so little actual detail on fallen angels in the bible that there’s space to play with the idea, if that makes any sense. I didn’t just want Mercy to be a “bad” angel – so her back story is slowly revealed over the course of the first 3 books.

For me Mercy stands out from the multitude of other YA angel books that are available due to the fact that it’s not simply a romance book there is also a suspenseful mystery. Where did the idea of adding this mystery to the plot come from?

I just love reading mystery stories and thrillers and they have their own internal rhythm and urgency that just makes you want to keep going until you know what the ending is. So I thought, why not include that in with the mystery of Mercy’s own search for her past? I like reading layered things, and I like to think that readers like to be challenged because each reader is an intelligent person. So I tried to build in a little more mystery and make it a little more challenging, just to keep things interesting.

The encounter Mercy has with Uri was an interesting one as it’s the first time I questioned if Mercy could really trust Luc, was this the intention of this encounter?

Yup, you got it. There are seven or eight archangels across several world faiths that are the “highest of the high” and Uriel is one of those.

What I was trying to do was signpost to people who might have been responsible for Mercy being the way she is now, and who her partner in crime (Luc) might actually be, without being too heavy handed about it.

My perception of Mercy gradually shifted throughout the book, at the start I found her voice to be a little cold and distant, slowly however her voice seemed to ‘soften’, it appeared like she really cared about Ryan and his family as well as Carmen. Was this gradual shift in the readers’ perception of Mercy what you were aiming for?

Yes, because when the novel “Mercy” starts, she’s pretty much fully in the grip of her “illness” – which is waking up in a new body with very little idea of how she got there. During the course of each “life” she lives she has to think on her feet just to survive and small things start to come back to her and start to make sense, but whenever she first “wakes” it’s a struggle for her (and for the reader) to work out what’s going on, then she “grows” into the body and the life she’s living and it gets easier.

What inspired you to write Mercy?

I’ve been really keen to write a fantasy novel for a while where the “hero” was a girl and actually (eep!) strong for a change, in the sense that her essential character would never bend, buckle, or break no matter what life was throwing at her.

I started off writing a book with a mermaid protagonist a long while ago but was getting bogged down in historical details (what people wore, ate, fought with etc) and thought I’d just transpose the idea of the strong heroine to an urban setting. And I’ve always loved myths and legends and the idea of the Old Testament angel with the burning sword, plus my short term memory seems to have disappeared entirely, so throw all that in a pot and I guess “Mercy” is the result.

Throughout the book there was a presence of music, was this use of music simply utilised as a plot device or was there a specific reasoning behind its use?

I’m a choir nerd from way back and I love that piece of music. Plus, I wanted to layer “Mercy” so that it wasn’t just the typical “school setting” scenario where you have mean girls and jocks and all that stuff. I wanted to shake it up a bit. And music is quite transcendent and something that Mercy (the character) has had missing from her life, so I wanted to bring that kind of transcendent stuff back into her memory because it’s part of her journey of getting herself back, remembering things like music, language, the beautiful parts of life.

Why did you choose to write Mercy for a young adult audience?

With “Mercy” I was hoping to reach YA readers and female readers generally because of some of the themes I cover. The stuff that happens to women in the news just makes my blood boil sometimes, and I wanted to create a female heroine who looks weak, but who could actually dish out vengeance to her persecutors. Kind of an empowering revenge fantasy, I guess.

The YA audience is so fantastically responsive and immediate and intelligent – they will tell you in a heartbeat if something reads as false or inauthentic. I like how YA readers aren’t snobby – provided the story is exciting and hooks you in, they’re happy to go with it.

I read across all genres and I have to say that there are some readers who won’t touch anything that isn’t “literary”. With “Mercy” I tried to cover more than one genre – mystery, romance, paranormal, with a “literary” overlay, I guess. Some people don’t like that, but I had fun putting it all together.

What was your journey to publication like?

I had a day job that was kind of cutting across getting anything up to scratch from a creative writing perspective, so I took time off to do some books for boys and managed to get published and never went back to the office job.

I’ve been lucky enough to get gigs writing across different age groups with some fantastic publishers and editors. There’s been rejections aplenty - like the time a famous New York literary agent asked his “summertempreceptionist” (that was in the email address) to tell me I wasn’t “sufficiently engaging” to even consider representing – but I definitely can’t complain.

It just comes down to keep working hard; even when you don’t feel you can stand firing up the computer again, just to get shot down in flames.

My supportive husband definitely helps – especially when I get into the deadline zone and became monosyllabic and vacant, he’s been brilliant at reminding me about important things like what day it is, what time it is, now it’s time to eat etc.

What has been the response to Mercy?

I think it’s been more positive than not positive, although some of the feedback has been bizarre: ranging from the criticism that “Mercy” was riddled with major grammatical errors (my publisher particularly loved that one) to the fact it was an angel book and therefore it sucked only slightly worse than all of the other angel books out there. Oh yeah, and someone just said “Euugh,” I think.

Most people “get” the character of Mercy and where I’m trying to go with the series, but some people just get more out of the mystery storyline and engage less with the angel parts of the book and I’m hoping they will change their minds as Mercy starts to “wake” more and more to her essential nature as the series progresses. I am going somewhere with all the flashbacks; people just need to be patient and keep piecing it together …

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself that most people would be surprised to know?

I lived in Warwick, Queensland for a while when I was a toddler.

I know when I’m writing an essay for uni I have a whole routine I must follow, do you have a writing routine that you follow?

Nope, unfortunately if I get a clear half hour I just write like I’m being pursued by the hounds from hell.

As this is a YA blog what are your favourite YA novels?

The Hunger Games trilogy is just magnificent – not finished yet but I’m getting there and they are just so fantastically well written, plotted. There’s not a word wasted and that’s something great after a lot of overblown series that could have done with a touch more editing (which shall remain nameless)

The His Dark Materials books are fantastic (although I think I got the most out of one and two)

Loved the Harry Potter books – the world (and internal mythology) JK Rowling created was fantastic.

The ending of Mercy left me desperately wanting the next book in the series, Exile, can you give us any information on the second novel in the series?

She’s beginning to “wake” more and more to parts of herself that she thought she’d lost forever. Plus, she finds out who did this to her.

In “Muse”, she finds out why …

I don’t know if you can answer this question but will Ryan be making an appearance in Exile?


Are you currently working on anything else, can you tell us anything about it?

Before “Mercy” I wrote a paranormal book that a couple of publishers looked at but said “first half is great, second half sucked”. Once I finish with “Mercy” I’m going back to fix up the back half and we’ll see what happens ...

I just have to thank Rebecca for answering all my questions, I know I had a few! I also have to thank Patricia and Eliza over at HarperCollins Australia for helping me to orgainse this interview.

Mercy is available now in all good bookstores throughout Australia.

Mercy will also be published for the American market by Hyperion Book’s on May 17th 2011.

Exile, the second book in the series, will be released on May 1st 2011 for all my Australian readers, sorry internationals I’m not sure when it will be released overseas.

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About Me

Romy @
Greetings fellow blog readers, welcome to my blog and thank you for stopping by. Now you may be wondering who is Well is also known as Romy, a 23 year old graduate student from Australia who loves to read. I read (maybe devour would be a more appropriate word) largely young adult novels, with a particular love of fantasy and paranormal novels, however I am also a sucker for a good romance.
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