December 8, 2010 / 5:33 AM / 7 years ago

Book Talk: Exiled angel on journey back to her past

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - She has no memory, not even a name. She calls herself “Mercy” each time she wakes up in a new body on earth, something that happens without warning. She is an exiled angel who doesn’t know why.

“If I get too comfortable, I will wake one morning and everything around me will have shifted overnight. All I knew? I know no longer. And all I had? Vanished in an instant,” she says.

The prickly, steely heroine of Rebecca Lim’s “Mercy” -- the eponymously titled young adult novel -- awakens one day in the body of a petite high school student and a town where a serial kidnapper is poised to strike again. When he does, she is forced to act.

Lim, an ex-lawyer in Australia who has three children under six, sees Mercy’s journey as a four-book saga in which she slowly remembers who she is, and what she has done to be exiled.

Q: From lawyer to author is quite a career change.

A: I’d been trying to write a book for a very long time and when I was a lawyer it interfered with that whole creative side of things. I’d sort of reached a point in my career where I thought: should I become a partner and just basically work myself to death for the rest of my life, or should I actually take some time off and try and do the writing thing before it slips away?

It was really good to have some time to clear my head and actually sit down and plot things down properly rather than just jot them down haphazardly on the edges of legal pads and then try to patch it together later on.

Q: What inspired “Mercy”?

A: In a lot of young adult fiction the female character often loses her way. As soon as there’s a hint of romance or a hint of personal difficulty she loses some of her character. I didn’t want that to happen because I don’t think that’s a good message to spread to people.

What kind of female hero could basically do anything if she set her mind to it? And I thought: angels. I think I was tired at that point and I thought, “how come I keep forgetting things?” and it was a whole bunch of things fitting together: a powerful heroine, sort of amnesiac, she has glimpses of past lives, she doesn’t know why she can do certain things.

Q: She’s not a fluffy angel at all, but very strong.

A: I didn’t actually want her to be fluffy and golden and easy to like or easy to get to know, because that gets the reader intrigued as well, and it plays into the fact that she’s quite strong and she’s quite steely. The whole reason that she’s exiled is because she’s done something bad and she’s obviously not fallen in with the party line at some point.

I was hoping that it would actually be quite a shock and quite powerful. Every time you read some new story about some terrible thing that has happened to a girl, or females in a particular culture somewhere, you just feel so helpless and angry, and so sad. I don’t really have any power to change any of these terrible things that are happening, but if someone picks up this book and sees this girl who looks absolutely helpless, who looks abject and doomed, stand up and take care of the person who is doing terrible things to her, that’s a good thing.

Q: This is a series. What’s the overall story arc?

A: Her memory is slowly coming back, and so are her powers. So she’s starting to realize what she can do and where she might have come from. She starts to recognize people who drop in and out of her life. There’s people that are meddling in the way she is at the moment and the reason that she’s stuck inside these people that she doesn’t realize is that they’re trying to protect her from something and she’s not sure what.

She will eventually wake up to herself and her name, but near the end of the series. A particularly terrible decision will have to be made... Over time she has become more human and that’s something that no other angelic person in her former coterie would ever have been through. They wouldn’t have empathy.

Q: Why the memory issue?

I just thought it was interesting to play with the idea of somebody who was supposed to be created all-powerful and who could actually be compromised. What I‘m playing with in the story arc is that her old self starts to bleed through the humans that she’s been placed in, so she’s just stumbling around trying to connect the dots at the same time the reader is.

What I was trying to do was make the reading experience more immediate and I thought that memory was an interesting thing to play with as well.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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