Rebecca Lim: "On Writing Mercy"

Posted May 23, 2011 by Sara | Novel Novice 1 Comment

Today, we have Rebecca Lim — author of Mercy — guest blogging about her book, and how it came to be. Many thanks to Rebecca for stopping by. And don’t forget — Mercy is in stores now, so pick up your copy today!

Mercy came about through a combination of factors.

I was researching a literature essay at uni when I came upon the classical idea that there are only three known classes of sentient being under God: bestial, human and angelic. The idea stuck with me for years, because it seemed so black and white, but had so much potential to be upended and played with.

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 create, I guess. 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. And some people can’t stand not having the loose ends all neatly tied up by the end of Mercy, but I have a real horror of information dumping. I’m banking on those readers who like to be engaged and challenged, coming along for the entire trip.

Mercy is also a fictional response to some terrible abduction and imprisonment stories that were emerging around the time I was writing the novel. The news is a potent trigger for book ideas. The stuff people do to each other in real life is staggering.

With Mercy I was hoping to reach YA readers and female readers generally because of some of the themes I cover. It’s my fictional response to some of the terrible, terrible news stories involving women, which always make my blood boil. I wanted to create a female heroine who looks outwardly very weak, but who could actually dish out vengeance to her persecutors. Kind of an empowering revenge fantasy, I guess.

I also consciously set out to create a female heroine who can, literally, do anything if she puts her mind to it. I didn’t want to create a female heroine who loses her capacity to function at the slightest hint of romance. I wanted to show that it’s okay to be a smart-mouthed, think-on-your-feet, strong and abrasive, yet empathetic character, who also happens to be female. It’s not something that should just be the province of male hero-types.

It’s my personal belief that writers have a duty to put positive reflections of the sisterhood out there. Women writers, in particular, should be empowering teens to not accept traditional stereotypes; even in fictional portrayals of women. We should be counteracting – with all the tools we have available to us as writers – the darkest aspects of human nature. So Mercy, the character, is someone who might bend, but she will never, ever break, no matter what is thrown at her.

So Mercy tries to work on a number of levels, and tries to bring together some of the genre-mashing I enjoy as a reader. It’s the imaginary history of a being of pure spirit (with a shattered memory of who and what she once was) who finds herself inexplicably entrapped in the physical, sensory world. And it’s also a self-contained YA mystery/crime novel that just happens to feature an amnesiac fallen angel, a hint of romance, Latin, choral music and a whole lot of choir nerds (I used to be one, so I can say that). I wanted to layer Mercy so that it wasn’t just the typical “high school” scenario where you have mean girls and jocks etc. I wanted to shake it up a bit. And music is quite transcendent and something that Mercy 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, friendship, the beautiful parts of life.

Writing Mercy allowed me to get back in contact with my former Latin teacher, Norma Pilling, who has basically enabled me to give Mercy her incredible, rediscovered facility with Latin, and writing Exile (Mercy #2) has allowed me to finally acknowledge my Year 9 and 10 English teacher, Libby Callinan, who insisted I read Romeo and Juliet and delve into the whole romance genre. I used to be a genre snob who refused to read any romance fiction at all and Libby basically taught me not to be so narrow minded. R and J is still not my favourite Will Shakespeare play (The Tempest and Twelfth Night will never be budged from top slots) but she taught me that being open minded is the most valuable thing you can bring to being a reader and a writer.

Sara | Novel Novice
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