2020 Snapshot: Rebecca Lim

Rebecca Lim is a Melbourne writer, illustrator, editor and lawyer. She is the author of over twenty books, including The Astrologer’s Daughter (a Kirkus Best Book of 2015 and CBCA Notable Book for Older Readers), Wraithand the internationally bestselling Mercy. Her work has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, shortlisted multiple times for the Aurealis Awards and Davitt Awards, and longlisted for the Gold Inky Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese, Polish and Russian. Rebecca is a co-founder of the Voices from the Intersection initiative to support emerging young adult and children’s authors and illustrators who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability, and is a co-editor of Meet Me at the Intersection, a groundbreaking anthology of YA #OwnVoice memoir, poetry and fiction.

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

People who’ve read my books will know that I love mashing up genres and having something that starts off contemporary suddenly morph into urban fantasy, all-out woo woo paranormal, adventure, crime and/or mystery. I like a good zigzag. Keeping myself off-guard when I’m writing — trying to surprise myself — hopefully translates into a story that keeps readers hooked and wanting to keep going. I think the best feedback I ever had from a reader was that they were so engrossed and scared reading one of my books that they were busting to go to the toilet all the way through, but held off, and then were still too scared to go — even after they finished reading.

In the last couple of years I’ve been working on the first two books in my Children of the Dragon series for middle grade readers — The Relic of the Blue Dragon and The Race for the Red Dragon. In typical off-road fashion, I’ve smashed Kids of Colour, Chinese martial arts, magic and mythology, adventure and action and organised crime into an international quest narrative. We’ve had plenty of Western dragon action over the years in fantasy writing, but not nearly enough Chinese dragon stories written by people who’ve grown up steeped in the myth, meaning and language. Authenticity and representation are vital, and I’m all for busting or subverting tropes and stereotypes, in stories and in publishing generally. I started reading Fantasy and Sci Fi novels for adults when I was still a little kid, and all I could find in the local library, in those days, was super appropriate stuff like Buck Rogers in the 21st Century. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot to do and much, much more great Fantasy and Sci Fi to read from marginalised and intersectional authors. I’ve just finished Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem trilogy and remember being blown away a few years ago by Nnedi  Okorafor’s Who Fears Death. We just need more perspectives. The more, the better.

I’m also quietly working on the next novel in the Mercy series, which follows on from the events of Wraith. I’ve just hit 12,000 words and it’s a good feeling that, maybe, I have a book. Work continues.

I’m also tinkering away at the edges of a crime/paranormal novel for adults that may even veer into historical territory, which is a new kind of mash-up for me. That one is so fledging I can’t even describe it to people yet, or it will vanish in a puff of smoke…

  1. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?

Having Mercy come out in Australia, the UK and the Commonwealth with HarperCollins Publishers was a joy and a privilege for me. I’d had some children’s books before Mercy translated into French, so I had worked with an international editing team before, but the team at HarperCollins in Australia, and in London, were amazing to deal with. I’d quit an all-consuming day job because I was feeling burnt out and really wanted to get the writing bug out of my system (I’ve since learnt that you never do that, and that writers will channel voices until the day they die), and having Mercy released meant I wasn’t just mumbling to myself in a corner anymore. I’d joined a global conversation between readers and writers.

  1. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge? 

For Young Adult fantasy/crime readers who want more First Nations stories in their lives (and everyone bloody well should), I really loved Catching Teller Crow by my good friend, and colleague-in-the-trenches, Ambelin Kwaymullina. Her The Tribe series, which is gritty dystopian fantasy blended with Indigenous Futurism, is unique in Antipodean spec fic. As is Claire Coleman’s  Terra Nullius; which I loved, because I totally thought I was reading one thing and then, yup, complete zigzag and, dare I say it, headf*ck.

The ‘Water’ section in Ellen Van Neerven’s short story collection Heat and Light I wished was a full-blown novel. Jane Rawson’s Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists and From the Wreck can’t even be described, but must be read.

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