Thursday, June 21, 2012

In a Bad Space: From Lizzie to Ash

You don’t get more proper than Elizabeth Rae Perry. She was born in the late 1800s and lived through three major wars—the Anglo Boer War, as well as World Wars I and II. Life for a woman in the Union of South Africa was very different for those who were lucky enough to live later. Back then there were very few job options available for a woman, and you were either a housewife, a teacher, a secretary or a nurse.

Elizabeth or Lizzie, as she prefers to be known, went on to marry a man her parents thought was a good match. Richard Perry was a successful businessman involved in the railways. Little did they know that he was also a member of a highly secretive ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult, the Inkarna, and Lizzie was to be his next initiate.

And that’s also the point at which her life became a lot more interesting, as she soon found herself the soul custodian of House Adamastor’s Cape Town-based chapter house.

Richard assured her that death was not the end, and that through a series of rituals she’d be able to survive after death, and find her way to House Adamastor’s mystical “house of life” Per Ankh in the Tuat (or afterlife). Of course she had no way to prove his words, but being the ever-dutiful wife, continued to maintain his legacy after his passing.

By the time she popped off this mortal coil in 1966, the old lady could pack quite a punch, and was in possession of a formidable arsenal of daemonic powers, which included telekinesis and psychometry. On top of that, she was also hyper aware of the spirit world. While her body aged normally, as all humans do, she was equipped with power and wisdom beyond that of a normal person. A decent trade-off, if you ask me.

She trained up her own initiate to take her place once she died, before making her own journey through the Black Gate.

The scope of my novel, Inkarna, is such that I couldn’t cover all that transpired while Lizzie dwelled in the Tuat, but I can share this much that the Inkarna use this space to meditate and regroup. They are able to access the memories of the “Blessed Dead”—regular humans who have died—as they move toward the primordial chaos that is the Sea of Nun, and thereby keep in touch with changes that have occurred in the land of the living.

Surprisingly, Lizzie finds that she does have the next opportunity to return to the world of matter when her House needs to send someone new. But complications arise when she wakes in the body of a 21-year-old male instead of the three-year-old girl she was promised. To make matters even more uncomfortable, Lizzie has to pick up the pieces of the previous host’s life—and Ashton Kennedy really did make a hash of things.

Why did I do this to my main character? I asked myself, what is the worst possible thing I could do to a prim and proper lady? It doesn’t get much worse than sticking her consciousness inside the body of a virile male with long hair, who’s covered in tattoos and used to be a barman. It’s how she deals with her predicament that provided me with the most entertainment while writing. The contrast between the man everyone else thinks they know and the person Lizzie has become, is quite delicious, and results in quite a few unintentionally humorous situations.

At the end of the day, Inkarna explores the theme of love that transcends the boundaries imposed by gender, time and death. It’s a story about doing what is right, even though one’s actions might be considered morally reprehensible. It’s a tale of magic, myth and adventure, set against a backdrop of eternal conflict.

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Nerine Dorman

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