(This interview originally appeared on HorrorNovelReviews.com in January 2014)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 sees the release of the first full-length novel from one of the horror writing communities secret darlings, Mercedes M. Yardley, Nameless: The Darkness Comes. Yardley is not so much a secret among our community (with two releases already under her belt–2012’s excellent collection of short fiction, Beautiful Sorrows and last year’s novella, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love), just a more of a hoarded treasure. Kind of like that up and coming band that you love and don’t want the mainstream media to get their fat, nasty, write-me-a-hit-or-you’re-back-on-the-streets hands on.
I had the pleasure of meeting her at the World Horror Con in New Orleans last summer. She is as cool as she is talented. I spoke with her last week about her career, her voice, her works and, of course, Nameless: The Darkness Comes. I think you’ll come to see the light side of the dark side once you open that cold, cold horror heart of yours. Come join us…
HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS: Let’s start at the start. How long have you been writing?
MERCEDES M. YARDLEY: I’ve been writing forever. Always. I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t reading or writing. Those annoying Sam and Ann workbooks we used in school? I blew through all of them until the elementary school didn’t have anymore. Then I wrote about how much I hated Sam and Ann, their dog, Nip, and their cat, Fluff. My first grade teacher congratulated my reading and advised me to work on my attitude.
HNR: Was there a story or novel in particular that made you want to write?
MERCEDES: Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” really resonated with me. The cruelty, the beauty. I read it and thought, “I can never write like that.” Then I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and I despised it, but it awoke something in me. It shook something loose in my soul and I opened my eyes to magical realism.
HNR: I love it when a writer has that kind of impact. It’s powerful.
You worked for Shock Totem? How did that come about?
MERCEDES: I had a story in their first issue. It was a cool little mag with an amazing staff. I hung out on the forums and got to know everybody. We just rocked together. One day they asked if I wanted to join the magazine as their nonfiction writer. Later on, they promoted me to contributing editor. It was an incredible experience. It definitely accelerated my learning curve. It was a great decision to join staff.
HNR: Will you continue on with them?
MERCEDES: Funny you should ask that. I stepped away from the magazine a few months ago. I found that I wasn’t able to keep my head above water. If I was writing, I’d feel badly that I wasn’t reading ST slush or doing interviews or articles. When I was doing those things, I was torn because I wasn’t writing. Finally I decided that I needed to devote myself to writing full time and focusing on novels. It was scary. It was also sad. But it was the right thing to do, and I still get to see the ST staff around. They were the best part of the gig.
HNR: Your first collection really showcases your unique style and voice. Beautiful Sorrows was next to brilliant. I found it impressive that you had your own style developed right from the get-go. To me, it’s like a terrifying, bizarre fairytale…with sprinkles. How would you describe your style?
MERCEDES: Glenn, thank you! That’s so nice to hear! A terrifying, bizarre fairytale…with sprinkles. Now that’s a blurb!
I have two distinct styles. I call the lyrical style “whimsical horror.” Fairytales with a high body count. The other is more smart aleck swagger. Nameless, the novel that is coming out this month, lands firmly on the swagger side. But the whimsical, starry style…I’d say that shows up more. It’s the way my brain works.
HNR: Where do you think it comes from?
MERCEDES: It comes from getting out of my own way. From reading fairytales and fantasies, and gorging on the exquisite beauty of things. It’s a style that people either love or hate, and I spent a lot of time being afraid of that. I tried to write the way I thought I was “supposed” to. Now I realize there isn’t any such thing. You write happy and hard and see what emerges when the worry stops. It’s lovely.
HNR: And I sense that’s just what you did in your novella,Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. The work had your signature style, and it felt like you got to open it up a little more and really let it breathe. Was that liberating, to write a larger piece? Or did you find it more intimidating?
MERCEDES: It was intimidating, in a way. It was a darker piece with blood and pain, and I didn’t know how my style would lend itself to that. I ended up immensely happy with it, but there were periods of worry and concern. Their tale was so important. The terrible experiences that I touched upon are real to many people, and I wanted to deal with it in a sensitive yet fiercely truthful manner. And I naturally write shorter stories. I write flash fiction quite a bit. Yes, the longer was different, but immensely satisfying.
HNR: And this was put out through Ragnarok Publications. How are they to write for?
MERCEDES: Fantastic. They’re talented, timely, and enthusiastic. Genuinely good and fun people. They’re one of the best decisions I’ve made of late, and that’s really exciting.
They also put out my first novella Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, so I know their coolness isn’t a fluke. They’re actually this great to write for.
Are your ears burning, Ragnarok? I’m saying good things about you!
MERCEDES: Nameless! It’s not only my debut novel, but it’s the first book in The Bone Angel Trilogy. I’m over the moon about it! It’s a dark and scary book about Luna, a sarcastic girl who can see demons. There’s a lot of humor in it. People who were scared to pick up a demon novel are telling me that they’re really enjoying Luna’s voice and that they think it’s funny. So it softens the whole “We Are Legion; Give Us Your Soul” thing. It’s been compared to Dean Koontz Tick Tock and David Wong’s John Dies at the End, which are both books that I enjoyed.
These are some of my favorite characters. They’re just fun to roll around with.
HNR: How was writing this compared to the other works you’ve released?
MERCEDES: Nameless is a different labor of love. I was zipping along with it at lightning speed, literally writing a chapter a night. It was a break from the other things I was working on, and written purely for fun. Meanwhile, I was put on bed rest because I was having triplets. Then we lost two of the triplets, and it took me a while to get my mojo back. The ending was a struggle, and I put it aside for a while. When I came back with fresh eyes, I fell in love with the characters all over again. So this novel represents the best of times and the worst of times, quite literally.
HNR: Do you feel pressure leading up to the release?
MERCEDES: Yeeeeeees. It’s my debut novel and the first of a trilogy. I hope it will go well and people like it. But as I was reminded, I mostly write for myself and I’m pleased with it. Still, I think an author always hopes their work will be well-received.
HNR: You just unveiled on your blog, A Broken Laptop, that Ragnarok Publications picked up the next two in this trilogy? How did this come about? And how does that make you feel?
MERCEDES: Oh, I’m pumped! I was nervous at first. “Can I pull this off? Will somebody want to read three of my books?” But the characters. They’re fascinating. I love them. I’ll follow them through Hell, literally, and in fact we kinda do. They have things to say, and I’m going to let them.
Nameless is set up for a sequel. I didn’t expect that, actually. I planned it to be a standalone book. Then I realized there was something much bigger behind it, and more to the story. So I set it up as a duology. But then I kept thinking a little more…
Hey, Ragnarok. How about a trilogy?
Hey, Mercedes. How about yes.
It’s perfect. It fits. It’s awesome.
HNR: Switching gears a little, you went through some agent issues recently. How did that affect your writing, if at all, and how is the new agent relationship going?
MERCEDES: I’ve been with my agent for about three years, and we just couldn’t market my work. It doesn’t fit into any of the traditional publishing genres, per se. They want traditional fantasy, or straight noir, or women’s fiction. I do dark fantastic thrillers (or women’s fiction) with strong horror and magical realism elements. Oh yeah, and nonfiction. So I understand being hard to place.
I’m currently sans agent right now. I have a novel titledStormlight that I want to polish up and sub to agents who would be prepared to deal with the eclectic delight that is my screwy work. I still aspire to somebody who thinks they can market me. But I’m very happy where I am right now, too. Giddy happy.
HNR: I want to touch on some things outside of the books. Sort of a quick hits line of questioning.
As a mother and a wife, what are some tricks you use to squeeze in some writing time? Or do you just wait until the house is asleep?
MERCEDES: The house is never asleep. Having three kiddos, and two that are medically fragile, means that somebody is always awake. Someone is always sick and needs the nebulizer. I always leave the computer up so I run to it whenever I have a spare minute. It’s a laptop so I carry it with me from room to room to wherever the kids are. Every spare second is spent darting to the computer. It takes a lot of tenacity and devotion, but the end result is that I get to build a novel. In fact, I’m teaching an online course on that very subject this February for ANWACon. It’s something I think we all struggle with. Using our time wisely and building a novel sentence by sentence, word by word.
HNR: You’re part of a writing group, the Illiterati. Cool name. How do you guys help each other?
MERCEDES: Thanks! We do everything. We travel together to cons, when we go. We critique each other’s work with fangs and claws and then we lick each other’s wounds. The Illiterati is a huge support group. We’re each other’s best cheerleaders. We spread the word about each other’s work and celebrate birthdays together. Mason helped me get an invite to the Tales of Jack the Ripperanthology and helped me record the Beautiful Sorrowsaudiobook. Ryan Bridger and I are writing a very cool trilogy together. Billie is my go-to for the relationships inNameless. She has beautiful ideas. Matt was the perfect traveling companion in New Orleans and didn’t let me get lost. We have THE ILLITERATI: THE WRITERS GROUP and soon we’ll be doing ILLITERATI: THE BAND. One day we’d love to have THE ILLITERATI: THE COMMUNE.
HNR: You guys live where it’s warm, so count me in! Would you suggest a writing group to all writers?
MERCEDES: It works for me, but I like running in a pack. I don’t have that “Oh, I need betas!” problem that a lot of writers have. Mine are built in. I know I’ll be seeing them every Tuesday. I know they’re my first readers. I say everybody should try a writer’s group and see if it works for them. In person, online, it doesn’t matter. But it’s something worthwhile and I think everybody should give it a go.
HNR: All right, let’s get a couple quick ones in here. Favorite treat you’ve brought to a book related event?
MERCEDES: Frozen Junior Mints and Cherry Coke. Mmm!
HNR: Favorite character in a book you read in the last 6 months and why?
MERCEDES: This is horrible. Probably Reed Taylor in my book Nameless. I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction for the past six months. Writing books, enrichment books, true crime books. I can’t very well pick a criminal as my favorite person. But I’ve read and reread Nameless so many times while editing. I’ve gotta go with Reed.
HNR: TV show (old or new) that you secretly love?
MERCEDES: I’m open about my love for The X-Files, so my secret love must be Murder, She Wrote. That squirrely Jessica and her pastel collared shirts! She’s so sassy.
HNR: You play the ukulele. Would you write and record a record with Eddie Vedder if he asked you to?
MERCEDES: In a heartbeat, especially now that he’s softened his style. Our music would be a thing of tragic beauty. Set that up for me, would you, Glenn?
HNR: I agree, and I will see what I can do. Any parting promo or tip for the peeps?
MERCEDES: Yes! This writing thing is awesome, but it’s a business. All of those hurt feelings? Those “I was rejected so I’ll never write again” moments? Let them go. Learn how to breathe through it. If you want to write, then don’t let anything stop you. You have it in you, my darlings. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different.
I also want to say that Nameless: The Darkness Comes is slated for a January 21 release. I’ll also be doing a Reddit AMA on February 11, and I invite everybody to come play with me and ask questions! I’m really looking forward to it.
HNR: Thank you for being rad and taking the time.
MERCEDES: It was a pleasure, Glenn! I was totally digging on some Never Nudes jams while answering the questions. Great sound.
HNR: Thank you, Mercedes. And just so everyone knows, I did not add that last part post-script! Go buy Nameless: The Darkness Calls, and pick up the rest of her work while you’re at it!
and visit Mercedes blog: A Broken Laptop
Read this interview and others, along with weekly reviews at Horror Novel Reviews
Come back next week. I’ll have a brand new interview with Hunter Shea, author of The Montauk Monster