Author Interview: Mercedes M. Yardley

Beautiful Sorrows
by Mercedes M. Yardley
$13.99 | Amazon.com
Shock Totem Publications
September 5, 2012 | 196 pages

Praise for Beautiful Sorrows:
“Beautiful Sorrows… delicate prose with devastating impact. Mercedes Yardley is a female Joe Hill, and I fear her ‘Broken’ will haunt me to my grave.”
—F. Paul Wilson, New York TimesBestselling Author of The Keep and The Tomb

“Mercedes M. Yardley has the Right Stuff. She demonstrates that in her wonderful collection of short stories: Beautiful Sorrows. Each story is a different kind of gem, the bagful priceless.”
—Gene O’Neill, Bram Stoker Award™-winning Author of The Taste of Tenderloin and Double Jack

Q: You’re regarded very highly in horror circles for your dark, disturbing, but also beautiful fiction. Certainly F. Paul Wilson provided a wonderful blurb for Beautiful Sorrows. I would go even farther than his comparison of “a female Joe Hill” and say you’re like a female Neil Gaiman. How did reading that quote make you feel? How does it feel to get such praise from your peers?

MMY: It makes me want to weep joyful tears of blood. Thank you! What an absolutely wonderful thing to say! And when I heard that F. Paul Wilson said that, I nearly swooned. I adore him, and his book The Keep was really something special to me. To hear such delightful praise come from somebody that I admire so much, and now to hear such a flattering comparison from you, well. Well! I appreciate it. I don’t know how accurate it is, but I will work my best to better myself and my craft and try to live up to such fine comparisons.

Q:Beautiful Sorrows is not only a gorgeous title, but also aptly encompasses the tone of this entire collection; where did you come up with the title?

MMY: We have to thank K. Allen Wood for that. I was originally calling the collection something insanely long like, Tales of the Broken: 27 Tales of Beautiful Sorrows or something like that. I do adore long titles. Ken, who is rather practical, said, “How about just Beautiful Sorrows?” It was short, sweet, and apt.

Q: You mention in your endnotes that your husband doesn’t like to read most of your work but that he enjoyed “Stars,” which was also one of my favourites from the collection. Is it because he finds your subject matter too dark and disturbing? Do you get mad at him for not reading your work?

MMY My husband is a sunshiny kind of guy. Most of my work is a little too dark for him. He doesn’t care for the subject matter, and that doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’m not interested in golf or baseball, which he loves, so we’re pretty even on that. I pick and choose what to share with him. I wouldn’t want to dampen his sparkle.

Q: Tell us a bit about your process as a writer–are you a plotter or pantster?

MMY: I am not a plotter! I literally sit at the keyboard, say, “I’m going to write for 20 minutes” and then I’m surprised at what happens. Crazy characters usually pop up, like a snarky demon or a playboy fish-thrower at the market. My current WIP is the only one that I’ve ever plotted, and it’s a different beast, totally. I think my next novel will be free form after this, just because structure is difficult for me.

Q: Do you have to write with certain conditions, i.e. with music on, without music, in a cafe, at home, etc?

MMY: If I had any sort of requirements like that, I’d never write! Right now I’m typing while my daughter is lying beside me and kicking her feet. The washer and dryer are going. My husband is checking sports scores on the iPad. My son has “Pumped Up Kicks” turned on really loud. We’re not a house of silence. I have to make do and write when I can.

Q: I think I can speak for most readers when I say that I absolutely cannot wait to read anything and everything from you in future. What are some of your upcoming projects?

MMY: Thank you! That’s so awesome to hear! I have a few different anthologies that should be coming out fairly soon. Two are holiday ones, one titled Winter Wonders and the other is Let It Snow! Season’s Readings for a Super Cool Yule! The story in Let It Snow! centers around Peter, the male character in “The Container of Sorrows” from the Beautiful Sorrows collection. It’s nice to have him show up again. I’m also in three horror anthologies that I can’t technically announce yet, and a dark poetry book that will be out later. I also wrote the editorial for Shock Totem Issue #5, so if anybody wants to read my thoughts on “the death of horror”, there’s that.

Q: So much of your work centers on girls and women in horrendous circumstances–kidnapped girls, victims of abuse, anorexics—but that’s on one side of the spectrum, and on the other, you have young girls who share a sweet love with young boys even if they’re in a set of particularly disturbing circumstances. Ultimately, though, whether boys or girls, your stories reflect themes of being an Outsider, and not “acceptable” by society’s narrow standards. Are these types of characters something that come naturally to you or do you deliberately choose to tell your stories from their point of view? In other words, what comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

MMY: Oh, the characters always come first. I’ll think of a woman with white hair, a parasol, and blood running from her eyes, and I think, “Well, all right, my darling, you obviously have something to say.” I don’t find out what they say until later. It isn’t a deliberate thing. I never really felt like a full outcast, in anyway. I feel like I “mostly” fit in. I never fit all the way.

Q: As a female horror writer, have you ever encountered any male backlash from the antiquated “boy’s club” mentality that some men in the genre insist on clinging to? Certainly at least some of the men have embraced you wholeheartedly, as with F. Paul Wilson, but when you were first entering the genre, did you experience any sexism or hostility?

MMY: At first I thought I was experiencing hostility. I later realize that I wasn’t, but I was projecting something that wasn’t actually there. There is a little bit of the good ole boy’s club going on, but it’s more like people already know each other and have already developed relationships. Women aren’t unwelcome, but most of the guys don’t necessarily go out of their way to get to know us, etc. It’s up to us, and any new writer, to introduce and establish ourselves. There are some barriers, I think. As a married woman and a mother of three, I didn’t feel like I wanted to go to the small after parties in individual hotel rooms. That’s where a lot of networking goes on, and I feel that I miss out on that, sometimes, but on the other hand, I have absolutely no embarrassing situations to regret because of it. So that’s cool.

Q: Where did your love of writing come from? Was your family growing up supportive of your foray into dark fiction?

MMY: My parents are exceptionally awesome. They expected a lot of my brother and I. They expect us to be good people and to contribute to society. They expect us to make good choices, but they’d love us regardless. Mom always said, “You can do whatever you really want to do,” and they support us in the paths that we take. Although I’m sure they’d rather I write about kittens and rainbows, they’re still proud. Dad has bought everything I ever put out (thanks, Dad!) and even gave my book to his buddies at work. Mom is a librarian and made signs and bookmarks for my book signing at home. They’re very supportive.

Q: What subject matters do you find most interesting that you try to incorporate into your writing?

MMY: You give me too much credit. I don’t intentionally try to incorporate anything. I read once that a writer writes to find out what his obsessions are, and I think that’s the case with me. I’ll notice unintended themes will pop up during any period that I’m writing. I used to write quite a bit about water. Now I’m writing about people having dear things stolen from them. It’s probably not coincidental that this is after I lost my daughters. I’m more of an archeologist in that I patiently uncover what is hiding beneath my own surface.

Q: Are there any themes or subjects or things that you want to incorporate more of into your work but that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?

MMY: I’d love to write a mystery sometime. They just seem so daunting and for a pantser like myself, it feels nearly impossible. That would be a real challenge. My current WIP has a bit of that in it, so I’m dabbling. We’ll see how it goes.

Q: Who are some of your literary influences within horror and outside of the genre? Are there any authors whose works you consider a “must-read”?

MMY: I’d have to say some of the usuals. Peter S. Beagle was a huge influence. Neil Gaiman, Christopher Barzak, and Lee Thompson all have heavenly, melancholy, gorgeous prose. F. Paul Wilson is a favorite. Everybody should read Kafka’s short story “The Hunger Artist.” It’s absolutely brilliant. He was more of an influence than I realized. I also read Monique Roffey’s August Frost and it was a game-changer for me. I thought, “Wow, it’s so surreal and beautiful, but contemporary. We can write like this?” It’s one of my absolute favorites.

Q: I also read in another interview that you’re into martial arts–do you have a preference for one or do you just like MMA in general?

MMY: I’d love to seriously study martial arts, but I’m not sure how I’d find the time right now. I took karate briefly, and really liked it. I love kickboxing. I’m particularly interested in Kumdo or Capoeria. Two intensely different disciplines, I know, but they’re both intriguing. Maybe it’s something I can pursue more realistically when my littlest is in school.

A huge thank-you to Mercedes for dropping by and answering these questions! If you haven’t already bought your copy of Beautiful Sorrows, you don’t know what you’re missing! ;-)

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