I first discovered Mercedes M Yardley over a decade ago when we were published in the same anthologies and publications. Her name stood out to me, as it reminded me of the fantasy author Mercedes Lackey combined with Lisa Simpson’s voice artist, Yeardley Smith. It turned out that my name also caught Mercedes’ attention, for, after blogging about her, Mercedes reached out to me and we became internet friends.
It was wonderful to finally meet her face to face earlier this year (albeit via Skype), and chat to her about her writing. She is as warm, charismatic and interesting in person as I expected, and we had a wonderful time catching up.
Mercedes, or Miss Murder as she is lovingly known, started writing at a very young age, writing stories to act out. Her mother set up a typewriter for her, and Mercedes has fond memories of sitting in a chair, her feet dangling, while she punched away at the typewriter keys, writing sweet scary stories from her imagination.
She still writes sweet, scary, imaginative stories, but while writing is her favourite part of being an author, she isn’t so fond of the part that involves sitting down and slogging away. Part of this might be because she now has a family to look after, children and animals to wrangle, voodoo dolls to make, cakes to bake and, of course, writing and editing too.
What Mercedes loves best about writing is when she is immersed in a story and she is in the flow. She may only be able to snatch precious minutes at the kitchen table, but there is nothing like the euphoria writing that is going well, when everything else fades away around you, leaving only you and the story.
One of the things that has always impressed me about Mercedes – and yes, made me turn Hulk green with envy too – is how productive she is in all areas of her life. She let me into her secret – no sleep. She only sleeps for 4 hours. This has taken a toll on her body and has forced her to plan a schedule and learn a routine. Family time is important to her, and to get everything done, she must keep to her schedule. Napping during the day also helps her health and sanity. She has found day napping great for thinking of ideas and working out problems with plots.
Her least favourite part of writing is plotting. She is a pantser, meaning she doesn’t plot out a novel ahead of time and discovers the plot, much like the reader, as she works her way through the book. When writing her beautiful novel of murder and whimsy, ‘Pretty Little Dead Girls’, Mercedes didn’t know if the main character, Bryony Adams, who was born to be murdered, was going to die or not.
It took Mercedes a long time to discover that this is the way of writing that works best for her. She found that planning her stories left her disinterested in writing them, as she knew what was going to happen. Now she doesn’t think beyond the next chapter, to keep her interest keen. She says the grass is always greener on the other side, and she wants to write the story where she doesn’t know what happens, rather than the one that she has already told, even in only outline form.
When I asked Mercedes about her experience as a woman writing horror, her answer was extremely positive. She says we are in a horror renaissance and she finds the publishing world is much better now than when she started. She says that February’s Women in Horror Month is also helping to make things better. Publishers are now actively looking for diversity. When she started submitting her work to publications, as a woman writing horror, she got a lot of ‘that’s cute, now go bake your muffin’s’ type of reactions from professionals in the field. As a married woman, travelling alone to conferences in a male dominated field made things difficult for her. When her male peers retired to a hotel room in the evening to talk shop, Mercedes felt uncomfortable joining them, and thus she missed out on a lot of networking opportunities. She said as a hungry unknown, she was afraid to say no to anything, and the fear of missing out on these opportunities was difficult to bear. She would say yes to everything that came her way, which made her workload unbearable. However, with more publications came more confidence and more respect from her peers, so she could speak up and be listened to. She had the confidence to request that the evening gettogethers be held in public spaces in the hotel, and people understood. As her credits have grown, she has learned to say no without the fear of missing out, and take on the projects she is most excited about.
When asked what advice she would give to those starting out, Mercedes encourages writers to get out of their own way. She says to stop trying to conform and find out what works best for you. Perhaps it is writing for 30 minutes and then taking a break. Don’t compare yourself to others. If you are writing, you are a writer. That’s what a writer does.
Not only is Mercedes an author with 5 beautiful, terrifying books under her belt, as well as a Bram Stoker Award for her novel ‘Little Dead Red’, but she is also an editor, having worked for such illustrious publications as Shock Totem and Gamut, and currently with Crystal Lake publishing. She understands well, from both sides of the equation, how daunting submitting a story can be. For writers starting out, rejection can be devastating. She advises writers not to take it personally. Editors read the same kind of story thousands of times, so writers should be aware of things to look out for before they submit. If your story has been rejected from a themed anthology, perhaps hold onto it for a while before resubmitting, as publications will be flooded with stories on the same theme and that will make your story harder to sell. Keep an eye on what is trending, what story lines are popular and overused, and avoid them. Most importantly, write what you want to write rather than what you think will sell.
When I interviewed Mercedes in February of this year, she had a very full and exciting workload, including her first children’s book – Gustav and Girl – as well as working on novellas and scripts and a super-secret project to do with ‘Pretty Little Dead Girls’. That project turned out to be reimaging the story of star girl, Bryony Adams, into a graphic novel, which has just received its full funding today. You can still pledge until Friday 17th May, and there are plenty of great perks for backers, so I encourage you to get involved.
Mercedes books are available wherever good books are sold, and here is a link to her amazon page.
Here is a link to her website.
Here is a link to my review of ‘Pretty Little Dead Girls’.
Super Special Giveaway #3
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