Glenn Rolfe is a good friend of mine, and currently I’m serving as editor for his upcoming Oct. 30, 2014 release, a collection of various types of works called SLUSH. I knew he had read Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley and really liked it. When I saw him post this interview, and after I was brought to tears after reading it, I know I had to reprint it. As Glenn told me, she is an amazing woman. She’s been through so much, and I appreciate her spirit. It’s much like mine, open and vulnerable, which of course leads to hurt as well, but when your a writer, it’s inspiration too.
Enjoy this interview, it’s a good one.
Pretty Little Awesome: Mercedes M. Yardley Talks The Bone Angel Trilogy, Pretty Little Dead Girls, and the Power of Heartbreak and Openess
Interview by Glenn Rolfe, Author of The Haunted Halls
Reprinted with permission
She’s an amazing woman who has been faced with more heartache and challenges than anyone I’ve ever known and come through life’s shit-storm to pound out some of the most unique, beautiful , and bloody little stories I’ve read this year. Her debut novel, NAMELESS: THE DARKNESS COMES, has garnered mad acclaim and landed her a sweet deal with its publisher Ragnarok Publications (two more Bone Angel books).
On September 29th, Mercedes M. Yardley and Ragnarok Publications released her next novel, PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS. I got a chance to talk with Mercedes about her whirlwind 2014 and a whole lot more.
First off, Nameless… 66 Amazon reviews—40 5 stars, 24 4 stars (2 meat-heads that didn’t get it). Congrats on the success. One of the reviews I saw called it “Buffy meets Odd Thomas”. To quote Dylan: How does it feel?
MMY: It feels surreal. I can’t believe that many people have read it! And to take the time to review? That’s just awesome. It seems to be hitting people in different ways, too. Some say they laughed out loud. Some love Luna, some hate her. Some people identified with the mental illness aspect. Others ask me how I feel about the demonic personally. It’s been a ride.
But a fun one, I’m sure. How are the follow-up books coming along?
MMY: They’re coming. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to continue a series. Do I pick up where I left off? Assume (arrogantly) that everybody has read Book One? Reintroduce characters and risk sounding like I’m talking down to the audience? These are things I hadn’t considered before, and quite frankly, I dig it. The sequels are challenges, and I thrive on challenges.
Any idea when we can expect #2?
MMY: Book Two is slated to release in January of 2015. So just a few more months! Book Three is set to release in January 2016. Things are coming along smoothly, and I’m excited. Book Two will be exceptionally dark. I’m pushing Luna to her breaking point, trying to see if I can shatter her psyche. It’s terribly fun.
In August you announced the upcoming release of Pretty Little Dead Girls. (I FUCKING LOVE that title!) You said, “…my favorite thing I ever wrote will be coming out this fall…” Is this still true and why is it your favorite?
MMY: Oh, it’s true! I love all of my books. Each character becomes important to me. But this particular story, and the way it’s written…it was a joy. I wrote this story in three weeks, Glenn. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Everything spilled out onto the page in this great flurry of happiness.
I abandoned the project I felt I was “supposed” to do, and wrote something devastating joyful and unique. It’s a fairy tale with a high body count. It has lyrical language. It breaks the fourth wall. It’s magical realism sprinkled with horror. I love the characters with my whole heart and soul. Bryony, the protagonist, is all about seizing the moment, about living life as hard as she can before she’s murdered. She’s soft and ephemeral and chats with flowers and stars. She wears fluffy mittens and wears every emotion on her face. When I started writing Nameless, I called Luna the “Anti-Bryony.” They’re both aspects of my personality, but to an extreme. Bryony is open and exceptionally naive. Luna is spiny and sarcastic. These two ladies are Yin and Yang, and I love them fiercely.
There are also several little Easter Eggs in this story. The places she lives. The names of some of the characters, including a shout-out to the Shock Totem boys. The detective is named after members of my writer’s group. If you have read Beautiful Sorrows, there’s a story in there that’s the killer’s origin story. Things like that. Shiny things that tie into other places.
I had the most fun writing PLDG than any other project. I’ll always remember that.
Give us the gist of the story.
MMY: Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.
Sounds so cool! And there will be a limited run of a hardcover edition?
MMY: Yes! Ragnarok Publications is putting out a special signed limited edition hardcover. It’ll have a beautiful piece of art created exclusively for the hardcover by Orion Zangara, who is a phenomenal artist. I mean, I saw his stuff and commissioned him that day, if that tells you how stunning his work is. And Hugo Award Winner and all-around wonderful lady Galen Dara did the cover. It’s exquisite. Dark, ephemeral, and perfectly captures the terrible beauty of the story. The LE hardcover is limited to 100 copies, and they’re currently available for preorder on the Ragnarok site. When they’re gone, they’re gone. You can still purchase paperbacks and hardcovers, I believe, but without the extra bells and whistles.
Awesome. Check that out people!
Some of your works have been audio-ized. Which ones are available and which ones are coming?
MMY: NAMELESS and APOCALYPTIC MONTESSA AND NUCLEAR LULU: A TALE OF ATOMIC LOVE are both available right now! I adore the narrators they chose. They did a wonderful job. BEAUTIFUL SORROWS will be available fairly soon, I believe. Perhaps in the new year. I’m narrating it with my fellow writer Mason Bundschuh recording, and we still need to do a few overdubs. The problem is that we have 6 ½ children between us, so it’s difficult to find a time when we can get together and record while the kids are quiet. Ha. Those darn kids, playing and having fun. What trouble. 😉
I also caught the “in the closet” photo of you doing the Beautiful Sorrows audio. That’s how I did the vocals for the Never Nudes EP. There’s nothing like getting in there and going for it is there?
MMY: Did you? I didn’t know that! Yep, that’s Mason and his wife’s closet. His wife had the most beautiful pair of boots in there. I fell in love with them during recording. It was strange and fun lurking in their closet. My house doesn’t have a single closet that big. What a shame.
That’s a damn shame.
Let’s talk shop for a minute….
I recently finished up a couple of pieces and found myself leaning heavily on a couple friends of mine. They really kicked my ass and wouldn’t allow me to cut corners or write anything stupid. Do you have someone or someones like that? If so, who? And what makes you trust them ?
MMY: I do. I rely on my writer’s group, The Illiterati. It consists of Mason, Billie the girl, Ryan, Matt, and myself. I ran into Mason at a city writer’s group, and he brought me into the fold, so to speak. We’ve all been working together for five or six years now, and we’ve become family. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If one of them tells me something, I’m going to listen. It doesn’t mean I always agree with the critique or the advice, but I know it’s coming from a place of love and skill. They’ve helped me improve so much.
In fact, The Desert Companion had journalist and photographer hang out with us last week at an Illiterati meeting! It was so awesome. They’re doing a write-up on us for the October issue, which I think is pretty cool. The group is amazing. We travel to conventions together. We go to each other’s birthday parties. We play ukuleles and banjos and guitars together. I love these cats.
I told you not too long ago that two of my pieces from last year were heavily influenced by Beautiful Sorrows, or at least, I tried to soften my edges and slip into more whimsical/magical realms (even if only for bits here and there). Thank you for that. What’s the last couple of things you read that you feel really inspired your latest works?
MMY: Glenn, you don’t know how much that pleases me. Thank you! I can’t wait to pick up your newest. Coming from Samhain, right?
I read this utterly breathtaking book titled THE MOON SISTERS by Therese Walsh. It’s about a mother who may or may not have committed suicide, and how her family deals with the aftermath. Heartbreakingly lovely. Quite frankly, I wish I had written it.
My debut novel, NAMELESS, has a sort of Dean Koontz feel. It’s been compared to both TICK TOCK, which I loved, and his ODD THOMAS. That’s pretty flattering. I suppose I did borrow some of the tone from TICK TOCK, because I loved it so much. They have this fun banter back and forth that really amused me, and I think the dialogue is one of NAMELESS’ strong points.
Another one of your strong points is your heart, your openness.
Real life’s cheap shots often fuel the artist. In light of some of the hardships in your personal life, do you let your pain in, and how do you use it. Do you lash out with a harder edge, or do you let it lend that extra weight to your more melancholy pieces?
MMY: I have to let my pain in. As an artist, I tend to feel things especially deeply. I was never good at letting things roll off my back or walking by somebody who was suffering. I always manage to get right down there in the trenches with them, to see if I can help. Sometimes a little kindness is all I can offer, but you can’t underestimate the value of kindness when it seems like the world is dark.
Sometimes I lash out. In Luna’s case, she deals with things in a very ferocious, biting manner. I finished the second half of that book after losing two babies, so it was a cleansing and safe way for me to scream at the world using her voice. And sometimes I allow sorrow and loss to drift into some of the softer things I do. That melancholy is always there. It always has been. Melancholy runs under my skin like a thin vein of sorrow, and I don’t think that will ever change. But I try to use it instead of letting it weigh me down to the point where I can’t get back up.
My wife is a children’s case manager. She deals with special needs kids on a daily basis. She was looking over my shoulder while I was going through some of your blog posts. When I read some of your posts, I was like ‘ damn.’ . My wife says, “Some people are dealt a shitty hand because the lessons that they can learn can help others.” And I feel like with your openness and willingness to share your heartbreak and challenges, that’s exactly what you’ve done and continue to do. Can you touch on that?
MMY: Your wife put it beautifully. Please thank her for me.
Heartbreak and challenges. It isn’t something that most people want to share. We’re taught not to show our weakness, and that’s damaging. We all struggle. We all suffer. To put on a happy face when you’re really falling apart inside is insane. It only hurts us. I’ve found being open about some of our challenges allows others to open up as well. To say, “Oh, thank goodness! I thought I was the only one.” You’re not. Whatever you’re going through, somebody has struggled through it, or is currently there.
My oldest son has Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that turned our world inside out. He was abused by a teacher. I had post-partum preeclampsia with my middle child, which the doctors said didn’t technically exist. My organs were shutting down and they called my husband in to say goodbye. My last pregnancy were three beautiful triplets. Two passed away with a rare genetic disease called alobar holoprosencephaly. Be very careful if you research that. It isn’t for the faint of heart.
So we have things that come up and they feel like too much weight to handle. But I’ve found that when I say, “Help,” others are there to reach out and help. When Niko was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, I didn’t know one other person who had it. I started my Williams blog (www.williamssyndrome.blogpost.com) and I was simply screaming into the universe. Now I’m in a support group with over a thousand members, all who understand the syndrome.
There are strong, sensitive people out there who understand you and whatever you’re going through. The Internet makes it especially easy to reach these people. I hope that by talking about things I used to feel ashamed about, like having a bad day with a special needs child, or grief, or anger, or depression, that others will see that they’re not alone. That’s what I think the purpose of life is. Relationships. Giving each other a hand or a hug or a pillow fort when needed. Protecting those you care about. Realizing that there is dignity in all things, even suffering.
I also saw that earlier this year you were in a book called, Three Minus One. How did that come about? And have you heard back from any of its readers?
MMY: I have heard back from some readers on that one. Three Minus One is a book dealing with the death of a child. I was still processing my feelings about it and I saw the submissions call. I wrote about the conflict of losing two of my three triplets. Celebrating birthdays and death days, and how difficult that is. I was shopping for a stroller and a casket on the simultaneously, and it was so conflicting and surreal. But the readers seem to find comfort in the book, in knowing they aren’t alone. That’s what I hoped to do by contributing my story along with the others.
It is an amazing ability to be able to accept what comes our way, and an even more admirable gift to be able to put yourself out there and be that someone for those who think no one else gets it.
I want to switch gears back to writing and inspiration.
A couple months ago i watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (great flick). It really inspired me to sit down and write. Give me the one or two movies that when you watch them they make you want to sit down and craft a new story.
MMY: Stranger Than Fiction made me want to write. I enjoyed it through and through. Also, watching the series LOST made me want to write, too. They dealt with such a huge cast and all of these intricately woven plot lines! I want to do that! Challenge myself by dealing with a large cast of crazy characters. That would be very cool.
What is the scariest novel you ever read?
MMY: Stephen King’s IT scared me. I was eight years old and snuck out to the big, comfy chair in the living room to read it in the middle of the night. Pure terror. We had a gutter and grate right by my house. I was sure Pennywise lived down there. I was also scared by The Amityville Horror. Some of my mom’s romancing were pretty frightening, as well. I thought, “Ewwww! I don’t know what’s going on, but that seems disgusting!”
What’s one novel you haven’t read yet that you’ve TOTALLY been meaning to?
MMY: Oh, geeze. There are so many. I’ve always wanted to read MEIN KAMPF to figure out how a person with such vile views could, with a straight face, explain them. I’ve heard he was a passionate, convincing speaker, and I’m interested in that from a sociological standpoint. I also have so many books from my friends that are on my To Be Read pile. I have three piles, actually. One on my son’s shelf, one in the linen closet, and one by my bed.
I want to read anything that Lee Thompson puts out. Oh, and Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS. Armand Rosamilia’s CHELSEA AVENUE. And James Walley’s THE FORTY FIRST WINK. These are all books in my TBR pile or currently on my Kindle.
What about you? What novel have you TOTALLY been meaning to read?
I’ve been meaning to dig into Robert McCammon’s catalog. I read BOY’S LIFE and was dizzied by the magic on the pages. Ronald Malfi’s DECEMBER PARK is also on my very soon list. I also have that friend’s To-be-read collection.
Now, everybody loves food. I know you dabble in the kitchen quite a bit.
Personally, I’ve been barbecuing like a mad dog since the beginning of May (I make some pretty tasty BBQ chicken these days). What is the latest kitchen masterpiece from the Yardley home?
MMY: I can’t barbeque to save my life. That’s awesome you do it. I hereby invite myself over to dinner with your family! I’ll bring dessert
We’ve been trying to eat a little healthier. The other day I made potato quinoa patties with curried chickpeas. It sounds bizarre, but it really was delicious and filling. It tasted like comfort food. I’m always making new treats! I made my first full-sized trifle not too long ago. Lemon raspberry, and it was a success. I’m really into making soups right now. Potato, or split pea. Even cauliflower. I pair them with homemade bread sticks or cheddar biscuits with flax and kale added to it. It sounds like it would be dry, but it’s really good.
My biggest achievement right now was putting together freezer meals. I went shopping, cut everything up, and assembled twenty different meals that I can freeze. Pork chops and sweet potatoes, sausage and peppers, rosemary chicken, etc. Then I throw those suckers in a crock pot. Voila, dinner. Because I have three kids, three chickens, a bunny, a turtle, and a fish. Oh, and some insane, brain-exploding deadlines. I just gave myself twenty nights where I don’t have to cook, and that hour and a half will be put toward writing to knock these projects out. It’s crunch time and I’ll use every trick in the book to get things done.
If you guys ever want to come all the way over to the east coast, you are more than welcome.
Thank you so very much for making the time for me. Best of luck with the new book!
MMY: Thanks, Glenn! It’s absolutely a pleasure. And good luck with yours! I’m excited to pick it up.
Find Mercedes and her blog, books, and stories here: