November 24, 2014

The Kind of Girl Who Gets Murdered: an interview with Mercedes M. Yardley, author of "Pretty Little Dead Girls"

Mercedes M. Yardley writes the kind of stories that will rip your heart out, then pet it, and love it, and squeeze it, and call it George. She's good like that. Anyway, she has a new novel out this fall through Ragnarok Publications, Pretty Little Dead Girls. I know, great title. Great cover art, too. Great premise on top of all that. Anyway, I had the chance to shoot a few questions at her and she shot some answers right back. Check it out.

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Pretty Little Dead Girls? Am I right in thinking this one was a bit of a more personal journey for you compared to your other work?
Mercedes: You’d be right in saying that. It’s exceptionally personal.
The story of PLDG came two-fold. Back when I lived in Seattle, this stranger came up to me while I was standing in line at the bank. He was obviously upset. He took my hand and said, “You know, you’re the kind of girl who gets murdered.” He literally had tears in his eyes. I mean, this gentleman believed what he was saying. And I responded with, “I know.”
His words never left me. And one day I was dragging my feet, working on some self-imposed novel that I wasn’t interested in. I decided to throw it off and write something completely new, in a unique voice. It wasn’t for anybody but myself. I sat at the keyboard and wrote the first line of Pretty little Dead Girls, which is “Bryony Adams was the type of girl who got murdered.” And I finished the story three weeks later. I was obsessed with it, with the sheer joy of it. Breaking the fourth wall and writing this strange, dark, lovely little story. I cried when I finished it. I was afraid I’d never write anything I loved so much again.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing fiction as opposed to nonfiction, which is where I first took notice of your work in your essays through Shock Totem?

Mercedes: There really isn’t much of a shift for me. Telling a story is telling a story. Nonfiction is easy because the story already happened, so you’re simply recapturing those thoughts and putting them into words. It can be painful, as the Shock Totem articles were. But writing fiction is painful, as well. You’re putting bits of your own truth and your own experiences into the work. I’m grateful that I’m able to move between fiction and nonfiction so easily. Poetry is something I struggle with far more, which is strange. My pose is fairly poetic, so why shouldn't poetry be a snap? I have a mental block there. One of my goals is to put out a book of poetry.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Mercedes: Some people get lost in their research, and that makes them very happy. Personally, I’m more interested in the actual process of writing. I do enough research that I don’t look like a fool when I write, hopefully. For example, I had a few motorcycle maneuvers in Nameless: The Darkness Comes that I asked a bike driving instructor to perform so I could see them. I wanted to see what was feasible and what wasn’t. Turns out one of the maneuvers would have snapped Luna’s leg clean off, so I rather sheepishly changed that. But I don’t get too caught up in the research. Most of my writing is heavily on the magical side, so I don’t need to be caught up in the day-by-day minutia of, say, exorcisms or demonic entities or blood-thirsty deserts. They can be however I choose to create them.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of this genre?

Mercedes: It’s so insanely fascinating. So many people say, “Oh, I don’t read horror. I don’t watch it. I don’t want anything to do with it.” But they do. Horror has gone mainstream, but there’s still this knee-jerk reaction to it, as if it were something shameful. “Do you like The Walking Dead or The Following or American Horror Story?” “Oh, I love them.” “Well, they’re horror.” “No, they aren’t. I don’t watch horror. They’re just shows.”

And horror is so connecting. We all love a good scare. When you introduce this Big Bad, then little personal squabbles fall away and it gives us something to unite against. Everybody has fear. It’s one emotion we all have in common. It’s a fantastic way to bond with a stranger. “Did you see that? Did you hear that?” Horror gives us a THEM to fight again, which means that suddenly we become an US.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Mercedes: I’ve received some pretty awful advice. “Cream rises to the top, so marketing doesn’t matter.” “Use a pen name for each genre you write.” “Write what sells.” The last one is probably the worst. I mean, sure, you can definitely write what sells and earn an income. But as an artist, that kills my soul. I’d rather write something I’m in love with and have abysmal sales than write something that bores me. But I also don’t have to live off of my writing income, so I have that luxury. “Write what sells” should definitely be tossed off the face of the earth, in my opinion.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Mercedes: This is no secret, but I’m in love with terrible B monster movies. LOVE THEM. I joined something called “The Bad Movie Club” a while back and we watch awful shows together. I also have an affinity for the old 80s TV shows. I’ll watch The A-Team before I go to bed. We have a chicken named Jessica Fletcher. These things comfort me. I remember watching them with my mother as a child, so they make me feel safe and happy.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Mercedes: You would ask me that! I’m like the one person who doesn’t do a list! Let’s see. I loved “The Moon Sisters” by Therese Walsh as a book this year. Gorgeous and very up my alley. I also finally played Fatal Frame 2: The Crimson Butterfly this year. It’s an old PS 2 game that is truly creepy with a very cool ambiance. I played it with my writer’s group one night and we all ended up squished together on one end of the couch like a group of children.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Mercedes: I have a novella coming out in the Grimm Mistresses compilation from Ragnarok. It’s titled “Little Dead Red” and it’s a horror, modern-day retelling of Red Riding Hood. This particular story disturbed me quite a bit, which is a good sign, I think. I’m also working on the sequel to Nameless: The Darkness Comes. And I’m in a few anthologies here and there that will be coming out. It’s a busy and happy time.

I’m all over the place! I’m active on Facebook. I’m on Twitter as @mercedesmy, and my blog is Swing by and some see me! I’d love it.


  1. One of the best Mercedes interviews I've read so far! Great post, Gef!

  2. Thanks, Anita. Granted, those questions are going to being used for the next several interviews, or derivations there of, so the best-iness on my part may wear thin by year's end. :)