This week, Mercedes M Yardley is our very welcome guest.
Mercedes is from Vegas, and she juggles two kids, a husband and a writing career. A writing career which is shooting pretty rapidly upwards at the moment, too. She writes pretty much everything – fiction, non-fiction, short-stories, a novel. Her blog, “A Broken Laptop” is updated regularly with updates about her writing practice and her thoughts on the world.
I came across Mercedes when I first joined WordPress, and have been reading ever since. I’ve even taken up some of her methods for working. My favourite? Her commitment to always have a certain amount of pieces out with publishers. I now have a running note in my journal: “Pieces out: X. Goal: Y.” It keeps me honest. And it’s paid off for Mercedes: her name has appeared in a huge number of publications, she’s won a bunch of competitions, and has just been picked up by an agent.
I admire Mercedes for her absolute commitment to making her writing work, despite all the crap life throws at her. Between caring for one child with Williams Syndrome and another who suffers from seizures, and being a good wife (she bakes!), Mercedes makes time in her day not only for writing, but for joy. Hats off to that!
She also takes FANTASTIC bio shots – check it out! :
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing forever, but I’ve only been submitting to markets for about three years. I’m still bright and shiny and new.
Your fictional work is about horror – what attracts you to the genre?
I like the darkness. I think a little bit of fear is sexy. That said, I tend to write “whimsical horror” instead of straight-up horror. I don’t enjoy gore and I don’t enjoy scenes where the characters are being abused for the sake of abusing them. I like my darkness to be twisty and fun. Think Tim Burton. Think Neil Gaiman. That’s what I get a rush out of. So my character stabs a boy in the heart with a sharp stick. She did it out of love. She did it to save him. There’s always a lightness even in my darkest dark. That is very much by choice.
What does a typical day in the life of Mercedes M Yardley look like?
My typical day is full of glamour and butterfly wings. I wish! I’m a stay-at-home mom with two small kids. My days are spent rushing about madly. I try to keep up with my reading (Shock Totem slush, books for review, stories to critique for others, and, oh yes, fun) and fit exercising and writing into every day. It’s a struggle sometimes. But I try to keep the whimsy with me. Every day I try to do something creative. Writing, certainly, or I sit down at the piano and play. The kids and I dance a lot. I’ll jump on the trampoline and swing on the swings pretty much every day. I’ll bake. If I don’t keep things interesting, I get bored and become An Adult. And we all know that Adults never have any fun.
Describe your writing process.
I’m very free-spirited when it comes to writing. I don’t plan things out; I just type as fast as I can and see what happens. I think that one of my strengths is that I’m hungry. I get an idea and I want to see it, I want to know how it turns out, I want to fall in love with the villain (I love villains) and I want this to happen as quickly as possible. I’ll think about my characters and their traits, but I don’t really plot in my head or have an outline. It’s like a lovely rollercoaster ride. It’s thrilling.
You have an incredibly busy life, what tricks do you use to make the time and keep yourself writing?
I never sleep. That’s pretty much true. It’s always been this way.
I have also learned to budget my time and make sacrifices. It’s impossible to write when both kids are home, so I know that I can only write when my son is at school or when they’re both in bed. When that time comes, I’m not dawdling. I’m writing RIGHT THEN because it’s the only time that I have. It is very precious. I have to sacrifice some of the other things that I’d rather be doing in order to write. I have to look at the long term. In another ten years, will I be pleased that I spent an hour tonight looking at HappyChairIsHappy.com, or will I be pleased that I wrote that new scene for my book? It’s horribly pragmatic, but it helps keep my priorities in order. (Maybe just ten minutes of HappyChair.) 😉
Here’s another trick: Twitter. I get on there, stomp around, make writing friends who support and encourage me, and then I challenge them to some sort of a contest. A “I can write more than you!” or “I can publish a star story first!” or “Whoever makes it into this anthology wins” contest. With consequences. It’s a lot of fun, it’s extremely motivating, and it’s an excuse to play with friends and call it “working”.
And last but certainly not least, I have The Best. Writing Group. In The World. I am not kidding you. We read, we write, we nearly come to blows over our critiques, we hang out together and we have fun. That’s dedication. We have these amazing meetings every Tuesday night, and if you don’t have a piece to present, you can’t come. That rule alone forces me to churn out something every week. My Interdimensional Wombats are gold, I tell you.
What kind of a role does your blogging play in your writing?
A blog is extremely valuable to me because I’ve met a lot of people that way. Twitter is fun for conversation but blogs are better for content. My favourite bloggy thing right now is a series that I’m doing called “Be Mysterious: Writers in Masks” where authors send in a picture of themselves with their faces obscured in some way, and a blurb. I dig it. I love seeing these fabulous people portraying themselves in a mysterious light. I look forward to every piece that comes in.
And right now my friend and fellow author Simon C. Larter and I are doing a kind of noir-ish serial blog project. We each write a section a week and post it to our respective blogs. Sometimes I forget how much fun writing is, but this project has reminded me. It’s wickedly delicious.
One of your latest projects is “Shock Totem”, a journal with the subtitle “Curious Tales of the Macabre & Twisted”, which I have to say is a pretty gripping title! Tell us a little about that, and how it’s all going.
It’s going quite well! My piece “Murder for Beginners” appeared in the first issue, and about six months later they asked me to join as staff. It’s a great experience for me. I get to hang out with very cool people who care a lot about literature. It takes an insane amount of time to choose stories and cover art and that sort of thing. I never realized how much time, so my respect for magazines has skyrocketed. I also write nonfiction for them, and it’s cool to write about real life horror. We just released Issue #2, and I have a very personal, very soul-baring piece in there. I’m a bit terrified to have it out there, quite honestly, but you never grow if you don’t do scary things. In fact, my New Year’s resolution for the past few years has been “Do Things That Scare Me”.
Congratulations are in order, Mercedes – a piece of yours has just been accepted for “Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters With the Beasts Within”. Your work appears alongside names like Chuck Palahniuk, H.P Lovecraft, Charlaine Harris and Neil Gaiman – you must be absolutely stoked! What’s that been like?
Oh my goodness, it’s been a dream! I feel very honoured. I also feel deliciously devious, like, “Yes, I crept into this anthology and it’s too late to kick me out! Bwa ha ha!” Working with John Skipp has been a pleasure. He’s a delightful man, very encouraging and friendly. He makes me feel like it’s perfectly natural to be included with such high profile authors. He acts like it isn’t strange, no, it isn’t strange at all.
You work on a really wide variety of writing – poetry, short stories, non-fiction, novels. Do you choose to work this way because you’re unable to pin yourself to any one genre, or is it more that you’ve just seen opportunities arise and made your writing fit those opportunities?
I like variety. I like to see what I can do, and I like to stretch my wings. I’ve always written stories and I’ve always written essays. I’ve never seen them as mutually exclusive. I enjoy it all, and the versatility is nice. I see no reason to confine myself to one genre. Why do that when there are so many different things to explore?
What’s on the cards next for you, what can we look forward to?
Well, Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beast Within comes out in October. I’m in the Hint Fiction anthology with some other astounding authors (Joyce Carol Oates, Ha Jin, and F. Paul Wilson, for example. I die!) and that comes out in November. I’m delighted to announce that I’m now represented by the very cool Jason Yarn at Paradigm (Yay! Yay, hooray!) so perhaps we’ll hear something on the novel front. Right now I’m working on a memoir about my son’s rare genetic syndrome and also a book of short stories. So I’m busy, and maybe these pieces will see the light of day. Who knows? Life is such a gamble.
Thank you so much for having me, Sam! It’s been fun.
Thanks to Mercedes for joining us today for A/I Thursday – check out her blog and keep an eye open for this woman, she’s on the way UP!