The series Women Thought Leaders in Horror is to celebrate, showcase, and elevate women who are thought leaders in the horror community. From authors and poets, to expert fanatics and avid horror readers, these are bad ass, multi-talented women from all walks of life who bring value, heart, soul, intelligence, and insight to all things horror.
Today's thought leader is Mercedes M. Yardley, a Bram Stoker award winning author for her story Little Dead Red.
1. Why horror? What fascinates you about horror and enticed you to write in the genre?
MMY: I simply tell people that I’ve always been a dark little girl. I loved ghost stories and that delicious feeling of being scared in a safe environment. But people always pressured me to write things that were happier. “Why can’t you just write some nice Christian romance?” My mind doesn’t think about nice, Christian romances. I tend to go dark very quickly. I think about loss and death and grief in its many forms. I know intimately what it’s like to lose those you love before you’re ready to give them up. Writing about it eventually became a relief. It was also a way to extend a hand to others and say, “Hey, I know what sorrow is like, as well. You’re not alone in this experience. I’m here, too.” I love the connection that horror brings.
2. What is your favorite era of horror and why?
MMY: I love the here and now of horror! We’re in this glorious horror renaissance. Women are here and making a statement. We also have all of this terrifying technology to write about. We have different thriving genres, like gothic horror, splatterpunk, slashers, and quiet horror. I love the more subtle, delicate horror, especially in movies, that we’re seeing of late. I think the genre is losing its stigma. Horror is getting attention in the mainstream media as something of value, and I love that.
3. What are some of your guilty horror films?
MMY: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I simply believe in pleasure. I know my favorite shows don’t seem to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine with me. My favorite horror films tend to be a little more psychological and quieter. I don’t do well with gore. In real life, when my kids get terribly hurt, I get sick and nearly pass out. So gore makes me ill, but it doesn’t scare me. I love Return to Oz, the sequel to Wizard of Oz. It terrified me as a kid. So did Paper House. There’s a Korean series called Gab Dong about a serial killer who resurfaces years after his “death.” The accused murderer’s son is a detective on the case. It has to do with history and shame, anger, and revenge. I love it so much.
4. What do you think the genre of horror brings to the world in terms of values, beliefs, impact?
MMY: I’m actually teaching a class about this subject at the ANWA conference this September! People seem to think that horror is all about depravity and ugliness, but at its root, it’s about morality. It’s about something that threatens your way of life. The most beautiful thing about the genre is that somebody has to stand up to this Big Bad. In horror, anybody can be a hero. The things you’ve done in the past don’t define your ability to stand up and ultimately defend others in the end. It’s quite equalizing and draws out the heroism in otherwise broken characters. Think about horror and heroes we’re experiencing with the pandemic right now. Suddenly the quiet guy who goes and buys groceries for his neighbor has the chance to be heroic.
5. How do you think your writing reflects you as a person or your life overall?
MMY: I think it’s an accurate portrayal of who I am. I write horror that goes deep and dark, but also reflects on beauty. Either the language is poetic or the explored ideas are redemptive. As a person, I’m both dark and dreamy. I suffer from depression. I struggle daily with suicidal thoughts. But I work very hard to find the beauty in life. If there’s something lovely, I want to grab on to it with both hands. There’s a dark juxtaposition there.
6. What do you think lies ahead for the genre?
MMY: I think it’s going to explode and receive the respect it deserves. It’s going to be grand.
7. Like many things, women are underrepresented in the horror genre. Why do think this is and why is it critical to have women more represented in horror?
MMY: Women are underrepresented in so many different places, but that’s changing. There seems to be this idea that women are too delicate for the horror genre, but we know that isn’t true. Women experience horror every single day of our lives. We know what it’s like to be hunted and discounted. We fear for our physical safety. We’re physically incapacitated every month in preparation for growing a living being inside of us. When we’re pregnant, our bodies shift and twist and stretch. Our organs move around. We have to fight tooth and claw for every little scrap we get, sometimes. But women are strong and powerful. We have really important things to say. Now that we’re making room at the table for all of us, we’ll get more diverse viewpoints, and that will give us a more accurate picture of the world.
8. Any tips for new women writers in the horror genre?
MMY: Yes. Write your horror. You know it. You live it. There’s a real push for more inclusive content right now, so find a publisher who is actively seeking women. They’re definitely out there. Keep yourself safe and don’t put yourself in any physically or emotionally risky situations just for the sake of networking or making a sale. If you miss out on an anthology because you didn’t put yourself in an unsafe position at a conference, then so be it. Always follow your gut.
9. Who are some of your favorite women horror authors to read?
MMY: I love Joyce Carole Oates. She’s extraordinary. She is utterly unflinching. My favorite work of hers is Rape: A Love Story. It’s such a difficult yet brilliant reading. I love S.P. Miskowski, Tananarive Due, and Jac Jemc. Jac’s The Grip of It is spellbinding.
10. For readers who have never read your work, what should they start with and where can they find more information about you?
MMY: If they’re into short stories, I have a collection called Beautiful Sorrows. For something dark, try Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. It’s Romeo and Juliet met Stephen King’s Firestarter. But my very favorite book is Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy. It’s a lyrical fairytale with a high body count. There’s death and horror but it’s also a novel that leaves the reader feeling good at the end.
I’m available everywhere online. My site is mercedesmyardley.com. I’m active on Facebook as Mercedes Murdock Yardley. I do have an author’s page there, but I mostly use it for announcements. I’m on Twitter as @Mercedesmy and I’m also on Goodreads. The best way to get in touch is via my regular Facebook page. I love interacting and I’m on there quite often.
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Thanks for tuning into Women Thought Leaders in Horror. Until next time.