Please welcome Mercedes M. Yardley to The Qwillery. “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the fourteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Mercedes: I adore writing flash fiction and shorts, but the space constraint definitely challenges you to condense your story. You either have to focus on a short, precise section of a character’s life and give it rich detail, or you can follow the character for quite a while but lose the detail. Everything is streamlined with the short form and you have to choose your words very carefully. Each one is like a jewel that must be polished.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Mercedes: I adore so many authors! I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, and I’d say she’s influenced me with her humor and ability to make the mundane seem funny and magical. Peter S. Beagle has influenced me. All of his work is stellar, not just The Last Unicorn, although that is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. Aimee Bender has influenced me with her delicate prose and dreaminess. I haven’t read anything of hers I haven’t liked.
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Mercedes: I’d love it if somebody asked about one of the most memorable moments in the author’s life and how that influenced their art. I was driving home from work one day when a Monarch butterfly swarm passed through on migration. Suddenly there was a cloud of butterflies. They were literally all I could see, and everybody stopped on the road so the butterflies wouldn’t be killed. I rolled the windows down in my car, and several flew inside. It was one of the most stunning, meaningful moments I’ve ever experienced. I had my hands on the steering wheel, sharing it with several butterflies. They were in my hair. They covered the hood of my Geo Metro. When I arrived home, I opened the door and let several more out, and watched them as they wheeled into the air. I’ll never experience that again.
Butterflies, and especially Monarchs, tend to be a theme in my work. I try to capture that moment of whimsy and perfection and also that sense of danger. The darling things are so vulnerable. Their wings are torn so easily. People are damaged easily, as well, and I write about that often.
TQ: Describe “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Mercedes: The desert openly lusts for a young boy’s blood.
TQ: Tell us something about “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” that will not give away the story.
Mercedes: This story is actually part of a larger canon. I have a novel titled Pretty Little Dead Girls, which is actually a Genius Loci backing reward, that has to do with this very desert. It’s a hungry thing, this monster of sand and bone. “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” takes place before the novel. The desert is never satisfied.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Mercedes: I grew up in a small desert town, and spent quite a bit of time outdoors. We were always hiking and climbing. We learned Rattlesnake Bite 101 in school. I can’t tell you how many times I stepped on cactus or saw something whip into its hole out in the middle of nowhere. The desert was exceptionally beautiful but also dangerous. Everything out there could kill you. So that became the powerful, sentient inspiration for Pretty Little Dead Girls and “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes.”
That’s my Genius loci. The desert is very much alive.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”.
The desert prowled up to the front porch, eying Lucas Marsh with interest. Lucas eyed it back.
TQ: In which genre or genres does “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Mercedes: This story is a magical realism story, along the lines of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think classifications are still useful as a general guideline toward what interests a reader, but works straddle so many genres right now that one story could easily be classified as several things. In my opinion, genre classifications are used for marketing purposes and to give the reader a general idea of what the book will be like, but it really isn’t super useful beyond that. And the classification system is growing every day. A few years ago nobody had heard of Grimdark, but now not only is it a genre, but it has its own subgenres as well.
TQ: What's next?
Mercedes: I’m currently working on a couple of shared-world novellas, and that’s really a lot of fun! I’m also working on the second book of THE BONE ANGEL trilogy, which will be out later this year. It’s called Heartless: Carnival of Isolation and it really takes a dark turn. I’m breaking the main character into teeny tiny pieces. I’m far too excited about that.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Mercedes: Thank you for having me! It’s absolutely a pleasure.
About Mercedes M. Yardley
Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantastic who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She writes short stories, novellas, nonfiction, and novels. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Nameless, Little Dead Red, and her latest release, Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, from Ragnarok Publications. Mercedes lives and works in Sin City, and you can reach her at www.mercedesyardley.com.