Where the magic happens for this writer of horror and whimsy
She greets us with cookies. Homemade. Delicious. “Arsenic.” She’s joking, we’re pretty sure. That’s Mercedes M. Yardley in microcosm: a yin-yang swirl of light and dark. A writer of whimsical horror — Pretty Little Dead Girls, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Little Dead Red, which won a coveted Bram Stoker Award — she’s funny, joyously macabre, and large-spirited: The ornate frame notwithstanding, Jesus isn’t hanging there ironically. Her open-heartedness led her to contribute to a new charity anthology, Vegas Strong, that supports first-responders.
In her compact workspace, Yardley surrounds herself with a carefully curated selection of personal objects bright and dark. “I can see who I am in a snapshot,” she says, “then sit down and get to business.”
1 Dagger This is a Stabby Award, which she won for Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu. Who hands it out, you ask? “Reddit, actually. So Reddit can’t agree on anything, but they agreed that I got a knife.”
2 Ukulele and moon sculpture “My mind doesn’t stop, ever,” she says. To rein it in, it helps to keep her hands busy. She strums the ukulele before interviews and podcasts. Holding the resin moon helps calm her creative stresses. “When I’m typing and get unfocused, I put glitter on the backs of my hands so I can catch my attention.”
3 Drawing “I have a thing for Little Red Riding Hood,” she says. In this drawing, girl and wolf seem chummy enough. But there’s a malign vibe about it, too. “I like that mixture of sinister and sweet.”
4 Bram Stoker Award It’s the real deal in horror/fantasy fiction — Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have them. Because it’s quite heavy, the Stoker can be weaponized if need be: “I thought I heard something once, and I picked it up.” Lady, you have a dagger! It has other uses, too. “During Christmastime,” she says, “we use it for our Christmas village.”
5 Paintings “They’re so sweet and, you know, dead.” Artist: Meriweather Asterios.
6 Tchotchkes “My daughter says, ‘You have a lot of toys,’ and I’m like, ‘No! These are grown-up things!’” Maleficent is one of Yardley’s favorite villains: “I like that she’s a female villain who wants to kill a baby. Because female villains tend to be soft. She’s hardcore. She’s like, ‘I’m going to kill that baby. I’m going to have everyone I know try to kill that baby.’” The skull was made by a friend on a 3-D printer. The kachina doll reminds her of growing up in Navajo country in Utah. “When I was a kid, they terrified me,” she says. “I’ve tried to get over that. I mean, look at that face. He’s darling.”
7 Baby blanket Time for an emotional downshift. Yardley and her husband had triplets; only one survived. “Two of them would fit under this,” she says. “This is the blanket they would use all the time. I keep it in my drawer so I can just touch it. It’s very special to me.”
Post-Route 91, local writers created the charity anthology Vegas Strong to benefit The Code Green Campaign, a first-responder support effort. Available at Amazon.