Ladies and gentlemen of the Jackverse, I am tickled undead to be able to bring to you a supahstar author who has won awards o’ plenty and writes plenty of dark tales to creep, freak, and tweak you out. She’s smexy, intelligent, and wears lipstick like no one! I give you… the Jacking of Mercedes Murdock Yardley.
JW: Bangs! I do love a good bang, and you pull it off smashingly. But enough about your hair. Let’s talk about heels. I do love the sound high heels make on…no… wait… being an indie author in a tough market. It’s a god eat god world out there and we have to do everything we can to stand out among a sea of like minded fishes. I’m guessing that you and I travel similar paths in that we feel that offering our truest truth to the readers is the best means of an honest pitch to a purchasing public – I swear that alliteration was not intentional!
But sometimes, that truth is hard to present. We’re all cracked and mended fences that do the best job we can at remaining upright. The standard modus operandi says to be the perfect model, be something the readers want to be interested in. Many times, however, that leads to a facade we can’t possibly keep up. To that end, I try very hard to present to the public… just Jack (jazz hands optional). Based on the interviews I’ve read of you, I believe you are of a similar mindset.
MMY: “Cracked and mended fences”. That’s gorgeous, Jack. And also very insightful. You know, I’m tired of the entire PERFECT culture. I see it every day here in Las Vegas. It doesn’t matter how decayed something is underneath; you just throw another coat of varnish on it and send it out on the runway. People are sick, twisted beings. We hurt. We fail. Brokenness has its own beauty, but we’re taught to look away from it. Whether we’re being polite or dismissive, I don’t know.
In all reality, I’m a lazy girl. I couldn’t keep my story straight if I was putting on an act about who I am. It’s just easier to be me and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes the public persona is amped up a little bit. For example, I do occasionally slip my stilettos off. I have the most darling slippers that I wear at home. But what you see is what you get, and sometimes it isn’t pretty. It’s difficult to wear a smile when your heart is breaking inside, and it’s so much gentler for all concerned if you can say, “Hey, you know what? I’m struggling here.”
JW: You’re so very right. Last night my wife and I watched a documentary on Joacin Phoenix called “I’m Still Here”. A camera follows Phoenix around as he spirals out of control and becomes this joke of a rap star. His public persona was demolished and it looked as if he would never be accepted among the anointed, lovely few ever again. After we watched the film, I googled Phoenix to find out if he had done anything since. Turns out the “documentary” was a “mocumentary” to show how brilliant Phoenix was. I couldn’t believe it! And that typified everything about Hollywood and put on display how our society works. So long as the veneer sexy people don’t give a crap what you do. The beautiful and famous get away with things we mortals would never touch. And for that, we mortals wind up having to tread a very careful path, else we “Joachim” ourselves into oblivion.
I was told the other day I needed to put Shero away in certain circles. I get that, but it hurts… and it’s a shame. Everyone needs a little Shero in them. If they had it, the world would be a hell of a lot smexier and we’d wash the dysfunction right out of our hair.
I would love to know what the old guard writers think about the new path. Are they leery of connecting too much, and on too many levels, with their fans? Personally… I adore it when fans reach out to me. I make sure I reach back, even if it’s just to let them know how much they rock!
MMY: I’m with you on that one. I love the openness and connection. I really enjoy the transparency, and I love seeing that the writers I adore are actual people instead of these untouchable gods. But at the same time, I miss the mystery. Authors used to be larger than life, holed up in these magical little lairs that don’t exist in our world. There’s a degree of sexiness about keeping things behind the curtain.
I was just talking with some lovely old-school writers at Killercon and it seems that many view social media as an invasion of privacy, in a way. They were also lamenting that they can’t simply sit down and write anymore. They need to write, blog, tweet, and post on Facebook. My generation of writers grew up doing all of this, so it isn’t that big of a deal, but I forget that we’re trying to teach old dogs new tricks. They also pointed out how much writing time social media eats. I can see that. If I focused solely on my current WIP instead of FB, etc, I’m certain that I’d get more done. But then I’d miss out on the friendships and opportunities that it provides. Writing is extremely isolating. I actually joined an online writing community specifically because I felt so isolated. I’d miss the interaction. I feed off of everybody else’s energy.
JW: The one thing the old-school guard has to remember is that social media is our PR department. We don’t have the luxury of having a team of people pimping our wares. Well, that’s not necessarily true – we have a team of thousands in the form of social friends and followers. But that’s a hard sell to get them to help pimp. Not many care to don the fur coat and over-sized velvet fedora.
But I get it… the invasion of the privacy snatcher bit. But at the same time, it is such a treat to hear from fans. I often wonder what it would have been like to communicate with the writers that I enjoyed (before we were robotized and assimilated by the Borg, er…). But even now I can hop onto Facebook and follow the doings of the likes of Clive Barker and other fabulous writers. In fact, there is one old-school writer who dove into the networking super party head first. Anne Rice has really embraced her fans via social networking. She constantly posts on Facebook and often replies to fans. That is truly remarkable to see. My thought on that is this – if the old guard doesn’t start putting themselves out there on the various social media channels, they will either be forgotten or seen as snobbish bores who are “above it all”. That’s not coming from people of our generation, but generations below us – who see social networking almost as a necessity, not a luxury. It’s a shame, but that’s our future.
MMY: I would have no idea sporting a huge velvet fedora. Let’s do that. I even have an amazing pair of platforms that you can wear. We’ll make a splash, my darling.
I like seeing writers up close. I’m very much a voyeur in that way; I like seeing people in their habitat. That’s one of the reasons that I love cons so much, and especially the smaller ones. Everybody is so accessible. One of my favorite writers since childhood was at a con here in Vegas last week. He stopped me in the elevator to say that he was enjoying my book Beautiful Sorrows that just came out. A mutual friend had given him a copy. My mouth just dropped open. And then I sat there beside the amazing William F. Nolan, who wrote Logan’s Run, and I got to listen to him banter with his neighbor and friend. These are people who I have always looked up to, and they were never accessible before. So while I do miss a touch of the mystery, it’s certainly a pleasure to see them being who they are. That wouldn’t be possible ten years ago.
JW: Conventions, I have recently discovered, are an amazing way to not only network with other writers and people in related fields, but ways to both further your brand and boost your confidence. While at Scarefest, I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicholas Vince (author of “What Monsters Do” as well as actor in my favorite horror film of all time, Hellraiser) about the business. What I discovered was simple – we are all in this together. No matter how big the ego, no matter how large the number of sales, we are equals. And anyone that thinks them better than anyone else is being led around by a rather ugly demon. As you mentioned, thanks to social networking and the immediacy of the constant contact we enjoy, writers are no longer seen as specters in a the dark unseen. We are visible, tangible. And the truth of the matter is simple – writers are taking the back seat to rock stars, actors, reality TV celebs, and other people who are just famous for being famous. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily – but it’s a reality. We live in a train wreck society now. This has never been more obvious – thank you Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo. So we writers will have to be okay struggling to gain some semblance of attention. That, unfortunately equates to sales. The nightmare scenario plays out like this:
- Reality TV continues to grow in popularity, thus further stupefying the human race.
- Humankind’s brain continues to rot.
- Reading becomes a pastime only enjoyed by the true thinking man.
- Writer attendance in AA meetings and/or group therapy soars.
I kid. Mostly. But there is some truth in that scenario and you can see it at the mixed-media conventions. Many consumers stop at your booth, drawn to your covers, only to turn away the minute they realize you’re selling books and not movies.
MMY: I was just reading an article this week that, if researched accurately, had some rather shocking statistics. It stated that one in four American adults hadn’t read a book at all in the last year. That blows my mind, but at the same time I can find it believable. You’re absolutely right about there being so much crap on TV that sucks our time and attention away from any sort of literature. I like to flop in front of the TV as much as the next person, so I understand some of the draw. I’m lucky that we inherited my husband’s grandfather’s old TV, (charming, isn’t it?) so when everything switched over to digital, we were out of luck. We can watch DVDs and we have a movie streaming program, so we have to very deliberately choose to put something in, which has really helped us not consume so much televised trash. It gives me an opportunity to read. Even better, it gives me an opportunity to write.
What’s so interesting about this is that right now, due to self-publishing and the way that technology is advancing, there are more writers out there than ever. We’re so much more accessible. We come out in droves, we link arms and support each other, and yet it seems that the reading audience is dwindling. It often feels that writers, who are notoriously poor, are selling their work to other writers instead of a general audience. It’s frustrating. How do you stand out? What makes somebody choose your work rather than somebody else’s? Is it who you know, who you’re agented through, who you hang out with? Is it quality? Does the cream rise to the top, or does somebody strike it lucky by stumbling onto the right forum at the right time?
It can be a little cutthroat out there, but I see very little of that in the horror industry, which is where I stomp around. As you said, it’s quite supportive and friendly, and I dig that. If you’re going to splash around and hope somebody notices you, at least do it in a wonderful environment, yes?
There are still people who are passionate about reading. We need to teach our little ones. I truly believe that one of the best gifts you can give somebody is a book. They’re relatively inexpensive, they entertain you for hours, and some will touch or haunt you for the rest of your life. When the zombie apocalypse comes and technology faceplants, we’ll go back to reading books for knowledge and pleasure. And when that happens, I’ll have a box of my work in the bomb shelter waiting to be read. The remnants of humanity can gather around the campfire and take turns reading aloud. That would be such a joy!
Oh, look at me go into discussion mode! I could talk writing for hours, and in fact, we very nearly have. I’d better dash. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your turf, Jack! It was an absolute pleasure. I do hope that we can continue this discussion later, perhaps at my place next time. My little corner of the blogosphere is at www.mercedesyardley.com, and you are always welcome. I’ll even turn the lights up for you, if you wish. Later, my friend.
Bio: Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She has been published in several anthologies and periodicals and works for Shock Totem Magazine. Her first short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, can be preordered at http://shocktotem.bigcartel.com and will be sold on Amazon.com at the end of October 2012.