1. Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
MMY: My two biggest influences aren’t authors you’d necessarily expect. I was heavily influenced by Erma Bombeck, who was a humor writer who made the mundane seem absolutely magical. I was also influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read it in class and abhorred it instantly. It was difficult to understand. The characters seemed interchangeable and unlikable. It was grueling reading. But when I read it again years later, I found the wonder and beauty in it. It made me think, “I’m allowed to write like this?” That’s when I gave myself permission to write the strange and surreal. So I find unusual magic in everyday life, thanks to those two authors.
2. What was like nearly getting killed by a scorpion bite and how is your current health?
MMY: I laughed out loud when I read this! What an awesome question.
You know, it was pretty traumatizing. I was doing dishes in my kitchen and it stung me on my bare foot. My foot went dead and my tongue went numb, so I drove myself to the ER. I could tell the very second the medical staff realized it was deathly serious. The energy in the room changed, and the doctor asked me to consent to a $30,000 antivenin. I can’t remember if I was able to consent at that time or not, but I do remember them tearing my clothes off to hook me up to a heart monitor. The next thing I knew, it was several hours later.
It was terrifying because there was this very real moment when I realized was dying. It was such a sick, helpless feeling. I love my family. I love my husband and kids. It’s almost stupid to think that one minute I’m happy at home and less than an hour later I’m paralyzed in a hospital wheelchair. I tried to deal with it using humor, and laughing at the scorpion pictures friends would send me, but I’m paranoid about being stung again. Maybe this time my superhero powers will kick in. I feel cheated that I’m not Scorpion Woman or something yet.
The health ramifications have been astronomical. It wiped out my immune system. I’m weak all of the time. I had a bizarre eye infection that destroyed the vision in one eye. The other day I scratched a bag of grout behind the ears because I thought it was a cat. My kids thought that was pretty hysterical. I’m certain the grout loved it, because I doubt it gets much open affection.
But it’s helped me appreciate my life. And it helped me drop a few toxic things that I was hanging on to. There isn’t time to surround yourself with people and activities that don’t buoy you up. In the long run, that was a realization I needed.
3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
MMY: Tough question. I suppose it would probably be my childhood favorite Watership Down. I love that book so much and it’s held up on many rereads. We use the rabbit lingo in our everyday conversation. “Hey, kids! Time to silflay. Come on.”
4. What was it like winning a Bram Stoker award, and how has that affected your writing career?
MMY: Winning a Bram Stoker award was insane! Completely unexpected and delightful. In my case, it helped my career quite a bit for about a year afterward because it was my first major award and it put me on people’s radars. It was a whirlwind of podcasts and interviews and meeting new people. Things settled down after that. The award means quite a bit to me. It means that my peers find value in my work, and that makes my heart sing.
5. What current writing projects are you working on?
MMY: Ha, what am I not working on? The Limited Edition of Little Dead Red and Other Stories” is currently at the printers, and I can’t wait to see it! It’s going to be beautiful. My agent is shopping a novel that is very dear to my heart. I’m working on a Super Secret Project with Orion Zangara, who is just a doll. A wildly talented, insanely likable doll. I’m working on a couple of short stories for anthologies, some nonfiction, and also the next Bone Trilogy book. My desk is always a beautiful, wild place with different projects everywhere. I like it that way.
6. What do you prefer writing: novels, novellas, or short stories?
MMY: That’s an unfair question. It’s like asking if you like your son or your daughter best. Each story has a different heartbeat, and needs a different medium. Flash fiction holds a special place because it’s how I originally broke into the field, but I love them all. I love shorts because it’s difficult to tell a story well in a concise manner, and I adore that challenge. I love novellas because they’re toothy but not overwhelming like novels can be. And I love novels because you can explore so much in such a vast space. I love nonfiction articles. I love poetry. They’re all my favorites. Except that whatever I’m working on at the moment is NOT my favorite. I always want to be doing something else. I’m easily distracted.
7. What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?
MMY: I love a good fight scene, or something explosive. I love writing about wind whipping somebody’s hair around or somebody taking a good kick to the ribs. We are physical creatures and I love writing about the human body. I had a few scenes in Nameless that had to do with motorcycles, and I asked a local motorcyclist if he would perform some of the stunts so I could see if they were physically possible. Most were. A few weren’t. I love stuff like that. I had a lot of fun writing some of the scenes in Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu. They were violent and wild and just super cool to write.
8. Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
MMY: A few years ago, I would have said yes. I would have told you that I won’t write rape or sexual assault, but I have since changed my mind. My fear was always that the scene would be gratuitous or disrespectful. Sexual assault is such a weighty, sensitive subject and it deserves to be treated with so much respect. Now I write about it, but I’m very careful in how I present it, and I leave a lot of the actual act offstage. For those who have suffered abuse in any form, I don’t feel the need to play that out in front of them. For those who want to read the gory details, they can find them elsewhere. I won’t contribute to that. I think I’ve matured as a writer to the point where I can tackle these dark subjects while staying true to who I ultimately am, and being as delicate and considerate as possible.
9. What was the inspiration for you for writing Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu?
MMY: I read this question aloud to my husband and he answered for me: I wanted to burn the house down.
That’s actually pretty accurate. Let’s go with that.
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love was a long time coming. I had the title before I ever had the book, and I needed something that would stand up to such a moniker. I had a few things I wanted to try with this book. How do you make a someone like a serial killer, whom we rightfully hate, be sympathetic? That was a challenge. I also wanted to have two broken people come together and be something MORE. Something sick and explosive and twisted, but I also wanted the readers to root for them, if possible. It was a challenge, but I loved writing this book. It utterly consumed me. I wrote the story start to finish in three weeks, and there’s only one other book that I wrote that quickly. I barely had my feet on the real world at all during that time, because I was floating around with Lu and Montessa. I wanted them to be happy, but at the same time, I wondered if that was ever a possibility for them.
10. If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
MMY: The first person who comes to mind is David Bowie. He seemed like such a well-read, intriguing fellow and I’ve loved him for years. I’d want Joe Kenda because he would be full of stories and also seems like a calming presence. He wouldn’t let things get out of hand. I’d love Erma Bombeck because she would be funny and warm. I’d want my friend Rachel Miller there, who would not only enjoy the dinner party, but would single-handedly throw it with elegance and grace. And then I’d want some hungry little kid who wouldn’t care a whit about parties or conversation, but would be really excited to fill their tummy with delicious food. I’d want him or her to eat until their stomach was tight like a drum. Then maybe this kidlet would curl up and fall asleep while the rest of us discussed books and music and murder and our places in this insane world.