From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Erzebet YellowBoy, author of A Spell for Twelve Brothers

Erzebet YellowBoy was born in Philadelphia, but was moved around quite a bit from state to state by her family. She continued this tradition as an adult until she finally relocated to England in 2006. She now lives in West Yorkshire with her partner and many lively houseplants including an African violet who is slowly taking over the world. All of her time is free. She spends it binding books, editing, writing and creating mixed media assemblages with a focus on the use of bones. She gardens and reads and concocts strange potions in the kitchen when she gets bored with the rest of it.

Tell me a little about “A Spell for Twelve Brothers.” What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

It was really the birds in the tale of The Six Swans that inspired this story, but as I have a fondness for corvids I chose to turn the princes into ravens. While I don’t necessarily believe in it, I am often compelled to write stories about redemption, and this (for me) falls into that category.

If you don’t necessarily believe in redemption, does that mean your characters don’t usually find it?

Most of them do, but they are just as likely to achieve it by means of their own strengths as they are through some external force. In “At the Core,” the main character finds a sort of redemption in her dead grandmother’s letters, while “Following Double-Face Woman” is a tale in which there is no redemption to be had.

Where do you get your ideas?

I am an unimaginative sort who steals her ideas primarily from dreams and bizarre connections made between seemingly unrelated events. Occasionally an exceptional historical character catches my interest and sometimes, as was the case with “A Spell for Twelve Brothers,” I steal fairy tales and twist them about.

What are your favorite words?

Those that I don’t know the meaning of or can’t pronounce. I’m also quite fond of the English word “ta,” which means (I’ve been told) “thank you.”

I’ve always liked the English word “chuffed.” After two years in England, do you feel pretty much like you belong there or are you still adjusting? Or, has your move to England affected your writing — do you find you’re focusing on different subjects or using different settings now?

“Knackered” is a good one as well, or simply “knacked.” I think I will spend the rest of my life adjusting to England. On the surface it all seems very similar to life in America, but in reality the culture here is vastly different from anything I experienced there. The move has affected my writing because I have been affected by the move. I don’t think my style has or will change drastically, but my understanding of how the world works has certainly been broadened and I find myself wanting to explore different themes than those I have touched on in the past.

What are your favorite names?

I don’t have favorite names, although I do quite like some of those coming out of the 60’s, like Moon Unit and Butterfly.

If you could be doing anything other than what you are doing now, what would it be?

I would be working with primates in the creation of a new mutual language or in the use of sign language to enable further communication between the species.

Have you worked with primates or with sign language before? This sounds like the kind of thing that might show up in future stories.

I have done neither and to be honest, I have no idea where this fascination originated. The first story I ever wrote was about gorillas. It just seemed to me that there was a creature I would love to talk with and learn from.

What does your writing space look like?

I have a long desk with two wide screen monitors on it and a pile of papers beside my keyboard. Hanging above the desk, where I can see them, are my two favorite pieces of art: Monkey Business by Aria Nadii and a rendition of Baphomet by my partner. I also keep notebooks all over the house and prefer to start stories on paper with my favorite pen, the Zebra F402.

Tagged as: