“I just try to write stories” – Damon Yeld talks about his interest in the legendary tokoloshe

In Emperor Tiberius and the Tokoloshe, Damon Yeld builds on the myth of the tokoloshe by reinterpreting this sprite as a good friend and ally against foe. Beyond exposing the anthropomorphic qualities of tokoloshe, for Yeld the power of curiosity leaves the narrator in an empathic position than where he started. Emperor Tiberius and the Tokoloshe has been longlisted for The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story! (2018)

What was the germination of your story? 

The story had two origins, actually. The first was that I once had a deaf cat (called Emperor Tiberius) who disappeared; I often wondered what happened to him. The second inspiration came from my curiosity about the tokoloshe.

Damon Yeld

In what way would you say your writing is political?

I would say my writing is in no way political.

What are your opinions on religion, especially regarding how it is talked about in African literature?

Interesting question… I am by no means an authority on religion, African Literature, or any other kind of literature. Literature flies above my head, to be honest. I just try to write stories. I do think that religion and mythology have always played an important role in providing both familiar and intriguingly unfamiliar narratives in storytelling. Religion can be a useful tool to engage the reader.

What lesson are you hoping readers will take from your story?

As a writer, it’s a tricky thing to intentionally impart lessons without coming across as lecturing. I applaud anyone who can do that. I just tell the story, as best I can. If there are any lessons in there, then it’s due to the characters and their interactions with each other, and I would leave it to the reader to find them. 

Religion can be a useful tool to engage the reader.

Damon Yeld

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Read, write, read, write, read, write, speak, listen, interact, observe, and always be curious. Also, learn to take criticism, because your writings will inspire a lot of it. Oh, and read, and write a lot.

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