Exclusive Interview: “Yeti Left Home” Author Aaron Rosenberg
Sometimes called the Abominable Snowman, occasionally mistaken for Bigfoot, and still suing the makers of coolers for copyright infringement, the yeti is a simian-like humanoid who lives in the mountains of Asia. Well, usually. In Aaron Rosenberg’s comedic urban fantasy novel Yeti Left Home (paperback, Kindle), he lives in the wilderness of Minnesota until he’s forced to move to the Twin Cities. In the following email interview, Rosenberg discusses what inspired and influenced this furry fish out of water story.
To start, what is Yeti Left Home about, when and where does it take place?
Yeti Left Home is about a yeti named Wylie Kang who not only isn’t a vicious, violent monster, but also isn’t a strange figure lurking in the wilderness — he lives in a cabin by a lake in Minnesota and fishes and hunts and traps and then sells what he catches so he can afford things like cable TV and beer and pizza and a severely oversized recliner. He’s a loner, sure, but he’s chill and low-key and content…until a hunter shows up in the area, asking if there are any big, hairy, really strong loner types around because of some recent, savage murders, and Wylie figures it’s safer to cut and run. He flees to the Twin Cities — figuring it’ll be easier to get lost in a crowd — and is surprised to find a whole supernatural society there. For the first time in his life, he’s got friends, a social life…and it’s amazing. That is, until the hunter turns back up, following the trail of yet more murders. And Wylie realizes he’s going to have to deal with this himself if he wants any peace at all.
Where did you get the idea for Yeti Left Home?
I always like taking established tropes and upending them, and I just had this notion about a big, savage, bestial figure who’s actually completely chill and domestic. Then of course you’ve got to upend that to see where it goes.
I also really liked the idea of this big guy from the backwoods being in the big city, only even more so because he’s not just a guy he’s a supernatural creature — and then other supernaturals who’re already city dwellers, already acclimated, and so on.
And did you do any research into the yeti before writing this story — y’know, for accuracy’s sake?
Oh, a ton. I’m a bit of a research fiend, and it’s so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of research with a project like this. I looked up every reference to yetis I could find, all about their supposed origins (and the origins of their name), their appearance, their traits, etc. And not just them but every supernatural in the story. Half the time, doing research adds to your story in new ways because you’ll see some random line about something and go, “Hmmm, that’s cool, I can play with that.”
So why did you have Wylie initially live in Embarrass, Minnesota as opposed to Okay, Oklahoma or Bacon Level, Alabama or, well, Bigfoot, Texas? All of which, by the way, are real places. I can do research, too.
Again, back to the research. Embarrass, Minnesota is supposedly the coldest place in the state, and of course Minnesota is one of the coldest states in the U.S., not counting Alaska. I didn’t want to go to Alaska because I didn’t want to limit my characters being from — or wandering into — other states. And I definitely needed a colder state for my yeti.
It sounds like Yeti Left Homes is a comedic urban fantasy story. But is it jokey like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or is the humor more situational, like in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War?
Definitely more like Old Man’s War, though I’d liken it more to things like A Night In The Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny or Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne. I didn’t want to go completely goofball on this one — I have a series like that already, The Adventures Of DuckBob Spinowitz, but this felt more like something that’d be lighthearted, with some humor, but not totally silly. One of the big inspirations for the book — and, I hope, the series — is the TV show Eureka, and that’s the exact vibe I wanted, fun and entertaining. It helps that I wrote two of the three Eureka novels [Eureka: Substitution Method and Eureka: Roads Less Traveled under the name Cris Ramsay]
So, are there any writers who had a big influence on Yeti Left Home but not on anything else you’ve written?
No, but only because I think everyone you read has an influence on your writing, good and bad, and the writers you like have a continuing influence. I’m a huge Mark Twain fan, for example, and I like to think you can see some of his influence in my work, but you may also see shades of Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Heller, and so on, plus more genre-specific influences from Roger Zelazny, F. Paul Wilson, Diana Wynne Jones, R.A. MacAvoy, and a whole lot more. We absorb things from the world around us, and that absolutely includes the books we read, and especially the ones we love.
What about Graham Roumieu’s Bigfoot books: In Me Own Words: The Autobiography Of Bigfoot, Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir, and Bigfoot: I Not Dead? Did they have any influence on Yeti Left Home?
Ah, sorry to say I haven’t read those. I’ll have to check them out.
And then how about non-literary influences; was Yeti Left Home influenced by any movies, TV shows, games? Like, say, that episode of The Bionic Man with Bigfoot…or the episode of The Venture Bros. where they parodied that episode of The Bionic Man?
The biggest one, like I said above, would be Eureka and its sister show, Warehouse 13. Not for the creatures but for the general vibe. Also, there are some strong Grimm elements to it — hints of Supernatural, but that’s a lot less, mainly because those tend to be darker, more violent encounters and I was going for something lighter overall.
I did love the Bigfoot episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man when I was a kid, though.
Now, Yeti Left Home is being published by eSpec Books, who also publish a series of novellas called Systema Paradoxa that are about cryptids. Did this have any impact on your book? Like, is there someone writing a Systema Paradoxa novella about a yeti, and you two had to sit down and have a serious conversation so they’d know you weren’t making fun of them, or their work, and also this is what you’re doing in Yeti Left Home, so don’t do that.
Ha, no, not in that sense, but I did write one of those Systema Paradoxa books, Gone To Ground [which you can read about in this earlier interview], so it’s safe to say I was already in “cryptid mode” for this. I feel like, though, if someone had been doing a yeti novella for that series, I’d have wanted to read it so I could avoid stepping on their toes rather than trying to tell them what they could or couldn’t write. That’s one of the great things about cryptids, so much about them is open to interpretation that you can really put your own spin on a creature.
Hollywood has made movies about yetis in the past. 2008’s Yeti: Curse Of The Snow Demon comes to mind…or, more accurately, it came up when I Googled “yeti movie.” Research! Anyway, do you think Yeti Left Home could work as a movie?
Oh, I would love to see the yeti books done as live-action, though I think they’d work better as a TV series than a set of movies. Like I said, Eureka was a big inspiration for this, such a good, fun show, and that would be amazing to see Wylie and his friends done that way.
Wylie might be tough to cast, though. You’d need somebody big, obviously, but there’s such a calming aura about him, you’d really have to find someone who just gave off that particular vibe. Not outgoing but still welcoming? Yet able to turn on the scary as needed. Maybe Kristian Nair from Game Of Thrones? Or Alexander Skarsgård?
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Yeti Left Home?
Besides the fact that, with any luck, it’s the first in a series…?
Finally, if someone enjoys Yeti Left Home, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?
It depends what they liked about it. If it’s the humor, they should check out No Small Bills, the first DuckBob Spinowitz novel, which is fully Hitchhiker’s Guide silly. If it’s the mystery, Gone To Ground, Deadly Fortune, or my first OCLT novel, Incursion. The OCLT novels are occult thrillers, so I’d definitely head there next if they liked that aspect and wanted it a little darker. Deadly Fortune is probably the closest in terms of actual tone, since it’s a fantasy pirate mystery adventure novel and meant to just be fun to read. And if it’s just my writing itself they liked, the way I use words, they should add Bones Of Empire, the first novel in my Relicant Chronicles epic fantasy series, to the list.