The mountains of Oregon, a lake on the coast of Newfoundland, and an island in the South Pacific. Three disparate locations filled with diverse wildlife, and all breathtakingly beautiful. But what ties them together? For me as a writer, it’s their rich history of monsters.
How do I select the setting of a Creature X novel? There really is only one criterion: whether or not people from that region have come forward with eyewitness accounts of a seemingly impossible creature.
When we think of cryptids—unknown animals said to exist in the remote or sparsely populated pockets of our planet—we’re really thinking of age-old mysteries. The type of mysteries that have been with our species since the dawn of time. What if we’re not alone on this planet? What if there are creatures around us that defy our current understanding of life around us? What if there really is something lurking in the woods beyond our village?
It is these kinds of questions that have prompted many of us to believe there is something haunting the forests of the Pacific-Northwest — that there’s something large and unknown in the murky waters of a quiet lake.
For Book 3 in the Creature X series, Laura Reagan and her team travel to Umboi Island, a volcanic island covered in rainforest and home to many rare species. This time around, it is the Ropen — a bioluminescent pterosaur said to soar above the forest canopy, from the mountains to the ocean and back again — that makes the island the right setting for this novel.
What about human nature encourages us to conjure up such a beast? What mysteries are in our psyche that cause us to seek out such a creature? For some, it’s the mystery of a faraway jungle and that notion that something prehistoric might still be out there, just waiting to be caught on camera and splashed across every newspaper on Earth. For a small subset of people, it’s their faith that drives them across the planet, seeking something they think might upset the conventional understanding of geological time and Darwinian evolution. The latter explains why so many who have sought out the Ropen identify as Young Earth Creationists.
Cryptozoology, or the study of unknown animals, has asked more questions than it has answered. But for many, asking those questions is as important as answering them. We don’t stare into the ocean or up at the night sky for answers, but for questions — to wonder at what we cannot comprehend. When I’m looking for a location for a Creature X novel, it’s not just the local monster or the mountains it may inhabit that matter to me, but the mysteries it conjures among the humans who believe in it.
J.J. Dupuis is the author of the Creature X Mystery series. When not in front of a computer, he can be found haunting the river valleys of Toronto, where he lives and works. Read more about J. J. Dupuis.