I began writing Cryptid in February of 1997. I submitted the manuscript to my then soon-to-be agent Diane Gedymin in August of 2003. In other words, I spent over six years crafting Cryptid. In hindsight, six years sounds like a long time and I wonder what took so long? The honest answer is that life happened. I was recently married at the time I began writing (my wife and I were even still living in the basement of her parent's home), I had a new career as an insurance agent working with my father-in-law, and had what seemed like a lot of spare time on my hands. Today, I'm proud to say I no longer live in the basement of my in-laws' home, I have purchased the agency from my father-in-law, and my wife and I have two sons who it seems have claimed every free minute of my day. Somewhere along the way, though, I did manage to write a novel, suffer and recover from a rather serious abdominal surgery, climb a few mountains, and build a successful insurance and financial services agency. I guess six years doesn't sound all that long when I think about it in those terms.
The most laborious part of those six years by far was struggling to learn the craft of novel writing. I've been told and have come to realize that the craft and profession of a writer is perhaps one of the most challenging and difficult at which to succeed. Thankfully I was ignorant of this fact when I began, otherwise I may never have had the courage and faith to try. Ignorance being bliss, I just dove right in, head first. Once I had decided--for whatever reason people do dumb things--to write a novel, I soon gravitated toward the idea of a thriller about a backwoods monster that ravages the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Of course, having lived in the Northwest much of my life and having spent countless hours in its backwoods, I knew that candidates for my monster were in short supply. In fact, I couldn't think of a single one short of making one up from scratch. And as any good thriller writer knows, reality is far more thrilling than fantasy. So I felt in this case my imagination just wouldn't do. I needed a real monster.
Memories came to me, then, of the short time I had spent in the woods of Glacier National Park in Montana as a boy. Glacier is one of the few areas in the lower 48 states where grizzlies still roam free, kings in their own primeval land. I remembered how those ancient woods felt, how your gut went tight and the hairs on the back of your neck could tingle just by knowing you were no longer the top predator; that walking among the very same trees was a creature one link ahead of you on the food chain. The grizzly bear. Ursus arctos horribilis.
I decided it was that feeling I wanted to evoke in the reader with this story, but I didn't want to use the grizzly as my monster. I wanted something even more horribilis.
Growing up in the Northwest, certain legends, myths, are learned at an early age. A favorite of backpackers, campers, and those who sit around campfires late into the night in the dark woods is that of the mythic Sasquatch. So I knew somewhat concerning the lore of Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, and remember thinking to myself: what about Sasquatch? Now if only it were real.
With that thought I was off to the library to do my homework, and, of course, I soon learned there are many people who claim that Sasquatch is indeed real. And it is their stories, field research, and beliefs that I used to create my biologically authentic monster that I'd been desperately seeking.
With over a year of research behind me, I sat down to the task of writing my thriller. It only took one draft of a manuscript--then titled Cryptid--for me to realize I had no clue. Writing was an actual craft, much like the craft of architecture I'd studied years prior in college. A craft best learned as an apprentice to a master craftsman. As I didn't know any master craftsmen and as I figured Michael Crichton wouldn't take kindly to me showing up on his doorstep begging to be his heir apparent, I resulted to the next best thing. I began attending writer's conferences, workshops, joined a critique group, and completed a two-year certificate program in commercial fiction at the University of Washington.
With a better, but never complete, grasp of the craft, I returned to my manuscript. It soon became apparent to me that one gaping whole still existed despite all the progress I'd made during my coursework. Something was missing; something needed to fully authenticate my beast and story. Troubled, I paced my living room for hours late one night seeking a solution. I thought again, for perhaps the hundredth time, of the lore of Sasquatch in a historical context. I sensed this is what the story needed, to be grafted into the very history of the reader. But how? And that's when the question came to me: if Sasquatch were real, then who would have been the first credible, perhaps even scientifically trained, representatives of western society with the opportunity to discover and document such a species? Coincidentally, during that time I had been reading Stephen E. Ambrose's Undaunted Courage. As soon as my thoughts turned to that book I came to an immediate halt in my thousandth trip around the coffee table. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark! Of course, who else would have been the first with the method, means, and motive to make such an historic discovery?
Just like in my days at Washington State University as an architecture student, it was back to the drawing board for me. A year or more later I came out of my den with a freshly printed manuscript now titled Cryptid: The Lost Legacy of Lewis & Clark.
The rest is as they say, history. I hope my six years spent crafting Cryptid serves the story well. May you the reader be the judge. It is not a perfect book, none ever is, but it is my first. And for that reason alone Cryptid and those six long years spent with its characters, its settings, and its many drafts will always have a special place in my heart. Enjoy the hunt.
If you care to read on, below is the text of an interview I once gave regarding Cryptid. It functions as a good FAQ on the subject. Below that is a biblography for those that want to check my work.
Q: The history of Lewis & Clark is nothing new; many, many books have been written on the subject over the past two hundred years. Why did you decide to include their history as part of your story and what, if anything, is new to the reader?
A: For two hundred years, rumors and myths have swirled around Lewis & Clark's more traditionally accepted history. I've presented a possible final chapter to their story which resolves the many unanswered questions. Most readers will not be well versed in those questions, however, as such questions shed a less-than-romantic, heroic light on figures such as Jefferson, Lewis, Clark, and the Founding Fathers in general. So Cryptid presents these questions as new to the reader, as well as my speculative resolution to them. As for why, I needed an element in the plot that authenticated my creature. The monster would only be scary to the reader if the reader could be brought to believe that it was or could be real. Lewis and Clark were brought into the story to fulfill that need, to authenticate my monster.
Q: Since you say that you present some of our more legendary American figures in a less-than-glowing light, did you consider the impact to the reader in so doing? And how did you come to terms with your choice?
A: To be honest, it wasn't easy. I respect these men very deeply. I think they deserve all the respect and honor that history--and we--have bestowed upon them. That's why I dedicated the book to them. And, ultimately, I think by the end of the story I've redeemed them in the reader's eyes. But it is important for us to know the truth, even if it isn't as neat and clean as the textbooks present. The intent of the story is simply to get the readers asking questions and wanting to know for themselves what the truth is.
Q: Obviously, you wrote this book, so the ideas and opinions presented within are from you. What do you think really happened to Lewis? Was he murdered?
A: I honestly have no idea what happened to Lewis. The information we have at this time weighs heavily in favor of his suicide. However, I think it would be naïve to believe suicide is rock-bottom truth. Generally speaking, I think it is naïve to confuse historic fact with historical truth. It's pure arrogance and ignorance to do so.
Q: OK, then what about Sasquatch or Bigfoot? Do you believe such an animal exists?
A: Science and history are very similar disciplines, and suffer from similar dogmas. Again, it's dangerous to confuse scientific theory, or even laws, with absolute truth. Science is dependent solely on the scientific method for providing scientifically qualified information. However, this method is restrained by our ability to arrive at information through our five senses. It seems rather arrogant to think that the whole of the universe can be seen, dissected, and cataloged by five simple human senses. Truth may sometimes lie outside and beyond the vision of those five senses. So if an animal such as Sasquatch remains unable to be documented via the scientific method and can remain at the fringe of our five senses, then yes, I'd say it is possible. I'd say the facts support its existence. My guess is as good as anyone else's, though. The world would certainly be a more exciting place if Sasquatch were indeed real.
Q: If you're not a "believer" in Sasquatch, then why write about it as you have; why try so hard to convince the reader it's real?
A: For the same reason I chose to involve Lewis & Clark. An authentic, real monster is far scarier than one of fantasy. Sasquatch and Gigantopithecus fit that bill for me, especially as I wanted a monster here at home in the Northwest.
Q: You write about this "conspiracy within our own minds"? What do you mean by it?
A: I could talk at length about it, but to be brief it refers to a very human quality: the ability to dismiss information when and if the information is at odds with our worldview, which may be--and often is--askew with the truth. In this case, we subconsciously dismiss the possible validity of a primate that walks erect as we do and which is likely to be as intelligent as us simply because it threatens our view--whether that of a creationist or an evolutionist--that we are unique and special within all of the universe. It is a human trait that deeply intrigues me and was a primary motivation for choosing Sasquatch as my monster. The phenomenon is such a classic example of the conspiracy within our own minds.
Q: It seems that you did a great deal of research for Cryptid. How long did it take to write?
A: Six years. A good eighteen months of that was purely research. As this was my first novel, though, the bulk of the time was spent figuring out how this craft works.
Q: The story has a somewhat open ending. Is there a sequel planned?
A: That certainly wasn't my intention with the ending. I wanted to reflect the open-endedness of the phenomenon. But recent reader demand has caused me to rethink a sequel. I've begun mulling over a few ideas.
Q: Are you then working on another novel?
A: Yes, and this one may evolve into a trilogy as it involves the Holy Grail mythology, which I think is too big of a subject to successfully address within the scope of a single novel.
Q: For readers who are not yet familiar with you, what authors would you say you most closely resemble in tone and style?
A: That's a question I'll leave for the critics, but I'll tell you who influences me: Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs, and Dean Koontz.
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