In our June issue of Ink Splat, we have the pleasure of chatting with Lija Fisher, author of the fantasy middle-grade novel, The Cryptid Catcher. She has some great tips on what to do when your writing momentum gets stuck. She shares, “I usually step away from my computer, go into the mountains, and go for a hike. I just empty my brain. And I give it space to let my imagination figure out what’s going on. I daydream it through. I just let it play out. It’s like watching a movie in my head of what’s going to happen.”
This month we have a really fun and unique writing challenge for you! You will be creating your very own cryptid. A lot of writing comes from truth, and some comes from our imagination. In this writing exercise, create your own cryptid, or ‘hidden animal’ that has yet to be discovered. Where does this mythical animal live? How does it hide? What does it look like and what’s its name? You can use animals and places you know, and also build things from your imagination!
An Interview with Lija Fisher
Tell us about your inspiration for The Cryptid Catcher.
I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book. And so I wrote a fantasy book with what I thought was an original idea. But after I finished writing it, I realized that I basically wrote The Hobbit. And I thought, Okay, well, I can’t just plagiarize Tolkien. And then I happened to read an article in the paper that talked about someone going to Alaska, to find the otter man. I thought, Who is the otter man? And what does this person want with him? And I started researching the otter man. I came across the word cryptid. And I thought, What are cryptids? I started researching cryptids, which are these legendary animals that some people think are real. I thought, That’s amazing. I know about myths, I know about mythology. But I don’t know about cryptids. And so that gave me the idea to write a story.
Did you have to do a lot of research for your books in order to create these fantasy worlds with these creatures?
My knowledge of cryptids evolved. When I first started writing my books, I thought, Oh, well, these are animals that don’t exist. So I can just make up whatever I want about them. But then I met an actual cryptozoologist. I met somebody who started a museum, the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. And I met someone who actually goes into nature and tries to find these animals, and researches the folklore and the folk tales of these animals. The deeper I went into studying them, the more I realized that I had to respect the existing folklore of these animals, but my book is still fiction. So I did still give them some superpowers that they might not have in real life.
You talk about “backing your way into your natural writing voice” from your original story aimed at adults to a teen novel to your current book for 8-12 year olds. In that, you found that your natural writing voice was that 8-12 year old range. Do you think there’s a reason why that age feels right for you?
I blame it on the director Steven Spielberg because I grew up in the 1980s when there were the movies Indiana Jones and The Goonies and all these really great movies for kids 8-12—these really adventurous, joyous movies. I feel like my taste, my voice got stuck with E.T. and The Goonies and Indiana Jones.
Do you ever get stuck in your writing momentum? And what do you do about it?
I like to say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; there’s just the moments when I don’t know what happens next. And so instead of sitting there and feeling stuck, I give myself a lot of time to daydream. Daydreaming, for me, is part of my writing practice. And so if there are moments when I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen next, I usually step away from my computer, go into the mountains, and go for a hike. I just empty my brain. And I give it space to let my imagination figure out what’s going on. I daydream it through. I just let it play out. It’s like watching a movie in my head of what’s going to happen.
What’s a highlight in your life as an author?
I now speak at Bigfoot conferences. And I get to speak about cryptozoology, about the search for legendary animals and their folklore and folk tales. And I find it amazing that becoming an author has turned me into a speaker about legendary animals, including Bigfoot, as a way to get kids interested in reading and in adventure and stories and folktales. So that’s a very, very big treat for me.
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Many thanks to Lija Fisher for sharing with us! You can find out more about her work on her website: https://www.lijafisher.com
Lija Fisher is the author of funny adventure novels for kids that explore the world of cryptozoology, or the search for legendary animals that might be real. Her debut novel, The Cryptid Catcher (Farrar, Straus & Groux), received a starred review from Booklist and was a Junior Library Guild Selection. The sequel, The Cryptid Keeper, was written while Lija was the Writer in Residence with Aspen Words and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in juvenile literature.
Lija travels the country speaking at schools, libraries, and Bigfoot festivals where she gets kids interested in reading and science through searching for hidden animals, or cryptids, like the Loch Ness Monster. ‘Cryptozoology for Kids’ is her speciality! Prior to becoming an author, she trained for a while (a very short while) to be a Hollywood stunt person. She lives in Colorado near several Bigfoot sightings.
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