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SunLit Interviews

How a Charlie Sheen news story ushered a Colorado author into the world of cryptids and adventure

At first, Lija Fisher took great liberties with the creatures, but soon learned there's a whole field -- cryptozoology -- that takes them seriously, and can be a "gateway science" for kids

Lija Fisher was raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

She received her BFA in Performance Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and has performed in theatres across the country, including Alaska, where she was chased by a bear. Her debut novel, “The Cryptid Catcher,” was published in 2018.

It received a starred review from Booklist and was a Junior Library Guild selection. “The Cryptid Keeper,” her second novel, was written while Lija was the Writer in Residence with Aspen Words in 2017. Prior to becoming an author she trained for a while (a very short while) to be a Hollywood stunt person.

The following is an interview with Lija Fisher.

Lija Fisher

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book?

I’m a little embarrassed to say that Charlie Sheen inspired me to write this book! Years ago, I read an article about how Mr. Sheen traveled to Alaska to hunt The Otterman. I thought, “Who is The Otterman and what does Charlie want with him?” I began researching and came across this new world of cryptids. I was very well versed in myths and mythology, but cryptozoology (the study of hidden animals that might be real today) was new to me. The more I learned about this fun world, the more I thought it would be a great premise for an adventure novel!

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

This excerpt comes about half way through the book and I chose it because up until this point in the story, Clivo’s job has been to find and protect the mysterious cryptids. But in this excerpt he discovers just how dangerous these legendary creatures can be, and his mission becomes that much more frightening. And I also love the idea of a Quester’s Cave, or a hidden room that contains all sorts of magical stories. I’d like one of those in my house!

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

Once I discovered cryptozoology, I went down the rabbit hole of internet research and discovered so many great resources such as the Bigfoot Research Organization and Cryptid Wiki. But my biggest inspiration was talking to Loren Coleman of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. He’s been a cryptozoologist for over 40 years and taught me that even though cryptozoology is not considered a real science, it can act as a “gateway science” for kids.

“The Cryptid Keeper” by Lija Fisher

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

Probably the biggest surprise I encountered was what I learned from Loren Coleman about how seriously true cryptozoologists take their field of research. When I first started writing, I took whatever liberties I wanted with the cryptids because, in my mind, they were fictional creatures. But Mr. Coleman showed me that there is a vast body of research into these cryptids so it wasn’t necessary to make stuff up about them. He even fact checked my work on how I represented these legendary animals! Now, I still take a lot of liberties with the cryptids in my book, just for the sake of storytelling, but he taught me to honor and respect the importance of these legends.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?

I am definitely a morning writer who needs music to write. If left to my own devices, I would get up at 4:30, perk my pot of coffee, put on my soundtrack for the day, and write away until I peter out about 3 p.m. I’m much better writing when there’s chaos around me, oddly enough, so going to coffee shops is very conducive for me. I wrote my first book, “The Cryptid Catcher” in coffee shops in Manhattan, whereas I wrote “The Cryptid Keeper” alone in a cabin for a month while being the Writer in Residence with Aspen Words, and I much prefer noise and movement around me. It somehow allows me to focus more! And since I write adventure novels, having dramatic music in the background helps to keep me in the mood.

What’s your next project?

My next project is another funny adventure novel for 8-12-year-olds that of course takes place in Colorado! I can’t say too much about it, but let’s just say it involves summer camp, theatre kids, a horde of evil aliens, and maybe some warrior chickens. And of course important themes like friendship and the importance of working together. But also warrior chickens.

Buy “The Cryptid Keeper” through BookBar.
Read an excerpt from the book.

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