Dundurn Press addicted me to their Creature X Mystery series this summer with their #DundurnSummerReading , author J.J. Dupuis delivered two wonderfully engaging mysteries that also explored an investigation into cryptids, or unknown mythological and legendary beings like lake monsters and bigfoot.
Dupuis is about to deliver the third novel in the series while the first two, Roanoke Ridge and Crescent Lake are available now, and very much worth the read, combining fun characters, a spinetingling hunt for the unknown, and murder!
I was lucky enough to be able to steal a few minutes of J.J.’s time to talk about his books, cryptids, mysteries and his process.
The Mind Reels: Where did the idea of combining cyptozoology and murder mysteries come from?
J.J. Dupuis: There are two types of mysteries in my view, the internal and the external. Internal mysteries are the kind we usually see in crime fiction, murders, burglaries, etc. They relate to the internal security of our society, of our day-to-day lives. When we are not concerned about those same day-to-day lives, then we have the time and security necessary to ponder external mysteries, such as does Bigfoot exist or are aliens out there and are they visiting Earth? It seemed natural to me to have a group of people investigate an external mystery, like the existence of Bigfoot, then have to turn their investigative skills inward to solve a murder.
TMR: It seems most people at some point in their life are fascinated by the idea of cryptids, especially lake monsters. Did you have a favourite growing up, or now, what one was it and why?
JJD: I was obsessed with paleontology as a kid, so Nessie appealed to me, or at least the possibility that a plesiosaur somehow survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. For reasons I can’t articulate, I never believed in claims that dinosaurs could have survived, or even pterosaurs, but something living in the water, that seemed more likely to me.
That said, Sasquatch was neck-and-neck with Nessie for my personal favourite. My love of paleontology led to a love of paleoanthropology. Once I became familiar with all the early hominids and other great apes, it didn’t seem to far out to me that there was an extant population of gigantopithecus or something still out there. Although I wasn’t always a skeptic, I think my love of science rooted me within certain limitations. For example, I never considered the idea that Sasquatch was an interdimensional being, or an alien or anything that far out.
TMR: If you could have one cryptid actually prove to be real, what would you like it to be and why?
JJD: That’s a tough one, since it means choosing between great scientific discoveries. I would love for a creature thought to be extinct for millions of years to be discovered alive, whether that be a prehistoric marine reptile, as Nessie is suspected to be, or a pterosaur, like the Ropen, or even a prehistoric shark like the Megalodon. However, I would also love to see something completely novel, like the Mongolian death worm or chupacabra be real, as it might not change our thinking, the way an extant prehistoric animal might, but lead us to completely new information. But if I’m forced to name one, I might have to go with the Orang Pendak from Sumatra. One of the things that has fascinated me the most, and really occupied my imagination, is this concept of other human-like primates sharing the planet with homo sapiens. We know that has happened many thousands of years ago, but what it might mean for us today is something I could speculate about for hours on end. I would love for a mythical, human-like primate to be real and to give us a glimpse of something almost human, but not quite.
TMR: How do you start crafting your stories, do you start with the location and cryptid, or the mystery? Could you describe your process? Do you need a quiet place to work? Do you have a playlist that helps you create?
JJD: I start with the cryptid, which dictates the location. Once I have those two things in mind, I can begin to craft the plot. Setting really drives these books. The individual plotlines in this series wouldn’t work in other environments, so the confines of the setting really help inform the mystery and where the story can go.
In terms of my writing practices, well, I’d love a quiet place to work, but I often don’t have that luxury. I have to take what I can get. That’s why a quality pair of headphones are so important. Music provides the ambient noise that cancels out the sounds of traffic, sirens and neighbours. I listen to music I can get lost in, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, etc. When I say “lost,” I don’t mean distracted, which is why I rarely listen to music with lyrics. I like to be engulfed in sound and let the rhythm excite that creative part of the brain.
TMR: Is Laura’s father still out there somewhere?
JJD: Laura’s father is definitely out there and she will be on the precipice of finding him by the very end of the next book.
TMR: The application of science to the subject of cryptozoology doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of belief in it. Do you think Laura does what she does to maintain a connection with her father, as he was/is so consumed by the subject matter, or is there part of her that wants to believe?
JJD: Laura, like most of us, has an internal struggle between a desire to believe and a commitment to scientific principles. As the screenwriter Vivian Lin pointed outin a Q&A for Lake Crescent, Laura Reagan has both a Scully side and a Mulder side. Laura wants her father to be right, because if he is right then the obsession that caused him to give up his family has some justification. If all cryptids turn out to be bogus, then Laura’s dad essentially gave her up for a pipe dream, and that heartbreaking possibility rests in the back of Laura’s mind, haunting her.
The science-oriented part of her also would love to stumble across a cryptid. She is only a skeptic in terms of having a high threshold of proof. But she loves science and would love to be part of such a monumental discovery as finding an unknown primate or extant dinosaur.
TMR: The Creature X novels are great summer reads, what’s on your reading list?
JJD: At the moment I’m deep into Helen Walsh’s debut thriller Pull Focus. Sydney Warner Brooman’s short story collect The Pump is also on the list. Interspersed with those books however is reading the Reader’s Digest book Mysteries of the Unexplained, which my agent, Kelvin Kong just gave me. It was a book I remember on my Dad’s bookshelf as a child. Along with the TV series In Search of, Mysteries is really what got me into cryptozoology, so I’m delighted to revisit it. Once I work my way through those titles, I’m looking forward to Letters to Amelia by Lindsay Zier-Vogel and The Rebellious Tide by Eddy Boudel Tan.
As you can see, J.J. sounds like a lot of fun, and would be someone to talk monsters with! If you haven’t read the Creature X Mysteries yet, pick them up and enjoy! Stay tuned for the next installment in March of 2022, and check out Dundurn Press for other fantastic Canadian titles!