Tales of the Rock

Children’s book author pens zany stories about Whidbey

The moment Derrick Sutton first stepped foot on Whidbey Island, his mind whirred with the strangest possibilities.

Pirates marauding in Penn Cove? Jackalopes hopping around Langley? UFOs coasting over Ebey’s Landing? Nothing was too bizarre to consider, especially when he started writing a children’s book series incorporating these same topics.

Most readers know Sutton as Eldritch Black, the moniker he writes under as the author of the “Weirdbey Island” books. Fewer people know that “eldritch” is a word meaning strange or eerie, fitting for the type of books he pens for young readers.

As a child growing up taking holidays around Britain, his native country, Sutton liked to make up stories about the peculiar people he often saw in different towns.

“The natural extension, when I came here, was to do the same thing,” Sutton said. “And it felt like every time we went out we would see something quite strange – in a good way. This is quite an eccentric place in many ways.”

Sutton’s first trip to Whidbey Island took place in the middle of the night. He remembered being impressed by the sheer height of the trees.

“I’d never been to this country before, and I moved to Whidbey Island, of all places,” he said. “I never saw that in the tea leaves.”

While aboard the ferry boat to Clinton – where he now lives with his wife and five cats – Sutton heard about the giant Pacific octopus, a species which lives in the waters near Whidbey. Adult octopi can measure 14 to 20 feet across.

“I was imagining like from an old film, the tentacles coming out and capsizing the ferry,” Sutton said.

He channeled much of that first impression of Whidbey into the main character of “Weirdbey Island,” a 12-year-old boy who has just moved to the island and simultaneously scares himself while being scared of everything.

“That’s the thing, isn’t it? When you’re a kid, you scare yourself with your own ideas sometimes, making up stories,” Sutton said.

As a boy, he loved reading “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

“‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ was my favorite, instead of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ because I loved the Jabberwocky, the scary stuff,” he said.

Sutton started writing the “Weirdbey Island” series in 2018, and since then has produced a total of five books. Although he’s been traditionally published before, he opted to self-publish this series in order to expedite production time. Plus, he’s fond of designing the book covers himself.

Once he starts tapping away at his computer keyboard, it only takes about four or five months for him to get a book out.

His series explores many real-world aspects of Whidbey Island, including Langley’s prolific rabbit population and the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds, or “Scaregrounds,” as he calls it.

In “The Day of the Jackalope,” the Village by the Sea’s cute and fuzzy locals appear as the jackalope, a mythical creature that has the body of a jackrabbit and the horns of an antelope.

“I always wondered where they came from,” Sutton mused about the bunnies. “This book explains, perhaps – probably not – where they came from, and some of them are tourists that have been turned into rabbits.”

“The Mystery at Ebey’s Landing” combines UFO sightings with the “cow crater,” a beloved landmark that can be seen from the highway.

Recently, Sutton has started visiting schools and working with classes around the island. He enjoys being able to encourage young writers.

“There’s so many kids on this island that are writing stories,” he said. “It’s brilliant, and it’s really inspiring.”

Although he wouldn’t classify “Weirdbey Island” as horror – it’s more in the vein of “Goosebumps,” the eerie kids’ book series from the 90s – Sutton’s stories have garnered adult fans as well.

His next book in the series is set to come out this summer, and will be about a rivalry between a vampire and a werewolf.

“Nothing like ‘Twilight,’” Sutton said with a laugh.

His books can be found on Amazon and at Madrona Supply Co. in Clinton, Wish by the Sea in Langley, the Goose in Bayview, Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville, the Bookrack and Wind & Tide in Oak Harbor. For more information, visit eldritchblack.com.

Photo by David Welton
Derrick Sutton feeds the furry denizens of Langley, who are featured in his book, “The Day of the Jackalope.”

Photo by David Welton Derrick Sutton feeds the furry denizens of Langley, who are featured in his book, “The Day of the Jackalope.”