Interview with Michael Lister, author of Blood and Sand
19 Nov 2019
What can you tell us about your new release, Blood and Sand?
From the moment I heard about the Madeleine McCann case I knew I was going to write a novel about it. I wasn’t sure how exactly it would inform my new novel. I just knew it would.
Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old British toddler, went missing on the evening of May 3, 2007 during a family holiday trip at the seaside resort of Praia de Luz in Portugal. When she vanished, Madeleine was alone in a condo with her two-year-old twin siblings while her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and their friends, ate at an outdoor resort restaurant approximately one hundred and eighty feet away.
Blood and Sand doesn’t deal directly with Madeleine’s case. In fact, you could read it and not know it was the inspiration. But once readers know that it is I think they’ll find it fascinating exploring how it is.
In Blood and Sand, three-year-old Magdalene Dacosta vanishes on the night of her parents’ Winter Solstice party and is never seen again. But how did this happen? The home was locked up securely and security cameras show no one entering or leaving the residence. John Jordan must figure out how this seemingly impossible crime was committed and who is capable of such wickedness before it’s too late for another innocent.
Madeleine McCann’s case, which has garnered international attention, has been turned into a Netflix documentary titled “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” which takes a detailed look at the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann, her family, and the twists and turns of the ongoing investigation.
I was riveted by the Netflix documentary about the case. Then when I began to write Blood and Sand I did additional research into the case and watched much of the documentary again.
This isn’t the first time that true crime has informed and inspired my fiction. My time as a student in Atlanta led me to research and write about the Atlanta Child Murders. My connection to Tallahassee led me to research and write about Ted Bundy. my previous career as a prison chaplain with the Florida Department of Corrections gave me many real-life crime stories to explore. And more recently I have studied and then explored in my fiction the cases of JonBenét Ramsey, Maura Murray, Have Min Lee, and Columbine.
My goal as a novelist is to entertain and inspire, to explore what it means to be human. With every word I’m attempting to tell the truth and true crime seems to help in that pursuit.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
Many, many books and people and events in my life inspired me to become a novelist, but perhaps none more than Robert B. Parker. I started reading his Spenser series as a teenager and fell in love with crime fiction. Reading Parker at just the right time captured my imagination and led me into an exploration of just what crime fiction can do.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Just limiting myself to novels off the top of my head:
Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird
Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstacy
And a tie between Philip Roth’s The Human Stain and Ian McEwan’s Atonement
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I would choose for my first guest Michael Connelly. He’s a great writer and a great human being, and we’ve had some good conversations over the years. He’d be a great writer to start with. And there would be so many things I could ask him, but I would probably begin with how he has sustained such a high quality of writing and storytelling over such a long period of time in his Harry Bosch series.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Just the doing of it. I love to write. I love the process of creating a world and peopling it. And I’m always fascinated by what happens and what I discover along the way. I’m a discovery writer who writes into the dark, is I’m always excited to see what happens next.
What is a typical day like for you?
I write first thing in the morning when I wake up, and then again in the afternoon following a break for lunch and responding to emails, etc. My evenings are filled with family and friends, playing basketball and guitar, reading, and watching movies or limited series crime television.
What scene in Blood and Sand was your favorite to write?
I enjoyed writing them all, but I’m particularly fond of the opening scene between John Jordan and his daughter at the beach.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
So very many, actually. A few that are particularly important to me are:
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and
absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall
begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau
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