Interview with John Grisham at the Amelia Island Book Festival

February 14, 2019
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Amelia Island logo Author John Grisham is on the island for the Amelia Island Book Festival, we talked to him about his experiences on Amelia. Amelia Island logo
#LOVEAMELIA sat down with internationally best-selling author John Grisham, appearing at the Amelia Island Book Festival (and on our beaches from time to time.)  Find out about his inspirations, experiences, and perfect island day. 

What brought you to Amelia Island? 
We first came here 25 years ago. We came here for a long weekend and we just loved the beach. We loved the town, nice meals there, [and] we realized that even though it’s Florida, it’s still very Southern and we liked that a lot. It’s easy to get here. It’s an easy flight and we’ve also driven down several times. Our summer road trip is [to] pack up the dog, take off and,11 hours later, we’re here. It’s an easy getaway for us. We don’t get here enough, but we’re down here as much as we can.

Has Amelia Island inspired any your writing - specifically, Camino Island?
We were actually driving on one of those summer road trips to Amelia Island, and we heard a story on NPR about some stolen books and manuscripts and it just captured my imagination. My wife Renee and I started talking about what’s a good mystery - forget lawyers and dead bodies...all that stuff in courtrooms. How could you take stolen books and make it a fun mystery? That’s what happened. We talked about it off and on for hours, - my wife and I do this all the time, I always have a great idea and I wear her out with it - I was really captivated by the idea of stolen rare books.  

And I got down here, and I got on my laptop and spent a week online finding great articles so much cool stuff… like if you take Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald, those are four great American writers, all born about the same time. All wrote great books. Hemingway’s stuff is scattered, it’s not in one place. Steinbeck’s stuff is scattered. Faulkner was fastidious about his manuscripts. They are all in one place, in the basement of the University of Virginia - not Ole’ Miss, where they should be, his daughter didn’t see it that way [as] she lived in Charlottesville and gave it to UVA and they are not leaving. Renee and I actually saw them 20 years ago in the library, they pulled them out for us. Really cool but there are 40 of them - how can you steal 40 manuscripts?

That would be a big job!
Right, and I wouldn’t want to pull the heist in my hometown!  That left Fitzgerald, he only wrote five novels, they are all in one place, at Princeton, that’s where he went to school.  So that’s how the start of the story came about.

So, it all started on that trip.
From that road trip. So, I don’t write here [on Amelia Island]. I refuse to put an office here, I’m not here to work, I’m here to read, walk the beaches, play golf, and just veg out. We sneak into town, hunker down, and we are thrilled to be here. We have been here all times of year, even the colder weather. We love it in the fall, Renee gets tired of the heat, I love the hot weather. We will come down here with a moment’s notice if we can get away. We have two grandkids now and our challenge is to get them down here for a couple weeks.

That sounds perfect. What is your ideal day like when you’re here?
We always go downtown, we have favorite restaurants...but you know, we don’t do much.  A good day for me is sleeping late, that’s a luxury.  Then walk the dog on the beach, start reading on the porch, than start worrying about lunch... then worry about a nap….

Before you know it, it’s time to go out to dinner!
That’s right!  Or first, go for another walk. Like, it’s about a 25-minute walk to The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, and eat outdoors or have a drink outdoors…

That’s a nice reward.
We do that all the time. And the people here have been so nice to us and very respectful...I just walked downtown yesterday, my wife was shopping, found a new wine bar and went in there.  It’s a beautiful spot.

The Decantery?  That’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s really cool.  We’re always checking to see what new restaurants have opened.

There are always some new ones. So were  downtown Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island part of the inspiration for the place ‘Camino Island?’
Well, this book is truly fiction. I didn’t want to be stuck with being accurate.  If you write about a real place, you’ve got to be accurate and with fiction, you have full license to create and do anything.  It’s the right location, it’s the first barrier island, the miles of beaches…

The sea turtles…
Exactly -  there are some similarities but some dissimilarities for sure. 

Will there perhaps be a movie version someday?
 [Building on Camino Island] I plan to write two more, one will probably come out next summer and one in 2022.  And I’m not going to sell the film rights until those are published...there’s always interest when you publish a book.  I think it would be fun to film it here!

We couldn’t agree more!  Thank you for talking with us and for being a part of the Amelia Island Book Festival.
My pleasure.  It’s always great to be here. 

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Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget. With 13 miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents alike.