Stephen Paul Sayers is a Columbia, MO author whose latest book is “100 Things to Do in Columbia, MO Before You Die.” The book explores the city’s hidden treasures with seasonal and themed itineraries for music, art, and history lovers, shoppers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Sayers is a professor at the University of Missouri and has also published three best-selling horror/supernatural thriller novels. He was kind enough to take the time to be interviewed via email.
Daniel Boone Regional Library: Were you intimidated about narrowing your list down to just 100 things?
Stephen Paul Sayers: Actually, I remember at first naively thinking how am I going to find 100 things in Columbia! But after doing research online, talking with long-time residents, colleagues, and friends, and getting out and doing my own Columbia research, I realized I had more than enough for any 100 list, and I would have to make some tough decisions. The way I tried to address the problem was to feature what I considered the most unique Columbia offerings in the book’s categories (Food & Drink, Sports & Recreation, Music & Entertainment, Culture & History, and Shopping & Fashion) and not just produce a best of list. So, I included nothing but homegrown businesses, events, restaurants, and places that make Columbia a one-of-a-kind city. And while many entries in the book could be considered best in Columbia, the unique qualifier whittled down the list into something more manageable.
DBRL: What would you point to as the most underrated thing to do in Columbia, MO?
Sayers: I think the most underrated things to do are often the simplest. And for me, the simplest thing Columbia offers is its natural beauty. We have amazing state parks, conservation areas, and trails here. Green spaces like these are so important to our physical and mental health, and it doesn’t take much effort to take advantage of these amazing resources. My favorite: Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. Standing on the bluff’s wooden platform overlooking the Katy Trail, Perche Creek, and 4000 acres of wetlands is something I never get tired of. Watching bald eagles soar on the breeze below me is just awe-inspiring.
DBRL: How did writing this non-fiction book differ from your other fictional books you’ve written?
Sayers: I definitely applied a different approach. During the “100 Things to Do in Columbia, MO Before You Die” book, the research was much more intense. Almost every sentence is based in fact, and I needed to be well-versed on every entry. This meant knowing the history of a place or the special circumstances that make a place interesting and unique. On the other hand, my fictional books don’t require such an intense research effort, and I can enjoy the excitement of writing a fictional scene and letting my imagination wander.
DBRL: Why do you think that bucket lists are so popular?
Sayers: I had never heard the term until a few years back when the movie “The Bucket List” came out. Since then, I think the idea has really taken off. I think bucket lists are so popular because they are a great way to map out the things you want to experience in life. Experts always say that when you verbalize or write out your dreams and aspirations, they become more tangible and real to you. I also think a bucket list like “100 Things to Do in Columbia, MO Before You Die” can help focus a person’s efforts to experience what our great city has to offer.
DBRL: Read anything good lately you’d like to recommend?
Sayers: I just finished Stephen King’s “Fairy Tale,” which describes the adventures of a 17-year-old boy who finds the portal to a different world beneath a neighbor’s backyard shed. It is classic Stephen King in so many ways, but it appeals to me because my supernatural thriller trilogy (“A Taker of Morrows,” “The Soul Dweller,” and “The Immortal Force”) centers around a Cape Cod diner that happens to be a portal to the next world. I’m sure Stephen King must have gotten the idea from me… haha.
DBRL: Where can readers get a copy of your book?
Sayers: Readers can find “100 Things to Do in Columbia, MO Before You Die” at Skylark Bookshop downtown and Barnes and Noble. Several gift shops in town like Bluestem Missouri Crafts also carry the book. If you’re a little lazy and want one sent to you, you can go to my website at www.stephenpaulsayers.com and order a copy.