Nicholas Sparks
by Greg Shull

Conducted on June 23, 2004, by Greg Shull, editor of Preview.

Nicholas Sparks is a black-belt in Tae Kwan Do and holds a track-and-field record at the University of Notre Dame. He is a popular author and has had several of his books made into movies, including Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember and now The Notebook. He is married with five children.

Greg: What would you say has been your proudest accomplishment?

Nicholas: I think it’s really two: the fact that I chose the right person to marry and that I have children who are wonderful human beings. Those are my two biggest. If you don’t have those, nothing else matters. You can be a successful author, but if your kids are in drug rehab, it doesn’t matter much.

Greg: How well do you think this film portrays the story in your book?

Nicholas: It’s probably the closest adaptation to one of my novels. It captures the overall theme of the novel but also captures the characters and the setting. They are very close to what I envisioned. The movie doesn’t deviate at all.

Greg: Do you think the film leaves out any essential parts of the story?

Nicholas: Some of the specific details are different. Some details don’t really transfer over to movies. Introspection plays a large role in any novel, and this doesn’t transfer over so well. You have to show that with an image, and that’s where you lose some of the specific details.

Greg: What do you think are the strongest aspects of the film?

Nicholas: The performances of the actors, the sureness of the pace and the guidance of the director. It was really well performed.

Greg: When you are on the receiving end of a story, do you prefer reading a book or watching a movie?

Nicholas: It depends on my mood. I do both. But I’m a bigger book person than a movie person. I might read 200 books a year and only see about 10 or 12 movies a year.

Greg: As a writer, what process do you go through to come up with your stories?

Nicholas: First comes the story, which usually ties into a theme of some sort. Then come the appropriate characters that bring that story to life — what’s the best age and location, what issues they’re dealing with. And finally comes the structure. In many ways, this is the hardest part in what I do. The story needs to keep the reader surprised and on edge. Most of my stories come from my own life. The Notebook was inspired by my wife’s grandparents. For Message in a Bottle, it was my father after the death of my mother. A Walk to Remember was inspired by my sister, and The Rescue by my son. But right now, I’m working on a novel that was not inspired by personal experience.

Greg: How would you describe the type of love that exists between Allie and her husband in The Notebook?

Nicholas: I think it’s everlasting. That is the theme of the story. To qualify as everlasting, the couple has to last forever. There are challenges to keep them apart, and they still find a way to love each other no matter what happens.

Greg: Preview not only addresses the plot and acting of a film but also comments on the morality and message. What part do you think religion or morality should play in literature and films?

Nicholas: I will speak for my personal view. Morality plays a role in everything that I write because morality plays a big role in my life. I’m a Christian, and I refuse to write on a number of topics because it goes against my moral grain. For instance, I wouldn’t write a story about adultery because it bugs me. I have to be able look at myself in the mirror and feel good about what I’ve written. I refuse to achieve success by going to the lowest common denominator.

Greg: Our reviewer says that The Notebook includes a fairly steamy sex scene.

Nicholas: That’s fair. I’ll grant him that.

Greg: How do you think this type of content should be handled in literature and the cinema?

Nicholas: Film and literature are for everyone, and there are different categories or genres that are more appropriate for people based on their tastes or maturity level. I would certainly not send my 12- or 13-year-old to go see The Notebook. Although, actually, I did take mine to see it but told him to cover his eyes in that scene. That’s how we handled it. It should be handled in a way that is appropriate to the story for your writing and for the audience you’re intending your story for. This goes into the theory of writing itself. I want my grandparents to be able to read what I write without blushing. Should all books be like that? Probably not. Mine are all set in a small town. Some people are in the big city, and there should be books for them too. I think any kind of morality and mature topics should be appropriate to the genre you’re working in. The content should be no more gratuitous or no less gratuitous than is needed. I write very PG themes in my books. Others who are very successful write things that are very lurid, and they sell books because some people want to read that stuff.

Greg: In what way does your personal faith influence your works?

Nicholas: I write books with characters and situations that are universal, believable and are generally grounded in strong faith and morality. The characters live life with strong loyalty and community and faith and friendship. With that said, I don’t write about perfect Christians. But I haven’t met one. When I do, I can write about him. Above all, I try to write stories that are universal.