Skip to main content

Interview: April 28, 1998

On April 28, 1998, Nicholas Sparks, bestselling author of THE NOTEBOOK and MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, joined us to discuss life, love, and his work. Our interviewers were Jennifer Levitsky and Niloufar Motamed. Our host was MarleneT.

Marlene T: Jennifer Levitsky of THE BOOK REPORT will be interviewing Nicholas Sparks tonight. Good evening Jen and Mr. Sparks, welcome!

N Sparks: Hello everybody!

BookpgJL: And you're off the second time around with another best-selling romance. How does it feel to have done it again?

N Sparks: Well, it feels very exciting. The second book was a lot of pressure to write because I wanted to come up with something that would please the readers of THE NOTEBOOK.

BookpgJL: MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE centers around a very romantic gesture. What attracted you to the idea of messages in bottles?

N Sparks: Whatever I write, I start with a theme. The theme for MESSAGE was inspired by my father. Nine years ago, my mother died and my father wore black for a year and a half. I wondered if he would ever fall in love again. And that is essentially the theme behind MESSAGE. As for messages in bottles, I thought that was a vehicle that was both universal and unique in literature to bring two characters together.

Question: Mr. Sparks, how did you research your character Theresa?

N Sparks: Theresa is a composite of many people I have met in my life and I thought her character would be recognizable by a large number of people.

BookpgJL: Was it difficult for you to write from a woman's perspective?

N Sparks: I'm from Venus! It is always difficult to write from a different perspective but I think that is the challenge of writing -- going from an 80-year-old man to a 36-year-old divorced woman -- that is the challenge of writing.

BookpgJL: Tell us why you chose to make Theresa a mother. Was it for the complication?

N Sparks: Single motherhood is a reality for a lot of women in my age group and the time difficulties in their lives are universal. I admire people who do the best they can as both a parent and a career person. Also, it wouldn't work if she were married, would it?

Question: Why such a sad ending?

N Sparks: Because life, sometimes, is a sad ending and more than anything, I want my novels to reflect the things that people go through in life. I don't write fantasy, I write reality. Also, my novels have roots to Greek tragedies and as such, there has to be tragedy. They are not romance novels.

BookpgJL: Let's talk a bit about the movie. Has it started filming? What's your involvement?

N Sparks: The movie of MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE just started filming on April 15th. It is starring Paul Newman, Robin Wright-Penn, and Kevin Costner. The screenplay is phenomenal, though I didn't write it. When asked, I offered my opinion but that is all. It should be out in February of '99.

BookpgJL: Is it hard to see a different rendition?

N Sparks: The screenplay is remarkably true to the novel.

BookpgJL: Are you pleased with the casting?

N Sparks: Of course! Who wouldn't be?

Question: Do you have another book in the process?

N Sparks: Yes, the next novel will be published in the fall of 1999. In the end, I think it will be better than the first two. I can't tell anymore because it is coming up for sale in Hollywood very soon. Looks like Spielberg is going to do THE NOTEBOOK. Pretty fun!

BookpgJL: Do you like romantic movies and books?

N Sparks: CASABLANCA is one of the best films I have ever seen. ROMEO AND JULIET by Bill Shakespeare and THE NOTEBOOK. Laughs!

BookpgJL: This transition to besetting author has been fast. Could you have imagined this a few years ago?

N Sparks: Yes and no. When I first started THE NOTEBOOK, I thought it would be very successful though to have it pan out is still a dream come true.

BookpgJL: Now the hypothetical: What would you do if you found a message in a bottle?

N Sparks: I'd open it, read it, and probably respond (if requested).

BookpgJL: Would you go to the lengths Theresa did?

N Sparks: I am happily married so I might pass it on to a single friend. 

Question: Is this a book a teenager should read?

N Sparks: It is important to realize that my books do contain love scenes though they are relatively mild in description. I think it is a choice a parent should make.

BookpgJL: When would you let your kids read your books?

N Sparks: I would let them read them about the age of 15.

Question: I like the relationship between the son and father in MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. Does it reflect your own relationship with your father?

N Sparks: My father passed away so I suppose it is more of an idealized relationship between father and son. Though my father was indeed a loving and caring man.

Question: Will you be touring? In Knoxville or East Tenn.?

N Sparks: Unfortunately, no trips to Tenn. on the schedule.

Question: Are you as romantic as your books are?

N Sparks: Ladies Home Journal called me the most romantic husband in America. Though it is probably best to ask my wife about it. My wife and I do share a very special, warm relationship in which we do nice things for each other.

BookpgJL: Why did you choose to leave North Carolina for the setting of MESSAGE, meaning where Theresa finds the message?

N Sparks: Because the gulf stream flows north. If you drop a bottle in North Carolina it flows north.

Question: Where did you attend school and what southern authors influenced or inspired you?

N Sparks: I attended University of Notre Dame on a full athletic scholarship in Track and Field. I still hold the school record -- for the last 13 years. Pat Conroy and David Payne who wrote EARLY FROM THE DANCE.

Question: Where can we find a copy of your tour schedule? Is it available at Bookwire on the internet? Do you have a web site?

N Sparks: or under "authors on the highway." I do not have a personal website.

BookpgJL: Why do you think people respond to your love stories?

N Sparks: First and foremost, the characters are universal and the stories could be their own. None of my characters are rich or famous and the situations they find themselves in could happen to anyone.

Question: Nick: D.West from Simpsonville: Will book #3 include Noah?

N Sparks: No, though a follow-up to THE NOTEBOOK is definitely planned. Maybe book 5.

Question: Will those who loved the eloquent work of THE NOTEBOOK and MESSAGE like the movies?

N Sparks: Yes, absolutely. The screenplay is the finest I have ever read. And I have read lots.

Question: I understand you will be speaking at the Maui Writer's Conference. What will your topic be?

N Sparks: At the conference, I am a keynote speaker. I'll let you know more about me, how I started writing and writing in general. As well as the movie business.

Question: I saw you on a television show. You seem rather shy and modest. Would you say that is your personality?

N Sparks: I have seldom been described as shy. Though I don't take myself too seriously. My work, however, I take extremely seriously.

BookpgJL: We're just out of time now. Thanks so much for joining us here tonight.

N Sparks: Thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoy or enjoyed MESSAGE. I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart.