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Interview: October 29, 1999

Nicholas Sparks is back with A WALK TO REMEMBER, another romantic novel to capture our hearts. He's already got a hold on ours --- we've reviewed all of his books and this is our fourth interview with this bestselling author. Carol Fitzgerald, TBR's Executive Producer read A WALK TO REMEMBER and interviewed Sparks on everything from the power of first love to movie rights. Find out why this book was set in the '50s, the potential teenage audience for his new book, a poignant story about what one reader did with THE NOTEBOOK, the most romantic thing Nick has done for his wife recently, and more in this most recent interview with the author we love to read, and love to talk to.

TheBookReport: We'll start with an obvious question from your book A WALK TO REMEMBER. Is the young man in the story, Landon Carter, or the young woman, Jamie Sullivan, based on anyone you know or grew up with? 

Nicholas Sparks: In part, Jamie Sullivan was inspired by my sister. Granted, I see my sister through a biased lens, but in many ways, Jamie Sullivan is her. As for Landon, I sort of view him as a composite of many people I knew growing up, though his "voice" is actually fairly close to my own.

TBR: Are any of the characters in the story actually based on real people in your life? If this book pure fiction, where did you get the character ideas from?

NS: The characters in my novel, while inspired by others, are then changed to fit the story. Characters and their personalities all come from people I know in my own life.

TBR: In the past you have told us that when you start to write you always start with a theme. Was the theme here the walk? It is a metaphor that comes up more than once in the book because there is more than one memorable walk.

NS: The theme for this novel is "The beauty and power and innocence of first true love." With THE NOTEBOOK, it was "everlasting, unconditional love," with MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, it was "A second chance at love." I vary the theme so that readers will never know exactly what to expect.

TBR: Do you think it is possible for someone to love once and never love again as Landon did?

NS: Loving once and only once is possible --- anything is possible.

TBR: The voice in this book is very different from the ones found in THE NOTEBOOK or MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. It is more relaxed, more off the cuff in its conversational tone. Does the comfortable nature of this voice have anything to say about where you are now in your writing and your life?

NS: The voice in A WALK TO REMEMBER in many ways was very easy to write, since it's largely the way that I myself talk. However, it doesn't say much about my writing, since the "voice" always flows from the story I'm trying to tell. This was a story that needed to be told in first person to be effective; in the same way, MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE had to be told in third person to be effective.

TBR: If THE NOTEBOOK was the story of a commitment that lasted a lifetime, what is A WALK TO REMEMBER? 

NS: A WALK TO REMEMBER is about the power of first, true love and the way it transforms an individual.

TBR: While this story is clearly set in the 50s, do you think it could still happen today? Many parts of it seemed rather timeless. 

NS: A WALK TO REMEMBER is set in the late 1950s because that was the last really innocent period in schools. I saw a list once of what teachers back then regarded as the biggest problems in school. Number 1 was chewing gum, number 2 was running in the halls. Because I wanted to write a love story --- and not a story of what it's like for a teenager in high-school nowadays --- I set the story in the 1950s. Had I set the story in current times, I would have had to address a number of social issues, which would have detracted from the story.

TBR: If you were asked to read a chapter from this book, is there one that you would select to share? 

NS: I'd read the second to last chapter --- it's the most emotionally poignant.

TBR: Have you ever met anyone, besides your wife, of course, who taught you something important about love?

NS: My wife, my family, my friends --- they've all taught me things about love and what that emotion really means. In a nutshell, loving someone is about giving, not receiving. There's an old quote "Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay; Love isn't love until you give it away." I like that.

TBR: What do you want your children to know about romance and love? 

NS: I want them to know that love is about giving, about caring, about being the best person you can be. It's also the most wonderful feeling in the world.

TBR: There are so many strong messages in this story for teens. What do you think about this book as a title for teens to read? Is it being marketed at all as such? 

NS: I believe that teenagers --- as well as everyone, really --- will enjoy this book. It was picked up by Scholastic, by the way, in their catalogue they offer to schools. Other than that, it isn't being strictly marketed to teens. After all, everyone had a first love.

TBR: You write very vividly about Bogue Banks in North Carolina. Is this place particularly special to you? 

NS: l love Bogue Banks, which is an island off the coast in North Carolina. It's a beautiful, if hurricane plagued, area of the country. I own a home there.

TBR: Any reflections on Eastern North Carolina and the recent floods from the hurricane?

NS: Hurricanes are part of southern history, remembered for the damage they caused. We've had a tough three years (seven hurricanes) and I hope that everyone who lost their homes and possessions will find the relief they need.

TBR: In the office we all think of you as one of the most romantic men we know. Do you think that most men really understand how to romance a woman?

NS: I think that men know how to romance a woman and most do it well, at least for a time, otherwise women wouldn't marry them. The problem is that most of them begin to rest on their laurels. Romance isn't easy to sustain, but it's possible --- and in the long run, it makes both men and women happier. 

TBR: Can you share something romantic that you have done recently for your wife? 

NS: I sent my wife 3 dozen roses last week.

TBR: Did you feel as much pressure when you were writing this book as you did during MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, which was following on the success of THE NOTEBOOK?

NS: There's always pressure, a great deal of pressure, when writing, since my first books were so successful. I don't want to disappoint my readers and it takes a long time to come up with a story that I think will work.

TBR: Does it get easier to go out and promote a book the third time, or is it always like the first time.

NS: Promoting a book is always the same --- busy but fun. I like to meet people who enjoy my work.

TBR: Can you share some stories that you have heard on the road while promoting this book?

NS: People tell me the most wonderful things. One woman shared the story of how her husband had died recently and she'd buried a passage from THE NOTEBOOK with him. I was so touched, I barely knew what to say. 

TBR: Have the movie rights to A WALK TO REMEMBER been bought yet? Any thoughts on casting this one?

NS: A WALK TO REMEMBER is with Warner Brothers and Denise DiNovi, the same team behind MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. As for casting, since it deals with young people, it would probably be television stars on shows like Dawson's Creek or Felicity. But in the end, that's up to Warner Brothers.

TBR: Do you have a personal website?

NS: I don't have a website.

TBR: What's next for you?

NS: Novel #4 is completed; I'll start working on my fifth as soon as I get back home.

TBR: We know our readers want to know...are you planning a follow-up to THE NOTEBOOK? 

NS: I think there will be a follow-up to THE NOTEBOOK, maybe three books from now. I have to come up with a story that I think will work, one that also fits in with the movie.

TBR: What are you reading right now?

NS: I'm reading THE WARBURGS, by Ron Chernow.

TBR: What are your thoughts on the millennium?

NS: The millennium? I guess it's neat to have lived in two different ones, though in reality, nothing much will change.