By Anetta Nowosielska
For better or worse – pending your literary inclinations- Nicholas Sparks is at it again. The famed author, who penned such well-red gems as “The Notebook” and “Dear John” to name but a few, is gearing up to start production on his latest number: “The Longest Ride.” The chances of it becoming a New York Times bestseller are likely. So is the likelihood that “The Longest Ride,” the film, will launch a career of soon-to-crack starlet much like it did for Miley Cyrus, who played Ronnie Miller in Sparks’ “The Last Song” and eventually moved on to public twerking. We caught up with the prolific novelist, who filled us in on the secrets of his unbelievable success as a belletrist magnum and how middle-child syndrome is to blame.
AN: Ira, one of the principle characters in “The Longest Ride,” is based on your step grandpa. Do you remember him fondly?
NS: My grandma, who was a religious Catholic, got divorced after 30 years of marriage and by her own virtue or otherwise, never remarried. Once in a while we would go to San Diego to visit her and we met her companion, Leo Robin. They had an amazing 25-year-old relationship. Leo taught us how to snorkel and took us to the zoo. He was a lovely guy.
AN: In your repertoire of characters there are very few who are bad. Why so?
NS: I disagree. There were some bad seeds over the years that I used in my books. When I write them, the key is to make them authentic, not just your one-dimensional bad guys. They have to be real. I like all my characters, good and bad. But honestly when I’m done with the book, I’m done with the personalities and I never look back.
AN: What makes your characters so compelling?
NS: Even organically, I’m one of those writers who know that entire story before I actually write it. The voice is what lends itself to that storytelling. That’s how that character becomes real to the audience. It has to ring true and authentic and for me using personalities I knew, as a reference, becomes an important tool to make that happen. Coming up with the story is really the most difficult part of the process for me. You could do an average story, but to do one that resonates with the audience, like “The Notebook” did, is not easy. Add to it the fact that I have to consider the story for its success as a book and as a film, well that is very difficult.
AN: Are you the quintessential middle child?
NS: Absolutely. I’m very driven. I had an older brother and a younger sister. I had to stand out somehow. You can achieve that by being really bad or really good. I was the latter. At the same time, my parents instilled in us a strong sense of family. But no question about it; the middle child syndrome has largely defined the course of my life.
AN: Stopping short of calling it serendipitous, your career as a novelist seems accidental and belayed. What took you so long?
NS: No matter what I did professionally before my first book was published, I always loved a good story. I was a good student and had enough hutzpah to test my ability to come up with my own tale. I tried it first at 19 and then at 22 years of age, so it’s not really as if storytelling came to me completely as an accident.
AN: Those first two attempts were unpublished. What advice would you give to your younger self as Nicholas Sparks the accomplished novelist?
NS: Edit. Today every sentence I write has a purpose and it is gone over ten to twelve times not only by me but also other people. Believe me; writing succinctly with purpose and flair is a lot harder than one would ever guess.
AN: Your novels showcase a strong sense of place. If you were to write a book set in the Hamptons, what qualities would the area represent?
NS: There is a very strong sense of community here. It may be a little different on the surface than those in North Carolina where I live, but what binds this community together is no different.