The Guardian of Love Stories
An Interview with Nicholas Sparks
by Joyce Dixon
You can't read a Nicholas Sparks book without
a box of tissues nearby as his characters go through the highs and lows of
love. His seventh novel, The Guardian, takes Sparks readers on
an intense ride as he adds danger to the mixture. In small town North
Carolina, a handsome stranger becomes obsessed with the local hairdresser,
then begins a deadly stalking game when she rejects him.
This Nebraska-born author lived a nomadic life as his family moved around the country from Minnesota to California. Sparks was valedictorian of his Fair Oaks, California high school class. He went to the University of Notre Dame on a full track scholarship, but an injury took him off the course for a year. As he moped around the house, his mother casually suggested that he should write a book. Eight weeks later, his first novel, The Passing, was created. It was never published and is next to his football card collection in the attic. However, the desire to write was firmly rooted.
Sparks continued to write during a series of careers from waiting tables to owning his own business. He finally became a pharmaceutical representative and was transferred to New Bern, North Carolina. His love stories, beginning with The Notebook began to find success and devoted readers.
In 2004, The Notebook will be released as a feature film starring Gena Rowlands and James Garner in the roles of Allie Nelson and Noah Calhoun.
Nicholas Sparks lives in North Carolina with his wife and family.
How was the writing experience different with The Guardian than your other love stories? Was it more exhausting to write?
The Guardian was very challenging, mainly because there were two detailed and separate story lines; one involving a romantic relationship, and another involving a stalker. Because I write love stories, I wanted to make sure the romantic relationship remained central to the story, but it's very difficult to do in the context of a thriller, simply because thrillers are by their nature, more exciting. While the writing itself wasn't difficult, the rewrite was, and the novel went through eight revisions before I was satisfied with it.
What type of research and what did you read in creating Richard?
I didn't specifically research Richard's character; instead, I drew on material that I'd read in the past. Fortunately, I'm blessed with a fairly good memory, and I created Richard using information I remembered from various psychological textbooks.
There is a loss of innocence element in The Guardian as the citizens of Swansboro realize there is a stalker in the community. Was this intentional and which character do you feel was most effected?
Loss of innocence was one of the important themes of the novel, and while everyone in the town was affected, Julie -- because she was closest to it -- was the most affected.
You are not a native North Carolinian, but have made it your home and the setting for your novels. Is there something unique about North Carolina that inspires you as a novelist?
North Carolina is not only a beautiful state, but the geography lends itself well to love stories. Small towns dot most of the eastern part of the state, there are rivers, beaches and forests -- I can always imagine the perfect place to set a scene.
Why do you write love stories?
I write them because I like the challenge, because readers seem to enjoy them, and most of all, because I can.
Why do so many of your stories involve death?
I suppose there are a few reasons that my stories include tragic elements. The first is that tragic or bittersweet stories are part of what defines a love story (much like a "happy ending" to a romance novel, or the hero triumphing in a thriller.) The reason for that is that a love story is primarily a dramatic story, and the best dramatic stories allow the readers to experience a full range of emotions. Hopefully, my readers feel a bit of everything -- empathy, hopefulness, happiness, love, anger and sadness -- as they turn the pages of my novels. Another reason goes to the statement (which I didn't invent) that goes like this: "All great love stories, by definition, must end in tragedy." Without great love, there's no tragedy and vice versa. Also, my stories are supposed to seem real (as opposed to fantastic) and tragedy is part of everyone's life. The final reason is that most of my novels are inspired by events in my family, and sadly, that was the way that most of the family stories ended.
The Rescue is being adapted for a CBS television series. Though you don’t take part in the screenwriting process, what is the experience of seeing your characters on film (as in Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember)?
It's always fun watching your characters come to life, and it's an honor as well.
The Wedding, your sequel to The Notebook, is coming out in Fall 2003. Could you tell us about the book as well as what it was like returning to these characters?
The Wedding is indeed a sequel to The Notebook. It's the story of Wilson Lewis and Jane (Calhoun) Lewis -- Jane is Noah and Allie's daughter --- and the theme of the story is love and renewal. Essentially, it's Wilson's story of how he courts his wife of thirty years, in the hopes of rekindling the feelings they once had for each other.
© 2003, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved