A Conversation with Nicholas Sparks


One of the most successful crossover novelists to hit Hollywood since the days of John Grisham and Michael Crichton, North Carolinian writer Nicholas Sparks has seen his best-selling love stories (he considers the term "romance novel" a dirty word) adapted for the silver screen a half-dozen times now, beginning with 1996's Kevin Costner/Robin Wright Penn pairing Message in a Bottle, through to 2004's hit The Notebook, to this year's Iraq War weepie Dear John and the upcoming Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song, soon duking it out for your date-night dollars at a multiplex near you.

We caught up with Sparks recently, where he talked about bucking the author-turned-screenwriter trend, why he never writes gay love stories, and what he meant when he recently described Cormac McCarthy's "horrible" writing as "pulpy, overwrought, and melodramatic." Read on for an engaging chat with Hollywood's favorite publishing phenomenon.

When you started writing your novels, were you thinking to yourself, "These will be perfect for the big screen?"

No. Even now I don't. I'm primarily a novelist at heart. I've certainly had a really good run with seven [adaptations] if you count The Lucky One, that starts filming in June. But at the same time remember I've written 14. So we're at 50%, which is good. It's not 100% mind you, but it's not zero either. I think in the end, it's best for me to always concentrate on writing the best novel that I can, and if it happens, it happens. I've just had a pretty good run, and studios have reached a point where they want to make them, because they make money, and actors and actresses want to make them.

There's this sort of romanticized notion of the Southern writer, like William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams, who slums it in Hollywood. It usually ends sadly, with them drinking themselves to death or swearing they'd never come back. And then there's you.

I've been very fortunate. I had the really good fortune of working with a series of producers who bought the novel because they liked the novel, they liked the characters and the elements within the story. And then you have the fact that I write novels that are fairly easy to translate into a film. The conflicts are internal, not external like dinosaurs or aliens. So you can capture most of the story, they're relatively inexpensive to make, and they open really well at the box office.

And paring it down for the screen? Did you find that inhibiting?

I find screenwriting much easier than writing a novel. I could do it more if I had more time, but writing a novel takes a lot of my time as it is. It's all just writing.

Faith is something that runs through some of your novels. When you look around at the current American landscape, do you feel like the Religious Right has hijacked this notion of "faith"?

I have no idea. That's almost a political question. I really don't. I can speak to my own view on faith. I'll include it when it's appropriate to the story, but only then. It was appropriate to A Walk to Remember, and in The Last Song, because the father is questioning what's out there. But if you look at Dear John, there wasn't an element in there at all. I'll put it in if it makes a story better, I won't if I don't think so. I can say faith is very important to me, but I don't judge another's faith, or lack of faith. I generally don't even talk about it.

Would you ever write about a gay love story?

It's a different genre. I don't know that I could do that. I've been asked about it. I have no moral qualms about doing it. I don't know if I could do it well. Asking that kind of question is like asking, "Could you do a love story with more of a thriller element, like The Bourne Identity?" Enh. I'd have to read a lot more in that genre. I don't know that I can write a western, I'm pretty sure I couldn't write science fiction -- my science isn't strong enough.

But you can write really well about love, and isn't that just a transcendent thing, regardless of who is experiencing it for whom?

That's true. Yeah. I believe that. I believe that.

In a recent USA Today piece about you, you had strong words for Cormac McCarthy.

That was a small snippet of a very long conversation. I was actually surprised he put that in. What would be your question? Look -- The Crossing Guard? His early work? Very strong.

What did you think of The Road?

I'll be honest, I like his earlier work. You know what? I get that too. A lot of people say, "I like The Notebook." That was my first book! I've done 15 things since then! That's very common. I think it's intrinsic to anyone who's an author. They can have a certain number of books and they can like one more than another.


  • metroville says:

    This guy's the Dan Brown of John Grishams (love his waffling non-answer regarding the gay love story two-parter), an assembly-line typist who isn't worthy of sharpening McCarthy's pencils, never mind criticizing his work.

  • Calraigh says:

    Agreed and agreed. I was wondering what he had to say for himself and as I presumed, what he didn't say, speaks volumes.
    He should go into politics. He's genetically designed for it.


    Oh Christ, what a human dildo. The Crossing Guard? Does he mean The Crossing, or does he think McCarthy wrote the screenplay for that Jack Nicholson movie from the 1990s?
    Also, "early work"? Uh, The Crossing came out in 1994. By that point, McCarthy had been writing novels for almost thirty years. I guess being the #1 crossover romance novelist means you don't have to do your homework.

  • Joe Hill says:

    Wow that dude is totally amazing is he not?

  • MrsQuiet says:

    Cormac McCarthy should write a sequel to "No Country for Old Men" where Anton hunts down a hack, Southern romantic novelist after he reads an interview critizing one of his favorite writers and the novelist's life is decided upon a toss of a coin. It smells like a bestseller to me.

  • me says:

    I read the whole USA Today story. Wow. If Nicholas Sparks is going to compare himself to the Greek tragedians, he really should learn what "hubris" means.

  • [...] are a number of givens when one is confronted with a Nicholas Sparks story, the surest thing being that you will cry. Oh yes, you will weep. That is, if you're one of [...]

  • fuck you says:

    The funny thing about this is that- The crossing came out AFTER Blood meridian. Almost 10 years after. And he called the crossing his early work? Dude McCarthy has been in the game since the mid-50's. RESPECT your damn elders epecially your literary ones you half wit sack of shit.

  • [...] [↩]Nicholas Sparks’ federal campaign contribution search results. Newsmeat. [↩]A Conversation with Nicholas Sparks. Movieline. [↩] [↩]Similar to Nicholas [...]

  • Kennedy says:

    What i don’t understood is in truth how you are not really much more smartly-appreciated than you may be right now. You’re very intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly on the subject of this matter, made me for my part imagine it from numerous varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t interested until it¡¦s something to accomplish with Woman gaga! Your individual stuffs great. All the time handle it up!

  • Anna says:

    I thought he was a normal Christian. But the fact that he only had positive things to say about homosexuality proves that he is a closeted gay. And so is everyone else who is pro-gay. Homosexuality is clearly wrong and unnatural to anyone who isn't gay.

  • […] a 2010 interview with Movieline.com, Sparks was asked if he would ever write a gay love story and he replied: “It’s a […]