I sat reading in the lobby of Trump Towers in Chicago one afternoon in early April while waiting to sit down with People magazine’s 2000 Sexiest Author. Nicholas Sparks has come a long way since his first novel, “The Notebook,” was published in 1996. Since then, he has had 16 additional books published with 7 of those being made into movies, including “The Notebook,” “A Walk To Remember” and, most recently, “The Lucky One.” Each of his books has been on the New York Times bestseller list. Anyone who loves a love story will tell you that Sparks has what it takes to spin a good tale, one filled with bittersweet emotion. One might even say, he can make sparks fly.
Some loud talking and laughter abruptly interrupted my reading, as a group of three approached the elevators. I glanced up, noticing that Sparks was the loudest of the trio. As he walked into the elevator and turned, he saw me looking up from my book and quickly, before the doors closed, said, “Oh, I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to be so loud.”
About 5 minutes later, I was summoned up for the interview. As I walked into the suite featuring glorious views of the Windy City, Sparks stood to greet me and I joked, “Jeez, what’s the world coming to when a girl can’t even read in peace in the lobby of the Trump Towers?”
Laughing, he sought assurance. “I apologized. Did you hear me?”
Putting his worries to rest, I assured him I did and the noise wasn’t an issue at all. As we settled in, I thanked Sparks for taking the time to speak with me, and asked him how long this publicity tour would last. He said it had started the week prior and would run until mid-May.
In the film adaptation of “The Lucky One” the opening line of narration by star Zac Efron is, “The smallest thing can change your life.” I repeated this line to Sparks and asked him, “What’s the smallest thing that changed your life?”
His response, without hesitation, “A five second swing in time.”
I prompted, with raised eyebrows and an open palm, for him to elaborate, which he kindly did. He recounted the story of meeting his wife. During college, they were both enjoying their coinciding spring breaks in Florida and met in a parking lot.
“A stop light could have changed everything,” Sparks noted.
We then discussed his inspiration in writing and he confessed that all of the leading women characters in his books are based on qualities he loves in his wife.
Sparks stated, “They are all strong, independent, passionate women.”
As for “The Lucky One,” he talked about being surrounded by military bases at home in North Carolina, watching young men…boys, really…come and go, one tour after the next.
In the production notes for the movie, Sparks is quoted as saying, “This is the first book I’ve ever written that was inspired by a single image: that of a soldier finding a picture half-buried in the sand and pulling it out. I became obsessed with what happens when he begins to view this photo as his lucky charm.”
Sparks was the co-writer of the screenplay for “The Last Song” but not for “The Lucky One,” which was written by Will Fetters. I wondered how much, if any, involvement he had in the making of “The Lucky One.” He said that he had much more input than people might realize. He worked especially close with Fetters.
“The only thing I had no say in was anything that had to do with the budget, for example, the location of filming. I had nothing to do with that.”
Perhaps he pointed this out because, although his novel is set in North Carolina (as are most of his books), the movie setting is Louisiana. The film was shot in and around the city of New Orleans. I might add that I don’t think this hurt the film in any way whatsoever. In fact, the beautiful film locations were one of the strengths of the movie.
We discussed the cast of “The Lucky One” which includes Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner and Jay R. Ferguson. Sparks said he was quite happy with the casting and elaborated a bit, telling me that Efron is actually very much like the military character he plays − “a really nice, honest guy.”
I had read on Sparks’ official website that he had bought his wife a new wedding ring upon receiving his first check for “The Notebook.” I asked him for details and he explained how, when the book was published, although he didn’t know where it would lead, he knew their lives were about to change as they embarked on a new journey. He used the new ring to mark the change and reaffirm their shared lives. He also had the original wedding ring made into a pair of earrings, so she is still able to wear it, just in a different way.
As we were wrapping up the interview, Sparks noted, “These are movies that people will be watching for years. They’re timeless stories.”
They are, indeed. I told him that, although I read “The Notebook” years ago, I only recently watched the movie and really enjoyed it, adding that I loved Ryan Gosling as young Noah in the film.
“That’s before he was Ryan Gosling,” Sparks joked.
This is true, and perhaps we can thank Sparks, at least in part, for helping Ryan Gosling become Ryan Gosling.
To read the review of “The Lucky One” click here.
Written by Tyna S. Cline © April 19, 2012