“Thousands of books behind me that have to be signed!” he tells us. “But I think that’s normal, right?”
Maybe normal for an international bestseller who has written a total of 18 novels and 2 non-fiction books, including what might be considered a modern classic, ‘The Notebook’. All in a day’s work, we suppose, for the king of romance novels.
Check out out our full interview with Nicholas Sparks below, and find out how he creates characters, his tips for aspiring authors, and whether he’d rather be attacked by 12 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck. Y’know, all the big questions.
When did you know that you wanted to write? Well, I wrote my first novel at the age of 19, and I suppose, when I finished it there was a part of me that knew that I wanted to write, but there was the logical, pragmatic side that said I didn’t think it was very likely that I could make a living as a writer. So, I went and finished up at university, I went into business, I wrote a second novel at 22. Again, neither of these first 2 novels were published, so when I was 28, that was when I decided “okay, I’m going to give a real 100% shot” and I wrote ‘The Notebook’. So, there’s kind of two answers to that: first at 19, I guess I wanted to but didn’t think it was possible, and then at 28, I wanted to, and was going to do my best to make sure it was possible.
We’ve heard a lot of stories about JK Rowling and Stephen King, and how long it took for them to be published. Was that the same case for you, did it take a long time to get published? Not necessarily. I have 2 unpublished novels that I’ve written, so you could say hey, I didn’t get published from the age of 19 til 29. I didn’t write that whole time either. As soon as I wrote ‘The Notebook’, and it started being passed around New York, I think they started getting the manuscript on Thursday or Friday, and I believe it sold Monday by noon – so it was kind of a weekend, once I had the book. Once I had a book that people liked, then we were okay.
Are any of your characters based on real people or are they totally fictional? Most of my novels have their roots in people that I know, or family members, or acquaintances, or people that I’ve just met briefly, and yet, once you start with a small piece, this character grows and develops and you’ll pull bits and pieces from other areas as well, and little by little, this character becomes unique in its own right. So there’s always an initial inspiration somewhere and then the character becomes who they’re meant to be.
Obviously you’ve written lots of books before, but do you have any plans for after this new book, ‘See Me’? I’ve got a third done with my next novel, and I have a film coming out in February. I was just in Los Angeles trying to get some television shows going. There’s always something hoppin’, but yeah, there will be more novels, and yes, there will be at least one more film for sure.
Do you have any favourites amongst your books, any that were particularly fun to write? ‘Three Weeks With My Brother’ was nice because, of course, that was non-fiction, and maybe because it was non-fiction I knew what the story was, because it was essentially the story of my brother and I. So that was nice because I didn’t have to make up anything, you just write the story as it unfolded. After that I suppose my favourite to write was ‘A Walk To Remember’. That was a novel that just really flowed easily and sometimes writing can be very challenging so I always appreciate the ones that just seem to flow.
If someone was to start into reading your novels, which would you suggest they read first? Start at the beginning, and then read them in order. I wrote them in order for a reason. One of the things I try to do is to vary the novels so that they’re as different as they could possibly be, because there’s no formula for a love story. There’s a formula for a romance novel, but not really a love story. And so, I’ve written shorter books and longer books; books with 4 characters and alternating love stories; I’ve written in various perspectives, whether it’s first-person or third-person, or third-person limited omniscient. And then I’ve varied ages, and dilemmas , and whether the characters end up together, so yeah, I wrote it in that order, and that’s the order I’d stick with.
What is your best tip for aspiring writers? Well, first they have to read. I mean, that’s the biggest thing. Most writers that I know are avid readers, and we all learn from everybody. You learn from the classics, you learn from your contemporaries, you learn from all sorts of people for how they do things. For instance, in my latest novel ‘See Me’ there’s a very strong thriller element in the story, and I never could have written that unless I’d read a lot of thrillers. So, you have to read a lot, and then of course, you have to put pen to paper or pull up the computer, and you actually have to write and edit and keep going until the sentence, or paragraph, or page, or chapter, until they’re all exactly what you want them to be.
Now, do you think you might have time for 3 very silly, would-you-rather questions? Sure! 3 very silly.
Would you rather be caught in leather trousers or a leopard print coat? Leather trousers.
Would you rather be able to communicate solely through bagpipe sounds, or dolphin squeaks? I’m going to have to go with dolphin squeaks on that one.
Would you rather be attacked by 12 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck? Hmm…one horse-sized duck… Well, I’m going to go with 12 duck-sized horses.
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