Emily Imbesi asks: "Several of your books have been made into movies... Do you write stories with the intention of them becoming a movie (does it influence your writing at all)?"
Because so many of my books have been turned into films, I do find myself writing these days with an eye toward stories and characters who will translate well into films. In that way, it probably influences my writing a little bit, even though books and movies are such different mediums. And in one instance, with my novel, THE LAST SONG, I actually wrote the screenplay for the movie first, and then wrote the book. But that’s the only time I’ve written a movie with the intention of turning into a book.
Michele Mahon asks: "The Lucky One's main characters and plot were much different than any of your prior novels, in a sense, darker. Did you have any specific events or subject that inspired you?"
With The Lucky One, I started with an image of a photograph half-buried in the sand, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to explore that image and see where it took me. I also wrote the novel at the height of the Iraq War, and since I live in an area surrounded by so many military bases, I was influenced by the thousands of young men I saw leaving for and returning from active duty.
Donika Haddock wants to know: "What is your inspiration for your books? Actual life events?"
Well, a few of my stories have incorporated elements of my own family’s stories (for example, The Notebook was inspired by my wife’s grandparents), but my novels deal with universal themes and universal characters, so mostly I just try to conceive of an entertaining, interesting, and original story that hasn’t been told before.
And she also asks: "I know each of your books is its own story, but do any of your characters show up in multiple books? Is there any particular order your books should be read in order to understand one story from the next?
Generally, you can read my books in any order, and I’ve written them that way on purpose. That said, The Wedding follows The Notebook, and Noah Calhoun also appears as a supporting character in the Wedding. At First Sight is a sequel to True Believer, so the same characters appear in both novels. All of my novels can be read on their own, however, and you don’t miss anything if you don’t read them all … although I certainly encourage you to!
Diane Thweatt Johnson wonders: "Do your characters ever seem to take on a life of their own, and do things (while you're writing) that are totally unexpected? Or do you plan and plot out characters before beginning your creative process?"
Once I’ve decided on the theme, I start to mentally outline the story and run through countless possible ideas—this is the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the process. Before I start writing, I know how the story begins and ends, as well as five or six of the major events in the novel, which serve as turning points. Because the story has already been plotted out, the characters are also usually plotted out as well and rarely do things that are unexpected – in fact, if the writing is going well, they behave exactly as expected, although there are always details of their history, character and relationships that emerge in the writing process.
Tracy Skipton McEneaney asks: "Does it bother you when the movie ends differently than the book? Usually I love the ending of your books better than the movie- however I did like the ending to the Dear John movie better. :-)"
I’ve actually been very pleased with all of the films based on my novels. Films and novels are different mediums, and tell stories in different ways. What works well in novels doesn’t work well on film and vice versa. A typical novel runs 350 pages while a screenplay runs 120. In other words, two-thirds of any novel is automatically eliminated before the first page of a screenplay is even written. With that in mind, I tend to focus on the following: did the film follow the basic outline of the novel? Did the film capture the major theme of the novel? Were the characters consistent with those described in the novel? Was the film satisfying when compared to other films? Was the film successful? In that regard, I feel like all the films have succeeded, even if a few of the endings have been changed. It is Hollywood, after all!
Sharon Woolsey wants to know: "Did you study to become a novelist, or was this originally simply your love and your passion?"
No, I was actually a Business Finance major in college, and I tried a couple of different careers, including being a pharmaceutical sales rep, before I became a novelist. I guess you could say I’m self-taught—someone who learned how to write by reading thousands of books.
Wendy Wendo McFarlane asks: "What or who inspired you to want to be a writer? How do you handle criticism when people write about your books? I personally think we all have our own favorite writer and their style of writing..."
I was inspired to be a writer by two events in my life. First, in the summer of 1985, after my freshman year of college, I injured my Achilles tendon and could no longer run (which was my passion). My mother told me that I needed to stop moping around the house, so I decided to try to write a book, which I did, although that one has never been published. Then, years later, the television show Cheers went off the air after eleven seasons – my entire adult life at that point – and it made me think about how little I had accomplished in that same time frame. So I decided to sit down and write another book and really try to make a go of it. That book was The Notebook. Generally, the response to my books has been far more positive than negative. But even with negative criticism, I agree with you that it’s a matter of personal taste. I just try to write stories for myself and for those who enjoy my work.
Thanks so much to our fans for all of their insightful questions, and thanks to Nicholas Sparks for his thoughtful and revealing answers.
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