Round Table Interview: Nicholas Sparks

The Nicholas Sparks movie “The Lucky One“ comes out this weekend. Sparks reflects on his Minnesota upbringing and the new flick.

Cutline: Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling star in

Cutline: Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling star in “The Lucky One,” a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Sparks also wrote “The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember,” and scores of other love stories.

Sarah Harper


“The Lucky One”

Directed by: Scott Hicks

Written by: Will Fetters (screenplay) and Nicholas Sparks (novel)

Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner

Release date: April 20

Showing: Area theaters

Nicholas Sparks wrote his first novel the summer after his freshman year at Notre Dame.

That never got published. But lucky for hungry romance fans everywhere, Sparks has had plenty of other books make it to the shelves and the best-seller lists.

Sparks’ novels usually fall into one of two categories — the escapist beach-town love stories about people in their 40s and 50s and the young crowd novels, like the teenage tear-jerker “A Walk to Remember.”

A healthy chunk of his novels have been made into movies, among them “The Notebook,” “Dear John“ and “Nights in Rodanthe.”

“The Lucky One” is of the youngster stripe, but there’s no shortage of escapist fantasy elements. The setting of Hampton, N.C., is straight from the pages of Southern Living: Everything looks coordinated, expensive, rustic and Americana. Picture a red pickup truck, a beautiful couch and big dogs running around with Zac Efron.

Efron is a marine who got through battle by looking at a picture of a stranger named Beth. After he gets home, he tracks her down. He walks across the country to find her. He ends up working at the dog training place she runs. He quickly becomes embroiled in her life, which stars her witty mom, her precocious, curly haired son and her super mean ex-husband.

A&E talked to Nicholas Sparks in a round-table interview. A few different bloggers and journalists asked the following questions.

Tell us what it was like to grow up in Minnesota and what it’s like to be back.

I wasn’t here long, and, of course, I was very young. But my first memories are from here. I wrote about them in “Three Weeks With My Brother,” because they were my first memories. I remember picking bugs off the grill of the moving van. I mean, it’s kind of foggy. Maybe you guys can remember what you were doing at 3 years old, but it’s all pretty foggy to me — it’s more like a snapshot.

I remember being transfixed by the bugs. I mean, there was a ton of them out there. I had a dog named Pepper. I remember my dog named Pepper, who was kind of a Shepherd/mutt mix, really sweet. Used to sit with us out in the yard. What I remember about Pepper is that Pepper was really soft. And that Pepper and I used to share Pepper’s dog food. It would be one for Pepper and one for me. This is true, by the way. My mom was like, “Fine, go ahead.” It’s a healthy food, believe it or not. You could live on dog food. And it whitens your teeth.

Did it taste good?

I guess at 3 it did. I was eating it voluntarily with the dog.

… My memories are more or less snippets. But I’ve been back here for book tours, and my roommate was from Minnesota, so I went and visited him on spring break.

And growing up, I was the world’s biggest — I don’t care about anyone else in the state — I was the world’s biggest Minnesota Vikings fan.

The leading dude in “The Lucky One” is a marine. What kind of research went into writing about that?

When I wrote that novel, it was hard to find the right regimen for him. What I was looking for was someone who’d been deployed three times. And all three times, in hot spots. And there were heavy losses in the squad.

If you’re going to include military information in a novel, it has to be accurate. You can’t say the first fifth was here, if it was over here, or I will get 1,000 letters explaining how I was wrong and why I was wrong and if I had any honor at all, I would do the proper research.

So it took a long time to find the right battalion.

Do you get guys coming up to you saying that you’re making our job so much harder?

I do. But, you know, these are good guys in these films. And they’re certainly not every guy, but they’re a lot of guys that I know.

If you look at Logan, or you look at Noah, or you look at any of these, Kevin Costner or Landon Carter — none of these guys were perfect. Not a single one. Kevin Costner couldn’t get over his dead wife. Literally couldn’t move on. Landon Carter? His movie starts with an accident, and he is not a nice guy.

Logan [the main character in “The Lucky One”] has PTSD. You meet a guy and this is what he says to you: “Yeah, I walked across the country because I found a picture, and you were in it.”

So my point is that none of them are perfect. But they do have this nobility to them and an integrity. And when push comes to shove, they are the kind of guys who will do the right thing. And to be quite frank, I do know a lot of people like this.

Are you involved in the movie-making process?

Yeah, I’m involved in casting, I’m involving in the selection of the screenwriter, the selection of the director, sometimes I write the screenplay, sometimes I produce the film — not always, though. The exact definition of what I do depends on my particular schedule, but I’m always very involved in every step, no matter what I’m doing. Like, if I’m a screenwriter, and I don’t get a credit for a producer, I still have input into who the director is.

That’s just because you know what a Nicholas Sparks movie is, I guess. You know what you’re going to get when you walk in.

Are you as romantic in real life as your leading characters are?

Romance is a very subjective term. But let me go into this: When I write these female characters, they are all, in some ways, my wife. And all the courting is in some ways how I had to court my wife. Because I write what I find attractive in a woman. I like intelligence. I don’t like wishy-washy women. I want them to stand up for what’s right. But I also want them to love deeply. I want them to be passionate. I want them to laugh. I like them loyal. We better be able to talk because I want to be your friend.

So all of these female characters I’ve ever created have this sense; they’re always a little strong, you know. If you look at Allie in “The Notebook“ or Jamie in “A Walk to Remember,” they’re very strong. If you have someone like that, you can’t fake it. She’ll call you on it. All my guys in all of these movies, they all get called on it. Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I got called on it!

You know, my wife. Does she get flowers and candy at unexpected times? Yeah. Do I write her love letters? Of course I do. I just wrote her one on Valentine’s Day. It was a good letter, I tried to write a good letter. Take her to exotic vacations, a surprise trip now and then — we do those things. But at the same time, we have a life. Our life is not one big rose petals falling from the ceiling endlessly. We have five children. I travel a lot; I work.

It’s important to my wife that I try, so I try. And it’s important to me that she tries, so she tries. How’s that?