published Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

A day in the life of Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks, left, signs a book for Wade Chapman during the She Expoon  Saturday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Nicholas Sparks, left, signs a book for Wade Chapman during the She Expoon Saturday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Author Nicholas Sparks sat down for an interview:

Q. What is a day in your life like?

A. It really depends on the particular day. Let's pick a writing day. I usually get up at about six, I work out for an hour-and-a-half, I have breakfast with my wife and kids. I shower, clean up, walk the dogs and am in my office by 9:30. I usually do paperwork until about 10:30. I will write from about 10:30 to 1, then I have lunch with my wife. About 2 I'm back and I usually write until about 4. From 4 until 6, I do a lot of the phone calls that I have to make. I've got a television production company, I've got a foundation, my wife and I built a school and there's issues that we have to deal with for that, plus I'm a producer on a film that's filming now. And then, I spend time with the children and the wife.

Q. Your first two books were never published. How did you stay motivated to write during that time?

A. I don't think it was necessarily unfolded exactly like that. It was interesting. I wrote my first novel at 19 on a whim, to see if I could do it. And then of course, I went back to college and did college for a couple more years. Then I graduated and I didn't know what I was gonna do so I wrote another book to kind of kill time. Then I said OK, well, I'll jump from job to job for a few years. Then I was 28 and I had a sort of midlife crisis. I didn't know what I was going to do. So I said, 'Well, I'll try writing again and this time I'll give it a real shot.'

The thing was, I didn't dream of being a writer for every day of that period. Weeks and months would go by when I didn't think of writing at all. But when I was 28, that was the first time I really made the decision to take this whole thing seriously.

Q. What do you think you'd be doing if you'd never been published?

A. I have no idea. I'd probably own a business of some sort, but I have no idea what it would be.

Q. What do you hope people take away from your books?

A. I write them because I want people to be immensely interested in the stories as they read them, to enjoy the stories, to have their feelings genuinely evoked and to remember the story long after they finish reading it.

Q. What is the hardest part of being a successful author?

A. Exceeding expectations. After you've written, 17, 16 novels and eight or nine or 10 are made into films, how do you write something that's better than all that? It's very tough. It's a high hurdle to manage. Because exceeding expectations not only means that it has to feel original and interesting and universal, but it's got to surprise you. And surprise is very challenging to pull off after so many novels.

Q. Do you ever feel like you get stuck in the same formula?

A. There is no formula to what I do. It's probably the most challenging part of the genre. Every novel is structured differently, with different voice, different pacing, different lengths, different ages of the characters, different dilemmas.

Q. Do you ever think you'll get to a point when you just can't write any more and you're out of stories?

A. I think this all the time! My agent laughs at me when I say such things. She'll say, 'Yes, I know, with the infinite number of possibilities, there's no more out there.' And then my response is, 'You're not helping me with a comment like that.' And she'll say, 'Well I have faith that you'll figure something out.' And I say, 'You're still not helping me!' [laughs]

Q. What's something that most people wouldn't know about being an author?

A. Most people wouldn't know that we don't generally know other authors. We never meet them. Where would we meet them? Only once in a blue moon do I meet them, and only for maybe three minutes. I mean I'm in North Carolina, Charles Frazier is in North Carolina, John Grisham is just right across the border in Charlottesville. But I've never met Dr. Frazier, and I met John Grisham for maybe three minutes.

Q. I just talked to a 15-year-old girl who's waiting to meet you with a copy of "The Notebook." How do you feel when you know people will line up to meet you?

A. That's amazing, because of course she wasn't even born when the novel came out! It's wonderful. I feel very humbled and very honored that people not only enjoy the novels, but that they then tell their kids about them, or younger people continually come back to them. I think it's great. I feel very fortunate.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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