Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the Attic with Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is the best-selling author of books like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember. His new book, The Last Song, was released September 8, and a film version of the book hits screens in January. He will be in D.C. this weekend for the National Book Festival.

You haven't participated in the National Book Festival before. What are you looking forward to?

It's always nice to meet and talk with the readers who enjoy my work and tell those who are interested and show up to my talk a little bit about what I do and who I am. And honoring reading and literacy in general is always a wonderful thing.

What was the inspiration for your new novel, The Last Song?

Always when I sit down to write a novel, I try to write something different from anything readers have read from me before. There are many ways to do that — structure, setting, or one of the easiest is the ages of the characters in question. In my previous books, characters range from their 20s to 40s, and Nights in Rodanthe was 40s and 50s. So I said I didn't want to do a novel with characters age 20 to 50, and said I could either do another teen story, which I hadn't done since A Walk to Remember, or a more mature story, since I hadn't done that since The Wedding or The Notebook. I was leaning toward a teenage story, and since A Walk to Remember was about a boy, I wanted to do one about a girl.

Coincidentally at that time, Offspring Entertainment called and said that Disney had a two-option movie deal with Miley Cyrus, who was currently doing Hannah Montana. She loved A Walk to Remember, and they asked if I had anything that Miley might be interested in, and I said 'no, but funny you should mention that.'

What was it like writing a screenplay and novel so close together? Which one did you write first?

I wrote the screenplay first, and it was easy. Screenplays are easy and I don't find them nearly as challenging as a novel. They're much, much shorter and are all about the story. The hard part is coming up with the story. Once you understand the screenplay structure, with three acts, plot points, and understand the mechanics, it's just writing. Then when I finished it, I sent it off two Disney, wrote two revisions and sat down to write the novel.

You’ve seen so many of your books turned into movies. What’s it like to see stories and characters you create on screen?

It's a lot of fun. I've been very fortunate that the movies have been good ones and very close to the spirit and integrity of the novel. They've also been well received at the box office.

What do you think about the state of literacy in this country?

My opinions are just that, my opinions, but I think that one of the goals in education in general, at least at the high school level, should be to encourage reading, whether fiction of non-fiction. I understand everyone reading common literature, but it is a narrow set of books written hundreds of years ago that students are supposed to read. I'm not sure those encourage the joys of reading. Schools would be well served to broaden their curriculum and allow students to read books by modern authors, classics that aren't on the curriculum yet, so to speak, to encourage reading in general. And that's best served by having students pick the kind of books they want to read.

Photo credit: Alice M. Arthur

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