Best-selling author finds time for reading, writing, family

by Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nicholas Sparks set some track and field records at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and, if he keeps it up, he could be setting some records in the book-selling field.p. Three of his nine novels have been adapted for the big screen: “A Walk to Remember,” “Message in a Bottle,” and the upcoming “The Notebook.” Sparks’ latest book and first nonfiction effort, “Three Weeks With My Brother,” written with his brother, Micah, is now making the rounds of the best-seller lists.p. And through it all the Catholic author finds time to be with his wife and their five children, write every day, go to Mass every Sunday and read about 150 books a year.p. Sparks, in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service from New Bern, N.C., where he makes his home, said he would probably not be considered a “Catholic novelist” as Flannery O’Conner was regarded in her lifetime.p. “My characters are not perfect Catholics,” he said. “They may engage in activities that go against Catholic doctrine.” Nor are his characters identified as Catholics, Sparks added, although “they may be Christians” and hold “a very religious worldview.”p. He said his publishing notoriety hasn’t resulted in a lot of stares directed his way at St. Paul Church in New Bern, where he and his family go to Mass, or in the town of New Bern. “If I do get stares, it’s probably because of the five kids,” Sparks said.p. “Three Weeks With My Brother” is Sparks’ memoir of an around-the-world trip he took last year with his older brother, Micah. It was a trip sponsored by Notre Dame’s alumni association and included remote locales such as Easter Island in the South Pacific and Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Sparks is a major contributor to Notre Dame’s master’s program in fine arts in the creative writing program.p. The book begins with Proverbs 17:17: “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in the time of need.” Sparks said he believed “Three Weeks” could work better as a documentary than a feature film, but he doesn’t spend his time trying to decipher the ways of Hollywood. “I don’t think Hollywood knows what works,” he added.p. “There are novels I’ve written that I thought would work great on the big screen” that haven’t gotten a nibble from studios, Sparks said, although he is generally pleased with how the three novels that have been made into movies turned out.p. “The Notebook” deals with young love found and lost in a small North Carolina town at the onset of World War II, and how the characters’ experiences then helped shaped them to the present day. It stars James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen, James Marsden, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. The film was directed by Rowlands’ son, Nick Cassavettes, and is scheduled to be released nationwide June 25.p. Sparks told CNS that many of his early novels were inspired by the lives of people he knew; “The Notebook,” published in 1996, was inspired by the grandparents of his wife. But, he added, he does not envision actors inhabiting the lives of the characters as he writes about them. “I can see their emotions and their actions,” Sparks said, “but I don’t picture their faces.”p. However, he thinks the filmmakers “did a wonderful job” adapting “The Notebook.”p. “Novels tell a story in words, while movies tell a story in images,” he said. “I think they made a very fine transition.”p. Sparks, who still holds a Notre Dame record with three Fighting Irish teammates in the 3,200-meter relay with a time of 7:20.11 in 1985, said his track experience benefited his writing: “You have to learn to be persistent, to do it every day, even when you don’t want to.”p. He doesn’t run much anymore. “I’m more of a jogger,” he said.

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