Interview: Author Nicholas Sparks on 'The Notebook'

"It was very close to what the novel was"

Nicholas Sparks The Notebook
Author Nicholas Sparks at the World Premiere of "The Notebook". Photo © Rebecca Murray

No stranger to movie adaptations of his novels (A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle), The Notebook author Nicholas Sparks seems to take the changes from his written text to the big screen in stride. Here's what the prolific author had to say in 2004 about screenwriter Jeremy Leven's vision of his novel:

What do you think of the changes made from your book to the film version?
You know, they always have to do that.

They have to make changes and it’s okay. It’s funny, if you’re going to be upset about it I don’t think you should sell the rights. No one makes you sell them. For me, I don’t really mind as long as they do a few things and that is keep the spirit of the characters, the spirit of the film, maybe the general plot – you know, most of the big stuff – and then they make a good movie. They did all that here so I was pretty happy.

Did they consult with you at all?
Not too much, but that is okay too. I’m open and available and generally the screenwriters like to do it on their own, and they like to get their own thoughts and put it together. Jeremy Leven really drew heavily from the book. There was really nothing I could have added at all. I’ll review the scripts and if they ask for notes, I’ll make them. But I’m one voice in the wilderness [Laughs].

When you’re writing, do you have a specific look for each character?

What do you think about the casting?
[Laughs] Why not?! Really, I had nothing in mind. People always ask me that, if I imagine people like almost with a bright light shining behind them, where they are actual, specific images in a shadow. I very seldom even know what my characters look like. I keep it vague because that’s a way to increase the realism to the reader, if you want to get technical.

You leave it vague and you let the readers fill in the blanks with their imaginations.

Where did this story come from?
I was inspired by my wife’s grandparents in many ways. Much of what happens in the film, actually happened in real life.

How close is the book to actual events?
Most of the major events were actually drawn from their lifespan. But with that said, it’s a novel. It’s not a biography so there are lots of small changes, locations, settings, specific events, and things like that.

Since there is a personal connection, it must be kind of hard to turn it over to somebody else to make a film.
No [Laughs]. I write books and I know that they’re going to change them. I’ve been very fortunate. This is my third film made and my books tend to be very easily adapted because there’s not a lot of characters, and they tend to be relatively short so you can pretty much capture everything. The adaptations are closer for my novels than they are for a lot of authors. You take a Tom Clancy novel: it’s 1500 pages and 15 subplots. They have to get that down to two hours. For me, I have a few characters, a couple of locations – you can put the whole thing in.

What was your initial reaction to seeing The Notebook on film?
I loved this movie.

I loved it, my wife loved it. I was flattered. It was very close to what the novel was and as an author, that’s very flattering.

Are you a romantic at heart?
Sure, why not? Yeah, I’m all for it. I’ve been very blessed though. I have a great wife and it’s very easy to be romantic because it makes her happy and then my life is so much better when she’s happy.

Do you like to write love stories?
Yeah, it’s a very tough genre. Dramatic fiction – William Shakespeare made his biggest mark writing dramatic love stories. People love Romeo and Juliet. Same thing with Jane Austen. It’s a tough genre and it’s got a lot of challenges.

What are you working on now?
A couple of books – like always.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick

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Murray, Rebecca. "Interview: Author Nicholas Sparks on 'The Notebook'." ThoughtCo, Sep. 4, 2016, Murray, Rebecca. (2016, September 4). Interview: Author Nicholas Sparks on 'The Notebook'. Retrieved from Murray, Rebecca. "Interview: Author Nicholas Sparks on 'The Notebook'." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).