It's not every day that you get to sit down and have a chat with best-selling author Nicholas Sparks. Or maybe it is, and I am just not that cool...While on the set of The Best of Me in New Orleans earlier this year, I had the privilege of interviewing The Best of Me's author, Nicholas Sparks as the film was being filmed behind us! It was an incredible experience and I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I was able to dish on our chat!
Firstly, I just have to say that Nicholas Sparks was a pleasure to be around. He was so friendly, so gracious - I would have never imagined that he would be so open and warm to a bunch of total strangers! A diva he most certainly was NOT!
We had so many questions about the film, the setting and of course, about Nicholas Spark's favorite topic: romance!
Q: I'm wondering in terms of the filming of this movie, I've heard that this is the first time that you're filming out of North Carolina.
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: We've filmed everywhere. Parts of Message in a Bottle, the first film, was in Maine--parts of it. For most of A Walk to Remember was in--near the Wilmington area. The Notebook was filmed parts of South Carolina. The Lucky One was actually filmed in New Orleans. And The Last Song was filmed in Georgia. So, we move around.
It's no wonder they chose the location they did in New Orleans. The setting was perfect for this love story, and it actually really reminded me of North Carolina!
Everyone has read a book and then seen the movie based on the book and was either disappointed or thrilled with a plot change or character difference. I personally rarely read the book when I see a new movie (based on a best-selling novel) coming to theaters. Likewise, if I have read a book that I really related to and loved, I refuse to see the movie because I am inevitably disappointed. We had questions about that kind of thing too!
Q: Differences between the book and movie? Do you have a say?
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: Yes, the differences between the book and the movie, of course there are always differences. You know, film is a very different medium, in general. So, because they're different mediums, you have to kind of go into the whole project knowing that some things work better on film than they do in books. And some things conversely work better in books than they do on film.
For instance, a car chase always works better on film, right, or scenes that have some real emotional intensity, like anger scenes, fight scenes--yes, I can do it in a book, and I work really hard to make it as real as I can, but really, it's seeing their face and all of that. That really helps to bring it to life. So, action scenes, emotional intensity--that tends to work better in film.
What works better in a novel? Introspection. You really can get into someone's head. And so, the goal in a film is to then figure out what the introspection is and then to come up somehow with images for them, and that, in and of itself, requires changes.
Whether I'm producing or screenwriting, I say, let's retain the spirit and the intent of the characters. Let's retain the spirit and the intent of the story, and then let's just make the best film we can, knowing that it's a different medium.
Then you add in the fact that a script is about 20,000 words. This novel was about, you know, 90,000 words. So, I mean, of course there's going to be differences.
But, it's very close within the spirit of the characters, the spirit of the story, and certainly, if you've read the novel, you will recognize the film.
I loved Nicholas Spark's answer to this question and it makes perfect sense. When I think back on the things I loved most about certain books, it is often that silent introspective passage that I always find lacking in the movie. It was eye-opening to hear it from the author's perspective and gave me a new found appreciation for the art of film making.
Now, the subject matter of The Best of Me is someone getting a second chance at love. This is something that resonates with many people, and I thought it was a wonderful premise for not only a romance novel, but a romantic movie.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about that?
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: I was in my 40s when I wrote The Best Me, and I think the 40s are a very interesting period of peoples' lives. It's like, if you're in your 20s and your 30s, you kind of believe that your dreams can come true. You'll meet the right guy, or you'll be famous, or whatever your dreams are.
So, you go through your 20s and 30s, and there's a part of you that just knows it's still, you still got a shot, here. Well, in your 50s, 60s, and 70s, you kind of reach a point where you're looking back and say, well, maybe they didn't all come true. I'm never going to be an astronaut. I think I've now passed the NASA retirement age or whatever. So, you go through that.
So, the 40s is this period, this decade of your life when really, there tends to be a lot of self-reflection. Who am I? How did I get here? Is this the life I wanted to lead?
It kind of felt like maybe I got here by accident. And is this the life I want to lead the rest of my life?
So, all of those factors, that period of the 40s really comes into play for both Dawson and Amanda in The Best of Me. Is this what you want for the next 40 years of your life? Now that you've reached the age where you're very conscious of the fact that life is about choices, and, you know, sometimes you reach that point of now or never.
As bloggers, many of us fancy ourselves writers. The creative process to writing a book, or even adapting a best-selling novel into a screenplay is completely different than blogging, but it's interesting all the same. Having the opportunity to sit down and ask a wildly successful writer questions about his writing process? Of course we weren't going to pass up that opportunity!
Q: Has the success of your movies changed the way you write your next book? Do you picture the movie?
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: Yes and no. There's two parts to writing a novel, really, if you break it down. You have the thinking of the story, the period prior to writing. And then you have the moments when you write.
So, when you're thinking of a story, yes, I do take sometimes the film into account, not necessarily my own, but other films as well, for instance. And that's just so that I can be original. I don't want to do something that feels unoriginal. So, it's got be original for both a novel and original for film, and so you want to do that.
For instance, I would never write a love story set on the Titanic. Why? There's never been a book, right? But, you see, it wouldn't feel original, right? And it wouldn't. So, it's just that same concept. So many ideas get rejected because, well, it's too similar to Ghost, it's too close to Dirty Dancing, or whatever. You go through these things. So, that's the thinking. You're just trying to be original, and that includes film.
Then the moment I actually start writing, it's only about the novel, because, I've had novels that have not been adapted into films. There's no guarantee. Although it may seem, I don't have a straight pipeline into Hollywood, you know?
It looks like that from the outside, but they all have their own. Yes, it's always exciting to have a movie made, because there's always a challenge involved in having a film adapted.
Now, ghostly encounters seem to be a recurring theme in Nicholas Sparks novels, and we asked about that too! Don't worry, we covered it all in our short time with him!
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: I have a ghost story. I'm going to tell you that. I mean, it's not a weird one, or anything. I had very close, dear friends of mine. They're Pat and Billy Mills. Billy Mills is a was raised an Oglala Sioux Indian, and so he's in the Olympic Hall of Fame. He won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1964 in the 10,000 meters - the only American ever to win this. Well, I dated his daughter for about four years. Still remains a very close, personal friend of mine, and he's very close with my wife.
In fact, when we visit Sacramento, we stay with them. So, I have the wife, and me, and my children at Billy Mills' house one summer. And all of the sudden you'd just see these - I'd be sitting on the couch and you'd see movement out of the corner of your eye, and you'd turn and there's nothing there. And it happened repeatedly. And then my wife wakes up one night, and she's, like, who on earth is playing these tom-toms? And it just went on for a couple of days. We hadn't visited him for a year. We'd come in. So, maybe on day three or four, we're like, Bill, ha-ha. I think you have ghosts in your house. Ha-ha.
They're like, oh, you mean George? And we're like, wait, wait, wait. So, it turns out he gives speeches. He was speaking at an Indian reservation, and he was given an eagle bone whistle from Black Elk. Black Elk was a very mystic Native American. You can Wikipedia him. He's very famous in the Native American world, just a powerful medicine man. So, Bill got it and put it in his little museum in his house with his full headdresses, which are illegal to own unless you're an Indian, and all this stuff. That's when George started to come. Lights flicker on and off.
And I remember his daughter had all of her wedding photos taken beneath this oak tree. And then one morning, out of the blue, clear sky, there was no rain forecast, in fact, no rain measured, a lightning bolt came out, split that tree in two. Two hours later, the daughter comes by and says, we're getting a divorce.
And they're like, the eagle bone whistle's got to go. And so, they've returned it to Black Elk. And he says that when he walked in after returning it to Black Elk's family, his descendants, he felt a big thank-you whoosh moving through him and there's never been anything else.
So, I mean, I didn't see an apparition.
Now, if you aren't a fan of ghost stories, don't worry - this isn't a supernatural romance!
Now, I love a story with a happy ending. I have no shame in admitting it. I love a sappy, they-lived-happily-ever-after ending when I read a romance novel. Now, if you have read The Best of Me, go ahead and keep reading, but if you haven't read it yet, please stop reading now because
*** SPOILER ALERT AHEAD ***
We asked Nicholas Sparks about the unhappy ending in The Best of Me, WHY he chose a sad ending, and whether or not the ending would change in the film version.
Mr. Nicholas Sparks: You know, if you think of it this way, what is the purpose of literature? What is the purpose of any particular genre? What's the purpose of a horror novel? To scare you. Okay. What's the purpose of a thriller novel? To thrill you. What's the purpose of a romance novel, which is not what I do? To allow you flights into romantic fantasy. What is the purpose of a mystery? To uncover who done it, right? They all have purposes.
What's the purpose of what I do?
The purpose of what I do is to move the reader through the entire range of human emotion.
So, that includes love, but you should also feel Amanda's confusion.
You should feel Dawson's struggle. You should feel the frustration, the choice. You should feel what they're going through, so that by the time you close the cover, you're not thrilled or scared, and it wasn't necessarily just a straight romantic fantasy.
About The Best of Me
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they've never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.
The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
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