Nicholas Sparks has his brother to thank for his book, “The Choice,” which has been turned into a feature film.
When the author, who has done more for romance than Cupid, was coming up with the idea about a mismatched couple who deal with big and small choices in their lives, the first thing Sparks thought of was the guy in his tale.
“He was modeled after my brother (Michael),” Sparks says. “I got married young and my brother was a really good bachelor for about 10 years.”
During that decade, the brothers would share conversations in which the author would talk about family problems and issues. His brother would counter with how he had just gotten back from Lake Tahoe where he had a blast with his buddies.
Sparks admired how his brother had just learned to love life and being himself. From that, Sparks thought about what kind of woman it would take to tame his brother and that became part of the novel.
Once he had his players, Sparks took a page from his story “The Notebook” to explore how all the decisions we make affect our lives. As with so many of his books, “The Choice” has become a movie, in which case starring Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker.
As far as the choices Sparks has made in his own life, the biggest was the decision to write his first novel between his freshman and sophomore years at Notre Dame.
“I did it on a whim just to see if I could do it. Where would I have been had I not made the choice to do it? My life is full of choices that have added up to this crazy thing we call life,” Sparks says.
Since making his career choice, Sparks doesn’t write romantic fantasies with fairy-tale endings. His stories are rooted more in romantic fact, based on average people overcoming obstacles to find love. And, his stories often include love stories of all ages. In “The Choice,” Tom Wilkinson, who plays the father to the character played by Walker, is also dealing with affairs of the heart.
“I am in a very blessed position because the people who read my novels range in age from 10 years old to 100. When I sit down to write a novel, the first question I decide is, ‘What are the ages of the characters who are falling in love?’ Because that will inform dilemma,” Sparks says. “People enjoy books about people their own age because they can relate to them.
“I try to write stories that resonate on a lot of different levels and stories that feel fresh.”
The process of writing “The Choice,” was similar to of his other best-selling books. He always knows how the story will start and how it will end. Once he has a basic understanding of the characters and a few of the plot twists, he is ready to start writing.
There has only been one time that Sparks didn’t end a book the way he had originally planned, “A Walk To Remember.”
“In the novel, I knew that Jamie would pass away,” Sparks says. “When it got down to the final chapter, I just couldn’t do it. So, I left the ending very ambiguous. It was what the reader chose to believe.
“The film took a stand and said she died.”
Sparks’ message in “The Choice” is that with time, love deepens even if there isn’t a constant display of those affections. He points out that when talking about a spouse, most people won’t say that they love them as much as the day they married, but that they love them more.
“The Choice” is the latest in a long string of movies based on the author’s books. Sparks has a great track record with film adaptations, including: “The Notebook, “ “Message in a Bottle, “ “A Walk to Remember, “ “Dear John, “ “Nights in Rodanthe, “The Last Song,” “Safe Haven,” “The Best of Me” and “The Longest Ride.” They have earned more than $435 million.
Sparks understands changes have to be made to go from one of his novels, which have about 100,000 words, to a movie script that averages 20,000 words. To write his books, Sparks usually works four days a week. His only rule is that the film script must take on the spirit of the story and the characters. It helps that it’s his production company that is making the movies – the productions will never wander too far from the source.