Author Nicholas Sparks has written 23 novels, and all of them have made The New York Times bestseller list, with more than 115 million copies sold worldwide. His writing career began in 1994 when he worked in pharmaceutical sales and wrote a novel on the side. It was called “The Notebook”.
This novel quickly hit the New York Times bestseller list when it was released in 1996 and was later made into a movie like many of Sparks’ later novels. Sparks, who has lived in New Bern, North Carolina for 30 years, released a new book this month, “Dreamland.” It is a moving love story between two young musicians from different backgrounds and which takes place in North Carolina, like all his novels, and on a beach in Florida. Sparks says the inspiration for “Dreamland” came from a personal experience.
Nicholas Sparks: When I met my wife years ago, we were on the west coast of Florida for a week. You know, I had met her and I knew at the end of that first week that she was going to be the one for me. And so we got married, had five kids, and all that. Didn’t last long, but was wonderful while it did. And at the same time, the most important thing I really wanted to do was illustrate the parallels between making music and falling in love.
You have these two people, Colby and Morgan, and they just meet on the beach and they’re young people and okay, you know, it could just say “hello” or it could be a fling. And they discover that they share this passion for musical creation and that it was part of their dreams. And as they begin to get to know each other and fall in love, they also fall into the songwriting process. And I just really wanted to explore those parallels – that hitting the right note when you meet someone and fall in love with them sounds like a song, doesn’t it?
Gwendolyn Glenn: She seemed to be more aggressive about “this is what I’m going to do”, but he’s a little hesitant.
Sparks : It’s something she trained for and worked with tutors and went to college for. Then you have someone who loved music, but kind of started doing something else in life, right? One thing he was very good at was working on the family farm.
Glen: Yeah. And he doesn’t realize how good he is until he takes this chance to go to Florida for several weeks and play there and the crowds love him.
Sparks : It happens sometimes. You know, I’ve been to these kind of places when I’m on vacation, a bit on the beach this or that. And, you know, I heard some amazing voices.
Glen: Yeah. So the other side of the story is in North Carolina, where we have these other amazing characters that you bring to life.
Sparks : You know, the interesting thing about “Dreamland” is you have this wonderful love story set in Florida, and then another story, and you just don’t know how it ties together. It is a woman who flees with her child what she feels is a very dangerous situation.
And the reader, as he goes along, reads one story and then the other, and he doesn’t necessarily know how they’re going to fit together. And that’s one of the things I try to do is write a novel that will end up surprising a reader in a way that they don’t expect.
Glen: And this character also lost his parents. So it’s not just about love between two people in this kind of relationship, but also about love for family and loss.
Sparks : Yeah, those are themes that I have often – they mean a lot to me, my family. And in my own life, I lost my mother, I lost my father, both when I was in my twenties. I lost my younger sister shortly after — I was, I don’t know, 32 or 33. And yet, without my family, I don’t know who I would have been.
And so I like to explore the concept of family love. It’s a different kind of love. And when I pray, I basically… I thank God for all these different loves. And I like to explore this theme in my books. And I think by the time you get to the end of “Dreamland,” you know, you really realize love in all its various forms.
Glen: And I read where you once said, and I think it was on NPR with Scott Simon, that you like to explore the human – all of the human emotions in your books. And this one in particular stirred up a lot of emotions, as you just said.
Sparks : Well, to me, the stories that matter the most are the ones that touch all of life’s emotions. Because the more you touch all the emotions in life, the more you feel like it could happen to you. For me, it’s a way of getting closer to the character.
So yes, I will write about love, but I will write about, for example, fear. You know, in this novel, I will write about uncertainty. I will write about confusion. I’m going to write about happiness, right? Just laugh. And you try to cover it all up. And I think by bringing in the full human experience, the characters feel more real. And so the story stays in the memory longer once the last page is turned.
Glen: Many of your books have been made into movies and TV shows. Do you see it as such?
Sparks : Yeah I know that. Universal bought this book, among others.
Glen: Well, you had one, “Safe Haven.” You were the executive producer. I was going to ask you, what input do you have when they’re made into movies and television?
Sparks : I’m one of the main voices in the room. Unlike a novel where I’m the boss. But in a movie, you’re dealing with the studio executive in charge of production. You have the director, who has a precise vision. Sometimes cast members have an important contribution. For example, in “Message in a Bottle” when I’m working with Kevin Costner, Kevin Costner has an opinion and it’s important to listen to it because it’s Kevin Costner, isn’t it?
Message in a bottle | Nicholas Sparks “Fight in the Rain” Collection | Warner Bros. Entertainment
Sparks : I have 11 different movies, so it could be on Amazon, Netflix. They could be anywhere. And they’re often on network TV.
Glen: When you think of stories, do you think it has to work for North Carolina because there are so many different plots or things, but they don’t necessarily work for North Carolina?
Sparks : So yeah, you pick and choose things like that. But I tend to select stories that I can write in North Carolina. I’ve lived there for so long and I’m just a small town guy. I guess through my novels I try to tell you a bit about the charms I find in small town life – the geography, the slow pace, the opportunity to be able to calm your soul for a little moment and thus allow oneself to be open to, perhaps, new experiences.
Author and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks’ new book is “Dreamland.” He will be in Charlotte on Monday for a 4 p.m. signing at the Barnes and Noble Arboretum.