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Fame & Fortune
Nicholas Sparks
Author Nicholas Sparks
'The Notebook' ripped from his family's life story
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: Author Nicholas Sparks

If you think the love stories of Nicholas Sparks are filled with grand passion, inconsolable loss and the inner strength to somehow overcome adversity and despair, you should check out his real life.

While the author of such sweeping best-sellers as "The Notebook," "A Bend in the Road," "Message in a Bottle" and "Dear John" has known more than his fair share of life's triumphs and tragedies, it's the fact that those highs and lows often came at the same time that makes his real life read like, well, a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Sparks grew up poor, the middle child of three children in Fair Oaks, Calif., where his father was a professor. As a high school scholar-athlete, Sparks became his class valedictorian and received a full-ride scholarship for track and field to Notre Dame, all while working 30 hours a week at a restaurant.

His freshman year at Notre Dame, he helped set a school record in the 800-meter relay that still stands today, only to suffer a career-ending injury. Despondent in his recuperation, Sparks took his mother's advice and wrote his first novel over the summer. It was never published.

... Like his characters, Sparks has endured life's storms. ...

Sparks met his wife, Catherine, on spring break in 1988 and they wed in July 1989. Six weeks later, his mother was killed in a horse riding accident at age 47. He completed his second unpublished novel during that turbulent year.

During the next five years, he became a successful pharmaceutical salesman and relocated his family to North Carolina.

In October 1995, two months prior to his 30th birthday, his next novel, "The Notebook," sold for a cool $1 million, with movie rights to boot. Two months later, he found out that his first son, Ryan, was autistic. Eight months after that, his father was killed in an automobile accident at 54. In June 2000, his sister Dana passed away from a brain tumor at age 33.

Like his characters, Sparks has endured life's storms by embracing his faith, his wife, their five children and his older brother Micah. He is active in charitable causes and is a major financial contributor to the creative writing master's program at Notre Dame.

Bankrate caught up with the fast-moving author to run down the details of his financial acumen.

Bankrate: You earned your undergraduate degree at Notre Dame in business finance. Did you have a business career in mind?

Nicholas Sparks: Yeah, I guess that would be a fair assumption. Who knows what I thought I'd be doing? By the time I was in college, I thought I might work in investment banking or something along those lines, but upon graduation, I realized I didn't really want to get a master's, which even back then was almost a requirement to work for your Goldman Sachs, places like that. I just didn't want to put my life on hold because, to get into a good business school, they generally like some work experience unless you're a phenomenal student. I was a very good student, but I wasn't phenomenal, and I didn't want to work for two years then go back to school for two years. So that just went by the wayside.

Next: "Did the royalties from that book whet your appetite?"
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