No, not really. I mean, making it as an author
is tough. I wasn't naive to the challenge. It's
tough to make a living as an author. It's one
of the tougher professions to break in, to be
quite frank. I was never naive to that, and I
certainly wasn't willing to take a chance because
I love to write. I don't know that I love to write
these days. I wrote my first novel at 19, my second
at 22, I wrote that book with Billy Mills at 25
and then I wrote "The Notebook" at 28. But in
between those novels, I wrote nothing -- not a
letter to the editor, not a magazine article.
I didn't think about writing at all.
Bankrate: What changed your mind?
Sparks: The reason I ended up going to writing again at 28 was, I had been selling pharmaceuticals for a couple of years and I liked the town we were living in -- we had moved to New Bern, N.C. -- and yet I knew that if I wanted to move up in the company, to district or regional manager, I didn't want to move to New Jersey for two years and do marketing and brochures, which was kind of a step you had to take. I knew I didn't want to move to the centers of these territories, which were generally large cities; I knew I wanted to live in a smaller town. So it got to the point where I said, well, I don't want to move up, and yet I don't want to look back when I'm 70 and say, you just sold pharmaceuticals your whole life. So I said, hey, you've got to chase a dream, so I'll write another book. That's the first time I took it seriously.
Bankrate: How much of your ability to touch readers came from the dramatic highs and lows of your own life?
Sparks: Many parts, I would agree with you.
How did you come upon the idea for "The Notebook"?
How it originally came about, I said OK, I'm going
to try writing but I'm going to take it seriously,
I'm going to give myself three chances. Since
I'd already written two that were never published,
I'll give myself three chances. I can die knowing
that I can't write a novel well enough to get
published, but I can't die knowing that I didn't
try. So I said, what story can I write? And my
wife's grandparents had passed away and they were
just two really sweet people and their story kind
of lingered with me, and I thought, what if I
take some elements of that and try to turn it
into a novel? I chose it primarily because it
was a story I thought I could write, because it
wasn't very long and I knew who they were. So
that eventually became "The Notebook."
Bankrate: It became your first best-seller.
What would you have done if it had tanked?