Best-selling novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks signs a copy of his book, 'A Bend in the Road' for a fan. Eight of Sparks' novels have been adapted into major motion pictures to date.
"I've been the luckiest author ever for casting," Nicholas Sparks says, sitting in a London hotel room, wearing a light blue shirt over black slacks.
Tanned and well groomed, he speaks in the calm, concise voice of the experienced interviewee. Media interest has not been lacking since he published his first novel, "The Notebook", in 1996.
"I've had Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, Richard Gere and Diane Lane - that level up there," he continues, spectacles in hand.
"Then you have people that no one had heard of that have now become major stars - your Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams [and] Liam Hemsworth. I'm incredibly blessed."
In Love and War
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1965, Sparks has established himself as the go-to novelist for Hollywood tearjerkers. "The Notebook" was made into a modern classic in 2004, catapulting Gosling and McAdams into the stratosphere. Then the less-acclaimed "Nights in Rodanthe" followed in 2008, with the old-school heart-throb Gere, and "The Last Song" in 2010, with the up-and-coming chanteuse-actress Miley Cyrus.
His latest offering is the Southern-set drama "The Lucky One", which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this autumn, featuring Zac Efron. Sparks has no time for the critics who argue that the "High School Musical" idol is too young to portray a war veteran on a love mission in Louisiana.
"You know, 70 per cent of the marine core is under 25," Sparks points out.
"[Efron] is 24 when he films. He looks like these guys. I mean, they are kids - they are 19 and 20. He was actually on the older end of what the marines should be. That was what we were looking for - someone who actually looks old enough to have been to Iraq and back three times. So I had no doubts.
"Also, Zac has that kindness to him. We needed that. Because we knew that we were going to saddle him with a whole bunch of emotional baggage to do this film."
And ... Action!
Since the days of Faulkner and Fitzgerald, the Dream Factory has been famous for mistreating its writers. Sparks,, however, is involved in "everything" throughout the production stages. Does that mean that he has the big screen in mind from the very beginning?
"Not when I write, but when I conceive - no question," he confirms.
"Because I know that there is a chance that it's going to be a film, there is a higher level of originality [required]. And then you're also a little bit limited on some of the things you do in the novel. For instance, you can't have a book that's all introspection - you actually have to have some things happening. [But] once you've conceived the story, then the writing is the same. In the end, I am - I do consider myself - primarily a novelist."
Will he ever consider taking the big step and reinventing himself as a director?
"I get asked all the time," Sparks chuckles.
"The answer is 'probably not for a while'. My kids are little - my youngest [two] are ten - and I don't really want to be off on set for eight-nine weeks somewhere else. Maybe in ten years we'll give it a whirl one day. I don't have a burning ambition to do it - it's not my life-long goal. But I do get asked, and maybe I'll say 'sure, we'll give it a whirl', some time."
Getting the Plot
While we wait, Sparks has a clear idea of how one successfully adapts a literary work for the screen.
"The secret is [that] you have to retain the spirit and the intent of the story. And you have to get as many of the plot elements as you can get in there. That's number one. Same thing goes with the characters. And then after those two you really just work with good people to make the film as good as it can possibly be - which means having a good director and a really good cast."
How wonderful, then, that Sparks has been so lucky.