LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, who has seen three of his romantic novels turned into films, celebrates as the third, "Nights in Rodanthe", hits theaters and this month and a fourth, "Dear John" goes into production in South Carolina in October.
"Nights in Rodanthe", a mid-life love story of two strangers who become stranded together at a seaside inn during a storm, stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane and opens September 26.
Sparks, 42, talked to Reuters about mid-career drift, and not letting things get too personal in his famously sentimental tales of ordinary love.
Q: Why do you set your novels in the Southern United States?
A: "A love story comes down to atmosphere, and it's a place I can always find the atmosphere that I need for a particular setting or scene. One of the things I write are very universal stories, which means these are stories that could happen to anyone and they are also individuals you can feel like you know. They're not movie stars or CEOs or astronauts -- they are just ordinary people. Everybody knows someone who lives in a small town still ... and the South is very good for that.
Q: The outer banks of South Carolina have the highest density of shipwrecks in the world. Did that have anything to do with why you set "Nights in Rodanthe" -- about two people whose lives are essentially shipwrecked -- there?
A: "Absolutely because when you get two wounded people and they are withdrawing and you keep them in their normal lives they will continue to withdraw. That's just reality. In this isolated place, they are forced to interact if they have any interaction at all."
Q: Was there a particular incident or person or inspiration for "Nights in Rodanthe"?
A: "It was three-fold. Number one, the names were my in-laws'. I said what do you want for Christmas and they said they wanted their names in a book so (the characters are named) Paul and Adrienne. Number two, I had people say, 'Are you ever going to write a love story with your wife, the way you met?' because we fell in love in a day at the beach. I said, 'That's a little too personal so I'll probably evolve it into a story,' so I did that. The third reason ... this was my sixth novel and it was what I was supposed to do at that particular time."
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: "If you are a major author you either start with a book that everyone loves and you gradually drift away from that over the course of your career. "Hunt for Red October" was 300 pages by Tom Clancy, and now his books are about 1500 pages. John Grisham did "The Firm," "The Client," "The Pelican Brief", these really intense legal thrillers, and now he's writing "Playing for Pizza" and "Bleachers."
"Your other option is you write the same book over and over and over. These are the two major patterns and I do not want to fall into those patterns because I don't like them.
"The Notebook" was a relatively short, simple love story ... followed with a longer book, "Message in a Bottle." (I) came back with "A Walk to Remember", a very short, poignant, meaningful love story but a different age group -- teenagers.
"Follow that with "The Rescue" and "A Bend in the Road" -- long, long -- and my next one was "The Guardian" which was love and danger. I remember sitting and thinking "The Guardian" is very different than "The Notebook." If they started reading me for this, are they going to read me for that? I thought maybe, but I wasn't willing to take that chance. I needed a short, powerful love story with a different age group and so here came "Nights in Rodanthe."
Q: Do you believe there is such as thing as fate or destiny when it comes to love?
A: "I don't know but I know it can seem that way. It seems as if it was fated that I met my wife and it seems like we were destined to be together from the moment we met. Just because it feels that way doesn't mean that fate or destiny are real. That's a deep philosophical question. How much of life is random? I don't know."
Reporting by Gina Keating; editing by Patricia Reaney