Nicholas Sparks: The Longest Ride

Book Talk: Nicholas Sparks on telling stories through text, film

Billy Cheung Reuters12:06 p.m. CDT, October 10, 2013

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nicholas Sparks, best-known for telling poignant love stories through his novels and their adaptations to film, has written another book, “The Longest Ride,” which shot straight onto the U.S. bestsellers list.

“The Longest Ride” chronicles two relationships in parallel – one that is emerging while the other is completed. Like “The Notebook,” “Message in Bottle,” and “Safe Haven,” his latest novel is slated for the big screen with a nationwide release planned for Valentine’s Day weekend 2015.

Sparks spoke to Reuters about the book, bull riding and storytelling through text and film.

Q: Did you intend to write dual stories at the novel’s outset?

A: For “The Longest Ride,” I knew what I wanted the final two chapters to be. I knew the twists that I wanted to have happen and how it would unfold. I knew how I wanted readers to feel when they closed the pages. If this is the end, how do I get there? At that point, I engage in a process of trying ideas in my mind and work backwards. There are going to be two stories to pull off the ending that I want.

I wrote the story of Ira and Ruth first, about 150 pages broken into seven sections of 20 pages each. Then I set it aside on the desktop of my computer. Then I wrote the story of Luke and Sophia, up to the point where the two stories intersect. Then I wrote through the end. I had the two earlier sections and put the novel together … Happily, there was no editing involved in the transitions.

Q: One of the characters, Luke, is involved in bull riding. Do you have experience riding a bull?

A: I have been to rodeos and am one of those people who watches bull riding on (cable channel) TNT. My sister, who passed away, used to live on a ranch. The ranch in the novel is based on that. Her husband, Bob, had been in rodeos …

I supplemented this with a great deal of reading. I probably read eight books on rodeo in general, some stretching back to the 1980s, because I wanted to get Luke and his father’s story right. I also watched numerous YouTube videos on bull rides. You add all that together to create a world that feels real – real enough that the Professional Bull Riders said it was the most accurate portrayal of bull riding in any novel or film that they have ever seen.

Q: Art becomes an important part of the characters’ lives. Do you collect art personally?

A: I have some art, but I am a hobbyist. I would not consider myself an expert but in the course of writing this novel I became very familiar with the various movements in American Modern Art from 1900 onwards.

Q: What should readers take away from your latest novel?

A: I want characters to have voices that feel authentic, unique, honest, fresh and original – all at once. Part of that authenticity is evoking genuine emotion across life – the sadness, passion, love, sense of loss, missed opportunities, and confusion even. All of this helps us realize that our choices do impact the lives that we eventually lead.

Q: Given that a number of your novels have become films, what do you think about other forms of media as you write your novels?

A: When I am in the process of conceiving a story, I make sure it can be told with words and pictures. The story has to be creative, original and interesting in both areas. Many stories get rejected because they feel derivative.

However, once I have a story that meets criteria for both mediums, from the moment I start writing, I only think about the novel. At that point there is no guarantee that the story will ever become a film but it will be a novel.

I consider myself foremost a novelist with the intent of crafting stories that people will remember.

(This story is refiled to correct planned release date of movie to February 2015 instead of early next year in second paragraph)

(Patricia Reaney and Christopher Wilson)

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