20 Sep 08
Last Thursday I had the amazing opportunity to be apart of interviewing author Nicholas Sparks on a conference call with 5 others bloggers. I’m so excited to share the call. As I mentioned in a preview post, I found Nicholas Sparks to be very open as he was willing to answer any question we asked. I felt he was truly engaged in the conversation and really elaborated in the answers he provided. My hope is as you read the interview you find it revealing, interesting and leave you wanting to read more of Nicholas Sparks or perhaps pick up your first of his novels. Nights of Rodanthe based on the book by Nicholas Sparks opens Sep 26th, so grab a girlfriend, your mom, sister, the neighbor along with a pack of tissues and escape into this great movie. I’m leaving for NYC for the World Premier on Tuesday morning (5am) and can’t wait to share all the sights, sounds and tastes I can manage to fit into 48 hours!
MS: I recently read the book Nights in Rodanthe and when I finished the book I came away saying, “What a lovely story.” And the character Adrienne was so well drawn. How do you think it is that you’re able to write such well rounded women characters?
Nicholas Sparks: That in all honesty is the magic question. I have not the slightest idea. I have a, I have a standard group of answers that I give whenever asked that question you know and they’re all true. I had a wonderful mother. I married very well. All of the most important people in my life at the present time and throughout my publishing career have been women.
I have daughters. And yet none, and yet none of those fully answers the question. I suppose I just have an ability to create a character’s voice that is, that sounds genuine and real. And I know that’s the question you asked. I don’t know. That’s part of the magical writing process. It is what differentiates writers, the talent level of writers.
It’s, and it’s akin to asking where do you get the ideas. I don’t know. I just do. How do I create women? I don’t know. I just do. Certainly I observe the world. I’ve seen how my wife reacts in certain situations. I saw how my mom or my sister did it.
All of these things I’m sure play a role in that but it comes together in a way that is unique for me just as it is unique for everybody.
TO: You write so well about the south. Do you need to do greater research in terms of the settings, for example, the inn in Nights of Rodanthe?
Nicholas Sparks: As a general rule I don’t have to do so much research because I’ve been to, in every novel that I’ve written I have been to the town that I’ve described. And of course as a novelist I feel free to take certain liberties when I need to because I’m a novelist and I can do such things.
But the – and the reason for that is in the novels that I write and these are dramatic fiction, this is the love story genre. It’s got its roots way back to Greek tragedies and you know Hemingway did it, Shakespeare did it.
In these types of stories the atmosphere and the setting almost becomes a character. And you know that always on a subconscious level when you’re in the south, in all forms of southern literature the atmosphere and the setting almost become their own character.
And it’s just part of writing about, living in the south and writing about the south. And it’s the way people tell stories, it’s just the way it is down here. It’s a very different world in some places. I live in a small town that I swear hasn’t changed much in 30 years. I mean it is, people walk places, it’s very hot and muggy, you’ve got the Spanish moss hanging from trees, kids running around barefoot.
It’s very much like it, it’s like a place stuck in time. And whenever you’re in rural areas of the south it is, of the south, it’s often like that. It’s just, yeah it’s moved up, it’s got the, we’ve got cell phones and the whole bit but the core of the place has not changed.
And it is a unique and wonderful place and certainly every place has their unique features but it’s a great place to write about because the setting is so important and there’s always the perfect place to set a story. And I know exactly where that is.
You know I – for a while before I was a writer you know I sold pharmaceuticals so I drove around virtually to every small town in the eastern part of the state. So I’ve been to every one of them. So it makes picking a setting relatively easy.
SO: I was wondering when you are writing your stories and has this changed over the time that you’ve written them and published so many successful ones, how does the editorial decisions affect your plot and is that a painful decision when they want you to change things?
And how much does that play into the final book that we get to get our hands on?
Nicholas Sparks: That’s a great question. For the most part I am, I would be considered lightly edited. I mean there’s no question that I’m edited but the process is a little bit different for me than it is for other writers. And I suppose, and I can’t speak for other writers because I don’t know exactly what they do.
But for me the process goes something like this. I write a novel or I write half of a novel and then send the other half later. The first step is it goes to my agent. And my agent really, she’s a Creative Writing major. She’s probably one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever met in my life.
She, she goes through and does a pretty significant line edit on the work. And she, she suggests deletions of passages that she doesn’t necessarily believe are necessary. You know she might change the wording here and there on a few things. But it’s mainly a lot of blue marks and I’m deleting an awful lot.
And the reason she does that is I ask her specifically to do so. One of those core tenets under which I write is efficiency. I believe that efficiency is underrated and it is, and it is incredibly important to develop in quality literature. I’ll give you a real quick example before I go on.
You know you could write a story and say you know the country’s out of whack, you know the markets are crashing, house prices are plunging, you know people are losing their jobs, there’s a lot of illegal immigration, you know healthcare costs are spiraling out of control and yet you know some people are doing okay.
You know they haven’t been affected, da, da, da, da, you can go on and on like that. Or you could say something like it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Nicholas Sparks: And that is what I mean by efficiency. And that is very hard to do. And it’s a, it’s a lesson that only, that very few writers master and it’s always a struggle because it’s much easier believe it or not to take a paragraph to describe it than to come up with a sentence like it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So my edit, my agent goes through with a rather significant line edit. I make all the changes. And then from there it goes to my editor. My editor is also very intelligent. And she and I have worked together since the very beginning. And by that time the writing is fairly strong and it tends to be very efficiently written.
And what she’ll do is she’ll fill in story gaps or she’ll say this doesn’t quite flow the way it should or you really need to maybe rework this particular scene. So she does story holes. And as a general rule there aren’t many. For instance, you know for me to do all of the line edits in a novel, you know I write a novel from beginning to end, to do all of the line edits for my agent might take 12 hours.
The edits from my editor which include new writing and you know deletion perhaps and increasing flow, all of those edits might take 12 hours.
So, in other words, no, no, once I, you know if I, I either send my agent the whole book or I send her half and then send her the other half. So it’s all done through the line edit. And then once she’s gone all the way through it once it goes to my editor.
So really my books go to my editor probably about 98% complete, you know 98% and so you’re only talking about editing at the most, 2% and that doesn’t take long at all. Like I said, I could do, for most of the vast majority of my books, a total editing process of less than 24 working hours…
Nicholas Sparks: …which isn’t much.
Nicholas Sparks: …and then rewrite the whole thing. I’ve never had to do that.
SO: Has that always been the case or is that improved as you’ve done more books? I mean was your first book the same?
Nicholas Sparks: The first book was the same. It probably took…
…well actually I probably spent a little bit longer editing. I mean it was probably a little bit more time. not, but certainly much less than you would imagine. They come in, they come in pretty close to what the final product is.
Read Part 2 of this interview!
A big thank you to Andrea, Gemma, and my fellow bloggers on the call: Megan, Tracy, Susan, Jenna and Ashley. Your questions were great.
Don’t forget Nights in Rodanthe, staring Richard Gere and Diane Lane opens Friday 26 Sep 08!