November 4, 2011

Nicholas Sparks, the king of film adaptations

Nicholas Sparks was at my local Dymocks today, signing copies of his new book The Best of Me.

“…the heart-rending story of two small-town former high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks. Now middle-aged, they’ve taken wildly divergent paths, but neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever altered their world.”

I was walking by on the upper level of the shopping complex when I noticed a usually large gaggle of schoolgirls below. The line of uniforms stretched past the ‘Build-A-Bear’ workshop and all the way down to the escalator in front of ‘Lush’.

According to his website, Nicholas Sparks is the author of 17 novels – 7 of which are now major motion pictures, starring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars:

·      Message in a Bottle (1999), starring Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn
·      A Walk to Remember (2002), starring Mandy Moore and Shane West
·      The Notebook (2004), starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling
·      Nights in Rodanthe (2008), starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane
·      Dear John (2010), starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfreid
·      The Last Song (2010), starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth

And, the latest cab off the rank…

·     The Lucky One (2012), starring Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling

Film studios have also optioned three more novels – True Believer, At First Sight and Safe Haven – although production has not begun on any of these projects. Sparks obviously has a knack for dreaming-up Hollywood-style content.

Sparks is also, very obviously, a prolific author. The Notebook was first published in 1996 and his other 16 novels have all been churned out in the years since. (17 published novels in fifteen years isn’t bad at all – and that’s not even counting the novels that he hasn’t finished.)

On his website, Sparks links to a Newsweek article entitled ‘My Favourite Mistake’, in which he recounts the process of struggling to write a novel that was never meant to be.

“It’s a strange thing, because most novels take me five months to write. If I’m four months in and only two thirds of the way through, there’s a problem."

At five months a pop, you can hardly expect his books to be literary marvels. Each of his books has come straight from the production line of the hopelessly in love – the unrequited, tragic romantics. Girl meets boy, boy is cute yet slightly troubled, they fall in love; insert seemingly insurmountable obstacles, etc etc.

But, like it or not, Sparks has found a winning formula and he’s sticking to it – teenage girls don’t just line up for anyone, after all – and with Hollywood so ready to jump on the bandwagon, who can blame him?


  1. I've seen all of Sparks movie-to-screen adaptations with exception to "A Walk to Remember" (and, "The Lucky One," of course). Except for one or two, I really don't like his stuff because it's either really "different" or very sad.

  2. Hi Rissi! I actually really like The Notebook, but the tragic - and the romantic - always kind of appeals to me in a strange way. However, despite my premise of the 'Book is Always Better', I've found it difficult to appreciate his books...

    But, on the other hand, I've also set myself up to dislike the film version of 'The Lucky One' because I pictured someone much older and more worldly looking in the lead role - certainly not a Zac Efron type. We will have to wait and see on that one.

  3. I think Nicholas Sparks doesn't stretch himself as an author -- he has found a niche and is content to stick in it, but as a result his books are incredibly predictable and you would be hard-pressed to separate any of them: it always follows the same formula of two people meet, have a bit of angst, fall in love, and then either one of them dies horribly or someone in their life dies horribly. They just are... not my thing.