Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know why Nicholas writes the way he does, what he does in his free time, or what he’s working on now? Read the questions and answers below.

What is the difference between a love story and a romance novel?

It’s equivalent to the difference between a “legal thriller” and a “techno-thriller.” In that instance, both novels include many of the same elements: suspense, good and bad forces pitted against each other, scenes that build to a major plot point, etc. But aside from the obvious, those novels are in different sub-genres and the sub-genres have different requirements. For instance, legal thrillers generally have a court room scene on center stage, techno-thrillers use the world or a city as their setting. Legal thrillers explore the nuances of law, techno-thrillers explore the nuances of scientific or military conflict.

The same situation applies with romance novels and love stories. Though both have romantic elements, the sub-genres have different requirements. Love stories must use universal characters and settings. Romance novels are not bound by this requirement and characters can be rich, famous, or people who lived centuries ago, and the settings can be exotic. Love stories can differ in theme, romance novels have a general theme—”the taming of a man.” And finally, romance novels usually have happy endings while love stories are not bound by this requirement. Love stories usually end tragically or, at best, on a bittersweet note.

Why do you write books?

I enjoy, and have always enjoyed, reading, and my ability to write and interest in a writing career grew out of that. While I generally try to avoid cliches, the following is apt: I don’t live to write, I write to live.

What are your hobbies?

In addition to writing, reading, and spending time with my five children, I run 30 miles a week, lift weights four times per week, and practice Tae Kwon Do. As a black belt, I have competed at both the regional and national levels.

Why do so many of your stories involve death?

I suppose there are a few reasons that my stories include tragic elements. The first is that tragic or bittersweet elements are part of what define a love story (much like a “happy ending” to a romance novel, or the hero triumphing in a thriller.) The reason for that is that a love story is primarily a dramatic story, and the best dramatic stories allow the readers to experience a full range of emotions. Hopefully, my readers feel a bit of everything—empathy, hopefulness, happiness, love, anger and sadness—as they turn the pages of my novels. This principle is best captured by the statement (which I didn’t invent): “All great love stories, by definition, must end in tragedy.” Without great love, there’s no tragedy and vice versa. Also, my stories are supposed to seem real (as opposed to fantastic) and tragedy is part of everyone’s life. The final reason is that most of my novels are inspired by events in my family, and sadly, that was the way that most of the family stories ended.

Is it true you wrote two novels before The Notebook was published, and if so, will you ever publish them?

Yes, it’s true, but no, they will never be seen. I regard the work on those novels as an apprenticeship of sorts, one that showed me that I not only enjoyed writing stories, but that I had the ability to finish a novel once I’d started. However, I don’t feel they are well-written enough to be published.

Is it true that you answer all of your fan mail at least once?

At one time, I was able to answer all of my fan mail, but due to the sheer volume of letters I receive, I’m unfortunately unable to do so now. To answer everyone’s letter would impinge on the time I need to write, and I hope you understand. I do, however, tour extensively, and will sign copies of my new releases at bookstore events.

What are your running times (high school and college)?

In high school, I ran 1:52.0 in the 800m (19th fastest H.S. time in 1984, according to Jack Shepherd, who compiles the list). My relay splits for the 400m and 1600m—which I seldom ran as open events—were 48.6 and 4:08.7. In college, I was injured frequently unfortunately (and missed two entire indoor and outdoor seasons), though I had three or four relay splits in the 800m that averaged 1:49.3-1:50.6.

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Nicholas Sparks