Filming for Safe Haven Has Begun!

I’m writing from beautiful, sunny California, where I’m doing my best to escape the humidity of summer on the East Coast for a few days, and where I’m hard at work on my next book. After such a busy spring, touring throughout the U.S. and Europe to promote the film release of The Lucky One and the international publications of The Best of Me, it’s nice to have a little time to unwind with my family and focus on crafting my next story.

Not that it isn’t going to be a busy summer! The film adaptation of Safe Haven started shooting in North Carolina last week. I’m beyond thrilled to again be working with director Lasse Hallström and producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey on another movie. Safe Haven will star Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel as the leads Katie and Alex—and I have to say, they have an immediately apparent chemistry perfect for this story. The film couldn’t have been better cast. I’m really looking forward to joining them on set next month!

Win a visit to the set of Safe Haven
Below, Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Mimi Kirkland spend time together between shooting and rehearsing for Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven, directed by Lasse Hallström.


Speaking of which, Relativity Media, the studio behind the film, is going to pick one lucky winner to send to the set in Southport, NC this summer, so perhaps I’ll see you there! The prize includes transportation, hotel accommodation, and even a little spending cash to be sure you get the most out of your stay. To enter, and to learn more about the sweepstakes, visit

For a Good Cause
If you want another chance to win a visit to the Safe Haven set, you should check out a sweepstakes that my charity foundation, the Nicholas Sparks Foundation, is hosting online. By donating as little as $10, you’ll have another chance to win a trip to the set, while at the same time supporting Hope for Warriors and the Epiphany School. For more information about these great causes and this great opportunity, visit our fundraising page at Hurry! This sweepstakes ends on Saturday, June 30th.

Save the Date
On that note, after our great success raising funds for the foundation with the Celebrity Golf Weekend this past April, we have decided to host another fundraising weekend in my hometown of New Bern, North Carolina. Save the date! The second annual Nicholas Sparks Foundation Celebrity Golf Weekend will be April 19th through April 22nd, 2013.

New Edition of Safe Haven
Before you see the Safe Haven movie—which comes out February 8, 2013—you should of course read the book if you haven’t already! Luckily, my publisher is releasing a new edition of Safe Haven this week, so be sure to pick it up. For those not familiar with the story, it follows the mysterious and beautiful young Katie as she tries to carve out a new life for herself in the small town of Southport, where her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Despite her determination to avoid forming personal ties, she becomes drawn into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a handsome store owner, and another with her neighbor, Jo. As Katie lets her guard down, she finds herself increasingly charmed by the rhythm of life in the small town—and by its inhabitants. But before Katie can find a path into the future, and let herself fall in love again, she will have to confront the dark secret in her past that continues to haunt her. It was a satisfying story to write, and I hope you’ll agree that it’s as fulfilling a read!

For My Fans Abroad

I’d like to say how glad I was to meet many of my international fans on my recent European tour. It was so exciting to be able to attend some of the European premieres of The Lucky One film and also to give readings and book signings in the UK, Germany, Poland and Italy. I always love to meet my readers from all over the world, and would like to send a heartfelt thank you to all of you for your support!

I hope everyone has a great summer. Stay cool!

On the Road for The Lucky One

I'm on the road to support the film release of The Lucky OneThe Lucky One was my thirteenth novel, and it tells the story of U.S. Marine Logan Thibault. Logan finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the sand during his tour of duty in Iraq and after an uncanny streak of luck comes to believe that the photo is his lucky charm. The Lucky One is about Logan's cross-country trip to meet the woman in the picture … and everything that happens after. It's one of my favorite novels, and I'm so excited to see it come to life on film! The chemistry between Logan, played by Zac Efron, and Beth (the woman in the picture), played by Taylor Schilling, is sizzling! I hope you'll go see the movie when it comes out this Friday, April 20! For more info, check out the official movie website.

For my international fans: I'll be touring in Europe this spring! I'll kick things off with the London premiere of The Lucky One on April 23rd before heading to Germany, where I'll also attend the Berlin premiere. Then I'll head back to London, before making stops in Milan and Warsaw. I hope to see some of you there.

And finally, I want to mention the Nicholas Sparks Celebrity Family Weekend taking place in New Bern, North Carolina from April 20-22, benefiting the Nicholas Sparks Foundation. Believe it or not, the film premiere of The Lucky One is not the only thing on my agenda these days. You can find more information about the Weekend at I hope some of you can make it to New Bern!

Again, my apologies for such a short newsletter. But I'm continuing to work on my next book, and although I don't have a release date for that yet, I'll keep you posted. More to come!

The Last Song Writing Notes

I’m not even sure where to begin with this:  the screenplay or the novel.

I suppose I should start with the screenplay, since that’s where a lot of the elements were worked out.  Between tours (I had three that fall – one for the film Nights in Rodanthe, a U.S. book tour, and a European book tour), I wrote the screenplay, and I suppose most people would like to know whether writing a screenplay is harder than writing a novel.

Not a chance.  Screenplays are easy to write, once you know the rules.  The rules can be found in any screenwriting book and they provide the structure of the film.  After that, the writing is exceedingly easy, if only because you’re allowed to “tell.” In novels, you have to “show.”  Big difference there.  In a script, you write:  “Jim is still angry at his boss as he enters his apartment.”  In a novel, on the other hand, you have to write something like, “The neighbors could hear cursing him through the thin walls of their apartments, but Jim had never cared what those losers thought of him.  All he could think about was the way his boss had talked to him.  As if he were an idiot.  A moron.  An imbecile.  It took everything Jim had not to smash his fist into the man’s nose, and for a long moment, he’d actually seen himself doing it.  As he sat there listening to his piece of crap boss with his ridiculous comb-over droning on and on about deadlines and quotas, he imagined himself balling his hands into a fist and leaping across the desk; he could see his boss’s eyes widen in shock and fright, and as he delivered the blow, he could almost feel the crunch of bone as the nose began gushing blood.  Slamming his door, he needed a drink.  No, screw that.  What he needed was a bottle . . .”

Granted, that wasn’t necessarily very good, but you get the point.  Never once did I say “Jim was angry.”   Showing is ALWAYS harder than telling.  And in a screenplay, telling is all – for space reasons – that you’re really allowed to do.

I finished the first draft of the screenplay in December, and did the first rewrite later that month.  In January, once the director was hired, I did another rewrite.  Both rewrites took about a day or two – I didn’t find them difficult, and with that, my role as a screenwriter was largely concluded.

By then, of course, I’d started on the novel.  As I’d done with The Lucky One, I chose to write the story in limited third-person perspective, and though I’d done it before, it was a bit more difficult in this particular novel than it had been in The Lucky One.  A lot of things were more difficult in fact, and no character more so than Ronnie.  Ronnie, at the beginning of the novel (and film) is angry, moody and sometimes rude – and yet, I had to make her likable at exactly the same time.  No easy task there.  At the same time (and unlike the film), I knew I had to develop Steve (Ronnie’s father) on a much deeper level.  While the novel is centered around Ronnie and Will (both teenagers), I wanted to have a story in which adults could relate.  I wanted Steve to develop into his own character (not simply a supporting character, as in the film), and I wanted to bring an element of faith into the novel.   Thus, Steve needed his own journey, his own compelling back-story, so to speak, and while in the end it served to make the novel richer and more fulfilling, it was occasionally challenging on any number of levels.

Adding to the difficulties was the sheer breath and scope of the novel.   There are a multitude of characters and a multitude of events:  in the end, the novel ended up 20% longer than anything I’ve ever written before.  Still, it reads quickly, and in the end, I think it will be a novel that readers will remember for a long time after the final page is turned.

The Lucky One Writing Notes

Once the research on Logan Thibault’s military experiences, the writing proceeded relatively smoothly.  Aside from Logan’s recollections, it was for the most part a “linear” story and those are always a bit easier to write.

Still, as with all my novels, I wanted to do something different—not only with the story or the structure or the characters (as I always try to vary) but literally with the “voice” in the novel.  I’ve written in first person and third-person omniscient, but with this novel, I wanted to try writing in limited third-person omniscient.

It was something I’d never done before, but something I’d always wanted to try.  It allows the reader to feel an almost “first person” closeness with the character, while still allowing for all the characters to participate.

To do this, each chapter was told through the perspective of a single character.  For example, in chapters labeled “Thibault,” only Thibault’s thoughts are included.  Anything another character does is seen through his perspective, one that Thibault must only assume.  If he’s talking to Beth, he can intuit what she’s thinking, but the reader is never allowed to know for sure.  Until, of course, the next chapter arrives (perhaps labeled “Beth”) where she might reflect on what she’d actually been thinking.
It’s a powerful form of writing when used effectively, but the challenge is to make each character’s voice distinct enough to be immediately recognizable.  In other words, the reader should be able to “know” who’s talking, even if the chapter hadn’t been labeled at all.

There was a learning curve associated with this.  It made the development of the relationship between Thibault and Beth a bit more difficult (since it was only through one person’s eyes at any given time), but on the other hand, it made the characters themselves a bit easier to craft.  And some voices were more difficult than others.  Keith Clayton’s voice, for instance, was ridiculously easy to write.  Logan – because he was reticent – was a bit more difficult.  Beth was somewhere in between.

Then, of course, there’s the challenge of keeping the story “linear.”  That’s a bit tougher to do when writing with this form of literary voice.
Still, it was fun to do.  The writing was slow and difficult at times, easier and quicker at others.  In terms of difficulty, it was probably in the easiest third of the novels I’ve written (The Guardian will ALWAYS remain at the top of the difficulty scale – see notes on The Guardian as to the reason why) but because it was longer than the three previous novels I’d written (At First Sight, Dear John, and The Choice), it seemed to take longer than normal, at least until the end of the novel.  I think it took around five months to write the first 280 pages; the last 70 pages, however, were written in three days.  The action packed ending of the novel literally wrote itself, and by that point in time, I couldn’t have been any happier about it.

The Choice Writing Notes

From the very first page, I felt as if I were balanced on a knife-edge.  Quite the cliché, but true nonetheless, for the simple reason that I knew that virtually all of the emotional impact of the story would take place in the final third of the novel.

I know what you’re thinking.  That’s always where the reader finds the emotional intensity in my novels, so why was this one so hard?  Why was this so different?

Frankly, there are different sorts of emotional intensity.  If I’m writing a novel in which one of the main characters pass away – Message in a Bottle, for instance, or At First Sight – I know in advance that the death – and the death alone – will be all that’s necessary to evoke emotion.  Usually, in those instances, there’s a “quickening of the pace” combined with a “sense of foreboding,” but even so, the story stays relatively linear (one event leading to the next), and the events are allowed to explain themselves.

The Choice, however, was different.  I knew the final section would resemble – somewhat anyway – the final sections of both The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, because this section also included mystery.  In The Notebook, the mystery simple:  who was Noah reading to, and once that was known, would she ever remember him?  In Nights in Rodanthe, the mystery centered around what happened to Paul, and why he and Adrienne were no longer together.

The reality of writing a compelling novel is this:  once the answer to the mystery is known, it’s imperative to end the story relatively quickly.  Without the mystery, there’s no more drama and tension, and it’s drama and tension that keep the story interesting.  In The Choice, the mystery centered around misdirection:  the reader is led to believe that Travis has gone to the hospital because Gabby might leave him, and they each have a choice to make.  In reality, his choice is whether or not to take her off life-support.

Still, while it’s easy to explain what I intended to do – and the rules of literature that always apply – it still doesn’t always make the job easy.  I had to draw out the mystery for approximately 100 manuscript pages (out of 300), while still weaving a compelling story.   

From the very first page then, I knew these challenges were coming.  I knew that structure and pacing would be difficult, I knew that nearly every sentence would have to be crafted just so, and I’d have to carefully select words for ambiguity, while still ratcheting up emotion.  I knew there would be “time shifts” in which both the past and present had to be explained.  I knew “the past” would have to have its own story and tension that builds, as would those sections that discusses “the present.”  I had to make the reader believe that Travis was at the hospital to apologize, while at the same time making it clear (in retrospect) that the reader had it wrong the whole time.  In addition, I had to generate authentic emotional impact in a novel that I knew would end happily.

And most importantly, I also knew this:  that if I couldn’t pull off the final section, the entire novel would crumble and fail on nearly every level.

Thus, I wrote the first two thirds of the novel with a sense of trepidation, simply because I knew the final section would be a doozy, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

And yet, in the end, I was able to pull it off, and in the end, I think The Choice is one of my better novels.  It’s among the novels that I always recommend to new readers.

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