The Notebook, a beautiful love story coming to theaters June 25, is based on Nicholas Sparks' novel by the same title. The film stars James Garner as Noah Calhoun, an elderly man who reads from a faded notebook to Allie, an old woman with Alzheimer's disease (Gena Rowlands). Noah's readings spark Allie's fading memory to relive her youth—and an unending love they once shared. Sparks, a best-selling author, has already seen several of his previous novels adapted to the big screen, including 2002's A Walk to Remember, which was embraced by many Christians. Sparks, 38, who lives in North Carolina with his wife Catherine and their five children, says The Notebook was inspired by his wife's grandparents, and their great love for each other. A fitness nut who runs 30 miles a week and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Sparks recently talked to us about his book and the upcoming film.
What did you think of the film?
Nicholas Sparks: I thought it was wonderful, a very close adaptation to my novel. This is the third novel that I've had adapted into film, and I thought that of the three this stayed truest to the story that was within the novel. I was very flattered.
How much control did you have over the story and the movie script?
Sparks: None. When you sell your story, you waive everything, you cede total rights. So they could take the book, change the title, change all the characters, change the entire story. That is completely up to the studio.
And you're willing to give that up?
Sparks: You have to. I mean, there are no book sales to studios that don't have that clause unless you are J. K. Rowling or John Grisham or Michael Crichton. They might be able to put their foot down and say I'll only sell this if … But not me.
Your wife's grandparents inspired this story. What impressed you about them?
Sparks: The depth of their love for each other after 60 years of marriage. My wife was very close to these grandparents, who only lived about 40 minutes away. But they couldn't make it to our wedding because of health issues. So, the day after our wedding, we wake up and my wife says, "Do you love me?" And I'm like, "Of course I love you." And she says, "Good. Then do something for me." She told me to put on my tux, and she slipped back into her wedding dress. And we went and visited her grandparents and took pictures. That's when they told us their story—how they met as kids and then got separated, then she got engaged to someone else, then she comes back and she realizes she loved him, they get married. But just the way they were sitting together and holding hands, I remember thinking that it was amazing to me that after 60 years of marriage these two were treating each other the same as my wife and I after 12 hours of marriage. Just a wonderful thought. So when I wrote The Notebook, that's what it was about—two people who literally loved each other from the moment they first laid eyes on each other, all the way through to the end of their lives.
Many Christians embraced A Walk To Remember. Did that surprise you?
Sparks: That book was inspired by my sister, who died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 33. Why did Christians like it? I have certain moral parameters that I do not cross in writing; I don't write about adultery or kids having premarital sex. I don't know whether evangelicals embraced it for that reason or not.
How would you describe your own faith?
Sparks: I'm Catholic, and my wife is Catholic. We're very religious. We go to church. We pray every night. We pray at dinner. To me, Catholics regard themselves as very Christian. Some Christians view Catholics as not necessarily Christian. But to us it's much closer.