Friday, 04 May 2012

‘My wife is in all my books’

Novelist Nickolas Sparks reveals on whom all the women in his books are based and how he really felt about Zac Efron being cast in The Lucky One

Written by Katy Pearson

When I meet novelist Nicholas Sparks he positively bounds into the room. Energy radiates off him and it’s almost impossible to believe this chap can sit still long enough to read a paper, let alone pen 16 books.

Nicholas is in London to promote new film The Lucky Ones, starring Zac Efron. And he shows remarkable good grace about the fact the first few questions he’s asked are about not about his books, or the film, but are instead all about teen heart-throb Zac.

We’re all dying to know if he had any reservations about the High School Musical star being able to pull off the role of a battle-weary US marine. (Zac had to put on almost 20lbs of muscle, crop his trademark quiff and grow a beard).

‘It’s so funny,’ Nick muses with a wide smile. ‘So much of that bias against that comes from you not thinking he looks the part.

‘I think we would all agree that he is a very strong actor.

‘70 per cent of the marine core is under 25. 70 per cent. So here he is [Zac], he’s 24 when he films, and he does actually look like these guys.

‘They are kids. They’re 19/20. He was actually on the older end of what the marines should be and that’s what we were looking for. Someone who looked old enough to have been to Iraq and back three times.

‘I had no doubts. And also because he’s such a genuinely nice guy, that genuine nice guy kind of permeates, and that’s what shows up on screen.

‘It’s like this underlying aura, like Jimmy Stewart, Zac has that. And we needed that because we knew we were going to saddle him with a whole bunch of emotional baggage to do this film.’

How personal are his books? Indeed where did the inspiration for The Lucky One come from? Nicholas Sparks

‘The Rescues was inspired by my son,’ Nicholas says. ‘A Walk To Remember was inspired by my sister and her battle with cancer, Message In A Bottle was inspired by my dad after my mum died.

‘This one was inspired by a neighbour who was a marine. He was a chaplain actually, a marine and naval chaplain, so he’d go over and come back and he was different every time he came back.

‘After his third deployment his hands just wouldn’t stop shaking. He was such a great guy. I thought he was just the most strong and emotionally stable person I’d ever met and that’s really what I wanted to cover, the quiet struggles of how to put those kinds of memories behind you.’

So does Nick appear in any of his books?

‘Less me than my wife, he chuckles. ‘She’s in all of them. I’ve got a female character, I’ve got to like this character so I start writing what I find most attractive in females, and I say they’ve got to be intelligent, got to have this quick sharp sense of humour, I want them to not be defined by men, I want them to not be wishy-washy they’ve got to have a back bone, and they love deeply and passionately, then my wife will come to me and say you did it again!’

With his books becoming so hugely successful (and well loved) does he feel under added pressure every time he sits down to write, I wonder? Does he fear writer’s block, despite the 16 books under his belt?

‘It’s frequently scary for me because I only have one idea at a time,’ he confesses.

‘One. That’s it. And after every novel, since the Notebook, I’ve called my agent and said: “Just so you know that’s it for me. The well is dry.”

‘Every single time I feel that pressure.'

Well not to add any more pressure Nick, but we’re all really looking forward to your next novel...

The Lucky One is in cinemas now

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