By Denise Martin
Special to The Times
But Sparks says he's no fan of schmaltz. Give him Stephen King and a gruseome thriller any day. Here are a few other things you didn't know about the guy who based "The Notebook" on the true story of his wife's grandparents. Awwwww...
1. "Old Yeller" never fails to make him cry. "It's the only thing that makes me cry. But it works every time. It's so heartbreaking when he has to be put down."
2. He spent his late teen years as a track star at the University of Notre Dame. "I was 19 and a full-scholarship athlete in track at Notre Dame. I had broken a school record and I still hold that record to this day but then I got injured. The doctor said, 'Get better. You can't run again.' I went nuts. That was the be-all, end-all of my existence. My mom said, 'Don't just pout. Do something.' I said, 'Like what?' And she said, 'I don't know. Write a book.'
"Literally, had never had any aspirations to write a novel, but the next morning I rolled some paper in a typewriter and began to write my first novel over that summer."
3. Sparks' next project will be to write a feature for pop star Miley Cyrus. "Miley really liked 'A Walk to Remember,' so Disney called [the film's director] Adam Shankman and he called me and asked if I had any material that Miley could star in. I said, 'No but I could!' She's a great young lady and she has a terrific family -- down to earth, kind, intelligent. We'll have a lot of fun doing this."
4. He doesn't like romance novels. "I don't read them. I read 125 books a year -- thrillers of all kind -- but no romance. No one writes them well, quite frankly. For the most part, I find them either manipulative or melodramatic or both. And of course, since this is my genre, I'm very attuned to those things. I do my best never to cross those lines because if you do you don't have a good story.
"What you want to do is write something like 'A Farewell to Arms' by Ernest Hemmingway I write modern, updated versions of that over and over."
5. Not that what he writes are romance novels. "The biggest misconception about me is that I write romance novels. My books are descended from the Greek tragedies. I write dramatic fiction, and if you further break it down, you could say love story or tragedy. Romance is very different.
"'The Notebook' is getting put into Cliffs Notes next March because it's regarded as an American classic. You will not find Cliffs Notes on romance novels."
7. His fan base is not only made up of women who like to weep. "Recently, I was doing a signing at this military base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and this guy walks up. He's just been in Iraq. He says, 'I want give you these pictures,' and tells me he's with the 38th sniper platoon. And I look down and it's this photo of seven guys, each of them holding up a Nicholas Sparks novel that they were reading while in Iraq. He was like, 'Man, you are so big over in Iraq!' And I turn the picture over and they've got names like Mad Dog and Dead Eye. I have it framed."
8. He once worked as a telemarketer. "My worst job was selling dental products by phone. I needed a job. I was two years out of college and I had bills to pay."
9. You'll find a whole lot of Bob Marley on his iPod. "I just like his music. It's easy to listen to and I enjoy it. Maybe I need a vacation in the Caribbean."
10. Four of Sparks' books have been turned into movies, but if he had to pick a superpower it would still be luck. "That way, you still get the ups and downs of life, but when you know you're at the craps table, hey, you win!"
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