Nicholas Sparks: "Ryan Gosling brought 'The Notebook' to life"

Best-selling author talks about his newest film adaptation, Safe Haven, and how to write a tear-jerker of a love story

Nicholas Sparks is the man to blame for every time you've bawled you're eyes out watching Ryan Gosling build a house, Channing Tatum go to war or Zac Efron return from war.

Eight of his heart-wrenching novels have been turned into hugely successful movies including "The Notebook", which turned Mr Gosling into every straight woman's dream man overnight, and "The Last Song", which brought together real-life couple Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.

Yahoo! Lifestyle chatted with the American author about Ryan, what makes a great love story and his latest adaptation, "Safe Haven".

Unlike your other novels, "Safe Haven" is closer to a thriller - how was that different to writing a straight love story?

It’s a bit of a balance. The characters have to feel real and the readers should eventually want them to fall in love … and yet, the whole story has to be set up to shift towards the addition of suspense and tension.  I find it challenging to get the balance right and it’s always a struggle and I think that in the end, most readers very much enjoyed "Safe Haven".  It was the same situation with the film of course – the most challenging part was getting the balance just right, so that neither story overwhelmed the other. 

The lead characters are played by Josh Duhamel ("Transformers") and Julianne Hough ("Rock of Ages") - what did you think of their portrayals?

They were amazing and I couldn’t be any happier.  They put in great performances, had great chemistry, and both of them brought a lot of emotional depth to their roles.

There are also elements of the supernatural in "Safe Haven" - is that a genre you have always been interested in?

Though I enjoy supernatural novels and films, it wasn’t ever a goal to write something along the same lines.  I thought, however, that in this novel, it just might work, and I thought it added quite a bit to the story. 

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Your novels deal in life-changing romances that happen to ordinary, everyday people. Do you think that makes them accessible and explains their popularity?

In the end, I think readers enjoy a high quality, well-written story. Obviously, that can be in any genre, and it meshes with something my editor has always said: “In the end, readers choose.” As to why they’re popular, all I can really say is that I try to write novels that I find interesting and compelling, and I’ve been fortunate that readers have responded. 

What is your formula for a tear-jerking, life-affirming love story? 

The novel has to be well-written, compelling, original and interesting.  It should generate authentic emotion, and to do that, the characters have to be well-developed and feel “real” to the reader. 

Does someone have to die?

It’s not a requirement, though it has been common throughout literature to combine love and tragedy.  I’ve had characters die and characters who lived; it depends on the specific story. 

The American South plays a big part in your novels - what makes it such a unique setting?

The setting and location almost become a characters themselves. In the south the days seem a little longer, time seems to go a little slower, it conveys a feeling of peace and serenity, so in many ways, it is like an additional character.  I think that one of the reasons so many authors – and stories – have come from the south. 

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in *that* scene from 2004's

Ryan Gosling shot to fame after portraying Noah in "The Notebook" - was he how you imagined the character?

I think Ryan did a wonderful job as Noah.  He brought the character to life, made it his own, and his on-screen chemistry with Rachel was amazing.  I couldn’t be any more pleased with his performance.

Did the film have a special significance as it was your first novel?

Yes, there was some special significance: "The Notebook" will always be my first published novel, and I thought the film was amazing. 

What is your favourite love story, apart from your own?

"A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemmingway. It’s both a classic and a terrific read, and it’s remained popular for almost a century with readers of all ages.  As for a favorite novel – in any genre – I can’t really choose one.  As for authors, it’s relatively easy:  I think what Stephen King has done is amazing.

What can we expect from your new novel, "The Longest Ride", in September?

"The Longest Ride" is a dual love story:  One between Ira and Ruth and the other between Luke and Sophia.  The first love story spans decades; the second love story concerns young adults.  The two couples have little in common … and yet, in the end, their lives converge in unexpected ways.  And obviously, I’m hopeful that fans will love it.  

"Safe Haven" is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 8 July