Roundtable Interview with Nicholas Sparks
Author and Producer of “Safe Haven”
Dallas, Texas, January 29, 2013
Presbyterian Outlook: The dead wife being an apparition. At what point did you kind of anticipate the viewer catching on?
Nicholas Sparks: Ideally, you hope that it comes very much as a shock, toward the end. There’s always a balance, and I’ve heard from most people that that’s when they found out. It was that way in the novel, as well, that you really did not find out until she found out, so to speak. And I like that kind of twist at the end of the film. When you can end a film in such a way that you can reflect back on the entire film, as a whole, it’s probably the most effective ending.
PO: Well, you did that. Because I was thinking back saying, “OK, the only times she ever saw her, they were by themselves. There was never anyone else there.”
NS: Yeah.
PO: You did it!
NS: Thanks.
PO: Are you really that much of a romantic?
NS: Yeah, man. (Everybody laughs.)
NS: I got a wife. 23 years. She’s good. I will say that every film, every novel I write, the female characters are just…my wife. That’s who I write about, over and over again. All of my female characters have had some of the same traits, but they’re the ones I find most attractive. They’re kind. They’re honest. They’re loyal. They know right and wrong. They’re forgiving. But most of all, I suppose, these female characters, they’re not defined by their men. They’re not. If they have a child, let’s say, like in “The Lucky One”: “If you’re not right, I’ve got a child, guess what, my child comes first. It was nice getting to know you.” That’s what they would say. In this movie, Katie loves him, but she’s like, “I am not putting your family in danger. I will not do it.” They’re not defined by another. They revel in this. They love deeply, but they never forget that sense of loyalty to what’s right. That never verges into selfishness: “just what I want.” And that’s what I find incredibly attractive. So all of my female characters, whether it’s Allie, or Jamie, or Savannah, they’ve all been the same.
PO: Since we’re all writers, also, say something about the process of writing.
NS: It’s hard, in writing, to evoke genuine emotion, as opposed to manipulating emotion.
There’s a subtle difference. By the time a character says to another, “I love you,” the reader should be saying “Yeah, I knew that.” And that’s a fine line. So all writing is hard. I write 2000 words a day, that’s my goal. And there are days, if it’s 6, 8 hours, to get that 2000 words, if I hit word number 2000 halfway through a sentence, I’m stopping.
But there are other days when I hit 2100 or 2200 and I’m thinking, “You know this is not so hard, five hours or four and a half, and I can just finish out the rest of the paragraph.” And that can take anywhere from 3 ½ to 10, 12 hours. And there are some days I can write for 10 hours and only get 1200 words. It would be nice to just turn it on and off like a faucet, but it just doesn’t work like that. And sometimes I need a break because I find that writing isn’t an escape for me, it’s a challenge. And I’m the kind of person who enjoys a challenge, but after you climb the mountain, you gotta sit, right? You gotta relax, and re-charge. A novel’s about 100,000 words, and it takes about 150,000 to get the 100,000 you’re going to keep.
(And PO wishes that he’d replied, “And a lot of those same dynamics apply to sermon-writing, also.”)
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas