For Valentine's Day: My Interview with Author Nicholas Sparks On Relationships

(This article originally appeared on RockinGodsHouse.com. I interviewed Nicholas Sparks as he was promoting his film "The Choice," and the interview is being republished here on my blog to commemorate Valentine's Day.)

Nicholas Sparks Talks God, Broken Relationships, and 'The Choice'

"I think that most people go into long-term relationships really committed to the idea that they would be together for a long period of time and sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes it just doesn't work, and that can be sad, and yet it doesn't deny that initial feeling in that couple, that, hey, they were willing to take a risk that it would last forever. There's something noble in that." -Nicholas Sparks

With the release of The Choice (@TheChoiceFilm, #TheChoice) Nicholas Sparks's 11th book-to-movie production, the media is once again abuzz with themes of true love, hardship, and what I'd label "grace under pressure," using the Lost Generation's words--my description/interpretation of how Sparks deftly blends bitter tragedies of this world with fiery incarnations of Eros (i.e. really intense romantic love).

"The Choice" is no exception. In fact, I felt it was one of his best movies. (You can read my review of it to find out why.)

I had the chance to speak with Nicholas Sparks (@NicholasSparks) over the phone about "The Choice" and other topics--God, broken relationships, and the nobleness of being "willing to take a risk that it would last forever," as he put it so well:

[Warningthis interview contains one SPOILER (during my fifth question) about the plot of the film]

Were you pleased with how the book translated into the screen?

I was very pleased. I thought it captured the spirit and the intent of the story. I thought it captured the spirit and intent of the characters. I thought that in the end it was just a wonderful film.

That's about everything you could ask for in that case. That's great. I believe you wrote the story around 10 years ago, but where did you get the story idea?

Early on, right after I got out of college I got married, had babies right away. Meanwhile, I had an older brother who was just great at being a bachelor. He had weekends full of water skiing and mountain biking and whitewater rafting and meanwhile I'm changing diapers, getting puked on, wondering what does it take for a man like him to settle down? So the story began germinating around those years, and then finally in 2006 or so I was ready to start writing it. 

I really enjoyed the film's inclusion of deeper theological questions and I am just curious to hear your perspective on the whole God topic. Are you more on the Gabby side of the things or closer to the Travis side of things? I'm referring to the scene [where they discuss their beliefs about God] under the stars.

I'm more on Gabby's side, there's no question. I believe in God, I was raised Catholic, and I would probably be regarded more as a nominal Catholic at the present time. I've always been of the belief that there's something greater out there, that Jesus is the Son of God and that we're supposed to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. Right? I think those are the lessons I've tried to live my own life by.

That's wonderful. I also love how the movie just asks really good questions. It didn't try too hard to preach; it just asked really good questions. I was also impressed with how fiercely Travis fought for Gabby in both parts of the story. Do you think couples in America today could maybe learn a little bit about Travis's fighting spirit?

I think that obviously there are those couples that perhaps give in too early, that could have perhaps salvaged the relationship with a little more effort, and at the same time I think there are those relationships that are better off ending where they are--those relationships that just work until they don't work anymore. I think that God offers all sorts of choices in our lives, and I think those choices are endless reminders of the choices we make with regards to our own faith, and they are the choices we make not only with faith but with our lives, and that's the way it was all planned out. Because in the end I think God wants people to choose to love Him. I think that most people go into long-term relationships really committed to the idea that they would be together for a long period of time and sometimes it just doesn't work. Sometimes it just doesn't work, and that can be sad, and yet it doesn't deny that initial feeling in that couple, that, hey, they were willing to take a risk that it would last forever. There's something noble in that.

[spoiler] Noble is a great word for it. I really felt that nobility in Travis. Even if the story ended up differently and he didn't get Gabby, I still like that he fought and tried for it. I really love the cast. I wish Tom Wilkerson's character was a real person because he would be a really cool guy to go to church with.

[Laughs] Absolutely.

He's one of my favorite actors. Did you get a chance to hang out with the cast members very much or spend some time with them?

I was with them on the set; it's just about 10 minutes from where I was living so it was quite easy to get to the set. At the same time, at that point in the production, it's very important to me to allow the director and the actors to do what they do best. So I'm a guy who might be seen in between the scenes and things like that. 

How do you hope this movie will inspire audiences when they go see "The Choice"?

What I want is for people to have enjoyed the film and tell other people to go see the film. Because, look, it's a film that is very hard to have made in Hollywood these days. There are so many tent pole films, and I'm the first one to go see dinosaurs raging loose on an island with an action hero, but there are moments where I just love good old fashioned dramas that tell real human stories that everyone can relate to, and I just love "The Choice," and I know that people who take a chance on it and go see it will love it as well.