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A chat with author and ND alum Nicholas Sparks

Observer Scene | Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Nicholas Sparks is one of the most widely read authors in this day and age. With multiple best-selling novels, two movies based off his books, and more to come, it is clear the life of Nicholas Sparks hits a mark far above average. This rank is not only because of the success he has experienced in his professional life, but after reading his new novel, “Three Weeks with My Brother,” co-written with his brother Micah Sparks, the exceptional personal life of Nicholas Sparks and his family is revealed. Through a tale of tragedy, poverty and unconditional love, the Sparks brothers reveal a family that refuses to give up and continually supports and loves one another against all odds. “Three Weeks with My Brother” is a project the brothers began after a trip they took together around the world. Between tales of their adventures on the trip and their even greater adventures from their childhood and adult lives, the biography is a hard book to put down. “I had always wanted to write a book with my brother, but we just didn’t know what it would be about,” Nicholas Sparks said. The trip they took together around the world ended up being the perfect subject. The trip described in the novel is a tour advertised as a “Journey to the Lands of Sky Worshipers” and was offered by “the alumni office at the University of Notre Dame.” The tour “was called ‘Heaven and Earth,’ and would travel around the world over a three-week period in January and February 2003.” The Sparks brothers decided this would be a great opportunity to spend time together and soon they were off on the adventure, which would become the subject of their new book. Nicholas Sparks, a Notre Dame graduate who majored in business, claims in a confident tone that during college he decided that he didn’t need to take classes to know how to write – obviously he is correct. Sparks is now a very generous contributor to the Notre Dame master’s in fine arts in the creative writing program. Sparks explained the unforeseen difficulties of becoming a published author citing the necessity of writing quickly, knowing the market, the importance of a cover and how to tend books and necessary knowledge in the publishing market, “Writing well is not all you have to do, it is only half,” he said Nicholas Sparks figured out the trick on his own and his talent shines through once again in the endearing “Three Weeks with My Brother.”With two authors, “Three Weeks with My Brother” was written in a different manner than previous Nicholas Sparks novels. Nicholas Sparks described the process of writing with his brother Micah as first having to choose which stories to include, going back to “who we were and what our life was like as children.” The writing was divided between the brothers, although the majority of the writing (and editing) was done by Nicholas Sparks. When asked about the significance of this autobiographical novel compared to his other fiction tales, Nicholas Sparks admitted, “I don’t know that I’ve thought about it. It was very meaningful to write and I am glad that we [he and Micah] worked on it together. We wanted it to be an interesting story with many emotions explored.” Although there may not be intentional personal significance for Nicholas Sparks, his message for the reader is clear – the importance of siblings and, “the fact that if you put effort into those relationships, you can make through everything.” Nicholas Sparks chose to start the novel with the Biblical proverb, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in the time of need” (Proverbs 17:17). That truly is the message of “Three Weeks with My Brother,” and the message rings clear in the tales of old and new throughout the lives of the Sparks brothers. Especially after reading the biographical “Three Weeks with My Brother,” fans of Nicholas Sparks cannot help but wonder how much of his life experiences are revealed in his other novels. Nicholas Sparks credits the story of his first novel, “The Notebook,” to the story of his wife’s grandparents and the main character of “Message in a Bottle” to his own father and how he dealt with the early death Nicholas and Micah’s mother. As far as which book Nicholas Sparks considers his favorite, it depends on the criteria. The novel he most enjoyed writing was “A Walk to Remember” mostly because he found it the easiest to write. The main characters of his other novels are often older men or women in life situations Nicholas Sparks himself has never experienced, but he has been a 17-year-old boy before, making it very easy to identify with Landon, the main character of “A Walk to Remember.” Which book would he want “thrown in the coffin” with him – The Rescue. Nicholas Sparks is a self-made success story and “Three Weeks with My Brother” emphasizes this point even further. A final question to Nicholas Sparks was for some advice he would give to the average Notre Dame student. Hardly stopping to think, Nicholas Sparks advised students, “Not to worry if you aren’t sure what you’re going to do after you graduate.” It took him three years to find his niche and at that point in life, he advises that students still need to figure out if they want to work in an office or independently, plus many other different factors.Nicholas Sparks has an amazing story and his brother present it in an original and witty manner in “Three Weeks with My Brother.” Already a Nicholas Sparks fan? Then “Three Weeks with My Brother” is a must read. If not, read this book and see what everyone is talking about. Nicholas Sparks will be on campus TODAY, Tuesday, April 20 at the Hammes Book Store at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Becca Saunders at sanders.8@nd.edu