A Day to Remember, with Nicholas Sparks

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Ridiculously enough, I can’t remember when I first saw the movie, A Walk to Remember. But I can recall how much I bawled when I saw it.

And when I saw it was based on a book…well I had to read it, didn’t I?

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I’d never heard of Nicholas Sparks before this. A Walk to Remember is the first book I read, which, oddly enough, made me cry some more, even though I already knew the story. 

And every book of his since has left me clutching at the tissue box like it was my best friend. He’s one of those authors who manages to make you feel like you’ve been hurt, in love, happy, sad, and every gamut of emotion there is … he makes you go through exactly what the characters go through.

So when I heard he was carrying out not one, but two sessions at the Emirates Festival of Literature 2012, I squealed and booked my tickets.

The first session was a film panel, which I plan to cover on this blog soon. The second was a solo interaction with him, in conversation with Paul Blezard.

The line to get into the hall that was hosting his event snaked back all through to the other end. And unpredictably enough, it wasn’t just women that were queueing up, but a whole host of men as well. Who knew…romance still lives!

It was packed inside, with attendees scrambling after seats upfront like they were gold dust, and when the session was about to begin, the enthusiasm in the air was thick.

We learned a lot about Sparks’ life, and certainly, he delivered hilarious, painful, emotional and happy anecdotes.

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Little, random nuggets I noted from the Q&A session:

  • Before hitting the publishing jackpot, he had a job selling pharmaceuticals.
  • The Notebook is the story inspired by his wife’s maternal grandparents.
  • He used a self-help book on how to find an agent for his first book.
  • After sending his manuscript of The Notebook to 25 agents, only one said yes.
  • Though born in different years, he shared a birthday with his younger sister, who unfortunately passed away due to cancer in 2000.

But now I’ll go back to A Walk to Remember. Here’s something he revealed during the audience Q&A that shocked the socks off everyone:

A Walk to Remember was written in eight days, where he wrote for 16 hours every day.

Wow.

After learning most of his books were inspired from real life (friends and family), I was curious to know where this book came from. Someone beat me to asking this question.

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Here’s what he said (yes, word-for-word as I was taking notes in shorthand):

“A Walk to Remember was inspired by my family. Jamie Sullivan, the character in the book, is my little sister. Just like Jamie, my sister wore the ugly brown cardigan [to school] every day and bought the Bible with her to school every day. Like her, my sister didn’t care about that [people taunting her]. And she had a really simple dream … her dream in life was to get married. And I was like, “That’s it?” Anyway, my little sister got cancer, and like what happened with Jamie Sullivan, there was a boy and like Landon Carter, this boy knew he could never, ever fall in love with a girl like her, but like Landon Carter he did. And like Landon Carter, he too knew what her dream was and so even when my little sister got sicker and sicker and we all knew that she wasn’t going to make it, he got down on his knees and asked her to marry him. I remember thinking that’s just the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for anybody. And I remember after I wrote A Walk to Remember, I sent it to my little sister. A few months later I was talking to her, and asked, “did you read it yet?”, and she said, “no.” I asked why not, and she said, “Because I don’t want to know how it ends.””

And as Sparks often said through the one hour: “That’s a good story.”

I must say though, the line after that one-hour event to get books signed by Sparks was immensely long:

Which is why I was glad I got his signature on my dog-eared copy of A Walk to Remember earlier in the day after the film panel.

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He was really great at the signing; he took the time to speak to everyone queued up, even said my name was a beautiful one (I nearly squee’d out loud), and then got up (yes, really) to take photos with everyone who asked…including me.

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…that’s a good story, isn’t it?

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5 thoughts on “A Day to Remember, with Nicholas Sparks

  1. When I read Sparks’ quote about A Walk to Remember, I got to-the-bone goosebumps. How very sweet, and how very sad.I remember the first time I watched the movie, I had no idea at all what it was about so I wasn’t prepared for how sad and sweet it was going to be. I am embarrassed to say I haven’t read the book. You’re amazing with all your reading and writing!

  2. Sheryn – When he started telling his story, we were like ooooh wow but then I could feel an increasing sense of dread among the room, sort of like, what if he says she died too? And when he finally did, the hush that fell over the room was insanely deathly. He was so honest about everything…I don’t think I mentioned it up there, but Message in a Bottle is the story of his father!!! The book is pretty good btw, you should have a go.Haha thanks … I don’t know about being amazing, but I sure like to do a lot of reading/writing 🙂

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