Nicholas Sparks writes characters across decades in ‘The Longest Ride’
Nicholas Sparks is back this fall with his latest, “The Longest Ride,” which weaves back and forth between two different couples’ love stories. Characters we meet include Ira, a 91-year-old man stranded after a car crash and thinking back on his decades-long marriage, and Sophia, an East Coast gal who meets Luke, a bullrider, on a fluke night out.
Sparks, known for romances that readers devour and are often become movies (most recently “Safe Haven”) spoke to Metro about getting into the minds of an elderly man and a college student, and keeping the romance alive at home.
How did you come up with this idea? A recent trip to the rodeo?
Stories come from a variety of different ideas. Sometimes they’ve been inspired by events in my past or people that I know, or a scene that I want to explore. This particular novel came from an image of what I wanted the big surprise at the end of the book to be. I knew that, and then I knew the feeling that I wanted to create, surprise and wonder and “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that just happened, did I read that right?” This is what I wanted to create, so I said, “OK, so to put that in motion, art plays a role, how do we put that together?”
What was different about writing this?
The way I wrote it was different. Basically what I did was, I wrote Ira and Ruth’s story up to the point where Ira’s story intersects with Luke and Sophia’s. Then I literally set Ira aside, on my desk by my computer. Then I wrote Luke and Sophia’s story. Then I wrote all the way through to the end. … Then it took three hours to drop all those sections into the appropriate place.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you ever feel you need to explore what your characters do – in this case, that would be riding bulls or being trapped in a car?
I did not ride any bulls, but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos. My kids like (watching) the bull riding, my wife and I enjoy it. Certainly I did a lot of research, reading into bullriding in general. I have a brother-in-law who lives on a ranch, and so much of the information about the ranch, including the size of the ranch and how they spend their days, is really drawn from his specific experience. The 4H, that’s my nephew’s experience, the horse named Horse, that’s my brother-in-law. … They had to roll the pumpkins and shape the trees. I asked the same questions as Sophia, “What do you mean you have to roll the pumpkins?” These are literally drawn straight from my conversations.
What’s something you haven’t been able to experiment with yet? A setting, or a genre or a character?
I’m really fortunate in that the genre I work in allows me to really experiment with a lot of elements from other genres. “Safe Haven,” I was able to add a thriller element. In “The Notebook,” I was able to add nostalgia. In “The Longest Ride,” I’m able to add an epic element. I’m very pleased, because the novels I write really explore the entire realm of human emotion: fear, surprise, mystery. I’m allowed to cover those things.
Last question for you. You write such romantic books. Is there a high expectation of flowers and romantic dates in the Sparks household?
There is. I do get my wife flowers, I send her cards. I just got her perfume for no reason, put it on her pillow with a card. I do my best. She’s a great lady and she deserves a little bit of romance.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison