Lives collide unexpectedly in latest novel by Nicholas Sparks

CorrespondentSeptember 14, 2013 

  • More information

    Fiction The Longest Ride Nicholas Sparks

    Grand Central Publishing, 398 pages

  • Details

    What: Nicholas Sparks signs “The Longest Ride”

    When: 5 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Barnes & Noble, Cary Commons, 760 SE Maynard, Cary

    Info: 919-467-3866

Nicholas Sparks says he no longer really feels nervous when he is preparing to release a new novel. Instead, he starts getting excited about the prospect of greeting fans and a little wary of the inevitable mountain of books he’ll need to sign.

Given that “The Longest Ride” is Sparks’ 18th novel, it seems only logical that any book-release jitters have long since worn away. Set for release Tuesday, Spark’s newest work will be familiar to fans, as it centers chiefly on love and the myriad of emotions, experiences and challenges that accompany it.

Each of his stories evolves in a different way, and Sparks said “The Longest Ride” was inspired by an idea for how the novel would end. The tale, he says, began to branch out from there.

“I wanted the reader to walk away with a feeling of surprise, wonder and excitement,” said Sparks. “That was the kernel from which the rest of the story eventually flowed.”

“The Longest Ride” tells the tale of two ostensibly very different couples whose lives end up colliding unexpectedly.

Ira Levinson, an old man, alone in the world and in poor health, becomes stranded on an embankment after a bad car crash. As he waits for aid, the ghost of his late wife, Ruth, urges him to remain conscious by weaving together stories of their life before her death.

Then there’s Sofia Danko, a Wake Forest student, who falls in love with a young cowboy, Luke. A far cry from the somewhat pampered frat boys she typically dates, Luke begins to expand Sofia’s horizons and alter her perceptions of the world.

Sparks said he is often inspired by people in his own life when creating stories and fictional characters.

“Much of what happens on the ranch (in the novel) is drawn directly from my brother-in-law Bob – including the horse named ‘Horse’ and the dog named ‘Dog,’” Sparks said.

“The Longest Ride,” like all of his novels, is set in North Carolina, and his love of the state suffuses the story.

Though he was born in Omaha, Neb., Sparks has lived in New Bern for the past 21 years. Four of his five children were born in New Bern, and that’s the town he considers home. He says that New Bern’s relaxed pace allows him to slow down and focus on his writing.

“There are different kinds of people in the world – there are small-town people and city people,” Sparks said. “I’m a small-town person.”

While he enjoys work obligations that take him to New York or Los Angeles at various points throughout the year, Sparks said he’s always excited to get back home to his family and to his home with a river view. The culture, climate and natural beauty of North Carolina provide inspiration for his novels.

“Oceans and slow-moving rivers, sweltering summer days, violent thunderstorms, lightning bugs and small-town atmospheres where there are carnivals and fireworks – the life of eastern N.C. ends up permeating the lives of the characters in all of my novels,” said Sparks.

Sparks’ creative methods and his habit of seeking inspiration from both the people and places that surround him have certainly produced results. The best-selling author is famously prolific – churning out about a book a year since his first published novel, “The Notebook,” came out in 1996.

As if literary success wasn’t enough, Sparks also has seen nine of his novels adapted into profitable feature films. With a film version of “The Best of Me” scheduled for release in 2014 and the film rights for “The Longest Ride” already sold, that number continues to grow.

It would seem that Sparks long ago found his creative rhythm. However, he said he occasionally faces not-so-infrequent bouts of writer’s block or other hiccups while producing new works.

Yet this author doesn’t let himself stay stuck – or uninspired – for long. Sparks manages to keep his fans happy by churning out books at an impressive rate.

For a chance to win a hardback copy or an audiobook of The Longest Ride, send an email with “Sparks” in the subject field to relder@newsobserver.com before midnight Sept. 18. Winners will be chosen at random.

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