'I am a romantic at heart'

'I am a romantic at heart'

PROMISING COMBINATION Nicholas Sparks and Miley Cyrus

Before Miley Cyrus agreed to sign the emotional film The Last Song, which is based on Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, the author met the star and her family for dinner. “I went over to the Cyrus’ and we had burgers,” Sparks recalls. While sitting around the large dinner table with Cyrus and her parents, Billy Ray and Tish, Sparks prepared to tell his story. Then, something unusual happened. “The lights went out,” Sparks laughs.
Candles were lit and the family sat around listening as Sparks shared the story. “It was really important that Miley liked the story,” he explains. “She wanted this to be a great role, not for herself, but for any young actress.”

The Last Song tells the story of Veronica Ronnie Miller. Rebellious and an outsider, Ronnie doesn’t understand why she has to spend the summer with her father, who is divorced from her mother. A successful musician who’s abandoned her talent in favour of acting out, Ronnie slowly comes around, discovering love, faith and forgiveness, and uncovering some secrets along the way. The second he finished telling the tale, Sparks knew he’d won the Cyrus family over.

Sparks is a romantic at heart and he says his wife of 20 years, Cathy, would agree.  “I’m big on roses, surprising her with trips, that type of thing,” he says. The couple has five children and met in college. “My wife is still my best friend and she’s an incredible person.”

As a student, running was Sparks’ life. He was devastated when an Achilles injury forced him out. “I went home for the summer and my doctor told me I couldn’t run for months. I went crazy. I’d been running for five or six years every day,” he says. Sparks’ mother took charge. “She looked at me one day and said ‘That’s it. Don’t pout. Do something!’ I didn’t know what I should do and she said, ‘Why don’t you write a book?’”

So Sparks wrote his first novel, a horror, which he describes as “awful.” “The point was I finished it and that was a great lesson for me.” After college, Sparks worked a series of regular jobs including, until one day he thought there must be something more to life.
“I was 28 and I was having a mid-life crisis,” he says. “When I was 15, I had big dreams, all to do with track and field. I wanted to be an Olympian. When I was working a regular job, I thought ‘Is this what I am going to do for the next 40 years of my life?’”

Sparks knew things had to change. He wrote a story based on the love his wife’s grandparents had for each other, a 224-page novel called The Notebook.

It made The New York Times bestseller list in its first week of release and stayed there for more than a year, while the film adaptation made more than $US115 million at the box office. When it comes to life, the author’s point is a simple one. “If I tried writing and failed miserably at it, that was one thing. But I didn’t want to live the rest of my life thinking ‘What if?’ The most important thing in life is to try.”

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