Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nicholas Sparks on Audiobooks and his Brother

Nicholas Sparks is author of many New York Times bestsellers, all recorded for Time Warner Audiobooks (now Hachette Audio) by various narrators. His non-fictional memoir Three Weeks with My Brother, written with Micah Sparks and narrated by Henry Leyva, includes an introduction read by Nicholas.  We asked him about his brother.

AUDIOBOOKS TODAY: Your book Three Weeks With My Brother was biographical in nature, using your world trip with Micah as a framework to do a parallel story about your relationship with him, and the losses you've faced together among your shared family members. Had you written non-fiction before?

NICHOLAS SPARKS: No, it was my first attempt at non-fiction, and Micah's first attempt at writing anything, but I found the process enjoyable in that I knew where the story was going because I knew what wed lived through. Unlike novels, where you're debating on the structure and events while trying to figure things out, sometimes without a clear goal in mind, this was very clear to me. It was just putting it down the right way that presented the challenge.

Q: You guys look so alike. In what ways are you different?

A: We're not that different, really. Micah tends to be a little more moody than I am. I tend to be very driven. I get focused on a task, and try to do it as best I can, whether it was school or track and field or writing. Micah tends to have a better balance about things.

Q: So hes a bit more laid back than you?

A: Slightly, but that's not to say he doesn't work hard. He's had successful businesses, has a professional career in manufacturing as well, it's just a little different than the way I do it.

Q: You've admitted to being a Type A personality, though, true?

A: Well, see, that's the thing. That's what my wife says, and that's what my agent says, and that's what my editor says, and practically everyone who knows me says, but I personally don't feel I'm Type A. I feel I should work harder! But I make time for my family and my kids, too. They each need individual attention, and then my wife and I will go out to lunch or on a date two or three times a week, just the two of us, and we do all the family stuff too. Trips to Disneyland, things like that. So I do try to keep some kind of balance, it's just that for Micah it comes a little more natural.



Q: What was the most interesting thing that happened on your trip together?

A: So much was interesting. You have to take the whole trip in context. Universal truths we learned like money can't buy happiness. We went to poverty stricken countries like Cambodia or India where people might earn $25 a month, and yet they were happy. Kids were playing, and hanging out with their dad, and you see the dad proud about their son just like we are about ours. And that's always a wonderful lesson to have reinforced because people fall prey to the opposite belief. But probably the most unique part of it was the epic role of history, these temples were built so long ago. . .the rise and fall of civilizations. We got to this Mayan temple, and we climbed to the top, and it's amazing, but this temple had stopped being used about 900 A.D., so it was abandoned, and 500 years later Columbus floats over.

Q: I've seen a Mayan temple in the Yucatan, too. Gives you a perspective.

A: It really does.

Q: Until a book is read by the public, it's like the old Hollywood saying, Nobody knows anything. Then magic can happen. Now, when your novel Message in a Bottle was first made into a film, and you got to go to the set and talk to Kevin Costner, that must have been an exciting moment for you.

A: It was exciting, and I reacted like just about anybody would react. . . oh my gosh, there he is. Same thing. You know, I'm certainly not a big wig in Hollywood or anything. I've met these people, briefly, but I'm not on their Christmas card list. (laughs) But that's okay. They've all been wonderful to work with, and they've been gracious to the family I'd bring to the set.

Q: Any anecdotes to share?

A: My son had a crush on Mandy Moore when she starred in A Walk to Remember. He loved that girl. She was 17 at the time, and he was 10. It was funny, he'd go right up to her door and knock, and say can I come in? She'd be doing her schoolwork or something, and he'd just stare at her. That was cute.

Q: Women readers will want me to ask this. Are you really as romantic as you seem? I mean, you don't sit with a remote and watch sports all the time, like most men, and communicate with grunts and requests for beer?

A: I don't. I try to do nice things for my wife frequently. This makes my wife happy, and my wife is wonderful to be around when she's happy. So I send flowers and buy unexpected gifts, and we make time for each other, and at the same time, my wife does a lot of stuff for me too. It's not always easy living with an author, but we're happy with each other most of the time.

Q: One of the most amazing things I read about you is that you read over 100 books a year. Other authors I talk to have little or no time to read. How do you do that, given that you have five kids and so much else going on?

A: I love reading, and I read very quickly, obviously. Most books don't stay with me, with that magical quality, other books I linger over longer. I have wide interests, so it's almost like watching television. You turn off the TV and pick up a book, read a page a minute or faster, and pretty soon you're reading a hundred books a year instead of watching TV.

Q: Do you listen to audiobooks on the road?

A: Yes, I do, and generally I prefer non-fiction for the road. . . biographies and histories. . . but then, to be honest, I really don't drive much. I live in a small town in North Carolina. Put it like this. My car is four years old. I drive it everywhere. Everywhere, I take my car. Four years. Nine thousand miles. (laughs) I mean, I just don't go anywhere! I go to the store, drive back, drive to post office, drive back. Nothing.

Q: I interviewed producers Dennis Kao and Linda Ross, and they talked about the choice of Tom Wopat as one your narrators. He's a macho guy who can be sensitive too. That's the ideal, don't you think? Was wondering what you think of audiobooks as a medium.

A: They're great. I remember as a kid driving with my parents there'd be radio stations with plays and stories. You almost never hear that now, but I remember hearing that, and I loved it. It's a wonderful thing for people who spend a lot of time in the car. If you're going to drive 45 minutes or more to work every day, you know, you can go through 50 books a year. So you can be as well read as anybody you know. It's a wonderful choice.




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