All great love stories, says Nicholas Sparks, have to end in tragedy.
“By definition, they have to,” explains Sparks. “Because if there’s no great love in the first place, you don’t feel anything. There is no tragedy.
“All around the world, millions of people are dying today. And yet we’re here working, we’re not breaking down, we’re not crying. Why? Because we don’t love them. But if it was your sister, or your child, or your husband, or your wife, or your mother, or your best friend, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be crying. Why? Because there’s great love. And nobody lives forever. All love stories have to end in tragedy.”
The best-selling author, whose books have made millions worldwide and some of which adapted into films, visited the country recently to promote his latest novel, “The Best of Me,” which he says is one of the hardest novels he’d had to write.
The story follows two high-school sweethearts from a small town who would each take different paths in life.
Now married with three kids and enjoying a life of luxury, Amanda Collier returns to the town where she grew up and finds her old flame Dawson Cole who has known nothing but hard labor. They soon rekindle old memories and both wonder what could have been.
And this, says Sparks, is something that 40-year-old-somethings often find themselves asking.
What-ifs of life
“I think that when you reach your 40s, you’re kind of at that point in life where you do struggle with the what-ifs of life,” says Sparks, 45. “If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you still think that you can change things. You might say, ‘I could still have children, I could still get going in my career, I could still meet someone and fall in love.’ If you’re in your 50s, you kind of go ‘do I want to change?’ because you’re kind of settled. But 40s, you’re kind of right in the middle of this phase and you ask yourself, ‘How exactly did I get here?’”
“Because everybody faces those what-ifs of life. And it’s really strong at that point… like if you’ve yet to have children and you’re already 41, you’re running out of time. This is a choice you made; it’s not right or wrong. I’m not passing judgment one way or another, but the weight of that what-if is really going to hit you.”
Such is the central core of Sparks’ novel as Amanda, despite experiencing the better things in life compared to Dawson, still asks herself if she married the right person. Or, what if she had married someone else? Amanda, clearly, is a woman struggling with the what-ifs of life.
“There’s always sadness in my novels,” Sparks says. “People remember the sad ones. We all remember Romeo and Juliet, and that is far more tragic than anything I’ve written yet people still love that story. ‘Farewell to Arms,’ ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘Titanic’ are really good love stories and they move you through everything.”
As a writer, to move one’s readers through varying levels of emotion is a tedious task to do, and Sparks understands this very well. He says that every genre has a purpose, and his, as a writer of love stories, is to make his readers feel as if they had just lived a mini-life between the covers of his books.
“If I eliminate one of the major emotions of life, sadness, you’ll close the book and you’ll forget about it because it doesn’t feel real to you,” Sparks says. “You did not live that mini-life. You’re missing something even though you don’t know what it is.”
“The Best of Me” is available at National Book Store, Bestsellers and Powerbooks. Follow National Book Store and Powerbooks on Facebook and Twitter.