by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Ever read "The Notebook" or "Message in a Bottle" and wonder how the author comes up with ideas for stories? Or how long it takes for a wildly successful writer to turn his ideas into best sellers?
Nicholas Sparks, the author of these books and 15 more, will answer all of those questions and more when he takes the stage at 5 p.m. tonight in the 440-seat Bear's Den auditorium at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, 310 Fourth St.
"It'll have everything you want to know about an author you enjoy reading," Sparks said by telephone. "We'll talk about how I got started, where the ideas come from and other things. It's real fun with lots of jokes. The audience will laugh and cry, just like with the books."
Before the entertainment, though, Sparks will be in the hotel lobby for a free, public book signing from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
With him on stage, expect to hear about his writing process. Best described as methodical and hectic, he said he manages to average writing about 2,000 words every day despite being involved in two movie productions and maintaining a family life with his wife, Cathy, and their five children.
Working on a novel, he said, must start with an idea. The author needs to come up with a brilliant idea to start the process off with a bang, so the story provides the reader with something to hold on to.
"The idea is paramount," he said. "Whether you're a young author, in my position or have a couple successes and you need to find the next thing, the idea is paramount. You need the kind of idea everyone will want to read. It needs to appeal to a good-sized audience, no matter the genre you choose. You need to remember it's not about what you want to read, but what everyone else wants to read."
There are a ton of good ideas, Sparks said. They fill bookstores with published works which stay for a few months then end up out of print, forgotten by the publishing world. He said his goal with every novel is to develop a great idea, one that gets every reader to think.
Authors, he said, need to focus on making their good idea a great one if they want any success.
"All of the great ideas captivate their audience's attention," he said, listing examples like Twilight's not-so-bad vampiric protagonist or The DaVinci Code's puzzles as great ideas. "When you're writing, you need to focus on your idea and make it as extraordinary as possible."
Aside from writing and producing movies - his eighth book adaptation, Safe Haven, starring actors Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, will be released Feb. 14. - Sparks is busy following his other pursuit: philanthropy.
He and his wife started the Nicholas Sparks Foundation in the fall of 2011 with an interest in providing education to those who can't afford it. The foundation, he said, focuses on providing scholarships to high school students as well as finding ways to get schools to meet the standards of the 21st century, a task some have had difficulty accomplishing.
In fact, education is so important to Sparks, he built a school in his hometown of New Bern, N.C. in 2006.
Called the Epiphany School, the unaffiliated preparatory school is meant to keep its students at the cutting edge of education as the country moves further into the new century, he said.
"The world's different now than it was at the turn of the last century," he said. "We work with a lot of groups and schools to help prepare our students to succeed in the 21st century."
When Sparks visits the area, it'll mark the first time he's been to Western New York. He's never seen Niagara Falls, not even on vacation.
He said he's definitely hoping to get a chance to see the mighty cataract, though he does wish his busy schedule allowed him to see more.
"I hope that I'll be able to see (the waterfall)," he said. "I never made it there on tour. It strikes me as a place I'll want to spend a couple days with my wife and kids. But hopefully I'll be able to at least drive by and hop out of the car."
Tickets for the lecture and question-and-answer session start at $40 and are still available. Ticket sales and more info are available at SenecaNiagaraCasino.com.