For our third week of Romance, Writing, & Relationships, we are taking a look at one of the most beloved romance writers of the modern era, Nicholas Sparks. Time Warner Book Group fell in love with Allie and Noah when The Notebook was picked up out of a slush pile, and the world followed suit when the film hit theaters eight years later. What began as a hobby to distract himself from various dead-end jobs made Sparks a household name—his stories breaking and making hearts everywhere.
Sparks appears to have lived a pretty simple, yet also tragic, life. He had a tight-knight family who moved around a lot due to his father’s career before eventually settling in California. He was the valedictorian and attended the University of Notre Dame on a full-ride sports scholarship. Sparks gives credit to his mother for helping kickstart his writing career, as he remembers her telling him, “Your problem is that you’re bored. You need to find something to do…Write a book.” He began writing between his freshman and sophomore years of college, and he would publish his first book ten years later. But during his time at Notre Dame, he would also meet met his one and only partner, Cathy Cote.
Nicholas and Cathy met on spring break in Florida during Sparks’s senior year of college. While that doesn’t sound particularly romantic, Sparks apparently knew within a day that he had just met his future wife. In a 2013 interview with GQ, Sparks recalls seeing Cathy on a Monday, and by Tuesday he told her, “I will marry you.” Ever the romantic, Sparks kept in touch with Cathy by writing hundreds of love letters to her (which sounds closer to the plot of a Sparks novel than meeting on spring break does.) They met in 1988 and by the next year, the pair were married. But things didn’t come so easy for the newlyweds. Not long after their wedding, Sparks’s mother falls off a horse and succumbs to her injuries. Worse still, Sparks’s only sister would be diagnosed with brain cancer and would pass away in 2000. A few years later, his father would pass away in a car accident. Despite the shock and excitement around Nicholas’s success in the early 2000s, this couple certainly didn’t have the easiest first few years of marriage.
The pair would go on to have five children—three sons and a pair of twin daughters. Sparks would use his wife as inspiration for many of his novels, including The Notebook, The Last Song, and Safe Haven. In fact, The Notebook is actually based on the true love story of Cathy’s grandparents. Sparks would continue to write books and produce films with Nicholas Sparks Production throughout their marriage. However, the two would, unfortunately, separate in 2015 after twenty-five years of marriage, much to the surprise of his fans everywhere. The statement, “if Nicholas Sparks gets divorced, there isn’t any hope for the rest of us,” became a common news headline. Apparently, the two split amicably. Not long after, Sparks would shut down his production company and be accused of homophobia when a scandal released his private emails to the public.
While Sparks seems not to have had a permanent happily ever after, he has discussed with Time that divorce is sometimes just part of life. He continues to write romance novels, and his most recent book, The Return, came out late last year. Sparks is just another reminder that love comes in waves, and even though one journey of his has ended, his love for writing continues.
If you missed the first two installments of Romance, Writing, & Relationships, you can check out Margaret Mitchell’s wild marriages here and Jane Austen’s quiet love life here. And watch out for the final chapter of this series, set to premiere on August 26.
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