As one of the world’s most beloved romance/drama authors, our December guest editor needs little introduction: author Nicholas Sparks has sold over 105 million copies of his books—all NYT bestsellers—in over 50 languages. Some of our personal favorites, which have all been adapted to film, include A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John, The Longest Ride, Safe Haven, The Last Song and The Notebook (written by Sparks in six months at the age of 28). Sparks’ adaptations have a cumulative worldwide gross of over three-quarters of a billion dollars.

But when it comes to his philanthropy, there’s even more to be said—most of note The Nicholas Sparks Foundation, dedicated since 2011 to global education experiences and expansion for students of all ages: more than $15 million dollars have been distributed to scholarship programs, charities and projects, with all operational expenses covered by the Sparks family—so 100% of donations go where they are needed most.

His twenty-second novel, The Wish, is about the enduring legacy of first loves, released just in time for the holiday season—and it’s sure to top the wishlists of romance holiday readers all around.

In the enchanting, bittersweet story of the The Wish, Maggie Dawes’ life was turned upside down at 16 when she’s sent away to live with an aunt she barely knows in a North Carolina Outer Banks’ village. There are few teens on the island, so when she meets one—Bryce Trickett, handsome and real—she lets him introduce her to the remote beach town and a passion that ends up defining her life: photography. More than two decades later in 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer and finds herself unexpectedly grounded over Christmas, fresh off sobering news of a medical diagnoses, relying on a young assistant for help. As they grow closer, she recalls the Christmas memories in a small beach town so many years ago, telling him the story of the love that moved her in ways she couldn’t comprehend, and set her on a path she never could have imagined

We talked with Nicholas Sparks in an exclusive interview about what he strives for most in writing, experiencing that “spark”, and what he’s currently reading.

Warning: spoilers ahead! 

You always have such personal inspiration behind your books: ie The Notebook inspired by your wife’s grandparents, Dear John inspired by your brother, etc. Can you talk to the specific inspiration behind The Wish?  

The Wish was inspired less by people I know or events in my own life as opposed to the idea that I wanted to explore two different things: a teenager who decides to give a baby up for adoption and Christmas.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know? 

The characters I create, while perhaps being inspired in some small way by an individual I know, become original and compelling characters and hopefully they ring true as real people to the reader.

How much research goes into your novels? For example, writing from the POV of young women in their twenties, the logistics of being a renowned travel photographer, and the ins and outs of serious medical diagnoses.  

There’s always enough research to make sure that what I actually write has its basis in truth. As a general rule, however, I tend to explore more fully the emotions associated with such things.

How do you identify that specific “spark” that arises, the “ah ha! This will be the basis of my next book.” Or do you just have plots written down that you pull from over the years?  

The “aha!” moment seldom comes all at once. Usually, I’m ready to start writing when I know how the novel will begin and how the novel will end, three or four major plot elements, and general information on the characters. That can take anywhere from a week to 20 years depending on the story.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of book publishing?  

The best part is meeting readers on tour; I’ve also been blessed to work with extraordinary people throughout my career. My least favorite part of publishing is knowing I have to write, but not knowing what to write.

You recently announced upcoming book tours. How excited are you to get back to in person events?  

It’s always wonderful to meet readers who enjoy my works.

What are some of your favorite current projects happening at The Nicholas Sparks Foundation?  

Currently, we have almost 50 kids on scholarship. Knowing how much education changed my life, this matters a great deal to me. Past students who have received scholarship have been accepted to Harvard, Duke, Stanford and other extraordinary schools across the country, which is an endless source of pride. 

What is the next writing project you’re working on?  

I’m working on my next novel, which should be released Fall 2022.

What are you reading right now?  

Bloody Okinawa by Joseph Wheelan, a nonfiction account of the Battle of Okinawa in World War 2. The topic interests me because members of my family fought there.

Don’t miss our Ten Book Challenge: Nicholas Sparks’ Book-It List!