Nicholas Sparks' latest novel, "The Longest Ride," is different from his previous work.
"It's a dual love story," Sparks says. "It's about Ira and Ruth, whose love story stems from the 1930s, and Sophia and Luke, whose story occurs in present day.
"Part of the fun of the novel is finding out how their stories will intersect in the end," Sparks says. "I wanted to present a story where all the characters felt very real to the reader.
"I wanted to have two stories that readers would enjoy. The end result was 'The Longest Ride.'"
Sparks will discuss his latest novel Oct. 8 at Trustees Theater in "An Evening with Nicholas Sparks," an event sponsored by the Savannah Book Festival.
Where does Sparks get his ideas?
"This is the magic question," he says. "It's a combination. It's varied.
"Sometimes ideas are inspired by a particular voice," Sparks says. "Some are inspired by events in a family's past. Some are inspired by a theme I want to cover.
"This book was inspired by the ending of the novel," he says. "I knew what I wanted to happen toward the end."
That hooks readers right away, he says.
"I want the reader to say, 'I can't believe this just happened,'" Sparks says. "Who set it all up? Who was beneficiary of all this?
"Everything flowed from the feeling and surprise and wonder that I wanted to create at the end of the story," he says. "I started with the end and went back."
Eight of Sparks' books have been made into movies, including "The Last Song," starring Miley Cyrus and filmed on Tybee Island.
"I've been very fortunate with films," Sparks says.
"I've been pleased with the performers, who've done great jobs," he says. "The movies were successful at the box office and tended to play a long time. Audiences seem to enjoy the stories and my experience in Hollywood has been positive."
Sparks is proud to have written "The Longest Ride."
"I think it's a novel people will enjoy," he says. "In many ways, it's my most complex work.
"Today my favorite is 'The Longest Ride,' but next year, I might have a new favorite," Sparks says. "I've done my best to create original, compelling works of literature."
To keep his work fresh, Sparks employs variation.
"I try to vary the types of structures and ages and settings and periods," he says. "I've done my best to vary everything."
Last year with his agent, Theresa Park, Sparks launched Nicholas Sparks Productions, a film and television production company in Los Angeles. So far, three television films are planned for the TNT, ABC Family and Lifetime networks.
"It's been a lot of fun," Sparks says. "It's allowed me to explore stories I wouldn't necessarily put in novel form.
"Our first show was recently green-lighted for Lifetime," he says. "It's a female-centered Western set in the waning days of the Civil War. It allows me a bit more creative freedom."
Sparks is his own harshest critic.
"I'll be the first to admit the ideas I come up with are terrible," he says. "I reject 999 ideas out of 1,000.
"When it comes time for a novel, it probably takes six months to conceive it. There have been stories that fell apart along the way.
"There are a lot of ideas we reject," Sparks says. "Sometimes, it's not original enough. There are lots of reasons to reject something, so you have to be creative and you have to be certain."
Not surprisingly, Sparks loves to read.
"I've come across other works of fiction and nonfiction that made me think, 'I wish I'd been the one to write this,'" he says.
"One of the wonders of browsing the bookstore is ending up picking a jewel," Sparks says. "One of the great joys of reading is finding a book that will linger in the memory."
Sparks estimates he reads about 150 books a year.
"That's how I started writing," he says. "I loved to read, I loved a good story, and I began to wonder if I could write a good story."
At age 19, Sparks started his first book on a whim.
"I'd never considered being a writer," he says.
"I was a full-scholarship athlete at Notre Dame and got injured. The doctor said to get better I couldn't run all summer.
"I had dreams of going to the Olympics," Sparks says. "I didn't know what to do with my time and my mom said, 'Don't just pout, go write a book,' so I did."
Six weeks later, Sparks had completed his first 300-page novel.
"It wasn't good and it was never published," he says.
But Sparks kept writing and finished another novel his senior year.
"That novel eventually became 'The Notebook,'" he says.
At 28, Sparks became a full-fledged writer, and from the start, his books were bestsellers. More than 90 million copies of his books have sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including more than 60 million copies in the United States alone.
His other books include "Message in a Bottle," "A Walk to Remember," "The Rescue," "A Bend in the Road," "Nights in Rodanthe," "The Guardian," "The Wedding," "True Believer" and its sequel, "At First Sight," "Dear John," "The Choice," "The Lucky One," "The Last Song," "Safe Haven" and "The Best of Me."
With his brother, Micah, Sparks co-wrote a non-fiction memoir, "Three Weeks With My Brother," in 2004. The success of his books has influenced his life in many ways.
"It's been a major factor in everything that's happened in my life," Sparks says. "It's profoundly changed my life on any number of levels."
That success allowed Sparks and his wife to found the Epiphany School in New Bern, N.C.
"It is heavily invested in preparing students for life in the 21st century," he says. "The globe is expanding and we know what they are going to need.
"They learn adaptability, persistence, creativity and curiosity. It's become an amazing place."
The Nicholas Sparks Foundation was established to boost education.
"The purpose of our foundation is to help other schools improve programs, as well," Sparks says.
"We're trying to transform education. If we can do it here in the rural South for a low cost, you can do it anywhere.
"It's not the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," he says. "We can't fix every school, but what we can do is give every school a chance."
Sparks says education has influenced everything in his life.
"The education I received allowed me to become a writer," he says. "I support the writing program at the University of Notre Dame. Education can profoundly influence children's lives."
"An Evening with Nicholas Sparks" gives the author a chance to visit a city he knows very well.
"I'm excited to be back in Savannah," he says. "I love Tybee Island.
"There are a multitude of factors that go into my tour design," Sparks says. "I try to go to places I haven't necessarily been for a few years. For this particular tour, I'm trying to make it different than just sitting in a book store.
"I will talk and answer questions," he says. "Meeting my readers gives me a chance to talk with people who enjoy my work."
Pre-signed books will be available at the event, but Sparks will not sign books at the program. Those who order books in advance will have the opportunity to meet him.
"I will talk and answer questions and tell stories and talk about the inspiration behind the book," Sparks says. "Showing thanks to the people who've supported me has been instrumental with what's happened with my career."