There are two kinds of romance movies. There’s the standard rom com—unlikely couple meets, overcomes obstacle, gets together, breaks up, realizes they are perfect for one another, gets back together, roll credits—and then there’s the tearful romance that doesn’t work out happily-ever-after. Of the latter category author Nicholas Sparks is the undisputed king of the three-hanky drama.
The former pharmaceutical salesman has wracked up an impressive, if tearstained, list of 14 best sellers including The Lucky One and Dear John, which comes to the big screen this weekend starring the sad-eyed Amanda Seyfried.
His best known work is The Notebook, a cross-generational love story that spent over a year as a New York Times hardcover top seller. Inspired by the story of his wife’s grandparents sixty year marriage, the novel became a 2004 movie starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The tale of love and Alzheimer’s is emotionally manipulative—writer Gary Panton called this passionate tearjerker “mushier than a mushed-up bowl of mushy peas that’s just been mushed in an industrial-strength mushifier”—but opening weekend it surfed a wave of tears to the box office top five.
Less seen was Nights in Rodanthe, a gusher about a doctor who courts an unhappily married woman. Summed up as “the cinematic equivalent of a Harlequin novel with a pack of tissues shoved into the back cover,” the movie reunited Diane Lane and Richard Gere after joint appearances in The Cotton Club and Unfaithful.
Critics haven’t warmed to Sparks’s stories on film— A Walk to Remember only has a 27% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes—but audiences can’t seem to get enough of his weepy tales of unrequited love, lost love, mature love and love in a time of trouble. Four of his books have already been adapted for the movies, two more are being released this year and there is one each scheduled for 2011 and 2012.
How hot he is in Hollywood? Disney hired him to write The Last Song screenplay for their biggest star Miley Cyrus.
His style of romance has caught on, but don’t call him a romance writer. “I write dramatic fiction. If you go into a further subgenre, it would be a love story, but it has its roots in the Greek tragedies. This genre evolved through Shakespeare. He did Romeo and Juliet. Hemingway did A Farewell to Arms. I do this currently today.”
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