Nicholas Sparks Biography


Personal Background

Nicholas Sparks was born in 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska, the second of three children. His father, Patrick Michael (Mike), was a graduate student for much of Nicholas' early life, so the family lived in a number of college towns before settling in Fair Oaks, California, when Nicholas was eight. Nicholas' mother, Jill EmmaMarie (Jill), worked as both a homemaker and optometrist's assistant. All three Sparks children, including Nicholas' older brother, Micah, and younger sister, Danielle, were born within a three-year period, and the closeness in age created a strong bond between them.

Education and Work Experience

Nicholas excelled in high school, graduating valedictorian of his class and earning notice as a middle-distance runner. He accepted a full athletic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame and set a school record as part of a relay team, but he found himself hampered by an Achilles tendon injury the summer after his freshman year. With time on his hands and little to do but recover, Nicholas wrote his first novel, The Passing, which was never published. According to Nicholas, it will never be, but the experience began to hone his writing skills.

Nicholas graduated from Notre Dame in 1988 with a degree in finance and married his wife, Cathy, in 1989, a year that would also bring a deep sadness to Nicholas' life — his mother passed away at the age of 47 from a horseback riding accident. That year was also when Nicholas wrote his second novel, The Royal Murders, which also remains unpublished.

Over the next three years, Nicholas experimented with jobs in a number of industries, including real estate appraisal, home restoration, food service, and dental supply sales. With little training in medical sales, Nicholas then started an orthopedic products manufacturing company that brought in little income. He experienced two bright spots during that time, though, including the birth of his son Miles and the chance to coauthor a book with Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, entitled Wokini, a title that went on to sell over 50,000 copies.

In 1992, Nicholas experienced more change, more joy, and more tragedy. He sold his company, took a job in pharmaceutical sales, and moved to North Carolina; he and Cathy also learned that Cathy was pregnant with their second child (Ryan, born 1993). That same year, however, Nicholas also learned that his sister had developed cancer, an illness that would later claim her life.

Early Published Works

At the age of 28, Nicholas decided to make another concerted, even more serious, effort at writing. To that end, he spent the second half of 1994 writing a novel he called The Notebook, scheduling his writing time around his family's schedule. A year later, while living in Greenville, South Carolina, where he was transferred for his pharmaceutical sales job, Nicholas was offered a contract by a young, new agent with no published novels to her credit. Despite her inexperience, however, Theresa Park was able not only to sell the manuscript to Warner Books but also to secure a $1 million advance, much to the Nicholas' shock . . . and elation! Ms. Park, along with United Talent Agency, also sold the film rights to New Line Cinema.

The next year also brought a mix of success and tragedy: Nicholas' father died in an automobile accident at the age of 54, just a month before Nicholas embarked on a 45-city tour to promote The Notebook. That novel eventually spent 55 weeks on both The New York Times hardcover and The New York Times paperback bestseller lists and was translated into 45 languages.

Over the next several years, Nicholas continued to write, saw several of his novels adapted into film, and welcomed three more children to his family. Today, Nicholas lives in North Carolina, where he continues his prolific writing career and lives with his wife Cathy and their five children: Miles, Ryan, Landon, and twins Lexie and Savannah.

Career Highlights

Each of Nicholas' novels has ranked as an international bestseller. After The Notebook, additional novels followed in rapid succession, including Message in a Bottle, published in 1998, and A Walk to Remember, published in 1999. After that came The Rescue in 2000, A Bend in the Road in 2001, Nights in Rodanthe in 2002, and The Guardian and The Wedding in 2003. Sparks coauthored Three Weeks with My Brother with his brother, Micah, in 2004, and then returned to solo works with True Believer and At First Sight in 2005, Dear John in 2006, The Choice in 2007, and The Lucky One in 2008.

In 1999, Message in a Bottle became the first of Nicholas' novels to be released as a movie. With stellar casting — including Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, and Robin Wright Penn — the movie grossed more than $120 million and hit the number-one box office spot. A movie version of A Walk to Remember was released in 2002, followed by The Notebook in 2004 and Nights in Rodanthe in 2008.