Author Nicholas Sparks to get personal at She expo

photo Nicholas Sparks

IF YOU GOWhat: She: An Expo for Women.When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, July 22.Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1 Carter Plaza.Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.Website:' SCHEDULE (SATURDAY)• 11 a.m. Line will open for book signing• Noon-2 p.m. Book signing• 2:30 p.m. "An Afternoon With Nicholas Sparks"

Ever wanted to know how Nicholas Sparks got his start writing? What inspired his best-seller "The Notebook?" How hands-on he is in the adaptation of his books to movies?

Fans will learn all this and more when the author makes an appearance Saturday at She: An Expo for Women. He will sign books and then chat with fans at "An Afternoon With Nicholas Sparks."

"The program is a piece I've honed over the years that is audience-driven," Sparks said in a telephone interview.

"It's a chance for people to get to know about me as a person, how I got started writing. 'Where do you get your stories?' is what everyone wants to know -- so I tell them.

"Ideally, people will leave feeling that they know a little bit more about me, about writing or about inspiration in general," he said.

The She expo is a two-day event sponsored by the Times Free Press offering women one-stop shopping featuring more than 150 vendor booths in the Chattanooga Convention Center. Visitors can sample spa treatments, take in a cooking demonstration and see some of their favorite celebrities.

In addition to Sparks, Giuliana and Bill Rancic will attend the She expo on Saturday. "Dancing With the Stars" champs Cheryl Burke and Mark Ballas will perform at She on Sunday, July 22.

Sparks is a former pharmaceutical salesman who launched to fame with the release of "The Notebook" in 1996. He has written 18 books, which have been translated in 45 languages, with worldwide sales of $80 million.

The author recently returned from a promotional tour in Europe, where he was greeted by an avid fan base.

"In the Philippines and Portugal, I had to travel with bodyguards. In Germany and Italy, I'm at least as popular as I am in the U.S.," he said.

Ringgold, Ga., resident Caren Travis and Erlanger employee Jennifer Homa have been Sparks fans since the release of his debut novel, "The Notebook."

"All the characters in his books have stories with which you can identify," Travis said.

"He does a good job of building his characters in his storylines," Homa said. "It's kind of a sweet romance; it doesn't have a lot of sexual content to it. Living in the South, and enjoying places I travel to along the coast, it's easy for me to visualize the towns he writes about."

Sparks describes his writing style as "dramatic fiction with a love-story element to it. It's kind of its own unique genre."

Fans of the author may bring books to his signing Saturday, and The Book Gallery will be selling the Sparks collection in its expo booth, said Lyndsi Sebastian, Times Free Press marketing manager.

Sebastian said the line for the book signing may begin forming when expo doors open at 11 a.m. Although there is no limit as to how many books expo fans may have signed, guests are asked to be considerate of others waiting in line to allow as many fans as possible to meet the author during his two-hour signing.

Five Questions With the Author Sparks on his movies, his writing and whose books he reads

Q: "Safe Haven" has started filming in North Carolina with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough in the lead roles. Do you have a say in the casting of your movies?

A: Yes, I do. This pairing is great. Josh and Julianne are great performers. They have a wonderful chemistry. I think people are going to be amazed at how much they love this film. Ideally, it will be coming out Feb. 8.

Q: What is it about unrequited love and tear-jerking endings that appeal to you? Why can't your characters live happily ever after?

A: It depends on your definition of happily ever after. If the definition is the couple gets together despite the hardships in life, then I'd say about half end up happily.

That's the way life is. Everyone is touched by tragedy. There is nobody who goes through life unscathed. More than anything, I try to write novels that feel real to people.

Q: Whose books are your beach reads?

A: Right now I'm reading Justin Cronin, who wrote a wonderful book called "The Passage." I like Stephen King and Lee Child. I read a lot of nonfiction as well.

Stephen King, in my opinion, is the greatest author America has ever produced. His books will be read for hundreds of years. How can you ever do a study on horror without reading at least one Stephen King book?

His beauty is 1) he's a terrific writer, 2) he never loses sight that he's supposed to be telling a story and 3) he does a wonderful job of character development -- all three very important elements of writing. From him I learned the fact that you are telling a story that the reader should like.

Q: Why do you choose North Carolina for the setting of your books?

A: Living here, it's very easy for me to find the appropriate settings for different scenes just because of the familiarity. North Carolina is a little different from most other states. The coastal part -- which is usually where most people live in states such as California or New York's Long Island -- is where the small towns are.

In North Carolina, the big towns -- Raleigh, Charlotte -- are far from the coast. So it's not only got this beautiful geography with wide, slow-moving rivers and the coast, but it also has a pace of life intrinsic to small towns.

It's a little slower, a little quieter, it gives you time to think, to talk and have conversation.

Q: Will you give a preview of the book you're currently writing?

A: It's a love story ... set in North Carolina.