Some authors seem to click with moviemakers, and writer Nicholas Sparks is one of the lucky few making his way to the top of Holly- wood's A-list. First came Message in a Bottle, Sparks' novel about a tragic love letter which was turned into a hit movie starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright and Paul Newman. Next comes the film version of A Walk to Remember, which opens in theaters January 25.

In fact, all five of Sparks' best-selling romantic novels appear headed for the screen. His first book, the multi-million-seller The Notebook, is now in the screenwriting stage, and negotiations are under way to sell film and television rights to his other two novels, A Bend in the Road and The Rescue.

The boyish author and father of five, who just a few years ago was making a living as a pharmaceutical salesman, says his success in the jaded world of Tinseltown hasn't really changed the way he writes or the way he lives.

"You just set out to write the best book you possibly can, and if you're lucky Hollywood will make a film of it. The odds are very small. They just don't make that many films based on books," Sparks said from his home in North Carolina, where he was recuperating from the rigors of a European book tour.

"Movies are a nice way to introduce people to your work, especially if the film is done well, and I've been fortunate in that both these films have been done very well." A Walk to Remember, which should have special appeal to the teen audience, stars pop singer and MTV regular Mandy Moore as a small-town preacher's daughter who wins the heart of a skeptical rich kid. Much of the filming took place in Wilmington, North Carolina, not far from Sparks' home in New Bern.

"My oldest son and I went to the set twice, and I went down with my editor a third time," Sparks said, noting that he enjoyed his trips to the set but didn't write the screenplay or take an active role in making the film.

It might be understandable if Sparks took a special interest in the casting of Mandy Moore as Jamie, since the character was inspired in part by his own sister, Danielle, who died in May after battling cancer.

"Mandy Moore was great on both a personal and professional level. She's a very charming and intelligent young lady, and she did a fabulous job in front of the camera. She really gave a superb performance, especially considering this was her first major film role," Sparks said. Also appearing in the film are Shane West as the male lead (Landon Carter), and Peter Coyote and Daryl Hannah as parents of the teens. Sparks' publisher, Warner Books, is releasing a special movie tie-in version of A Walk to Remember to coincide with the film's release.

A disciplined writer who isn't content to rest on his laurels, Sparks has already completed his sixth novel, The Guardian, a tale of "love and danger" to be published next fall. He is also finishing a screenplay of The Guardian, outlining his seventh and eighth books and helping to design a new Web site.

Sparks does all his work in a home office "right off the living room with five kids running around." His children range in age from 10-year-old Miles to five-month-old twin daughters, and this busy father admits to shutting his office door "at times when it gets tough."

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