What is the inspiration for this book? Is it based to any extent on your own experiences or the experiences of those you know?
The Notebook was originally inspired by the story of my wife’s grandparents. They had a rare and beautiful relationship, one that withstood the test of time and circumstance. When I first met them, they had been married over sixty years, and I remember marveling at how much they still seemed to care for each other. The Notebook attempts to portray such a love. That said, The Notebook is a novel, not a memoir. Many changes were made regarding their story, in order to make the novel more universal, while staying committed to my original intent.
How do you account for the success of the novel? What do you think its overriding appeal is?
It’s never easy to pinpoint the reasons for a book’s success. In the case of The Notebook, I think the most obvious reason is that the story touched people in a deeply personal way. It seems that nearly everyone I spoke with about the novel knew a “Noah and Allie” in their own life. As people made this connection, the book became a so-called word-of-mouth success, with those who enjoyed it recommending it to others. In the end, any book that sells well needs to have this sort of support from readers. On a more practical level, the novel’s short length was appealing to many people. Nowadays, we all seem to have less time to read and The Notebook probably owes much of its success to the fact that people could finish it in one or two sittings. I think that readers also appreciate that the novel didn’t include foul language and its love scene was tasteful and mild compared to what’s found in many other novels. These factors made people feel comfortable about recommending it to others. Finally, I can’t ignore the fact that the publisher did an outstanding job with the novel. It was well promoted, it had a beautiful cover, and it was enthusiastically supported by the sales representatives. In addition, I was sent on a fifty+ city tour (unusually large, by the way) and that also helped to get the word out.
The book details the lives of very old, as well as very young, people. How did someone as young as you when you wrote the book acquire the insight to write about the experience of being old in such a moving way?
That’s what writers strive to do. Though I can’t describe the process of writing and how I do it (I don’t really understand where my ideas come from), I do keep a few general rules in mind, no matter what type of character I’m writing. First, I tend to assume that most people—male or female, young or old—have largely the same types of thoughts. However, the difference lies in their perspectives. So I try to put myself in their shoes and see the world the way they do. Then, I read constantly and see how other authors have written from varying perspectives and I try to figure out whether they accomplished what they set out to do or if they failed. Either way, I ask myself, “Why?” Finally, I work hard at it—I edit constantly until it “feels right” to me. Only then am I satisfied.
Letter writing plays such a big part in The Notebook. Is there something about letter writing that intrigues you?
The epistolary form has been around for centuries, of course. I’m neither the first nor finest to use it. But letters are a wonderful vehicle for emotions, if used effectively and sparingly. In the case of a novel written in third person, for instance, a letter might allow the reader deeper insight into a character’s feelings or thoughts, since a letter is written in first person. Also, I’m fond of letter writing myself. Call it old-fashioned, but that’s how my wife and I fell in love. We lived a thousand miles apart in the early stages of our relationship, and I used to write her every day. She’s often told me that it was the most romantic thing that had ever been done for her.
The Notebook is an intensely romantic book—a novel about the everlasting power of “true love.” Do you believe that this kind of love exists in real life?
Yes, absolutely. True love exists and there’s evidence of it every day. I think people’s perceptions about romantic love, however, are similar to people’s perceptions about schools for children. It seems that most people feel that the school their child goes to is wonderful, but elsewhere, schools are terrible. But if most people feel that way, then it becomes a logical impossibility. Same thing with romantic love. Many people perceive it in their own lives, but doubt if other people do. And those who don’t have it hope that someday, they will. I think The Notebook tapped into that feeling.
The Notebook takes place in a small southern town. Why did you choose that setting rather than, say, a big city like New York?
I live in a small southern town, and life there is different than in a big city. For example, a friend of mine got hurt recently. Instead of bringing him to the hospital or an urgent care clinic, I took him to the doctor’s house. The doctor took care of him, drove to the office to pick up a temporary cast, returned, and then bandaged him up. No charge, by the way. Small towns feed a nostalgia that people have for the way things used to be—simpler, less rushed, more community oriented, things like that.
How has the success of The Notebook affected your life? Do you find your family lifestyle has changed much? Or your values?
The success has been wonderful. It’s enabled me to concentrate on writing full-time, but more than that, it’s allowed me to spend more time with my family. We’ve benefited financially, of course, and it would be dishonest for me to pretend otherwise. But other than that, our lifestyle is largely unchanged. I go to Tae Kwon Do with my kids, we go to church every Sunday, we’re in a “Supper Club” with the same people we’ve known for years, my wife volunteers at the school like every other mom, and we still eat Kraft macaroni and cheese. Nor have our values changed. We worry about the same things all parents do, and we’re doing our best to raise kind and confident children. Our relationship with each other, with our children, with our community, and with God, will always be the most important things in our lives.
What was it like going on your author tour and meeting and hearing from so many people whose lives were affected by your book?
That was a great experience. Writing is communication; hearing from readers about their impressions of what you’ve written is the other half of a conversation that you’ve begun. It’s one of the aspects I most enjoy about being an author.
How much of The Notebook was true?
Parts were true; parts were made-up to benefit the story. I’ve never broken it down specifically, for the simple reason that I don’t think it’s necessary or important. It is, after all, a novel, not a memoir.
Will there be a sequel?
Perhaps. I’m toying with the idea (and keep in mind that The Wedding is a follow-up to The Notebook).
At the end of The Notebook has Noah passed away, is he dreaming, or is the ending literal?
Noah was not dreaming. The ending is what it is.
Will there be a teaching series?
An educational edition was published under the Novel Learning SeriesTM banner. More information can be found out by visiting the Novel Learning Series section of this site.