The wait is finally over for fans of Nicholas Sparks’ first novel, The Notebook: The movie version hits theaters nationwide today.

Starring James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the filmed story emphasizes what the written one did: True love can last forever.

Sparks, now 38, spoke with on Wednesday from his home in North Carolina, talking mainly about love and the novel’s inspiration: his wife’s grandparents.

“I got to know them as I got to know my wife,” said Sparks of the elderly couple who spent more than 60 years together. “I met them when I was 22 or 23 years old. They had the kind of relationship that I think all young couples want to have.”

“Just the way that they looked at each other, the way they treated each other,” he continued. “It was wonderful.”

The grandparents missed their granddaughter’s wedding due to bad health, even though they were less than an hour away. Their absence prompted Catherine (Sparks’ wife) and Nicholas to recreate the wedding for them the next day on the spur of the moment.

“They had no idea we’d be coming and were excited to see us,” Sparks told a Maui Writer’s Conference in 1998. “My grandfather-in-law slipped into his jacket and put on the boutonniere and we took photographs with them; we went inside and watched the video as we ate a slice of cake, and it was then they told us the story of how they met and fell in love, parts of which eventually made their way into The Notebook.”

Their story made a lasting impact on Sparks and his wife.

“Watching these two and how they related to each other was a wonderful lesson for my wife and I,” Sparks told “We learned that true love can last forever. That was a wonderful thing to learn.”

“The Notebook” splits time between the story of young lovers Noah (Gosling) and Allie (McAdams) in the 1940s, and an older man (Garner) and woman (Rowlands) in the present day, who are reliving Noah and Allie’s story from a notebook.

The film paints a beautiful picture of love in old age.

“I think that’s what all young couples aspire to be,” Sparks said, “to meet someone that they’re going to love forever and someone that’s going to care about them forever. This is a story about everlasting love. That’s what it comes down to.”

“What you want is someone who’s going to love you through all the difficult challenges of your life,” he said.

As for how couples get together, Sparks thinks every situation is unique, and it’s hard to predict how true love comes about.

“I met my wife on spring break in Florida,” he said. “The day after we met I told her we’d get married.” They’ve now been married 15 years and have five children.

It all “depends on the person you meet,” he said, adding that agreement “on the big things” like religion, child-rearing, and work responsibilities is essential to a fruitful partnership.

Alzheimer’s disease plays a role in the story, and its effects add to the poignancy of the work. Sparks, however, does not consider “The Notebook” a sad story, calling it “bitter-sweet” instead.

“Bitter and sweet,” he said. “It’s a self-evident word. It’s good and bad. That’s what life is. Parts of it are really sweet, and parts of life are really tough.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

The movie’s official Web site is here.

Nicholas Sparks’ Web site is here.

If you’re interested in getting free copies of the novel and starting a book club, go here.

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