Nicholas Sparks shows love for new genres

Nicholas Sparks has a new book out this week, and to no one’s surprise, it’s a love story.

That “See Me” is also a thriller passes for a mild surprise, although North Carolina’s most successful novelist has ably pulled off this trick before – most recently in 2010’s “Safe Haven.”

So if you’re looking for a major curveball from Sparks, who visited Charlotte on Wednesday as part of his new-book tour, try this: The New Bern author is working with ABC to develop a comedy titled “The Next Chapter,” which centers around a best-selling romance novelist who is recently divorced.

Why that strikes a chord? Sparks and his wife of 25 years separated in January.

“Most of the media reports that it’s my story, that it’s about me, and it isn’t,” Sparks said of the proposed series, as he sat forward on (what else?) a love seat in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton in uptown.

“It’s about a funny idea, and the idea is this: A guy who’s made a very successful living writing love stories gets divorced after a long period of time from his high school sweetheart, and he realizes that while the world thinks he knows everything about love and romance, maybe he doesn’t. Sure, there’s always the possibility that people read into it that it’s my life. But the characters in the story are not me. The wife is not Cathy. I have five children, there are only two children in the show. What led to the (split), that’s not what happened.”

For the moment, both that and the proposed TV reboot of Sparks’ “The Notebook” (for The CW network) are merely in the development stages. His sure thing right now is “See Me.”

The new book – which, like all of his stories, is set in North Carolina – focuses on a young man named Colin Hancock, who is trying to shed negative influences in his life, and Maria Sanchez, a hardworking lawyer and daughter of Mexican immigrants who has her own dark past.

As Sparks explains it: “You don’t have any idea who the bad guy – or bad girl – is. There’s a lot of confusion as to what’s happening. It is more of a twisty mystery thriller ... similar to the kinds of thrillers Harlan Coben might write. Or how about this: My attempt to do what Harlan Coben does so exceptionally well.”

“See Me” is Book No. 19 for Sparks, whose uber-popular debut novel “The Notebook” landed 19 years ago this month and was the basis for a 2004 film that has become “The Godfather” of romantic movies.

Since then, enthusiasm for Sparks has not ebbed: All week, “See Me” has been jockeying for position atop’s list of bestselling works of fiction with Andy Weir’s “The Martian” (now playing at a theater near you).

And – as he typically does the week of every new book release – he spent several hours cheerfully plowing through the long line of people waiting for him to sign books at the Arboretum’s Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, a day after doing the same at Books-A-Million in New Bern. He’ll be at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday for more of the same.

“It’s about pacing appropriately,” the 49-year-old author said, smiling. “My hand does not get tired, ever. But when you get a camera flash and then you have to immediately focus down on the page to write, then up again – flash! – and then down again, 2,000 times... my eyes do get tired.”

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Twitter: @theodenjanes