Principles of Finance

By Sally Anne Flecker | Fall 2012

Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks ('88) applied business thinking to writing novels

Undergraduate business majors, take note. Given the chance, best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks would major in finance all over again—and not just because it helps him when it comes to managing the wealth he’s earned from 18 books and seven movies, including The Notebook, The Lucky One and A Walk to Remember. “The study of numbers uses the other side of your brain,” he says. “It helps when it comes to the conception of the story, the structure of the story, the pacing, because there’s an actual logic to those things.”

That Sparks is a writer at all is owed, in part, to his mother. A track-and-field scholar at Notre Dame, he was told to put away his running shoes for one summer after his freshman year due to an overuse injury.
Accustomed to running every day, he went a little stir-crazy. “My mom got tired of it,” he remembers. “She said, ‘Don’t just pout, do something. Go write a book or something.’”

By summer’s end, he had completed his first novel. “The quality was poor,” he says. “But I was mainly writing to see if I could write a novel.” A few years later, Sparks wrote a second one, inspired by an elective course in American fiction. In the end, he decided there were parts of writing he enjoyed, but he could never make a living at it. Famous last words.

Five years later, married with small children and working as a pharmaceutical rep, he sat down at the keyboard again. This time, his goal was different. “It was not enough to finish,” he says. “I wanted it to be great. I wanted it to be a novel that lots and lots of people could love.” That novel was The Notebook. It garnered him a million-dollar advance—and changed his mind forever about making a career as a writer, to the lasting delight of readers and moviegoers all over the world.