Absolutely. Most of the characters in all of my novels, for instance, would go to church on Sundays, although I don't necessarily describe the service. That's just because most of the people I know in my life go to church on Sundays, and faith is a very important aspect to our lives.
And you really wouldn't see that in a lot of books today or in a lot of movies-it would be considered a strange feature.
Sure, and yet in the little world I live in it's not that way at all. All of our friends go to church on Sunday.
The theme of long-term faithfulness between a man and a woman--usually despite the odds--appears often in your work. Is that a function of your faith?
Absolutely. For example, I have not--nor do I intend to write-- a book with adultery in it, just because I find there is no nobility in it, and I don't want to romanticize such a thing at all. Granted, my books do have characters engage in premarital relations, but usually I'm implying that this will be a long-term commitment, going into the future. The two are genuinely in love and they genuinely intend to be with each other forever. Granted it's still a sin, but granted I write love stories. There's not much I can do about these things.
But they absolutely come from my faith. I just am not comfortable writing about one-night stands, about people who do not attach any morality to an act of intimacy at all. I come from a long line of people who have been married for a long, long time. And then my wife comes from the same thing: her grandparents were married for 60 years, her parents have been married coming up on about 40 years.
The single most important aspect of any relationship is the belief in commitment, which of course implies that you're faithful, that you're not going to do anything to harm the other person.
Moving on to the film, what religious or spiritual elements of the book "A Walk to Rememebr" did you hope would be carried over into the movie?
When I wrote that novel, it was very much a challenge. I wanted to do a young love story, a story of first love. But I did not want young characters having intimate relations at a young age. So I created a character that had a really strong faith, and it's her faith that redeems the boy who's fallen in love with her. She doesn't change, because her faith is strong-she's the daughter of a minister. Her faith is very strong, and yet she doesn't preach--she leads by example. Because of this, people think she's odd at times. And yet this feeling also leads to redemption and healing for a variety of people. She never wavers in her faith at all. And her own relationship with her father stays strong. All of those elements made the transition from the novel to the film.
Is it your sense that the media--book publishing, movies, etc.--needs to be more open to spiritual or religious themes now than they were in the past?
It's always difficult to do it well. They're open to it, but it has to be handled with a very deft hand because nobody wants to come out of a film feeling they've been preached to. They just want to enjoy it. It was the same thing when I wrote my novel. Most of the people who work in Hollywood are Jewish, and certainly I did not set out to offend them, nor did I intend to offend anyone who happened to be Muslim, or atheist. I wanted to write a book first and foremost that anyone could enjoy, and yet Christianity played an incredible central role throughout the entire novel, as it does throughout the entire film.
The music industry, certainly. Then books, TV, and film, in that order. You can have a TV show, "Touched by an Angel," for example-where you can make a choice right in your living room to watch it or change the channel. But if you're paying to see a movie, it's different.
What do you hear from your fans on religious or spiritual matters?
Well, "The Notebook" is a story of unconditional, everlasting love, which is essentially what Jesus meant. And Noah [the hero of "The Notebook"] was almost a human personification of that-not that he was perfect, but people were moved that he could love his spouse so deeply after going through such a terrible time. Most of the letters that I got said "Noah was like my dad/my grandfather/my husband"-they mentioned someone very close to them. It's nice to know that there are many, many people who are just the same.
"A Walk to Remember" was picked up by the Christian Book Club--with three word changes. That was it. And they loved it. I got a lot of play throughout a lot of the Christian media. They were mainly thrilled that Jamie was a real person, not idealized, but with a really strong faith. And you know, sometimes it's not all roses when you're that way.