There are a few things Jeremy Marsh was sure he’d never do: he’d never leave New York City; never give his heart away after barely surviving one failed marriage; and never become a parent. Now Jeremy is living in the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, engaged to Lexie Darnell, the love of his life, and anticipating the start of their family. But just as his life seems to be settling into a blissful pattern, a mysterious and disturbing e-mail sets off a chain of events that will change the course of this young couple’s relationship. How well do we really know the ones we love? How do we handle the inevitable doubts, fears concerning parenthood, and stumbling blocks that are sometimes placed in our way? Continuing the story of the young couple introduced in Sparks’s bestselling True Believer, this novel captures all the heartbreak, tension, romance and surprises of those who are newly wed. An astonishing tale about the love between a man and a woman and between a parent and a child, At First Sight is about endings that bring new beginnings . . . tragedies that lead to unexpected joy . . . and, most of all, the magic of everlasting love.

    Inspiration for At First Sight

    The idea for this book arrived in a burst of inspiration. This seldom happens, by the way. For me, anyway. Usually, the creative process seems less creative and inspiration-based than tedious. As a general rule, I’ll go through hundreds, if not thousands of ideas, before I’m ready to start writing. I come up with a general theme, then try to come up with the best plot I can to explore that theme, then create characters who fit both the theme and the plot. For the most part, I simply sit at my desk and ask myself, “What if?. . .” and try out the various answers. As in, “What if . . . I want to use the theme love and mystery. Okay, what’s the mystery? Is someone missing? Who? Or is something missing? Or is the mystery about an event? Hmmm. . . .” I might lean back in my chair, tap my finger against my jaw and then come up with possible answers. After that, I ask, “Then what?” Little by little, I get closer and closer to the story. Usually, this process takes anywhere from one to two months.

    Not so with At First Sight. The idea for this story came on a cloudy afternoon in late January, when I was bringing my son back from the track. I’d turned in the first draft of True Believer, and my editor had suggested that I rewrite the ending. (Essentially, she wanted a more linear ending; the original ending jumped around, since it covers a few years). I knew why she wanted a linear ending . . . but I couldn’t figure out a way to do it while still retaining the suspense and tension that I felt the novel needed. I went round and round a hundred times, trying and failing to work it out in my mind. Needless to say, due to the difficulties in writing True Believer, I was already massively behind on my deadline. That novel was due to be published in April, and was going to press in February. No matter what the solution was, I had to figure it out quick.

    At the same time, I was supposed to have a second novel published in 2005. Technically, that second was due now (like I said, I was really far behind), and I hadn’t even begun to think of what the story might be.

    All these thoughts were going through my head, the pressure was building. While stopped at a traffic light, I turned to my son and said, “You know what I should do? I should take the original ending of True Believer and expand that into a new novel. That’s the only way to make the ending linear, to give it the pages it deserves but still keep the tension that the story needs.”

    Pamlico County, NC

    Pamlico County, NC

    Pamlico County, the county that inspired the fictitious city of “Boone Creek” is a coastal land with wide-open spaces and calming expanses of water. The county was historically an entry point for English explorers who, in the 1500s, entered the area through the Pamlico Sound. Today, the natural environment plays an important role in the county’s economy, which is tied to farming, fishing, forestry and tourism. Because Pamlico County is so peaceful and harmonious with the natural environment, it is becoming a significant destination for recreation and retirement. “Boone Creek,” imagined by Nicholas Sparks to be like many of the small towns in the area, is the ideal location for Jeremy Marsh, the ultimate New Yorker, to find respite – and mystery – in the creeks, woods, and marshes of Pamlico County.

    “So do it,” my thirteen year old said with a shrug.

    “I don’t know if I can,” I said, but as we continued our drive home, I found myself growing more and more excited with the idea. This was the answer not only to all my problems—including coming up with an idea for the next novel—but more importantly, it was something I’d never done before. I’d never written a prequel and sequel, and it’s important to me as a writer to continually come up with new ways to surprise the reader. As the number of novels I’ve written has increased, surprises are more and more difficult to pull off. It would be easy to get lazy, to write the same story over and over again as most authors do, but that’s not something I think my readers deserve.

    As soon as I got home, I called my agent. The idea was so shocking—it required, after all, a different ending to True Believer and a whole new way of thinking about the story—that it took her a moment to process the idea. But as I explained my reasoning—I kept thinking I was missing something, but the more I talked, the more convinced I became—my agent first warmed to the idea, and then, as it set in, loved the idea. The same thing happened with my editor.

    Taken together, I think True Believer and At First Sight make for a wonderful story. Of course, they can be read as individual novels or even in the opposite order, but to get the full impact, my own belief is that you should read both and in the order they were written.

    At First Sight - audio excerpt

    Book FAQs

    • Why did you choose for Lexie to die?

      There are three, and only three, possible endings for a novel in my genre: happy endings, bittersweet, or tragic endings. At the same time, one of the key elements of the genre in which I work is to tell an original story, one where the end can’t be predicted. With only three choices of an ending, frankly, I have to vary them depending on the story. In this novel, because of the theme and story, I chose a tragic ending. At First Sight is without a doubt the most tragic of all my novels. At the same time, it’s a novel that will linger in the reader’s memory for a long time. In the end—like Romeo and Juliet—tragedy sometimes makes that possible.

    • Did you panic like Jeremy when it was time to head to the hospital?

      No, I was a bit more calm. I did, however, take a shower (a quick one), but by the time I finished, my wife was having another contraction and was speaking to a friend on the phone. Let’s just say that sweeter and kinder things have been said about me.

    • Where did you get the idea for the emails?

      I can’t remember specifically, but I can say that it was an idea that I’d slowly been working toward all along. I knew I wanted to add some tension to the relationship, and Jeremy’s situation (as described in True Believer) seemed the perfect way to do that. I wasn’t sure, however, how Jeremy should begin to question whether the baby was his. Did someone new show up in town? Was it a phone call? A letter? In the end, I decided to use an e-mail.

    • How similar was Lexie’s pregnancy to your wife’s?

      It was somewhat similar to all of them. I took bits and pieces from Cat’s pregnancies and molded them into something Lexie could call her own.

    • Was this novel inspired by anyone in your family?

      No, not really. Lexie’s character, and her pregnancy, are modeled after my wife. Jeremy, in some ways, resembles my brother; in other ways, he’s similar to me. But there was no specific family member who inspired the story.

    • Jeremy is hastily packing, and one of the things he packs is a Dop kit. What is it?

      A shaving kit. It’s what I’ve always called it.

    • Have you sold the film rights?

      Yes. Rights have been sold for both True Believer and At First Sight.

    • How about the other places mentioned in the novel: Herb’s, the library, the cemetery, Greenleaf Cottages?

      For the most part, they were all made up. There is, however, a Cedar Grove (not Cedar Creek) Cemetery in New Bern, and I used this as the model for the cemetery in both True Believer.