An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life—until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. “Dear John,” the letter read…and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.

    Inspiration for Dear John

    While I’ve earned a reputation as an author who specializes in tragic endings, I want to go on record as saying that my favorite novels to write are those with bittersweet endings.  I love to craft a novel – like The Notebook – in which the characters long to be together but can’t, for fate has conspired to keep them apart.  The problem, however, is that such novels are exceedingly difficult to conceive, let alone write.

    Why, after all, if two people love each other, can’t they be together? 

    A hundred years ago, stories like these were much easier to craft.  Class, race, feuds and religion were “fair game,” but in the 21st century – and especially in the United States – these issues simply don’t ring as true.  Yes, prejudice still exists and in small pockets of society, such issues might still predominate, but as a general rule, prejudice is frowned upon, and I strive to write novels that feel universal to the majority of people.  And besides, in novels where “love is supposed to conquer all,” most readers want to believe that almost any obstacle can be overcome

    What then should serve as the obstacle in the relationship?  What causes the bittersweet ending?  Why can’t the two people be together?

    The most obvious – and relevant – reason that two people who love each other can’t be together is that one or both is already married, and they are loathe to divorce their spouse for family reasons.  This was the “obstacle” that kept the lovers apart in both The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans.

    Yet, I have a problem with that obstacle as well.  While I know it’s real and that it happens, adultery is nothing I want to glamorize.  I’ll be perfectly honest when I say that I find nothing romantic in it.  Nor does my wife.  And, obviously, it’s an obstacle that now lacks in originality, since it’s been overdone in both books and films.

    Wilmington, NC

    Wilmington, NC

    Situated on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, Wilmington is a charming port city near the Cape Fear Coast beach community. Rich in naval history, Wilmington is a modern city with so much to see and do; from a WWII battleship to a Hollywood movie production studio, cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages to music festivals, history museums to contemporary art galleries, elegant restaurants to welcoming nightspots, Wilmington has something for everyone. Wilmington’s thriving beach community makes it the perfect location for chance encounters between lovers – young and old – in Nicholas Spark’s beloved novels, The Last SongDear John and Message in a Bottle.

    This is where, of course, I found myself when conceiving the idea forDear John.  How could I make that idea at least somewhat original?  How can I make it feel universal to the majority of readers?

    In the end, the twist I chose was to have the characters fall in love while both of them were single, only to have separation “forced” upon them.  In this case, I chose the circumstances surrounding the horrors of 9/11 and a soldier who feels the need to re-enlist, thus continuing the separation.   When he finally returns, the girl he’d once loved is now married, and hence, they can no longer be together.   Lovers are kept apart because of marriage, and yet no adultery occurred.

    Everything else in the story – John’s relationship with his father, Savannah’s personality, Tim and his brother, the coin collection – were elements that came later and conceived as ways to best support the story’s bittersweet ending.

    In the end, I was proud of the novel.  It is, in many ways, one of my favorites.  It is also one that I think will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned.

    Dear John - audio excerpt

    The Feature Film

    • Director: Lasse Hallstrom
    • Screenplay: Jamie Linden
    • Cast: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried
    • Run Time: 108 minutes

    Official Dear John Trailer

    About The Film

    Directed by Lasse Halström and based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, Dear John tells the story of John Tyree (Channing Tatum), a young soldier home on leave, and Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), the idealistic college student he falls in love with during her spring vacation. Over the next seven tumultuous years, the couple is separated by Johns increasingly dangerous deployments. While meeting only sporadically, they stay in touch by sending a continuous stream of love letters overseas--correspondence that eventually triggers fateful consequences.

    Book FAQs

    • How do you envision John’s future?

      I’ve never shut the door on a sequel to Dear John, but as always, the first step is to come up with a compelling story. If I can do that, I’ll write it, and then your question will be answered. I can’t say anything more, obviously, since I wouldn’t want to ruin the (possible) story.

    • What do you think of the movie adaptation?

      I enjoyed the film and thought the filmmakers, director and cast did a wonderful job.

    • What details can you give us about the Dear John film?

      Filming took place in late 2008, and it stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. It was largely filmed in the Charleston area of South Carolina. Marty Bowen (Twilight) served as the producer and Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) served as the director.

    • Why did you choose that ending for Dear John (John and Savannah not being together)?

      Because that bittersweet ending, to me, generated more authentic emotional power than either a tragic or happy ending. Moreover, it seemed to fit the story. I try to vary the endings in general so the reader never knows what to expect. Surprise is the final element of the modern love story.

    • Will there be a sequel?

      I’m uncertain. While I didn’t write the novel with a sequel in mind, I’m open to the possibility. If I can come up with a good, original story, I just might do it.