At some point, you’d think seeing his work converted from the page to film would be no big deal—or at the very least, would lose a little of its luster.

But author Nicholas Sparks is just as excited about the April 20 release of The Lucky One, even if it’s now his seventh best-selling novel that’s been adapted for the big screen.

Not straying far from the love-across-the-miles formula that’s worked so well in The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe and Dear John, The Lucky One is the story of a love that’s tested by rather complicated circumstances. In fact, Sparks says it’s the first book he’s written that was inspired by a single image, namely of a soldier finding a picture and pulling it out from the sand where it’s half buried.

“I became obsessed with what happens when he begins to view this photo as his lucky charm,” Nicholas shares. “That’s how The Lucky One all began. This photo serves as the catalyst for a journey of discovery and healing.”

Exploring the age-old question of fate, and whether destiny was involved in his character’s discovery, Zac Efron was intrigued by the story of a soldier named Logan who recently completed three tours of duty in Iraq. A marked departure from his usual singing, dancing, requisite heartthrob roles, Efron (High School Musical 3Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) jumped into the role with gusto and embraced the rigorous training it required to convincingly portray a soldier.

“Being a big-time perfectionist, I wanted to get it right, and initially, I was convinced I could pull it off,” Zac shares. “But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to Scott [Hicks, the film’s director], I realized if there was ever going to be an opportunity to play a role so different from what I’ve played before, this was it. I knew I had to put in the work to be able to play Logan.”

A Walk to Remember

To get in character, Zac traveled to Camp Pendleton, which is located on the coast of Southern California, so he could spend time with Marines and see what life is like through their eyes.

“When I got there, it was like stepping into a different world. They stood with a purpose. They had laser focus and never broke contact,” Zac shares. “I thought ‘This is my generation on the frontlines. They’ve experienced some pretty gruesome things.’ We sat and talked for several hours, and they were some of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had. In terms of research, it was priceless, and I can’t thank them enough.”