The story, about two teens who fall in love but must deal with tragedy, is "the most spiritual" of all his novels, said Sparks, whose earlier novel Message in a Bottle was also made into a major motion picture.
In A Walk to Remember, high school student Landon Carter discovers his own faith after beginning a relationship with Jamie Sullivan, a minister's daughter and fellow student. Tragically, Jamie is dying of leukemia, yet she and Landon cement their love by getting married near the novel's end. The "walk to remember" refers literally to Jamie's walk down the aisle at her wedding, and figuratively to her walk of faith, which impacts others because, as Landon says, "Jamie led her life the way the Bible taught," modeling compassion, patience, optimism and forgiveness while suffering.
"The story is all about the beauty, power, and innocence of first love," Sparks said. "I wanted to really show them deeply in love - not in lust, but in true love."
Although that love comes from God, Sparks said, he doesn't have any particular message of faith that he hopes to communicate to readers and audiences through the story, beyond a reverence for love. "I didn't set out to write something that would change the world," he said. "I set out to write an entertaining story. I don't necessarily believe that the job of a novel is to preach, but I did set out to inspire people and to touch them."
Seeing such a good and faithful person as Jamie suffer deeply may disturb some people, Sparks said, since people have always struggled with the issue of God allowing pain. Still, he said, "Suffering and loss and grief are part of the natural order of things. But without suffering, there can be no compassion, and what would life be like without compassion?"
Sparks, who is Catholic, said his faith is a "very important" part of his own life as well as the lives of others who worked to bring the film to the screen. Sparks did not write the screenplay (writer Karen Janszen did), but he believes the movie will be just as inspirational as the novel.
Most of the story was left intact, but the setting was changed from the 1950s to the 1990s to make the story more modern and attract more of today's teens to the film, he said.