When the Salem College student found out about Maria — Sparks’ first Hispanic protagonist — Rios, who is also Hispanic, was enthusiastic.
At “An Evening with Nicholas Sparks” on Tuesday, Rios got two signed books — one for herself and one for her brother, who lives in Texas.
Rios said it was actually her brother that got her into Sparks’ work.
“Isn’t that weird? A guy. A guy got me into Nicholas Sparks,” she said.
Rios said her brother was very jealous she was getting to see Sparks.
“And I’m very happy that he is,” she said, laughing. “At least I got him a book.”
The event was hosted by Flyleaf Books and held at the Carolina Club. Jamie Fiocco, owner of Flyleaf Books, said she was excited to work with an author who has had success over different types of media, considering Sparks has not only written best-selling novels but has also written many screenplay adaptations of them.
“He’s a North Carolina author. He’s a New York Times best-selling author,” she said. “We’d be crazy not to want to host him.”
During the talk, which was held in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, Sparks talked about a range of topics, from the writing of “See Me” to coaching track and field to owning his own movie production company.
Sparks said “See Me” is a story of love and danger, similar to the themes of his previous books “The Guardian” and “Safe Haven.”
“Before you know it, you’re caught up in something that you didn’t know was happening at the time,” he said.
While Sparks said he tries to vary as much as possible from book to book, he does intentionally keep some things the same.
“I write love stories, so ‘she’ meets a guy,” he said.
Sparks said he writes dialogue in his novels the way he most often hears it in real life, lending an element of realism to his writing.
“What I try to create are stories and events that feel like they could happen to anyone,” he said.
Sparks said he wants to depict a real picture of human life, and he sees sadness and death as a part of that.
“The purpose of a novel like mine is to move the reader through the range of human emotion, so they feel like they’ve experienced a full life by the time they close the cover,” he said.
As far as his writing process, Sparks said he’s never really been bothered by the ‘where’ of writing, as he’s finished novels in hotel rooms, in airplanes and on living room floors with kids crawling on him.
Sparks said he wanted to write a Hispanic main character because there are more Hispanics in the South than there were 20 years ago.
“The world is becoming more global,” he said. “Let’s reflect that reality.”
Rios said she planned on going home and reading “See Me” right then. Because of her own experience as a Hispanic woman mixing into Southern culture, she said she was excited to see how Maria mixes into the culture of Wilmington, where the book is set.
“I’m pretty sure she’s going to be my favorite character yet.”