My Secret Life: Nicholas Sparks, 46, author

'I wanted to be an Olympian'
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My parents were… intelligent, kind and occasionally a little in over their heads when it came to children.

When I was a child I wanted to be… a gold medal-winning Olympian. I loved athletics, the 1,800m and 1,500m. I was very good, even up to the collegiate level, but I just did not have what it took to be the elite level. I chose my parents poorly; in the end it does come down to genetics.

If I could change one thing about myself… I would be better at relaxing.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… taekwondo.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... any sport that includes a ball.

I wish I had never worn… the maroon tuxedo to my junior prom.

What I see when I look in the mirror… I see myself and the following question generally pops into my head: 'That's it?'. I remember myself being better looking than that.

My favourite item of clothing… I like a comfortable pair of shoes.

It's not fashionable but I like… going to church.

I drive… a Bentley.

My house is… a low, country-style house, on the water, in North Carolina. It's a great place to unwind and enjoy the beauty of our topography and geography.

My favourite work of art… The photographs of Peter Lik. I just think he's the finest landscape photographer ever.

A book that changed me… Stephen King's The Stand, which taught me the power of telling a story in which the pages literally seem to turn themselves.

Movie heaven… A movie that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, whether it's comedy or horror or a thriller or a drama. If you expect something to be funny and it isn't, that's a bummer. If you expect something to be moving and it isn't, that's a bummer.

The last album I bought… In this world of downloadable songs, I buy them one at a time now. I haven't bought an album in years!

My secret crush… I've been married for 22 years, I don't have too many crushes. There are women I think are attractive but that's where my thinking stops.

My real-life villains… Osama was a real-life villain, we have to go with him. And paedophiles, murderers, and rapists.

The last time I cried… My sister's funeral in 2000.

My five-year plan… To move my business to the point where as much of it is on auto-pilot as possible.

What's the point? Love. Love comes in many forms – for one person; your family, neighbours, friends; passion about your hobbies or work – but if you have no love of any kind in your life, there is no point.

My life in six words… I did my best, my friends.

My life in brief

Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1965. He won a track scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, and following a sports injury, began writing. In 1996, his debut novel The Notebook was published; in 2004 it was made into a hugely popular film. He's since written 16 international bestsellers. Many have been made into movies, including Message in a Bottle, Dear John and The Last Song. The film of Sparks' The Lucky One is out on DVD on Monday. He lives in North Carolina with his family