There will be no storybook ending for Nicholas Sparks and his wife Cathy – the woman who inspired so many of the best-selling author’s novels.
The king of the love story, who has penned 17 romantic novels – nine of which, including The Notebook, have been made into movies – is splitting from his wife of 25 years.
“Cathy and I have separated,” Sparks, 49, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “This is, of course, not a decision we’ve made lightly. We remain close friends with deep respect for each other and love for our children. For our children’s sake, we regard this as a private matter.”
The couple, who married in 1989 – seven years before The Notebook made the young Notre Dame business school grad a literary star – have three sons and twin daughters, ranging in age from 23 to 12.
Though he’s a master at telling love stories, Sparks has always been reluctant to offer real-world romantic advice.
“I don’t like to give marriage tips,” he told PEOPLE in 2003. “There are people who are probably much better at marriage than I am – they’ve lasted a lot longer. I could probably learn from them.”
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