A Guide to Nicholas Sparks’ North Carolina

The following article first appeared in The Pilot on Oct. 21, 2018.

Nicholas Sparks, the New Bern author known for “The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember” and other massively successful romance novels, will headline a sold-out event Monday at Pinecrest High School.

While the writer has yet to base a story in the Sandhills, each of his 20 novels are set in North Carolina. Following is a guide to some of the Old North State locales that have appeared in Sparks’ books.

Location: New Bern | Population: 30,101 | Featured in “The Notebook” (1996); “A Bend in the Road” (2001); and “The Wedding” (2003)

Sparks’ first and arguably best-known novel, “The Notebook,” is set in New Bern, where the author lives. The tearjerker inspired a popular film that catapulted actors Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams to stardom. 

Other Sparks novels set in New Bern include “A Bend in the Road” and “The Wedding,” which is a sequel to “The Notebook.”

Location: Wilmington | Population: 119,045 | Featured in “Message in a Bottle” (1998); “Dear John” (2006); “The Choice” (2007); and “See Me” (2015)

Several of Sparks’ most popular stories are set on the beaches of Wilmington. Three of his four novels based in the city, “Message in a Bottle,” “Dear John” and “The Choice,” have been adapted for the big screen.

The film adaptation of “Message in a Bottle” brought in more than $118 million at the box office when it was released in 1999, making it the highest-grossing movie based on a Sparks novel.

Location: Beaufort | Population: 4,199 | Featured in “A Walk to Remember” (1999)

Following the back-to-back successes of “The Notebook” and “Message in a Bottle,” Sparks was perhaps reluctant to veer far from the Carolina coast. His third novel, the coming-of-age romance “A Walk to Remember,” is set in Beaufort, seat of government for Carteret County.

In 2002, the book was adapted into a movie starring Mandy Moore and Shane West.

Location: Edenton | Population: 4,846 | Featured in: “The Rescue” (2000)

Sparks looked north for inspiration when writing his fourth novel. “The Rescue” takes place in Edenton, seat of government for Chowan County, and features fictional characters who volunteer at the town’s fire department.

Location: Rodanthe | Population: 261 | Featured in “Nights in Rodanthe” (2002)

Sparks’ sixth novel is sent in the eponymous unincorporated community, which is located in Dare County. The book was adapted into a 2008 film starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane.

While all of Sparks’ novels are set in North Carolina, “Nights in Rodanthe” holds the distinction of being the only one of his books to include its location in the title.

Location: Swansboro | Population: 2,663 | Featured in “The Guardian” (2003)

Like his previous stories, Sparks’ seventh novel unfolds in Eastern North Carolina. The small Oslow County town of Swansboro serves as the backdrop for “The Guardian.”

The setting was familiar, but the book’s tone marked a departure for the writer. “The Guardian” is a romantic thriller that Sparks said was influenced by the works of Agatha Christie and Stephen King.

Location: Southport | Population: 3,625 | Featured in “Safe Haven” (2010)

Sparks’ 15th novel is set in the Brunswick County city of Southport. Some scenes from the film adaptation of “Safe Haven” were filmed in the city.

Location: Oriental | Population: 900 | Featured in “The Best of Me” (2011)

One of the smallest North Carolina towns featured in a Sparks novel, Oriental occupies little over a mile of Pamilco County. A film adaptation of “The Best of Me” was released in 2014.

Location: Black Mountain | Population: 7,848 | Featured in “The Longest Ride” (2013)

Sparks’ 17th novel was partly inspired by Black Mountain College, the venerable liberal arts school that operated near Asheville from 1933 to 1957. “The Longest Ride” is also Sparks’ longest book, clocking in at 568 pages.

Location: Charlotte | Population: 859,035 | Featured in “Two by Two” (2016)

Breaking again from his tradition of setting stories in small communities along the Carolina coast, Sparks based his 19th novel in the state’s most-populated metropolis.

Location: Sunset Beach | Population: 3,572 | Featured in “Every Breath” (2018)

Released earlier this month, Sparks’ 20th novel takes place in the seaside community of Sunset Beach. A swath of the town, which is part of the metropolitan area for Myrtle Beach, is located on a barrier island.

Fictional settings in the state | Featured in “True Believer” (2005); “At First Sight” (2005); “The Lucky One” (2012)

On his website, Sparks writes that “True Believer,” a supernatural romance novel, and its prequel “At First Sight” were both partly inspired by the “legend of the Brown Mountain lights, a mysterious phenomena of lights that occurred regularly in western North Carolina.”

But because Sparks wanted to set the books in the eastern part of the state, he decided to recast the Brown Mountain legend in the fictional town of Boone Creek. Sparks later based the small fictional community in “The Lucky One” on towns in the Blue Mountain region, according to his website.