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Nicholas Sparks on his connection with North Carolina's setting for 'The Choice'

Nicholas Sparks on his connection with North Carolina's setting for 'The Choice'
"The Choice," starring Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker, opens in theaters Feb. 5, 2016. (Lionsgate Movies)

Note: The latest film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, "The Choice," opens Feb. 5 The Lionsgate film is a romantic drama about a medical student and a womanizer who fall in love, with complicated consequences.

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We asked Sparks to pick out some photos from the film's North Carolina location and explain his deep connection with the state.

A bungalow belonging to medical student Gabby “was designed and built from scratch by Mark Garner,” Nicholas Sparks says. “It had to be bulldozed for a scene involving a hurricane –a heartbreaking moment for us all.”
A bungalow belonging to medical student Gabby “was designed and built from scratch by Mark Garner,” Nicholas Sparks says. “It had to be bulldozed for a scene involving a hurricane –a heartbreaking moment for us all.” (Dana Hawley)

When I first moved to North Carolina in 1992, I was immediately struck by how varied and vast the landscape was. North Carolina is a rare state that has gentle mountains, expansive farmland, slow-moving rivers and an incredible coastline.

Of a scene involving actors Walker and Palmer, Sparks asks, “Is there anything more romantic than a sunset boat ride?” The author counts North Carolina’s mountains, farmland, rivers and coastline among its attractions.
Of a scene involving actors Walker and Palmer, Sparks asks, “Is there anything more romantic than a sunset boat ride?” The author counts North Carolina’s mountains, farmland, rivers and coastline among its attractions. (Dana Hawley)

Practically every city has its own identity, idiosyncrasies and charms, but the beauty of the state as a whole is unparalleled, and I knew when I started writing "The Notebook" that North Carolina (where I then lived) would be the setting. Since then, every book I've written has been set in North Carolina.

Setting is a major aspect of my work, both in terms of natural and cultural environments and atmosphere. I love the community, the pace of life, the languid summers and the beautiful small towns that offer memorable backdrops to my stories.

Characters Travis Shaw (Ben Walker) and Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) in the latter’s kitchen. “This is Mark’s set design at its finest: quirky, eclectic, and sweet. Just like Gabby,” Sparks says of Garner’s craft.
Characters Travis Shaw (Ben Walker) and Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) in the latter’s kitchen. “This is Mark’s set design at its finest: quirky, eclectic, and sweet. Just like Gabby,” Sparks says of Garner’s craft. (Dana Hawley)

One of the people who understands this more than anyone is [production designer] Mark Garner. Mark first worked on [the movie version of] "The Notebook" years ago and has worked on many of my films since then, so when I produced "The Choice," I knew that he would be my first call.

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For the Record, 2:10 p.m. Friday: In an earlier version of this post, Nicholas Sparks misidentified production designer Mark Garner as a set designer.

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The Brasserie du Soleil, Sparks says, is the "quintessential small-town restaurant: tables outside, twinkling lights, and the perfect setting to sit outside and enjoy a good meal." As he says, atmosphere is important.
The Brasserie du Soleil, Sparks says, is the "quintessential small-town restaurant: tables outside, twinkling lights, and the perfect setting to sit outside and enjoy a good meal." As he says, atmosphere is important. (James Bridges)

He understands what it takes to bring my vision of North Carolina to life, and he did so perfectly in "The Choice."

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