When writing his novels, Nicholas Sparks aims to write a story that feels real and evokes genuine emotion.
The acclaimed author and Trent Woods resident soon will unveil his 18th novel — “The Longest Ride.”
The book will be available Tuesday — the day he kicks off a book-signing tour at 8 a.m. at Target in New Bern.
“It comes down to I hope they enjoy the novel,” Sparks said. “I write them because I want people to read them, enjoy them and remember them.”
“The Longest Ride” is the newest Sparks’ novel since “The Best of Me” appeared in 2011.
And it’s his first attempt at a dual love story.
The story documents two couples, ages apart, from western North Carolina. Not knowing each other, their lives cross paths in a surprising ending.
“It’s a story of two distinct couples — Ira and Ruth — and there is this love story that spans decades,” Sparks said. “I think an ending that surprises the reader is the best kind of ending for any particular story. It’s important because that makes for a very memorable story.”
Luke is a bull rider, living on a ranch in King. He meets Sophia, a sorority girl at Wake Forest University.
They are two people with a polarity of characteristics.
Sparks’ inspiration for Luke, and the rodeo and life on a ranch, was based on his brother-in-law, Bob.
“My sister, she’s deceased. She passed away 13 years ago. She was married to a guy named Bob. Bob lives on a ranch,” Sparks said. “The ranch in ‘The Longest Ride’ is that ranch, right to the pumpkins, the Christmas trees, the number of cattle right down to the horse named Horse, and his dog was named Dog.
“Sophia, like most of the female characters I have created, she is inspired by my wife in many ways — intelligence, humor, kindness, loyalty, generosity,” he said.
On the other side, there is Ira Levinson, who, while faced with adversity, can’t help but recall his memories of his late wife Ruth, who had a passion for artwork.
“Sophia and Luke are very real characters. So are Ira and Ruth,” Sparks said. “They have the same hopes and fears and dreams that everyone has.”
While writing “The Longest Ride,” Sparks researched and studied every aspect of artwork, rodeos, bull riding, maintaining a ranch and sorority life.
It took him three months to create the concept before beginning to write it.
“What I wanted to do was write the story where you really appreciated the distinct love story of these two couples,” Sparks said. “Hopefully, the reader will wonder how on Earth these stories are going to intersect and what’s going to happen in the end.”
Sparks wrote most of “The Longest Ride” with western North Carolina in mind, but he includes portions from the eastern part of the state.
“This state has so much variety, from the coast to the mountains to the Piedmont,” Sparks said. “I write about small town life, so I am very happy writing my novels here.”
Sparks sold his story to Fox, and the movie for “The Longest Ride” is expected to be released in early 2015. Sparks is a producer for the movie.
Sparks always kicks off his book-signing tours in New Bern to give back to the town he lives in.
“New Bern was very instrumental in my career, in many ways,” Sparks said. “I wrote ‘The Notebook’ while I was here. I set ‘The Notebook’ in New Bern, and much of the scenes in ‘The Notebook’ were drawn from my life when I was living on Brices Creek.
“New Bern had a very good turnout in my first signing and I live here,” he said. “I try to be involved in the community, and this is my chance to do my best and get them all signed.”
Adam Thompson is a reporter for the Sun Journal.