Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song Tour

See the Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song Tour map


Nicholas Sparks is a New York Times bestselling author. Many of his novels have been adapted into films, which has led Sparks into screenwriting and producing his stories. The narratives he creates within his literature always feature North Carolina places, with the settings becoming crucial facets of his books.

Sparks was born on December 31, 1965, in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was a professor at California State University and his mother was an optometrist’s assistant.[1] He was raised mostly in Fair Oaks, California, where he cultivated his love of reading, and also of running. As he grew up, he dreamed of being an Olympic track athlete. His future in track promised greatness—he attended the University of Notre Dame on a full track scholarship[2]--but a tendon injury at 19 directed his life on a different path. As he recovered from his injury, he followed his mother’s suggestion that he write a book, and in doing so, he cultivated a love of writing.

Sparks married his now ex-wife, Catherine Cote, in 1989, and the two settled in New Bern, North Carolina, where Sparks worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. He achieved success with his 1996 novel The Notebook, and a year later, in 1997, he received a Book of the Year nomination from the American Booksellers Association for the novel.[3] His fame rapidly grew, with subsequent best-selling romance novels and popular film adaptations of his books. As of 2018, he has written over twenty novels, with eleven of them adapted into films.[4]

Faith and spirituality are prominent concepts in his literature, often prominently featured with his various romantic plots. Sparks grew up as a Roman Catholic and still practices the faith, considering it an essential element of his overall identity. Characters within his books often reflect on God, their relationships with Providence, and the evolving, dynamic role of spirituality in their lives.

Sparks still resides in North Carolina and is active in local and national charities. He has established The Nicholas Sparks Foundation, which is a non-profit organization advocating for education and enriched global learning for students across the country, especially those in disadvantaged circumstances.[5] According to the Foundation website, their “mission and programs are directly inspired by Nicholas Sparks’ personal experience as a world-traveling author, a father of five children, a school founder, and a longtime resident of rural North Carolina. A passionate advocate for education, Nicholas is devoted to transforming lives through globally-focused college-preparatory learning.”[6]

Last Song Tour Description

The Nicholas Sparks Walking Tour, part of the Special Collections and University Archives North Carolina Literary Map, pertains to specific sites in the proximity of Wilmington, North Carolina. Sparks, famous for his best-selling romance novels, always features North Carolina locations in his work. This walking tour, in particular, focuses on the sites and locations featured in Spark’s novel The Last Song. The story takes place primarily in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, extending into cities such as Wilmington and other adjacent coastal regions. Participants of the tour, regardless of whether they partake in it virtually or on foot, will learn of several locations imperative to the overall story Sparks weaves in The Last Song. The landscapes that the character Ronnie witnesses, the sites at which key characters undergo salient transformations, and the locations in which seminal plot points transpire can be experienced when visiting the identified sites on the map. The Nicholas Sparks Walking Tour aspires to serve fans of Spark’s literature, individuals with an affinity for Wrightsville Beach, and/or cultural tourists interested in learning more about the literary heritage of North Carolina.

Place Description

Wrightsville Beach is a coastal town, east of Wilmington, North Carolina, in New Hanover County. Geographically, the town consists of multiple islands: a beach island approximately four miles long and an interior one called Harbor Island. Part of the town is also located on the mainland. Wrightsville Beach is advertised as a coastal town retaining a village-like sense of removal from the world, as well as being North Carolina’s most accessible beach from interstate I-40.[7] The town draws a large number of tourists during the summer months who enjoy the beach’s renowned watersports, blue waters, white sand and surf, the waterfowl sanctuary, and the Johnny Mercer Pier.[8] Hurricane Hazel, the only documented Category 4 hurricane to directly hit North Carolina’s coast, impacted the town greatly, ultimately shaping its future. On October 15, 1954, at high tide (and with a full moon already affecting tidal movements), Hurricane Hazel hit Wrightsville Beach and wreaked havoc on homes and properties. Around 200 houses were destroyed and approximately 500 were damaged.[9] However, the 1960s marked the revitalization of the town as homes and properties were rebuilt.

  • [1] "Nicholas Sparks." Newsmakers, vol. 1, Gale, 2010. Biography in Context, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
  • [2] Nicholas Sparks." Newsmakers, vol. 1, Gale, 2010. Biography in Context, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
  • [3] Nicholas Sparks." Newsmakers, vol. 1, Gale, 2010. Biography in Context, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
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