Newspaperman Wally Avett turns novelist

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 10:16 AM

Wally Avett is used to seeing his name in print. As a columnist for a weekly paper in Murphy, Avett’s name has been published for years.

But, that did not stop him from bubbling with excitement and pride at seeing his name attached to his first published novel, “Murder in Caney Fork,” which was released on March 15.

“I felt great,” Avett said. “You’re basically a storyteller looking for an audience. Yeah, there it sits.”

As a journalist, Avett has collected the tales and stories of people he has met in his line of work and in the various small towns he has lived in, including Hudson. “Murder in Caney Fork” is based on one of those stories that he believes is true about relatives of a man he met who took the law into their own hands during World War II and killed someone for revenge.

“I tweaked it,” Avett said. “I moved it around a little bit. There are instances of vigilante slayings here in these mountains. Many of them I’ve heard of.”

For Avett, sitting down to write a novel was not the hard part. Instead, he struggled with fleshing out the story so that it did not become one of his newspaper articles.

“In the newspaper, you’re trying to tell a story about the school board meeting you just attended or the car wreck, and in a novel, you’re telling a much longer story. I think one of the things I fight with is brevity,” Avett said.

Avett was able to approach writing with a different view from many popular authors. He said he could never write the ending of a book first or go through multiple versions with lots of rewriting.

“The way I do it is I get up early in the morning and make a pot of coffee,” Avett said. “And before breakfast, before anything, I would write. I would write four to six typewritten pages. I’ve worked for newspapers for years. There isn’t time for (rewriting). During my regular daytime job, I would be thinking about the plot. It was an ongoing process. I knew from start to finish . . . where the story was going.”

He said that working as a journalist prepared him to write “Murder in Caney Fork” and his second novel, to be released in September, “Last Bigfoot in Dixie.”

“My wife was kidding me this morning about dialogue. If you’re a newspaper person, you learn to handle quotes and you better learn to handle them pretty good,” Avett said.

Avett was born in Salisbury and during his college years lived in Hudson with his family. Avett’s brother Jim Avett, a 1965 graduate of Hudson High School, is a musician who was featured in March in the 16th annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase. Jim Avett, who now lives in Concord, is the father of Scott and Seth Avett, the music group The Avett Brothers.

Wally Avett said he grew up with many storytellers in the family, like his mother’s brother, who took him and his siblings to Civil War battlefields and museums.

“I have a soft spot for Caldwell County,” Avett said. “I liked Caldwell County. I like the people there. I liked to fish on Lake Rhodhiss and water ski.”

Avett said he always heard about journalists wanting to write “the Great American novel,” and while “I don’t know if ‘Murder in Caney Fork’ is the Great American novel,” it is something he is very proud of.

“You write two to four pages everything morning, you can knock out a book,” he said.