Meet the best Asheville authors, poets, and writers. Explore their fantastic books to add to your reading list.
Are you traveling to Asheville and looking for local authors to read? Or, do you live in North Carolina and want to see the inspiration behind the stories?
With UNC-Asheville in town along with the city’s inspiring Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is home to and connected with a plethora of amazing writers.
Not to mention that Western North Carolina (WNC) is the perfect destination for book lovers with “The Hunger Games” waterfalls, Wolfe boarding home, champagne used bookstore, and Shakespeare in the Park. It’s no wonder that so many people come to AVL for inspiration.
Today, contemporary Asheville writers publish bestselling small-town fiction with plots set in Asheville or cities like it against the works of older authors – both visitors and residents – like the Fitzgeralds and Thomas Wolfe.
Let’s not forget the greater WNC region, too, for giving us writers like Carl Sandburg and Jan Karon. So, who are some of the best local authors in Asheville?
Keep reading for a unique list of Asheville writers, poets, and essayists who have contributed to the city’s literary canon. We’ll mix in a few other NC authors too.
Don’t forget to share your favorite famous author from Asheville (or three) in the comments. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
27 Best Asheville Authors & Their Books
Please keep in mind that these are just a few local Asheville authors. Some of these novelists and poets have relocated over time or merely wrote in and around the Asheville region. Not all of the books mentioned are penned in Asheville, NC, either. You may also enjoy these books set in, from, and about North Carolina.
Classic & Historical Fiction Writers
Thomas Wolfe is the most famous author from Asheville. You might know him best from Look Homeward, Angel, a historical fiction novel that reads like a hyperbolic autobiography.
Wolfe penned 4 large and intense novels in his lifetime along with a series of novellas, dramatic works, and short stories. Born and raised in Asheville, Wolfe died at the age of 38 in Maryland.
You cannot visit Asheville without stopping by The Thomas Wolfe Memorial, which is located in his mother’s boarding home on Market Street in Downtown AVL. Take a guided tour. We promise, this is one of the best things to do in Asheville, and you won’t regret the local stories and gossip. Plus, enjoy a short film and visit the small museum, full of photographs and mementos from Wolfe’s life.
If you have time, drive over to Montford’s Historic District to see where Wolfe and his parents are buried at Riverside Cemetery. Pay your respects by leaving a pen, and be sure to look for W.O.’s famous angels throughout the grounds. A free map and walking pamphlet at the entrance will help guide you.
Just know that the cemetery is also said to be pretty haunted. This is an active cemetery too so please be respectful and conscience of your surroundings. Read more about Asheville’s top literary sites.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
While not a North Carolina native, F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the most well-known local authors in Asheville because of his time writing here.
We always eat up rumors of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s AVL summers – the summer of 1935 and 1936, specifically – at the historic Omni Grove Park Inn. Gossip has it that he allegedly shot at the ceiling one drunken night and was kicked out.
Fitzgerald suffered from his own demons and vices and would spend these summers writing. He is, of course, famous for The Great Gatsby, an American classic set in Long Island.
Today, Fitzgerald’s beloved Grove Park Inn is a gorgeous place to stay for luxury travelers. The resort sits on top of North Asheville‘s Sunset Mountain. Visitors can enjoy rooftop restaurants, the world-renowned spa, and the best sunset viewing spots in town. Vacation like Fitzgerald – well, minus the quinine. Read more about Fitzgerald’s tumultuous time in Asheville on NPR.
Readers tend to overlook F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife and another one of the most prominent Asheville writers, Zelda Fitzgerald.
Zelda’s mental health concerns brought her to Asheville and Highland Hospital – a more progressive health institution for its time. Unfortunately, Zelda perished in the accidental fire there, a story that Lee Smith captures in her novel, Guests On Earth. You might know Zelda best, though, from her novel, Save Me The Waltz.
Today, take a haunted LaZoom Bus Comedy tour, and you might just “meet” Zelda. Have a beer or two first, though. While in the Montford neighborhood – if it’s May through October – catch a free weekend Shakespeare in the Park performance.
Contemporary Fiction Writers
Sarah Addison Allen
For famous contemporary Asheville authors, Sarah Addison Allen is a feel-good favorite. As a New York Times bestselling writer, her books include Garden Spells and First Frost. She gives readers that small-town feel paired with romance and magical realism.
Allen’s fictional town of Bascom, NC resembles Asheville – where she was born and raised. We also loved Addison’s Other Birds, a story about friendship with ghosts set in South Carolina.
Did you know that bestselling author, Sara Gruen, moved to Asheville? While first looking at Raleigh, she instead landed in Western North Carolina.
Gruen penned Water for Elephants and At The Water’s Edge – a book set in Scotland with Nessie – both of which we loved. Gruen is an award-winning contemporary writer and one of our favorite Asheville authors. Read more about Sara Gruen.
One of the most accomplished Asheville writers, Gail Godwin is the bestselling author of over 14 novels along with many short stories and three nonfiction titles.
Although born in Birmingham, Alabama, Godwin resided in Asheville. As a young woman, she attended St. Genevieve’s of the Pines, a Catholic school. Mountain City is the setting for many of Godwin’s books, a fictional town resembling Asheville. Her book, Unfinished Desires, is based on St. Genevieve’s.
Godwin later worked for The Miami Herald and traveled to Europe, working for the U.S. Travel Service with the Embassy. Read more about Gail Godwin.
John Ehle grew up in West Asheville. He was a contemporary Asheville author designated as “the father of Appalachian literature.” In his lifetime, Ehle wrote over 17 novels and founded the NC School of Arts in Winston-Salem. Ehle was also a six-generation North Carolinian. He fought in WW2 as a rifleman and served on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
His novel, The Land Breakers, is a saga about the Appalachia wilderness and settlement in NC.
Another one of the top New York Times bestselling local authors in Asheville, Wiley Cash is a writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Cash has taught creative writing and literature across North Carolina where he lives with his family.
He has a Ph.D. in American Literature from UL-Lafayette. Cash also holds an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a B.A. in Literature from UNC-Asheville. You might know Wiley Cash from A Land More Kind Than Home and The Dark Road To Mercy. Learn more about Wiley Cash.
A famous author from Asheville, Charles Frazier, is well known for his novel, Cold Mountain, winner of the National Book Award. Not to mention that in 2003, British film director Anthony Minghella adapted the book into a movie. While most of the movie is shot in Romania instead of North Carolina, see what other movies were filmed across NC.
Frazier’s third novel, Nightwoods, is a thriller set in Western North Carolina in the 1960s.
Frazier holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina. He also earned an M.A. from Appalachian State University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina. Read more about Asheville author Charles Frazier.
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Asheville Poets, Essayists, And Short Story Writers
If you are looking for famous Asheville authors, short story writers, and poets, Ron Rash is it. Rash is a 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller, best known for Serena and Above the Waterfall. He is also the recipient of the O. Henry Prize.
Born in Chester, South Carolina, Rash is currently a Professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University. One of the most well-known books about Appalachia, Serena, set in 1929, follows newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton as they head to North Carolina to build their timber empire. Serena proves her worth as their marriage begins to fall apart due to George’s unfaithfulness.
Another one of the most famous Asheville writers – specifically for his short stories – William Sydney Porter, or O. Henry, spent his final days in Asheville, NC. Like Thomas Wolfe, find O’Henry’s grave in the Riverside Cemetery; leave him a penny.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, O. Henry spent much of his writing time in New York City. His heavy drinking along with other ailments contributed to his somewhat early death. Rather ironically, his stories are known for their happy endings.
If you are looking for an Asheville poet, Allan Wolf is an award-winning writer of picture books, poetry, and young adult novels. Booklist named The Watch That Ends the Night, a book about the sinking of the Titanic, as one of the 50 best YA books of all time.
Wolf champions performance poetry (poetry slams). His books showcase not only poetry but also history and science. Read more about one of the coolest Asheville authors, Allan Wolf.
B’Rácz grew up in communist Hungary. When her family fled to the United States as political refugees, she eventually drove south to start her own bookstore. She is also known for supporting all of the great local authors in Asheville – and Malaprop’s Bookstore hosts author talks and book clubs. Be sure to check out their local Asheville author display.
Another award-winning Asheville poet, Glenis Redmond writes poems about everyday life. Most notably, from 2014 to 2018, Redmond served as the Mentor Poet for the National Student Poet’s Program. She prepared youth to read at the Library of Congress and for First Lady, Michelle Obama, at The White House.
Deemed the “Road Warrior Poet,” Redmond travels, teaches, and reads both nationally and internationally. Glenis Redmond believes we can heal the world one poem at a time. Read more about Glenis Redmond.
Nonfiction Asheville Writers
If you are headed to Biltmore, we always recommend reading Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle before you go. The Last Castle presents an engaging history and facts about Biltmore along with the goals of George and Edith Vanderbilt.
Readers will gain a stronger perspective of the estate’s role in Asheville’s history and have a better appreciation for both Edith’s role in politics and the family’s contributions to forestry. This Asheville-set book also explains the high cost of that Biltmore ticket.
Kiernan is one of the most famous local authors in Asheville for her nonfiction works. She is a historian, producer, author, and journalist. With bestselling books and a strong presence in the writing community, Kiernan is a gem to Asheville and preserving lesser-known or obscured histories.
You may also recognize Denise Kiernan from her novel, The Girls Of Atomic City, a nonfiction story about the women in Tennessee during WW2 on our Tennessee books reading list. Learn more about Denise Kiernan.
If you are looking for local Asheville writers, Horace Kephart was a legend. A Yale University librarian, travel writer, and environmentalist, Kephart wrote Our Southern Highlanders, a nonfiction book that shares his time growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Kephart vehemently campaigned for a national park in The Smokies. He also helped plot some of the Appalachian Trail.
Born in Pennsylvania, Kephart moved all over the United States. He died in a car accident in Western North Carolina and is buried in Bryson City, NC. Kephart also wrote The Book Of Camping And Woodcraft.
An environmentalist and famous author from Asheville, Wilma Dykeman wrote both American fiction and nonfiction, chronicling Appalachian life.
She grew up in the Beaverdam area of North Asheville and attended Biltmore Junior College, which is now UNC-Asheville. Dykeman advocated for economic protection and development along the French Broad River. In her lifetime, she penned 18 books
Middle Grade & YA Authors
One of the most famous local middle-grade Asheville writers, Robert Beatty’s books are perfect for families to read before touring Biltmore Estate.
His Serafina series chronicles the life of a young girl at Biltmore blending fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. Middle graders become more intimate with the Vanderbilt family.
He also designs robots, a hobby that has earned him national attention. Serafina And The Black Cloak is the first novel in the Serafina series. Beatty currently lives in Asheville with his children and wife. Read more about Robert Beatty.
If you are looking for YA Asheville authors, you cannot pass over Megan Shepherd. Shepherd lives on a farm just outside of Asheville.
She is a New York Times bestselling author with books nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Shepherd grew up with her family’s indie bookstore located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We read and reviewed Shepherd’s new fantasy novel and now series, Grim Lovelies, for The Uncorked Librarian.
Alexandra Duncan is both an Asheville author and a librarian. She writes YA science fiction novels, including Salvage and Sound. Duncan’s short fiction appears in anthologies. Read more about Alexandra Duncan.
If you are looking for Asheville writers who specialize in graphic novels, try Hope Larson. An Asheville native, Hope is an NYT bestselling and Eisner award-winning author.
One of her wickedly witchy fantasy books, Salt Magic, takes young readers back in time to WW1 and addresses PTSD, mental health, the power of family, and coming of age. Find a review of Larson’s teen graphic novel on our sister site, The Uncorked Librarian.
While Hope has lived across the U.S. and Canada – including LA and Chicago – she currently resides in Asheville with her family.
North Carolina Authors Near Asheville
Mark de Castrique
Born in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Mark de Castrique writes a mystery series set in WNC. This includes books based in Asheville and at the Carl Sandburg home. He is the author of 19 novels and has two middle-grade books set in Charlotte, NC, where he currently lives.
Mark de Castrique earned an EMMY for his documentary work and is a veteran of broadcast and film production. Murder In Rat Alley, a spin on a classic spy novel, is set in Asheville. AVL readers might also enjoy The Sandburg Connection.Read more about Mark de Castrique.
Carl Sandburg lived in Connemara, which is now Flat Rock, North Carolina. Today, you can visit the Carl Sandburg Home, which is right outside of Hendersonville and one of the best things to do in Flat Rock.
In his lifetime, Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and a third for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.
Deemed the “Poet of the People” in the 20th century, Sandburg was also a Civil Rights activist. Born in Illinois, Sandburg and his wife moved to Connemara in 1945.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning North Carolina author based in Bryson City, NC – one of the best cities to visit near Asheville.
Born and raised in Bryson City, Winchester is an advocate for Appalachian Heritage. She leads regional and national writing workshops as well as medicinal plant workshops.
Her novels preserve NC history and honor working-class families. Winchester’s debut novel, Outbound Train, is set in Bryson City in the 1960s as well as modern day. Readers watch as Carole Anne tries to escape the unrelenting cycle of poverty, misogyny, and institutional corruption.
Born in Miami, Patricia Cornwell grew up in Montreat, North Carolina. Montreat is about 25 minutes from Asheville near Black Mountain. Cornwell currently lives in Boston.
For a time, she worked for the Charlotte Observer, gaining notoriety for her articles on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte. Today, she is best known as a contemporary crime writer, selling over 100 million books. Her first novel, Postmortem, is a forensic thriller. Read more about Patricia Cornwell.
Jan Karon was raised on a farm near Lenoir, North Carolina. Throughout her life, she lived and moved from Charlotte to San Francisco. At the age of 50, Karon headed to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Her Mitford series, a fictional town, is based on Blowing Rock, NC.
Meagan Lucas currently lives in Hendersonville, NC. Lucas teaches English at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and is the Fiction Editor at Barren Magazine.
More North Carolina Authors & Writers:
Tom Robbins – Born in Blowing Rock, NC, Thomas Eugene Robbins is a bestselling author of “seriocomedies” or comedy-drama. His family moved to Virginia while he was still a young boy. He later settled in Washington where he penned his first novel. His book, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, was made into a movie.
Who is your favorite famous author from Asheville?
Who are your favorite Asheville authors, and what are your favorite books? Of course, there are many more famous Asheville writers, and we’d love to know who we should add to our list. Let us know in the comments.
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Christine (pronouns: she/her) is the owner and lead writer of Uncorked Asheville. After falling in love with those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Christine and her husband Tom decided to call Asheville, North Carolina home. When her pointy Italian nose isn’t stuck in a book, Christine is adopting all of the kitties, getting lost in the forest, and drinking an ESB. She has a BA in English and History from Smith College, her MLIS from USF-Tampa, and is a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar - Indonesia. Christine also owns The Uncorked Librarian LLC with books and movies to inspire travel.