Donley Watt was born in Athens, Texas. In 1987, at the age of 47, he decided to follow a childhood dream to become a writer. His collection of short stories, Can You Get There from Here? won the Texas Institute of Letters' Stephen F. Turner Award for the best first work of fiction in 1994. His novel, The Journey of Hector Rabinal, was a finalist for a Western Writers of America Spur Award.