Nov­el­ist Wil­liam Wall on a child­hood boost from John B Keane, his pupil Cil­lian Mur­phy, and his singing am­bi­tion

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - KIM BIELENBERG

How did you ac­tu­ally start writ­ing? Who en­cour­aged you?

When I was a boy, my mother heard John B Keane do­ing an in­ter­view on the ra­dio. She took my type­script and posted it to him. He wrote back by re­turn of post, en­clos­ing a cheque for £10. He told me in a let­ter to keep writ­ing, and said the money was a prize, which he had just in­sti­tuted.

Is it true that you gave Cil­lian Mur­phy en­cour­age­ment to go into act­ing?

Yes, I was an English teacher in Pre­sen­ta­tion Broth­ers Col­lege in Cork. He was one of those kids who just got lit­er­a­ture. He had a band called the Sons of Mis­ter Green Jeans. I saw him play­ing at a school con­cert. I told him to try drama. He did try it and acted in a school play — and the rest is his­tory.

You live part of the year in Genoa. How did you re­act to the re­cent bridge col­lapse?

I have crossed over it many times. It’s shock­ing but not that sur­pris­ing. The Mafia is well known for sup­ply­ing ce­ment for build­ing. For them, it is sec­ond only to drugs in terms of rev­enue.

Tell us about your lat­est novel Grace’s Day

It’s about an en­vi­ron­men­tal writer and guru whose fam­ily ex­per­i­ment is to see if you can live self-suf­fi­ciently, and not be re­liant on con­sumerism. But his wife is the one who has to carry it out, while he is trav­el­ling a lot of the time.

So, have you ever lived self-suf­fi­ciently?

I tried it. You’d think that a farmer’s son would be able to do it, but it didn’t work out for me.

If you weren’t a writer what you be?

A singer. The only per­son who ap­pre­ci­ated my singing was my dog, and alas, he’s dead.

Into the un­known: the 1977 Voy­ager mis­sions were an as­ton­ish­ing feat of engi­neer­ing, and inset, au­thor Tim Rad­ford

I got Still’s dis­ease when I was 12. It’s a form of child­hood rheuma­toid arthri­tis. It was very se­vere and I was off school for a year. That’s when I be­came a writer. I wrote very se­ri­ously and pro­duced nine sto­ries. I still have the orig­i­nal man­u­script.

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