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