Niall Williams, born in Dublin in 1958, studied English and French Literature at University College Dublin and graduated with a MA in Modern American Literature. He moved to New York in 1980 where he married Christine Breen, whom he had met while she was also a student at UCD. His first job in New York was opening boxes of books in Fox and Sutherland's Bookshop in Mount Kisco. He later worked as a copywriter for Avon Books in NYC before leaving America with Chris in 1985 to attempt to make a life as a writer in Ireland. They moved on April 1st to the cottage in west Clare that Chris's grandfather had left eighty years before to find his life in America. They have two adult children, and a cat named Tiro.
His first four books were co-written with Chris and tell of their life together in Co Clare.
In 1991 Niall's first play THE MURPHY INITIATIVE was staged at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. His second play, A LITTLE LIKE PARADISE was produced on the Peacock stage of The Abbey Theatre in 1995. His third play, THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT, was produced by Galway's Druid Theatre Company in 1999.
Niall's first novel was FOUR LETTERS OF LOVE. Published in 1997, it went on to become an international bestseller and has been published in over twenty countries. It was re-issued in 2016 as a Picador Modern Classic. His second novel, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN was published in 1999 and short-listed for the Irish Times Literature Prize. Further novels include THE FALL OF LIGHT, ONLY SAY THE WORD, BOY IN THE WORLD and its sequel, BOY AND MAN.
In 2008 Bloomsbury published Niall's fictional account of the last year in the life of the apostle, JOHN.
HISTORY OF THE RAIN, was published by Bloomsbury in the UK/Ireland and in the USA in May 2014 and has been translated into several languages including Russian.
Niall has recently written several screenplays including the screenplay of Four Letters of Love.
Below is a piece that appeared in UK's Time Out magazine....
How I Write
by Niall Williams
It is morning. Lately it seems always it is raining. I go into the conservatory we added to the front of the two-hundred year old stone cottage here in west Clare where I have lived now for nearly twenty-five years. There is glass on three sides and the rain streams down. This is the rain that in the novel John became the water running down inside the cave of the Apostle on the island of Patmos in the first century. It is the rain that swept across the western island of Isabel and Nicholas in Four Letters of Love. The Atlantic is not far. In front of me is a large garden. All year it seems I am in here writing and looking out at it, or out there working in it and looking in at whatever characters I am writing now. Beyond the garden is a green valley. Beyond the hedge line are Hayes' hill fields where a large herd of cattle stand backsides to the wind or move out of a mucked corner when the rain eases.
I like to write out here, for I am neither quite in the house nor in the garden but in a between place as it were where it seems my imagination belongs. I write usually only in the mornings. I remember hearing John Irving say that when he first began as a writer he could only write for two or three hours but had afterwards trained himself to concentrate for eight hours at a time and so be able to produce many more pages. I cannot imagine this, not because I think the writing precious or the words to be spared, but because it is simply so difficult. The difficulties are many and seem not to get any easier as the books go by. In each day that I have written here in this house for twenty five years, trying to find the right words, to make the page come alive, there has always been that voice asking: is it any good? And very often, in the quiet of the day here between the garden and the house, I hear the answer: no. So the delete button on the laptop scythes away the sentences and I begin again. The rain falls, the cattle return to shelter.
How do I write? One word at a time. I get a sentence. I say it out loud. 'The sun rising, a bell is rung.'—the opening of John. I say it again. The closest I have come to explaining the process is that the first sentence feels like the tip of a thread. I pull it very gently. Another sentence. And again I try, teasing out phrase after phrase and hoping that the thread will not break. It is as if before me there is an invisible garment of which only one thread can be seen. Each day I draw it out a little further. On the last day of writing a novel, maybe two years later, the garment has become visible and seemed always to be there. I go out the door into the garden and just stand and think: that was hard.
But so, so wonderful.
Photo credit: copyright L.A. Brown