William Gay was born in Hohenwald, Tennessee. After high school, he joined the United States Navy and served during the Vietnam War. For many years he made his living as a carpenter, drywall-hanger and house painter before publishing, in 1998, his first novel, The Long Home, at the age of 57. He went on to publish the story collection I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down and two further novels Provinces of Night and Twilight before his death in 2012. Little Sister Death, the first of his novels to be published posthumously, came out in 2015.