William Martin grew up in West Roxbury and Roslindale, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1972 where he majored in English. He worked as an historical research assistant and directed theater in the evening.
He went into construction to raise money to move to Hollywood and then studied motion pictures at the University of California.
Martin wrote two screenplays in an effort to get into the writing business. Producers and his agent suggested that, to best take advantage of his writing style, Martin should write a novel. Based on the outline of his first novel, Martin obtained a $7,500 publishing deal. The book, Back Bay, was published in 1979 and reached the New York Times bestseller list.
William Martin has continued to write historical novels and currently lives in Weston, Massachusetts (near Boston) with his wife, two sons and a daughter.