Born in Midland, Ontario, to Laverne and Laura (née Thomas). Wright graduated from Midland high school in 1956, and attended and graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in the area of Radio and TV arts in 1959. He worked briefly within local newspapers and radio stations as a copywriter before becoming an assistant editor for Macmillan Canada in 1960.
Wright married Phyllis Wright (née Cotton) in 1966 and they have two sons, Christopher Stephen and Richard Andrew. During Wright's time at Macmillan, he published his first book, a children's book entitled Andrew Tolliver (later retitled One John A. Too Many). Wright's first full-length novel, The Weekend Man, was written in eighteen months while staying at his wife's family cottage in Quebec. The novel became a critical success, winning praise for Wright's versatility and ability to create believable female characters. In 1970, Wright returned to postsecondary at Trent University, graduating in 1972 with a B.A. in English. In 1976, Wright obtained a position at Ridley College, a private school, teaching English until his retirement.
Although nominated for several literary awards, it wasn't until 2001 that Wright gained recognition for his award-winning novel, Clara Callan, which led to the republication of many of his earlier works. This novel went on to win three of Canada's major literary awards: The Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Governor General's Award. Wright's published works deal with the lives of ordinary people, with a profound balance of depth and sensitivity. Wright has been praised as an author who creates believable characters with a voice that must be heard. The reviewer in The Montreal Gazette is just one of many who have praised Wright’s work, stating that his most recent book, Mr.Shakespeare’s Bastard, is “A masterful novel … [which] confirms his ability to evoke an authentically female sensibility.” The novel has continued to gain recognition and was described by The Winnipeg Free Press as a novel that "Draws us swiftly through the pages..." Wright provides a narrative of pure life to his settings and character backgrounds that have continued to give him wide recognition as a Canadian novelist. His novels have been, and continue to be, published all around the world. In 2006, Wright received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Trent University, and in 2007 he became a member of the Order of Canada. He currently resides in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he writes full-time and enjoys the recreational pastimes of walking, reading and music.