Author T. Coraghessan Boyle shares inspiration behind “San Miguel” and other stories


Jonathan Garza

Author T. Coraghessan Boyle signs one of his books for a fan on Thursday afternoon after finishing his talk on one of his short stories titled “The Lie.”  

Mark Carrion

Author T. Coraghessan Boyle is no stranger to reading stories aloud, and Thursday night he shared some stories of his own at the Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences Building. Boyle, who is an English professor at the University of Southern California, has written 23 books of fiction, one of which won an award for best novel in 1988. 

At the talk, Boyle read from one of his short stories titled “The Lie” and answered questions from the audience afterward.

“My love of reading stories aloud comes from two sources. One of them is my mother,” Boyle said. Boyle also credits a grade-school teacher for inspiring his love of reading. 

Boyle first discussed his most recent novel, “San Miguel,” which is named for a small barren island located off the coast of Southern California. Boyle said he gained inspiration for “San Miguel” in part from the island’s proximity to his home near Santa Barbara, Calif.

“The subjects I choose often have to do with the environment and how we approach it,” Boyle said. 

The novel is told entirely from the viewpoint of women, and Boyle said he wanted to write a straightforward and realistic novel without sarcasm or irony. 

After reading “The Lie,” Boyle shared his experiences researching past stories.

“You just need to know. Some stories you need to know more than others, but you just need to know,” Boyle said. “Every story finds its own voice in its own way.”

The talk was hosted by the Michener Center for Writers, a three-year master’s writing program at UT-Austin. 

Radio-television-film senior Malina Panovich said she attended because she is a fan of Boyle.

“He’s such an entertaining presenter,” Panovich said. “Every answer had a little quip with it.”

She said it was exciting to see Boyle in person after reading his novels and stories and said the event provided an opportunity to introduce others to Boyle’s work.

“Meeting the actual person inspires something that reading about them can’t,” Panovich said.

Kristen Henderson, a psychology student at Austin Community College, said it was surreal to see Boyle in person, but relieving to see that he has experiences just like other people. Henderson said it is important for students to attend talks by speakers like Boyle because they can learn from their advice.

“I think it’s nice for schools to put things like this together, because it leaves these people open to students,” Hendersen said.