Every Moment is a Lie: An Interview with T.C. Boyle
by Ryan Ridge / April 26, 2011
T.C. Boyle is the author of thirteen novels and eight story collections. His
third novel World’s End won the 1987 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction
and his story “Wild Child” (published by McSweeney’s) won the 2007
National Magazine Award. In 2009, he was inducted into the American
Academy of Arts and Letters. Born in Peekskill, New York, he lives
in Santa Barbara, California, (in a home built by Frank Lloyd Wright)
and is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern
California. This interview was conducted via email. A film adaptation of
Boyle’s short story The Lie will be featured at Flyover Film Festival.
Q. In your story “The Lie” the narrator, a burned-out footage logger at a Hollywood production company, finds himself lying to his boss and coworkers about the health of his baby daughter so he can get a much-needed respite from the grind. His job is simply too monotonous to bear. Prior to becoming a novelist, were you ever underemployed? Ever work a soul-crushing job like our narrator?
A. Who hasn’t? I was (am?) hyperactive, so any grind sort of job was just misery for
me. I remember working two summers in a factory that cast things out of aluminum.
Soul-crushing? It was mind-crushing too.
Q. As a part B to this question: what’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told or been told?
A. My every waking moment is a lie. I earn my living creating lies. And I lie to the
press all the time because the whole rolling deal is just a big game, after all.
Q. “The Lie” isn’t the first work of yours that’s been adapted to the screen. I wonder if you can speak a bit about the experience of seeing your stories/novels transformed into films. Do you like to be involved in the process and, if so, to what extent?
A. I’ve never been involved in any way with any production of my work––and never will
be. On the other hand, it is a real thrill and chill to see how another artist interprets your
work. Makes the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
Q. Speaking of films, are there any that have inspired or informed your writing? How about other art forms? Are there any other performers, musicians, or artists whose work is currently making an impression on you? I know you used to front a punk band. Listening to anything good at the moment?
A. Listening to Fela Kuti right now. And the Black Keys. I’ve written a couple of
stories inspired by music and one (“Heart of a Champion”) by a TV show (“Lassie”).
Or, actually, it’s a parody of it that digs a little deeper than the usual parody by applying
Darwinian principles to the ethos of the show.
Q. The Channel Islands (off the coast of Southern California) figure prominently in your recent novel When the Killing’s Done. Southern California is filled with so many contradictions—the environment, the energy, the different skylines you can encounter within an hour’s drive. As a non-native California writer, how does this region impact your work?
A. Hugely. Since I’d never been west of the Hudson till I was in my twenties, I will
always feel a bit of a fish out of water here on the coast. And a bit of an explorer too.
Q. I know that many of your books have necessitated research. Are you investigating anything right now for the purposes of a future novel?
A. Yep. And am in fact writing one, a sort of companion piece to When the Killing’s
Done set on another of the Channel Islands. Is it fun? Absolutely.
Ryan Ridge is the author of the forthcoming story collection Hunters & Gamblers (Dark
Sky Books, July 2011). He lives in Long Beach, California, and teaches at the University of California, Irvine.