Tom Coraghessan Boyle, born Thomas John Boyle on December 2, 1948 in Peekskill, NY, changed his middle name to Coraghessan at the age of 17. His mother, a secretary, and his father, a bus driver, were both Catholic, his father having been raised in a Catholic orphanage where he was educated until the 8th grade. In his essay, "This Monkey, My Back," he describes himself as being an obedient child until about the age of 15, when the influence of his more affluent, better educated friends turned him into a self-described "proto-hippie." At the age of 17 he attended SUNY Potsdam, planning to study music and to play the saxophone; however, he flunked his audition, and as a result he pursued an alternate degree instead, graduating with a BA in English and History in 1968. His talent for writing was recognized early on, but his admitted binge drinking and recreational drug use distracted him from truly embracing and developing his skill until his enrollment in the University of Iowa's MFA program.
Boyle received an MFA in Fiction in 1974 and went on to get his PhD in 18th century British Literature in 1977, also from the University of Iowa. That same year he received a Creative Writing Fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1978 he began working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. He became and Associate Professor there in 1982, and in 1986 he became a Professor of English. As of now, Boyle has published 12 novels, with another that may be scheduled for release in 2011, in addition to numerous short stories. His work has been translated and sold internationally, and he has won numerous literary awards. He currently lives with his wife, Karen Kvashay, and his three children near Santa Barbara, CA.