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Interview: John Murphy on “The Liar”

– Tell us a bit about “The Liar.”

The Liar is set in northern New Hampshire, in a fictional town up around Berlin called Versailles (pronounced to rhyme with “sails”). That’s a really beautiful part of the country, year-round, but it really shines in the fall. Greg Kellogg is the local handyman, and something of a fibber. He’s good at it, sure, but he’s gotten kind of complacent and set in his ways. A few things happen in this story to shake him out of that complacency, requiring some good lies and some hard truths.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m a member of the Codex Writer’s Group, which has periodic internal contests to motivate us to write outside our comfort zones and get critiques from each other. The Liar was my entry for the novella contest one year, and benefited tremendously from the feedback of my talented friends there. They persuaded me that this one was worth polishing, that the original ending was terrible (it was), and that I should get it out there for folks to read. And, well, here we are.


– Was “The Liar” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Yes, in a couple ways. I’m a transplant to New Hampshire, having moved here for grad school about 15 years ago from West Virginia. I’d been coming up here on vacation for much longer than that, though, to visit my grandparents who lived at Lake Winnepesaukee. I’ve been wanting to set something here for a while, then, to show it the way I see it.

I don’t as a rule like to Tuckerize (putting the names of people I know into stories) but The Liar is an exception. When I first moved to New Hampshire, I took an apartment in a house built in the 1790s, owned and maintained by an 80 year old engineer by the name of Frank Dulac. He was a great guy: happy to chat about anything under the sun, he never raised the rent once in the seven years I lived there, and I’d often wake up at 7am on a snowy Saturday to the sound of him up on the roof shoveling snow. When I found out shortly before writing The Liar that he’d passed away, I decided to remember him in it.


– What are you working on now?

I’m working on a couple things. My main project is a novel-length science fiction mystery, set in Boston shortly after the completion of the Green Line extension (when I mention that at Boston cons I always get a laugh). Beyond that, I’ve got some short stories and flash pieces in various states of disrepair.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

The thing with the cell towers disguised as California pine trees is completely true, extra bird shit and all.

(…OK, the bird shit part isn’t true, but I think it’s funny.)


“The Liar” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

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