You’ve talked about your interest in Greek mythology before. Did you consider the Greek gods and their relationship to lying when you were generating this story?
Actually, I didn’t consider Greek mythology at all while working on this one. Another one of my interests is mentalism and close magic, and the idea for this story came from doing some reading on those topics. I was interested in the idea of magically making people believe a lie, even one that isn’t so attractively presented as great mentalism is.
The idea of magical lying is delightful. How did you come up with Quentin’s gift—are you a liar or have people lied to you?
The very first spark that turned into Quentin’s gift came, like so many good things, from Twitter. I believe it was the excellent writer Elizabeth Bear whose biography used to read, “I tell lies to people for money.” And it’s such a great description of part of the writer’s job (the other part, of course, being that we tell truths to people for money) that it stuck in my head, and made my want to do something with it.
And of course I’ve told lies—even outside the world of fiction—and been lied to. That’s the way of things. I think being able to only speak the absolute, brutal truth is as much of a curse as dropping snakes and toads from your mouth every time you speak. Not that people should be pathological about it, but there are times when stepping sideways from the truth is kinder.
The title refers to a meaningful exchange—tell us more about what Thea has given Quentin in exchange for his magic.
Oh, that is an excellent question, and one I’m going to leave as an exercise for the reader.
What are you working on next? Will you revisit the world you’ve sketched here, or this idea, in a future story?
At this point, I don’t see myself coming back to the world of this story, even though I find Thea very compelling. But I don’t like to completely rule it out, and risk making myself a liar.
In terms of new projects, I have a novella coming out from Subterranean Press in September. It’s called The End of the Sentence, and I co-wrote it with the brilliant Maria Dahvana Headley. If you like deathless prisoners and mysterious letters and monsters and ghosts and love, you might enjoy it. I’m always working on new short fiction, and I have a novel in progress as well.
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