Interview with  Anthony C Murphy, Author of SHIFTLESS

Anthony C Murphy was born in England in 1970. He grew up in Lancashire and moved to America in 2012. He was a postal worker for 13 years and has driven across Europe as a tour manager. His poems have recently earned him a Pushcart nomination. He is the author of Scoppetry and Shiftless. His website is He can be seen (and heard) reading here on YouTube

 Anthony C Murphy interview

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Northern, Changeable, Hemipygic.

2. The title “Shiftless” seems to carry a significant meaning for the book. How did you come up with this title, and what does it represent in the context of the stories?

I like a pun. Most people groan, but I chuckle. I read a lot of Spike Milligan and Flann O’Brien.

But I also did a lot of shift work. And sometimes there was none.

Also, there are some words that can mean the opposite of each other. Cleave is one, but it can become two.

Shiftless can mean lazy or just out of work. And the obvious when people don’t see the ‘f’. 

There was a sketch on British TV when I was growing up. The weatherman’s magnet board didn’t work and he said, “Sorry about the effing fog.” 

Context wise – it’s about work and trying to find it.

3. “Shiftless” features a coming-of-age journey for the protagonist, Sean Reilly. Could you talk about the inspiration behind Sean’s character and his decision to forgo college in favor of working blue-collar jobs?

I never had the opportunity to go to University.  We didn’t have a car or a phone. People think I’m from another planet. I didn’t have pizza until I was 13. My brother, he was older, he went to University in Wales. I think just to get away. He probably got involved with MI6 and is now a spy! And still paying off his loans.

I did do some courses later when I could afford it. At The Open University. Great!

We did have a time in England where the government would help pay for education. But then came Thatcher. So we all got fucked by greed.

4. Both novellas in your book explore themes of responsibility and adulthood. How did you approach depicting the challenges that Sean faces as he transitions into adulthood without pursuing higher education?

I had a kid when I was 20. Things change. I’m not sure I was a great dad but I did love it then, and I still am one. There have been many difficult times. I’m not the best, but it made me feel special. And I did try. It was easier for me to be the nanny because my wife had a good job and I could do manual, shift work and be there for school etc… Plus. I hated studying.

5 . The relationship between Sean and his father, Joe, is a central aspect of the book. Can you discuss the dynamics between these two characters and how they evolve throughout the stories?

It’s such an emotional thing because it comes from truth. My dad was an outgoing, funny, engaging, joke telling, gambling pub dweller. But he was also a sexual, emotional abuser. I didn’t know about his depression. I kind of wrote this book to get rid of him from my head. He’s dead. I loved him and hated him. I changed the character and made up a plot because truth and fact are never the same. And who can ever live through it again? You can never understand another.

And then I didn’t really want him to be awful. I think he would find this book funny, but not. That’s the relationship. He was my dad. I can see him tutting at me now!

6. The book highlights prejudice and discrimination faced by characters like Joe due to his Irish background. How did you weave these themes into the narrative, and what message were you aiming to convey?

Well. I just feel that everyone is racist. It’s a tribal thing. I grew up in a town where I had it towards me. And I was from there! And I saw it to the Asian lads and I didn’t want to be a part of that.

Workplaces are breeding grounds for it.

We can evolve.

When we went to the football, it would always be white lads fighting white lads, just because they came from over the border. In town there would be the ‘Townies’ against the “Pakies’. it still goes on.

My dad was Irish and I witnessed the racism to him a lot. The IRA were still a force in England at the time. I was working in Manchester in late 1990’s when the bomb destroyed the Arndale Shopping Center. I must admit I had divided loyalties.

I think I’m still confused about it all. I got called Irish pig and English bastard depending on what soil I was standing on.  I just call myself a Northerner now and get called ‘scum’ by Chelsea fans.

7. Sean’s experiences in various blue-collar jobs are a significant part of the story. How did you research and capture the atmosphere of these workplaces to make them feel authentic to readers?

I worked hard. I had fun sometimes. Got up at 5 a.m. Did night shifts. 12 hour days. Sometimes never went to bed.

I was a Postman for 13 years. But that was the easy part. We had a union and rules.

I did a lot of factory/warehouse jobs where you get no money for doing nothing before that. The blowing up footballs part is true. And then we would play football all Saturday and Sunday and then watch the professionals.

It was deflating.

I think I should say here that Charles Bukowski was an influence, but he was not my career choice and I do write differently!  In a Northern English way.  There were a lot of postmen who read Bukowski by the way. And we all went to the pub! But not all of us painted. Oh, wait. He just bet on horses.

8. The book’s second novella, “Doghouse,” introduces new challenges for Sean as he navigates life in a bail hostel. What inspired you to explore this setting, and how does it contribute to Sean’s character development?

There was an English movie called Scum.  Quadrophenia too. Also I used to deliver newspapers to a Borstal, when I was 13. Offenders, Criminals,, really were kind of influential. Punks and rebels have always been around. And then there has to be some kind of growing up, an awareness, or a reckoning.  Plus, I was a bit of a dick when I was a teenager, so I did spend time in a bail hostel. Which is a good place if your dad kicks you out of the house and your mum marries a Tory and no one wants you. It’s a bit Dickensian but they were nice. And you get new ‘parents’.

9. Your writing style has been described as lyrical, particularly in describing the pub scenes. How do you approach creating such vivid and engaging settings within your stories?

I write poems. II used to write songs. I love Dylan Thomas and his pub scenes, with their “brassy depths”.  It’s almost trippy. Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Shane McGowan, Brendan Behan.I just get lost in the language. It’s not even writing, it’s speaking. Billy Connolly, Spike Milligan. They play with the English language because they come at it from another place.  And that’s just the Celts.

I find the Lancashire dialect funny, harsh almost, but I do roll it around my tongue, every day.

And just in case you think I am male centric. I always enjoy reading Laura Barton and Nancy Banks-Smith.

10. The book tackles themes of nostalgia and the struggle to let go of the past. Could you discuss the significance of these themes in Sean’s journey and how they relate to the overall message of the book?

There is a huge loss in there. A death. So that is difficult to let go. And then a potential birth. I think there isn’t a message. But life goes on. Hope. There is only one thing to do and I think that is to survive. I think I’m getting less nostalgic as I get older. The memories are just funny now.

11. Dogs often hold a special place in people’s hearts and can bring unique perspectives to daily life. Can you share a memorable or heartwarming anecdote involving one of your dogs that might have left a lasting impact on you or inspired a creative idea?

I have so many stories about dogs. My dad would always come back with one from the pub and a few weeks later my mum wold get rid of it.

We had a dog called Toby, a Cairn Terrier, that would chase the Bus down the street and try to bite the tyres. They didn’t have leashes back then. He could catch any rat though. Heartwarming!

We have two dogs now. Maisie and Lefty.  They are just dogs, who chase deer out of our yard and clean up the garbage with their mouths. Good dogs!

They both got skunked the other day and Maisie still smells. And don’t tell me to douse her in tomato juice. It doesn’t work. Time is the only antidote. I love dogs. I walk ten miles a day with them. Consequently, they don’t like me very much.

12. The chapbook “And Other Days of Nothing Much” appears to be a blend of humor, introspection, and unique perspectives. Could you please share the inspiration behind the title and how it reflects the content and themes of the book?

It’s a chapbook that I didn’t see much import to, so it was more like musing. I’ve read some of Basho and Li Po, and I like that simplicity. 

Also some of the pieces had to be a certain number of words for performance with the event, Writer’s Read in Manhattan.

13. The description of the book playfully mentions it being “unpickupable.” Could you shed some light on what this intriguing term means in the context of the book and what readers might expect when they open its pages?

Well, it’s light and easy, and not unputdownable.

14. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

My dad always said he’d be published before me. He wasn’t.

I have worked on the Open Mic Scene in the Uk and NYC. I’ve met some interesting people who have spoken and written far more words than I have.  I don’t always know what they are talking about.

15. Could you share your thoughts on the role of personal experiences in shaping literature? How do you draw from your own life’s journey to create relatable and engaging stories and poems?

My personal experience is that when I was younger I used to love fantasy.  Hobbits!I didn’t want the adult stuff, I wanted to escape from them. Then,I read a lot of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie moved on to Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson and then philosophy. I actually trawled through a lot by myself. I read Rabelais. The Upanishads, The Cloud Of Unknowing. One book seemed to lead to another. I’d already read the Bibble.  Maybe I was just trying to understand the world without being taught. I loved the library. My first real kiss was in the library, things changed again.  Biography section!

But that’s a different thing.

Now I think the closer to truth your stories are the better.

I just write about life and all that, as you say, journey. It has been a trip.

15. Congratulations on your Pushcart nomination for your poems! Could you share with us a bit about the inspiration behind the nominated poems and how this recognition has impacted your journey as a writer?

I wrote a poem based on a real character, The Leatherman. He was a guy who wandered around Westchester in NY in the 1880’s. Leatherman.  Everyone loves a vagabond! It got picked up by The Westchester Review. I was new here. Sometimes you hit a seam. And then…

But it helped me get into Writer’s Read.  And I’ve been glad to be part of their shows.

16. Lastly, what’s next for you as an author? Are there any upcoming projects or themes you’re excited to explore in your future writing?

As an author I am working on some of my travel stories. Adventures in geography. That’s not what it’s called.  It’s called “I Came Down Off The Mountain To Get Drunk With The Butchers” But don’t tell my wife.  Oh, and two children’s books about not so cute animals.

I am also helping out with the Irish American Writers and Artists Salons. As a host. Next event is Tuesday salon.

“Shiftless” is now available on Amazon! Immerse yourself in this captivating coming-of-age tale that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Join Sean Reilly on his fantastical adventure filled with surprises, secrets, and a touch of hope. Don’t miss out on this unique and engaging read—get your copy on Amazon today!

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