From DUFFY THE WRITER BLOG
Interview with Thomas Duffy
Heavenly certainly touches on a few controversial and sensitive themes, did you relish the challenge, or, were you nervous about getting it wrong?
I was not worried at all about getting it wrong because we don’t know the answers to many of the questions and themes found in my new book.
Did I worry about ruffling people’s feathers? Yes, I did. Maybe some people may walk away from the book, perhaps, a little surprised at some of the storytelling and I did push some buttons here. I’m aware of that.
I know each reader comes with a set series of expectations and beliefs. I integrated a few different personal beliefs into the religious aspects of the story. To share strictly my own beliefs about what happens when someone dies would seem wrong.
Putting together a successful work of art requires some readers to “just go with it” and if the reader can go with this storyline, there are some rewards to be found within. I believe the book had different types of rewards for each and every reader.
I love the way in your books that you champion Americans who are not rich, entitled or particularly successful. Do you see yourself as an author giving a voice to American battlers and the working classes?
Yes, I do as a matter of fact. Life is a long, hard journey and whatever circumstances you are born into, there are bound to be many challenges. Many books present characters who are simply put, successful. Maybe the characters in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY are a little too unrelatable for me to want to put characters like them out there. I’d feel like I cheated.
It is an author’s responsibility to make the reader connect to the characters. While many of my readers will be working class, I want them to know that there is someone who understands the struggles and has lived them as well. I could create a character who makes a fortune and has a really big house with no problems at their job but that isn’t reality. Not unless it is the reality for a select few people. If those people are lucky enough to be rich and have no problems, we don’t need to hear about them in our literature while we live our lives full of complexity and unpredictability.
Why Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway?
The song is about breaking away from an old life to create a new one for yourself. SPOILER ALERT. Read this answer no further if you don’t want to know about the ending of the book.
I believe the principal female character in the book does just that. She breaks away from her past. We don’t have all the answers for where her life is headed at the end but we do know she’s “broken away” from the past in order to attempt a better life for herself. Clarkson’s song captured all those themes for me and I think maybe this character may have found and enjoyed the song along the way and used it as inspiration to escape her hard life.
You follow a very Catholic theme and response to those who commit suicide. This was a little uncomfortable for me to read at times and a little triggering. Was this your intention? To start a conversation? Have you received any backlash from readers?
Again. SPOILER ALERT. Read this answer after you’ve read the book.
I’ve lost a few friends to suicide and don’t believe personally that suicide would automatically make somebody a candidate for hell although, in my Catholic religion, that is what is occasionally believed. I do want to make readers come to the table with their own thoughts which makes the book a potential “adult book club” selection. I know the book will make people want to talk and, like all my books, that’s what I want. Backlash from readers is inevitable and as I await the reviews, I know I can expect some trouble. But, anyone who knows me and my work know I’m no stranger to trouble from the critics.
Your next book is non-fiction and about movies. How do you make the switch from being immersed in such a creative and ‘otherworldly book to a movie guide?
I’ve actually been writing them at the same time. There is a lot left to my movie guide though. I am about halfway done. My next book “100 Movies I Love” is my love letter to Roger Ebert and film criticism. I grew up on Ebert’s film review books and wanted to emulate what he did by writing one of my own. I disagreed with Ebert A LOT especially on the movie THE VILLAGE from 2004 which he hated. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. But, Ebert’s love for film criticism is almost unparalleled except maybe Leonard Maltin another critic who inspired me to write my new film guide. It’s easy for me to go back and forth between fiction and film criticism. I’ve been reviewing movies even if it’s just for a review for my own archives since 1984.
If you could give one piece of advice to a writer embarking on writing their first book, what would it be?
Just go with it. Tell the stories you want to tell the best way you can. People will complain and that’s life. Woody Allen’s 1997 film DECONSTRUCTING HARRY showed a hell with a special place for book critics. I think that’s fairly accurate although there are some book critics out there who are quite “Heavenly” and will definitely escape this fate. I’ve encountered a few such “angels”
along the way.
In all seriousness, all people have a right to their opinion and we have a right to write our stories. Don’t be discouraged. I am nine books in and still not discouraged by the haters.
Woodhaven native’s seventh novel addresses modern-day mental health issues
BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Seems a lot of guys are feeling lost these days.
Troubling evidence is emerging which suggests that more than ever before, younger men have been struggling with low self-esteem, depression, loneliness and, in some cases, opioid addiction. Sadly, male suicide rates have increased nationwide, according to reports.
Queens native Thomas Duffy has tapped into this modern-day crisis with his seventh fiction novel – just released on Amazon – titled “Social Work.” He has written about a wide range of topics, including romance and existentialism, and even working in retail.
“A little over two years ago, I lost a friend to suicide,” Duffy recalled. “I never knew he was suffering from depression so intensely and having dealt with depression myself, I felt if I had known that, I could have tried to help him.”
The author, who was raised in Woodhaven and currently lives in Glen Oaks, felt that he needed to tell a story that addressed the complex issues surrounding suicide – through the eyes of a young man who is trying to deal with his mental health issues.
“I wanted to show that it is possible to overcome mental illness through treatment. There are parts of the main character [Marc] that parallel certain situations I’ve found myself in,” he explained.
When you read “Social Work,” you’ll understand why the special bond between Marc and his social worker Lauren, is so strong.
“At first, they don’t like each other much, but as the story progresses, they tend to sort of cherish their sessions together,” Duffy said. “For Marc, because he gets to talk about his problems, and for Lauren, because she gets to help him with advice. I feel the reader can relate to both characters, which is so very important.”
Comparing this story to the film “Silver Linings Playbook,” he explains that hope is the central theme of his book.
The author’s other novels on Amazon include: “Stockboy,” “Off the Line,” “One Love,” “Heartbreaker” and “To Never Know.”
He recently talked about “Social Work” and his previous novel, “The Separation” (his “most daring book yet”), on a show called “Between the Covers — Celebrating Books,” which was aired live before a studio audience on Strong Island Television from Paradise Studios on Long Island.
So, what is the common theme connecting all seven stories?
“Trying to find purpose and meaning in life; I think all the books convey this idea,” Duffy said.
In fact, most have some elements of his life woven throughout.
Duffy, who says he enjoys bouncing around different Queens neighborhoods, graduated from P.S. 66 in Richmond Hill (where he earned a Creative Writing award), J.H.S. 210 (Ozone Park), and Christ the King H.S. (Middle Village). He got his BA from Pace University.
In his spare time, the author reviews movies on social media, and credits his parents (both huge film buffs) for instilling in him his love for the silver screen. He said he has interviewed several celebrities, including Minnie Driver and Richard Dreyfuss.
After reading “Social Work,” folks should come away with a better understanding of the challenges that people struggling with mental issues face, because those who suffer are oftentimes, our family members, friends and neighbors, Duffy said.
“If anything, I hope this book helps fight the stigma associated with mental illness,” he said.
Note from Author:
I strive for excellence in all of my novels and offer intriguing storylines in each and every one about life and the human condition. Social Work is one of my most important works to date as it deals with a young man who is being treated for mental illness. It is also one of my most well-reviewed titles to date.