Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Thomas Duffy, author of Heavenly.
FQ: Your books are so emotional that I have to ask: Is there one that stands out as being the most difficult to write?
DUFFY: The Separation was very difficult to write and that book, contrary to popular belief, is also extremely emotional. It is about a character named Finn who is separated from his family because of the rules that are implemented in society. It is set in the distant future. Towards the end of the book, Finn talks about his dreams where he can envision seeing the people he's lost in his life again. I think that advertising that book as merely science fiction with a plot hook that was very intriguing was a mistake. It's not meant to be an action driven book but rather a story of one man's emotional journey where he has lost everything that he's ever had in life. I was fortunate enough to get people to read it but people are mostly looking for lots of action and a happy ending and are, thus, sometimes disappointed. I wrote it to be a very human story and although there is action, the action is not the point of the book. The point is that the character loses everything to conform to society's rules. I think the book could have been better--every book probably can be improved-but I struggled with having a lot of people truly understand it. A lot of people didn't get it. I always intended it to have a sequel which I will release one day in the future.
FQ: Although I know To Never Know was a novel based on the horror of 9.11, another fantastic book by the way, were any of the others based on true events?
DUFFY: Thank you. To Never Know is one of my best reviewed books to date. While Stockboy and its sequel were "inspired" by true events, Social Work was very much based on true events. The scene where the main character, Marc, is ridiculed on a television show closely parallels the time one of my friends was mocked on the internet especially regarding him not driving. Though he lived in New York City where driving is not essential, a girl really made him look bad online. Social Work also includes a little of my experiences when I was in therapy in my 20's and the social worker in that book is modeled closely after a real social worker I had worked with. One Love also has semi-autobiographical aspects to it although it is more fictional than Social Work which is very much based on real things that happened to both me and a friend of mine who has since passed away. I wrote Social Work for people to know that where there is life, there is hope, however cliched that may sound. Heavenly is based on my relationship with my Catholic religion and has some true elements woven throughout it such as when the character goes to the young people's group that the church in the book conducts.
FQ: Along those same lines, how do your ideas come about? Such as, are they formed because of an event; do you research something you’re particularly interested in and then set a story within or around it; are you a person who outlines the chapters before-hand, or are there more ideas that come ‘out of the blue’ and you sit down and just start writing?
DUFFY: I get ideas all the time. The process of creation happens during the actual writing of the book, not before which I guess is pretty obvious. I start with a very general outline then take it from there. As I am putting together the books, I will jot notes down while I am out and about and then flesh them out more when I actually sit down and write. As for the events that inspire the topics I write about, they come about based on what I find interesting. Plots that will appeal to me will probably find readers and even though all my books haven't been huge hits, they all have found some readers who could relate to the material and that is very important to me. Heavenly came about because of my relationship with my religion.
FQ: Now, John’s passion for films in this book seems to be very close to your own interests. Can you tell readers about your background and love of the silver screen, as well as the actors you’ve interviewed?
DUFFY: I love movies and am currently a film critic and news writer for Film-Book.com in my spare time after years of simply posting reviews on social media websites. I previously wrote for UniverCity which was a paper given out at college campuses such as NYU during the time I attended college. It is no longer in circulation.
I interviewed stars during my college years for that paper and also met actors/directors at the Village Seven movie theater in the East Village in New York City where I worked while in college. I served Quentin Tarantino and Ben Stiller snacks there. At the State movie theater in Times Square (it's not there anymore!), I had an interesting experience where I ran in to Brad Pitt in the bathroom at the premiere of the move The Waterboy. I didn't speak to him but I nodded to acknowledge my respect for his work. He had Meet Joe Black coming out that month. I actually spoke to Ben Stiller and Quentin Tarantino as a fan. They didn't know I also wrote film critiques.
Matthew Modine is an actor I met at the Loews Village Seven who I interviewed for UniverCity as well. He acknowledged me more at the movie theater when I told him I interviewed him a few months back before meeting him at the theater. Modine was with his kid seeing Lethal Weapon 4 if memory serves.
I also interviewed John and Joan Cusack, Minnie Driver, Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman, and Mark Waters, the director best known for his remake of Freaky Friday. Claire Danes I talked to at a press junket for William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet where I asked her about her chemistry with Leonardo DiCaprio and lastly, I also interviewed Elizabeth Berkley from the television show Saved By The Bell and the film Showgirls for UniverCity.
I grew up on movies because of my long gone dad's love for them and that passion now is found in the work I am currently doing and the things I am seeking to achieve with my future career goals. I've met other stars and directors but I could be here forever if I named them all. Definitely read my recent movie reviews on Film-Book.com, though!
FQ: If someone asked what the best movie ever made was, would that be an impossible or easy question for you to answer? And, if you have one, what exactly would you say is the best?
DUFFY: I just saw Nine Days which is a dramatic film which blew me away. It's fresh in my memory so I love it but every year I have a favorite film. As for my all-time favorite movies, I think The Muse is high on my list because of the fact that the film revolves around the life of a writer who is getting beat up by life while trying to write a hit screenplay. Albert Brooks is a genius. If I had one movie and one movie only to name, it would be Good Will Hunting. At the end of the film Matt Damon's character must choose between a highly paid job and being with the girl he loves. He chooses to "go see about a girl"and I just love that. It's also the incomparable Robin Williams' finest hour and co-stars the wonderful Minnie Driver who I interviewed so yeah, if I had one, it would be Good Will Hunting. It also won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar so is a writer's movie.
FQ: Is part of your writing journey seeing your own titles on the big screen one day? If you had to choose one to ‘show off’ first, which would you love readers to watch and who do you believe should star in it?
DUFFY: So funny you should ask that. I would love to see Zac Efron play the supporting character of Joe, Jr. in The Separation. I wrote that character with him in mind. I would think, though, that if I had to start with only one film being made based on one of my books, though, I would loved to see that film be Social Work with Hollywood heartthrob Timothee Chalamet playing Marc and Lily James of the film Yesterday playing the therapist, Lauren. They would be so great for the roles!
FQ: Are you going to do standalones at all times, or have you ever thought of doing a series at one point? In addition, is there a genre you wish to tackle in the future?
DUFFY: I want to write a sequel to The Separation and another sequel, Stockboy Wedding, soon. I love standalone books, however. I have two up my sleeve right now that I am developing. One is a comedy and the other is a thriller. I would never restrict myself to just one genre.
FQ: Can you give readers a sneak peek into the next book?
DUFFY: Well, I have been working on a movie book that is called 100 Movies I Love which includes reviews of my 100 favorite films. It's my own personal tribute to former film critic Roger Ebert's movie companions.
As for the two fiction titles I am developing, one is a comedy that revolves around a guy finding a winning lottery ticket on the ground that is worth $500,000 but in trying to cash it in, he is distracted by his job (which he could probably just quit once he claims his prize) and the people who he has told about the winning ticket. There's also the fact that the ticket wasn't even his to begin with! The reason the old person who had the ticket threw it away was because he didn't scratch the back. Some scratch-off tickets have a game on the back that sometimes, but rarely, people overlook. It would be a fun book but when it will come out is a mystery. I'd love to get a publisher for that one and the thriller I'm working on but if I can't, I'll self-publish them.
Thank you for the interview and I hope to get back to working on my writing the next couple months and get these projects out some day soon!