In Social Work author Thomas Duffy, follows his characters through their everyday lives as they work toward their respective goals. Marc attends counseling sessions with his social worker, Lauren. Marc has a rocky past to work through as Lauren has a budding relationship with her boyfriend, Ahmad, that she is building simultaneously.
Both main characters are so relatable. Duffy doesn’t shy away from Marc’s struggles or the struggles of those in his counseling group. Marc had taken some less than savory paths and ended up in a very dark place, eventually attempting to take his own life. Lauren shows him that there is hope and that life is worth living. Readers will identify with Marc’s lows and many will also identify with stepping into the shoes of those who help to lift others out of the abyss.
Lauren is an excellent social worker, and seems to really follow the rule book. She keeps counselor/patient boundaries very clear, at first anyway, but does seem to struggle with letting Marc go once she decides to leave her job. The two had developed a close but appropriate working relationship. She feels guilty when she decides to leave, and struggles with being another person in a list of those who have deserted Marc. Handing Marc over to another social worker felt like giving up on him or throwing him away to both parties involved.
Duffy also delves into relationship complications that both main characters experience. Both Marc and Lauren have their own problems in love. Marc falls for a series of girls who are never quite fitting for what he needs. Lauren hints that her now fiance, Ahmad, isn’t her type but provides her with stability and prospects for the future. Admittedly, Marc is her type, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.
Thomas Duffy also examines a predicament that many of us find ourselves in. Marc is ambitious. He has big dreams, but not a big bank account. Instead of following his dreams, he is forced at times to settle. He wants to get into the entertainment industry, but isn’t independently wealthy. This means he can’t afford to put his job to start up any projects. This leaves him to work in a job that is unfulfilling.
This is the second Duffy book I have read. His style is simple, including lots of back and forth conversation between characters that gives readers a fly-on-the-wall sort of feeling. We hear what the characters say to one another, but we are also privy to their internal dialogue. This gives a unique perspective into how people feel verses what they show to the world. He gives a glimpse into humanity’s dynamic that we are all familiar with but don’t often talk about.
Social Work flows well and is easy to understand. The characters are endearing and relatable which got me invested in the characters.
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 1694404684
Stockboy follows Phillip as he struggles to achieve things beyond his mundane life. What were some driving ideals behind this story and how did it change while writing?
The book was essentially written based on my professional and personal experiences. I originally wanted it to be an honest autobiography but I couldn’t resist some key changes in the plot about a quarter through and made it a work of fiction instead. I wanted the story to show some key components of the problematic quest to achieve the American Dream. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 Albert Brooks comedy movie, The Muse, I took a lot of inspiration from that film in finding the comedy in the disappointment found in everyday life.
You’re able to capture the emotions of life as an average person and have them resonate with readers. What is your writing process like?
My writing process consists of starting off with something real and taking it and spinning it in a fictional direction. I’ll start writing about a real life experience and transform it after a few sentences into something fictional. This was originally a serious book but I took my cue from Albert Brooks’ film that people like to laugh too, and mixed some comedy in for good measure. I think there are some great moments of original humor in Stockboy. I like all the film and literary references I put in the book.
This story is ‘for anyone who has ever worked retail’. I feel that working retail gives one a general sense of people and society (good and bad). Have you worked in retail before?
Yes. For many years I worked in retail. Only these past few years have I been out of the industry. Working in the industry with people from all walks of life is a great experience but it comes with its fair share of drawbacks. People don’t want to see you succeed, sometimes, for whatever reason. Especially when you start at the bottom. When I was working in Times Square in retail, there was a supervisor who just wouldn’t let me advance, again for whatever reason. I had the credentials I needed to move up. Again, I don’t like to be negative but in certain jobs, people only like to see others get but so far. I think this book is positive though, overall, and a fun and serious read at the same time. What do I know about everyone else’s experiences in retail? Not much. This story is just drawn from my own personal experiences.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
It’s something completely different! A “truly moving book” but like some famous writers and directors, I like to keep the plot top secret until it’s released or about to be released. It will be out early next year at this point. I want to enjoy the holiday season.
Stockboy features the story of Phillip, a single 30-something retail employee, who is trying to rise above the job for which he was hired in a large Times Square theme store. While waiting for a big break, he works hard and, in the interim, falls in love with a woman who comes to believe he actually works as a teacher. While confronting different elements in his job and personal life, he finds himself struggling to stay afloat in his effort to find romance and financial success. This is a story for anyone who has ever worked in retail and yearned to rise up in order to achieve happiness.
Posted in Interviews
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Stockboy by Thomas Duffy is the story of Phillip, a man who is in his dead-end job. Stuck with no relationship. Stuck in his mundane life. Phillip is a good guy. He is smart. He has a degree. He has an excellent work ethic. However, he feels like he is only spinning his wheels and wasting his time on a life that is going nowhere. He feels his life ticking away while waiting for his love life to work out, his bosses to see his potential, and fulfillment to come his way.
Phillip is such a relatable character. He is sort of an “everyman” underdog. Everyone has felt unfulfilled at some point in his or her life. Readers will definitely identify with this character. He is the typical good guy who finishes last. He’s smart and capable and a great worker. He also gets passed over time and time again for promotions or wage increases at his bookstore job. When he does find a woman he loves, his life tailspins in that area as well. He can’t catch a break. As my grandfather would have said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the same thing.” Phillip lives a “Groundhog Day” sort of life on his cyclical hamster wheel of a life.
The themes in the story fit right into our current social climate. Wages are stagnant. Growth is slow. College students owe student loans they can’t pay while working jobs below their qualifications. People can’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford insurance. When they do get insurance, they are still scared to go to the doctor for fear that the condition will be worse than they expect. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Opportunities for a better life are few and far between. People still manage to get up, put their torn sneakers on, and go back to the grind everyday. This is Phillip. He personifies a big chunk of the American workforce, and likely those abroad.
The writing is great. It is simple and direct without being boring. It doesn’t feel pompous or overbearing. Thomas Duffy is a good author that way. He reels you into his stories and his characters in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling he’s attempting to make up for content with flowery language. The content is there, so he doesn’t have to put on airs. I saw one or two simple typos. Beyond that, the spelling, sentence structure, etc. are great. This was an easy read. The book is easily digestible and could be knocked out in a weekend. Duffy books are always page-turners for me.
Other than a few minor errors the writing is solid, the characters are relatable and the situations they find themselves in will hit close to home for many readers. I like this writer’s style and have read his work before. He delivered again and didn’t disappoint. I’d love to read more of his work.
Pages: 200 | ASIN: B00CA517C8
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One Love is an emotional novel that explores the different lives of people struggling with their own challenges in life. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This is the book I identify with most of all the books I have written. It is a book that enables me to share my life experiences with others and, hopefully, shows people the pain and passion in life as well as the complexity of love and human desire. I needed to tell this story for my own personal reasons as well. I believe the family element of the story is also very strong and easy to relate to.
I enjoyed the truth behind many of your characters and how I could relate to them. Is there anything you took from your own life and put into this story?
Yes. The book is semi-autobiographical. There are real people behind all the central characters. I, of course, am Timothy. I met someone many years back, almost 20 years ago, who I fell instantly in love with. All the prior people I had met just didn’t matter after I met this girl. She’s called Melody in the book. I imagined the consequences of meeting her later in life and starting anew despite the fact that we’ve both moved on. Of course, I moved on not by choice but because of rejection. All the main characters in the book have identical counterparts in real life.
This book is filled with a cast of interesting characters. If Hollywood came knocking, who would you cast as the leads in the movie?
Good question. I was thinking Oscar Isaac and Reese Witherspoon initially. Reese Witherspoon, definitely. She has the charm and charisma that Melody would need to have as an on-screen character. Maybe Giovanni Ribisi instead of Oscar Isaac, though, because Reese and Giovanni are closer in age. For Cindy, Carey Mulligan for sure. Cindy is the love of Timothy’s life and Mulligan would capture the essence of Cindy to a tee. I would want Vince Vaughn to play Louie if possible.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I put my sci-fi series, “The Separation” books on hold temporarily to work on a new book for my Truly Moving Book series which “One Love” is a part of. The new book is going to be my best yet! It’s due later this year.
One Love begins as a young man named Timothy meets a girl named Melody. She seems to be the girl of his dreams but when things don’t go as planned, he moves forward and settles down with another girl named Cindy. As years pass, Timothy reconnects with Melody who is now married with children. He begins an affair with her that will change both of their lives and force him to evaluate the decisions he has made in his life. One Love is a story of family, romance and heartbreak. It will make you search your soul to discover what the right thing is for the characters to believe in.
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Thomas Duffy’s book, One Love, is a tale of both love and heartache. Protagonist Tim is torn between a “what might have been” sort of love and another that is actually in front of him. Duffy doesn’t paint over the ugly parts of love, instead highlighting them. He exposes what love looks like in real life, not some fairy tale version that we were taught in the movies. Duffy doesn’t shy away from the flaws and complexities of his characters. His is a raw and honest account of entangled and intertwined relationships that examines what we sacrifice for love, and the love we may sacrifice for security.
A book has to really grab me from page one for me to read it quickly. I got through this one in two days, even with other things going on. I was pulled in. I was fascinated and wanted to see what happened from page to page. I went through a range of emotion with the characters. I wanted to hug Tim and slap him sometimes at the same time. The same went for Louie and Melody at times. I felt like I was peeking in on intimate details of lives I shouldn’t be seeing but wanted to see at the same time. Thomas Duffy pulled back the curtain on real life. He exposed what everyone tries to hide.
Readers will find themselves identifying with the characters. They are all flawed in some way or another, and that makes them more identifiable. Louie’s addiction, Tim’s stagnant career and failure to commit, Melody’s indecisiveness, Cindy’s crippling anxiety. Duffy covers the gamut of dysfunction. Chances are that each reader will see his or herself in at least one of the characters. I appreciated the realism and admittedly saw myself in a character or two. Everyone has a “what might have been” scenario or two. This book lets readers vicariously live one of those scenarios out.
I’m not a romance novel fan. I wouldn’t call this your average romance novel by any stretch. However, there are some sexual scenes in the book. They are not overpowering to the rest of the plot. They feel necessary and relevant to the story. You’ll find much more concentration on the feelings of the characters and their daily lives than sex, but it is there. -And, it is important to the story.
This one was a real page-turner for me. The writing was simple without being boring. There was no pretense. No stuffiness. I was completely interested in the lives of the characters from the first page until the last and found myself wanting to know more. The characters felt real. They were well-developed. I feel invested in their lives. I want to know what else happens.
The book is brilliantly written. It was a very easy read. The pace was perfect, and the plot flowed well. The characters felt real. I can’t say enough good things about this writer. I’d love to read more of his work.
Pages: 263 | ASIN: B00PAE4HV4
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Separation follows Finn as he struggles to live in a world that separates the sexes and removes children from parents. Did you know where you were going when you started writing or did you let things happen organically?
This novel is actually part of a trilogy. I am currently working on the sequel, “United.” I had this great idea and created three stories based on the characters and storyline. Of course, some of the plot was initially simply outlined and then fleshed out significantly during the actual writing process. I am proud of this book. I think it touches on topics that are universal and of great interest to society today.
This book has a unique resolution to a real overpopulation problem. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
I wanted to address issues that are of great urgency in society today. Without bringing any of my own politics into this interview, I think the novel touches on provocative themes and pressing problems in society today. I won’t reveal all of them because I don’t want to give away the book. I feel this, above all my other work, is a must read. But, overpopulation is a real issue and I think this book addresses the topic head on.
Because the sexes are separated in the story, this makes for some great ‘worlds colliding’ type moments. What was your inspiration behind Finn and Angela’s relationship in the novel?
Their relationship is based on the fact that men and women are going to be different and have viewpoints on the separation (and on life in general) that are not necessarily identical. However, men and women do need each other in many respects. They complete each other in their own complex way. I wanted their relationship to reflect that.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on part two of this trilogy—-“United”–which will be out early in 2019!
In the distant future, there is a separation of the sexes at birth for the good of society. Financial needs, above all else, have led to such drastic measures. The Separation is the story of the life of a male named Finn. The book traces his life at birth and continues past his “education” as well as beyond the time when he ultimately learns of the opposite sex. What will result from the revelation of a female society? Finn may wish he never found out. This is a story of the consequences of needs, desires and answers to questions that sometimes should not be asked.
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It’s the 22nd century and the world is overpopulated and under-educated. To combat this, the government has decided that male and female students will be segregated for their first 22 years of life. They will have no knowledge of the opposite sex or of their parents. Finn is a brilliant and questioning student, but his intelligence leads him to test boundaries and break rules. When he enters the real world he meets Angela, and they have a son, Leonardo, who awaits the same fate of separation. But Finn cannot let go of his son that easily, and he begins to tread on very dangerous ground…
The Separation by Thomas Duffy is a dystopian speculative fiction novel. Duffy has written a story with a fascinating premise, and some hefty themes are handled deftly by the author. Topics of religion, sex, gender and class are woven through the narrative, and many of the questions posed are philosophical ones such as ‘what is really important?’ and ‘what constitutes a ‘good’ life?’ There are interesting reflections on the complexity of human desire, governmental control, finding meaning in the world, and whether career or love is more important–all of which feel quite relevant in today’s world.
Finn makes for a very likeable hero, behaving in ways which are extremely relatable and understandable considering his circumstances. Duffy has written an empathetic protagonist, which isn’t always the case with dystopian fiction, and I was really rooting for him throughout. Some of the other characters, including Angela, remain quite one dimensional which limited me in really believing in, or caring about, her relationship with Finn. I would have liked some more well rounded female protagonists, but perhaps this was a technique used by the author to represent how detached the sexes are.
The book is written mainly in the third-person limited narrative with the focus on Finn, but we get insight into Angela’s thoughts and feelings too which helped me to feel slightly less detached from her. The writing is full of dialogue and at times it is weighed down with exposition—unfortunately, this made a lot of the dialogue feel quite heavy handed and not particularly natural. I particularly struggled with the conversations between Finn and Angela which were lacking in real emotion. Again, this could have been a mechanism used by Duffy to portray their stunted development when it comes to relationships/the opposite sex and communication. Despite this, the narrative moves at a fairly steady pace. I enjoyed watching Finn’s misdemeanours unfold, and there was plenty of action and intrigue to keep me turning pages.
Overall, this is a fascinating addition to sci-fi/dystopian fiction which might leave you in a slight existential crisis! It throws up profound questions about what is truly important in life, and if this sounds a little too intense, there are also lots of unexpected twists, turns and excitement to keep you on your toes.
Pages: 306 | ASIN: B078YRNM8M
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To Never Know depicts the story of Steven and how he is affected by his life choices and forces beyond his control. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The story is loosely based on the time period I was in high school up until the time I reached my mid-twenties. I always wondered what life could have been like had I taken more risks when I was a teenager. I was in Florida at the time of 9/11 and right as it happened, I wondered if any of my friends or acquaintances had been affected. There was no Facebook back then so it was more difficult to keep in touch with old friends and classmates at that time. The idea became a story which I felt should be told regarding love, loss and the importance of taking risks in life. You never know when it will be too late to reach out to someone. Therefore it is so important to make good choices today and always follow your heart. As I wrote the novel, I explored the notion of reaching out to someone who lost a daughter in 9/11. I believe this storyline made the novel more powerful. I hope the reader will be moved.
Steven is an interesting and relateable character. What was the inspiration for the main character’s traits and dialogue?
This character is all me. He speaks like me and acts like me especially during the time period the book is set in. I have changed considerably in some respects but most of the dialogue and traits I carry with me to this day.
What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
The moral of the story is that we must move forward and learn from our mistakes. We will make mistakes but we can’t beat ourselves up over them. We must try to value the beauty of life and take pleasure in the little things. I have a fascination for the minor details of life. In the end of this story, lives have been transformed due to the events that took place during the course of the novel. I want people to come away with a feeling that anything is possible if you are just willing to take risks in life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
The next book is called The Separation and is a sci.fi. book. It was supposed to come out in late August but due to the passing of a friend, I couldn’t make the Booklife contest I wanted to enter so I delayed the release to late November. It will definitely come out then. Expect to be moved. It’s a very thought-provoking story.
Steven Lewis is a young man with no concrete plans for his future after school. For a short time during high school, he wanted to ask a girl named Kelly out on a date but never had the courage to do so. As his life is taken in a different direction than he had hoped, he holds on to the thought of actually getting to know Kelly. Even after several years pass, he is determined to find her again. His quest to know her leads him to a tragic discovery. When he meets her mother, Emily, his life will never be the same. This is a story of love, loss and hope. It is an unforgettable personal journey about the quest for happiness after tragedy.
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Heart Breaker is a dramatic story about one woman’s traumatic and tumultuous life. What was your inspiration for this story?
I had met a girl a lot like Amber during my time on an online “dating” telephone service years ago. She always seemed to have bad luck yet she was very smart and capable of doing a lot more with herself than what she was doing. Her story sort of debunks the lifestyle you see in movies with the “hooker with a heart of gold.” It’s so hard to keep the “heart of gold” when nothing in your life ever goes right. I would like to hope this girl has found some kind of peace in her life. She deserves to.
Amber is an interesting character that is sometimes impulsive and rash. What obstacles do you feel were important to highlight the characters development?
The Amber we meet at the beginning and the Amber we see at the end is a character completely transformed. She has learned the error of her ways in an uncomfortable and heart-wrenching way. It’s important to remember that her decision to do what she does to Jeffrey comes from the way she had been treated. I think we become a lot like the people we are around. Unfortunately, Amber’s abduction by Miguel has negative consequences for her as she ultimately becomes almost as heartless and vicious as he was to her. For Amber to just move forward like nothing had happened to her, that was almost impossible to convey. People always take bad experiences with them for a very long time. She just happens to act on her impulses because of what was done to her.
Was there anything from your own life that you were able to put into the story?
Surprisingly, yes. The forest fire story Amber tells Jeffrey that happened to her as a young girl. That was actually an event in my own life from when I was in the Boy Scouts that I was able to put in the novel. I have had almost as much bad luck as Amber. Some people will not relate to Amber at all. However, I feel she’s totally relatable in my opinion because everybody has had a streak of bad luck in their lives. Hers is just more continuous than the average everyday person. Also, some of Miguel’s suicidal thoughts have some element of realism because they are based on some of the more disappointing aspects of my own life. It was important to see Miguel as more than just a monster. I wanted to add some humanity to him. I hope readers, if they can’t sympathize with him, will understand why he is remorseful in the end.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
“The Separation,” a new sci-fi book, is coming out in November. I’d like to follow that up with a third book for my truly moving book series (which consists of “One Love,” “To Never Know”). Not sure what the story will be. Several ideas floating through my head right now.
Heartbreaker is the story of a down on her luck young woman named Amber. She comes to New York City and gets into more trouble than she ever imagined when she becomes an independent escort. When a client kidnaps her, she begins to value her life more than she realized she could. This is the story of Amber’s journey to overcome her past and present on her quest for a better tomorrow.
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Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).
Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.
Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.
As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.
As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.
This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.
This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.
Pages: 184 | ASIN: B017UZDW02
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