Most often compared to the late, great Maeve Binchy, best selling Irish author Maria Duffy will make a bigger name for herself stateside next week with the release of her latest novel, A Love Like This.
The book's release gives Duffy, 49, another chance to visit her favorite city in the world - New York - for a few days of promotional work.
“It's really exiting to be here,” Duffy tells IrishCentral. “Really, to have a book published at all is a dream come true for me. I worked in a bank for 15 years dreaming of becoming a writer. I mean I always wrote bits and pieces but I had very little confidence in myself. If I didn't have a degree in English or some kind of literary job I always though that no one would take me seriously.”
That fear of rejection kept her working for years in a job that didn't fulfill her, which she eventually left when she started having children. “It was a crazy household, I had four children under six at one point. It was only after the kids started getting a little older that I had time for myself for the first time in a long time. I started to take my writing a little more seriously.”
When she turned 40 Duffy made a pact with herself that she would have a book published by the time she turned 50. “It was a dream to see a book on the bookshelves that people would go in to buy. That was nine years ago, next year I'll be turning 50 and I have seven books published in Ireland. The pinnacle to top it all for me is getting a publishing contract here in the United States. It's far beyond anything I've imagined.”
In an interview nine years ago Duffy remarked that you lose a piece of yourself when you become a mother. It's the kind of candid statement of fact that marks her out from some of the more idealistic writers out there. Does she still think that?
“Being a mother is definitely the best job I've ever had, it's so rewarding. But we'd all be lying if we said it was all roses, with perfect family days. It can be really difficult, really hard. Having worked in the bank for 15 years I had a role to play, but as a stay at home mother you become Owen's mam and Rosin's mam, and people don't even know your name anymore."
"That's how I felt. I was invisible, it was all the children, it has to be all about them. They need you. It becomes a little bit draining. I lost a lot of who I was and lost a lot of confidence after being out of the workplace. I didn't even know the technology. I thought to be a writer you needed a degree and qualifications, when writing is really something that comes from the heart. In a way you can't learn it. I think if you creativity in you and a story in you, anyone can do it.”
One of the stories coming out of Ireland now is the remarkable uptick in bestselling Irish women writers. She feels deeply connect to that herself and enjoys the support of her fellow writers.
“I think it's wonderful to see writers emerging from Ireland, male and female. The likes of Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly have made it big and whose voices are heard throughout the world, they tell real stories about real people. I don't put a lot of weight on genres. When it comes to writing a story, a story is a story, I don't really care what people call my stories, let them call it chick lit or commercial fiction, It doesn't matter. We're great storytellers in Ireland if I say so myself.”
In A Love Like This Duffy introduces us to William and Donna who were born on the same day in the same hospital, but who couldn't be more different as people. Will has grown up in a leafy Dublin suburb and Donna has struggled with her alcoholic mother, leaving her to be raised by her older sister.
“I've always been fascinated by sliding doors stories. The ones you hear about in Ireland where people meet and realize they practically grew up together. I love when people meet and they seem to already know so much about each other. I kind of like to believe in a bit of magic, to be honest. That people are destined to be together.
In this book one comes from a very poor family and one comes from a very affluent one and they live in completely different parts of Dublin. Under normal circumstances they would never normally find each other I suppose. I dip into their lives and there are so many instances of them almost meeting but not quite, just seeing each other fleetingly. When they do eventually meet much later on in the book its like they have known each other forever.”
We live in a tough word these days where a lot of bad things happen and isn't it nice to believe in better things, she asks? That things can get better, that things can work out? “My mother has a very Irish saying, what's for you won't pass you,” Duffy explains. “I strongly believe in that idea myself.”
New York may be her favorite city in the world but these days she wouldn't like to anywhere else but Ireland. “Maybe a few years ago it did feel a bit oppressive but I do think now we're blazing a bit of a trail throughout the world which feels amazing for such a small country.”
To come from a place where she had no confidence in herself or her work to be sitting in a radio station in New York giving an interview about her latest book release in the United States is a remarkable journey. Does she allow herself any credit over it?
“Oh listen, when my first book was published the publishers brought me to sign books and appearances and I cried every step of the way. They actually started bringing boxes of tissues in with them. I would walk into a shop and see my book on the shelves and I'd bawl. I would hear them saying, ah look she's off again.”
A Love Like This is published by Skyhorse, $16.99.