Heavenly. If you had a chance at life again, would you take it? The ninth book by Thomas Duffy

Heavenly is the latest book from Thomas Duffy and I was lucky enough to ask him a few questions about the inspiration and themes for his latest book.

What’s Heavenly about?

HEAVENLY is Thomas Duffy’s ninth book. It is the story of second chances, love, hope and faith. When a middle-aged man named John is killed, he is given a second chance at life through the birth of a new male named Peter. Peter struggles to find his way, discover love, and understand the meaning of his existence as he does the best he can to learn the true purpose of his life.

Duffy’s Thoughts on Heavenly

I was excited to read Heavenly. I’ve read a couple of Thomas Duffy’s books, and I love his writing style. The way he takes what may be small, somewhat ordinary lives and creates big story arcs with his carefully created characters. Heavenly tackles some big themes of both a moral and spiritual nature. I would recommend that all readers go in with an open mind and realise that this is a piece of fiction. There is a tendency to suddenly become a keyboard warrior if you disagree with a point of view, rather than just taking the time to either listen or take a look at a fictional life through a different lens that may not be in line with your own moral compass and values.

Heavenly gave off some serious What Dreams May Come vibes for me. I was particularly drawn to Teresa, the main female character in the book, and the compassion and empathy shown by some of the supporting characters. Another creative and interesting read, and looking forward to what comes next for this author.

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.

Heavenly is out now and available on Amazon

Want to explore Thomas Duffy’s other works? Head to my reviews and author Q&A page!

You can also follow Thomas Duffy on twitter @auctionguy28