November 2011


Maria Duffy is the author of Any Dream Will Do about people who meet through Twitter. She writes a blog about Twitter for Hello Magazine and also has her own personal blog. Maria lives in Dublin, Ireland, with her husband and four children. (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. Tell us about how you got published.

    My publication story is a little unusual. In September of last year, I was approached on Twitter by Sheila Crowley, literary agent with Curtis Brown in London. I’d met her a couple of times before at Inkwell workshops and we’d begun following each other on Twitter. She asked if we could meet the next time she was in Dublin. Well, you can imagine how exciting it was to get a message like that! Still with me? Anyway, to make a long story short, Sheila loved my Twitter voice and told me that if I could get that voice down into a book, I’d have something special. So the whole process took 14 months for me from start to finish. Sheila signed me up, I wrote the book in a few months, she sent it to publishers and Hachette Ireland responded within a few weeks by offering me a two-book deal. I got my deal in April of this year and Any Dream Will Do is already on the shelves. It really is a dream come true!

  2. 2. Do you plan your books meticulously, or just start with an idea and see where it takes you?

    Oh gosh, plan? Even the word sends me into a tizzy! I totally fly by the seat of my pants! What I do is form the characters. I get to know them in my head before I write the book and I let them drive the story. Of course, I know the general plot but I’d hate to have it all mapped out. Some writers are very disciplined and set everything out beforehand. If that works for them, that’s fantastic. Everyone has their own way and I think every writer just has to find theirs. There’s no wrong or right.

  3. 3. Who are your favourite women’s fiction writers, and did they inspire you to write?

    Marian Keyes, Patricia Scanlon and Cathy Kelly have been my favourites for a long time. And yes, they did inspire me to write. When I set out to write a book a few years ago, I knew nobody in the writing world. I was clueless as to what to do with a manuscript when I had it read. So I found Cathy Kelly’s website and sent her a message. She was fantastic. She emailed me a wonderful, encouraging email with lots of information and recommendations. She’s such a generous lady and has endless time for new and aspiring writers. In the last few years, I’ve also come to love Monica McInerney’s books and she inspires me hugely. I’ve come to know her and she’s such a lovely person and has been so encouraging towards me and my writing.

  4. 4. How do you feel about the chick lit label? Do you mind your books being branded chick lit?

    I don’t have a problem with it at all. What are labels really? It doesn’t change what the book is or what’s inside it. They can call my book anything - well, within reason!

  5. 5. If you ever experience writer's block, what do you do to resolve the situation?

    Oooh I have a story about that! Will I tell you? Okay, you’ve convinced me. A few years back, I was in the middle of writing a book when I got a really bad block. I was about six weeks not being able to write anything. Every time I sat down at the computer and typed a few sentences, I’d read them back and they’d sound like something a five-year-old would write. Anyway, one night I went to see Keith Barry, an illusionist and hypnotist, in a show and ended up on the stage, being hypnotised! (I promise, there is a point to all this!) He always says that when you’re hypnotised, you should feel energised and good afterwards. Well he wasn’t wrong. I felt fantastic after it. I went home and began writing and wrote all through the night. Now, I realise that it’s not a good answer to the actual question you asked, because I’m sure Keith Barry wouldn’t want his door banged down every five minutes by crazed writers with writer’s block! I’ve never really had it as bad as that time but when I do find I’m lacking in inspiration, I try to forget about what I’m writing and get out into the world. Inspiration won’t come to you by sitting looking at the computer - you need to go out and find it. It’s everywhere!

  6. 6. What's the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

    I think it’s just to be yourself when you write. Don’t try to write like the authors you admire because it won’t be natural. Just find your voice and let it flow. I know lots of writers feel they haven’t found their voice. To be honest, I definitely hadn’t found mine until my agent told me to write like I tweet. It was so liberating for me. I didn’t feel I had to try hard any more - it just came naturally.

  7. 7. What do you think it takes to become a bestselling author these days?

    Oh gosh, I honestly couldn’t say. I suppose first and foremost, you have to have a brilliant book. But I think there has to be more these days. The competition out there is really tough so I think you need to do whatever you can to get your name out there and boost your sales. For starters, I think it’s important to be on a social network site such as Twitter, where you can let people know about your book and they can even follow your journey. My Twitter friends have been amazing. I’ve kept them up to date with every step towards publication and they’ve all been so supportive. My book has only been out there a few weeks and I’ve already had so many tweets from people who’ve read it and loved it. Basically, although writing is the biggest part of it all, you’ve got to get yourself out there too!

  8. 8. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

    Oh without a doubt, as I’ve said above, it’s to find your voice. I’d written a couple of books that were fairly tough to write. I know now I was trying to write the way I thought I should. When I found that voice, everything just slotted into place.

  9. 9. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be?

    Absolutely Marian Keyes.

  10. 10. Has being an author taught you anything about yourself?

    Yes! It’s taught me that I don’t always have to have a squeaky clean house nor do I have to make gourmet dinners every day for my husband and children. I’ve learned that beans on toast won’t kill them nor will a bit of time in front of the telly! Having four children, life is busy but I’ve learned how to juggle and not stress so much about the small things. Oh yes, and it’s also taught me to believe that you can achieve your dreams.

  11. 11. What message do you hope readers will take from your books?

    I don’t know about message but I want my books to make them smile or maybe even sometimes laugh. Somebody tweeted last week that they’d spluttered their soup because they were laughing so much reading Any Dream Will Do. I think that’s about the best compliment I could get. Being a debut author, this is all so new to me but basically, if the reader comes away feeling good, then my job is done!

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