As with all my books, In Search of Us began with just a seed of an idea. Actually, it wasn’t really an idea at first – it was two characters that entered my mind and they just wouldn’t leave. Even when I was writing my last book, Falling Softly, these two stubborn characters insisted on invading my brain, demanding to be released onto the page. But there was no room for them in Falling Softly so I had a few stern words with them and told them to behave. There’d be a story for them eventually but they needed to have patience. They sort of got the message and quietened down for a bit, but as soon as I opened a blank screen to start my seventh novel, they were back.
I toyed with the idea of having them meet a terrible fate because, after all, I have the power! But as I got to know them, they began to grow on me. Elizabeth and Ronnie Cunningham are twins, but they couldn’t be more different. Elizabeth is power hungry and runs a successful recruitment business. She’ll let nothing get in her way and doesn’t care who she tramples on to get what she wants. Her husband, Nathan, is just as ambitious and together they make a formidable pair. Ronnie, on the other hand is a gentle soul. Her kind and loving nature endears her to everybody she meets and she lives a simple life with her tattoo artist boyfriend, Al. Even Ronnie and Elizabeth’s appearance is completely different and you’d never imagine they were twins. Ronnie is a big girl in every way, with dyed auburn hair and a rockabilly style. Elizabeth is tiny in stature. She’s rarely seen wearing anything but a sharp business suit which seems to compliment her equally sharp features.
Throughout In Search of Us, I delve into both Elizabeth and Ronnie’s characters. They’re very complex. When we think of twins, we imagine two people with an unbreakable bond. Not so with these two. Although they used to be the best of friends as children, something happened later on to tear them apart and now they can’t even stand to be in the same room together. But as I develop their characters and we find out more about their past, we begin to understand them more. I’ve always been fascinated by twins so it was interesting to try to get into their heads and see what they were thinking.
When I thought about the setting for In Search of Us, I did as I always do, and based the main part of the story in Ireland. But then I had a little think. Because of the storyline, it was necessary for the girls to take a trip somewhere. So the place I thought would be perfect was New York. Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that it’s one of my favourite places in the world and I take every opportunity to go over there. No, it was purely because it suited the story. So it was completely necessary that I’d take myself over there. Purely for research purposes! I wanted to make sure that the places I wrote about were authentic. That I had everything right – from names of streets to décor of hotels. It’s amazing the amount of emails and messages you can get from readers if, for instance, you mentioned cream wallpaper in the reception of a certain hotel when it’s actually white.
Writing a book is such a privilege. To invent characters – give them traits and habits, make them look a certain way and bring them to wherever I please – is the best job in the world. Because I’m very character driven and delve right into their hearts, I’ve enjoyed each and every character I’ve written about in all seven books so far. But there was something special about Ronnie and Elizabeth. A certain sparkle that I felt when I was writing them. It was as though they were my friends and I cared about what would happen to them. I was willing them to have a happy ending – but you’ll just have to read the book to find out…
And as to my research trip to New York… There must have been a sparkle surrounding the writing of this book because while I was over there, my agent set up some meetings for me. So not only did I come home with a better understanding of my characters and the places they’d visit, I had myself a two-book deal with a US publisher. Now I need to decide on the setting for my next one. I’m thinking of sunshine over a crystal-clear sea. Watch this space…
(c) Maria Duffy
Growing up in Ireland listening to my parents and grandparents telling stories, I always knew I wanted to write. But, as often happens, my life took a different turn and I ended up working a bank before giving it up to be a stay-at-home mum to my four beautiful children. A few years ago, I decided to start writing again and see where it would take me. I joined Twitter where I became part of a wonderful community of writers and soon found myself an agent. I was lucky to find a publisher soon after for my first novel, Any Dream Will Do, which was published in 2011. The Terrace was published nine months later and both hit the top ten in the Irish charts.
I also write a blog for Hello Magazine! where I interview celebrities who tweet and have been very lucky to meet some amazing people over the last few years.
You can contact me at www.mariaduffy.ie or on Twitter @mduffywriter
About In Search of Us:
Twin sisters Ronnie and Elizabeth couldn’t be more different.
Happily living with her boyfriend Al, Ronnie loves her job in an antique jewellery shop – the only thing that’s missing is the baby she’s desperate to have.
While wealthy, glamorous Elizabeth, owner of a thriving recruitment company in Dublin, is married to the equally successful Nathan – having a baby couldn’t be further down her list of priorities.
But when their mother Belinda passes away, she reveals a secret about the twins’ father which changes everything. As Ronnie and Elizabeth travels to New York to find out more about the man they never knew, it turns out that their mother has a few more surprises in store for them. Will the sisters finally discover that they have more in common than they think?
Order your copy online here.