Two-Time Alumna Lisa Duffy Releases Second Novel for Summer

Vanessa Chatterley | Tue Jun 11, 2019

If you didn’t know better, you might swear you knew 16-year-old Libby Winters and her downstairs neighbor, Quinn Ellis. These two colorful characters live in a triple-decker apartment in a seaside town north of Boston and are the protagonists of alumna Lisa Duffy’s second book, This is Home.

Duffy ’09 ’12 said she had always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until 2006 that she actively pursued that dream.

“I came back to school with some credits to finish on my bachelor’s degree. I had three young kids and was in my thirties, and I really wanted to take my writing career seriously. I had no idea how to go about that, but finishing my degree seemed like an obvious first step,” she said.

She enrolled in the women’s studies program at UMass Boston and took a creative writing course with English Lecturer Joe Torra. It was in this class that she began writing what would eventually become her debut novel, The Salt House (2017).

“The plan was to take some creative writing courses. Fortunately, one thing led to another and I ended up pursuing a graduate degree,” said Duffy, who enrolled in UMass Boston’s MFA program after earning her bachelor’s degree.

Duffy said she starts each novel the same way: playing around with words until she finds a first line worth exploring.  

“The first line for The Salt House was ‘The night Mom threw Dad out, we had a dinner party at our house.’ It took me a while to get there, but the when I did, I knew it was the start of something,” said Duffy, who, like her protagonist in This is Home, grew up in a triple-decker apartment outside of Boston. “Unlike my debut, there’s some stuff from my own life in that book. I think it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing a love story to my childhood—my middle apartment, triple-decker upbringing.”  

Duffy’s own childhood involved a lot of writing and storytelling. She took her first serious stab at writing a novel at age 19.

“I had chicken pox and couldn’t leave the house. I spent the days tapping away on my electric typewriter, trying to see what I could do,” she said.

Duffy made it 80 pages in before scrapping the project.

“It was an awful story. But you know what? It was fun,” she said. “I was a kid, playing with words and characters. Trying to find my voice.”

And now that Duffy has found that voice, she’s been busy putting it into words.

“I think all writers do the work when they can. My schedule is rarely consistent,” said Duffy, who has two kids in college and a sixteen-year-old at home. “I’ve learned to be flexible, but ideally, I like to write at the same time every day. I’ll read what I wrote the previous day and do some minor edits, then try to make some progress. It helps to develop momentum.”

Now that This is Home has hit the shelves in bookstores across the country, Duffy is busy promoting her new book and working on her third novel, My Kind of People, which is due to be released from Atria Books in June of 2020.

To learn more about Lisa Duffy, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.