Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and sixty-fifth, is of screenwriter and novelist Harry Duffin.
Harry Duffin is an award-winning British screenwriter who has worked extensively in UK television for such hugely popular series as ‘Howards Way’, ‘Eastenders’, ‘Boon’ and ‘Coronation Street’. As Head of Development for Cloud 9 he was responsible for seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’ featuring William Shatner.
He is co-creator of the hit teen series ‘The Tribe’, produced by Cloud 9, which ran for 260 episodes and has a growing world-wide fan base. His first novel ‘Chicago May’ was adapted from his own screenplay of the same name.
And now from the author himself:
I wanted to be a writer ever since I read Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald aged sixteen, but it was over 25 years before I achieved that ambition and was able to earn a living as a full-time writer. So I’m not what you could call an overnight success.
After five years as a teacher, trying to drum Shakespeare into the skulls of fifteen year olds, I escaped when playwright Alan Plater opened the Spring Street Theatre in Hull, and I blagged my way in as publicity officer, which initially frankly I knew bugger all about. But I managed to work there for ten years, as stage designer, company manager and writer for the youth theatre, with two spells at the world-famous Soho Poly Theatre in London, working with, and learning from, playwrights like Barry Keefe [The Long Good Friday] and Glen Chandler [Taggart].
In 1980 I was lucky enough to join the legendary Leeds Theatre in Education team as designer/stage manager, and helped in the creation of the award-winning ‘RAJ’ and ‘DIRTY RASCALS’, two projects that have gone down in the annals of TIE history. Working there with talented writers like Mike Kenny and Paul Swift was the springboard for my own youth writing, and I wrote two television plays for the ITV teen series ‘DRAMARAMA’, the first of which gave Nick Berry [Eastenders] his first television role as teddy-boy, Lance Boyle. By chance I went on to write the episode of EASTENDERS which introduced Nick to the series as Wicksey. The audience for that script broke the 20 million barrier for the first time for the famous soap.
When the Eastenders creators revived ‘DISTRICT NURSE’ I got the chance to write for one of my favourite actors, the marvellous Freddie Jones, one of the highlights of my career as a TV writer.
Though my first instinct for writing had been for prose, [I wrote many rejected short stories for magazines in my twenties], I found that my years of working in theatre had developed my ear for dialogue and I was able to go on to write drama for all the major UK television companies.
In the early Nineties I became a founder member of a UK independent company, Cloud 9, where I worked for ten years as Head of Development, script consultant and senior writer for many film and TV series, working with Hollywood legends Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas and William Shatner.
Having developed many projects for TV that never saw the light of day, I finally got the chance to make my own individual mark by co-creating the cult teen series ‘THE TRIBE’ for Cloud 9, which ran on Channel Five for five years with over 260 episodes. The series went on to be aired in over forty countries and is still being shown somewhere in the world every year. Writing THE TRIBE was my proudest achievement in my TV career, but in the back of my mind I always had the desire to emulate my boyhood writing heroes Hemingway and Fitzgerald, by writing a novel.
Having failed to sell my screenplay CHICAGO MAY in Hollywood, a couple of years ago I adapted it into a novel and self-published it via Spiderwyze in Scotland.
The story, inspired by a real person, tells of the exploits of a sixteen Irish girl who ran away to New York and became the most successful con-woman on the East Coast.
Writing the novel was the most satisfying project of my writing career to date.
Since then I have collaborated with my wife, Chris, in writing JAIL TALES, a brief, amusing memoir of her 20 year career as a prison governor.
So over fifty years on I have finally achieved my ambition to be a novelist. My advice to wannabee writers? – ‘Never Give Up!’
Absolutely, Harry. Thank you very much. You can find more about Harry and his writing via…
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