I have long been a fan of Jaclyn Moriarty's wonderful books, but I had not ever tried reading a book by one of her sisters, Nicole or Liane. I decided to dip my toe in by reading Liane Moriarty's New York Times bestselling novel The Husband's Secret!
The Husband's Secret is a funny, sad, suspenseful and utterly surprising book that has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and is set to be translated into over 35 languages. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.
I loved it, and so begged Liane to talk to me about some of her creative inspirations and techniques.
Are you a daydreamer too?
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, my sister, Jaci and I had always wanted to be authors. When we were children, our Dad would commission us to write novels for him. However, it was Jaci who achieved our childhood dream first. At the time her first novel Feeling Sorry for Celia
was accepted for publication, I was working as a freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites to TV commercials. Although I occasionally wrote short stories and first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further, I’d let my childhood dream slide. My sister’s news was the inspiration I needed to get me back to the keyboard. In a fever of sibling rivalry I wrote a children’s book which was enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia. I calmed down, and two years later, my first novel, Three Wishes
Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Sydney and I’ve lived in Sydney all my life. I love reading, DVD box sets (my husband and I are the only people left in the world who obediently wait for the box sets rather than downloading them), snow-skiing, chocolate, champagne, coffee, hot baths, sleep, restaurants with flattering lighting, old friends, but also new friends. I’m also quite fond of my two children. I have a six year old son and a four year old daughter.
How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
I came quite late to motherhood and as a result I tend to look at the world of parenting with the wide eyes of a tourist. Last year I became a ‘school mum’ for the first time when my little boy started kindergarten. It was a brand new experience for me, and I wanted to write about this ordinary, extraordinary world of parenting. I came up with the premise for the book when I was touring with another author (the lovely Ber Carroll) who was spending every spare moment searching for the perfect necklace to wear to a school trivia night. She and her friends were all planning to dress up as Audrey Hepburn. For some reason the image of those mothers with their Audrey Hepburn hairstyles and outfits stayed with me long after the tour. I thought imagine if all the mothers were dressed as Audrey Hepburn and the fathers dressed as Elvis Presley? Then I thought, imagine if there was some sort of argument between all those Elvises and Audreys? Then I thought, why not a riot? After that I was hooked.
How extensively do you plan your novels?
I just tend to come up with a premise and dive in and hope that an ending will come to me. It means there is a sense of anticipation because I think, I wonder what’s going to happen?
Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
No. Never. My dreams are awful. I always have exactly the same dream: I suddenly remember that I’ve forgotten something EXTREMELY important and the consequences are catastrophic. They were particularly bad when my children were babies and I’d wake up screaming, “The baby, the baby! Where did I put the baby?” Actually, maybe I do need to write about this and that might cure me of this awful dream.
Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
No, not really, but what a lovely phrase, “an astonishing serendipitous discovery!” I will hope for an astonishing serendipitous discovery with my next book.
Where do you write, and when?
I write in my home office when my children are at school or pre-school or when they’re playing outside my door with their lovely babysitter.
What is your favourite part of writing?
I love the final twenty thousand words or so of a novel when I can see the end in sight and I know my characters and I finally know what’s going to happen and where I’m going and I’m writing exciting climatic scenes that I’ve been looking forward to writing and everything is coming together, and the writing feels lovely and flowing, rather than awkward and stilted, as it always does when I start a book, and I can’t quite find my voice, and I’m missing the characters from my previous book and I often find myself thinking, Who are these people?
What do you do when you get blocked?
A walk helps. So does a long shower. Also chocolate.
How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
Conversations with friends seem to give me the most material.
Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
My best ritual is to turn on ‘Freedom’ – a little software programme that turns off Internet access for a specified period of time. Just the act of clicking that little button really does give me Freedom to write.
Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, Maggie O’Farrell, Jaclyn Moriarty, Nicola Moriarty, Dianne Blacklock, Ber Carroll, Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Atkinson, Lionel Shriver – I could go on, but I see I’ve used up my quota.
What do you consider to be good writing?
When I don’t notice the writing at all, I’m so lost in the story.
What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
To think of nothing else but the story – not the world of publishing, or what makes a best-seller, or should you self-publish or not, or should it be double-spaced (yes), or should you make it more erotic (probably, if you can! Wish I could) or how will you make sure nobody else steals your ideas (they won’t) – just lose yourself in the pleasure of writing your story. Then edit, edit, edit. THEN and only then should you think about all that other stuff
What are you working on now?
I’ve decided to set my next book on a tropical island, and I feel that I need to do a lot of research to get this book right. A lot of meticulous research. Editors, publicists, agents and various friends are all generously offering to help out.
On Liane's website, she says to anyone wishing to email her:
"If you have just read The Husbands Secret
and wish to tell Liane that Easter takes place in spring, not in autumn, please note that this book is set in Australia, where the seasons are upside down.
Easter takes place in the autumn here. It’s true."
I love that !
Liane's most recent novel, Big Little Lies, was the first by an Australian author to debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Film and television rights have already been snapped up by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon - how cool is that!