13; her latest offering.
iane says being at the school gates one day and on an Emmy red carpet the next is surreal, but that the process of collaborating with Kidman was a total joy. “Of course it was special,” she says. “I must admit I thought that everybody in Hollywood would be quite egocentric and shallow, but in fact they were so welcoming and made me part of the process, which they don’t have to do. [Nicole] has been so lovely and warm, and that has been one of the unexpected benefits of this whole thing.”
A second series has been mooted and yet Liane remains trailed by what she calls the “whole suburban mum thing”. As she tells Stellar, “I spoke to a young journalist once who obviously thought Big Little Lies was my first book. Maybe because I was so much older than her, I seemed like some mum who’d scribbled it down in the kitchen while cooking the lamb chops, rather than a mid-list writer who managed to break out.”
There is arguably a note of latent sexism in the mum narrative. Women’s commercial fiction (where Liane and Nicola’s books sit) and young-adult novels, which is what Jaclyn writes, tend to be sniffed at by critics who consider them a lesser art than literary or general fiction. As Liane points out, “I do doubt a male author would ever b be described that way.”
More pernicious is the assumption that three female siblings working in the same industry must be competitive, and riven with jealousy towards whoever has achieved the most commercial success. “I have been asked, ‘Are you envious or competitive?’” Jaclyn says, “And I always say absolutely not. I am so happy that we all write, can act as each other’s first readers and support each other that way. Liane can be ruthless but I trust her editorial judgement. And because we all understand the importance of praise, she will always read anything of mine and immediately say this is the best thing I’ve ever written.”
Still, she concedes, “All authors have crises of confidence. I’ve definitely woken up at 2am thinking, ‘Why am I writing when my sisters are such stars?’ But in the daytime, I feel confident in my writing and the space I’ve carved out for myself. Even growing up I always thought of Liane as the leader, so I just get happy for her and think, ‘Well, maybe I will be a New York Times bestseller and get movie deals, too.’”
Liane adds, “Like both my sisters, I’ve been asked on many occasions if there is sibling rivalry between us. I have always answered that our only rivalry is over the use of family anecdotes in our books.”
Nicola says she grew up “idolising” Liane and Jaclyn. And as the last to join the family business, she tells Stellar that she benefited from her sisters’ industry experience, while at the same time feeling the weight of their name. For a time, she considered submitting her first manuscript to agents with a pseudonym. “It was definitely good and bad,” she says of the family connection. “I didn’t really know how you go about becoming a writer, until Jaclyn and Liane did it and you start to feel it is possible.”
Given her sisters were already so well established, Nicola reveals that “I couldn’t even admit to myself that I was writing a novel, in case I panicked and couldn’t do it. It probably wasn’t until I was five or six chapters in that I started to feel more confident to let that be my aim – and confess to my sisters that’s what I was trying to do.” Nicola’s third book, The Fifth Letter, was released this year; she is currently negotiating film rights for one of the three.
With their cappuccinos emptied, the sisters begin to gather their things in preparation for – yes – the school pick-up. (Liane and Nicola each have two children.) As they head their separate ways, Liane reflects on their mutual success. “I have always felt like anything good that happens to one of us happens to all of us,” she explains. “Jaclyn has really good legs, so that means I have really good legs, too. And Nicola has that Julia Roberts smile, so we’ve got that covered as well.”