In conversation with Liane Moriarty We chat to the prize-winning author
The bestselling author of Big Little Lies talks to Fanny Blake about being one of five sisters, the joy of a spa break – and surviving a minor heart attack
Liane, 51, was born in Sydney and is the oldest of six children – she has four sisters and a brother. When the youngest was two, their mother began fostering children, so there was always a baby in the house. Liane still lives in Sydney with Adam, her partner of 14 years, and their two children Anna, 10, and George, eight.
Having four sisters is a great thing.
I feel so lucky that I’m still so close to them. nicola, Jaclyn and I are the writers in the family, and we’re all quite different, even though we shared the same typical 70s suburban childhood.
My father was a self-made businessman who paid us to write.
I think it was a dollar for an exercise book filled with words. He encouraged us in the discovery of how wonderful it is to be paid for doing something you love. That’s exactly how I feel today.
When i was little i wanted to be a writer but then i just lost that crazy confidence you have as a child.
I ended up accidentally falling into advertising. my father always remembers the line I wrote for a nail polish with a finger pointing towards the bottle: “The direction to perfection”.
i got the kick i needed when Jaclyn told me her first novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia, had been accepted for publication. I was happy for her but I was also filled with envy and sort of a rage directed at myself because I’d spent all those years without even trying. That’s when I started writing. My first book, The Animal Olympics, a children’s book, was rejected by everyone. Then I wrote Three Wishes, an adult novel about triplet sisters that was accepted for publication and sold modestly around the world.
The Husband’s Secret was my breakthrough novel and Big Little Lies came next. I got an email from my agent saying nicole Kidman was interested in optioning it for TV, so I had coffee with her here in Sydney. That would have been enough of a thrill in itself – but for the filming to actually go ahead and happen was amazing.
i’ve written 50,000 words towards a second series. It’s not a screenplay or a novel, so it’s an interesting exercise for me because I didn’t have the struggle of getting characters from room to room, and no beautiful descriptions. I thought about turning it into a novel afterwards but because I’ve written so much, it feels too much like hard work!
i prefer to start with a premise but that’s all. With The Husband’s Secret, I knew what the secret was but I didn’t know what the ramifications would be of revealing it. With Big Little Lies
I knew something terrible would happen on trivia night but I didn’t know who would die or why.
in my new book, Nine Perfect Strangers, nine men and women come together at a small health resort, tranquillum House, looking to transform their lives. People will do the most ridiculous things in search of self-improvement and I wanted to poke fun at that desire and show its pitfalls. I still understand that and sympathise, and I still wouldn’t mind being transformed myself! So I hope I show both sides.
i did go to one spa for five days of research. I loved it. I planned to visit more but I like coffee too much. However, I read a lot and I talked to a lot of people who had been to various health resorts. Tranquillum House is very different, although I did take lots of ideas from them, like doing tai chi at sunrise, clients having pizza delivered round the back, staff checking luggage for contraband – that sort of thing.
“It’s wonderful to be paid for doing something you love”
Health resorts offer relaxation and a break from your normal life. That can make you feel transformed. It’s lovely to have beautiful creams rubbed on your face and to think that they might be doing something. They’re probably not, but who cares?
i do try and look after myself, especially since i had a minor heart attack five years ago. We were on holiday when I had what I thought was a painful stomach virus. Finally I got chest pains and I remember thinking, “Thank goodness! now we can finally call an ambulance.” I recovered pretty
quickly but I didn’t transform myself in the way masha, one of my characters, does in Nine Perfect Strangers.
Adam and i met through friends. We had our first child when I was 40 thanks to IVF. I feel very lucky that we’ve had both children. In my novel, What Alice Forgot, I had a character struggling with infertility, so I put a lot of my own experience into that.
One of the wonderful benefits of my success is that Adam has been able to give up his job in the corporate world to be a stay-at-home dad. He became very supportive of my career when he learned that marian Keyes bought her husband a maserati – but he’s still waiting… My favourite thing to do as a family is bush-walking. We’re all together and the children talk more when they’re walking with us. There’s a lovely place where we bush-walk up a hill with lots of beautiful views of the ocean, and we end up at the top at a café where we have scones with jam and cream. That’s my idea of heaven.
i’ve decided that next year will be my gap year.
I’d like to take a little bit more time for the next book. I don’t have a glimmer of an idea yet but I’m looking forward to writing it.
nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Michael Joseph) is out now.