Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty, 53, is the bestselling author of eight novels. Born in Sydney, she is the oldest of six children – she has four sisters and a brother. When the youngest was two, their mother began fostering kids, so there was always a baby in the house. Liane still lives in Sydney, with Adam, her partner of 15 years, and their two children, Anna and George.
We talk to the Big Little Lies author about sisterhood, spa breaks – and surviving a minor heart attack…
Having four sisters is great. I feel lucky that I’m still so close to them. Nicola, Jaclyn and I are the writers in the family, and we’re all different, despite sharing the same ’70s suburban childhood.
My late father was a self-made businessman who paid us to write – a dollar for an exercise book filled with words. He encouraged us in the discovery of how wonderful it is to be paid to do what you love. That’s exactly how I feel today.
When I was little I wanted to be a writer, but then lost that crazy confidence you have as a child. I ended up accidentally falling into advertising. My dad 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 to finally write when Jaclyn told me her first novel was being published. I was happy for her, but also filled with envy and a rage directed at myself, because I’d spent years not even trying.
‘He encouraged us in the discovery of how wonderful it is to be paid to do what you love.’
My first attempt, The Animal Olympics, a children’s book, was rejected by everyone. Then I wrote Three Wishes, an adult novel about triplet sisters. This was accepted for publication and sold modestly around the world.
The Husband’s Secret, my fifth book, was my breakthrough novel, and Big Little Lies came next. I got an e-mail from my agent saying Nicole Kidman was interested in optioning it for TV. I had coffee with her in Sydney, which would’ve been thrilling enough in itself. But for the filming to actually go ahead and happen was amazing.
I wrote 50 000 words of the second season. It wasn’t a screenplay or a novel, so it was an interesting exercise. I didn’t have the struggle of getting characters from room to room, and no beautiful descriptions. I’ve considered turning it into a novel, but because I’ve written so much, it feels too much like hard work!
I start with a premise, and 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’d die or why.
Liane’s newest novel Nine Perfect Strangers has already been optioned for TV, too.
In my latest 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. 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.
For research, I went to a spa for five days. I loved it, and planned to visit more, but I like coffee too much. I read a lot, though, and talked to people who’d been to various health resorts. Tranquillum House is very different, but I did take lots of ideas from those chats, such as doing t’ai chi at sunrise – that sort of thing.
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 to look after myself, especially since I had a minor heart attack six years ago. We were on holiday when I had what I thought was a painful stomach virus. Finally, I got chest pains and I recall thinking, “Thank goodness! Now we can call an ambulance.” I recovered quickly, but didn’t transform myself like Masha, one of my characters, does in Nine Perfect Strangers.
‘One of the benefits of being an author is that my husband is a stay-at-home dad’
Adam and I met through friends. We had our first child when I was 40 thanks to IVF. I feel lucky that we’ve had two. In my novel What Alice Forgot, I had a character struggling with infertility. 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 learnt Marian Keyes bought her husband a Maserati. But Adam’s still waiting…
My favourite thing to do as a family is bushwalking. We’re all together and the kids talk more when they’re walking with us. There’s a lovely place where we bushwalk up a hill, with beautiful views of the ocean. We end up at the top at a cafe where we have scones with jam and cream. That’s my idea of heaven.
Liane is currently writing a new novel about a family of tennis players…
Speaking of her current book project, Liane shared in a Facebook post:
“I am working on a new book. It won’t be out until 2021 and all I can tell you for now is that I’m really enjoying writing it. It’s a kind of mystery story about a family of tennis players. I’ve been researching the world of tennis and in a remarkably serendipitous coincidence, I was invited to be a guest at the Australian Open Inspiration Series. It was a really special event chaired by Jamila Rizvi. My fellow guests were Caroline Wozniacki and Rebel Wilson and the room was filled with inspirational women like Rose Batty, Cathy Freeman, Magda Szubanski and many, many more.“
Main image by Steve Granitz/WireImage