Liane Moriarty is one of those rare people who can write ‘internationally best-selling author’ after her name. Her warm, family-centric novels have staked a claim to some prime real estate on my bookshelf, and her book What Alice Forgot has been optioned by Fox Pictures. In short, she gives great novel.
So I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to pop over for a chat.
Liane’s fifth book The Husband’s Secret was published around the time of this interview, opening the door for conversation about inspiration, family and managing social media as an author.
Liane Moriarty’s writing tips
I love the inspiration behind The Husband’s Secret – an article about deathbed confessions. Are you the kind of writer who always knows what her next book will be about, even as she’s writing the current one, or do you wait for the quiet time, once a book’s finished, to flail about with a net for inspiration?
Liane Moriarty: “I normally have a few ideas at the back of my head, and sometimes I’m positive that I know what my next book is going to be about … until I sit down to write it. I put aside another idea to write The Husband’s Secret, and actually, I’ve just shelved that same idea yet again. I don’t know why it keeps getting shelved, because it’s an extremely brilliant idea involving a suffragette, a pole dancer and … look, it may be one of those ideas that only sound brilliant when they remain in your head. That particular character might have to stay at the back of my mind forever, pole dancing sadly away.”
When you began your writing career, social media was almost non-existent – now it seems that authors must be ‘engaging’ at all turns. How do you feel about that aspect of being an author today? Are you active on social media?
LM: “Yes! You’re right! There was no Facebook! And we all survived, didn’t we? In one respect I can’t stand social media, because I’m very bad at it. I only went on Facebook at the insistence of my publisher and I am always behind answering comments, and I rarely do status updates, and I never update my blog, and I whinge constantly about the expectations, and how I don’t have time for this because I only have such short periods of child-free time to work.
“On the other hand, I also LOVE it, because I receive such lovely, generous comments from readers, and that precious feedback is available so quickly after a book is released. I greatly admire authors who do social media properly, twirling effortlessly about the Internet, linking and tweeting. One day I will be just like them. And one day I will be very thin and punctual, too.”
You experienced almost instant success with your first novel Three Wishes – do you think that made it easier or more difficult for you as a writer? Do you feel a weight of expectation with each book?
LM: “The Husband’s Secret is my fifth novel, and although you are kind to say I experienced almost instant success with Three Wishes, it was quite modest, manageable success if you know what I mean. It was published around the world, which was fantastic, because it meant I could become a full-time writer, but sales weren’t quite up there with 50 Shades of Grey. So I haven’t really felt that huge weight of expectation that I know some authors feel. I feel like my readership has been growing at a nice steady rate but I don’t feel any pressure to stick to a certain formula. I just feel very lucky each time I have a new publishing contract.”
Two of your sisters (Jaclyn and Nicola) also write. Are you competitive with each other? Inspired by each other?
LM: “We are very competitive when it comes to material. For example, there was much outrage when I announced that I’d made use of a beloved family anecdote in The Husband’s Secret. I’m the eldest, so as I was here first I obviously enjoy first right of refusal on everything that has ever happened in the history of the Moriarty family…
“I am definitely inspired by both my sisters. I always say that I would never have published my first book if I wasn’t inspired by Jaci’s success with her brilliant YA novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia. My sister Nicola, is one of the authors I mentioned above; she is very adept with social media, so much so that she and her graphic designer husband are my social media consultants. They set up my website, Facebook page etc. and answer my moronic questions, and I am eternally grateful to them.”
People often praise the humour in your books. I saw it described in a review as “so delightful, it’s wicked and empathetic and intelligent and smiley and it just nails it, every time”. Do you set out to write ‘funny’, do the characters drive your humour, or is it just a part of your natural voice?
LM: “Who wrote that review? I love and adore that person. I definitely don’t set out to ‘write funny’. I think you’re right that it’s normally the characters and the situations driving the humour. Humour is such an odd, subjective thing. Some people don’t find my books funny at all. I’ve seen some reviewers write, ‘What? This book wasn’t funny at all! I never laughed once!” Which always makes me laugh, for some reason.“
Would you love more writing tips and advice? Check out my book So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.