Liane Moriarty is the only Australian author to have a novel debut at number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list – her wildly successful novel Big Little Lies. The same novel has been optioned for a film featuring the likes of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Alexander Skarsgard. She is author of many other novels including Truly, Madly, Guilty.
After the success of her fifth novel The Husband’s Secret, Liane certainly felt the pressure to maintain the success, but she always resisted the temptation to write to a formula. “My American editor sent me an email saying, ‘You took a darker turn with this book and readers seem to like that.’ Basically the point of the email was she was saying, ‘Do that again.’ I really had to think. I didn’t want to get caught in that trap of writing to a formula, thinking, ‘OK, you did this, just do exactly the same thing again.’ I do appreciate that readers did seem to like the fact that my other books focused on relationships but I took a slightly darker turn, and I enjoyed taking that turn, so I did that again.”
Liane mentions that she is not much of a planner and how that affects her writing process. “I find for me, because I don’t know what’s going to happen next I do have a terrible habit of going back and editing what I just wrote the day before because that’s easier than writing when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Therefore at the end I don’t have to go back and redraft. For me it makes the writing process more interesting, but as I said, it also makes it a more fearful process. That’s what I’m always ready to change about my writing. I read about other authors who have it all planned out and how they can write quicker, and I think to myself, maybe when I grow up I will.”
She talks about how she figures out who her murderer is. Liane says that in her novel Big Little Lies “I didn’t know who did it. I didn’t know. I can’t remember now if I even knew who died. I must have known that fairly early on. But, I think that it was only about a third of the way through writing the novel that I figured out who did it. For example, with [her other novel] The Husband’s Secret I put my characters in a terrible situation and I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get them out of it.’ I distinctly remember the moment when I worked out with them what I was going to do. But I can’t remember with Big Little Lies. I find it really tricky often to look back and think, ‘How did that all come about?’”
LIANE’S TIP: WHAT WILL KEEP YOU GOING?
“I think writing your first novel is like being on a diet. That’s why programs like Weight Watchers are so successful, you’ve got to have “ something that keeps you going. Anybody can write their first chapter, but it’s a really long task to finish it. Either join a writers’ group or get a friend to become a writing partner, set up a contract with somebody, say, ‘I promise I’ll get you a chapter by such and such a date’. That sort of thing. You’ve got to trick yourself into writing the first novel.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.