Australian author Liane Moriarty talks about her most exciting moment, her fictional crush and what inspired The Husband’s Secret.
Since you became a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to happen to you?
I am trying to choose between two memories.
The first is of sitting on a Sydney ferry and seeing the woman next to me open her handbag and pull out a copy of my first novel, Three Wishes. She then proceeded to read it. As if it was a real book! Until then I’d secretly wondered whether the whole process of publication had been a giant (cruel) practical joke.
The second memory is of sitting on my back steps watching my son play in the yard, while I was on a conference call with my literary agent, a film agent, and a Hollywood film producer. The producer was buying the film rights for What Alice Forgot. “We were thinking of someone like Jennifer Aniston or Reese Witherspoon for the role of Alice,” he said, just as my little boy bellowed, “I’m hungry!” It was quite surreal.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To fly. I know everybody has dreams about flying, but mine feel so very real. Each time I dream-fly, I think, “That’s right, of course I can fly – how could I have forgotten!” I have a friend who claps her hands to make herself fly in her dreams. That’s ridiculous. I gracefully flap my arms and point my toes.
What fictional character do you have a crush on?
Patrick Pennington from the series by the British author K. M.Peyton, beginning with Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer. I read these YA books as a fourteen-year-old and fell deeply in love with Patrick. He was a big, brooding, leather-jacket-wearing bad boy, who got into trouble a lot but played the piano like an angel. I still swoon at the thought of his big grazed knuckles (from punching walls and the like) caressing the piano keys. Ah, Patrick. It’s probably your fault that I took so long to find the right man.
How would you describe your latest novel The Husband’s Secret?
It’s a contemporary story about a woman who finds a letter written by her husband to be opened in the event of his death. The only problem is that he’s still very much alive. Should she open it? Of course she does and there are earth-shattering repercussions, not just for her.
How did you get the idea for the novel?
Two years ago I stumbled upon a fascinating article about real-life deathbed confessions. I learned about Christian Spurling, who confessed on his deathbed to faking a notorious photo of the Loch Ness Monster. There was a famous songwriter who was dying of cancer who wrote a letter admitting, after years of adamant denials, that she had plagiarized a lullaby melody. Then there was the hapless man who, after suffering a stroke, confessed he’d killed his neighbour thirty years earlier. The only problem was that he didn’t end up dying. After he was released from hospital, he went straight to jail. These stories, particularly the one about the man who didn’t die, got me thinking. I was intrigued by that overwhelming desire to share your darkest secret. So I came up with the idea of a man who feels such a powerful desire to share a secret that he sits down and writes a letter to his wife, to be opened in the event of his death. It’s a deathbed confession, except he’s not dead.
Did you relate to one of the female characters more than the others? Who was easiest/hardest to write?
That’s tricky because they were all very different to me. I probably related least to Cecilia. She’s one of those super-efficient working mothers who volunteer for everything and have their lives perfectly scheduled and organised to the minute. I guess she was the most difficult to write in the beginning because although I respected and admired her, I didn’t like her that much. However by the end of the novel I was so fond of her, and I hope readers will feel that way too.
What message do you want readers to take from the novel?
I don’t really set out to convey messages in my novel. I just focus on the story. So I guess the only message I would want readers to take away from the novel is that they would quite like to read another book by this author.
For those new to your writing how would you describe your style?
It’s really hard for me to describe my own style so I’ll steal a line from a review. “Moriarty may be an edgier, more provocative and bolder successor to Maeve Binchey” – Kirkus. I’m a huge admirer of Maeve Binchey’s work, so I was thrilled and honoured to read this.
How much plotting do you do before you start writing?
I’m not a plotter. I come up with a premise and put my characters in a difficult situation and then see if I can get them out of it.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new novel but I’m not sure what it’s about because I keep changing my mind. Also, I keep finding that other people have already written novels using my startlingly original ideas. So that’s upsetting.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
I read in bed, read in the bath, read in the TV commercials, sleep, eat chocolate, work off all that chocolate in gym classes, ski (not that I ski every weekend, but I thought I should mention something outdoorsy), and now it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned my children, and I don’t know how I could have forgotten them, because they are currently with the babysitter, screaming their darling little heads off in the hallway just outside my office door. What I actually do when I’m not writing is take care of my five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, and I like that very much.
Mother of three and wife of Jean-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death. Curious, she opens it – and time stops. Jean-Paul’s letter confesses to an act of madness from before he knew Cecilia which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others. Cecilia – betrayed, angry and distraught – wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she loves most . . .
Liane Moriarty is the author of five novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and The Husband’s Secret. Writing as L.M. Moriarty, she is also the author of the Space Brigade series for children. Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter.
* For reviews of all of Liane’s novels, see her author page on Chicklit Club.