When Liane Moriarty speaks, you're compelled to listen closely. Her voice is quiet and low and it feels like she's sharing a big secret as she talks about the characters she creates and which captivate her fans. You can't help but hang off her every word – not only as she talks but also as you turn the pages of her books.
Liane Moriarty is disarming, self-deprecating and has a wicked sense of humour. She's the author of six best-selling novels, including Big Little Lies which has recently been adapted for TV and will premiere on Foxtel HBO in February 2017. The script has been written by David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice) and, with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon leading a strong cast, the series promises to indulge Liane's many loyal readers and to entice new fans.
As the much-anticipated series approaches, I talk with Liane Moriarty about family, film sets and fame.
You've always loved storytelling and started writing as a child but embarked on a novel only after pursuing other career options. Why did you wait?
LM: After leaving school, I worked in advertising and was the marketing manager of a legal publishing company. I also ran my own business and after that worked as a freelance advertising copywriter. I didn't think it was possible to get published until my sister (younger sister, Jaclyn Moriarty) got published. I was sufficiently envious of her success as a writer that I was driven to write my first book.
Speaking of Jaclyn, you have two sisters both of whom are authors. Is there sibling rivalry?
LM: We always say the only thing we fight over is "material". So, if there's a family story, we all want it! They're happy for me and I'm happy for them and their success.
You've been described in interviews as an "ordinary Aussie suburban mum". Does that irk you?
LM: The tag is frustrating. I'd already written three books before I became a mother and my children didn't contribute to my career success in any way! If that was my story, it would be an interesting one - being a mother at home writing a novel on the side with children in the background - but it's not my story as writing was my job. On one occasion, an interviewer said "Hollywood's a long way from Pymble, isn't it." He wanted that story and he got annoyed with me as I wasn't giving it to him! Then there's the journalist who wrote about my hair being "endearingly messy at the back…"
A big part of being a writer is being away from home and family for book tours. Do you enjoy this part of the job?
LM: I usually cry the night before leaving for a tour, then as soon as I get on the plane, it's "woohoo"! The children don't miss me during that time. In fact, I remember Skyping my little girl once and she spent the whole time trying to swipe me off the screen so she could watch Peppa Pig! After 10 days though, we're missing each other terribly and I'm desperate to get home. There's a limit to the exhilaration of being away.
Sitting on the flight to visit the Big Little Lies set in LA, what was going on in your mind?
LM: The main thought in my head was getting a photo with Reese Witherspoon which my editor ordered me to get! The whole time I was stressed about asking Reese for a photo because she's so famous. Thankfully, she's quite into social media so she took the camera, said "no problem", posed and took a selfie of us and then posted it to Instagram. (I get the sense that Liane is yet to accept that she, herself, may be a little bit famous!)
How was it being on the set of Big Little Lies?
LM: Visiting the set was wonderful. I was there on the night they were filming a scene with everyone arriving for the school trivia night so I got to see people dressed up as Audrey Hepburn and Elvis Presley. I also got to see Nicole Kidman dressed exactly as I'd described her character in the book. I was quite teary watching as she looked so beautiful. Being on the set was wonderful though it does get a bit boring with take after take after take. They do work hard, right through the night.
Did you find it challenging to hand over your book to David E. Kelley to write a screenplay?
LM: It was a challenge in a way but with David E. Kelley writing the screenplay, I was confident and I admire the way he wrote it. There were some parts on set where I recognised the text from the book immediately and others which sounded great, that I didn't recognise, and thought "I hope I wrote that"! There were also parts where he's made it better! Of course, he's done little things to make the scene a bit different but I always say that you can't change my book – my book is still there and nobody can take away a reader's experience of the book. This is a totally different thing interpreted by someone else. It would be almost boring if it was too close to the book. I don't know how I will feel when I do see the series but at the moment, it was all just enjoyable. The only thing I don't want people to say about the series is "it's better than the book"!
Don't miss this series based on the book which tells a sharp and shrewd story about ex-husbands and second wives, family relationships, schoolyard scandal, and the big little lies we tell ourselves to get through it all.
Don't miss BIG LITTLE LIES Premieres Feb 20 1pm AEDT - Express Encore 8.30pm AEDT on showcase