Big Little Lies Author Takes Intrigue to the Spa in New Novel

Posted by Goodreads on November 6, 2018
Liane Moriarty
Before Australian author Liane Moriarty was rubbing elbows with celebrities, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (both of whom starred in and produced the Emmy-winning HBO adaptation of her novel Big Little Lies), she was already a wildly popular bestselling writer. Her fifth novel alone—The Husband's Secret—sold more than 3 million copies and sat on The New York Times' bestseller list for a year.

The success of Big Little Lies has certainly kept Moriarty extra busy. She even took a pause from writing her new novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, to create a story line for season two of the show so that Witherspoon, Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley could return to the California beach town of Monterey for more secrets and lies of various sizes.

However, readers shouldn't fret that Moriarty's gone Hollywood. She's back with even more intrigue in Nine Perfect Strangers, which follows nine attendees of an unorthodox health resort who have plenty of secrets (and some tendencies to lie)—a Moriarty specialty. When she talked with Goodreads contributor Mary Pols, Moriarty herself was anything but secretive. She was funny, charming, and honest about how "excruciating" novel writing still is.


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Goodreads: I'm calling from the United States; you live in Australia. Does everyone at readings there ask you where you get your ideas, the way they do in the States? And what your writing routine is?

Liane Moriarty: They definitely always ask where you get your ideas, which is fine because I mostly get my ideas from my life. Are you going to ask those questions?

GR: Well, I would like to know what your routines are. Or if you have one.

LM: Sadly not. I do not have a really rigid routine where I light a candle or play a particular song to get started. I do love hearing other authors' routines, so I wish I had a more interesting one. Maybe with my next book I'll come up with one. But coffee is essential, and so is that I use the program Freedom to turn off the internet.

I do feel like when I push the button—it allows you to put in how many hours you want to be off—that always feels like I am programming myself. That is a magical essential.

I tend to do three-hour shifts. That started because when my children were little, we had a nanny who would come for three hours at a time. I actually found that I was more productive with the children than when I had vast expanses of time. The time was so precious, I couldn't waste it. Now they are older (eight and ten), and my husband is a stay-at-home dad.

GR: Your books flow so easily that the hardest part of reading them is forcing yourself to put them down for a bit. Do the words flow out of you easily?

LM: No, it doesn't flow. It is definitely always a lot of self-loathing and flailing about when I first start a book. It's excruciating.

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GR: Nine Perfect Strangers features nine people at a health retreat in the remote Australian Outback. Once they get to Tranquillum House, they hand over their car keys and relinquish all control of meals and activities to the owner and director of Tranquillum House: Masha Dmitrichenko (the character Kidman, who landed the movie and TV rights to this new book, is rumored to want to play). So it is set within a self-contained world. Does that cut down on the excruciating process of writing?

LM: I do love exactly this, where you have got them all together somewhere. There is a Jane Austen quote where she says something like "a small village is just the thing." I should know this quote. I am going to look it up while we're talking. Hmm. [Sound of typing.] I just love that you've got them all together and now you can just make them move. It is so much easier—where is this quote? [It's "Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on."] I should stop looking for it and talk to you—anyway, in this case I also love the fact that they are doing a retreat. [Ten days.] So there is a small, finite amount of time, which is good because I think I am not very good with time. My very first book [Three Wishes], I remember my editor saying, "This doesn't quite work; check your timeline."

GR: Did you have one?

LM: No. That is where you get yourself into trouble. I am not a planner.

GR: So not even an outline?


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LM: I have never done an outline in my life. And I will never do one. The idea of doing one fills me up with a great sense of depression. Of course, once you are done, you go back and fix. That is the way I have always preferred to write. It does make it more difficult at the end, but you just go back and fix.

GR: The health resort setting, along with some of the intense and unorthodox therapeutic methods Masha uses on her clients, feels very timely, given the growing influence of some of the wellness industry, including Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP. Did you go away to a spa like Tranquillum House?

LM: Yes, I was about halfway through the book when I went away. I kept running out of time to go do my research. I was looking up a lot of TripAdvisor reviews, which was a wealth of information. I should have gone to one of the crazy ones. But I didn't want to fast, really, and I didn't want to be silent for a week. So I went to a lovely place, and I didn't have to give up coffee, although I got up very early in the morning.

GR: Did you sneak in contraband, like Frances Welty, the writer who is one of the main characters in Nine Perfect Strangers?

LM: No, but the manager of the resort did tell me about someone who had a meat lover's pizza delivered to the back fence, so that shows up in the book. Also, many, many years ago, when a girlfriend had a broken heart and I had desperately been trying to have a baby—we were both in bad places—she was given a week away at a health resort. And we said, there is no way we are giving up coffee, so we smuggled in our little bag of contraband. (More successfully than the characters in Nine Perfect Strangers.)

GR: How are you managing to write these days? There are so many demands on your time, and expectations.

LM: When I am writing, I can just say, I am not doing any publicity. I did get a little behind on writing Nine Perfect Strangers because I agreed to do the story for season two of Big Little Lies, which took me longer than I thought but which I was very happy to do.

Apart from that, Truly Madly Guilty was the first time I felt the weight of expectations. I wondered whether a lot of people would like it as much as the other books. The Husband's Secret was my breakout book, and people talk about the second-book blues after a hugely successful book. I kept writing away. I became terrified when some people said they didn't like it. Or that they didn't like it as much as Big Little Lies or The Husband's Secret. But then I realized that wasn't actually the end of the world. Certain books will be their favorite. So I came to this book [Nine Perfect Strangers] with a new sense of freedom of "What will be, will be."

GR: You have this main character, Frances Welty, a romance novelist for whom things seem to be going very badly after years of success. She's pilloried by a critic, her private life is in shambles, and her latest book has just been rejected by her editor. I read an interview where you said it was easy to imagine things going south, the way they have for Frances. So even for you, that is true?

LM: I don't know if there is anyone who doesn't imagine that. I wonder. Stephen King? I wonder if he just feels complete confidence? Surely the fear is what helps drive you and makes it exciting. It makes life interesting. If you were too smug, if you thought, "Of course I can do this," it wouldn't be as interesting. It is the terror that helps drive you.

GR: Have you read King's memoir, On Writing? He comes across as so human and down-to-earth that it is hard to imagine him being smug.

LM: I have. I always name that and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott as the best books ever on writing. I should say, both Stephen King and Anne Lamott at one time said nice things about my books. I always felt, if I ever got myself worked up about a review or felt a lack of confidence, I remember I have their endorsements.

GR: Is your favorite author still Anne Tyler? And have you read her latest, Clock Dance? I loved it but realized I hadn't read her in a long time because I had a boyfriend once who shamed me for loving her.

LM: Fancy shaming you for loving Anne Tyler! Yes, I have loved every single one of her books. And on this U.K. book tour, I got to the hotel and they had a signed copy [of Clock Dance] waiting for me. Which was so special. That was a great thrill. I always thought she gave me permission. Because I think every one of her books has been set in Baltimore, I felt she gave me permission that I am allowed to set all my books around Sydney.

GR: But there's this perception of her as being a "women's writer," which you get as well, right?

LM: I just came back from the U.K., where a journalist said to me, "Is it OK to say that most of your readers are women?" I said, "Of course it is OK." It was all women in the audience. She said, "Oh, you would be surprised." I finally realized what she meant is authors not liking to be called writers of women's fiction. I thought, why is there this subconscious idea that somehow it is less, not as good? And then I got to thinking about when I wrote my very first book [Three Wishes], my boyfriend at the time said, "Oh, I can just imagine the cover. I know exactly what it is. It's a girls' book." I remember feeling slightly ashamed. As if I hadn't written a real book. I feel that is really embedded deeply in my consciousness. That it is lesser.

But we're all just writing stories. People who actually love to read don't have any labels at all. As a young reader, I never had labels. I would just pick up the next book. And the next one. There was no women's fiction versus literary. That would have been completely meaningless. It was just another story.

GR: How was it writing the story for season two of Big Little Lies cold, without a novel to support it?

LM: It felt like a different product. I wrote 50,000 words, and at the end I did look at it like, "Where is my novel?" I felt it clarified for me that I am a novelist. I wrote it purely for the series, so I was writing for Reese Witherspoon's Madeline and the other characters, and I was setting it in Monterey, not in my own Australia. In fact, I changed some of the backstories of my own characters.

GR: How did that book and miniseries change your life?

LM: When people have asked, I say: Allowing my husband to stay at home has been the biggest change for my family, and it has been wonderful for the kids. He loves being home with them, and it is one of the things I feel most grateful for.

GR: What about school pickup? Do all the moms look at you sideways now, worried that you might have based some of the less-glowing depictions of motherhood on them?

LM: No, absolutely not! People at the school actually loved it. The teachers and the principal all got together once a week and watched it as a group. They said, "We are so proud of you." They were so keen, and so keen to come up and give me more material, give me stories. They'd say, "I have got a great story for you!" And I'd say, "I am not going to just write every new book about schoolyard politics."

GR: What's next for you?

LM: I have got nothing in the works! So I have no idea at all. I am calling next year my year of joy. I am thinking I am going to read nonfiction. I don't read enough nonfiction. I always thought when I became a grown-up, I would read nonfiction, so I am asking everyone for recommendations. And I am going to spend some time thinking.

Comments Showing 1-50 of 104 (104 new)


message 1: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Fogel I love your books!!


message 2: by Agustina (new)

Agustina Loved the book!! I enjoyed how all the characters were so different from each other.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy Liane! You are my fav author. Please keep writing


message 4: by Ana (new)

Ana I am a big fan!! I enjoy the suspense, the humour and the beautiful australian setting.


message 5: by Paisley (new)

Paisley I love all your books. Thank you!


message 6: by Marcia (new)

Marcia I’m a huge fan and can’t wait to read this new book!


message 7: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Have started a book group that love all of your novels. They got started reading Rachael Johns non-cowboy romance books and wanted more Australian authors so I introduced them to you and they are so excited to have two authors with new books to read!


message 8: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Beazley Love your books!! Thank you for doing what you do! I appreciate your novels so much and thought the miniseries was fantastic! Excited for season 2! Wanted to share that I loved Alone In the Dark. I don’t usually love nonfiction but she did a spectacular job! Add it to your year of joy if you haven’t already!


message 9: by Donné (new)

Donné Black What a great interview. Love your books! I am so excited that there is a new one to read. Thank you for writing so brilliantly.


message 10: by Nora (new)

Nora Mutalima Have read the book and it did not disappoint. Awesome as always!!! Love, love your work. Especially love that it is set in Australia so very relatable!!!


message 11: by Diane (new)

Diane Blair Great interview, i fell in love with Big Little Lies and have read everything you have published ❤️


message 12: by Erin (new)

Erin Morrison I have loved every one of your books!


message 13: by Robin (new)

Robin I love the Australian setting, and also the references to television programs. Such fun.


message 14: by Perry (new)

Perry So much nonsense is written about this notion of women's fiction, when what is important is the story and how it's told, not on who writes or chooses to read it. A friend of mine had all her books published with chicklit covers, much to her chagrin, even though she was a "serious" writer, just because they dealt with family matters.


message 15: by Deborah (new)

Deborah I love your books! To hear you say the experience of writing one is excruciating fascinated me because when I read your writing it just flows and I can’t get enough. Congratulations on this new book! You are truly a gifted writer!


message 16: by Cindy (new)

Cindy I have read your books for our book group that I started 30 years ago and just love them. One of my favorite non fiction books is
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
by Jon Krakauer. He sucks you right in after a few pages and keeps your adrenaline going throughout the read. It was the 50 th anniversary of “Book Passage” in San Rafael, California. I had the pleasure of meeting Anne Lamont, she is such a wonderful person and outstanding author.


message 17: by Olga (new)

Olga Miret Thanks for your books. I have enjoyed the two I've read and have the new one on my list as well. And I couldn't agree more about women's books. A great story is a great story. Enjoy your reading! (Oh, and I also love Anne Tyler).


message 18: by V J Depledge (new)

V J Depledge Great interview Liane, you sound so warm and natural - and normal! I have loved all your books and really looking forward to reading Nine Perfect Strangers as soon as I can get my hands on it... Thank you so much for all the fantastic reads. Enjoy your 'Year of Joy'... x


message 19: by Jess☺️ (new)

Jess☺️ I'm new to your book I've only read one but loved it can't wait for more, great interview to 😊


message 20: by Lillian (new)

Lillian Berger I love the way that you write. Can't put the book done once I start reading. Read all your books.


message 21: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Love your stories and can’t wait for part 2 of Big Little Lies!


message 22: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Your books inspired my honeymoon to Australia. I’ve been twice and I adore it. I’m also an aspiring novelist and you are one of my favorite authors.


message 23: by Alice (new)

Alice hamer Really great interview!


message 24: by Karen R. Dickson (new)

Karen R. Dickson I love reading nonfiction, too! Check out Radium Girls, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Just Mercy, and The Underground Girls of Kabul...to name a few standouts for me. Thanks for a great interview!


message 25: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Mechinus The Hypnotist’s Love Story was the first of your books I read. Still one of my favorites, although I have loved them all.


message 26: by Becky (new)

Becky I have read all of your books and loved them all! I cannot wait to read Nine Perfect Strangers. I can never get enough Liane Moriarty. Keep them coming!


message 27: by Fatma (new)

Fatma I am a big fan having read all the books and can't wait to read the new one which I am sure won't be disappointing!


message 28: by Becky (new)

Becky Thank you for the gift of your books. I loved them all for different reasons- but What Alice Forgot has stayed with me the longest- helping heal parts of my heart. I am grateful.


message 29: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Wiebe I can’t wait to read this book! You are my favourite author and i love all of your books!!


message 30: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I am a big fan! I love your writing style, so easy to read and get engrossed in the story. I am excited to read the new book, can't wait. Thank you for all your juicy storytelling.


message 31: by Debra (new)

Debra Pawlak Congratulations on all of your successes! From one writer to another, I know it isn't easy! Looking forward to your next book.


message 32: by Monik (new)

Monik I've just got your new book delivered to my kindle. Can't wait to start reading! You're one of my favourite authors!!


message 33: by Mommarush (new)

Mommarush I would have loved to hear you talk about What Alice Forgot...that was the first book I ever read of yours, and it remains my favorite! Such a great story with a twist ending in the epilogue!!


message 34: by Whitney (new)

Whitney Wallace Loved reading this interview and cannot wait to read nine perfect strangers!

Lianne is one of the only Authors that I have ever read all of their books!


message 35: by HEATHER (new)

HEATHER PRINCE Have read, and loved all your books but was disappointed when Big Little Eyes was set in California and not Australia. Why was this?


message 36: by HEATHER (new)

HEATHER PRINCE Should read Big Little Lies- silly me.


message 37: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Your books are amazing! I cannot put them down and talk about them to everybody!!


message 38: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie Love your books! Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift of story telling.


message 39: by Teri (new)

Teri You are the author that I have been recommending to everyone lately. I'm very excited to read your new book.


message 40: by Mary (new)

Mary Chapman Love this interview


message 41: by Linda (new)

Linda Goodwin I loved Truly, Madly Guilty and Big Little Lies and can't wait to read your new book. Enjoy your time off!


message 42: by Maegan (new)

Maegan Stephenson For a non-fiction writer, I have enjoyed Richard Preston. His book “The Hot Zone” is about the Ebola outbreak when it first came about and spectulations about where it originated from. Also, “The Wild Trees” is about the redwoods. His writing is great! I always feel like I’m there in the story, in the happenings as they come about.

I pre-ordered your new book and it’s currently en route to me! I can’t wait to sit down and enjoy another Moriarty novel. Thank you for being one of my favorite authors ❤️


message 43: by Lorry (new)

Lorry Rule My new favourite author. Have read them all and look forward to curling up with the new one. Thank you x


message 44: by Leah (new)

Leah Huge fan!


message 45: by Christine (new)

Christine Campanella Huge fan. Love your characters and stories!! Your new book is on request at my library


message 46: by Sallie (new)

Sallie I adore your books. Please don’t stop writing. Ever!


message 47: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Borsey Great interview!


message 48: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Sayring How are you so fabulous? Thank you so much.


message 49: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne You will have to read her sisters, then! I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty had me howling with laughter 😂

Brenda wrote: "Have started a book group that love all of your novels. They got started reading Rachael Johns non-cowboy romance books and wanted more Australian authors so I introduced them to you and they are s..."


message 50: by Gigisxm (new)

Gigisxm I made it my book of the month club selection. Can’t wait for it to arrive in my mailbox!

I haven’t actually watched the series. I loved the book. I guess now I’ll have to for the second season.


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