It’s no secret that we’re quite fond of this month’s featured author, Liane Moriarty. And having read all of her books, Marybeth and I had a few burning questions for. So grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and listen in as we discuss with the Australian-born author issues of family, intrigue, obsession, and secrets. And don’t forget, if you haven’t entered to win our giveaway of three Liane Moriarty novels, there’s still time.
Marybeth: Liane, you’re a mom and wife as is Alice in your novel WHAT ALICE FORGOT. The premise of ALICE really resonated with me as a wife and mother. How much of your own thoughts about the way life turns out vs. the way you envision it fed into the book?
Liane: When I was writing What Alice Forgot, I was actually pregnant with my first child, so I didn’t have any experience at all as a mother to draw on. The book and the baby and house renovations were all due at the same time, but then he turned up five weeks early, so all my plans fell apart! I guess I probably related more to the Alice of nearly thirty, than the Alice of nearly forty (even though I was forty myself). I’d had a long difficult journey to become pregnant, so I’m sure I put more of my own thoughts and feelings into the character of Elisabeth, Alice’s sister, than I did to Alice herself. Alice was entirely fictional, although perhaps inspired by conversations with friends who were in similar situations (ie. married with older children, I didn’t actually know anyone who lost their memory after a fall in a spin class!)
Marybeth: You have such intriguing premises for your novels. Do you remember the moment when you knew the idea for THE HUSBAND’S SECRET was worthy of pursuing in novel form?
Liane: It was probably when people asked me about my idea for the next novel and I told them that I was writing about a woman who finds a letter from her husband to be opened in the event of his death. They immediately looked intrigued and wanted to know what the letter revealed. Then I knew for sure that the novel was going to work when I started enjoying the writing and wondering what was going to happen each day when I sat down at the computer. It always feels so stilted and strange in the beginning so it’s such a relief when I begin to enjoy it.
Ariel: I read THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE story last summer and it’s one of the rare novels that has stayed with me since. What struck me about that novel is the level of sympathy you create for Saskia, a woman who is, by most standards, emotionally unstable if not mentally ill. Did you feel compassion for her? How did you strike that balance between fear and understanding while creating her character?
Liane: I did feel compassion for her (and the awful thing is that I’m sure I wouldn’t have felt the same compassion if that character was a man). I actually found it quite scarily easy to put myself into her shoes and imagine how it would feel to behave that way. I should pause here to clarify that my compassion is not because I have personal experience as a stalker. I read some great books on the psychology of stalking, and learned that many stalkers have recently experienced a loss in their life, and that helped me create a backstory for Saskia. Once I had her backstory, and felt I knew her, I found it very easy to write entirely from her point of view and understand her twisted logic. So much so, that when I switched back to Ellen’s point of view, I had to forget my knowledge of Saskia’s motivations, and keep reminding myself that her victims would obviously find her behavior very distressing.
Ariel: I loved THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. And I’ll never forget the moment while reading chapter two where Tess’ husband tells her he’s leaving her for her cousin. I had such a visceral reaction to that scene. So much so that I had to go immediately to my sister’s (she’d stolen the book from me and read it first) and talk about it. I needed coffee and conversation to process what I’d just read. When did you know this story was not just about Cecilia but about Tess and Rachel as well?
Liane: Thank you so much Ariel, and it’s just wonderful to hear that you had such a visceral reaction to that scene. In answer to your question, I think I must have known from the beginning that it was about all three characters, but I honestly can’t remember! I’m very haphazard with my planning process. I just start with the premise and then see what happens. In this case, I know that I knew from day one the secret that the letter contained, but I can’t quite remember, for example, how Tess came to show up. It’s all a bit fuzzy, sorry, and now my mind is filled with a whole cast of characters for my new book!