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Aussie Novelist Liane Moriarty Breaks Into U.S. Publishing With Three Wishes

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An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Liane Moriarty
Author of Three Wishes (HarperCollins, June 2004)

By Doris Booth

September 2004

Three Wishes, a Novel

 

Three Wishes, a Novel

Buy This Book via Amazon.com

Liane Moriarty's first novel, THREE WISHES, may appeal to women who want a little stronger story than typically found in pure "chick lit." The author is the eldest of six children. She's single, and works as an advertising copywriter in Sydney, Australia. In THREE WISHES, Liane writes about thirty-three-year-old triplets who seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Liane's publisher (HarperCollins June 2004) describes the book as "quirky, intelligent women's fiction."

The novel follows the Kettle sisters as they struggle to survive their divorced parents' dating each other, their technologically savvy grandmother, a cheating husband, champagne hangovers, and the sometimes humorous frustrations of life as being part of an inseparable threesome.

Here, Liane admits that being part of a "writing family" helped inspire her to persevere with her writing and eventually break through the barriers of U.S. publishing, and talks about the experience in the bubbly, light-hearted tones reflective of her debut novel. ". . .I’m inspired by things that I’ve read, things that have happened to me and anecdotes I’ve shamelessly stolen. . ."

—Moriarty AUTHORLINK: How did the idea for THREE WISHES originate? From where do your ideas for books stem?

MORIARTY: THREE WISHES is about the relationships between triplet sisters. I have four younger sisters, so I guess I have some expert knowledge on the topic. As for the triplets, I’ve always had a rather odd obsession with twins, particularly identical twins, and triplets. I went to high school with triplet sisters who I secretly observed throughout my school years.( I also have a secret fantasy about having twins myself one day.) I guess I’m inspired by things that I’ve read, things that have happened to me and anecdotes I’ve shamelessly stolen from my friends and family.

AUTHORLINK: How did you become a writer? Tell us about your formal training and/or your passion to write. And how has your advertising career helped or hindered you?

MORIARTY: I’ve always written stories since I was a little girl. I had my first story published in the “Sun Herald Comics” when I was ten. My Dad used to encourage both my sister and I to write by “commissioning” novels from us for $1! I went into marketing and advertising copywriting so I was writing for a living but as I got older I seemed to lose confidence in my fiction writing. I would start the first chapter of a novel and give up on it and be filled with self-hatred. Then my sister, Jaclyn Moriarty, wrote a very successful, award-wining young adult book (FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA) and I was so inspired by her success (and madly envious of it!) that I got back into writing. First I wrote a junior fiction called “The Animal Olympics” which was rejected by every publisher and agent in the country—I think it was very bad! Then I enrolled in a Masters program in Creative Writing and I finished THREE WISHES while I did my degree. To be honest I probably could have achieved the same thing by joining a writing group. It was so good to be in a structured environment, where you just had to write or suffer public humiliation.

I think my experience writing advertising copy was probably a help in that you have to be quite disciplined with ensuring that every sentence works. The art directors always want you to keep your copy to a minimum and the reader doesn’t actually WANT to read your copy, so you’ve got to give them a reason to be bothered reading the next sentence. If you can make a cooktop or a health fund sound interesting, then it seems a lot easier to make a relationship breakdown or a murder or a family secret sound interesting!

AUTHORLINK: We understand this is your first novel. Describe how it feels to become published?

MORIARTY: It feels wonderful and it’s also a relief because for years I had such a sense of frustration with myself for not achieving (or even trying to achieve) this childhood dream! I could almost hear my ten year old self saying, “Well about time.”  A few months ago I was coming home on the ferry and I sat next to a girl who pulled a copy of THREE WISHES out of her bag. I nearly fainted. The whole way home, I just sat there trying to watch the expression on her face and leaning over to see what page she was up to. "Obviously I would never

have got it published

in the US without her

[Faye Bender] "

—Moriarty AUTHORLINK: How were you able to sell a novel to the American market? Describe your personal road to becoming published. How did it come about?

MORIARTY: I sent my manuscript to my sister’s agent here in Australia, Curtis Brown (who had rejected my previous attempts!) and they sold it for me to Pan Macmillan. Curtis Brown has a relationship with Anderson Grinberg Literary Management in New York and they sent it off to them for me. They also have other agents around the world and it is being published in the UK, Italy, Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Spain.

AUTHORLINK: Who is your agent and how was he/she involved in the sale to HarperCollins?

MORIARTY: My US agent is Faye Bender of Anderson Grinberg Literary Management and she handled the whole sale. She is wonderful! Obviously I would never have got it published in the US without her help.

AUTHORLINK: What's the story behind how you found your publisher?

MORIARTY: My agent found my publisher.

AUTHORLINK: Who is your editor at HarperCollins and how is she/he to work with?

MORIARTY: My editor is Alison Callahan and she is lovely. I’ve only ever dealt with her by email and I’m looking forward to actually meeting her in person when I come to the US.

AUTHORLINK: Did your editor make many revisions to the manuscript once you turned it in?

MORIARTY: My Australian editor Cate Paterson suggested rewriting a couple of chapters because she felt the reader wouldn’t believe in a "convenient coincidence" I had included. I was really glad because I was forced to come up with a much better solution. For the US edition we mainly revised “Australianisms” e.g. we say ‘bubbler’ and you say ‘water fountain’, we say ‘pokies’, you say ‘slot machines.’ Actually, now the Aussie words are sounding a bit weird!

AUTHORLINK: How many revisions did you go through on your manuscript before it sold?

MORIARTY: I have a terrible habit of revising what I’ve already written, rather than going on to write something new, so I revise, revise, revise as a means of procrastination. "I’m a word counter. I have a little book where I record how many words I’ve written each day. . . ."

—Moriarty AUTHORLINK: What are your writing habits? How many hours a day do you write? Is there anything peculiar about your approach to the craft—such as writing or not writing from an outline?

MORIARTY: I’m a word counter. I have a little book where I record how many words I’ve written each day, along with abusive comments to myself (eg. TRY HARDER TOMORROW! YOU LOSER!) or lavish praise.  I try to do at least 500 words a day. I don’t really write to a plan—I’m a bit of a slapdash, non-routine sort of person. Having said that, my next book has a more complicated plot and a mystery, so I’ve had to be a bit more structured in my thinking. "My family

is VERY supportive

of my writing."

—Moriarty

AUTHORLINK: Describe your personal life. Are you married, single? Animals, locale. We know you're from a large family, what do they think of you having been published?

MORIARTY: I live in Sydney by the beach. I am recently single AGAIN after breaking up with my partner because he didn’t want to have children and I wasn’t prepared to compromise with his perfectly serious suggestion of getting a pet instead.

My family is VERY supportive of my writing.  My mother goes around taking photos of my book and my sister Jaci’s books in the bookshops. My other sisters secretly re-arrange our books on the shelves to make them more prominent.

There are a few writers in the family. My sister Jaci has also written a second young adult book, THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS and has an amazing adult book coming out called I HAVE A BED MADE OF BUTTERMILK PANCAKES. My brother-in-law, Jaci’s husband, is Colin McAdam, author of SOME GREAT THING, a literary book which has been receiving rave reviews. Jaci and Colin are a great help to me with my writing.

AUTHORLINK: What's your educational background?

MORIARTY: I have a Bachelor of Business Degree with a Marketing Major and a Masters in Creative Writing.

AUTHORLINK: Are you currently on tour? How many cities? In America? Elsewhere? How do you like being on tour?

MORIARTY: Not famous enough to be on tour yet! Maybe with the next book! " My next book is still

very much a work

in progress. . . "

—Moriarty AUTHORLINK: Describe your next book project without giving away the punch line. Has HarperCollins already bought it?

MORIARTY: My next book is still very much a work in progress and HarperCollins hasn’t bought it yet. I can tell you that it involves a family living on an island with a secret they’ve kept for 70 years, a woman who inherits a house on the island from her ex-boyfriend’s auntie and a woman who has just had a baby and is suffering from severe post-natal depression. HarperCollins described

it [the book], as “quirky,

intelligent women’s fiction."

—Moriarty AUTHORLINK: How do you describe your book? As chick lit? Women's fiction?

MORIARTY: I really liked the way HarperCollins described it, as “quirky, intelligent women’s fiction.”

AUTHORLINK: Do you have any advice to struggling writers on how to break into the publishing business?

MORIARTY: Don’t take rejections personally. Ask for advice from publishers about what they’re looking for.  Join a writer’s group if you think it might help you. Don’t give up and don’t stop writing.

—Doris Booth