Q&A: The woman behind 'Big Little Lies'

Reese Witherspoon has optioned film rights to "Big Little Lies"

Story highlights

  • Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman optioned screen rights for "Big Little Lies"
  • "Big Little Lies" is Liane Moriarty's sixth adult novel
  • Moriarty's novel "The Husband's Secret" sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S.
Liane Moriarty knows playground politics. The Australian author features catty mothers, birthday party snubs and a debauched parental gathering in her latest novel, "Big Little Lies."
Moriarty is familiar with those dynamics herself: she is a hands-on mother to a 4-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. While Moriarty says her characters come from her imagination, she's managed to strike a collective nerve among readers around the world.
Her latest bestselling book also turned the heads of Hollywood moms: Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon optioned screen rights to "Big Little Lies." The novel opens with a school scandal, then traces three families through a tumultuous kindergarten year. Anyone who has picked up young children from elementary school will recognize the characters and conversations in "Big Little Lies."
Many of Moriarty's novels are book club favorites, and not just in her native Sydney. Her novel "The Husband's Secret" sold more than 1 million copies in the United States. She spoke to CNN about putting parenting onto the pages of her novels. Below is an edited transcript.
CNN: How are you able to replicate conversations that so many parents have?
LM: I guess it just means that we're all having the same kinds of conversations across the world... that they're universal. And, obviously, because I'm completely in that world right now, it's really easy to think like that, because that's the life I'm leading.
CNN: Did you have any of those conversations?
Australian author Liane Moriarty had two bestselling books this year
LM: They're still fictional. Although, there might be little phrases taken from real life, but they're still all fiction. Because it's my world, the material is at my fingertips.
CNN: How do you find inspiration for your plots and your characters?
LM: I was inspired by a little story a girlfriend told me when her daughter started school. On the very first day of kindergarten, two little girls came out of the classroom, and they had bite marks on their arms. Because it was the first day of school, no one could say who had done it. They just said a little boy had done it to them.
They actually got the little boys to line up. When this girlfriend was telling me the story, I was just so enthralled by the little drama that went on in the playground, and imagining how you would feel if you were one of the parents, hoping that it wasn't your child that had actually done the biting. In the end, the little girls finally gave in and admitted they had bitten themselves. It's little stories like that (which inspire me).
People tell stories of awful parents, and bullying parents. And you can definitely see the potential, because you do love your child so fiercely. Because it is a little bit like going back to school yourself. It brings out all those insecurities. When all the parties started, and sometimes, I remember hearing about certain parties, thinking, 'My child wasn't invited. What does that mean?' All those things come out. It's easy to collect on that material.
CNN: Have you been surprised by how your books have transcended cultural boundaries?
LM: I think as parents, we're all leading similar sorts of lives. So really, the differences are small. And I think they're differences that readers quite enjoy, in the same way that I enjoy reading books set in the U.S. There are things like trick or treating and Halloween, and little things like that. They're a pleasure to read, but easy enough to understand, so you don't feel alienated.
CNN: What are you working on now?
LM: I'm just in the very early stages of my next novel. I've been joking a lot that my next novel will be set on a tropical island. And I'll have to lots of research to get the setting right. The more I joke, the more I've started to think, 'Actually, that could work.' Because I often like to set my books in a confined setting, a little village .... That's why a school works so well, because you can control it. So why not a tropical island?
CNN: Has your success changed the way other parents treat you?
LM: They tease me. My husband was taking some time off, and announcing he was going to do some more of the pick-ups (from school). And somebody was saying, 'Will you still do some of the pick-ups?' Somebody else was saying, 'Of course she will. She needs us for her material.' They just seem happy for me. It's not like I'm a film star. It's not especially glamorous.