A Conversation with Lisa Heidke

It occurred to me that I hardly need to introduce Lisa Heidke to followers of this blog, who I know are pretty passionate readers of contemporary women’s fiction. Lisa is the popular author of LUCY SPRINGER GETS EVEN, WHAT KATE DID NEXT, CLAUDIA’S BIG BREAK and STELLA MAKES GOOD – books she is proud to call ‘chick-lit’.

Lisa and I met online – not the way you’re thinking0_Heidke Lisa small (you can read more about such things below) – but in the way many authors meet each other these days, via our ‘social platforms’, that is, Facebook, Twitter and the like. But we did eventually get to meet in person, and bonded over everything we had in common – especially our love of women’s fiction, and our struggles writing it! I discovered Lisa is as funny as her books, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to my blog today, to discuss her long-awaited new novel, IT STARTED WITH A KISS.

So, it’s been a while between drinks, Lisa! I have seen your fans on social media hounding you for your next book, so I’ll ask for them, what took you so long?

Short answer? A couple of false starts …

The longer answer? I wrote a manuscript that I love about two sisters on the professional tennis circuit. It’s got travel, romance, suspense, and intense drama between the siblings as they navigate their professional and private lives in the public arena. Unfortunately, [my publisher] Allen & Unwin, didn’t think it was quite the right fit for them so I started writing IT STARTED WITH A KISS.

Coupled with my oldest son doing the HSC in 2013 and A&U pushing the publication date back, yes, you could say it’s been a long journey getting novel number five ‘out there’. But I am so pleased it is!

So you’re saying you haven’t exactly been sitting on your hands! 🙂 I think readers don’t always realise that the publishing process is often long and arduous, and completely out of the author’s control. Good for you for persevering and producing a whole brand new novel, which I enjoyed immensely! What was your inspiration, the spark that fired IT STARTED WITH A KISS?

I have friends whose marriages and long term relationships have fallen apart and suddenly they find themselves alone and lonely. How do they meet people? Quite a few sign on to dating sites – RSVP, e-harmony etc. And I thought this would be a fascinating premise for a novel. I interviewed friends and am enthralled by the concept – how internet dating works (and often doesn’t!), the successes and the horror stories. I also poked around a few dating websites … eye opening. It’s amazing how much personal information people will reveal to complete strangers, along with sharing photos taken back in the 90s, when they had a full head of hair and looked twenty-five. What happens if they make it as far as actually meeting up with their potential love interest?

I had a great time writing IT STARTED WITH A KISS, but I wouldn’t like to be Friday!

Why not? I’d certainly like to have her name – what a great name for a heroine!

Thanks, Di. I’m rather fond of Friday’s name too!

I don’t want to be Friday because she’s going through a tough time personally and professionally. Her career as a naturopath got sidelined to raise a family and then, when her husband leaves her, Friday flounders, not knowing what to do with herself. Her self-esteem is at an all time low and she makes things worse by having an ill-fated fling with a married man. I felt sorry for her as I wrote her character but still, I kept adding to the conflict and tension …

 The grist of any good story! We writers are so mean to our poor characters. And yes, thrusting Friday into the realm of internet dating was particularly cruel! So tell us about your research – what’s your opinion of internet dating now?

Inevitable. Is that the right word?

Because if you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship and all your friends are couples, how do you meet potential partners, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mum, working alone or employed in a small business? If you’re actively involved in the church, gym or some other activity, such as a cycling or movie club, you might meet someone … but what are your other options? (Other than badgering your friends about ANY single non-loser friends, brothers, and acquaintances they might have.)

Generally, older, single women aren’t going to go to bars or clubs by themselves; it’s far safer to flick through potential candidates on a computer in the privacy of your own home.

Does that sound depressing? I don’t mean it to be – and I certainly didn’t set out to write about internet dating, but the more I spoke to women the more I realised that this was the norm, especially for woman between the ages of 25 and 45, who were looking companionship – at the very least.

No, it doesn’t sound depressing, you sound like you’re a convert! You certainly cover the range of possibilities of internet dating – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, without giving spoilers away, Friday’s biggest problems come from rather unexpected places. The twists and turns at the end of the book are surprising and even shocking at times, and really well-handled, Lisa. Congratulations! 

Thanks, Di. I had a lot of fun writing Friday’s story. I really hope she resonates with readers.

Just one final point – my internet dating days are over but I have quite a few friends who have found true love on these sites!

 Lucky them! Thanks so much for your time, Lisa, it was great chatting.

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If you want to find out more about Lisa and her books, you can go to her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


And if you want the chance to win a signed copy of IT STARTED WITH A KISS, just leave a comment below, and Lisa will choose one lucky reader at random.




A Conversation with Liane Moriarty

I am so excited to welcome Liane Moriarty to my Conversation series!

Liane2As many of you know, we are friends, colleagues, co-anchors of Book Chat along with Ber Carroll, and the three of us appear regularly together at events. Since the success of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET, and now BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane’s star has risen to a whole other stratosphere from us mere mortal mid-listers, but she’s still the same girl at heart – warm, natural and self-deprecating, and I couldn’t wait to introduce you to her, here on my blog.

 We started our conversation back when BIG LITTLE LIES was released, but writers are real people too, and in Liane’s case, have small children and go away for the school holidays! At that time, BIG LITTLE LIES had debuted at Number 1 in the New York Times Bestseller List, after the phenomenal ongoing success of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET, which was still on the list after a year! So I asked Liane …

How does it feel to have not just one book in the NYT Bestseller List, but two!?

Thank you so much for dropping that into the conversation, Di!

It feels wonderful and surreal, almost like a practical joke. I emailed my publisher in the US and asked if someone could please send me an actual real copy of the New York Times because I don’t think I will believe it until I can actually hold the newspaper in my hands. Then I’ll be able to keep it for my grandchildren. (Although knowing me I’ll probably lose it.)

I can imagine that it feels very surreal! Such an amazing accomplishment – from what I understand it’s incredibly rare for any author to have 2 books in the list at the same time, let alone an Australian. Do you think this puts paid to the idea that Americans won’t read or understand books set in Australia? Have you had to make any substantial adjustments to your stories for the American market?

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I actually just this moment got an email from the US that began, ‘Holy Crap!’ with the news that the paperback edition of WHAT ALICE FORGOT has made it on to the bestseller list, so apparently an Australian author now has three books on the New York Times bestseller list!  All three books are set in Australia, so yes, I think American readers are OK with an Australian setting. I haven’t made any substantial adjustments. We always leave in Australian colloquialisms, slang etc. if they make sense in context.

The only thing that has sometimes created confusion is the change in seasons.

Until I put a note on my website, I was receiving many emails from US readers of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET gently pointing out that Easter takes place in the spring, not the autumn.

9781742612010Well, that’s adorable. And even more congratulations are in order! 3 books in the NY Times bestseller list, PLUS a movie deal signed with Nicole Kidman and Reece Witherspoon!! I’ve heard that Nicole wants to play the part of Celeste, do you know which character Reece intends to play? (I’m calling them by their first names, because they’re obviously friends of mine now too, by virtue of the six degrees of separation rule.) And just for a bit of fun, do you have a wishlist of actors to fill the other roles?

 I am guessing that Reese maybe wants to play Madeline, but  I don’t actually have any idea. I think both she and Nicole would be amazing as Celeste and Madeline. It would truly be a dream come true to see them playing my characters.

In regard to the other characters, a friend suggested Hugh Jackman for Perry, and I agree he’d be perfect. I also think Matt Damon is perfect for any role he would like. Any role at all. He probably likes to work with his old Oceans 11 friends, so we might need to make room for George, Brad etc. I’m happy to do a rewrite of the book if necessary. You can see that I start behaving like a fifteen year old whenever this subject comes up.

I think it would only be fair to make room for George and Brad, and I’m more than happy to help out with casting. In fact, I’d be prepared to take it off your hands altogether, Liane. If you could just organise to get their contact details for me, I’ll take it from there. Really, it’s no trouble … Who’s behaving like a fifteen year old now!

But seriously, I reckon Matt Damon could totally play Ed, Madeline’s husband – he has that air of decency about him. Though I was picturing maybe Paul Rudd, who could nail Ed’s sense of humour and deadpan delivery. His one-liner comebacks at Madeline are hilarious. In fact, their whole relationship crackles with life, it was one of my favourite things about BIG LITTLE LIES. What did you enjoy about writing the book, and were there any parts you found more difficult?

I really enjoyed writing the interview snippets from the parents who were at the Trivia Night – my ‘suburban Greek chorus’. They were mostly minor characters, who were there to help build a picture of the main characters, and to give different perspectives on the events of the night, and some were purely for satirical/comedy purposes, so it meant I could have lots of fun with them. I also loved the setting, as I don’t actually live in an idyllic seaside community so it was lovely to sit down at the computer each day and feel like I was heading off to the beach. There were some panicky moments when I was writing Big Little Lies. I’m not a planner, so I never know how my books are going to end or how my plot is going to come together. It’s always such a relief when I’m about two thirds of the way through by which point I’ve worked out my ending, I’ve got to know my characters and they’re all behaving themselves (or misbehaving) and the writing just flows. I wish I could jump ahead to that point with my next novel. (I’m currently at the panicky point!)

Oh no! Then I best not keep you any longer! Except to say that I laugh-out-loud loved the Greek chorus too, and I still can’t get over how you can pull together such intricate plots and bring it all to such a satisfying conclusion. You’re a wonder.

So we’ll leave Liane there, panicking about how to finish her next book, and hand it over to you. If you’ve read BIG LITTLE LIES, who would you cast in the film? And even if you haven’t read the book yet, who would you love to see in a ‘funny, heartbreaking’ film about ‘ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics’. Speak up in the comments, and you have a chance to win a signed copy of BIG LITTLE LIES !



A little privileged whining …

Thanks for the overwhelming response to my last blog post on the chick-lit debate. Clearly many people felt very strongly about the topic. And I don’t know whether the moon was in the Seventh House, or Jupiter had in fact aligned with Mars, but there was some kind of synchronicity going on. At the risk of blogging a dead horse, I’m going to take this opportunity to point you in the direction of a couple of other recent links of interest.

Over at Tara Moss’s blog, after attending the recent SheKilda crime festival, she decried the gender bias still rampant in the literary world. I’m sure Tara couldn’t have imagined the response she was about to get, however, when Cameron Woodhead, reviewer for The Age newspaper, weighed in with some extraordinarily patronising comments. Primarily, that it all sounded like ‘privileged whining’ to him. (It’s well worth a read – great stoush in the comments.)

I was almost not going to write the previous post for fear of just such an accusation, and Lisa Heidke, herself a wonderful author of women’s fiction, commented on my blog that she didn’t want to whinge or seem ungrateful … Little wonder young women today are reluctant to identify as feminists, for fear of being accused of being whiny whenever they speak up for themselves.

Wendy Harmer is no shrinking violet, and she picked up the cause and reported Tara’s battle with the critic on her website The Hoopla, (where Wendy also linked back to my blog, thanks!).

I am heartened by all your comments, both here and on my Facebook page, that you would read the books no matter how they were labelled, and I appreciate that, I really do. But not everyone is as sure of themselves. There has been a very interesting development in the digital world, as reported in the Guardian on the weekend. Romance readers are the most enthusiastic migrators to ebooks, where sales are soaring. But the main reason for this is a little sad – no one can see the cover of an ebook, so romance readers feel they can read with impunity, away from judgemental gaze of literary snobs. That breaks my heart just a little.

When my kids were learning to read, their teachers always impressed upon the parents that they must be seen to be reading around their children – newspapers, magazines, recipe books, anything – and that it didn’t matter what kids were reading – similarly, special interest magazines, comics, whatever – as long as they were reading. So if Mum happens to be reading a book, written by a woman, which may or may not sport a girlie cover, is she to be ashamed of this, and hide it from her children?

When did everyone get so judgemental? Are we not supposed to enjoy reading? Good luck getting kids to read at all if that’s the message we’re sending them.

To quote Tara Moss in her follow-up blog (I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t leave this alone), ‘Women’s voices matter’. Our stories matter, our writing matters. What we have to say matters. We shouldn’t have to apologise for it.

The chick lit debate continues

Some of you may have seen this article in the Guardian over the weekend, asking the question if we should mourn the death of chick lit, a death which may, in the words of Mark Twain, be described as an exaggeration.

It all depends on what you mean by ‘chick lit’. Is it a catch-all label for all women’s fiction, or does it only refer to those with the hot pink covers sporting ‘stilettos and Martini glasses’, as mentioned in the article? But is there much more going on inside the covers, and the problem is merely the way women’s fiction is being packaged?

When my first book (above) was published, a male friend asked me what women’s fiction was, and was he allowed to read it? He also said he never would have picked up a book with a hot pink cover, but he was surprised he enjoyed it. Now I don’t mind that our books are marketed to women, women are the biggest buyers of books by far, but has this led to the assumption that all women’s fiction is the same, and worse, that it’s light fluff? There is a whole other discussion to be had – in a future post – about covers and marketing, but this is more about perception. Those of us who read women’s fiction know that it’s often about much bigger issues; that martini glass could be making light of alcoholism, and the shoes masking some painful body image issues.

So why the cutesy label? Because we do mention shoes? Martinis? Love? Or, gasp, is it because it’s written by women? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if men write about relationships or domestic issues, they’re considered insightful forays into the human condition. Perhaps they’re not always lauded, but they ain’t called chick lit either. I’ve heard many excellent female authors shrug and apologise for what they write. I’ve done it myself. ‘It’s just entertainment’. ‘I don’t mind it’s called chick lit’. We wouldn’t want to look like we’re taking ourselves seriously as writers, for goodness’ sakes.

That doesn’t mean you must write only about serious stuff to deserve to be taken seriously as a writer. Look at Nick Hornby and Nick Earls – both wonderful, funny writers whose books are very much about relationships. Their solid reputations are well-deserved. Just not so sure that female writers of the same ilk are given quite the same status.

What do you think? Am I worrying about nothing? Does it matter what it’s called? Do you love the girlie covers or shy away from them? And if there are any blokes out there – would you be caught dead reading one?

In sickness and in health

Well, any of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know I’ve had the flu, because I have had a bit of a whinge about it. I made it through winter relatively unscathed, so it was probably bound to happen. There are many perks when you write for a living – you can slop around in trackies, work at whatever time of the day or night that suits you – but one of the downsides is that you don’t get sick leave, or anyone to take over for you when you are sick. The book doesn’t write itself in your absence. You don’t return to your desk to find that the next couple of chapters are there, waiting for you to look over.

However, this early in the piece, and this far away from the deadline, I didn’t feel too frantic. I was just sick enough not to care. You know the different levels of illness? At a milder level – say, head cold – it’s just irritating, but when it steps up to include aches and pains and fever flushes, you don’t give a toss any more about missing work or missing whole days, you just have to go and lie down. I had to beg off a couple of social engagements that I had been really looking forward to, but even the idea of them was too much to contemplate.

The only thing that did get me out of the house last week was my youngest son’s graduation from Year 12. Mothering is another occupation with no sick leave. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world – it was momentous, the grand finale of 25 years of end-of-school ceremonies. However, feeling less than a hundred percent obviously stopped me from becoming quite as emotional as I thought I would, which was probably just as well for everyone around me. I’m not good at endings, they make me cry.

Coincidentally, I had the flu when this particular child weaned himself. They say babies sometimes do that when Mum is sick; it doesn’t taste right or something. Anyway, he had to be brought to me in my sick bed for his last feed of the night, and he had a little try, but then turned away, uninterested. He didn’t fuss or cry or fret, he just didn’t want it. I offered it the next morning, and through the day, and the evening, but he had no interest at all, he wasn’t at all bothered, and I was too sick to really persist. A few days later, when I was well again, I realised that my last baby had had his last feed ever, and I hadn’t been paying attention. And there was nothing I could do about it by then, which may have been just as well.

I read a beautiful quote on Twitter over the weekend from the singer, Kate Miller Heidke, “There was a day when your mum/dad put you down, and they never picked you up again. They didn’t realise it was the last time.”

Just as well we don’t realise it’s the last time, or how could we ever let them go?