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Women's Fiction

A Conversation with Liane Moriarty, on Writing About the Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Women

LiesLiane Moriarty broke through last year with her book The Husband’s Secret, still a bestseller both here and in her native Australia. This year, just on the eve of the publication of her next bestseller –- Big Little Lies -– she sat down with Amazon's Sara Nelson to talk about what it’s like to write contemporary stories about ordinary women's lives, and to become one of the biggest publishing success stories of the past few years.

Their conversation took place at Book Expo America in New York in May, 2014.


Digital Exclusive: Sue Monk Kidd on Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday"

Sue Monk Kidd and Oprah are together again! Kidd's The Invention of Wings was previously an Oprah Book Club 2.0 selection. Now she's chatting with Oprah on the Emmy Award winning OWN Network series "Super Soul Sunday." Here's a digital exclusive that you won't see on the show, to whet your appetite.

Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday" interview with Sue Monk Kidd airs April 13 at 11 a.m. ET, and can also be seen at

How Do I Love Thee? 150 Ways...




















When we think of February, love frequently comes to mind--and let's face it, for better or worse this four letter word is probably one of the most enchanting, infuriating, and exciting subjects to read about.  From stories of an idyllic marriage gone terribly wrong to mortals falling for immortal lovers, or the flush of crazy, passionate, first love, romance has always captivated readers and writers alike.  Where would Shakespeare be without Romeo and Juliet?  Or Hollywood without its larger-than-life affairs of the heart, often adapted from beloved novels?

Whether you like classic romance or stories of love gone wrong, we decided this month was the perfect time to look at some of our favorite novels of amour.  To that end, we chose 150 love stories in a dozen flavors—our own box of chocolates for the mind and heart, if you will.  The Beatles say, “all you need is love.” But maybe all you need is a good love story. 

Check out our hand-picked treats in:


Character Comebacks: King, Fielding, Grisham, and Doyle Catch Up With Old Favorites

They begin as strangers on the page, slowly coming to life in our minds. We picture the way they look. We imagine their mannerisms. We form opinions about their personalities.

In return, they tap into our emotions, entertaining us or irritating us, making us laugh or cry or scream or cringe. They teach us something about ourselves. And sometimes, when they’re particularly special, they stick around, becoming in some way a part of us that we care about long after we’ve turned the last page.

In the next few months, four authors will reunite us with four vastly different fictional characters ... old friends we haven’t seen for years. You might remember them as a kid coming to terms with his supernatural powers, a single gal infatuated with the idea of love, a controversy-courting lawyer trying to do the right thing, and a working class music fanatic grasping at success.

We take a look at where these characters have been and offer a sneak peek at where we’ll soon find them, including excerpts from each new book.


Stephen King
Stephen King
brings back
Danny Torrance
Helen Fielding
Helen Fielding
brings back
Bridget Jones
John Grisham
John Grisham
brings back
Jake Brigance
Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle
brings back
Jimmy Rabbitte


Character Comebacks: Helen Fielding Brings Back Bridget Jones

Mad About the Boy

Since the first novel, Bridget Jones's Diary, was published in 1996, our fickle protagonist's affections have swung like a pendulum between arch-rivals Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver. It's been 15 years since the follow-up Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and seven since Fielding's 2005-2006 column ran in the Independent, where she first published Bridget's singleton saga in 1995. Each left Bridget in completely different scenarios. When Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, the most narrative and the most emotional of the series to date, comes out on October 15, the inevitable question might be answered: Which boy?!

As part of our Character Comebacks series, we catch up with where Bridget's been and what new trouble she's about to stumble upon now.

How we knew her: A thirty-something London girl ("singleton"), Bridget obsesses about self-improvement as a means to find love, then falls victim to chronic procrastination and over-thinking (not to mention over-eating, over-drinking, over-smoking, and over-reacting).

Bridget Jones's Diary

Last scene: If you've only read the books, Bridget had coupled with top barrister and solver of all international Jones family scandals Mark Darcy, but she had stepped in it once again as others started to react to the hilariously inappropriate inscriptions she drunkenly wrote in all her Christmas cards. If you kept up with the 2005-2006 articles printed in the Independent, Bridget was in the hospital, having given birth to a son with Daniel Cleaver.

Where is she now: London, present day, Bridget's aged along with us during these many years away. She continues to seek mythical secrets to love, dabbling in modern-day tools such as Internet dating sites and social media. Though the nature of her drama has matured, her reaction is as endearingly naïve as ever.

Why we love her: She's so fabulously flawed, reflecting (in gross exaggeration, of course) our own ridiculousness, our own insecurities, our own inner pep talks. Bridget Jones: The Edge of ReasonIn a weird way, she gives us hope: on the one hand, that we're not as bad off as she is and, on the other hand, that we, like she, will weather whatever's bogging us down.

According to Fielding: Bridget’s return happened quite organically. There were things that were making me laugh about modern life in London, and as I wrote I realized the voice was Bridget’s. I didn't tell anyone I was doing it for a long time, so I could write without feeling  self-conscious. The Bridget character makes me see the funny side of things, and feel that it's OK just to sort of muddle along being a human.

A sneak peek inside the new book:

7.06 a.m. Just remembered am on Twitter. Feel wildly puffed up! Part of huge social revolution and young. Last night I just didn't give it enough time! Maybe thousands of followers will have appeared overnight! Millions! I will have gone viral. Cannot wait to see how many followers have come!!
7.10 a.m. Oh.
7.11a.m. Still no followers.

Order Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy now.

Return to the main story
Catch up with Danny Torrance
Catch up with Jake Brigance
Catch up with Jimmy Rabbitte

Liane Moriarty Explores the Secrets in a Marriage

When we selected The Husband's Secret as a Best of the Month pick this month, Sara Nelson wrote in her review that it "transcends its era and place at the same time that it celebrates same."

Liane Moriarty’s books are smart and funny and, even though they’re always set in her native Australia, somehow universal. Why is she a rising star? Because she’s smart and funny and, oh yes, so very wise about the little things in life (the complications among mothers, friends, spouses) and the bigger ones (What is guilt? What is responsibility?).

In this exclusive guest essay, Moriarty gives us a quirky look at the marital secrets and the question of ethics in a marriage, which fueled the fictionalized circumstances of her book.

Liane Moriarty

I've always been fascinated by other people's marriages. I secretly observe my married friends, watching for those nonverbal signs of deep affection or deep aggravation. I listen for the intonations of tone in a seemingly innocuous request. I am a terrible voyeur. I'm far more interested in hearing how people stay in love than hearing how they fell in love.

There aren't meant to be secrets between married people. Your partner is theoretically the one person who knows everything worth knowing about you. I guess that's why secrets between husbands and wives are so much more fascinating than secrets between other people.

While writing my last novel, I did a little research into the psychology of keeping secrets. Apparently the brain simply doesn't like keeping them. The neuroscientist David Eagleman explains that secrets create a "neural conflict." One part of the brain is desperate to spill the beans. Another part wants to do the right thing. Researchers have found that carrying a secret is like carrying a physical burden. When people confess or write down their deepest-held secrets, there are measurable decreases in their stress hormone levels.

The Husband's Secret

The husband in my new novel suffers from such a strong desire to share his secret that he writes it down in a letter to his wife. He seals the letter in an envelope, and writes on the front: "To be opened only in the event of my death." Years later, his wife finds the letter—while he's still very much alive. Should she open it? As I was writing the novel, I presented the scenario to my female friends. Some were adamant that they would open such an envelope straightaway. Others were equally adamant that they would respect their husbands' wishes.

But I noticed something interesting. I think they almost liked the thought of their husbands' having a secret. A flash of pleasure would cross their faces. They found the idea disturbing, but also strangely compelling, almost delicious. It made their partners seem new again. Your husband might be betraying you by keeping a secret, but isn't it interesting that he has one and that he can still surprise you?!

That paradox makes secrets within a marriage such a popular topic for novelists to explore.

Of course, once the secret is revealed, the mystery vanishes and you see your partner in the light of what you now know. You're no longer deliciously intrigued. You feel betrayed, you're amused, angry, or shocked, or whatever the implications may be of what you now know.

(Incidentally, keeping a secret was itself part of the challenge for me in writing The Husband's Secret. I had to withhold it for long enough that readers enjoyed the pleasure of not knowing, but then reveal it before they lost patience.)

Readers often ask me what I would do if I found myself in the situation in which I put Cecilia. I'm somewhat ashamed—although not that ashamed—to admit that I would open it immediately. My desire to know would outweigh all ethical considerations.

"I know you'd open it," my husband says with a sigh. "That's why I'd never be so stupid as to write a letter like that in the first place."

--Liane Moriarty

Sara Says: Give Me An Angry Heroine Any Old Time

The Woman UpstairsIn Claire Messud's ferocious The Woman Upstairs, middle-aged Nora, an artist-wannabe who is actually a frumpy suburban schoolteacher, announces her rage in the very first pages. "How angry am I? You don't want to know. Nobody wants to know about that."

But as the book goes on, she doesn't need to announce her feelings: every move she makes signals that the overwhelming impulse that drives her is rage. What's she so mad about? Everything, it seems. Or, as author Messud said in an interview in her publisher's office, "She had perhaps accepted that certain opportunities had been foreclosed [i.e. the ability to marry and certainly have children] and all of a sudden [when she met the young family with whom she became obsessed and immersed] somebody came along and opened the doors and said, 'Well, actually, you have one more chance'... But when those relationships fall apart, she's angry in exact proportion to how excited she was. She's angry about what she has lost." The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Similar but different, Noa P. Singleton, the eponymous heroine of our debut this month is also angry, although she masks her rage as a smart alecky but blasé lack of concern for her fate as a prisoner on death row. She isn't moved when a young lawyer comes to try to get her sentence reversed; she isn't impressed when her long-lost father tries to establish a relationship with her; she doesn't jump when her victim's mother comes to her defense.

Noa and Nora--hmmm. What would Dr. Freud say about the echo of those names?--are both cut off from connection, and when either woman gets close to engaging with life, by choice or by chance, she can't help screaming her head off.

There's already been plenty written about whether Messud's heroine is so unlikable as to sink the success of the book. (Messud herself says she worried that people might be turned off by this character whom she says is neither biographical nor autobiographical, but is, nonetheless, "real.") And many have opined that an angry, unlikeable voice will never attract much of an audience, especially if that angry, unlikeable voice belongs to a female. ("Women's anger, in particular, is unseemly to some people," Messud understates.) And yet, the books keep coming--and keep selling.

There are few more likable, readable, perhaps even justifiably angry heroines than, Nora (hmm...that name again) Ephron's doppelganger in Heartburn. Or Fay Weldon's in the delightfully vicious, Lives and Loves of a She Devil, arguably the most delicious revenge novel of all time. See also, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Or what about the predatory, rageful woman in Zoë Heller's spectacular What Was she Thinking: Notes on a Scandal? (Decent movie, but better book!) There are, of course, angry men, too. And while the therapists might say male rage is more societally accepted, if that were true, a novel like Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament, about a furious, broken down guy who decides to eat and drink himself to death, would be better known than it is.

"It is human to make choices against your own best interest," Messud says. By that definition, Noa is certainly human: she has plenty of opportunities to exonerate and excuse herself, but can't quite bring herself to do so because she's guilty of some things, if not the exact crimes for which she was convicted. Most of us, I think, would agree with Messud’s comment that "bad choices, as much as good ones if not more so, are what our lives are made of." Likewise, "bad," angry characters are what the best books can be made of.

Maeve Binchy, Grand Storyteller and Irish National Treasure (1940-2012)

MaeveBinchyHeadshotCarole Baron, Maeve Binchy's longtime editor and close friend, shares her fond memories.

Maeve Binchy died Monday night, with her beloved husband, Gordon, and her sister, Joan, at her side. She was 72 years old and left us too soon. Journalist, novelist, short story writer, and a born storyteller, she was also a generous friend.

Maeve-Penny-CandleI met Maeve at the Frankfurt Book Fair thirty years ago, on the eve of the publication of her first book, Light a Penny Candle. Viking had just sold the paperback rights to Dell, and I would be the proud publisher. We were both a long way from home, and I told her how I had read her book on a bus going from New York to the East End, sobbing, with everyone on the bus looking at me like I was nuts. In the way of many great storytellers, Maeve was still telling this story last year, but in her version, the driver stopped the bus and wanted to know if anything was wrong, and there was much sympathy from everyone around me as I cried that someone in the book died and they thought it was a friend of mine.

Since that first read, I have helped introduce her to her legions of American fans. For the publication of Circle of Friends (before it was a movie), I invited Maeve to come to the U.S. She was hurting from a hip problem, and she lectured me on VALUE, saying she couldn't possibly come to the U.S. if she couldn't tour, and we would be spending “all that money,” and she wouldn't be able to do all the things I would want her to do to promote the book. She couldn't give me “VALUE.” I explained that it was up to me to decide where the “value” would be, and I would take care of her. She kept her bargain, and I kept mine. She came to New York and held court in her hotel room, giving interviews as the pro she was. The book was her first New York Times bestseller.

Continue reading "Maeve Binchy, Grand Storyteller and Irish National Treasure (1940-2012)" »

Nora Ephron (1941 - 2012)

Nora_ephronI loved Nora Ephron. I loved her long before she got sick, and long before I'd actually met her. Like many, many women my age, I wanted to be her, and everything from her essays (even the ones about having small breasts--not, I admit, my problem) to her seminal novel, Heartburn, did nothing to change that. I didn’t meet Nora until about 2006, when, at an event for her then-current book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, she threw her arms around me--me! Her eternal fan, whom I thought she had no reason to know--and said "You’re such a star. I'm so proud of you."

I had written to Nora Ephron, asking her to blurb my book, So Many Books, So Little Time. I had gotten her address from her longtime friend Joni Evans, who said, "What the hell? Let’s give it a try!" Ephron refused to blurb the book, but she did it in the nicest, most hilarious way. The letter she sent me--hand-written, to my home address, how she got that I don't know--was delightful, all about how she'd given up blurbing when her veterinarian threatened to kill her cat if she didn't blurb his book. (I assumed then, and now, that she--or he--was kidding.) I was ambitious enough to ask if I could use her funny letter as a quote. She said no.

More recently, I got to know Nora a very little bit through her sister Delia, whom I met at a book party under circumstances so weird I will save them for another time. Delia and Nora were close--they wrote You’ve Got Mail together, among other things, including the delightful, Love, Loss, and What I Wore--but Delia never traded on her relationships. But when Delia's book was published, it was Nora's house to which I went as a dinner companion and celebrant: say what you will about Nora's ambition, that night was all about her wonderful younger sister.

Over the last few years, I've been sent a number of writers from Nora. When Nora sent you somebody she thought was great, you listened. As I said to one of these women, who had been counseled by Nora to write the story of her unusual childhood: "I’ve learned a few things... One is that when Nora or Delia tells you to do something, you should do it." 

I always wanted to write a book like Heartburn. (Nora said to me, when I told her I wanted to write a book about MY divorce, but I didn’t think I had the distance to be mean enough, "It doesn’t have to be that mean, Sara. It just has to be funny!") Hell, I would have been happy writing one essay that had the verve and humor and style and honesty of anything in Scribble, Scribble or Crazy Salad.

Dear Nora. I hardly knew you. But you were everything to me, and to so many of us who dared to think that being a funny, observant woman could make us writers.

--Sara Nelson

Exclusive Video from Author Patricia Cornwell

We at Amazon had the pleasure of receiving this exclusive video from Patricia Cornwell, author of the popular Scarpetta series--which, as a body of work has won just about every award available to mystery/thriller writers, as well as being a cult favorite among fans. In anticipation of the latest Kay Scarpetta installment, Red Mist, Cornwell offers a meta-perspective of her character's psyche as she delves into the past to solve an old murder.

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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