Author Q&A:
Liane Moriarty 

Apples Never Fall
(Michael Joseph) 

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Joy Delaney and her husband Stan are finally retiring from the family business they’ve dedicated their lives to as tennis coaches. They have four wonderful grown-up children and golden days stretch out before them. So why has Joy Delaney gone missing, leaving little more than a garbled text message for her family? With her signature wit and engaging prose, the writer of Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty, takes readers behind the closed doors of suburbia to uncover family secrets and lies. 

Tell us about the title of the book and the theme of what we inherit from our parents.
The title of the book is Apples Never Fall, which almost speaks for itself! It’s about the characteristics we inherit from our parents and grandparents: the flaws and foibles, talents and strengths. It asks if we can escape our genetic heritage and what happens when parents try to live out their unfulfilled dreams through their children.

Joy and Stan’s retirement is a catalyst for their problems and that’s tied up with the fact that their career – tennis – is also their passion. Do you have a similar relationship with your career and do you think it’s possible to retire from it?
Writing is my passion and, unlike tennis, it doesn’t have any physical limitations. I hope and assume I will have the capacity and the desire to keep writing – no matter what happens to my knees. I feel like the retirement village will offer me a wealth of material.

The four Delaney siblings allowed you to explore a range of topics including physical illness, mental illness, overachieving, underachieving, love, break-ups, family dynamics and much more besides. How do you develop your characters to ensure they do this work for you? And how do you then build humour into that?
I never set out to explore any specific topics through my characters. I just slowly let them develop through the process of writing and then different topics emerge. Sometimes I think of people I know and their attributes but I never help myself to an entire personality. I just keep working away at my characters and finally something magical happens and they start to feel real. The humour emerges naturally along with the story and the characters. The trick is not to let the humour make the writing seem trite or silly, and sometimes I might need to pull back if it’s taking the reader out of the story.

Tell us about the character of Savannah and what she allowed you to explore about truth and memory.
Well, I don’t want to give too much away except to say that at first I didn’t know who she was or why she had turned up on the Delaneys’ doorstep and I wanted the reader to have that same experience as her character begins to emerge. I was inspired by a documentary about people with “superior autobiographical memory”. They are able to remember every day of their life in precise detail. I was fascinated by what that would mean in terms of your ability to recover from traumatic experiences if every memory felt as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday.

You write of domestic violence as “a possibility that lurks and scuttles in the shadows” of women’s minds but also that women have “the power to draw blood with their words”. Was it a challenge to broach the nuance of this subject sensitively?
Yes, it was a challenge, especially as it seems that we live in a world increasingly incapable of nuance, and I would never ever want to give the impression that I was victim-blaming. I just hope I managed to walk that tightrope.

Your books are popular and accessible but also tackle important themes. Is it literary snobbishness that people may assume they wouldn’t, or do commercial fiction writers need to raise the bar?
I think there is a natural tendency to assume that anything popular and accessible is automatically less worthy and therefore less likely to tackle any issues of importance. I’m not sure how commercial fiction writers could or should “raise the bar”. Should they write “better” fiction? On whose terms?

The book begins with Australian wildfires and ends with Covid, with a family fraying in between. Does the Delaneys’ family crisis reflect a broader crisis in Australia?
I think families have dealt with secrets and betrayal, grief and loss, since the beginning of time. Every crisis we face – as a family, as a generation, as a country – feels brand new. Bush fires are not a new phenomenon in Australia, although obviously climate change is increasing the likelihood of catastrophic fires all around the world. Even pandemics are not new. I had Joy’s great grandmother’s first husband die of the Spanish flu, which is my how my great grandmother’s first husband died.

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