Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for your time in sharing your thoughts with me in this Q&A session.
- There’s something unique about letters, isn’t there? Could you share with us your thoughts about letters seeing that they are feature strongly in your new book, The Fifth Letter? What is special about letters to you personally?
I completely agree there’s something unique about letters as opposed to email or text or even face-to—face conversation. I think the reason letter-writing appeals to me is because sending and receiving letters was something I loved to do when I was younger. I wrote to my cousin when she moved to England for a year when we were both about eleven. I wrote to my sister when she moved away to study at Yale university (and I filled those letters with teenage angst and confessions) and I wrote love letters to my first boyfriend when I was fourteen!
- And continuing on the above question… I haven’t received or sent a letter by snail mail in a very, very long time – so long that I can’t even remember the last time (not counting any greeting cards). Have you sent or received a letter by snail mail recently? And if so why was the letter not in email form instead?
I haven’t sent a letter myself for a little while now, but I encourage my 8 year old daughter to write letters to her best friend who moved away to Mudgee last year, because I remember the joy of writing letters to friends when I was young. There’s just something special about sharing stories and secrets and sealing them up inside envelopes and sending them out into the world and then waiting for the all-important response!
- Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Fifth Letter?
I have a great group of friends that have been with me since high school (we’ve been in each other’s lives for more than 20 years now!) Obviously our friendships have had their ups and downs, but despite this, we’re all still very close and we have girls’ holidays away together every now and then. These holidays often result in lots of drinking and chatting way into the night and during these late night, wine-fueled conversations, all sorts of revelations from our past often come up. Sometimes we do argue or get frustrated with one another, but usually, we can move past any disagreements.
I found myself wondering what would happen if something really serious, something really dark or sinister come up in one of these chats with my friends? What if it turned out that they were hiding secrets? That I didn’t actually know them as well as I thought I did?
At the same time, I already had this completely random idea at the back of my mind of a group of friends swapping anonymous letters. I think originally I was actually envisioning a group of high school students doing it on a dare or as a bit of fun. The two ideas sort of merged together and from there, the story of a group of long-term female friends sharing secrets in anonymous letters was formed.
I liked the concept of the feeling of helplessness you might feel if you read something heartbreaking in a letter and knew that one of your friends was hurting but you couldn’t help them because you didn’t know which friend it was.
- What kind of research was involved in the writing of The Fifth Letter?
The story didn’t require a great deal of research, but I did have to find out a bit about certain infertility issues, plus I learned a little about abseiling and I asked the advice of some friends who are nurses to help determine the possible outcomes of a certain injury.
- Do you listen to music whilst writing? If so, was there a particular set of songs you listened to when writing your new book?
I love to listen to music when I write. With The Fifth Letter, I listened to a lot of 90s music because it gave me a great sense of nostalgia, taking me back to the time when I was in high school with my best friends. I listened to a mix of Greenday, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smash Mouth, Nirvana, Fatboy Slim, Spiderbait, Jebediah, The Offspring, Soundgarden and Powderfinger.
- What kind of music do you think the main characters in The Fifth Letter would enjoy? And do they have any favourite songs?
Eden likes a bit of drum and bass and some jazz as well. I think her favourite artists would be Massive Attack, Regina Spektor, Chairlift, Portishead, Tricky, The Submarines, The Sneaker Pimps and Florence + The Machine.
Deb has eclectic taste. Sometimes she’s into hip hop, sometimes it’s old 60s or 80s music, sometimes it’s dance. She usually doesn’t know the name of the song that she’s listening to.
Trina’s into old-school grunge or punk. She likes Weezer, Reel Big Fish, Eskimo Joe and Blink 182.
Joni likes feel-good, fun, poppy kind of music like P!nk or Ke$ha or Katy Perry.
- Can you tell us what’s next for you?
Yes, I’m working on my next novel, which is about parenting in general plus the divide between working mums, stay at home mums and women without children. It’s also about the judgement between parents and about the sometimes toxic influence of social media groups on women… and that’s all I can say at this stage without giving too much away!
2016 v. 2017:
- What was your favourite book/s of 2016?
A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I know it originally came out in 2015, but I only just read it last year!)
Love at First Flight by Tess Woods
- What is your most anticipated book/s for 2017?
The Golden Child by Wendy James (I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I could not put it down!)
The Lucky One by Caroline Overington
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
- What is the thing you are most proud of having tackled in 2016?
Depression – it decided to re-appear and settle in around about the beginning of autumn. It took most of the year to shake it off my back yet again, but I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to feel like myself now (the happier version of myself anyway!).
Thanks for sharing this with us, Nicola. Thank you for your stories and your courage & determination. I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling more like yourself and look forward to more of your insightful stories into the lives of normal women like us xox
If anyone out there feels like you need some help, please reach out. If you need it, Lifeline Australia can be reached on 13 11 14.
- What is something tough you are looking to tackle (or have started to tackle) in 2017?
My health and fitness, it got a little off track towards the end of 2016, so I’m super keen to get it back under control this year.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions Nicola, and all the very best with The Fifth Letter!
You can check out my thoughts on The Fifth Letter, here
About the author
Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.
Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.
These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.
Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there mid 2017.
She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”