Riffle Backstory: Q&A with Tanya Selvaratnam, Author of The Big Lie


Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, producer, theater artist, and activist. She wrote The Big Lie in part to share important information she wishes she had before she started her journey towards starting a family. The book is a personal memoir and unapologetically feminist exploration of delayed motherhood and infertility. Selvaratnam explores how our notions of motherhood intersect with feminism, evolution, popular culture, and female friendships. Her book is out January 7th from Prometheus, be sure to check it out.

What drew you to write this book?

I was inspired to write this book after my third miscarriage in fall 2011. I wrote the book that I wished I could have read then. I wanted to explore how delaying motherhood intersects with science, feminism, evolution, popular culture, female friendships, global economics, and more. And I hoped that I could help others by offering my personal story to connect to.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

That no one will read me.

What do you do to get ready to write every day? What’s your routine?

I wake up between 5 and 6 a.m., breathe deeply to pump oxygen to my brain, do a guided meditation from the Chopra Center for 15 minutes, and go to the gym for 30 minutes. Then I try to write for 3 hours every weekday, but sometimes I pull marathon writing sessions on weekends. I always keep a small cloth-bound journal in my bag to jot down notes on the go or I type them into my phone. But some days I don’t write at all. Those are bad days.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?


What is one song/artwork/film/play/performance that you would most like your writing to emulate?

O Superman by Laurie Anderson – which was all of the above… song/artwork/film/play/performance

What book are you raving about right now?

Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave and Mark Epstein’s The Trauma of Everyday Life

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Put yourself boldly into the future you envision for yourself. Choose happiness (a friend of mine did give me this last piece of advice about 10 years ago and it’s become my mantra).

List the books that are your favorite, inspirational, helped you with your own work, or are on your “to read” list.

Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave

Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family

Tom McCarthy’s Remainder

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

Yasunari Kawabata’s The Lake

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha

  • Running in the Family

  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

  • The Lake

  • Wave

  • The Old Man and The Sea

  • Siddhartha

  • Remainder