Jaclyn Moriarty on Lillian Velvet

Article | Issue: Nov 2023

The Impossible Secret of Lillian Velvet is a magical book in the rich and whimsical world of the Kingdoms and Empires about a girl, a threat and a pickle jar filled with gold coins.

Good Reading for Kids chatted to the author Jaclyn Moriarty about Lillian and her adventures.



Lillian Velvet lives a very lonely life with her cold and remote Grandmother. That is, until her tenth birthday, when she is given a pickle jar of gold coins, along with a note with clear instructions: don’t go out, don’t open the door for anyone, and don’t spend all your coins in one day.

What happens next seems impossible. The coins whisk Lillian away to a different time and place. There she meets a small boy in a circus about to be crushed to death; a lively family, each member in a distinctive form of mortal danger; a boy with a skateboard; and a girl who can Whisper. And a web of dangerous magic closing tight around it all.

Why is Lillian here? How is she supposed to help these new friends? And – most importantly – what happens if she fails?

An exciting tale in the magical Kingdoms and Empires world, where seemingly disparate elements are spun until all is revealed as one delicious, tantalising whole.


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Good Reading chats to Jaclyn Moriarty


What can you tell us about Lillian and the adventures she will go on?

Lillian Velvet lives with her grandmother in a small cottage in a small town in New South Wales. She is home-schooled and almost never sees other children. (She dreams of going to regular school and getting a mysterious and magical thing called ‘homework’ …)

On her 10th birthday, Lillian’s grandmother gives her a pickle jar filled with gold coins and then sets out to work, leaving Lillian alone at home. Lillian now finds herself being ‘shoved’ into another world, and other times. She meets children, adults (and dragons) in danger, helps to rescue them, and is ‘shoved’ back into her own world.

Apart from finding all this ‘shoving’ pretty annoying, Lillian is confused. Each visit is costing her a handful of gold coins – what happens when the coins run out? Why is her grandmother refusing to answer her questions? And how can she find her way back to the one child – a little boy in a circus – who she was unable to save in time?

In this story we return to the magical world of the Kingdoms and Empire – what can fans of your books expect to see a return of?

Yes, the world into which Lillian is being shoved is the Kingdoms and Empires … Many of the people she meets (and rescues) are people who have appeared in the other Kingdoms and Empires books, including the adventuring Bronte Mettlestone, along with Bronte’s cousins and aunts, the skateboarding Oscar Banetti, and Reuben the Genie.

If you could travel to any time or place, where would you go?

A very tricky question for a person as indecisive as I am! But I’d quite like to go to the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’. In 1520, the English and French kings spent several days competing to show who could throw the best party – there were huge feasts, music, games, jousting, and tents and costumes sewn with silver and gold thread… So that might be fun.

But if I could travel in my own life, I’d like to return to when my (now tall and very muscly) teenage son was a baby again. I’d like to wake in the morning and hear him gurgling and chatting from his cot, and see him bouncing up and down with excitement when I went into his room to get him. (He’s a very lovely young man, but it’s been a long time since he jumped up and down on the spot with joy when I walked into the room …)

What are some of the most important lessons Lillian learns on her adventures?

Probably the hardest thing she learns is that her own grandmother has not been treating her with the love and kindness that she deserves. The best thing she learns is that she does deserve love and kindness, and that she can find this with new families and friends. (She also learns the ‘secret of Lillian Velvet’ –but I can’t tell you that.)

There’s lots of magic and adventure in this book – what inspired it?

I love magic! So I always want to put it in my stories. This story was inspired by a dream—or a kind of dream that I had one morning. Sometimes, after breakfast, I put my pyjamas back on, go back to bed, and let myself drift into a half-sleep. My plan is to come up with ideas and then quickly go and write them down, but instead of that I often just quickly fall into a deep sleep and wake up hours later …

Anyway, on this morning I saw the image of a girl playing the piano in a small, empty cottage. I saw a key slide across the floor towards her, and I knew that it was the key to the Kingdoms and Empires.

I woke up and knew the girl’s name: Lillian Velvet.
(Later, when I was eating a pickle for lunch, I decided that the key to the Kingdoms and Empires would be a pickle jar filled with gold coins.)

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a story about Astrid Mettlestone-Staranise (Imogen and Esther’s little sister from the other Kingdoms and Empires books). Astrid has a talent for reading people’s emotions, and can always recognise a lie. When she finds herself transported into our world, she is trapped here, and begins to forget the Kingdoms and Empires, and even who she really is …




Jaclyn LoriartyI grew up in Sydney with 4 sisters, 1 brother, 2 dogs, and 12 chickens, and most of us liked to tell stories. (The children, I mean. Not the chickens.) Our dad used to commission us to write them: you got a dollar fifty if you filled an exercise book with words.
I wrote my first novel when I was seven. It was an Enid Blyton rip-off about talking toys. In the end, the toys got into a fist fight and everything went to hell. ‘You know, this is really quite good!’ said my Auntie Elizabeth. But I could tell by the way she glimmered at my mother, over the top of my head, that she did not think so at all.

Despite this setback, I continued to write.
I wanted to be an author but I knew you had to get a real job. My best friend Kelly and I hoped to be flight attendants but worried constantly that we wouldn’t grow up to be tall enough. In high school, I asked a neighbour which journalism course I should take and she answered at once: ‘You must do English and Law at the University of Sydney.’

So, I did.

Once I started studying Law I couldn’t stop. My PhD was on the law relating to young people and the media – especially the privacy rights of young people – so they were on my mind.
Back home in Sydney, I worked as a media, entertainment and copyright lawyer. I worked at a great law firm. The people were bright and creative. They had cake for me when Feeling Sorry for Celia was first published.

Then I became a full-time writer. I moved to Montreal for a few years but now I live in Sydney with my son, Charlie.

My sisters, Liane Moriarty and Nicola Moriarty are also authors, and I am very, very proud of them both.

Some of my favourite things include snow, ice, blueberries, chocolate and sleep.

Visit Jaclyn Moriarty’s website



Book Format:


ISBN: 9781761067570

RRP: $

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