Today I’m delighted to have a guest post from Ava Marsh, the author of Exposure.
Ava is a former broadsheet journalist who now works freelance in the charity sector and writes novels. She lives in Battersea, London and her hobbies include running, kayaking and photography. Her first novel – UNTOUCHABLE – is now out now with Transworld in the UK and Berkley in the US/Canada. Her second – EXPOSURE– is out now.
Kitty Sweet isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before.
She’s an infamous porn star, imprisoned for double murder. As damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming.
But once no different from you or I.
Kitty’s past is full of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld most people can only imagine, and lived to tell the tale . . .
This is her story.
Without further ado, over to Ava…
Reality vs artistic licence
Do scenes make it into the books which replicate actual events?
Not exactly – I’m always too scared of landing myself in trouble. But Untouchable has a number of scenes which follow the spirit of some of the anecdotes various escort friends told me. Much like writers, escorts talk to each other, and there’s a lot of gallows humour. I heard some genuinely funny stories.
How did you meet the escorts you interviewed while researching Untouchable?
I already knew someone who worked as a high-class escort and she introduced me to a couple of her friends – normal professional women, all with university educations, who decided they enjoyed sex and could do with some extra income. I’d also heard of a psychologist who was escorting on the side, and although I never met her, I guess she was at the back of my mind when I created Grace.
Some scenes from Exposure are set within a prison and Kitty appears to have a degree of leeway (for want of a less “spoilery” word). Did you research prisons and the conditions/lifestyles too?
I did my best! I scoured the internet for books and documentaries, but couldn’t find much to be honest. There’s quite a lot about the US system, and more about British prisons for men, but surprisingly little about what everyday life is like for women in UK prisons. So I relied heavily from what I could glean from websites and blogs. It was a similar story with prison psychologists – I had to make do with what I could find online.
What Kitty gets up to inside is based in fact. I read a newspaper article about the prevalence of relationships between prison staff and female prisoners – it’s a lot more common that you might think. Unless of course you’ve watched Orange is the New Black.
What comes first…is it the idea to write about the porn industry? Or was it the idea of a murderer telling her story and the character background came later?
I had the idea of basing my next book in the porn industry before I’d even considered a plot. I wanted to inhabit a different world, so I wouldn’t end up replicating elements of Untouchable. I also felt that, like escorting, it was a world that many people found interesting and rather mysterious. And similarly underused as a setting for a thriller.
The idea to have Kitty in prison for double murder and telling her story came on the heels of that decision. Oddly, I knew this about her almost immediately – and this was before I’d even found an agent or publisher for Untouchable – so the first draft principally involved discovering what had brought her to that point, and how she stood in relation to the events she’s describing. I’ve got to say she was a tricky character – Grace was relatively easy to fathom, but Kitty proved to be something of a nightmare!
I usually plan my novels loosely, and that’s generally a question of brainstorming and working out what elements to keep and reject. But it’s always interesting what kicks off an initial idea. The process of inspiration is quite enigmatic, I think, and in my experience not something you can enforce, only encourage. Fickle beasts, muses! I recommend wine and cake to keep them happy.
Thanks for the great guest post, Ava! You can find Ava talking about researching taboo subjects over at Bibliophile Book Club tomorrow.