Today I’m delighted to have the fabulous Ava Marsh – writer of the brilliant page-turning thrillers, UNTOUCHABLE and EXPOSURE – join me for a bit of a Q&A about her latest book EXPOSURE.
Welcome to the CTG blog, Ava.
So, your second book EXPOSURE is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?
EXPOSURE follows the story of Leanne Jenkins, otherwise known as Kitty Sweet, a notorious young porn star who pleaded guilty to double murder nearly ten years ago. Up to this point, Leanne has always refused to tell anyone why she did it, but a visit from an old friend sparks an incident that convinces her to finally come clean to the prison psychologist.
EXPOSURE is set in the porn industry, and told through the eyes of Kitty Sweet (aka Leanne Jenkins). What sparked your interest in writing a thriller set in the porn world?
Having written about high class escorts in UNTOUCHABLE, it seemed a natural next step to centre a book in the other bastion of the sex trade, pornography. Again, I felt it was an industry which marginalised the women who worked in it, and I wanted to explore what that world would feel like to someone immersed in it. And it came to me very quickly that my main character would be a porn star in prison for double murder. From that premise, I had to work out why.
Kitty/Leanne is a bold yet very humanly flawed young woman, and despite her being in prison for double murder I found her instantly likeable and very easy to empathise with. What’s your process for creating such realistic characters?
Wow, now you’re really making me think! I guess writing in first person helps a great deal. It puts you inside someone’s head, experiencing the world through their eyes, reading their thoughts. But I also worked hard to provide clues within that opening chapter – the part where she rescues the little silverfish was there specifically to show that Leanne/Kitty had a softer side to the one she was portraying, along with her reactions to the news of her mother’s illness.
Occasionally I draw on things I’ve found out during research or just real life. Victor, for instance, was loosely based on a real character I read about in my research – a very nasty man indeed, who remains anonymous to this day. Generally though I have no particular formula, though I do go through a list of various character prompts and questions to develop a fuller picture of the people who appear in the book.
You include a lot of detail about the workings and goings on in the porn industry and the prison environment. How did you go about researching for this?
I’d like to say I did exciting things like go to a porn shoot or visit a prison, but the boring truth was I researched all of it online and from books. I have a kindle full of porn memoirs – if I ever lose it, people are going to think I’m either a pervert or some sort of obsessive fan.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – did you plot the story in advance or start writing and see what happened?
I’m a half-and-half sort of girl. I need the bones of the story – roughly what happens to whom and why – before I can start writing. I’m amazed by those authors who sit down to a blank document and begin typing, with no idea where they’re going. I’ll usually flesh out an outline and some character studies, so I have a basis from which to dive in. But I’m very flexible – when things occur to me as I go along, I’ll go back and make changes there or then, or put them on a snagging list for the second draft. Things always change, at least a little bit, as you get to know your characters and plot more intimately.
And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
Hopefully plenty of tea, cake and sunshine! On the writing front, I’m halfway through one first draft, while brainstorming another new idea, despite having promised myself lots of time off after a very demanding schedule for the last 18 months. Somehow it seems easier to carry on working than sit around feeling guilty for not doing any writing. Perhaps this was because I was severely blocked for many years before I embarked on fiction, and now I’m always haunted by the sense that I need to make up for lost time.
A big thank you to the wonderful Ava Marsh for letting me grill her about her latest thriller – EXPOSURE – and here’s to a summer filled with tea, cake and sunshine!
In case you’ve not seen it, here’s the blurb on EXPOSURE: “In a world without boundaries it’s hard to know where to stop … 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.” You can read my review here
EXPOSURE is out now. Buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here
And be sure to follow Ava Marsh on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh