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.
Ava Marsh’s Exposure is the latest in a long line of excellent books I have recently had the pleasure of reading. Last year I read Ava’s debut novel Untouchable and had the chance to interview her too. Like her first novel Ava uses Exposure to explore the sex industry but this time from the point of view of a porn star rather than an escort. We meet Kitty Sweet in prison where she has been found guilty of a double murder. Through flashbacks we get to the bottom of Kitty’s story but even then you’re not entirely sure if she’s being honest….
When I had the chance to interview Ava again I was over the moon! Her books are the kind which grip me, make me feel uneasy, and disturb me in the best way possible. The interview is behind the cut – enjoy and then go get the book!
As a main character I loved Leanne. She as well as her situation was entirely believable and I loved her determination and her attitude towards her work. How did you go about creating her?
I read a lot of porn memoirs from women who’d gone into the industry, and in many ways Leanne is a composite of all those girls. Many are drawn into porn at a young age, and are ill equipped psychologically to deal with what they find and the impact it will have on their lives. So the story follows a kind of logical progression from that, forming the basis of Leanne’s character.
As Exposure progresses the line between Leanne and Kitty Sweet starts to blur and I loved how transitionary her personality was. Can you tell us a little more about why you decided to do this?
I’ve never really held with all that stuff about characters taking on a life of their own and starting to control the plot, but I did have this feeling with Leanne, that she began to merge with the Kitty persona she’d created herself.
All in all Leanne was a tricky character to get to know. I had a feel for her life and what was going to happen to her, but it took me a long time to get into her head. It was very frustrating – I’ve never had that kind of trouble from a character before. Eventually, however, I realised that was exactly the point – Leanne to some extent is unknowable – and from that moment everything fell into place.
You explore in great detail what the porn industry can do to people, especially women, and it was at times incredibly harrowing and painful to read. What made you decide to set the book in the world of porn?
It seemed a natural corollary to escorting, the other main bastion of the sex industry. I was interested in how it would compare with the one escorting portrayed in Untouchable – where would it differ and where would they converge? I read quite a bit about porn being it’s own self-contained world, and I wanted to explore what that would be like from the inside.
As a narrator Leanne is also funny and Exposure, though dark, was also full of humour. Do you find it easy to write these scenes?
You know, I had to think hard about this question. I guess there are funny sides to Exposure, but it’s not something I consciously try for when I write. I think it probably just reflects my own sense of humour and way of seeing the world, so yes, I guess in that sense, these scenes are relatively easy for me to bring to the page.
When we meet Leanne she is in prison for a double murder and as the book progresses we jump back in time to discover what happened. What made you decide to have two different time zones?
I couldn’t really think of any other way of doing it. I wanted to kick off with Leanne in prison, now a hard-nosed con who knows her way around the system. Leanne is a survivor, and she survives in prison the best ways she knows how. Then I wanted the scenes in the past to compare-and-contrast with what we already know about the older Leanne, showing gradually how she has arrived at the point you see her in the first couple of scenes.
As Exposure is told from Leanne’s point of view you never quite know if her account is entirely truthful and at the very end we are presented with another interpretation of the story. What made you decide to have her be an unreliable narrator?
I think Leanne very much decided that for herself, in some way, by being so bloody awkward! I also wanted to create a different kind of character to Grace in Untouchable, and a book with a different narrative arc and pull through the story – that side of it was entirely conscious on my part. Also, I absolutely love novels with unreliable narrators. They’re my favourite kind of tricksy, slippery narrative.
I remember you told me that with Untouchable you started off with a rough outline of where the book would go and work from there. Was the process the same for Exposure?
Pretty much. I knew the kinds of scenes I wanted to have in her backstory, and some of the events that would play out in her life. I knew Leanne had a very romanticised view of life, and a kind of naiveté at her core. But it took a while to firm up exactly what sort of journey I wanted to create for the reader. I started off thinking it would be a kind of tragic tale of riches to rags, but it became a lot more than that as I worked out what lay at the heart of Leanne.
Your supporting characters are extremely well thought out and rounded. Is it easier for you to create these secondary characters as opposed to the main protagonists?
Thank you! I think so, yes. Some characters just arrive in your head fully formed. Nelson, for instance, was very clear to me from the get-go. Esme too. I think probably many authors find this, that some characters are easier to know and portray than others.
Can you tell us all a little bit about your next book?
Well, I have a couple of ideas on the boil. One features a male narrator, which is a departure for me and one I feel quite excited about – I love a challenge! Another is going to be a more straightforward psychological thriller, I think, and perhaps a nod towards Grace’s character in Untouchable.
Huge thanks to Ava for this brilliant interview! To find out more about Ava pop over to her website and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh. Exposure is out now and is available for all good and evil book retailers, and of course your local library.
Make sure you all check out the rest of Ava’s blog tour…there are some really fantastic bloggers on the list!