Today, I am thrilled to have the lovely Ava Marsh joining me on the blog with a brilliant guest post!
Ava Marsh grew up in Margate, Kent. A former broadsheet journalist, she now works as a freelancer in the charity sector and writes novels.
Ava lives in Battersea, London. Her hobbies include running, kayaking and photography.
About the books:
They know who she is. She knows too much.
Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe.
When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take Stella past the point of no return.
Kitty Sweet is in prison, charged with double murder. She’s as damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming. And now she’s been invited to tell her story, to explain how on earth it came to this.
Hers is a story of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld that most people can only imagine and she’s lived to tell the tale…
Researching Taboo Topics
One of the questions I can pretty much guarantee readers will ask at some point is, how did you go about researching your books? I don’t mind. It’s natural, given the main character in Untouchable is a high-class escort, and in my recent novel Exposure, she’s a porn star. Prostitutes and porn girls are a little like celebrities – we know they exist and live in our midst, but they don’t seem quite real. They inhabit a world most of us know nothing about.
So how did I get into the heads of Grace and Kitty? How did I research what it was like to walk in their vertiginously heeled shoes? In the main, the answer to that is a bit dull – I did my homework. For Exposure, for instance, I read half a dozen memoirs by porn stars – most of them women, but one bloke too – and I scoured through everything I could get my hands on via the internet: blogs, articles, and so on.
No, I didn’t watch much actual porn – to be honest, I find it boring. As Kitty describes it in Exposure, there’s ‘nothing duller than a porn flick after the first screw or two. No plot… no context, or emotion. Just the same old story, with only one possible outcome. Where’s the fun in that?’ However, I did watch and read anything I could find about porn, especially what it was like to be on a shoot, under the gaze of the cameras and crew. How porn affected your life and your relationships. What it did to your psyche.
To be honest, the trickiest area to research in Exposure was the prison scenes – there’s surprisingly little written from the perspective of female inmates. I found just one non-fiction book by a woman describing what it was like to be inside a UK prison, the rest I had to try and glean from the web – prison service information, sites supporting those convicted and their families. Yes, ideally I’d have loved to visit an actual porn shoot or a woman’s prison, but that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re writing to a tight deadline. So I had to make do with personal accounts, and photos – I can’t speak for other writers, but I spend a lot of time googling images and studying them, so I can describe scenes more accurately.
Untouchable, on the other hand, was easier to research. It so happens I know a couple of women who’ve done some escorting on the side, so I had a much clearer feel for what that kind of life must be like, plus the internet is littered with blogs by call girls – they’re a very loquacious bunch on the whole. Those I spoke to in person were generally happy to relate their experiences, many of which were very amusing – it was tempting to put them into the book verbatim, but I didn’t want to attract a libel case, so made stuff up with a similar bent.
Gathering information was only part of the process, however. I had to decide how to present it. One of the things I wanted to counter is the myth that women working in the sex industry are different to everyone else. I wanted to break down the assumption that there’s a huge gulf between someone like Grace or Kitty, and the rest of us. I didn’t want to perpetuate the idea that there was something inherently immoral in what they do, or that it was somehow ‘dirty’.
That said, I did want to show how those careers or lifestyle could be hard on the heart and soul. Grace comes out of her ‘dark period’ more or less unscathed, but sadly the same isn’t true for Kitty – her choice of career comes to define her, and plunges her on a collision course with disaster.
Huge thanks to Ava for joining me today! Catch her tomorrow over on Vicki’s blog Off-The-Shelf Books.
Happy reading! 🙂