Today it is my turn on this blog tour and I am very excited to be participating in it. ‘Untouchable’ is Ava Marsh’s debut novel and it is one I am really enjoying. I asked Ava a few questions.
How does it feel to have had your first novel published?
Exciting and scary. There’s nothing like holding your first book in your hands, but like all new parents, you worry about how your precious newborn will fare in the wider world. I’ve found the best way to deal with the fear is to get on with conceiving your second child.*
* Caution: this advice does not apply to actual new parents.
There has been loads of talk on Twitter about ‘Untouchable’. Did you expect this level of attention?
I was always aware the book dealt with a fairly contentious subject; with the risqué content, I suspected it might raise a few eyebrows and comments. But seeing that people have genuinely enjoyed the book has been tremendous – and you never take that for granted.
I am reading your book at the moment and can tell it’s going to be really good. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about it please?
Thank you! Untouchable is the story of Grace, a high-class escort who uses her work as a refuge from her former life. But when a fellow call girl is found dead in a hotel room, Grace can’t accept the police explanation that her friend was murdered by a client. Pursuing the truth, however, leads Grace into physical and emotional danger, and threatens to unearth the disturbing events of her past.
How long did it take you to write?
About six months to the point where I was happy to start submitting to agents. Another six months or so to secure an agent, do some editing, and find a publisher. Then, of course, comes another long tranche of editing, which can take up to a year if you include all the copy and proof editing, especially when you’re doing a separate US edition as well. It’s a long haul to book on the shelf!
Where did you get your ideas from for ‘Untouchable’?
This is always a tough question for writers to answer, I think. Partly, from the environment around you. You assimilate all sorts of material from newspapers, TV and the internet, which you recycle into elements of your book. So Untouchable, for instance, reflects some of my ideas about politics, society and so on.
Then there’s your own psychology, and this is where characters tend to spring from. I think many authors put much of themselves into their lead characters – or rather aspects of themselves. So Grace, for instance, has a good dose of my inability to swallow down my reactions to certain people or situations, or my tendency to towards self-reproach.
And lastly, you just make things up. You draw on your understanding of how fiction works, and what makes a satisfying story, and then craft a plot that you hope will lead the reader on a fulfilling journey.
Is high-class escorting a topic you’re genuinely interested in?
Yes, very much. I suppose my interest began when I met a couple of women in the business. Very intelligent, well educated women, who largely enjoyed what they were doing – were proud of it, even. And hearing about some of their clients, I realised they inhabited a fascinating world. It seemed something of a no-brainer to make an escort the lead in a crime novel, given that women like Grace routinely see what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in the lives of rich and powerful men.
What did the research actually entail?
The usual stuff. Groping around on the internet, reading articles and escort blogs – of which there are plenty if you nose about. And yes, I spoke to real, live women in the business, who were happy to fill me in on the lifestyle.
I’ve seen on Amazon that you have another book planned for next year. Is this also going to be a thriller?
Yes. It’s called Exposure, and the setting this time is the porn industry. Researching that has been a fascinating journey, and in many ways that world is much darker and more exploitative than escorting. As Grace says in Untouchable, escorting can be toxic in high doses, but even a relatively small dose of porn can be lethal to any kind of prospect of a happy or fulfilling life.
Were you given any good advice when you first started writing?
The best advice I received didn’t concern writing itself, but how to survive it, psychologically. Expect rejection, but don’t let it destroy you. Above all, persevere. For most writers, gaining anything approaching mastery of their craft takes an awful lot of learning and failing. It takes time, and persistence is everything.
Who are your favourite authors?
I had rather a literary upbringing, so in my earlier years ploughed through the classics by the likes of Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Proust, Hardy, the Brontes, Austen – all the usual suspects. On the contemporary scene, Edward St Aubyn, Brett Easton Ellis,Victor Pelevin, Haruki Murakami, Anne Tyler, David Mitchell, Kate Atkinson, D M Thomas, Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn and probably dozens of others I can’t think of right now.
These days, I read and enjoy a lot of British crime and psychological thrillers, by authors like Elizabeth Haynes, Eva Dolan, S J I Holliday, Mark Edwards, Sarah Ward, Mel Sherratt, Clare Mackintosh, Ruth Ware and Steven Dunne. I’ve just finished a stunning debut called Tuesday Falling by S Williams, which impressed me hugely. One line left me green with envy, an arresting and simple image of a man called Loss walking through a crowd:
‘Loss stops; becomes a rock in the river of the street.’
Just brilliant. The kind of writing that makes you see everything afresh.
‘Untouchable’ is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1NDnwKz.