Ava Marsh grew up in Margate, Kent. A former broadsheet journalist, she now works freelance in the charity sector and writes psychological thrillers with adult themes. Ava now lives in Battersea, London. Her hobbies include running, kayaking and photography. She talks to Susi about her first novel - UNTOUCHABLE – Transworld, paperback August 13th 2015.
Hi Ava, welcome to Shots! Your first novel ‘Untouchable’ is out now – how does it feel to see it on the shelves?
Pretty amazing. I must admit I dashed out to my local Tesco so I could actually see it, sitting there on the racks with the other books. Part of me couldn’t hardly believe it would be there, but indeed, there it was. A good moment.
Fantastic! Can you tell us about it in a couple of sentences? No spoilers please…
A high-class call girl, Grace, gets caught up in a top-level conspiracy when a friend and fellow escort is murdered. Unable to accept the police explanation that the killer was a client, Grace pursues the truth, putting her own life in danger and dragging up the ghosts of her past.
You’ve based it in the world of high class escorting, and it’s fascinating to read. How ‘real’ is your fictional portrayal? I imagine you had to do a lot of research?
I did quite a bit, including talking to women who work in the industry, so I like to think it’s pretty true to life. Though of course, in the real world, no one usually gets murdered!
That would be a very extreme sort of research! What was your favourite thing about writing this book? Was it the characters… the setting… the subject matter?
I think my favourite thing had to be Grace. If you’re going to be in someone’s head for eighty thousand plus words, it’s good to be in someone like hers. She has guts, and a ready wit, and is exactly the kind of person I’d like to hang out with in real life.
Me too. I loved that Grace was so complex but also very likeable. You write a very close, first person narrative. Was it hard to be inside your character’s head the whole time? Did you feel like you were writing two different people, or is she two halves of a whole?
I really enjoy writing close first-person, and find it a very natural, easy narrative voice, particularly when combined with the present tense. After all, we’re all living in our own first-person, present tense narrative. I also like the restrictions imposed by sticking with one viewpoint – it makes it trickier to get things across, and throws you back onto thorough plotting.
I didn’t feel she was two different people really – just someone managing a professional as well as a private persona. I think many of us have to do that – including writers!
Very true, and it can be hard to separate the two sometimes. So what’s next? Can you tell us anything about the next book? I’m guessing that’s what you are working on now?
I am currently editing my next novel, Exposure, which this time is set against a backdrop of the porn industry. It’s about Leanne Jenkins – aka Kitty Sweet – who is serving a life sentence in prison for double murder. The book essentially explores why.
Sounds intriguing – love her porn name too. Just to change direction, slightly – I think the readers would be interested to know a bit about how you got here. Is this the first novel you’ve written? Or do you have a pile of unused manuscripts under your bed?
I’ve written two novels before, so have had a bit of practice. Enough to know my strengths and weaknesses, though each book presents its own challenges, and you’re always learning.
Indeed! So who (or what) inspired you to start writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, though I didn’t attempt it with any conviction until well into adulthood - I sublimated all my writing urges into journalism. Then one day I finally found the guts and motivation to start writing fiction, and never looked back.
What’s the most exciting thing about being a new author? Are there any downsides? Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out?
The most exciting thing… hmmm. Honestly, it’s probably getting the initial contract with the publisher, because first time round you don’t know what a long journey lies ahead! Editing, building a platform, promotion and so on.
There’s downsides, yes, but I think the one I was least prepared for was how exposed I’d feel when my book first came out. Up till then, only a few people have read it, but when reviews start appearing you realise your work is out there and people can say whatever they like about it. It’s pretty scary at first, but you get used to it.
My advice to newbie writers is to keep going. Expect knock-backs and rejections, but don’t let them deter you. Succeeding in this business comes largely down to perseverance and a very thick skin.
Great advice. What have you enjoyed reading recently? Any other exciting debuts we should be looking out for in the crime fiction world?
You mean, apart from yours, Susi, which was rather brilliant! (Black Wood, people, highly recommended). Other debuts I’ve enjoyed recently include Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Richies and S William’s Tuesday Falling, which was quite unlike anything I’d read before. I’m also about to read Sarah Ward’s In Bitter Chill and Tenacity by J S Law, both of which I’ve heard great things about.
In terms of more established writers, I’d recommend Elizabeth Haynes, Mark Edwards, Eva Dolan, Steven Dunne, Mel Sherratt… I could name more. So many great authors on the UK crime scene at the moment.
I agree – it’s an exciting time for UK crime fiction. That’s a fabulous list of writers and I’m very glad to be included! So finally, the question that I ask everyone… What does no one ever ask you that you wish that they would ask you?
Editor, on receiving manuscript of new book: ‘We’re so impressed with this, Ava, that we’re thinking of going straight to print. No need for any edits, it’s all perfect. You wouldn’t have a problem with that would you?’
Me: ‘Nope, that’s absolutely fine. Go right ahead.’
In my dreams!
Ha ha! Thanks, Ava. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Best of luck with Untouchable – it’s one of my favourite reads of 2015 and it deserves to be huge!
Thank you, Susi! I really appreciate you saying that. And a pleasure to chat to you too.
Click here for Susi's book review.