Kitty Sweet - created by Ava Marsh
Leanne Jenkins, aka Kitty Sweet, is the kind of character most authors dread. The one who seems oh-so-simple at the outset, but point-blank refuses to let you into her head. The kind that simply won’t play ball in plot terms, making it that clear her version of the story is quite different to the one you originally had in mind.
Exposure began life as a kind of morality tale. I’d covered high-class escorting in my first book, Untouchable, and this time round I wanted to turn the spotlight on the porn industry. Detect a theme here somewhere?
I ploughed my way through a number of memoirs by female porn stars – and a few by men too – and read up everything I could online about the ‘jizz biz’ and how it operated. Most female performers go into it very young, before they’ve really thought through the longer-term ramifications on their life of having sex on screen. And for many of them porn proves a difficult and damaging experience: physically, mentally, and in terms of their relationships with family, friends and the opposite sex.
So I wanted Kitty to reflect that journey and those issues, and I knew right from the outset that we’d first meet her in prison: older, wiser and well into a life sentence for double murder. I also knew I wanted Kitty to tell us her own story, unveiling exactly how she ended up in this predicament.
So far, so good. I had a rough idea of many of the things that would happen to Kitty, but when I began writing the first draft, I couldn’t shake off a creeping sense that there was more to her than this naïve young girl I’d initially envisaged. Indeed, Kitty made it increasingly clear that I was on the wrong track, and gradually, as the story unfolded, my idea of her began to change. Kitty, I slowly realised, was a true performer in every sense of the word, and telling her tale was going to be a more complex task than I’d ever imagined.
Kitty may have been prickly and difficult at times, but I’m glad I listened to her. Exposure, when it finally emerged, was a much better book for her input. This side of the writing process, I can now appreciate her stubbornness and frequent refusal to cooperate, though at the time it nearly drove me to tears.
While Grace in Untouchable may have been far more of an open book – and a much easier person to spend 90,000 words with - Kitty was in many ways a more interesting character to write. I am, indeed, very fond of her, even if I don’t entirely trust her. I like her strength and intelligence, her courage and sassiness, and also her more vulnerable, romantic side. Writing those final scenes was tinged with a profound sadness about her life, even though Kitty herself would probably scorn me for it. And all in all, I was very sorry to leave her behind in that prison cell.