If you’re looking for a gripping novel suited to the times then look no further than Lottie Moggach’s Kiss Me First. Facebook, emails and the dark spaces of internet take centre stage in Moggach’s literary debut that’s creating a bit of a stir. Kiss Me First centres around Leila, an introvert who using the internet begins impersonating a young woman with the idea that it’s the “right thing to do.” A mystery, a thriller but also a quirky novel whose anti-heroine is unlike anyone we’ve ever met before. Its been one of the most exciting debuts of the year and asked the journo-turned-novelist a few questions about her un-put-downable-debut and what it takes to be a writer.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember the exact moment, but it was probably around aged seven. I suspect that my writerly ambitions then more to do with the fact that writers don’t have to work in offices and brush their hair, as anything more lofty.
What compelled you to write this story in particular?
I got the idea in 2007, when Facebook was a relatively novel and exciting concept and it seemed like everyone I knew was obsessed with it. I started thinking about how social networking might affect our real life relationships, and the idea of Kiss Me First – that someone could have a presence on Facebook but not actually exist in the flesh – came to me very quickly.
The novel plays with the idea that the internet and technology can be used in a quite ominous way – do you agree?
Yes, the lack of regulation and anonymity of the internet encourages disinhibition, and people say and do things they wouldn’t dream of doing in the real world, with its social conventions and accountability. It can bring out our dark sides. But it is also a huge force for good.
The lead character in the novel is unlike anyone we’ve ever seen as a protagonist – who inspired you to write someone so different?
I wanted to give a voice to a ‘child of the internet’, a young person who has learnt about life almost entirely through technology. Internet-obsessed introverts like Leila are not uncommon but we don’t often see them, because they aren’t out in the pub with their mates but at home alone in front of their screens. She was a risky narrator to choose, because she doesn’t try to please people and is very literal and so is not immediately likeable or sympathetic. Some readers do not take to Leila at all, but I am very fond of her!
What piece of technology could you not live without?
I admire those who can resist the lure of Apple’s advertising, but I am not one of them. The other day I caught myself taking my MacBook, my iPad and my iPhone all up to bed with me, which was really pathetic. I suppose I’d have to save my laptop first, out of those three.
Tell us about some other novelists you admire?
I am quite indiscriminate in my reading habits, and love writers as different as Tolstoy and Sue Townsend. I’m a snob about many things, but not about literature.
What tips would you give to any young aspiring writers?
If you’re anything like me, your first draft will be excruciatingly terrible, so get it down as quickly as possible; the second draft is when the real writing starts. And don’t go online until lunchtime.