Lottie Moggach’s chilling and finely crafted debut novel Kiss Me First tells the story of a socially awkward young woman drawn into an online community run by a charismatic web guru who entices her to impersonate a suicidal stranger. Bookanista finds out what makes her tick.
I wrote this book for people who find the internet a constant distraction. I tried to give the story a strong pull so people would get to the end without being tempted by YouTube.”
Where are you now?
In a café called Euphorium near Hampstead Heath in north London.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
If I’m really meaning business then the British Library, but I’m much happier in this café. The sandwiches are better and there aren’t so many distracting students.
Full-time or part-time?
I’ve been writing very part-time for the past year, to the point where you could argue I haven’t actually been writing at all. My excuse is maternity leave, but now my son is one I am getting back on it.
Pen or keyboard?
Both, but mostly keyboard. My handwriting is almost unreadable now.
How do you relax when you’re writing?
When it’s warm like today, I reward myself for a good paragraph by jumping into the Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath. Otherwise, I punctuate my day by drinking expensive coffee and window shopping at rightmove.co.uk.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
A sheltered young woman agrees to impersonate a stranger online, to allow the stranger to disappear without her loved ones knowing she has gone.
Who do you write for?
This book I wrote for people who, like me, are readers but find the internet a constant distraction. I tried to give the story a strong pull, so people would get to the end without being tempted by YouTube.
Who do you share your work in progress with?
I wouldn’t inflict my early drafts on anyone, but once it’s in some sort of shape my mum is my first reader.
Which literary character do you wish you’d created?
Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.
Gosh – so many! One off the top of my head: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” (William Wordsworth: “The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement”).
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Again, there are so many I’m not sure I can give one answer. But I would love to be able to draw and hugely admire great graphic novelists.
Which books have you recently read and enjoyed?
I’ve gone for an Indian theme. Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera isn’t published until the autumn, but I am very excited about it; and not just because the author is a friend. It’s an update of one of my favourite books, Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives Tale, set amongst the Sikh community in Wolverhampton, and has important things to say about race in Britain as well as being beautifully written and very funny. For Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, the author spent four years documenting the lives of residents of a Mumbai slum and the result is a masterpiece of reportage that has rightly won every major prize going. Finally, there’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Of course this epic novel set in the years immediately following partition isn’t at all new, but I had been daunted by its length and only read it recently. I wish I had got round to it earlier; it’s one of those books that rules your life when you’re reading it and really stays with you. In particular, I think about the ending a lot; in a quiet way it is surprising and bold.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
Death and Nightingales by Eugene McCabe, Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson and Precious Thing by Colette McBeth.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
Tons! Infinite Jest and Moby-Dick for starters, but I suspect I’m not alone in that.
Which book(s) do you most treasure?
I am very attached to an old copy of a children’s story called The Silver Curlew by Eleanor Farjeon. I associate it with that magical time around age 8 when I started to read ‘proper’ books independently and had my first inkling of the wonders I now had access to.
What is the last work you read in translation?
2666 by Roberto Bolaño. Or, rather, started to read. I might have to add it to my answer two questions above…
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
The Collected Stories of William Trevor is hard to beat.
What will you read next?
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait. I have heard only wonderful things about it.
Kiss Me First is published by Picador. Read more.
Author portrait © Jay Dacey