10 July 2018

My new trilogy, MadBad and Dangerous To Know, has been so much fun to write. In it, I introduce a protagonist called Alvina Knightly, who is the definition of badass. Alvie is an evil identical twin, who steals her sister’s perfect life and then goes on living it. How long can she get away with it for? And what will she do if she’s busted? There’s no question that she is anti-heroine, someone who breaks all the rules. She’s mostly drunk. She’s a sex-addict. It’s no spoiler to say she’s a killer. Alvie is proud to be the girl who is worse than all the bad boys.

I would like to clarify that I am not Alvina. I haven’t murdered anyone and am not an identical twin. In fact, I don’t have any siblings or a criminal record. If anything, I’m too much of a goodie, far too polite and British. I’m a mother of two. I’ve been married forever. I live in a house in the suburbs. You can usually find me in my study tapping away on my MacBook Air, just as I’m doing right now. And yet, I’ve created this monstrous character, someone apparently shocking. I let my imagination run wild while writing these three novels. Alvina has been described as ‘uncensored, unhinged and unforgettable.’ She was inspired by all the great villains in literature, from Lady Macbeth to Amy Dunne via Tom Ripley and Patrick Bateman. She was so much fun to write, because she doesn’t give a fuck. She swears. She steals. She does what she wants. She’s the opposite of me. I can only assume that in writing her, I have unleashed my dark side. My shadow-self is the creative power. My ego has left the building.

Chloe Esposito on writing 'bad' female protagonists

Writing this badass anti-heroine was a feminist statement: women can be evil too.

There is something very satisfying about letting one’s demons run loose. In a way, I have been living vicariously through this fucked up anti-heroine, my XXX-rated alter ego who is criminally insane. She does things I’d never dream of doing, things that society frowns upon. She answers back. She’s vicious. She’s feral. And if she were ever caught, she’d spend the rest of her life in jail. I would describe my writing process as very much like acting. I acted in lots of plays in my youth and trained as a theatre actor. I sit down at my laptop and get into character. The dialogue pops into my head. Because my novels are in the first person, ‘I do this’ or ‘I do that’, it’s like watching a movie in my head. The camera follows the protagonist and the reader sees what she’s doing. 

Writing this badass anti-heroine was a feminist statement: women can be evil too. They can be criminal masterminds. I was getting very bored of reading about women getting raped and murdered. Every single book I read seemed to feature another young and beautiful corpse or some kind of sexual violence. Why can’t the women be the murderers? I was worried for my daughters (not that I’m condoning Alvie’s behaviour in real life, of course) but it was time to tell a new kind of story. In the age of #MeToo and Time’s Up, it was time for Alvina Knightly.

In my opinion, there aren’t enough strong, complex female characters in novels, TV series or movies. All throughout the literary canon, the boys are the ones having all the fun, driving the cars in the high-speed chase, pulling the trigger on the gun. The girls are their moral, honourable foils. They are the damsels in distress. Women are the fairer sex, beautiful and demure. Alvie smashes those stereotypes and loves every single second.

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