In her debut, Kiss Me First, Lottie Moggach examines pervasive and troubling aspects of the Internet and social media with the tale of Leila, who is paid to assume someone else’s life before that woman kills herself, and Adrian, a guru at a social-networking site called Red Pill, who facilitates the setup.
The scariest thing about your book may be how plausible the plot is. What was the inspiration?
The idea came to me in 2007, when I was a freelance journalist and spending far too much time lurking on Facebook. I knew all these intimate details of my friends’ daily lives, but many of them I never actually saw in the flesh. I had learned all I wanted to know about their activities and opinions through their Facebook posts. The plot grew from there.
How do you think the social media boom has affected how people communicate?
It fascinates me that the medium simultaneously encourages disclosure and dishonesty. People are urged to react immediately to things but they can also present a carefully edited portrait of themselves as they’d like to be seen. Your Facebook page or Twitter feed is like a newspaper where you are the sole proprietor and every story is about you.
Why do you think Leila was vulnerable to Adrian’s influence?
It was partly down to her loneliness and naïveté—she had no life experience to measure him against, and no family or friends around to tell her he’s a creep. Also, he spoke in a language she related to: rational, measured, and concerned with ideas.
What was your development process for your characters?
For Adrian, I did research on charismatic cult and business leaders. In my early drafts, his character was more ambiguous—but then I realized he was a psychopath. Tess came pretty fully formed; the sexy “crazy girl” who shifts the dynamic of a room. With Leila, I knew from the beginning I wanted my narrator to be someone who doesn’t usually take center stage in literature because she’s not at all sexy or exciting. Keeping true to Leila’s literal and unimaginative character without letting the prose get doughy was a real challenge.
Why was Tess so vulnerable to Adrian’s influence?
Although I left the nature of their relationship vague in the book, I think it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Adrian got his kicks; Tess got what she wanted, which was a way to disappear from the world without her absence being noticed.
Red Pill seems Ayn Randian. Do you agree?
I’m no Rand fan but I’m interested in the power she continues to exert, especially over the younger generation who have never known life without the Internet. The libertarian philosophy is well suited to cyberspace, but seems to me to be something that dissolves pretty quickly when it comes into contact with the real world.