Welcome to Chloé Esposito, author of Mad.

Here is my list of the top ten badass women in literature who have inspired me to write Alvina Knightly. These include anti-heroines from the greatest novels and plays from England as well as other counties such as America, Sweden and France. In many ways, my protagonist, Alvina Knightly, is an evolution of these evil women and a new interpretation of the anti-heroine for 2017.

Whereas Amy Dunne never cracks a smile, Alvie is laughing all the way to the morgue, and black comedy and humour are important elements in her characterisation. I wanted her to be just as dark and diabolical as Lady Macbeth or Tamora, but with a fresh, satirical voice which brings her bang up to date.


  1. Amy Dunne, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I think Gillian Flynn was brave to create this truly evil protagonist. Amy Dunne is beautiful, but that is definitely only skin deep. I was as shocked as everyone else when she faked her own death and faked her own rape. She is a bleeding-edge, modern and radical female, and I love her refreshing wickedness. And that twist! Amy is a troubled genius and I love her brains and sass.


  1. Lady Macbeth, Macbeth by William Shakespeare

One of the original and the best, Lady Macbeth would rather kill her own baby than give up her ambitions for power and fortune. That is just so damn despotic. She is brilliant and witchy and one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. I love how un-‘feminine’ she is. She was way ahead of her time. I am in awe of her power and supernatural talents. It’s just a shame she went mad and topped herself….


  1. Rachel Watson, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel is an unusual heroine. She is an alcoholic who is constantly drunk, so drunk that she can’t remember whether or not she killed someone. She is obsessive about her (dickhead) ex-husband. She pretends to go to a job she was fired from every day on the commuter train. She is a long way from the traditionally moral and well-behaved good girl that our culture and literary tradition expects. I find her a fascinating unreliable narrator and her frequent blackouts are a fantastic device for creating mystery and intrigue. No wonder this was one of the fastest selling novels of all time.  (Spoiler alert, but everyone’s already read this, right?) I also loved the irony of this alcoholic killing the bad guy with a corkscrew.



  1. Thérèse Raquin, Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

Zola was a pioneer of naturalism, which basically means writing a little too realistically with a ‘warts and all’ focus on the grottier, nastier side of life. Zola’s Paris is more sewers and gloomy alleyways than romantic views from the Eiffel Tower, and his murderous protagonist, Thérèse, has zero redeeming features. This makes her fascinating. Despicable in every way, she is one revolutionary, badass killer. There’s nothing sweet about T.


  1. Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth is just the most badass and whip-smart Gothic lesbian computer hacker I have ever had the pleasure to encounter (in real life or a novel). She gets top marks for piercings and revenge plots. I love how this skinny young woman is the smartest cookie in the book and I’ll never forget what she does to that man when she straps him to that double-bed… (He totally deserved it, right?).


  1. Tamora, Queen of the Goths, Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

This Goth turned Roman Empress, from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, is the Queen of vengeance. After Titus sacrifices her eldest son, she makes it her life mission to make him suffer. And boy does she take that seriously. This is an awesome, gory play with dismembered heads and hands all over the place, not to mention tongues cut out and offspring chopped up and baked in pies. Nice. Shakespeare really let his imagination run riot with this one! Talk about a ‘bunny boiler’. She is an inspiration to us all lol.


  1. Tess D’Urbervilles, Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The fate of this feisty country maiden is one of the most moving in the whole of the literary canon. That tragic climax at Stone Henge! OMG! Hardy really knew what he was doing. #TearJerker Tess murders the man who raped her and ruined her whole damn life. This really is a heart-breaking novel and I challenge anyone to read it and not root for Tess. Even though she’s a cold-blooded killer…you have to let her off.


  1. Becky Sharpe, Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Becky aspires to climb to the top of nineteenth century London society and this little minx will stop at nothing to get her claws into a hot, rich bachelor. Becky would definitely agree with Alvina Knightly that it is more important to be fashionable than ethical. #WillKillForShoes. Thackeray wrote a truly modern anti-heroine who would be just as at home in a contemporary Shopaholic novel as she was in this literary masterpiece.


  1. Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

What can I say, the girl liked to shop. I get that. The scene where Madame Bovary commits suicide is also one of the most gross and disgusting things I have ever read (in a brilliant way). Apparently, Flaubert actually threw up after he wrote it. If you read it, you’ll see why. Even though Emma is, essentially, quite a selfish, shallow adulteress, who racks up thousands of pounds’ worth of bills on her husband’s credit accounts, it is impossible to read that suicide scene and not feel sorry for her. Girls just wanna have fun! And wear expensive clothes…


  1. Catherine Earnshaw/Linton, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I love how nuts and passionate and feral Catherine Earnshaw is. She is such an original and memorable character. Cathy is even cool when she is dead; I really dig how she haunts Heathcliff. I am totally haunting Paolo if he outlives me. He’ll be f*cking terrified. Lol. But seriously, it’s romantic. ‘I am Heathcliff,’ Cathy says, because their souls are one and the same. How wonderfully gothic! It’s amazing to think that Emily Brontë, who created these powerfully Romantic characters, never had a boyfriend. She barely left the vicarage or heath. What an imagination!


Mad is Chloé Esposito’s debut novel and is published by Penguin on 15 June 2017.

Mad is a sexy and compulsively readable thriller and the first in the Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy. It has been described as this summer’s raciest read! Alvie Knightly is a train-wreck: uncensored, unhinged and unforgettable, she is a bleeding-edge new anti-heroine for 2017. Alvie lives in a filthy flat-share in London, has an unhealthy obsession with Channing Tatum and Tinder, and gets fired from her job for watching porn.

But her identical and infuriatingly perfect twin sister, Beth, lives in a luxury villa in Taormina with her sex-god husband and beautiful baby boy. Mad reveals the lengths an identical twin will go to steal her sister’s perfect life…and go on living it. But how long can she get away with it for? And was Beth’s life so perfect after all? Expect sex, lies, twists and murder and a rollercoaster ride that those still alive at the end will never forget…



Chloé Esposito grew up in Cheltenham and now lives in London with her husband and daughter. She has a BA and MA in English from the University of Oxford and has worked as a senior management consultant, an English teacher and a fashion journalist. Esposito is a graduate of the Faber Academy, and this is her first novel. Tweet: @ChloeJEsposito