John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London and Northampton who has spent the last 20 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines. He has written for publications including The Guardian’s Guide and Guardian Online; OK! Magazine; Total Film; Empire; Q; GT; The Independent; Star; Reveal; Company and Daily Star. His debut book The Wronged Sons is a tense psychological thriller with over 240 5 star reviews on Amazon. His second book Welcome To Wherever You Are is a suspense thriller and an Amazon #1 best seller and his latest book The One (previously A Thousand Small Explosions) has been picked up by Random House and is being relaunched in January 2017.
As you know I hold myself fully responsible for your incredible success and absolutely deserved recognition, but what has been the highlights for you since releasing your debut novel The Wronged Sons?
There are possibly too many to mention. But I’ll give it a shot… the first is that I had no idea how much readers would want to talk to me about that first book and then the subsequent ones. And TBC has played a HUGE part in writers interacting with readers. I loved the two birthday parties TBC has thrown and meeting people in the flesh that I’ve have online banter with. Another highlight has been watching my books being downloaded around the world and having readers Facebook and Tweet me. But having A Thousand Small Explosions (now called The One) picked up by Penguin Random House and the film and TV rights optioned by Urban Myth Films is by far, the most exciting thing to have happened to me. Even now, months after the contracts have been signed, going from self-published to traditionally published still hasn’t sunk in. I feel as though you, Tracy, and TBC members have all been on this journey with me. We started around the same time, you and they got behind me and now we’re going in a new direction none of us could have foreseen.
Can you tell me the inspiration behind your 3 books?
The ideas tend to come to me in the most unexpected of places. The Wronged Sons stemmed from a reader’s true life story in The Guardian’s Family section; Welcome To Wherever You Are was inspired by my backpacking travels in my early twenties and The One came from planning my wedding and walking down a London escalator. Random, eh? But what inspires me to write is to entertain readers; to write books that they enjoy, to create characters they’ll love or hate and I’ll throw in some red herrings and twists and turns en route. If I can do all of that in a story that people want to read, then that’s my inspiration.
What is your writing process, do you plan everything in advance, use Post Its, develop the characters etc…?
I’ll type into my phone storyline ideas, characters, situations etc as and when I have them, then I’ll write a very brief description of what’ll happen in each chapter. I don’t see the point in planning in great detail as it’s more fun just writing and letting the story take on a life of its own. I don’t write methodically; I’ll do a chapter here, a chapter there and mesh it together at the end. I aim to do at least 1,000 words a day, even if it’s just rubbish. I’m very easily distracted so it gives me something to aim for. On a good day, I can rattle out 3-4,000 words, but those days are often few and far between!
What’s your favourite takeaway?
Something Thai or Domino’s. Although I don’t tend to do as many takeaways now as when I was single!
What advice would you give to other people who want to write a book?
If you want to write a novel for the challenge or because it means something to you, then it’s never been easier to self-publish online. However, if you want to write something to make money, then pick a genre that is commercially successful – no matter how great a writer you are, there’s no point in writing about the secret lives of Lithuanian pig farmers if it’s a subject that nobody’s going buy.
Do you read your reviews? What’s the funniest/worst one?
Of course I do! But I never, ever respond to them. It’s their opinion regardless of how much I might disagree. My favourite review (of The Wronged Sons) reads: “Horrible story. Nightmarish. I wish that I had never read it. Please, please pick a less evil story to write next time.”
Can you tell me about your next book and when we can read it?
The One comes out in paperback in May. But before that, there’s a new, slightly re-written version of The Wronged Sons coming out on Amazon’s own imprint label, Thomas And Mercer, and probably with a new title too. Book four will be out in 2018. The first draft is almost complete, and it’s a psychological thriller in the vein of The Wronged Sons.
Your latest book The One (previously A Thousand Small Explosions) is about taking a simple DNA test to find your soulmate. Even though you just got married would you take the test if it was available?
If I was single, then yes. But as I’m a happily married man, no. I address it in the book, that there’s so many people out there who think the grass is greener on the other side. Often it’s not and we need to stop and smell the roses on our own side of the fence and appreciate what we have.
As a full-time journalist can you tell us any juicy gossip or funny stories about the celebs you’ve interviewed?
I won’t name names, but at a fashion shoot, one pop star’s agent warned us the celeb thought she was a size 10, but she was actually a 12-14. So before she turned up, I had to cut every label out of her clothes or she’d throw a hissy fit if she saw what she was really fitting into. Another celeb once hit me in the stomach with a large, red sex toy and winded me, while another lady was so out of it, twenty minutes into the interview she suddenly became convinced I was the singer with the Pet Shop Boys. She wouldn’t believe that I wasn’t.
Finally, have you made any New Year Resolutions and what are they?
To eat more healthily and go to the gym more often. And be more disciplined with my writing. I expect to have failed all three of them by the end of the month.