Tuesday, August 27, 2019

John Marrs Interview - The Passengers

Photo Content from John Marrs

John Marrs is the author of The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, Her Last Move and Welcome to Wherever You Are.

A former freelance journalist based in London, England, he spent twenty-five years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines until becoming a full-time author in 2018.

He has written for publications including the Guardian’s Guide and Guardian Online, Total Film, Huffington Post, Empire, Q, GT, the Independent, S Magazine and Company.

His books have been translated into twenty different languages and The One is soon to be a major new Netflix series.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I was 43-years of age and I was in need of a challenge. I’d been a reader my whole life, and had chosen journalism as a career. My job for the last twenty-five years had been to interview celebrities and while I enjoyed it, it offered no opportunity to be creative. So I decided to try my hand at writing a book. I had what I thought was a great idea for a psychological thriller and spent ten months completing it in my spare time. Initially I self-published When You Disappeared, before being approached by a mainstream publisher who wanted to take it on. Of course, I said yes.

Tell us your latest news.
I have my seventh and eighth novels scheduled for release in 2020. One is a domestic thriller about two people who live together but hate one another, the other is more of a ‘five minutes in the future’ style novel, like my books The One and The Passengers. Also, filming starts for The One in the next few months. It’s been commissioned for a 10-part series for Netflix.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
When I was a boy, I was obsessed with anything written by American author Franklin W Dixon, the creator of The Hardy Boys. When I grew up I wanted to be just like him. It was only when I got older that I learned he didn’t exist – ‘he’ was a conglomerate of writers using that name! I guess it explained why he managed to rattle out 190 full-length novels over a 90-year career! I read The Catcher in the Rye at 14 and it really spoke to me. I read it again for the first time in 30 years earlier this year. It’s a timeless tale. And each time I go to New York, I still smile when I think about Holden Caufield.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Having readers from around the world contact me and tell me they’ve enjoyed my books and the reasons why. The One involves DNA matches and a recent reader told me it inspired her to sign up with an ancestry website as she had been adopted as a child and didn’t know who her biological parents were. Weeks later she found both sides of her biological family and that reunion has changed her life forever. I doubt if I’ll ever receive a message that touches me more than hers.

In your new book; THE PASSENGERS, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it
Set in the very near future, eight people wake up one morning, climb into their driverless cars and discover their vehicles have been hacked. And they are warned that in two and a half hours, their cars will collide head on. Only one will survive. It’s up to a jury and social media to decide who lives and who dies. The Passengers are made up of eight strangers from various backgrounds and at different points in their lives. There’s an aging film star, a pregnant young teacher, a suicidal man, a husband-and-wife, an immigrant, a war veteran and an asylum seeker. But it soon becomes apparent they haven’t been picked randomly. They are all hiding secrets that could be the difference between their life and death.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
First and foremost, I hope they are entertained. I ask for nothing more than that. But if more comes from it and it makes them think about their own prejudices as they decide which Passenger to back, then that’s a bonus. Ultimately though, my books are escapism.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
Just how far you can take them and what a devious mind I have! I like to take ordinary people and place them in extraordinary predicaments. Most of my characters are, I hope, relatable. And sometimes it can be a challenge to make the most unrelatable ones sympathetic in the end.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Jack Larson is a fictitious Member of Parliament and one of the architects of making British roads autonomous in The Passengers. He’s also a nasty, self-serving, devious piece of work. I’d like him to come up against Amy Dunne from Gone Girl to see which of them wins. What a cat and mouse game that would be.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I wouldn’t necessarily use the word mentor, but there are a few authors whose books I always go out of my way to buy because reading them makes me want to write better books. Gillian Flynn, Peter Swanson, John Boyne, Cara Hunter and Joel Dicker weave stories with multiple narratives and points of view and that have me gripped.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
I’m still way too early in my journey to ever think I could offer anybody advice of my own! I can share these tips though - I was told to read out loud whatever I write when I start the editing process - and it has really helped me with pacing, grammatical errors and sentence structure. I’ve also learned that research is key – if you want to write a commercially successful book, then pick a genre that people want to read. You might know everything there is to know about Peruvian Yak farming, but it doesn’t mean other people want to read a book about it!

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
It’s a small electronic device called a Tile. There’s an App on my phone which once pressed, makes the Tile play a tune, alerting me to where my wallet it because I’m always losing it. Along with my phone, car keys and the dog’s lead. And sometimes, even the dog.

Best date you've ever had?
While on holiday in San Francisco, my husband (also called John, just to confuse matters) organized a date for us cycling across the Golden Gate bridge and down into the village of Sausalito. The weather was fantastic, the views amazing and it was made all the better by the fact that I got to be lazy and use an electric bike while he struggled with steep uphill climbs on a pedal cycle!

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
Every time I’m in New York, I’ll go and visit Jeffrey’s Groceries for New York. Their breakfast pancakes are the best I have ever eaten anywhere in the world. New York is one of my favourite cities… we even got married there at City Hall three years ago.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
Only on Twitter. I tend not to get involved in social media arguments, they are a complete waste of time and if it social media didn’t exist, most trolls would be standing outside yelling at passing cars. But one person I followed was getting so much homophobic abuse that I couldn’t just stand by and say nothing. Social media is a brilliant, wonderful place. But it can also be a nasty, loathsome corner of the world, and it’s that side which features predominantly in The Passengers.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
On a personal level, I’d have started my writing career a lot sooner. I think I had the ideas, I was just lazy and the whole thing felt a bit intimidating. Even now, the thought of writing that very first chapter of a 100,000 word book fills me with fear. But once I get stuck in, I’m fine. It’s draft three that I enjoy the most. I like getting stuck into a rewrite.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
It’s when I do most of my book plotting! As I relax and my mind goes blank, I start thinking in depth about a story, and much of the time, I can remember those thoughts in the morning. Twice I have dreamed a plot from scratch, woken up at 4.30am and dictated it quickly into my phone. One of them will be my ninth book when I begin writing it next year.

I used to lead a double life. My day job was working as a journalist, interviewing celebrities for British national newspapers and magazines. But outside of work, I’d turned my hand to writing thrillers and psychological fiction. Then after five years of doing the two, I waved goodbye to journalism and now I’m a full-time author.

My journey to publication is not a typical one, but I am sure it soon will be. Books began as a hobby. After my debut, When You Disappeared, received multiple rejections from agents (eighty in total), I uploaded it onto Amazon’s self-publishing platform instead. My aim was to find a hundred people I didn’t know to download it. It ended up selling much better than I could ever have imagined and a year later, it came to the attention of an editor at publisher Thomas & Mercer (without me approaching them). With their backing, a rewrite, fresh edit and a new cover, it has gone on to sell more than 300,000 copies. Soon after, a separate publisher, Penguin, took on my next book, The One, again, having discovered it as a self-published book. Now I’m fortunate to be able to write for both labels.

However, fulfilling these incredible opportunities while working a nine-to-five job wasn’t sustainable in the long run. I was already writing for three hours on my return commute from my home in Northamptonshire to London, plus an hour at lunchtime. Daytimes were spent interviewing celebs before transcribing my recordings in a bustling newsroom. And when book deadlines approached, I’d often be writing at home, well into the night and every weekend. I quit journalism in December 2017 and the biggest adjustment from working in a busy office to working at home has been the lack of daily human interaction. But I’ve gradually grown accustomed to the peace and now I enjoy the silence.

I frequently have three books on the go at any one time. One that I have completed and is waiting to be released (this period can take six months or longer); one my editor has just received to critique and one I have just begun working on. My next release US release is The Passengers, a Black Mirror-style thriller set in driverless cars.

One of the biggest surprises of this new career was when a production company approached me asking to turn The One into a television series. After two-years of hard work by Urban Myth Films, it has recently been commissioned by Netflix and filming begins on a ten-part series this summer. I do not have any involvement with this and people ask if this bothers me, after all, it’s my baby. But it really doesn’t. I took that book as far as I could go and now it’s up to someone else to move it in a new direction. And I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

It has never been a better time to be a brand new writer. Being rejected by agents and publishers is the not the death knell for your book. It can be the start of a journey that takes you in a completely new and equally exciting direction.

You're riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, "You are going to die."

Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.

From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, "Which of these people should we save?...And who should we kill first?"


“A fast-paced thriller that offers a discourse on morality and ethics…Marrs excels at thrilling readers by creating a real sense of tension and delivering a believeable, harsh criticism of modern society through this dark and entertaining story. Driving…will never feel quite the same.” —LA Times

“One can almost hear the Hollywood music in the background as the action unfolds; the plot twists are truly gripping...Summer blockbuster entertainment at its best. All that's missing is a slo-mo pre-disaster montage.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I absolutely loved it. It sucked me right in and kept me gripped right until the end. With some real jaw dropping moments, it was an edge of your seat read.” —Claire Allen, USA Today bestselling author of Her Name is Rose

“Crammed with page-turning hooks, The Passengers is literary heroin, an irresistible combination of high-concept scenario, technofear, conspiracy thriller, social satire and lurid personal tales…Full of twists, vividly drawn characters you’ll love or love to loathe and pacy action.” —SFX Magazine

“[A] savagely clever near-future thriller. Provocative, terrifying and compulsive.” —Cara Hunter, author of Close to Home

“One of the most exciting, original thriller writers out there. I never miss one of his books.” —Simon Kernick, author of We Can See You

“Not only is John Marrs a master of the written word, but he is also a master of character development, storyline twists, suspense, relevance, intelligent writing and the gift of creating something inherently unique.” —Totally Booked

“The Passengers is pure genius: shocking, menacing, and utterly thrilling. I bloody loved it!” —Emma the Little Bookworm blog

“One of the most twisty thrillers I’ve read.” —The Bookwormery

You can purchase The Passengers at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JOHN MARRS for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a The Passengers by John Marrs.


  1. "What is one unique thing are you afraid of?" Crazy spammers who leave computerized spam about Notre Dame or sporting events.

  2. I am an adult who is afraid of the dark. I sleep with a tv on.

  3. I hate spiders and the creep me out; not a big "fraid", but eeek!