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John Marrs

John MarrsJohn Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. ‘The Minders’ is his latest book.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    My name is John Marrs and I’m fortunate to be able to write for two publishers. For Thomas & Mercer, I write psychological thrillers and for Penguin’s Ebury, I write psychological thrillers with a futuristic twist. Before giving it up three years ago to write full-time, I used to be a celebrity journalist and wrote for publications including ‘OK Magazine’, ‘The Guardian’s Guide’, ‘Total Film’, ‘Q’ and ’S’ Magazine. Books started as a bit of fun – a challenge to myself – and it ended up becoming an entirely new career.
  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘The Minders’.
    The premise is simple – if you could know every secret our country has ever kept – good and bad – but can’t tell a single soul, would you want to know? In The Minders, five ordinary people give up their lives for five years to take part in an experimental Government programme to store all our top secret data inside them. But as they start their lives afresh under new identities, someone is hunting them down and picking them off one by one.
  3. Congratulations on the exciting news of ‘The One’ being adapted for Netflix. Are you involved with the adaption of the book or have you passed the reins onto someone else?
    Thank you! But no, I’ve had nothing to do with the adaptation. It is an eight-part series and I think it will be very different to the book, but I’ve not read the scripts or storylines. I can’t wait to see what they have done with it. For me, once my book is complete, I move on to the next one and I’ll never read it again. With the TV version, it is now up to someone else to take my story and turn it into their vision. I did get to go on set and watch it being filmed in January which was a great and very surreal experience.
  4. Your books have been compared to the Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’, as they are quite futuristic. Where do you get your ideas from?
    They can come from anywhere. ‘When You Disappeared’ came from an article I read in The Guardian, ‘The Good Samaritan’ came from a conversation with a friend who worked as a phone line operator for vulnerable people. I thought of ‘The One’ on an escalator in London’s Underground and a book I’ll be working on soon came to me in a dream. I woke myself up and had to dictate it into my phone before I forgot it.
  5. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’ve got to know a few since I’ve been writing, so I’d start with Cara Hunter, Claire Allen, Darren O’Sullivan, Louise Beech and Tom Rob Smith. Then I’d send out invitations to Peter Swanson, Gillian Flynn and John Boyne. They could rewrite the phone directory and I’d read it.
  6. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’. What a book, what a character.
  7. The Minders

  8. Can you tell me about your planning process from planning to first draft?
    I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, although I am trying to change that. My last book, The Minders, was the first I have properly planned and I quite enjoyed the process. For me, the first draft is all about getting those words and plotlines out of my head and onto the screen. It’s the second draft when the work really begins – trying to make it into something readable for someone other than myself. By the third draft, it’s really starting to take shape, by draft number four, I gain confidence in it. But by drafts five and six, I am sick to death of it and never want to read it again! Every year my writing process changes. I used to write for 90 minutes on the train to London in the morning, then for an hour at lunch time, and a further 90 minutes on the journey home. In fact, my first five books were written on trains. Then I gave up journalism in 2018 and started writing from home full-time. But since our son was born a year ago, it’s now a case of making the most of the rare free time I have. When I’m writing, it’s always in silence. I can’t do background music. I always print the book out to do my edits, makes notes in coloured pens I buy from a shop called Muji and when I make the on-screen corrections, that’s when I’ll listen to playlists on Apple Music.
  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”JRR Tolkein was nothing if not straight to the point.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts has been sitting on my bookshelf for a decade and I’ve still yet to read it. I’m intimidated by its 900+ pages. Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ would be my second choice because after a lull of a decade in the 1990s, that book got me back into reading again. And my last choice would be John Boyne’s ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’, a novel I loved so much that I’d only read a chapter at a time as I didn’t want it to end.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    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 Himalayan snowdrops, but it doesn’t mean other people want to read a book about them. And just get on with it – so many writers waste time procrastinating or trying to come up with the perfect plot before they write. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and see where it takes you.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I don’t need anything other than a computer. Writing my first few books on trains taught me that I need nothing but a laptop. And that gives me the ability to write wherever I like – a pub, a restaurant, a garden or in bed.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m in the process of taking a year out, so I won’t be publishing anything new until probably 2022. It’s nice not having a deadline for once. It means I can write for pleasure again and at my own pace.

    Follow John Marrs on Twitter and follow his website

You can buy ‘The Minders’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Then She Was Gone By Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone‘Then She Was Gone’ is the thrilling new book by Lisa Jewell.

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone. It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet. Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? Who still has secrets to hide?

When it comes to Lisa Jewell, I’m a huge fan of her book, I love and admire how she has transcended beautifully from writing romantic fiction to psychological thrillers that grip you at every page and her latest book is no different.

In this book, we meet Laurel, a mother who’s daughter disappeared one day and was never found. She doesn’t believe that Ellie ran away, her daughter was happy and about to start her exams and prepare for her bright future ahead, she had no reason to leave. Years later, there is a discovery and finally Laurel can put Ellie to rest but she’s left with a lot of unanswered questions.

Laurel decides to move forward with her life, trying to take an interest in her other children’s lives, as she felt she neglected them with Ellie’s disappearance. And with moving on, Laurel meets Floyd, a handsome man with an outspoken and mature daughter called Poppy, who really reminds Laurel of Ellie.

As the story progresses, it is seen through different narratives all giving various perspectives to the tale. As well as the various narratives, the story also travels back and forth in time, setting the scenes.

Laurel is a guilty mother, guilty that she lost her child as well as being guilty of having a favourite child. She tries to form a bond with her other daughter Hanna, but she pushes her away, tired of being second best. When she meets Poppy, she’s curious about the old fashioned child with an opinion on everything and is drawn to her and her father who has brought some happiness into her bleak life.

I adored this book and have to say that I think it’s my favourite book by Lisa to date. The chapters are short, so it’s very easy to keep reading and thinking “just one more chapter before bed” and that’s how I ended up reading into the early hours!

I loved the characters and found them to be engaging, relatable with their troubled that all made for compelling reading. A fast paced thriller with just the right mix of psychological and poignancy to keep the reader on their toes,’Then She Was Gone’ is a cleverly written and delicious read that is perfect for fans of Nicci French.

You can pre-order Then She Was Gone from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 27th July 2017.

Book News – The Other Sister By Rowan Coleman Previously Published As Lessons In Laughing Out Loud

'The Other SisterEbury Press are reissuing one of Rowan Coleman’s previous novels, ‘The Other Sister’ (formerly published as Lessons In Laughing Out Loud), if you haven’t read ‘Lessons In Laughing Out Loud’ it’s a must read for fans of Rowan Coleman.

The story of ‘The Other Sister’ is –

Willow and Holly are identical twins, as close as two sisters can be. But while Holly has gone through life being the ‘good twin’, Willow has always been the less than perfect one. Holly is happily married, Willow is divorced and almost twice her twin’s size. And while she puts on a brave face to the world, Willow knows she’s been hiding her unhappiness for far too long.

So when the past catches up with her, Willow realises it’s finally time for her to face her fears and – with her sister’s help – finally deal with the secrets of their childhood before it’s too late.

Recently Rowan has revealed the title of her 2017 novel, called ‘The Summer of Impossible Things’, more news will be released on that book soon.

In the meantime, you can pre-order The Other Sister from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 17th November 2016.

We Are All Made Of Stars By Rowan Coleman

We Are All Made Of Stars‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ is Rowan Coleman’s latest book.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war. During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths. Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

Rowan Coleman has a special gift of writing an incredibly witty and heartbreaking tale that tugs at your heartstrings and usually leave you in a bawling mess in a public place and ‘We Are All Made of Stars’ was no different.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Stella Carey, a hospice nurse who works long hours, to provide the disaster that is her life. Heartbroken that her marriage is falling apart and the love of her life, Vincent is pushing her further away, as he deals with being injured in Afghanistan, losing a limb and his best friend, he blames himself for the death and takes his anger out on Stella. Even though the hospice is depressing and filled with pain and fear, Stella finds solace in her job and she has helped the patients with dealing with their impending deaths, by writing letters for their loved ones or people that they have encountered over the years and when the person has passed away, the letter is then passed on, leaving a little bit of hope and happiness behind.

Hope, is a young woman who hasn’t properly lived her life, burdened with Cystic Fibrosis, everyday is a struggle and a fear that she will become much more ill, she has come to the hospice for respite. Her best friend Ben is there for her, with his lust for life and for her, they have a fun and happy relationship where they both look out for each other, he makes her smile and she helps him escape from the drama of his depressed mother and abusive stepfather. The pair of them made me laugh and smile throughout the story, as they became closer and he visited her daily, not only brightening her day but also the residents of the hospice. And finally there is Hugh, a quiet, meek man who lives alone with his cat, Jake. He lives a lonely life, after his father died but he has an even deeper sadness in heart as when he was a child, his mother left them without a proper explanation. Years later, he receives a sudden letter that might change but that he only if he acts on it and doesn’t leave it too late.

Although the setting of the story is quite depressive, Rowan has successfully achieved to write a story in that location that is filled with hope and I’m not just talking about one of the main characters. The plot flows at an emotionally moving and delicate pace, that really gripped my attention but with every sad moment, there is a lighter element that lifts the readers attention. The addition of the residents letters throughout the story made for particularly interesting reading, in some letters people poured their hearts out, whilst others had a little rant or told funny stories, regularly I found myself wiping a tear from my eye. The story is filled with genuinely entertaining, warm and gentle characters that I had a strong empathy with, ‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ is an inspirational and loving story that is all about never giving up and made for addictive reading.

You can buy We Are All Made of Stars from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Rowan Coleman Reveals Two New Books For 2015

Runaway WifeI’ve two bits of news about Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman.

One. Ebury Publishers are reissuing her award winning story ‘Dearest Rose’ and it will be released again as ‘Runaway Wife’

The story of ‘Runaway Wife’ is –

Rose Pritchard has fled her home and her abusive husband with little more than the clothes on her back – and her most precious possession, her seven-year-old daughter Maddie.

But Rose does have one other thing left – a glimmer of hope that she can build a better life for herself and her daughter, whatever it takes…

I read ‘Dearest Rose’ a number of years ago and it truly is an inspirational and moving story.

You can buy Runaway Wife from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

And the second piece of news, is that Rowan is also releasing another book this year sweetly called ‘We Are All Made Of Stars’.

We Are All Made Of StarsThe story of ‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ is –

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved… Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ sounds like a beautifully moving and emotional story.

You can pre-order We Are All Made of Stars from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 21st May 2015.