BIO & FAQs
Until recently, I worked as a freelance journalist based in London, England, and spent 25 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines.
I wrote for publications including The Guardian's Guide and Guardian Online; OK! Magazine; Total Film; Empire; Q; GT; The Independent; Star; Reveal; Company; Daily Star and News of the World's Sunday Magazine.
My debut novel The Wronged Sons, was released in 2013 and in May 2015, I released my second book, Welcome To Wherever You Are.
In May 2017 came my third book, The One. It was chosen as the book of the month for BBC Radio 2's Book Club.
The Wronged Sons was re-edited and re-released in July 2017 under a new title, When You Disappeared.
My fourth book, The Good Samaritan, was released in November 2017 and became a Number One hit world-wide.
In 2018 I released my police procedural thriller Her Last Move, and thanks to my brilliant readers, I was able to start working as a full-time author.
In April 2019 came The Passengers, a thriller with a futuristic twist set in driverless cars.
A year later came bestseller What Lies Between Us, a psychological thriller which has been optioned by Renée Zellweger's production company and won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Paperback Original Novel 2021.
Also last year came The Minders, another work of speculative fiction which has earned some rave reviews from publications including the Wall Street Journal and has been optioned by Miramax.
This summer I re-released Welcome to Wherever You Are with a new edit and new title, The Vacation. It was shortlisted in the 2022 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.
On October 18, I will be releasing my next psychological thriller Keep It In The Family. And in January 2023 comes the hardback and e-book version of The Marriage Act, a brand new work of speculative fiction.
Who am I?
My name is John Marrs and I’m a writer from Northamptonshire, England. I write two different styles of books – psychological fiction for one publisher and speculative fiction for another.
What kind of books do I write?
I write in two styles. For psychological thrillers, check out When You Disappeared, The Good Samaritan, Her Last Move, What Lies Between Us and Keep It In The Family. For speculative fiction, try The One, The Passengers, The Minders and The Marriage Act (out in January 2023).
Do my books need to be read in order?
No, they are all stand alone stories. There are some mentions of characters and storylines that pop up in more than one book though.
How did I become a writer?
I wanted to be a journalist when I realised I wasn’t very good at anything else! I was okay at school but awful at exams – I failed my Maths GCSE four times. English Language and Literature were my favourite subjects. Then at the age of 18, I started writing for local newspapers in Northampton, Daventry and Peterborough before gravitating to London to write for the nationals including the News of the World’s Sunday magazine, The Guardian and Daily Express. Eventually I went freelance, interviewing celebrities for all kinds of publications and writing features for magazines like Q, Total Film, GT, Classic Pop, Men’s Health and Arena.
What prompted the decision to start writing fiction?
Just to see if I could do it, like a challenge to myself. I read an article in a magazine that had me thinking ‘this sounds like a great concept for a book’ and I just started writing it. No plotting, no forward thinking, just writing. A year or so later and it was complete. It eventually became When You Disappeared. However, it was rejected by 80 agents and publishers.
What happened next?
The novel sat in a folder on my laptop for the best part of six months before I decided to self-publish on Amazon. My goal was to get 100 people I didn’t know to download it. It took a lot of self-promotion online and on social media, but it did well. Eventually it came to the attention of an editor at publisher Thomas & Mercer. She got in contact asking if I’d be interested in them taking it on, I accepted and the book has since sold more than 350,000 copies. At the same time, I self-published my third novel, The One, and in exactly the same way it happened with Disappeared, it was discovered by an editor at Penguin who asked to take it on. It’s since been translated into 35 languages and in 2021, it became an eight-part Netflix series. I’ve been very, very lucky. In 2021, Pan Macmillan took on my second self-published book, Welcome To You Are, and published it under the new title The Vacation.
Who do I get your inspiration from?
Ideas come to me from anywhere. I’ll type them into my phone or write them in a notebook and keep developing them until they’re fully formed. Sometimes they come at me from a friend’s throwaway comment or a newspaper story that inspires me and makes me want to explore further. Other times, I can have a kernel of an idea and over time it develops into something bigger. It might come from a meeting someone new, a dream, people-watching… all of these have resulted in books at some point in my writing career.
Do I have any quirks or rituals when writing a novel?
My first five books were written on trains when I commuted to and from London each day. I’d slip on my noise reducing headphones and ignore the world to create my own. But I can write anywhere. Now I’ll go to the gym for around 7.30am, then afterwards, start writing in the restaurant for a few hours before continuing at home. I try to get at least 2,000 words written a day, which is very doable. Even if they are rubbish, it doesn’t matter. It’s something to work on. I do write better in late afternoons than first thing in the morning though. 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 my own playlists on Apple Music.
Would I ever do a follow on from one of my books or a series?
I have no plans to as yet. By the time I have finished a book, that’s it for me, I don’t want to revisit it. I get bored easily and move on, excited by the next project.
Are there any particular books or authors which have made a lasting impact on me?
When I was a boy, I’d spend many an hour in the local libraries of my hometown of Northampton. I devoured the Hardy Boys books by the conglomerate of writers known as Franklin W Dixon. Before I discovered them, much of what I read had been British based. The Hardy Boys ignited my interest in books set beyond our shores. Then JRR Tolkien took my imagination into a whole new realm with his graphic descriptions of fantasy worlds. Later, in my twenties, The Beach by Alex Garland made a huge impact on me. Everyday life and my work as a journalist had interrupted my love of reading for quite a number of years until that book came along. Gillian Flynn showed me you can never get too dark with your characters; Tom Rob Smith showed me how to think cinematically and Stephen King demonstrated you shouldn’t be afraid to mix up your genres. Peter Swanson taught me there’s no shame in killing off a central character mid-way through a book if it serves the storyline well.
What’s my favourite book?
It depends on the mood I’m in. At the moment, I’d say it was John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies. But a close second and third would be The Beach and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Honourable mentions go to JD Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast.
How did it feel to see The One come alive on Netflix?
Absolutely surreal. I spent a morning watching scenes being filmed in London. As a journalist, I’d been on many TV set visits over the years but never to see something based on something I had written. At one point, I sat on a balcony watching the cast acting out a scene together in front of a room full of technicians and cameramen and thought ‘they’re all here because of this crazy idea I had.’ It was a unique moment.
Do I read my reviews?
I read them on NetGalley and Goodreads but only in the run up to a release so that I can get an idea of what people think. After that, I’ll keep an eye on the average rating but I have stopped reading them anywhere, including Amazon. Reviews are a message from one reader to another. They are none of my business.