I’ve long loved John Marrs’ writing and John has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag many times. Today, as his latest book The Minders, is published, I’m delighted to interview John all about it as part of the launch celebrations. My enormous thanks to Isabelle Ralphs for inviting me to participate.
You’ll find John on the blog when I reviewed What Lies Between Us here. I reviewed John’s The One here, and interviewed him about The One here. When John’s The Good Samaritan was published he provided a superb guest post that you can read here too.
The Minders was published in ebook yesterday, 23rd July 2020, by Penguin imprint Ebury and is available for purchase or hard copy pre-order through the links here.
Five strangers guard our secrets.
Only four can be trusted…
In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.
Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.
But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…
An Interview with John Marrs
I can’t believe it’s over three years since last I interviewed you John, when The One was published. What’s been happening in your life since then?
I’m shocked it’s been that long! But your support has always meant a lot to me. Bloggers and reviewers have, and continue, to keep me in this career and they have my utmost gratitude.
It’s our pleasure John – especially when writers are as talented as you.
Anyway, since that book was released, everything has changed for me. I’ve written five others, given up my day job as a journalist and I am now a full-time author. The One has been turned into an eight-part drama for Netflix which will debut this autumn, world-wide.
Congratulations. How exciting. How much have you been involved in the adaptation of The One?
By choice, I’ve had nothing to do with the adaptation. I feel as if I took the story as far as I could, and now it’s up to a team of writers and directors to turn what I wrote into their own vision. I will be so excited to see it on screen.
Me too. I loved it (and my review is here).
I also got the opportunity to visit the set earlier this year and watch it being filmed. That was a surreal experience. And my recent release, What Lies Between Us, has been optioned by Renee Zellweger’s TV production company. So I hope that too will end up making it to the small screen.
Wow. That is fabulous. I think What Lies Between Us would make a fantastic feature film actually. (I reviewed What Lies Between Us here.)
Tell us a bit about your latest book, The Minders.
It’s set in the same world as The One and The Passengers, so slightly in the future but I never say quite how far.
It’s about five people who are given the opportunity to start their lives afresh, with new identities and backgrounds. At its heart, it’s about how they cope with some exceptionally sensitive secrets they are privy to. Many countries have had their intelligence and secrets hacked and held to ransom by cyber terrorists. So the UK takes all its confidential information offline and turns it into DNA. It’s carried by these five volunteers who have to give up their old lives and disappear to different parts of the country for five years while the Government makes our online systems unhackable. But someone has identified these ‘Minders’ and is out to kill them.
The Minders sounds brilliant. And with all the recent Huawei controversy, and the Russian attempts to infiltrate Covid 19 vaccine research, it might be more relevant than we hope!
Technology – from DNA testing to the internet – often plays a part in your work and there’s cyberterrorism in The Minders. What draws you to these concepts when you write?
I write for two publishers – psychological fiction for Thomas & Mercer, and psychological fiction with a sci-fi twist for Penguin. The latter gives me the opportunity to use my imagination more, but on the flipside, it takes a lot more research because everything I write will soon be possible so I have to get it right. I have no background in science (I even failed my chemistry and biology GCSEs) and my journalism was all about celebrity interviews. So each of this type of book is a challenge for me to write. And so far, my readers have been willing to go with me on this writing journey.
Oh we have indeed John. We love your books.
When I read your books I find the protagonists frequently twisted, damaged or unlikeable and yet I care about them. How do you manage to find a balance in creating such complex characters?
Thanks Linda! That’s reassuring to hear. I think there either has to be a little humanity deep inside them that I gradually draw out, or you have to hate them so much that you want to see if they get their comeuppance. I like to read books where the characters aren’t necessarily likeable. I’m also a sucker for an unreliable narrator too. They are more fun to read and a lot more fun to write. I like pushing my readers as far as I can and then trying to turn their feelings around to a character they might have hated for half a book. These characters tend to develop organically. I have a rough sketch in my head of who they will be. But often when I start writing, they will change completely by the time I have finished. That means I have a lot of rewrites to do! Very few are based on people I know. I prefer to surround myself with better natured, positive people!
Given the characters I’ve met in your writing, I think that’s very wise!
Identity and belonging seem to me to be recurrent themes in your books. To what extent do you think that’s true and why?
You know what, I have no idea, Linda. I really don’t. It’s not as if I come from a broken home, have a string of bad relationships behind me or am searching for my real self. I’ve found him and I’m quite happy with him! I guess characters who are lost and who I can help to find their way through the pages of my books appeals to me more as a writer than characters who already know who they are. There’s more scope to use my imagination and put them in – admittedly often awful – interesting predicaments!
You previously told me that you’re not particularly methodical in anything you do! What is the writing process like for you three years on from that last interview? Have you changed as a writer?
I have a bit actually. Now that I’m doing this job full time, I’m able to plan ahead more and work out where a story is going from start to finish. That’s not to say I don’t often change my mind during the writing process. But at least I have a beginning, middle and an end. I used to only have a starting point and a rough idea of where I wanted it to go.
So what’s next for you?
A year off! With two books out this year, my next one doesn’t need to be delivered to my publisher until the end of next year so that won’t be out until 2022. I need a break to recharge my batteries and be a part of the world, not hide away from it in my home office making up stories for a living!
I hope you enjoy the break John. We’ll all be waiting impatiently for the next book but at least we have The Minders to enjoy in the meantime. I can’t wait to get reading it.
About John Marrs
John 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. His science fiction novel The One has been adapted into a 10-episode drama series for Netflix by Misfits creator Howard Overman, and is currently being filmed. What Lies Between Us was John’s seventh book.
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