Former Chronicle & Echo reporter John Marrs tells Ruth Supple about his latest book, which has been snapped up by a leading UK publisher and looks set to be made into a TV series too...
Imagine if a gene had been discovered which could tell you who your soulmate was, regardless of age, sex, location, religion or colour.
And that your perfect partner could be identified through one simple mouth swab. What if The One were already married or in a relationship? What would happen if and when you met your “perfect half”?
That’s the gripping plotline to Northampton author and journalist John Marrs’ new book, The One, which he originally self-published under the title, A Thousand Small Explosions, and has now been acquired by Ebury imprint Del Rey. Film and TV rights for it have been optioned by Urban Myth films.
“I was absolutely blown away when I heard the news,” says John, 46. “November has been a weird month – I got married, then found out my first book, The Wrong Son, has been picked up by one of Amazon’s own labels. Then this news came through about The One, which is the third book I’ve written.
“Thousands of new, self-published books are out there so it’s amazing to have bucked the trend and had mine picked up. It doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me; it doesn’t feel real.”
Freelance journalist John writes all his books on his long, daily commute to and from London, where he works for Northern & Shell Media Group, whose titles include The Daily Express newspaper and OK! magazine.
“When I started writing books, I gave myself a 1,000-word limit per day and try to stick to that,” he reveals. “I have quite a lot of downtime on the train and tube trip to and from work, so use that time to write. M
“My novels are normally 100,000 words on average, so each one has taken me around three months.”
He says he’s thrilled when people enjoy reading his books as much as he enjoys writing them.
“When you write a book you have no idea if anyone will want to read it or not. I wrote my first book around four years ago and was a bit naïve but kept going. I wanted 100 people to read it; now I know that figure is 28,000.”
The One is described as an “original and modern take on a psychological thriller” and follows the fates of five different couples through its chapters. But even soulmates have secrets and some are more shocking – and deadly – than others.
John says he’s not sure what inspired him to write the story, which is full of gripping twists and turns, but remembers walking through the Underground making wedding plans to his, now-husband, John Russell.
“I remember looking at all these people walking past me and thinking ‘how do you know when the right person will come along for you and how do you know that person is the right one?’ It just got me thinking about the realms of possibilities and what’s lurking in the shadows.
“When I first came up with the idea, I hoped it would resonate with readers and encourage them to ask themselves what they would do if such a test existed. Their response was amazing, but to be approached by Del Rey was a genuine jaw-dropping moment.
“Their immediate passion and enthusiasm for the project was overwhelming. To say that I’m excited to be working with Del Rey is a whopper of an understatement.”
Personally, John knows he’s found “The One” in his husband John, who he met on the internet.
“I’d come out of a marriage and was single. We were friends for about six months first and then got together on what we called an anti-Valentine’s night.”
The couple married in a private ceremony in New York and then had a celebration for family and friends back in the UK.
John started his career in journalism at Image’s sister paper, The Chronicle & Echo, in 1994 and was here for two years covering news, business and had a music column called Marrs Bars.
“It was such good fun at the Chron,” he says. “I didn’t know much about the business though and had to bluff my way through it. I used to get to see some great gigs at The Roadmender for my music column, which was brilliant fun being in my early 20s then.”
John then became deputy editor on the Herald & Post in Peterborough, before heading to London and the News of the World’s Sunday magazine. Following redundancy, he turned freelance around seven years ago, but has no plans to let the ink dry up on his celebrity interviewing pen just yet.
He is currently penning his fourth novel, another page-turning psychological thriller.
“I’m 60,000 words through it,” he says. “It’s about someone who works on a phone line counselling service but she’s got her own agenda.
“I’ve tried writing comedy, but I’m not funny. Somehow I can conjure up these twisted characters with no trouble, even though they’re not based on anyone I know!”
The One will be published as an e-book in January 2017 and then comes out in paperback in May 2017.