What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is now available! It’s one not to be missed! John Marrs joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group for a Q & A and answered our questions about his books and writing process. I am excited to sure some of the Q & A with you today!
Brenda: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us and answering our questions!! What does your writing day look like to you? How has it changed for you?
John: My first four books were written on trains as I commuted to London from my home an hour and a half away. When I gave up journalism two years ago, I write from 10am until 6pm most days in my office at home. It took quite some getting used to being in the quiet compared to what it was like being on a train.
Since our son was born last year, I now grab the hours when I can and they are usually in the evenings and at weekends. I have to be flexible and work around him for now.
Debra: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us! I just read an ARC of What Lies Between Us and loved it. I know you were a journalist for twenty-five years, during that time did you want to write books, was that always a thought in the back of your mind or a natural progression?
John: No, I never had any plans to be an author, I just came up with an idea for a book and thought of it as a fun project. I wanted to know if I could write a book that people should enjoy. Two years later, When You Disappeared was complete and it’s gone on to sell more than I could have ever imagined.
Debra How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
John: Ideas vary. One came from a conversation with a friend whose partner was a helpline phone operator, another was based on a newspaper article, one was a dream I had, and another appeared one night as I was on the train going home. They can come from anywhere at any time!
Brenda: How did you come up with the idea of Maggie and Nina in What Lies Between Us? Did the idea of them come first or did the plot?
John: After The Passengers I wanted to go back to writing a character led story and had an idea about two women who shared a house but who hated each other. I wanted to write something that felt claustrophobic , that was twisty and turny and in which the reader never knew whose side to be on. This was one of those books that kind of wrote itself, I really enjoyed the process. It brought out my devious side and I’m not sure I’ve been able to bury it since… lol
Brenda: In the voice of your characters Maggie and Nina can you tell us a bit about them in a couple of sentences?
John: Maggie: My daughter is a complex character, but one whom I love dearly. Her decisions are questionable but I know that deep down, the beautiful child I raised and loved still exists inside her.
Nina: She is never going to leave this house after what she has done to me. If it’s the last thing I do, she will spend the rest of her solitary life paying dearly for robbing me of the life I deserved.
Brenda: Was there one character between Maggie and Nina that you enjoyed creating more than the other or you struggled with?
John: I enjoyed writing them both equally. Maggie is a little more wistful, the voice of experience but is thrown into a situation that she has no frame of reference for. Whereas Nina is just full of anger, spite and self satisfaction. Now I think about it, I probably enjoyed writing Nina more as she gets to be callous and cruel and we all know it’s more fun to write from the perspective of a baddie!
Debra: I loved the twists, turns and reveals in What Lies Between Us. Are these easy to come up with? Do you know what they are going to be before you begin writing your books or do they come naturally as your writing progresses?
John: As for twists, I have some ideas ahead of writing, but often, the best twists are those that come to you when you’ve already started writing. In What Lies Between Us, the very ending came after I’d finished the original ending. It was a sudden flash of inspiration
Norma: Hi John, What Lies Between Us was quite the impressive, twisty and gripping read. I absolutely loved both characters and their voices.
The title of this book is absolutely brilliant, clever and such a fitting representation to the storyline. Did the title come first or after?
John: Thank you! For a long time the working title was The Woman Upstairs, even though variations of that have been done to death. I met with my editor for lunch and we brainstormed ideas but came up with nothing. The next day this title came to me in a flash. I love it as it’s so fitting.
Brenda: What research did you do for The Passengers? What were some challenges you faced there with the tech side of it while creating an entertaining read?
John: I knew nothing at all about driverless cars when I started to plot this book. So I basically read everything I could about them, watched a lot of YouTube videos and traveled to the Geneva motor show in Switzerland to see first hand what these cars were about. Once I learned how they operated and had a factual knowledge, then I slipped into gear and started using my imagination to come up with the scenarios in which I could use them to tell my story.
Brenda: Of course, we have to talk about the social media side of the story. I thought you did a brilliant job there. You had me horrified at the thought of voting for the characters live on social media yet I found myself caught up in tension you created there and I was rooting for the characters. As I learned more about each character I changed who I was rooting and that was entertaining for me. Your pacing was spot on there!!
How did you pull that all off? lol, Why did you use social media to create that tension?
John: That’s really kind of you to say. I love social media, I waste many an hour getting lost in rabbit holes on Facebook, instagram and Twitter. But I know a lot of it can be toxic and it seems like it is getting worse. So for this book I decided to capitalise on it, to show social media at its bleakest and to use the public and their inability sometimes to realise the people they are bullying are still human beings. Like I say in the book, it’s pack mentality and it’s a disturbing trend.
Brenda: I loved that your stories are unique and different from each other as well as your characters. In The One and The Passengers, there are a few characters. How did you go about creating your characters and capturing their voices? How did you keep their character traits straight and their storylines especially with The One?
John: There is a lot going on in my head when I’m writing multiple characters at any one time! It doesn’t help that I tend not to write methodically. I’ll do bits here and there and then tie everything up at a later date. I don’t keep loads of notes on each character, I store them in my head and I prefer to work organically and let the characters alter and shift as the story goes on. The One was easier because they are five separate stories under the umbrella of one book. But in The Passengers, their stories or at least the situation the characters fine themselves in, are linked so it was more complex remembering who was doing what in which chapter and linking them together.
Norma: I noticed on Social Media that you were asked a question and I think it such a great one that I’m going to ask something similar here for you to comment on. What does it feel like to hurt a character in your book? Do you know a character’s destiny before you start writing or does the flow of the narrative guide you there? Have you ever hurt a character that you absolutely loved? Was it hard for you to do or you accepted it as it was written? 🙂
John: Have no guilt or qualms about hurting a character, making their lives miserable or killing them off! I have killed off a fair few leading characters in my time and it always keeps readers on their toes. Sometimes I know their destiny from the start but much of the time, I will just start writing and see where the words take me. It’s more fun and spontaneous like that.
Norma: I wish you all the success with The Lies Between Us and look forward to your next release. Do you have anything in mind yet that you are able to share with us? A little tidbit….LOL
John: It’s all been written and comes out in the uk this July and probably next year in the US and Canada. It’s called The Minders and is in the same universe as The One and The Passengers, a five minutes in the future style thriller. It’s very different to What Lies.
For more of the Q & A you can find it here