Welcome to our Saturday Spotlight, here on Alternative-Read.com – Today we are really pleased to welcome bestselling author, John Marrs.
The Passengers by John Marrs is a pulse-pounding read. This riveting story delves into the potentially destructive nature of technology and how social media contributes to a mob mentality, where people determine who will live and who will die.
Imagine a world where there are only driverless cars. The rationale is that there will be less accidents, less deaths, and more safety. This is exactly what takes place in England because of a government regulation banning all driver controlled cars. Although car death tolls have gone down, they still happen. Mandated is a jury to decide who’s at fault for the deaths. One such Vehicle Inquest has a jury made up of a government agent, clergy, and medical professionals that includes Libby Dixon, a mental health nurse. She is distrustful of driverless cars after watching a terrible accident a few years ago which wiped out a family. As the jury was deliberating a camera shows how eight passengers of these cars, all from different walks of life, have lost all control. Everyone watches in horror as the doors are locked, and the passengers are told they are going to die in 2.5 hours. The terrorist who’s taken control by hacking, intends to crash the cars into one another at full speed. One passenger will be spared after each is given the opportunity to plead their case. Each juror gets a vote as well as all those participating on social media. Yet, at the end of their pleas the hacker comes on at the end of the ten-minute allotted period and reveals each hostage’s dark secret, allowing no one an opportunity to explain or clarify their motives.
What makes this story so scary is its plausibility. Almost all technology is hackable and social media has become an albatross around one’s neck. As with TV shows like “American Idol” the social media audience will vote someone’s fate. But this time it is a life and death issue where the passenger’s life literally hangs in the balance as social media makes judgments, and decides who will live or die based on thin and omitted facts. The entire world watches and votes on social media using hashtags, able to observe the visual feed as the events transpire.
Not only is this story thrilling but it is so very believable. Readers will be terrified, frightened, and unsettled as they experience the horror along with the passengers and jurors. To add to the intensity is the twist at the end that has a surprising conclusion.
Elise Cooper: How did you come up with the idea?
John Marrs: One of my editors and I were bouncing around story ideas. After talking about driverless cars, I did a lot of googling to find out about them. Then I added a reality show type atmosphere that takes place as these driverless cars are hacked.
EC: Would you ever go into a driverless car?
JM: I am really excited about driverless cars. I am intrigued about being driven around and not having to think about controlling a vehicle. My first couple of books were written on trains so I am used to doing stuff while being driven around. In reality, I think they are safer than those of us who drive and there will be less accidents. Although, I do have to add that last year my husband and I drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco and I don’t think it would have been as exciting if I had been in a driverless car.
EC: Is England going to ban regular cars?
JM: Purely from my imagination is having the UK government ban driver cars. Although the five different levels of cars are based on reality.
EC: What about the hacking into the driverless cars?
JM: I know there have been rumors of cars being hacked. It is really frightening that it could happen. In my story, it is based on so many things able to be hacked. Why not have these types of cars hacked considering there will be a huge network of cars able to talk to each other.
EC: How would you describe the hacker?
JM: A serial killer with a hidden agenda. He is a calm psychopath. When I was writing him, I was not thinking he was pure evil. He did attempt to justify everything that happens.
EC: It is very believable that people would actually go on social media and vote who will live and die?
JM: Those on social media can get caught up with mob mentality. I love and hate social media. Although it is a valuable tool for myself personally, it has its drawbacks. In this story, I went for the horribleness of it. People allow themselves to get manipulated. They will take what they read or hear at face value. I hope as time goes on people will wise up. Remember, years and years ago with the start of Tabloid newspapers everyone believed everything they read. Over time, it has become a bit of a joke. I think that can happen with social media where people will become more educated and start to doubt.
EC: People do not question anymore?
JM: I wanted to give those on social media a part of the story and see where they would go if they found out about a negative side of someone. They never think of the reasoning behind this behavior and what led to it. For some of the passengers they are not as bad as first appeared and for others they are worse than first appeared.
EC: Please explain this quote about an unborn child, “A tiny part of her wanted him to remain safe inside her forever, where she could continue to protect him from the cruelty of the world.”
JM: I am not a parent, but do have godchildren. I think younger children have many pressures from the world and the speed in which things go by. This is when the protection side of me comes into play. If I had a child I would want to live with them on a desert island and shield them until they were eighteen.
EC: How would you describe the female protagonist Libby?
JM: A gateway into the story. Hopefully, someone readers get behind. I think readers watch the experiences through her eyes and decisions. Libby is sensitive, compassionate, and upright. She is a little ray of light in a very dark world.
EC: Who is your favorite character?
JM: Sofia Bradbury, the actress. She really believes this is just a reality show and is so excited about being a part of it.
EC: Who would you have voted to live?
JM: Claire Arden because she is pregnant.
EC: Who would you have voted to die?
JM: Judd Harrison because he is suicidal.
EC: There is an explanation of how medical insurance works in England?
JM: You are referring to the scene where Claire and her husband talk about the need for him to die at work so the payout is more. This is an exaggeration on my part. Here in the UK with national health insurance everything is free. If someone is ill they can go to the hospital at no cost. My mom had bowel cancer last year and within three weeks of her diagnosis she got care. Yet, if someone so chooses to pay for medical insurance they can be fast tracked.
EC: One of the despicable characters is Jack Larsson?
JM: He is impatient and gradually over time has become a nasty person. He is now greedy, power hungry, and a narcissist who is horrible to people. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when he tells Libby about Judd’s depression. “His obstacles and anxiety will likely be exacerbated because he’ll now have everyone’s expectations resting upon his fragile shoulders, and its unlikely he’ll cope with the challenge.”
EC: What do you want people to get out of the story?
JM: For people to be entertained. Beyond that, I hope they would react to the situation and think about how they would vote and if so for whom. Maybe readers will try not to take everything at face value and look at the whole picture instead of being judgmental.
EC: Rumor has it one of your books will be a series on Netflix next year?
JM: The One is being adapted into a 10 episode Netflix mini-series that will air next year. It is about matching people’s DNA to find your soul mate through a certain gene. Five characters meet their match but not everything turns out as good as it seems.
EC: Your next book?
JM: There will be two books out since I write for different publishers. One is a domestic thriller about two women who live on different floors of a house and hate each other. Yet, they meet for dinner once a week. The other one is a psychological thriller where people know all about their country’s secrets. Because of this knowledge they are told not to speak about it, but they are being tracked. One by one they are being killed.
If you liked this interview
The Passengers – by John Marrs
You’re riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, “You are going to die.”
Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.
From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, “Which of these people should we save?…And who should we kill first?”
The Passengers – by John Marrs – Sneak Peek!
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