JOHN MARRS: A letter to myself, 13 years ago.

Written by John Marrs



A letter to myself, 13 years ago.


Dear John,

That makes it sound like I’m about to break up with you, doesn’t it? Well I’m not, so don’t worry. You and I are in this together, God willing, for the long haul.


You might be surprised to learn I’m actually writing this letter to you from thirteen years in the future. The year is 2022 and it’s been a tumultuous one. Queen Elizabeth has died, Russia has invaded the Ukraine, we’re on our second Prime Minster of the year and believe it or not, we came second in the Eurovision Song Contest.

But I digress. John, you’ve been a journalist since you were 18 and you’re, what, almost 40 now? You’re living in London and you’ve made a career out of interviewing celebrities for various national publications.


But you know how you’ve always had a hankering to write a book? Well, guess what? Thirteen years from now, you’re doing it full-time. Yes, really.


I know you don’t have any ideas in mind yet, only that the story might have something to do with travelling, like when you and your best friend Sean backpacked around America when you were 21. But let’s save that for book two.

At the moment, you lack the motivation to write. It’s been six years since your dad died and you’ve thrown yourself into your relationship and your work rather than dwell on how a terminal cancer ravaged his brain and turned that big, strong, warm giant into a shadow of his former self.


It seems hard to believe right now, but you’ll use his awful experience in your first book, When You Disappeared. It’ll be almost cathartic to give a character you love the same disease, but through the power of your pen, allow them to live the time your dad was robbed of. It’ll only be years later when you realise that writing is how you came to terms with his loss.


When you do finally get your arse into gear and write your first book, it’ll be during the break-up of your marriage. Christ, I sound the harbinger of doom, don’t I? Well I’m sorry to be the barer of more bad tidings, but after being with your partner for eight years, you’ll have a civil partnership surrounded by all your friends and family only to split up 18-months later. It’ll break your heart and it’ll humiliate you. But writing will be the one good thing to come out of that sorry experience. It will help to divert your negative energies into something positive.


It’ll take you two years to finish that first book, and then you’ll send it out to 80 agents and they’ll be falling at your feet to take you on as the next big thing in literature. Well, that’s what’ll happen in your head. Because in reality, they won’t give a stuff. A handful will express interest in it, but it won’t amount to anything. You’ll have 110,000 words sitting in a file on your desktop with no-one to read it but you and your friends.


At this point John, and I can’t emphasise this enough, do not give up. Because someone will suggest self-publishing your book on Amazon, something you are currently unfamiliar with. You’ll wait a few more months first in the vain hope an agent might have been delayed in reading your book. But when it becomes obvious there’s nobody knocking at the door, you’ll think sod it, and do it yourself.


Sales will trickle in at first, and then dry up. Don’t panic! Because they’ll start trickling in again before building up into a steady stream.


The journey will be a long one, and it’ll be an interesting one. And ultimately, it will alter your life.

The book will be a self-published success and generate enough of an audience for you to write a second book and then a third. And that’s when it’ll all start going crazy. You’ll accept two offers of concurrent book deals for two different publishers, and by the time you reach my age now, you’ll have sold two million copies, had your books translated into thirty-five languages, will have ten published novels under your belt, a Netflix series and three more novels optioned by production companies. Your latest, Keep It In The Family, has just been released and you’ll still suffer from imposter syndrome and walk into Sainsburys and Waterstones and be unable to fathom out how you’ve ended up on their shelves.


You’ll have some incredible times in the next decade John. You’ll hug your dog and cry your eyes out until the tears mat his fur; you’ll twice be made redundant, you’ll meet Mister Right, buy your dream home, you’ll marry again and be happier than you ever thought possible. You’ll both meet an amazing woman who’ll offer to have a baby for you and that beautiful little boy will be the thing that inspires everything you do from here on in.


And you’ll use all of these experiences, John, all of these emotions that have been good, bad, ugly and beautiful, in whatever you continue to write.


It’ll be the making of you, my friend, and I look forward to being with you for the ride.

With my very best wishes,

John, +13.

PS: Buy The Guardian on October 17, 2009. Trust me. It’ll change everything.


Keep It In The Family by John Marrs is published 25th October 2022

(£8.99, Thomas & Mercer)

John Marrs

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