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Wilderness Author On Phone Call That Stopped Her Quitting

Image source, Stefania Rosini/Prime Video

Image caption, Jenna Coleman (right) described Wilderness as a “darkly twisted thriller”

It’s the new TV thriller starring Jenna Coleman and featuring Taylor Swift on its soundtrack – here the writer behind Wilderness reveals what the new series means to her.

She spent years working as a journalist and as a police press officer.

So, if anyone knows how to write crime stories, it’s author Beverley Jones.

And now her twisty revenge thriller, Wilderness, will hit our screens on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.

But, as Bev, from Pontypridd, explains, she was just about to quit writing when one unexpected phone call changed her life completely.

“It was back in 2019 and I was sitting in my box room at home, quietly sulking and downloading application forms for jobs in PR,” said the 48-year-old, who writes under the pen name B.E. Jones.

“I was several books in by that point and was just about to give up writing in order to go back to the nine-to-five life.

“I’d decided to take a career break from my job as a press officer for South Wales Police to try my hand at being a full-time novelist.

“But while being a published writer can earn you some money, it’s not really a living wage.

“So I was preparing to semi-retire and concentrate once again on things like, you know, paying the mortgage.”

Which is when the phone rang.

“It was my agent calling to tell me that Wilderness, the sixth of seven books I’ve done, was being turned into a television series – I almost burst into tears,” said Bev, adding that it’s been like a whirlwind ever since.

Image source, Kailey Schwerman

Image caption, Jenna Coleman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen play a married couple who go on a US road trip to mend their broken marriage

“I knew these TV adaptations can sometimes languish on the backburner for years before seeing the light of day, so I promised myself I wouldn’t get too carried away.

“However, a few months later Firebird Films – the company who picked up the book – invited me to London to a chat about it, at which point they pulled out an already completed script and told me they had financial backers who were raring to go.

“I was amazed at how keen and on-the-ball they were.”

But then Covid struck and the whole world shut down.

“That meant the original backers had to opt out, but then I found out Amazon Prime Video were coming onboard – that was a hard secret to keep, let me tell you,” said Bev.

“Within six months a cast had been sorted and filming had begun.”

In Wilderness, former Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman plays Olivia, a woman whose world falls apart when she discovers her husband Will (The Haunting of Bly Manor’s Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has been cheating on her.

Described by Coleman herself as a “darkly twisted thriller”, the plot follows the couple as they then head off on a road trip around the USA, initiated by Will to help mend their broken marriage.

Image source, Prime Video

Image caption, Jenna Coleman’s Welsh accent impressed author Bev

However, it soon becomes apparent that Olivia has much more in mind for the holiday than simply forgiving and forgetting.

Adapted for the screen by Marnie Dickens, who was previously behind the 2019 BBC series Gold Digger, Wilderness’ cast also includes Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson and UK drama stalwart Clare Rushbrook, last seen on BBC Two’s Inside No.9 and 2022’s award-winning Sherwood.

Taylor Swift fans should also take note – the mega-selling singer’s re-recorded version of Look What You Made Me Do, heard for the first time over the recently launched teaser trailer for Wilderness, also plays over the show’s opening credits.

It’s a world away from Bev’s beginnings in local journalism, sniffing out community stories and covering court cases for The Rhondda Leader newspaper.

Stints at The Western Mail and behind the scenes at BBC Wales’ Wales Today programme would follow.

“Growing up in the Valleys in the 70s and 80s things could be tough, so I was always escaping into my own fantasy world and penning little stories,” she added.

“Becoming a journalist much later, along with my job with the police, exposed me to the darker side of human nature and I’d report about all sorts of crime day after day – a lot of it much stranger than fiction.

“As a result my first book in 2012, Telling Stories, was about a young journalist in Cardiff who ends up investigating a case that proves to be a bit too close to home.

“Well, they do say you should write about what you know.”

‘I’m over the moon’

Telling Stories earned Bev a book deal with a small independent publisher in London.

“After that I just kept plugging away, putting out book after book, all the while hoping for that elusive break-out hit – which can be a slog,” she added.

Nevertheless, Wilderness would eventually prove all that toil worthwhile.

“The last couple of weeks have been crazy, but good crazy,” admitted Bev.

“I was at Bafta’s Piccadilly headquarters in the West End on Monday night for a special screening of Wilderness’ first two episodes, which was great – certainly not my usual Monday night out,” she said.

“Then later, as I was driving through London, a bus pulled up next to me with an enormous poster for Wilderness plastered on its side.”

Image source, Tallboy Photography

Image caption, Bev learned her trade reporting for a her local newspaper and working for the police

The best part for Bev, however, is that her biggest worry about Wilderness’ TV adaptation turned out exactly how she’d wanted.

“I’m over the moon that Jenna’s character in the series remains Welsh – just how I wrote her,” she said.

“As is Clare Rushbrook, who plays her mam.

“Both their accents on the show are really great, which is always a big stumbling block.

“When a non-Welsh person plays someone from Wales getting the voice right can be really difficult, and a dodgy Welsh accent can really hamstring an entire production.

“For me, it’s impossible to ignore.

“In fact, I told Firebird Films that if they decided to cast someone who couldn’t pull it off I’d rather the onscreen character of Olivia wasn’t Welsh at all.

“So I’m really pleased with what they’ve done.”