Ready for an Armchair Road Trip? (Not coming to a screen near you just yet!) by B E Jones
‘I’d love to see a draft of the script when there is one,’ I said, trying not to get over excited as I sipped a glass of London’s alarmingly expensive red wine.
I was fresh off the 10.05 train from Cardiff to Paddington, in a Fitzrovia bar, out of breath from the Tube, meeting the heads of Firebird Pictures who, six months before, had bought the TV rights to my novel Wilderness. I can’t lie and pretend I was being cool and coy at the news that not only had someone read and enjoyed my new psychological thriller, about a dream road trip across America that turns deadly, but that they wanted to make it into a six-part series too!
When I mentioned the script, I expected them to say, ‘We’ll get back to you’ and thought I’d have to jam my patience hat firmly back on my head. Imagine my surprise when one of the producers said, ‘Well, actually…’ and handed me a manuscript with the words ‘Based on the book by B.E. Jones’ typed on the front.
This was a meeting held in a very different world to the one we find ourselves in now, of course, when Covid19 was still nothing more than a possible plot in dystopian novel, and we could go outside, meet up in pubs and bars and take holidays! Still, having that script in my hand was, and still is, pure wish-fulfilment for a big kid who’s been a movie and TV addict since she was old enough to stretch up and turn the channels on that little switch on the wall behind the living-room curtain (older people, you know what I mean). Because, honestly, there wasn’t a lot to do in a mining village, in post-industrial South Wales in the 1980s, except escape through that magical screen to far-flung places I ached to visit. (That and read books, lots of books…)
The idea of writing a novel that might, one day, make it to the screen had been a long-held fantasy and the news that Wilderness might make the dream come true is doubly exciting. Because everyone knows only the lucky few manage to earn enough to make a living from fiction. By the spring of 2019, I had produced six crime novels over twelve years. The first four were written in snatched afternoons between working unearthly hours as a newspaper and TV journalist, then as a police media officer, and the last two while juggling a career break and part-time freelancing. Wilderness was something of a last-ditch attempt to make this whole writing lark my day job.
It was inspired by my own amazing road trip through North America’s National Parks, because I suspect all crime writers live in a universe of layered realities where, even on holiday, especially on holiday, new places tend to suggest new and dastardly deeds. While everyone else is taking in the panorama of azure sea or admiring picturesque ruins, we’re probably thinking, That archway is great spot for an assignation … you could kill someone with that barbecue fork … that set of slippery steps is an accident waiting to happen…
It was at the top of Glacier Point, one of the granite precipices of Yosemite Valley, California, where I was struck by the image of a lone woman, standing near the edge, hatching a plot. Because it can be dangerous out there in the wilderness, where a slip, a trip, even losing your way can be deadly if there’s no phone signal, no one to call for help.
When Wilderness’s protagonist Liv goes out into the wild, she doesn’t exactly have an intricate plan to kill her unfaithful husband Will. As she says, it’s simply a case of ‘having contingencies at hand’, opportunities built into the lonely hikes, the dangerous cliffs, the natural weapons at every turn. If Will fails the three tests she’s secretly set to let him prove his contrition after his affair, this holiday could be his last.
But could I make the reader invested in a heroine so damaged and potentially dangerous? Luckily, my editor loved her, but by then I was skint and ready to retire from writing. Just as the e-book version was being released, and I was downloading PR job application forms, the email about the adaptation rights deal came through from my agent. Six months later I was rattling home on the train reading the first screen version of my novel with a huge grin on my face.
Obviously, the world has hit the pause button now, while we fight the coronavirus, and our priorities shift. My patience hat is firmly jammed back on my head again until we’re through these strange days. But I’ve already got to see my characters beginning to come to life through another writer’s eyes and, so far, I’m sure my literary babies are in safe hands. Well, some of them are, because not all of them will make it to the end of the novel (or the future series) alive.
Until then, the Wilderness paperback hits the bookshelves in April, and I’m not oblivious to the irony of releasing a novel based on a 1500-mile road trip while most people are confined to popping to the supermarket. But perhaps now, more than ever, we all need a little risk-free, virtual travel to raise our spirits.
If you want to find out who survives this nightmare holiday from the safety of your armchair, you can order Wilderness from April 09 or download the ebook today.
B.E. Jones Biography
Beverley Jones is a former newspaper reporter and BBC journalist who worked on all aspects of crime reporting producing stories for newspapers and live TV. She also worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.
Now a freelance writer and novelist, she channels her experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.
Wilderness is her sixth novel, followed by Halfway and Where She Went published by Little Brown.
Read more about Beverley and her books here.