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What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen – USA

13th October 2023

What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen - USA

What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen

Wilderness by BE JONES

‘I’d love to see a draft of the script when there is one,’ I said, trying not to sound over-excited, as I sipped a glass of alarmingly expensive red wine.

That was the day it really began, me, fresh off the 10.05 train from Cardiff to Paddington, in a Fitzrovia bar, meeting the heads of Firebird Pictures who, six months before, had bought the TV rights to my thriller 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 dark and weird psychological thriller, about a dream road trip across America that turns deadly, they wanted to make it into a six-part series.

When I’d mentioned the script, I’d expected them to say, we’ll get back to you, then wait months for a response, even for a What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen - USApeep at a page. Imagine my surprise when one of the producers said, ‘well, actually…’, and handed me a manuscript with the words ‘based on the book by BE Jones’ typed on the front. Suddenly, fantasy collided with reality because the idea of writing a novel that might, one day, make it to the screen had been a long-held dream of mine that had been fizzling out fast. By 2018, I’d written six crime novels over 12 years. The first were produced in snatched afternoons between working unearthly hours as a newspaper and TV journalist, then as a police media officer, knee-deep in real life crime and tragedy. Wilderness was something of a last-ditch attempt to make this whole writing lark my day job.

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Dream Holiday – Nightmare Road Trip

The story 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.  It was, at the top of the dizzying granite precipice of Glacier Point, in 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, and someone’s really, really angry with you.

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. I hadn’t been sure I could make the reader invested in a heroine so damaged and potentially dangerous. But it turned out Firebird fell in love with her and her twisted road trip – so the book’s own journey to screens began.

What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen - USA

Author atop a canyon

After the Wilderness wagon began rolling out there were many milestones along the way, including meeting the brilliant scriptwriter Marnie Dickens to chat about the characters and their motivations, then getting that ‘Green Light’ for production when Amazon Prime became involved and invested the massive budget, making the show more glossy and polished than I ever could have hoped for. Six months later, I got to see the character of Liv coming to life at a wonderful Zoom ‘table read’ online, after Jenna Coleman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen had been cast – that evening they did their first read of episode one. Suddenly, there was Liv, my Liv, complete with Welsh accent, full of rage and betrayal on one little quarter of laptop screen and I knew something special was happening.

All aboard. Hold tight!

Unfortunately, my set visit to see filming in Vancouver fell through, after some production rearrangements, but I did get to see several rough edits at Firebird’s London studios in 2022, under strict secrecy of course. That’s when I was told for the first time that Taylor Swift had been approached to have her marvellously appropriate Look What You Made Me Do track as the show theme tune that suits Liv so perfectly. Again, I had to keep that enormous win to myself until the official teaser trailer launched and social media went wild.

What a ride! The Wilderness journey from book to screen - USA

Husband close to the edge of South Rim

Things have got more surreal from there as the media campaign as rolled out, since I walked into my local Sainsburys to find three magazine covers featuring Will and Liv staring back at me from the newspaper racks. Things just got more joyously bizarre when Jenna Coleman’s legion of brilliant fans started tagging me with photographs of ‘the Wilderbus’, as I christened it, tootling through their towns across the UK, with the show promo posters on double-deckers and bus stops. All the hype is very strange for a girl who grew up in the post-industrial South Wales Valleys in the 1980s, dreaming that, one day a story of hers would get out into the big world.

In Sept, I was invited to a preview screening at BAFTA Piccadilly, in London, where I finally got to meet the lovely director, So Yong Kim, who brought my characters to life through her own dark vision. Things had come full circle, since BAFTA was where I first met my literary agent 15 years before, and where he signed up an eager, if inexperienced Welsh writer. That debut novel about a Cardiff journalist who suspects her old friends might know more about a young woman’s disappearance than they’re letting on, was called Telling Stories (now Lies You Tell), and 15 years later, I’m still telling stories.

Sunrise from the hotel room

Though Amazon’s Wilderness is a new take on my original story, because, of course, any TV or film adaptation makes changes to the book, Liv’s dilemma remains the same as it was when I was beavering away in my box room on the laptop hoping I wouldn’t have to quit crafting fiction. Despite some surprises in store for anyone who’s read the novel, it’s another glorious step on the Wilderness journey, and it’s turning out to be a wild ride!


Where was Wilderness filmed? The Hotel and all the locations – Check out  Filming Locations HERE


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Catch the TV serialisation on Amazon Prime, staring Jenna Coleman and Oliver Jackson

Catch the author on Twitter @bevjoneswriting / IG @bevjoneswriting

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