Gavin and Stacey’s Ruth Jones shares the inside story on her first novel, a tale of celebrity, addiction and a scandalous affair.
“I was asked to read the audio book but I couldn’t bring myself to, because of the sex. I kept imagining my mother listening to me reading it and I cringed, so the brilliant Sharon Small read it instead,” laughs Ruth Jones as she celebrates the success of her first novel, Never Greener.
Ruth Jones first appeared on our screens in Little Britain, co-wrote and starred in the brilliant Gavin and Stacey, then went on to create the popular Sky sitcom, Stella. She made her name writing and playing earthy, hilarious, straight-talking women, but her first novel reveals another side to her altogether.“I was asked to read the audio book but I couldn’t bring myself to, because of the sex. I kept imagining my mother listening to me reading it and I cringed'Click To Tweet
Never Greener is a beautifully written story of infidelity that explores what happens when a famous actress comes back into the life of her former lover. “I’ve been asked a lot if it’s a comedy or a love story, and I describe it as a relationship story,” she says.
The novel began as a screenplay, which she wrote in 2003 before Gavin and Stacey. “At the time people were into Friends Reunited, and I was fascinated by people’s obsessions with reigniting old friendships. I just wondered about the idea of two people rekindling an illicit affair. They shouldn’t really do it. They should walk away, but what happens if they don’t?”
The story of Kate and Callum’s affair and the consequences is a real page turner. “I have to say I’ve been hugely complimented by people’s reactions to it. My sister finished reading it at 3.30 in the morning and texted me saying ‘Thanks a lot. I couldn’t stop reading it and I have to get up for work in four hours.’”
All the characters have a vivid, true-to-life quality that makes them leap off the page. As she writes, Jones always uses her skills as a performer to help bring her characters to life. “I guess the skill in common with acting was seeing how the dialogue worked. I’d read it aloud to check it rang true, a bit like I was acting the part myself.”
Never Greener’s Kate is a successful TV actress, which meant Ruth Jones could bring a lot of insight and authenticity into the descriptions of life in the public eye. “I guess I know about the TV world, so I could take what I knew and embellish it to make it more dramatic, which created moments like the BAFTA night, the chat-show and the behind-the-scenes of Kate’s work. And then added to that, I know personally the pressure that actors and celebrities are put under – they are always being scrutinised, followed and papped or ending up in the news.”
Away from the cameras Kate’s life is far from perfect. “I liked the idea of presenting a character who was brilliant at her job, a successful and talented actress, but who fought inner turmoil all day long.'I know personally the pressure that actors and celebrities are put under – they are always being scrutinised, followed and papped or ending up in the news.”Click To Tweet
“I think her addictions – the booze, cocaine, food – are all symptoms of a lack of connection, a self-loathing, that can affect anyone, no matter what job they do.”
Having hit the bestseller lists with Never Greener, Ruth Jones is now halfway through her second novel. It is, she says, a far more solitary process than TV writing but, “I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m really pleased I had a go.”
She’s also planning a return to the theatre. “I’m going back on stage in October, for the first time in twelve years. It’s a new play produced by Bath Theatre Royal called The Nightingales. We’re doing a short tour and then it may go to the West End. I’m terrified. But also very excited.”