Gavin and Stacey, Little Britain, Stella and now a new novel. Writer and actor Ruth Jones explains her creative processes and drops in a few secrets along the way.
Our CELLMATES Shrewsbury correspondent SHANEY LLOYD reports
As someone who had originally booked to see Ruth Jones in a local independent bookstore in summer 2020, I seized the opportunity to attend the online Penguin Live event. Surrounded by a book adorned shelf at The Ivy, Ruth Jones sat across from Hannah Beckerman with a socially distanced appropriate table between them, giving the feel of an intimate chat.
The first rule of how to survive lockdown
The first question was one for our times, the now 2020 opener of “How has your lockdown been?” Ruth joked how lucky she is to have a husband she gets along with. The relationship must be working well as Ruth and husband David Peet have run Tidy productions since 2009, including a range of programmes from chat shows to the hit Sky comedy Stella. She joked how, like many of us, she had intended to learn to play two musical instruments but how this ambition had remained on her to-do list. In a serious moment Ruth confessed how lucky she was in these troubled times.
Is a curly wurly wrapper the new blood oath?
Having caught up on Ruth’s year so far, we moved onto her new novel Us Three which tells the tale of Lana, Judith and Catrin, childhood friends who swear an oath of loyalty to one another on a Curly Wurly wrapper. We follow their journey through adolescence, summer holidays, into adulthood and the complicated issues this brings. The novel addresses many issues, including the pivotal one of ‘Can a friendship survive betrayal?’
Next, Ruth was asked how she begins the writing process and she explained how she always creates the characters initially. Using her Sky show Stella as an example, she described how she will create the characters, and contemplates how character A would interact with character B. She tries different combinations, discovering how characters’ reactions differ depending on their relationships and responses to each other.
Let's talk about character development
We then move seamlessly back into the novel and the relationship between the protagonists. Ruth was asked above the inspiration behind the three childhood friends. She confided she had met her two closest friends at school. She joked that “you could never get too big for your boots when someone remembers you dropped the stuffed school squirrel off the table when you were six!” She clearly valued these long-held friendships- this parallel between Us Three and Ruth’s life prompted the next question: “Which of the three female protagonists was based on your personality?” She reflected that there were elements of herself in each of the three characters… so I will leave it to you to decide when you enter the world of Us Three which seems to echo Ruth’s personality.
Asked if she had experienced and taken inspiration from her own adolescence for the kind of backpacking the friends enjoy in the novel, she responded that while she enjoyed holidays overseas with her sister, she was often too busy with youth theatre to enjoy interrailing trips with friends. However, she did confide that she took inspiration from a holiday she had enjoyed with her two close friends for those small but important details. Ruth laughed as she recalled the rule she and her friends had imposed that no matter what state they awoke in, hangovers included, throughout the holiday they must always greet each other with the word ‘Machynlleth’.
It's all the drama, Mick. I just love it.
The final question broached the subject everyone longed to know about: Gavin and Stacey. She explained how James Corden, her co-writer, had been concerned that the story of a new Christmas episode in the offing may be leaked to the press. Ruth went on to say how they had decided to control the release of the new episode via James’s Twitter account and her surprise at the reaction and the large viewing figures they received for the Christmas day special.
The final question was perhaps the biggest surprise as Ruth was asked if there would be any more episodes following on from the Christmas day cliff hanger?
She explained the difficulties of getting herself and James together, across countries, particularly in the current climate. The real revelation came in the final question when asked if the reason for the lack of any plans for a sequel would be making the time to work out what would happen next and where the story would go. Ruth confessed instinctively - “Oh we know where it is going to go”. Her expression and subsequent polite refusal to be drawn revealed that she had let slip more than she intended.
So, could Gavin and Stacey be visiting our living rooms again to answer the questions over the Christmas turkey next year? These and many other questions may remain unanswered for now, but in the meantime Ruth has left us three new trademark characters’ in Us Three and who knows, Lana, Catrin and Judith may find an equal place in our hearts to Gavin and Stacey and in the words of Nessa that would be ‘tidy’.
If you are interested in seeing what other events Penguin Live has upcoming visit: https://www.penguin.co.uk/events.html
Written by Shaney Lloyd