Okay… so… I’m a teacher. A sub, but still. Kind of hits close to home. At least, I know my mind is already half lost.
Running From Dust by Jess Whitby released in June in the Psychological Paranormal Thriller genre.
Jude Craig is a level-headed teacher in a Yorkshire secondary school. Within a matter of days her professional and personal life is shattered by a series of strange events in her house. What starts with the sound of papers fluttering to the floor quickly escalates to her discovering that someone has been in the house whilst she is sleeping.
When Jude is driven out of her job and home she is forced to discover whether she is being haunted, stalked by a pupil, or the terrifying possibility that she is losing her mind.
Her heart had raced – like it did now. There had been a noise. A noise from outside the bedroom. She’d lain there, frozen in bed. Not daring to move, her eyes fixed on the doorway.
After a few seconds, she’d glanced away from the door and to Oscar. He was fast asleep. He hadn’t heard it. Strange as normally, he barked at the slightest thing.
Then it happened again. The noise. What was the sound? Then, it was there—paper! It was the sound of a sheet of paper falling to the floor.
In a flash, Jude connected the dots. The study was at the back of the house and overlooked the back garden. The desk sat below the window. Was someone breaking in and had knocked some papers on the desk to the floor? Did she check the back window tonight? Instinctively, she’d reached out for Oscar. He’d responded by snuggling up to her further. Still fast asleep. Why didn’t he wake up? She lay paralysed. The blood pounding through her head.
Silence. She held her breath and glanced at the clock. 3.26am.
The phone—where had she put it? Again, she chanced a glance away from her doorway to the top of the drawers where the phone sat on charge. Out of arm’s reach. Damn! She gently prodded Oscar, who at last lifted his head up. Instead of leaping off the bed, she sensed him looking at her. He wasn’t on good guard dog form tonight.
Why did she stop bringing a knife up to bed with her? The one time she needed it, she didn’t have it. How did she get to be so stupid? She listened again. Nothing. She glanced at the clock, 3.29am. How long would it take for an intruder to get in? Surely less than a minute. Surely he or she had to make another noise? She shuffled up in the bed. Eyes fixed on the door. Oscar put his head back on the bed and closed his eyes. No sound. No movement. She tried to calm her breathing, unaware that her whole body had tensed right up, her fists clenched on top of the duvet.
By 3.40am, she thought perhaps she had imagined it. Uxton wasn’t exactly crime central, and this estate had always seemed so quiet. The papers on her desk were piled up so high, they could have fallen. That desk contained all the paperwork that Jude tried her hardest to avoid. Not one school holiday passed where her “To Do” list didn’t include ‘clear the desk’. But something more exciting always got in the way.
At 3.45am, she was confident enough to put the bedside light on. Oscar didn’t stir. She slid a bit further down in the bed. Even the hardiest of criminals wouldn’t have stood still this long. As the minutes passed, her heart rate slowed. The normal silence of the night returned. At about 3.55am, she fell into a restless sleep, reminding herself to check the office in the morning and see what had fallen off the desk. Now she thought about it, she had woken up several times after that. Each time, her heart had been racing. Each time, she’d struggled to relax and get back to sleep again.
At least I know why I’m so tired, she thought to herself as she opened her bag and rescued two paracetamol from the detritus gathered inside. She hoisted herself up from the chair and made her way to the staff room. Note to self—check study when I get home. Second note to self—take knife up to bed. Third note to self—drink more wine.”
About the Author
Jess Whitby lives in Yorkshire, England. She studied Communication Studies at University and then went on to train and work as a Youth Worker. She now works as a Therapist in Yorkshire. When she isn’t working she is busy either writing her next novel or eating her favourite food : chips and gravy!
Characters inspired from life in Running From Dust
by Jess Whitby
I love books and films which have strong female lead characters. Characters like Lisbeth Salender in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series who can seriously “kick some ass” and take no nonsense. My main character, Jude, isn’t violent but she is a strong, hard-working and independent woman.
Jude’s character is a mixture of myself and a good friend of mine who works in a local secondary school. Being an ex-youth worker and now a therapist, the more empathic part of Jude comes from me. The part that wants to get alongside pupils and help them if she can. My friend, whilst caring about pupils, does not take any nonsense! She won’t shirk away from upsetting people if it means standing up for what she believes in. Like Jude, both my friend and I are people who keep getting up when we get knocked down by life’s circumstances. Having said all that, I think Jude is braver than both of us combined would be in her situation.
I drew together most of the other characters from people who I’ve met over the years. There is one member of staff in the school Jude teaches at who stands out. Through all the drafts of Running From Dust, I thought I had invented her. That was until recently, I was driving down the road and I had an epiphany. I realised that I’d unconsciously based the character on an old boss of mine! I didn’t get on at all with that boss and I think that shows through the book!
The final real-life inspiration that I have to mention is Jude’s loyal and faithful friend, Oscar the dog. I named Oscar in memory of two friend’s dogs who passed away (both called Oscar) during the writing of Running From Dust. I am a dog lover and have a Bichon Frise who acts like my shadow. Oscar is similar to my dog. He’s loving and loyal but often a little dim! However, he is a true friend and will defend me at all costs when necessary.
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Well firstly, I work in schools most days of the week and I think sub teachers do a really tough job so all respect to you for that. Second, if you know you’ve already lost half your mind you are doing better than me – I’ve lost way more than half. Third, I really hope you enjoy reading Running From Dust. It’s something that I’ve put my heart and soul into and is designed to keep you guessing until the last page. Last but not least, thank you so much for hosting the book tour – I really appreciate it.
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Thank you so much for all of your words! It was s real pleasure having you and your story here, I hope you’ll have a great tour!