Running From Dust is the story of a British teacher whose life is inexplicably ripped apart in just a few short days. Strange things start to happen in her house and she and her friends are left questioning whether she is being stalked by a pupil from the school she works in, the place is being haunted or if she is having a nervous breakdown. As the repercussions of the events in her home spread outwards, she is forced to answer that question before she loses everything.
Will this teacher be able to stop her life from being ripped apart? Jess Whitby author of ‘Running From Dust’, has joined me today to explore a little of this work and what it means for in the life of this British teacher. Jess, looking back, what inspired you to write this book?
The book actually began in my own life. In my teenage years, I started to wake up in the night and hear the sound of paper falling to the floor. You would think there was nothing frightening about that. But when that happens night after night and when there is no paper to be seen, it starts to get scary! Years later, I was thinking of where I could start a book. What would be frightening. Of course, my mind went back to what had been truly terrifying to me and it was that time when I was a teenager when I used to hear the paper falling to the floor.
Did the characters we meet also come from your time as a teenager?
Jude has some very supportive friends. I think those friends are an amalgamation of some great friends I have had over the years. People suggested that I create more conflict in that friendship group. I could have done that but I felt that would detract from the main focus of the story. Jude is a combination of myself and a very good friend of mine who works in a school. There is a fairly unpleasant character in the book who also works in the school Jude teaches in. I think the answer to where the inspiration for her came from is best left with “no comment.”
Do you feel that the topics your book covers, like the conflict in friendships, are really relevant to today, or do you feel they will become more important in the future?
I think this is very much a story of our time in many ways. Other than the main issue of the book surrounding what is happening in Jude’s house, the book touches on the situation in British schools and to some extent the police and the huge pressures these institutions are under. These are not easy places to work.
Was there a central idea that you wanted to impart to readers who follow Jude’s journey into the British school system?
Hmmm. I can’t really answer that without revealing the end of the book. I think the place that Jude (the main character reaches) is the main point that I wanted to reach and convey. That anyone can reach the place that Jude got to – no matter how defeated and alone they feel.
Without giving anything away about the place that Jude gets to, can you say which readers won’t really appreciate this book?
Anyone who is looking for a great literary work such as the next Jane Eyre or William Shakespeare. This book isn’t meant to be a literary giant – it’s simply meant to be a good story that hopefully keeps you turning the pages.
What do you feel that was your ambition for this book, beyond people just turning the pages?
It’s my ambition that people would read Running From Dust and enjoy it. I would love to see lots of nice reviews (!) that showed that and I would consider that a job well done!
What kind of reviews have you received from people who have read this book so far?
On the whole, I’ve had very positive reviews. Much more positive than I was expecting. It’s terrifying letting other people read your work for the first time. Most people have said they couldn’t put it down and I’ve been very pleased by what people have said about the ending – it was just what I wanted!
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Toughest criticism -“You’ll never make it. Don’t you know – everyone wants to be an author.”
Best compliment – “I couldn’t put the book down. I stayed up all night reading it.”
What have you personally learned from taking on the challenge of writing, exposing yourself to both tough and positive feedback and publishing this book?
This has been a huge learning curve for me. It’s my first novel and I have learnt so much. I cannot put it down in a few sentences. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learnt, please excuse this sounding so corny, is that I have so much to learn about writing.
I’m sure you know much more about writing than you think! Where did you learn to write?
I’ve written stories since I could write. I have lots of cuttings from the local paper of short story competitions I won when I was about seven years old. Thankfully, my teachers at school all encouraged me. Sadly, “life” got in the way and so I have only recently started writing again.
Did you take steps to prepare yourself to take advantage of the time that you have a little time out from life to write?
Yes, I’ve done lots of hard work. I joined an e-writing course.
A course is a great way to get your writing moving forward. Have you also had the opportunity to connect with peers through a writing group?
I have an online tutor who has given me invaluable guidance along the way – especially at the second draft stage where I nearly lost the will to live!
But you worked through the pain and got your book published. You should be incredibly proud! And I hope that you’ve regained the will to live and write, and are working on a new project. Are you working on something new?
I’m writing my second novel – which is totally different to this first novel and feels a lot bigger and more complex. I am also writing what was aimed to be a short story / novella – although that seems to be growing.
Two new projects, that’s fantastic! I can’t wait to hear about how both of them progress! Jess, thanks so much for dropping in and sharing a little insight into this book, and I hope to hear more about your next book soon!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Running From Dust ( ASIN: B07RZ465JF )‘.
Want to find out more about Jess Whitby? Connect here!