The Dark World of Cyber-Crime: Gone by Ruby Speechley

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Gone

By Ruby Speechley

My new novel, Gone, explores the nightmare world of cyber safety from a mother’s point of view. Rachel’s sixteen year old son Shay doesn’t come home one night, after sneaking off to a party in the woods. While searching for clues, she finds part of a message from him, warning her not to trust her new boyfriend, David. What at first appears to be a case of a missing teenager, quickly descends into a much darker story of an online world he has become tangled up in. Rachel is left to work out what’s happened to her son and find out if he’s still alive.

The inspiration for this novel was close to home. I have two grown-up sons and a few years ago one of them was going through a difficult time, hanging around with the wrong crowd and doing things which were completely out of character. It affected the whole family and we worried about where these outside influences would take him. Often we felt powerless, but we stuck by him and came through it.

Thankfully it’s all behind us now, and once enough time had passed, I began to explore how a mother son relationship evolves as they develop into teenagers. In particular, how our influence and control over them as a parent falls away. I wanted to show the disruption to family life where all the values you hold dear are suddenly thrown in the air and you’re faced with doing whatever it takes to save your son.

Leading on from this seed of an idea, came my interest in cyber-crime and in particular, the dangers of children playing computer games online, and how easily they can be taken in by a stranger, perhaps a middle aged man pretending to be the same age as them. My husband works in IT and is responsible for educating staff of all levels about online security. A few years ago, he went to our daughter’s primary school cyber-safety information evening, held by ex-police cyber-security officers. Only a few parents turned up, possibly because it wasn’t seen as so important back then, but they missed out on vital facts all of us should be aware of.

Profile image of author Rebecca Speechley wearing a black top with a cardigan, against a backdrop of a brick wall.

During the Covid 19 Pandemic alone, cyber-crime increased by 600%. Parents can no longer afford to ignore the dangers of online predators, cyber bullying, malware, offensive material and more. I was shocked to find out how easily a stranger can befriend a child in the live chat room of a game, even one their parents believe is safe and age appropriate. A child could be sharing what they judge are harmless details or images of themselves to a new ‘friend’, but it can be enough for a predator to work out where the child lives.

Restricting our children’s access to the internet is no longer an option. I believe the only way to keep them safe online is to educate them about the dangers. I’ve collected some useful tips below.

My journey to publication has been a long one, but I wasn’t in a hurry! I spent many years learning my craft at college, university, Arvon courses, writing festivals, retreats, and the Faber Academy. I was so keen and excited to learn. I look back on that time with huge affection and gratitude to everyone who helped me along the way (including Writing.ie’s very own Vanessa O’Loughlin, who was my WoMentoring mentor and is still championing me today). The writing community is incredibly supportive. I’ve met and made friends with so many incredible writers and people in the book world.

Of course, the end goal was to hold my novel in my hands one day, but it was important for the journey to be an enjoyable experience too. There were many disappointments and rejections, but I always tried to use them to strengthen my resolve and learn something from them. I had a quiet but fierce desire to communicate stories, and the one thing I knew I could do, was tell a good story.

Whatever stage you are at on your writing journey, enjoy every moment, every win, and know every sorrow is a step forward too. And always be open to learning and listening to advice.

(c) Ruby Speechley

CYBER SECURITY TIPS

Set some basic internet safety rules for your children:

  • Do not give out any personal information online.
  • Only visit secure websites.
  • Ask an adult before downloading anything.

Warning signs when chatting to someone online:

  • They ask your age (they may then pretend to be the same age).
  • They ask you to send them photos (any kind).
  • They ask you for personal information.
  • They claim to be a friend of a friend or know your mum and dad.
  • They claim to go to the same school as you.

The National Cyber Security Centre has created an educational game called CyberSprinters to help make learning about cyber security fun for kids. For more advice and information, go to www.ncsc.gov.uk and www.mentalup.co.blog/cybersecurity-for-kids

About Gone by Ruby Speechley:

Cover of Gone, a book by Ruby Speechley. It is about the dark world of cyber-crime. It features empty swings on a dark, wet evening.

My son is missing, and everyone is lying to me.

Last night my son, Shay, sneaked out of the house and didn’t come home. He promised not to go to the illegal party in the woods. But someone’s been attacked and Shay has gone missing. The police want to know if he saw what happened. I’m worried he could be involved.

After all the trouble he’s been in lately, mixing with the wrong crowd, coming home beaten up and scared, I thought we’d put it all behind us. Trouble is, Shay resents me moving my new boyfriend into the family home. I found all sorts on his laptop, including a half-written email warning me not to trust David. What does he know that I don’t?

I’m beginning to fear for his safety. What is David hiding from me? Who have I let into our lives?

I don’t know who I can trust. Will I ever see my son alive again?

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Ruby Speechley is a bestselling psychological thriller writer, whose titles include Someone Else’s Baby. Previously published by Hera, she has been a journalist and worked in PR and lives in Cheshire.

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