Two young girls board a bus to see a movie at Maitland’s Reading Cinemas.
Instead they are taken on a terrifying detour by a crazed driver.
This is not an ordeal plucked from newspaper headlines – but it could be.
It is actually the catalyst for the twisted plot of House of Sighs – the debut novel by former Branxton resident Aaron Dries.
The Hunter Valley is the backdrop for the author’s nightmarish tale.
“Though set in the fictional town of James Bridge, which is really Branxton, the bus route my crazed character is on departs from the Maitland Bus Depot,” Dries said.
“The Maitland Heritage Mall also gets its moment to shine, in particular the K-Mart where I used to work, McDonald’s Bookstore and the river front.”
Dries’ novel was picked up by Samhain Publishing in America and has been released both as an eBook and in print.
House of Sighs has been embraced by the online horror community.
Dries will travel to Seattle this year for a book signing.
It’s a long way from his high school, All Saints College, St. Mary’s Campus.
“I’ve been writing fiction since I was in the second grade and recently found an old story of mine concerning a trip to the zoo, in which a teacher was fed to a tiger,” Dries said.
“I guess the writing was on the wall, even then.
“I wasn’t a particularly good English student at school, though.
“I even remember being laughed at by a teacher when I told her I’d like to write novels someday.”
While House of Sighs is born of Dries’ imagination – and catching a bus between Branxton and Maitland each day for school – the seed of the idea came from experience.
“I used to be a pizza boy in Rutherford and I delivered to a woman who went on to kill her children and then herself,” Dries said.
“That really made me wonder – why did she do it?
“What pushed her to the edge?”
Dries will launch House of Sighs at the Favourite Chair Cafe on Saturday.
His second novel The Fallen Boys is released in October and a third book is under way.
“We come into this world screaming,” Dries said.
“My job is just to keep it coming.”