The Dead Ground Blog Tour – Q&A with Claire McGowan

Today I’m pleased to welcome Claire McGowan author of The Fall, The Lost and the new Paula Maguire novel, The Dead Ground to blog.

Claire has kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Your new novel The Dead Ground was published on 10th April. What’s it about?

The Dead Ground picks up around a month after The Lost finishes. It’s a month before Christmas and in the middle of a heavy snowfall, a baby goes missing, sparking off a series of brutal killings that connect a pro-choice doctor in the town, a faith healer, and an atrocity from almost twenty years previously. For forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, the case is uncomfortably close to an important issue she is trying to work out herself.

2. The Dead Ground is the second in a series of novels featuring forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, with her first appearance being in The Lost. How much pressure is there when writing a character people already love or is it easier to write subsequent novels when the characters are already developed?

As this is only the second book, I don’t feel much pressure at the moment, but I have quite strong ideas on what should happen to Paula and how she should develop, which not everyone agrees with! It’s certainly easier having the supporting cast in place too, as hopefully people will want to catch up with them and see how they are.

3. Your first novel, The Fall, was a stand alone novel. How long did it take you get published for the first time? What did you learn from the process that helped you write The Lost?

It took me about three years from when I started writing seriously – this includes a whole other novel which still sits unpublished on my computer! I learned that it’s normal to have points where you feel the book is rubbish and you aren’t sure how you’re going to carry on. You just have to write through it, trust the process, and believe you will get there in the end. So far it has worked four times!

4. Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

It will be another Paula book, which is almost finished. It carries on some of the plot issues set up in The Lost and the Dead Ground, and sees the team deal with a very difficult case involving dissident terrorists, retribution, and terrible loss. In many ways that’s making it quite hard to write, but I’m hopefully almost there.

5. Do you like to plan your writing before you start or are you someone who just sits down and starts to type, seeing where the characters take you?

I’m definitely not a planner. I usually start with a vague idea or image and just head off down that path. Often I hit lots of snags, but having learned to trust the process by now, I can get past them. I find it’s more exciting and creative to write that way – though when I’m at my current point of tying up loose ends, I do slightly regret this slapdash approach….

6. You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer?

I’m surprised people don’t ask me more about the big mysteries I have set up which run between the books – for example what actually did happen to Paula’s mother. But that’s good because I’ve said I’m not going to tell! We will find out at some point, but not for a while. Or that’s the plan at least.


About the author:

Claire mcgowan headshot - colour (1)


Claire McGowan was born in 1981 in a small Irish village where the most exciting thing that ever happened was some cows getting loose on the road. After studying at Oxford and living in China and France, she now lives in London, where there aren’t any cows but there is the occasional murder in her street. She was previously Director of the Crime Writers’ Association and now teaches on the first ever crime-writing MA at City University. Despite being steeped in crime the worst thing she has ever done in real life is walk on some grass when the sign explicitly said not to. Claire’s debut novel THE FALL was published in January 2012 and received brilliant reviews. THE LOST followed in April 2013, garnering fantastic praise and has now been optioned by BBC Drama to develop into a series for BBC One. The DEAD GROUND is the second book featuring Paula Maguire.

Find Claire on twitter @inkstainsclaire or online at

The Dead Ground

‘Top-notch, deftly plotted stuff’ The Bookseller

A stolen baby. A murdered woman. A decades-old atrocity. Something connects them all…


Praise for The Lost, the first book in the Paula Maguire series:

‘A knockout new talent you should read immediately’ Lee Child

‘Taut plotting and assured writing’ Good Housekeeping

‘Pacey and direct’ Declan Burke, The Irish Times

‘This thriller is fresh and accessible without ever compromising on grit or suspense’ Erin Kelly


A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.

As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Dead Ground will leave you gasping for breath as Paula discovers every decision she makes really is a matter of life and death.


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