The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan is the second book in the Paula Maguire series. Paula is a forensic psychologist working with the missing persons unit in Ballyterrin a Northern Irish town close to the border with the Republic. It is a town full of secrets and uneasy alliances. It is also Paula's home town and she has a personal interest in finding missing people as her own mother disappeared when Paula was a teenager. In the previous book The Lost, Paula had investigated the disappearances of two teenage girls and was also briefly involved with her married boss and her ex Aidan now she is pregnant and doesn't know who the father is or even if she plans to keep the baby. The town is held captive by heavy snow and ice and gripped by fear as a baby is taken from the local hospital and a local doctor who helps arrange abortions for women is also missing. There is a strong theme of babies, mothers and of course death running through this novel and of course the religious and moral views held by different sides of the community. This is a compelling and gripping read. I would recommend you read The Lost first, although you could read this novel as a standalone but Claire's writing is so brilliant you'll want to read more. If you enjoy thought provoking crime fiction and are a fan of Tana French, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips then you'll love this. I was lucky enough to get Claire to stop writing long enough to answer a few questions, check them out below.
1. Have you always been a writer or is it something you came to after trying other things?
I’ve been writing since I was about nine, and it was the only thing I wanted to do, but I could never finish anything, so I had other jobs for about six years. But I was quite lucky and got published when I was 30, which is quite young for writing.
2. Do you plan your books very carefully or just see where the characters take you?
I’m not much of a planner at all. I know what needs to happen to the characters and roughly where the story will end up, but for the rest I just trust that the story will take over and get me there. Of course now I’m at the tying up loose ends stage on book 4, I deeply regret this approach.
3. How many more books about Paula will you write?
It very much depends on my publishers, but I’d like to do at least six. There’s a whole backstory that needs to be explained, concerning what happened to Paula’s mother.
4. You create a very powerful sense of place in your books, do you came back to visit
often? Northern Ireland
Yes, I go back at least six times a year, to see family or do book events. I love listening to local radio when I’m there, to get a handle on the voice and also pick up ideas.
5. What is the best writing advice you have received and what advice would you give to those who have just set out on the writing path?
There’s a book called Writing Down the Bones which I love, and which is all about letting go in your writing and freeing yourself to write anything at all, even if it’s rubbish – just getting words on the page. My advice is always to try and do at least 1,000 words a day for several months. It’s a lot less than it sounds when you aren’t editing. Then after a short while you will have a book that you can work with. So much better than blank pages!
6. Who are your favourite authors and why?
I always admire writers like Tana French and Sarah Waters who are very commercial but also brilliant writers saying something important. I’m a big fan of Lionel Shriver too – she uses detail in such a convincing way.