Interviews with Writers

Thriller | Running in Circles | Claire Gray

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I’m delighted to be hosting Claire Gray in my hot seat on tour today. Claire is chatting to us about her debut novel, Running in Circles.

Find out about Claire’s inspiration for her story, the scenes which were the hardest to write, plans for her writing and much more! Enjoy. x

Running in Circles, debut thriller by Claire Gray.

You can’t outrun murder…

When Lucy Lewis landed herself a reporting job on an idyllic Thai island, she thought she’d found paradise.

But one day her dream turns into a nightmare…

A bomb goes off outside her hostel and there is more than one fatality.

Although the local paper she works for is mainly a tourist guide, the phone is soon ringing off the hook with people desperate to hear news of their loved ones.

Together with her editor, Steve Boyd, Lucy finds herself drawn into the investigation.

And things become more complicated when the dead body of someone connected to the paper washes up on the shore.

Was the bomb planted by terrorists? Are the two incidents connected?

Lucy finds herself running in circles as she desperately searches for the key to the mystery…

Running in Circles by Claire Gray is published by Sapere Books (December 2018) and is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.


Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.

Please summarise Running in Circles in 20 words or less.

A thriller set on an idyllic Thai island in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Claire?

I spent a few weeks in Thailand and Cambodia with some friends back in 2009. We visited a Thai island and it seemed like paradise to us; it was so beautiful and I could have stayed there forever. We later learned about the island’s dark side. There have been some horrible murders there and gangsters pretty much run the tourism industry. This got me thinking about how the beauty of holiday destinations can sometimes be misleading. I also kept the 2002 Bali bombing in mind when I was writing the bomb scene itself; remembering details from the news at the time, and also an eye witness account from someone I once met.

I came up with the idea of opening with an explosion because an (unpublished) manuscript that I wrote prior to this one was critiqued as being ‘too quiet’ by an editor. I could see what she meant; the story was sort of understated. So, I decided to go the complete opposite with Running in Circles and open with a literal bang.

What scene was the hardest to write?

The final scenes! I think it is really difficult to neatly tie up a story and to properly say good bye to all of the characters.

Do you have a most creative time of day?

Ideally, I would like to write early in the day as that is when my brain is working most efficiently. But I have small children, so generally I write whenever I have the chance; usually when the youngest is napping or during the evening when they are all in bed. Although this isn’t an ideal scenario, I do find that it stops me procrastinating because I know my writing time is limited. When I have the chance to write I really sit down and get on with it.

Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity Claire?

I used to like musing over my plot while I took the dog for a walk. Sadly, our old lady dog passed away recently. We’re hoping to get another before too long though. I find the walks really clear my head and help me untangle any problems I’ve been having with my writing. I realise I could go for a walk without a dog, but it doesn’t feel the same somehow!

Sorry to hear of your loss Claire. We know exactly what you mean when you say it doesn’t feel the same. Fingers crossed for finding another four-legged companion.

Panster or plotter?

I would say I’m a panster. I generally start writing with a single idea; either an image, a character, a scene, or even just a couple of lines of dialogue. If things seem to be working after a chapter or two, I just keep going and don’t look back. I’ll maybe plan a chapter ahead, but mainly I don’t know where the story is going to go until I finish it. Once I have a complete draft, I’ll read back through it, think about what works and what doesn’t, and then begin a re-write. At this point I will do some plotting, but generally I’m happier and things seem to flow better when I’m just going for it. The downside of this is that it usually takes a few drafts before things make enough sense that I feel ready to show the manuscript to anyone else. It’s an exciting way to write though.

What are your thoughts on movie adaptations Claire? Do you have a favourite?

I think it’s very difficult for a movie to replicate the depth and detail of a book. A lot of movies do a good job, but if a novel I love is adapted for the big screen it is very rare that I feel it’s been done justice. There are exceptions to this, and my favourite is A Scanner Darkly, directed by Richard Linklater, based on the novel by Philip K Dick. The story has remained faithful to the book, and although there are some changes you can see why they have been made and the film still captures the mood and feel of the original work.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This ties in with the last question actually; I’m reading the novel because I watched and loved the TV series on Amazon Prime. I’m really enjoying the book. I’m finding that the TV adaptation remained very true to its spirit, but of course the book has far more detail in it. It’s a big chunky book so it’s good to know I’ll probably be enjoying it for a while yet! I’m also looking forward to seeing Season 2 of the show when it comes out.

Finally, if Running in Circles is part of a series, what is in the future?

I am planning for this to be a series and have begun work on book two. It follows protagonist Lucy to her new journalism job. This story is set about a year after the first book and although Lucy’s life has changed it is still as complicated as ever, and she still has a knack for getting herself mixed up in sinister circles. The novel is still in the early stages but so far Lucy is investigating the disappearance of a pop star which may or may not be linked to a far right group he was protesting against.

Thank you for being my guest today. Enjoy your tour!

Author photo - Claire Gray

Claire Gray lives in the South Lakes with her husband and two small children. She studied Creative Writing at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, which no longer exists, having been absorbed by the University of Cumbria. She graduated in 2006 and then went on to complete a journalism course at Darlington College.

That same year, she won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North, and her work was featured in their anthology, entitled Ten Years On. Claire now works as a freelance copywriter and continues to write short stories, some of which have been published in magazines and online.

Recently, she has been guest editor for the prose section of SpeakEasy Magazine, which showcases Cumbrian writing. In 2015, she received editing advice from The Literary Consultancy through their Free Read scheme. They felt that her manuscript, Running in Circles, showed potential, and began approaching literary professionals on Claire’s behalf. Sapere Books published Running in Circles in 2019 and Claire is really excited to have published her first novel!  

Connect with Claire Gray

Twitter @claireEsnail

Read all posts in the thriller genre on Jera’s Jamboree.

Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.

Tour banner Running in Circles Claire Gray

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I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting and being out in nature are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school. I'm passionate about early help and sharing strategies with families to empower and help build resilience. I'm a member of of my Local Authority's Early Help Operational Board, working alongside other professionals to instigate change and growth.

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