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Q&A with Lisa Gray - To Die For

By Mo Kendall

We are happy to welcome Lisa Gray to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, To Die For, released on the 12th September 2023.

From bestselling author Lisa Gray comes a thrilling tale of a cutthroat contest for the ultimate house-selling commission… one million dollars. In the elite world of luxury real estate, it is often kill or be killed, something agent Andi Hart knows all too well—and after recent events, she’s ready to set her own rules. So when her boss challenges the team to find a buyer for a glitzy Malibu beach house, with a prize commission of a cool $1 million, she knows it’s her ticket to a new life. But she’s not the only one who not only wants but needs the money. Each of her four colleagues has secrets they’re eager to hide—secrets $1 million would go a long way in concealing. And soon, it becomes clear all five would do just about anything to get their hands on it… When a dead body is found at the open house, the dream home becomes a nightmarish crime scene. Has the contest reached a deadly new level, or is there something more sinister at work?

Hi Lisa, welcome to The Reading Corner! Thank you for making time to talk with us about To Die For. I was totally gripped by this story, and I’m sure that our members will love it too.

You’re already a bestselling author of a four-book private investigator series, as well as another thriller. What do you think drew you to this genre?

I pretty much only read crime and thriller novels so when I decided to write a book myself, it was always going to be in that genre. I love the idea of having a puzzle to solve; looking out for the clues that piece together like a jigsaw puzzle to reveal the solution. That’s what crime thrillers offer—a mystery waiting to be solved. The fun is trying to figure it all out before the character in the book does.

There’s also the idea of good triumphing over evil and justice ultimately being served, even if it’s not always in the conventional sense. And I love a good twist! There’s nothing better than being completely blindsided by a twist or a reveal that forces you to put the book down for a moment and say ‘wow.’ Those are the kind of books I love to read and they’re the kind of books I want to write.

This really was a book that I struggled to put down! The reader is kept guessing as to who the killer is and who has been killed. Did you have the plot of To Die For mapped out before you started writing it?

Most authors fall into two categories: plotters and pantsers (those who fly by the seat of their pants). I’m definitely a planner. I can’t imagine starting a book if I have no idea how it’s going to end. I usually start by developing a brief premise into a full outline and then I split that outline into chapters. For each chapter, I’ll write a few lines on a Post-it note and those go on my office wall in the order they’ll appear in the book. Each character point of view has its own coloured Post-it—so, yes, there’s a lot of plotting and planning involved!

Because To Die For features multiple points of view and also gives the reader two mysteries to solve— who the killer is and also who the victim is—there was even more plotting for this book than for any of my others. I had to be really careful when writing some of the chapters not to give away the identity of the victim too soon. But I hope I pulled it off!

I loved getting to know your characters. Although some do pretty unpleasant things, there are other situations where readers may well empathise with some of those same people. What’s the process of writing your characters like for you?

It’s different for each book and different for each character. Some—like Jessica Shaw in my private investigator series—come to me fully formed. Others develop and I learn more about them as I write the book.

With To Die For, the starting point was five characters who each have a reason why they need one million dollars. So I had to figure out why someone would need that kind of money. That was the jumping off point. Once I knew their motivations, I was able to develop the personalities of each of those characters. I also knew I wanted a really diverse and complicated group of people. For example, one of the characters may be driven mainly by greed while another has a more benevolent reason for needing the money but will still be driven to do bad things.

Did any particular property that you’ve seen, or visited, inspire the Malibu Beach Drive house that Andi and her co-workers are tasked with selling, or did you dream up this dream home?

The inspiration for To Die For came from binging reality TV shows like Selling Sunset and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles for hours and hours at a time during lockdown. The houses they sell on those shows are amazing and they provided a lot of the inspiration for the Malibu Beach Drive house.

I also spent a lot of time on property websites like Zillow checking out multi-million-dollar homes and researching what fixtures and fittings and finishes those kinds of properties would have. I took all the best bits and put them together to create the fictional dream home in To Die For. Of course, the one thing those real-life properties don’t usually have is a dead body in the pool at the open house!

It’s a very competitive world that To Die For’s characters live in! You used to be Chief Scottish Football Writer at the Press Association. Do you see any similarities between the world of competitive sports and the world of high-end real estate?

I think competitiveness comes from the person rather than the job, although someone who is naturally competitive is going to be drawn to careers where there is a focus on success and being the best. So I think sports and high-end real estate are very similar in that respect. In both worlds, it’s all about getting results.

With six books published in around four years, it sounds like you have been busy! Do you think that we might hear any more from To Die For’s characters, or about the future of the house itself?

I’ve seen reviews where readers say they want more books about the agents at Saint Realty and some have even suggested a spin-off where one of the other agents is the main character, rather than Andi. To Die For was always meant to be a standalone so there are no plans to revisit those characters at the moment.

The killer, the victim and the motives are all revealed by the end of the book. Without giving away any spoilers, there is an epilogue that presents a situation and it’s up to the reader to decide what they think happens next—but it’s not a set-up for a sequel!

I’ve read that your favourite authors include Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Karin Slaughter. Are there any particular books, or any other authors, that you would recommend to readers who enjoy your work?

The best book I’ve read in ages is Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister. It’s a super-smart time-bending murder mystery with a main character you really root for. The twists are brilliant and it packs a real emotional punch too. I’ve just started reading Resurrection Walk, the new one from Michael Connelly, and I can already tell it’s going to keep me up way past my bedtime.

Thanks so much again for taking the time to answer these questions, Lisa. Finally, where can The Reading Corner readers get themselves a copy of To Die For?

Readers in the UK, US, Australia and Canada can find To Die For in paperback, Kindle and audiobook on Amazon.

Lisa Gray is an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She previously worked as the Chief Scottish Football Writer at the Press Association and books columnist at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Her debut novel, Thin Air, was a Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestseller and was’s third-bestselling Kindle eBook of 2019. Bad Memory, a Wall Street Journal bestseller (and longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize), was followed by Dark Highway and Lonely Hearts, the third and fourth books in the Jessica Shaw series. In 2022, Lisa wrote her first standalone thriller, The Dark Room, and a new thriller, To Die For, was released summer 2023. Lisa now writes full-time.


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