An Evening of Murder Mystery… Writing

Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to attend an event at the Harper Collins office in Toronto. Hosted by the delightful Cory & Shannon, the voices behind both @HarperCollinsCA and @TheSavvyReader, attendees got to meet UK’s best-selling crime novelist, Peter James, and listen to him speak about his murder mystery writing process.

He spoke of how he had written an earlier novel, not part of the Roy Grace series, in which he felt he cheated the readers. He had written about something that he had not been to or actually experienced, and from that moment on, he vowed not to cheat his readers again. And that’s how he found himself inside a sealed coffin for 30 minutes with the growing apprehension of what he would do if the old man who sealed him in dies and he’s trapped in there.

Nicknamed by some as the “real-life Castle”, after the popular TV show starring Nathan Fillion, James has pulled his inspiration from a detective friend which he bases the character of Roy Grace on. After his home was broken into, James and his wife end up befriending the detective that was investigating the burglary. Since then, he has had the opportunity to ride along with the local police, go out with dive teams and really research the stories that he writes.

This best-selling author actually has some ties to Toronto from back in the 70’s! His first job had been a gopher on the Canadian television show Polka Dot Door and found himself writing an episode one day when they didn’t have a show written yet. That eventually led to various TV projects and other novels before the Roy Grace series came to fruition. James says it takes him approximately 1 month to write the first chapter, 7 months to write the first draft, preferring to do most of his creative work in the evening. The most important part is to get a captivating first sentence/page/chapter. That’s where you hook the audience in to continue reading.

His latest novel, Dead Man’s Grip, was released in May of this year. It was also the same day as the latest 007 novel and, as Peter puts it, they wanted to “out Bond” that book release. What resulted from that was a huge publicity stunt which proved successful!

To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to read any of Mr. James’ work (yet) but I always love finding out about a really great mystery novel. Plus I’ve actually always wanted to write one, but could never quite work out the plot points that I wanted to really get it going. Listening to him speak about his process and the research that goes into his books is amazing. Just merely hearing snippets of the plot points for various Roy Grace novels has got me completely interested to read them all. I asked the esteemed author which of his Roy Grace novels was his favourite, which I can understand would be a hard one to answer since every novel would be his baby! He said that he thinks his latest one, Dead Man’s Grip, is his best one but he does favour Dead Simple, the story that started it all.

After the talk and Q&A, Peter James graciously signed his latest book for all the attendees of the intimate evening at the Harper Collins office. Because my name is not a common spelling, my book was signed Michelle (two Ls) and Cory amazingly got a second one signed with my proper spelling. That being said, I do have a second copy now that I would love to share with a lucky reader of my blog – only catch is that it’s signed to “Michelle”, but bonus if that IS your name! I’ll be running that giveaway with my review at a later date, so stay tuned :)

A big thank you to Harper Collins Canada for hosting such a fun evening of murder mystery…writing!


For more pictures, check out Harper Collins Canada’s Facebook page!

Also, vote for Peter James on ITV (you can vote up to 5 times) and if he wins, Harper Collins will be hosting a fish and chips party, just as Peter will be back in the UK!


  1. I’m glad it was amazing and I hope you had a ton of fun!
    Sigh..another event I’ve missed. =(

  2. Seems like it was lots of fun!

    I haven’t read anything of his either, but I’ve never really been into the murder mystery genre.

    Haha! I’d enter for my sister, but she’s even less into murder mysteries than me! 😛

  3. that’s awesome! Sounds like you had fun! I’d love to go to something like this!

  4. Michele being the French spelling of the name, I imagine it’s more common in Canada than in the UK – even though we are only a few miles away from France across the English Channel. Yet we resist speaking the language. Peter’s even closer than most, being on the south coast!

    I’m a great fan of the Roy Grace novels, and of Peter’s earlier books which almost defy description. I hope his talk helps you, it sounds as if it will.


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