Debut Club

Debut Club: An Interview with Casey Lyall

Swanky Seventeener Darcy Miller recently sat down with Sweet Sixteener Casey Lyall to discuss her new contemporary MG, HOWARD WALLACE, PI (Sterling Children’s Books, September 6, 2016)

About the Book:

Howard Wallace, P.I. cover

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.

HOWARD WALLACE, PI can be purchased at

IndigoBarnes and Noble, IndieBound, Amazon, BAM, Powell’s

About the Author:

Casey Lyall

Casey Lyall (5’4”, brown hair, blue eyes, no known aliases) is a middle grade writer from Southwestern Ontario. She works at her local library where she runs a number of teen groups and waits for management to discover they’re actually paying her to have fun. When she’s not writing, Casey loves to bake, watch an “unhealthy” amount of movies and television, and of course, read. She’d consider adding detective work to the list if she could find a proper coat.

You can find her on Twitter under @CKLyall or visit her website.

The Interview

Darcy: As a PI, Howard is used to working alone and is initially reluctant to take Ivy on as a partner (thank goodness for persistence). How does this compare to your life as an author? Are you a lone wolf? Do you have a critique partner? Or are you part of a writer’s group? Inquiring minds want to know!

Casey: I think every writer begins as a lone wolf, but whether or not you stay that way is up to you. For me, it was very important to find friends and a support group. When I was just starting out, I entered Pitch Wars and met a number of great people through that contest. I have lots of friends and critique partners now and I blog with a terrific group of authors at Kick-Butt Kidlit. When I got my book deal, I also joined with the Sweet Sixteens and that has made all the difference. They are an amazing source of support and friendship.

If going solo is your thing, that’s totally cool. But I definitely recommend seeking out groups and friends to travel along this adventure with you. Don’t let fear of reaching out be what stops you. I know it can be weird and sometimes awkward making new friends, but it’s worth it.

Darcy: Speaking of persistence, tell us about your journey to publication. How long did HOWARD take to write? Was it your first manuscript or your seventeenth? Did the first agent you queried fall in love with it, or did you take the long way around? 

Casey: I started working on HOWARD in January of 2013. It’s my first novel and there was a pretty steep learning curve. I did quite a few rounds of revision and then two rounds of querying. I signed with my agent, Molly Ker Hawn in October of 2014 (after querying her through the slush pile) and revised again with her. HOWARD sold to Sterling Children’s Books in July of 2015 and it comes out this September!

I think in the grand scheme of publishing, that’s not TOO long of a journey!

Darcy: Howard has done a lot of digging into what it takes to look/sound the part of a detective. What type of research did you find yourself doing while writing the manuscript? 

Casey: I was already a fan of the genre so my research collection was fairly well stocked. I reread my favorite books (the Toby Peters series by Stuart M. Kaminsky and a ton of Dashiell Hammett titles among them) and I watched a ton of movies and TV shows. Everything from The Maltese Falcon to Murder, She Wrote. They weren’t all detective stories though. I really wanted to capture that snappy tennis-match banter so I also re-watched some of my favorite classics like His Girl Friday and Some Like It Hot. As far as research goes, it was all pretty fun!

Darcy: Finally, I’m curious about how you came up with the idea for HOWARD. Which came first, the mystery or the characters?  Did anything in the manuscript change drastically from the first draft until the final revision?

Casey: When I decided I wanted to write a novel, I knew it would be a mystery because that’s my favorite genre. But after that, I’d say the characters came first. The opening line of the story popped into my head with Howard’s voice coming through crystal clear. He and Ivy really drove the story for me. I felt like I was just writing down their conversations.

Lots of things changed in the manuscript. It went through one massive revision and two fairly large ones after that. Everything that changed was for the better though so it was worth it.

Lightning Questions:

Gum flavor?

Mint! In my youth, it was Strawberry or Grape Bubbalicious, but now it’s mint all the way.

Cats vs. dogs? 

I’m on good terms with a select few dogs, but ultimately, I’m a cat person.

Favorite detective movie?

Darcy! How could I possibly answer this question? It’s too hard! I mean, Maltese Falcon is a classic, but there are so many others. And TV shows too! Veronica Mars! Pushing Daisies! This is a mean question. 😀

Writing music? 

I can’t write to music. I get distracted and start singing and dancing which is fun, but counterproductive. I need a quiet space to write.

Lucky piece of clothing?

My sparkly black Converse shoes!

Coffee order? 

TEA. English or Irish Breakfast with some milk. Like, eight times a day.


About the Interviewer:

Darcy Miller COLOR

Darcy Miller was once listed in her friend’s wedding program as someone who “enjoys buying pants and baking pies” and truer words have never been written. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her family. Find her on twitter as @DarcyAMiller or on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, or her website.

Her debut MG contemporary, ROLL, comes out in Summer 2017 with HarperCollins. When 11-year-old Ren meets a new neighbor girl who is focused on breaking into the strange world of competitive pigeon rolling, he discovers that there’s more to life than vintage comic books and video game marathons.



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