Monday, May 22, 2023

Author Interview: Casey Lyall, Author of Gnome is Where Your Heart Is


Another great interview about a truly fabulous and unique book!

I got a chance to read an advanced reader's copy of this book and I was hooked from the first page all the way to the end!


Lemon Peabody is certain that aliens visited Grandpa Walt thirty years ago, but she's running out of time to prove it before he forgets his best story. This humorous and tenderhearted story about family, friendship, and always believing in yourself is for fans of Greg van Eekhout, Stuart Gibbs, and Hour of the Bees.

Lemon Peabody loves spending time with Grandpa Walt. Even though he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved to an assisted living facility, he’s still the same funny, loving grandpa he’s always been. One of Grandpa’s claims to fame is his story about meeting an alien years ago—and that it looked like a garden gnome. Ever since, it’s been something of a town-wide joke, and the cause of a rift between Grandpa and Lemon’s dad. Lemon is determined to find those extraterrestrial gnomes and vindicate Grandpa Walt—while Grandpa can still remember it.

Late one night, after seeing the flash of a spaceship during a storm, Lemon enlists the help of two friends to find out what might have crashed in the woods. But then the aliens find her, and nothing goes the way she expected. Lemon is sure she can convince the aliens to fix Grandpa Walt’s memory and bring back the grandpa she misses so much for good. But the aliens are dealing with problems of their own. With a little creativity and compassion, maybe they can all help one another.


1)   In the introduction to Gnome is Where Your Heart Is, you tell a delightful story about how the gnomes just "snuck up on you”, as did Walt and Lemon, two of the many fantastic characters that appear in the book. Clearly, your subconscious was sending you messages, because the idea of aliens fits so perfectly with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s – it often feels like something otherworldly has taken over our loved one’s body and it’s difficult for us to know if what they are telling us is grounded in reality. How soon did you realize that Walt and Lemon and the aliens had a heart story to tell?


The story started with the idea of garden gnome aliens and as soon as I started asking those questions that you always dive into when you’re trying to break down an idea — Why garden gnome aliens? Why are they here? Who are they here for? What’s the problem? — that was when Lemon entered the picture and with Lemon came Walt and the pieces started to fall into place and I said “Ah. This is the story.”


2)    Lemon struggles with being disappointed in her father, just as her father struggles with being disappointed with Walt. At times it feels like these dysfunctional relationships are bred in the bone. How important was it for you to really showcase the pain this family has experienced after Walt’s first contact?


It wasn’t a story that I set out to tell, but one that evolved as I got to know the characters. It became really clear that this was the path they’d travelled and I wanted to do my best to give justice to their story, especially the ways that they work on healing.


3)    Belief plays a huge role in the book, and we see some characters who are more open to believing in advance of proof (Lemon’s friends Marlo and Rachel) and those who simply cannot believe unless they see something with their own eyes (Lemon’s dad). How easy is it for you to believe in things?


I’ve always been big on the power of belief and being open to things. And if we want to specifically talk about believing in aliens? I just think that statistically, there has to be someone else out there. I’m definitely more of a Mulder than a Scully, haha!


4)    The beginning of the first chapter that alien Gnedley appears in totally cracked me up. I could almost hear Bruce Willis muttering under his breath. It turns out the aliens have their own trust issues. When did you decide that the aliens’ side of the story would be part adventure/part finding out who you can count on?


That storyline kind of evolved naturally. I wanted Gnedley to have something as interesting to grapple with as Lemon’s storyline was for her. I liked the parallels of both of them going on this adventure and finding out that not everything is what they thought it was. And that callback to the power of belief and trust for both of them.


5)    Lemon believes blindly, thanks to her total belief in Walt, but the book does a wonderful job of pointing out the cost of blind faith – both for the humans and for the aliens. Was that an issue you wanted to explore early on or did it just evolve organically?


That was another part of the story that definitely came together as I wrote. My focus is always on character over theme. I try to immerse myself in the character and let them tell their story how it needs to be told. Any theme that comes out of it is often a by-product of being true to the character. I just to my best to listen to them!



6)    Finally: An alien spaceship lands in your backyard tomorrow — are you getting on?


Oh, man – I’d have to really think about it! I’d definitely want to check it out and poke around, but I also don’t think I’d be ready to leave everyone and go on a space adventure and I feel like that would totally accidentally happen to me. Maybe I’d settle for smushing my face against the window and seeing what I could see…



Thank you, Casey! Loved the book so much!