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November 26, 2010

Wendelin Van Draanen: Spotlight on Casey

Posted by jordana

Van Draanen Photo.JPG

It's always so interesting to find out how an author settles on a secondary character's role in the book. In good books, the secondary characters are just as loved as the main ones, which is certainly the case in Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keys series. Casey is one of her most beloved side characters, and in SAMMY KEYES AND THE WEDDING CRASHER, the two come together in an exciting, adventurous ride.  

I have a confession. Casey Acosta was more a means to a surprise ending than a sustainable character to me when he first appeared in the Sammy Keyes series. He was a year older than Sammy, he was Sammy’s archenemy’s brother, and he hung around with kids who spelled trouble. I definitely didn’t envision much of a future for him within the pages of upcoming Sammy Keyes books.

Eight books later I love the guy. He likes Sammy for all the right reasons, he goes against convention to stand up for her, and he’s just…cool.

So how did that happen?

I guess the simple answer is, I read my mail. Casey first appeared in the fifth book -- Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary. In the next book (Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy), Sammy traveled to Hollywood and Casey was not in the book at all. And that’s when a common theme started appearing in my fan mail:

What happened with Casey? Where’s Casey? I want more Casey!

My initial reaction was, Well, that’s not gonna happen. He’s Heather’s brother! It’s impossible!

But in the following book (Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes) I had need for a character who would come to Sammy’s defense (and who had access to items that would be in evil Heather’s possession), so I thought, okay. He can come back.

But just for this one book!

How naïve was I, huh? Before you know it, I was hooked on Casey. I wanted him to be there. I wanted Sammy to believe he really did like her, and that this wasn’t just some cruel Acosta conspiracy to make a fool out of her.

But of course misunderstandings, mishaps, and (drum roll, please) the ever scheming Heather Acosta have kept those two apart.

Again, the mail. And this time I became aware that there was fan fiction, too. Apparently I wasn’t writing the series fast enough, so Sammy readers made up their own stories. And the Internet was abuzz over a character named “Cammy.” I’m like, who’s Cammy? There’s a Camille in Runaway…but…who are they talking about?

It took longer than it should have to figure out that Casey + Sammy = Cammy.  Duh. And that’s when I realized there was Casey fever out there.


I don’t want to say that Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher is “Casey’s book” – that wouldn’t represent it right. And I don’t want to say that it’s “their” book either – that would also be misleading. It’s a Sammy Keyes book, full of action and adventure and wild rides and wacky characters.

But it’s also a book about love, and what a good guy will do to win the heart of an extraordinary girl…and what an insecure girl will do to keep them apart.

There was a two year gap between Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash and Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher, and for those who were waiting, that was a looooong gap! (Not to be repeated, I promise!) Wedding Crasher is the thirteenth out of eighteen projected books in the series, but if you’re just discovering Sammy Keyes, know this: You can totally read the books out of order. Jump in with Wedding Crasher if you want. The rest of us will hate you because you haven’t had to wait from Book #1 to Book #13 to get to this point, but really, we’ll also forgive you.

So you are hereby officially invited to crash the party.

And Officer Borsch’s wedding.

I know you’ll have a good time.

--- Wendelin Van Draanen

If you want to keep up with developments in the Sammy Keyes series, meet other Sammy fans, or check up on Wendelin’s zany life and writing projects, visit Wendelin’s blog, updated every Sunday: