Friday, February 5, 2016

Patrick H. Breen's "The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood"

Patrick H. Breen is Associate Professor of History at Providence College.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt:
Does every historian dreamcast his history? Probably not, but this question makes me feel less odd for having worked out an entire storyboard for filming The Land Shall be Deluged in Blood. Looking at the title, one may think that this is a natural for Quentin Tarantino, but The Land is completely different from Django Unchained or the similar movies that have come out of Hollywood over the last generation: 12 Years a Slave, Amistad, or even Glory. These movies all focus on dramatizing the horrors of slavery and celebrating the heroism of the underdog slave who stands up against slavery. In many ways, these films take the place of the old western, with clear good guys and bad guys. The only problem is that history is not like that. The revolt was a good deal more confusing and complex, even within the black community. What do we make of Boson, the convicted slave rebel who escaped prison before his scheduled hanging, only to be recaptured years later as he was—with a white collaborator—trying to sell himself off into slavery outside of Virginia as a way to cheat the hangman? Or the slave who promised to take a white woman’s child and raise it should she be killed? What about the fight between the slave Burwell, who was trying to deliver messages for the whites, and the free black Exum Artist, who tried to stop him? Likewise, the white community was divided as some raged and wanted revenge but others saw that such killings would cost the slaveholders too much. What happened in Southampton was much too complex for Tarantino, but I think that Spike Lee could do something extraordinary with it.

For the actors, The Land would need a large ensemble that could present the dilemma of resisting and upholding slavery in ways that no one has ever done on film. (On stage there have been efforts to present a more complex story about slave resistance, including John Guare’s A Free Man of Color; if offered I would welcome the Lincoln Center’s 2010-2011 entire cast into my film.) Given my druthers among film actors, I would love to see Michael B. Jordan head this cast. He could be a compelling Nat Turner, portraying a man who was able to launch the South’s most important and deadly slave insurrection. Since I’m casting, I’ll also include Laurence Fishburne, who has the range to do both passion and ambiguity, as Thomas Haithcock, Turner’s recruiter who ultimately escaped conviction for his role in the revolt. Quvenzhan√© Wallis could do a fabulous job as Beck, the young slave who testified that the plot was far bigger than the whites realized. Since I’m in charge, I’ll also enlist Leonardo DiCaprio play Thomas R. Gray, the unsuccessful lawyer who thought that taking down Turner’s confession might allow him a way out of the debt that had ruined his life.
Learn more about The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Leza Lowitz & Shogo Oketani's "Jet Black and the Ninja Wind"

Leza Lowitz’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, Asian Jewish Life, and Best Buddhist Writing of 2011. She has published over seventeen books, including the APALA Award–winning YA novel Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, which she cowrote with her husband, Shogo Oketani, and the bestselling Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By.

Lowitz's new book is Up from the Sea, a novel in verse for Young Adults about the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. BuzzFeed chose the novel as one of five new YA novels you should read this January.

Here Lowitz dreamcasts an adaptation of Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, complete with some related artwork by Chris Mauch, storyboarder for Divergent, Limitless and other films:
This is a book that’s got big screen or TV series written all over it. Magic, mystery, action, and a real-life message (can you imagine?) with a multicultural, multigenerational cast, a globe-trotting story, eco-warriors, and a young bad-ass female lead who takes no shit from anyone. Plus a ninja dog. What’s not to love?

Think Blade Runner meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with a little bit of Karate Kid thrown in. And can we say we jumped out of our seats when we saw that new megabillion dollar blockbuster set in a f.f. galaxy ....Deja vu big time. The age of the female warrior has arrived!

Reese Witherspoon & Pacific Standard---we’re calling you!

JET--a ninja who doesn't know it. The last living female ninja, to be exact. Abandoned by her American father and stuck between cultures, can she become the true leader she’s destined to be?
Cast: Kiki Sukezane of NBC’s Heroes Reborn. Or Emily Kaiho.

SATOKO --Jet’s superbad mother, who left Japan after Jet’s birth and moved to a Navajo Reservation in the US, avoided capture, and trained her daughter in the secret ninja ways.
Cast: Carrie Ann Inaba, Michelle Yeoh, Phoebe Cates.

J-BIRD--Navajo elder, keeper of the flame, grizzled warrior, father figure to Jet, Satoko’s lover.
Cast: Wes Studi, Benjamin Bratt.

NEIL BLUEWOLF--J-BIRD’s friend and fellow combat vet brother.
Cast: Michael Spears, Adam Beach, Martin Sensmeir.

HIRO - teenage whip-smart kick-ass ninja. Jet’s Japanese cousin.
Cast: Seishiro Kato, Jordan Nagai, Seishiro Kato.

TAKUMI-- a happa mercenary, an assassin who’s joined the “Dark Side” for survival. Can he rekindle his honor and fight for justice rather than material gain? Can he let Jet love him, and love her back? Can he become the leader he’s destined to be?
Cast: Daniel Henney, Sam Milby, Shota Matsuda.

MASAKICHI--Jet’s grandfather. The last of the old-school ninja. Think Obi-wan Kenobi or Dumbledore. He teaches Jet and Hiro how to move like the wind and other ninja secrets that lead them to save a sacred treasure--and the future of their tribe.
Cast: George Takei, Ken Watanabe, Beat Takeshi.

SOJI-- an ultra cool, Zen priest warrior. Also an archeologist and quietly dignified badass. Jet and Hiro’s uncle.
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryo Kasei.

HARTER--President and CEO of New Language Systems (NLS), treasure hunters developing their own code, a “natural computer language” based on petroglyphs. They want to capture Jet and find the treasure--yesterday.
Cast: Christopher Walken, Edward Norton (who studied Japanese at Yale), Keanu Reaves.

FUJIWARA--Businessman from an aristocratic Japanese fuedal clan who’s backing NLS to polish his clan's tarnished name.
Cast: Yuya Yagira, Yutaka Takeuchi, Kazunari Ninomiya.

ROSSI--one of Harter’s minions, junked up on power.
Cast: Tom Felton (“Draco Malfoy” in Harry Potter), Taylor Lautner.

ASKA--loyal ninja dog who can fight with the best of them.
Cast: An Akita, of course.

AKIRA--a cool, street kid punk rocker who likes to riff on his electric guitar and drive the cops just a little bit crazy.
Cast: Aramis Knight.

DR. SUZUKI, SCIENTIST. Helps Jet, Hiro and Soji find the treasure and save their clan.
Cast: Takahiro Miura, or gender change to Natalie Portman (also reportedly speaks Japanese, learned at Harvard).

Jet Black & the Ninja Wind hitting the big screen? You read about it here first....
Visit Leza Lowitz's website.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Sea.

Coffee with a Canine: Leza Lowitz & Bingo and Memo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Emily Arsenault's "The Evening Spider"

Emily Arsenault's books include The Broken Teaglass, In Search of the Rose Notes, Miss Me When I'm Gone, and What Strange Creatures.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Evening Spider:
This is a fun exercise because The Evening Spider is the first book I’ve written that I can really imagine being made into a movie.

My story goes back and forth between 1879 and 2014. Two different women, both young mothers, occupy (and are somewhat haunted by) the same house in two different centuries. I think the tone of the movie will rely a lot on how Frances, my eccentric 19th century character, is played. There are moments when she might seem just slightly more crazy than eccentric. We would need an actress who could walk that line without going overboard.

When I first considered this question, Claire Danes came to mind. But I think the risk here is that Frances would just feel like a 19th century Carrie Mathison. So, perhaps a better choice would be Michelle Williams. I’ve never seen her play a character like this, but I think she could pull it off. I’d love to see Matthew Rhys, from the television show The Americans, as her brother, Henry. For her husband, I’d like someone who can play a bit of a jerk, but with a gentlemanly air. I’m thinking maybe Christian Bale.

For Abby, my main contemporary character, Ellen Page might be a good fit. She has a sort of skepticism to her that I think would work well for this bored but slightly anxious new mother.

The contemporary story also includes a sort of professorial character named Wallace—an older man from the local historical society who helps Abby answer questions about the history of her house. For some reason, Jeff Bridges feels right for this part. I know he’s not exactly “professorial,” but I think he’d help deliver some of the subtle humor I tried to put into some of Wallace’s dialogue. His good-natured presence would provide some unexpected light moments in between the darker scenes when the women contend with the house—and their demons—alone.
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Arsenault's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Broken Teaglass.

My Book, The Movie: What Strange Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 1, 2016

Adrian Magson's "The Locker"

Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, numerous short stories, a YA ghost novel and Write On!-a writers’ help book.

His new novel is The Locker, the first of a new series featuring private security operatives Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik.

Here Magson dreamcasts an adaptation of The Locker:
Like most writers, I do fantasise a little (well, a lot) about this subject.

I didn’t have to think too hard about who might play Ruth Gonzales, because the actress I had in mind – Nicola Walker – had already played another Ruth, this one a member of MI5, in Spooks [US title: MI-5]. I’m not sure which came first – the actress or the name - or maybe they came together, colliding in my brain in a happy coincidence. But I instantly saw her as the capable, unflashy (sorry, Nicola – no offence) and relentless former British soldier and cop, now investigator for Cruxys Solutions.

The male half of the partnership, Andy Vaslik, ex-Dept of Homeland Security agent, slim, neat, watchful and self-contained, I saw as like CSI actor Gary Sinise.

The two are very different (as described so perceptively by Kirkus Reviews: (‘…Gonzales and Vaslik make an appealingly mismatched investigative unit’) but that’s how I saw them in my mind without going overboard and having a beauty and beast situation. They’re opposites in many ways, and there’s a prickliness between them at the start of their pairing up for the investigation, but both have one thing in mind, and that’s solving the puzzles they face. Both these actors have an intensity about them that I feel matches the characters.
Learn more about the book and author at Adrian Magson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tracers.

The Page 69 Test: Deception.

The Page 69 Test: The Locker.

Writers Read: Adrian Magson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jason Gurley's "Eleanor"

Jason Gurley is the author of the novels Greatfall, The Man Who Ended the World, and the ongoing Movement series. His bestselling self-published novel Eleanor was acquired by Crown Publishing in the U.S., HarperCollins in the U.K., Editora Rocco in Brazil, Arunas in Turkey, and Heyne Verlag in Germany. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine and numerous anthologies, among them Loosed Upon the World and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! from editor John Joseph Adams. Gurley lives and writes in Oregon.

Here Gurley dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, Eleanor:
If I were in charge of casting a film adaptation of Eleanor, I’d have to take my cues from the nature of the book itself. The novel plays fast and loose with the concept of time, and I’d dive into that wholeheartedly, and select my cast mostly from years gone by—with a twist.

Eleanor, the novel’s protagonist, is seen at several ages, but predominantly as a teenager. She’s quiet, strong-willed, carrying her entire broken family upon her back. For this part, I’d leap back in time to the late 1970s, shortly after Taxi Driver, and cast Jodie Foster in the role.

Eleanor’s mother, Agnes, is a heartbroken, grieving woman who has forsaken her family to indulge her sadness. She’s drunk, angry, embittered; it all stems from the great losses she’s experienced. For this part, I’d rewind time a little less far, and cast Jodie Foster from the early 2000s—think Panic Room Foster.

You might already have spotted a trend here. In fact, the titular Eleanor of my novel was named for Eleanor Arroway, the heroine of Carl Sagan’s Contact—who, of course, Jodie Foster portrayed in the film adaptation. I suppose I’ve always thought of Ms. Foster as a sort of soulmate for this character. So it seems quite natural to me to bend time, just a bit, to place her in each of the novel’s major roles.

In the novel, Eleanor is named for her grandmother, Agnes’s mother. This Eleanor despairs of ever being able to make choices for herself. She’s unexpectedly found herself in motherhood, married to an older man, and once again pregnant. In her late twenties, she makes a dire choice that informs much of the novel that follows. For this, I’d leap backward in time to cast the Jodie Foster of the early 1990s—Silence of the Lambs Foster.

The novel spends some time with Agnes’s twin daughters, Eleanor and Esmerelda, when they are children of six. For these roles I take my inspiration from Robert Zemeckis, who in Contact cast Jena Malone as the young Jodie Foster. Malone wasn’t acting at age six, but I’m suspending that bit of reality here. For both parts, Jena Malone, circa 1990 or so.

Eleanor’s father, Paul, plays an important role as she grows up and begins her timeless journey toward her family’s redemption. He’s in his early forties for these scenes, and is a failed architect who sells real estate in a dwindling market; he and his wife have divorced in the wake of family tragedy. To bring Paul to life, I’d select Matthew McConaughey—and hey, trendspotters: McConaughey played Palmer Joss in Contact, so we’re keeping this trend alive.

As her family collapses around her, Eleanor has only one real friend, a boy her age named Jack. He loves her dearly, and would do anything for her—and does, many times. He comes from a similarly disrupted home, and knows what Eleanor’s going through. For this part, I have to break the trend; Jodie Foster can’t play it, and there are no male youngsters in Contact. Tye Sheridan, so good in Mud and The Tree of Life, would probably be my choice. Might have to rewind time a few years to get the character’s age right, but Sheridan’s a perfect Jack.
Visit Jason Gurley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Eleanor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 29, 2016

James D. Stein's "L.A. Math"

James D. Stein is emeritus professor in the Department of Mathematics at California State University, Long Beach.

His books include Cosmic Numbers and How Math Explains the World.

Here Stein dreamcasts an adaptation of his new story collection, L.A. Math: Romance, Crime, and Mathematics in the City of Angels:
There are three main characters in the book: Freddy Carmichael, Lisa Carmichael, and Pete Lennox. The narrator of the stories is Freddy, a private investigator recently separated from his wife Lisa, who decides to relocate to Los Angeles. He takes up residence in a guesthouse in Brentwood, which is owned by Pete, who has a surprising ability to apply mathematics to the situations Freddy encounters.

All of the characters are in their late 20s or early 30s. I don't pay as much attention to movies and TV as I used to, so I'm going to describe people who played in TV shows in the past, and ask the reader of this blog (or the director and producer of the movie) to “fill in” contemporary actors who would parallel the ones I suggest.

The easiest is Lisa Kudrow, who could play Lisa Carmichael in the same way that she played the quirky Phoebe in Friends. I like Jim Hutton, who played Ellery Queen in the TV series of the same name, for Freddy Carmichael. From roughly the same era, take Jack Klugman, who played the sportswriter Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple, and regress his age to the late 20s or early 30s, and you have an excellent Pete Lennox.
Learn more about L.A. Math at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 69 Test: L.A. Math.

Writers Read: James D. Stein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

David Wellington's "The Cyclops Initiative"

David Wellington is an author of horror, fantasy, and thriller novels. His zombie novels Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including Thirteen Bullets, Ninety-Nine Coffins, Vampire Zero, Twenty-Three Hours, and 32 Fangs. His werewolf series comprises Frostbite and Overwinter.

In 2013 Wellington introduced Afghanistan veteran Jim Chapel in the novel, Chimera, which was later followed by The Hydra Protocol.

Here Wellington dreamcasts an adaptation of the new Jim Chapel novel, The Cyclops Initiative:
“What would you like to have a director do with your book?” I have a stock answer whenever anybody asks me this question, which is that I don’t know but I’d be excited to see what they came up with. I’m not of the opinion that movies should scrupulously follow a book’s content. Where’s the fun in that? Any movie is going to be an interpretation of the source material, so why not make it an interesting interpretation?

Of course you’re going to run into fans who just want to see their favorite story made into some kind of visual artifact. Which is understandable, I suppose, but it just seems so boring. So if someone were to ask me “Who do you want to play Jim Chapel in the movie?” I think I would have to say: John Boyega.

Let’s break this down. Jim Chapel in The Cyclops Initiative is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He lost an arm over there (and got a spiffy new robotic replacement). He’s a special forces vet just easing into middle age, a quiet, brooding fellow who is still able to jump into action when the need arises but who is learning to be more thoughtful and compassionate as he ages. He’s a real hero.

Oh, and Chapel’s a white guy. I think he specifically says as much in the book, but, yeah, we all knew he was white, no point in pretending otherwise now. Astute readers, or at least those with functional short term memory, will recall I picked John Boyega. Who is black. Oh, and too young, and he has both arms, and… sure.

He’s also utterly charming. Did you see that star fighters movie thing? I think you probably saw it by now. Boyega is a solid actor who brings energy and enthusiasm to his role as leading spaceman, but the thing that came across the most for me from that performance was: he’s a nice guy. His character is literally defined by the fact that he was a soldier who chose to be nice. And that’s exactly what I was trying to do with Jim Chapel.

So, John Boyega. Absolutely.

I will admit that I would enjoy the furor. The Twitter comments from people who don’t realize how foolish they sound as they sputter and whine. But then, I’m not a nice guy. I just write about one in the books.

John Boyega as Captain Jim Chapel, all the way. Ooh, and Daisy Ridley can have a part, too (if you’ve read the book, you know which part, and that she’d be perfect, but no spoilers here). If we got them both that would sell one hell of a lot of tickets. And it would be fun.

It’s entertainment, right? Isn’t it supposed to be fun? People are so afraid to take chances these days. In fact, hell with it. Daisy Ridley as Jim Chapel. And all the other characters can be CGI hippos. Directors of the world, I am waiting. You can do what you like with my book! Just please, try to make it fun!
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Hydra Protocol.

The Page 69 Test: Positive.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith's Vampire Empire series

Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith are a married couple who have written together for nearly two decades. Their credits include novels such as the Vampire Empire series (Pyr Books) and the Crown & Key trilogy (Del Rey).

Their new novel is The Geomancer.

Here the Griffiths dreamcast an adaptation of the Vampire Empire series:
Our readers have debated a lot over who should play the characters in a Vampire Empire movie from the time the original trilogy was published. There are some perfect actors who are too old, or would be by the time a film project got off the ground. But here are suggestions for actors if the movie was going in front of the camera today. Some of these characters don’t actually appear in the newest book The Geomancer, but this is a cast for the series as a whole.

Greyfriar/Gareth: Tom Mison

Adele: Freida Pinto

General Anhalt: Oded Fehr

Mamoru: Ken Watanabe

Simon: Asa Butterfield

Cesare: Douglas Booth

Flay: Eva Green

Senator Clark: Hugh Jackman

Captain Hariri: Alexander Siddig

Sir Godfrey Randolph: Tom Wilkinson

Nzingu: Lupita Nyono’o

Lord Kelvin: Tom Hiddleston

It would be a very expensive movie, we fear. But the ComicCon panel would be awesome!
Learn more about the book and authors at Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Geomancer.

Writer's Read: Susan Griffith.

Writer's Read: Clay Griffith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 25, 2016

Martine Bailey's "A Taste for Nightshade"

Martine Bailey’s A Taste for Nightshade, the follow-up to An Appetite for Violets, is a gastronomic mystery set in England, Australia and New Zealand in the 1790s. It is a thrilling historical novel that combines recipes, mystery and a dark struggle between two desperate women. Bailey lives in Chester, England and as an amateur cook, won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion.

Here Bailey dreamcasts an adaptation of A Taste for Nightshade:
In my dream version I’d like to resurrect Alfred Hitchcock to direct my novel. I'm picturing the atmospheric sets he used for Rebecca and the way Hitch used food to drive his plots . I’ll never forget the illuminated glass of poisoned milk in Suspicion, or Marion Crane picking over her last sandwich in Psycho.

My flame-haired confidence trickster Mary is a talented cook, impersonator, and born survivor. I’d give her role to Myanna Buring, Edna in Downton Abbey and star of Banished and Ripper Street. Mary’s timid mistress is Grace Moore, warm-hearted and vulnerable Anna Maxwell-Martin (Death Comes to Pemberley, Bleak House). While writing I pictured Grace’s weak but handsome husband as a young James Fox. The other male lead is escaped convict Will, to be played by The Last Kingdom's Ragnar, Tobias Santelmann.

The main location is Delafosse Hall, based on a house in North Wales with forgotten tunnels, decaying summerhouse, tales of hopeless love and ghostly hauntings. My dark mystery also takes the reader to London’s Golden Square, the convict camps of Sydney, Australia, and Maori settlements of New Zealand.

The food needs to be highly crafted, from aphrodisiacs and poisons, to a tiny sugar four-poster bed for a wedding cake and a miniature baby and cradle. When writing the book I studied sugarwork with TV food historian Ivan Day, who created the food for Death Comes to Pemberley.

I’m sure Hitchcock would conjure the twisting staircases of Delafosse Hall, the snowbound winter rides, flickering candlelight and create edge-of-the-seat moments from the twists and revelations.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite for Violets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rachael Ball's "The Inflatable Woman"

Rachael Ball is a cartoonist and a teacher. The Inflatable Woman, her first graphic novel, was a Guardian Best Graphic Book of 2015.

Here Ball dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
Who would play the lead role?

That's a hard one since it's a cartoon book so I guess if I was lucky enough for it to be made into a film it would probably be animated. If it was live action the only person that springs to mind is Susan Calman (brilliant comedian). I'm not saying this because she's short! She's also a lot prettier than Iris in my book. But I've seen her perform a few times and she manages to combine humour and human frailty really well. Also there's an ending to one of her stage shows which is very similar to the ending of my book. I seriously cannot remember if I saw her act before I wrote the end of my book! Whatever! Hope she doesn't mind being such an inspiration!

Director: Would have to be Jane Campion or David Lynch. Bit different but they'd both be edgy with dark bits!
Visit Rachael Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Inflatable Woman.

Writers Read: Rachael Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue