Sunday, May 24, 2015

Anita Hughes's "French Coast"

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in The Australian newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

Hughes received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

Her debut novel Monarch Beach was released in June 2012, followed by Market Street in March 2013 and Lake Como in August 2013.

Here Hughes dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, French Coast:
One of the biggest inspirations for French Coast was To Catch A Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly - my favorite couple in cinema. French Coast and To Catch A Thief are both set at the fabulous Carlton-Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes. I watched the movie a half dozen times to soak up the spectacular architecture and interior design while writing the book!

So when I was asked to cast French Coast in my mind, I jumped at the chance. Here are my selections:

It's not hard to imagine Blake Lively as Serena. (Especially as she played Serena on Gossip Girl). Blake Lively is beautiful and confident and wears clothes wonderfully, I think she would be perfect for the part.

I imagine someone bright and bubbly as Zoe - perhaps Selena Gomez or Zooey Deschanel (well, I do love her name). I loved the character of Zoe, so it would be fun to have someone who's not afraid to play the part a little quirky.

Yvette is a little more difficult - in my mind she is sophisticated and mysterious - maybe Jessica Lange (with dark hair) or Christine Baranski. (I'm a huge fan of The Good Wife).

Matthew Goode would be great as Nick. He's tall and handsome and has gorgeous eyes - as long as he could do a French accent.

Josh Duhamel would make a perfect Chase. He has the great jaw - I might not like what Chase did, but he is very good looking in an All American way.

I am curious to know who readers imagine in the parts when they read French Coast.
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

My Book, The Movie: Market Street.

My Book, The Movie: Lake Como.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Charlotte Gordon's "Romantic Outlaws"

Critically acclaimed author Charlotte Gordon's newest book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Earlier works include Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America's First Poet — a Massachusetts Honor book for non-fiction — and The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths.

Here Gordon dreamcasts an adaptation of Romantic Outlaws:
Jessica Chastain, of course. That’s who should play Mary Shelley. The character Chastain played in Zero, Dark, Thirty reminds me of Shelley: young, brilliant, hard-headed, self-disciplined, and yet somehow vulnerable. Plus, she has that great red hair and Mary Shelley was famous for her gorgeous red locks. The tricky thing about Shelley is capturing her wildness and, weirdly, her seriousness. At age sixteen, she’d run away with the already married Percy Shelley, scandalizing all of London society. But she was not just a rebellious teenager. She spent each day teaching herself ancient Greek and working on her writing. She was only nineteen when she wrote Frankenstein.

As for Mary Wollstonecraft, Kate Winslet. Wollstonecraft was famous for being “voluptuous,” sexy and warm, earthy, outrageous, and smart, smart smart. She was called a whore for writing “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” But she did not let criticism stop her. She was a fearless advocate for the poor and oppressed. She believed in freedom and the power of ideas. She hated the institution of marriage as it stripped rights away from women. In the eighteenth century wives were not allowed to own property. They could not initiate a divorce, and, in fact, had no legal rights whatsoever.

But like her daughter, Wollstonecraft was complicated. She was not simply a political philosopher. Yes, she was enraged by injustice and fought for women to have independence. But in her own life, she struggled to overcome depression when she was deserted by the man she loved. She needs to be played by an actress who can handle this complexity, conveying both her passion and her intellectual.

Mark Rylance should play William Godwin, Wollstonecraft’s last lover and Mary Shelley’s father. Benedict Cumberbatch should be the quicksilver, charismatic, fearsomely intelligent Shelley. Except maybe he’s too old. James McAvoy for Byron. Or Liam Hemsworth.

Romantic Outlaws tries to unite a mother and daughter who never met. Wollstonecraft died ten days after giving birth to Shelley. But Shelley spent her whole life trying to uphold her mother’s ideal of freedom. The story is cinematic as both women traveled the world and had many lovers. But the chapters alternate between Wollstonecraft and Shelley to help the reader see the many strange parallels in their lives, and I have no idea how a director would handle this. But then how would I? I write books. I don’t direct movies.
Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ed Ifkovic's "Café Europa"

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for more than three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction.

His new book is Café Europa, his sixth Edna Ferber mystery.

Here Ifkovic dreamcasts a miniseries based on the Edna Ferber mysteries:
In my Edna Ferber mysteries, my amateur sleuth/novelist solves murders over the course of her long lifetime, as early as 1904 when she is nineteen and a nosy small-town reporter, until the 1950s, when she is in her seventies and covered with fame and fortune. Early on, writing about Edna in her seventies in Lone Star, I actually envisioned veteran actor Elaine Stritch embodying the feisty, tart-tongued Ferber as she watched the movie production of her novel Giant in Hollywood, socializing with the likes of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. Stritch had, indeed, played the take-no-prisoners Parthy Hawks in Showboat, many years before. But Stritch died last year, and so went that idea.

Nevertheless, there is one actress who repeatedly comes to my mind as someone capable of embodying Ferber at different stages of her life: Mayim Bialik. Now I’d never seen one episode of her first hit series on TV, Blossom, but as a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory, playing Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon Cooper’s brainy and dedicated girlfriend, Bialik epitomizes everything I believe would work for a film or TV version of my mysteries. Indeed, Bialik reminds me of Ferber: a small, slender woman, not a beauty in the classic and tired Hollywood mode, but rather a woman with an intense, striking face, alive with intelligence and wit, a personality that is alternatively crisp and acerbic yet also extremely kind and sentimental. Like Ferber whose father was an Hungarian Jew, Bialik had a grandparent from Hungary. Not an important consideration, but an intriguing one, I submit.

In watching Bialik’s evolving craft over many seasons, I can easily envision her portraying the young, impassioned Ferber, tackling the world and especially the male hegemony that tries to define her, but, as well, displaying a talent to capture Ferber as an older (in fact, old) woman, whose keen acumen and logical analysis cuts through all the mess that surrounds any murder—in order to deliver the solution. Bialik, like Ferber, projects the soul on fire.

In moments of utter fancy I can see Bialik playing Ferber at different stages of her life (the wonders of Hollywood makeup!) in a mini-series on PBS. Maybe six of seven episodes to flesh out Ferber’s character and sleuthing. It’s nice to think so. I’d watch it.
Visit Ed Ifkovic's website.

Writers Read: Ed Ifkovic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nancy Thayer's "The Guest Cottage"

Nancy Thayer's many novels include Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, Beachcombers, Heat Wave, Summer Breeze, Island Girls, and the newly released The Guest Cottage.

Here Thayer dreamcasts an adaptation of The Guest Cottage:
If The Guest Cottage were made into a movie, I’d cast Rosamund Pike as the lead woman, Sophie. I’ve watched Rosamund Pike act in many BBC series, and not only is she absolutely lovely, she has a sweetness about her in all her movements. I know she was wicked in Gone Girl, but that just proves what a great actress she is. Check her out in Pride and Prejudice.

For the lead actor, Trevor, I’d cast James Norton, who stars in the Grantchester series. He’s a tall hunk of a man, with the face of a slightly confused angel. Or I’d cast Francois Amaud, who played Cesare Borgia in the series The Borgias. I’d love to see him act again. Both men are handsome and could summon up the slightly clueless intention toward responsible parenting.

For Hristo, the gorgeous Bulgarian, I’d cast Gerard Butler. No other possibilities.

Director? Angelina Jolie. My book is about two families learning to live together, and Jolie knows all about blended families. Plus, I admire her.

The setting would have to be on Nantucket. The small town atmosphere, the long golden beaches, the rose-covered cottages, the bike paths and moors, the lighthouses and yachts, all compose a unique and idyllic location for renewed happiness.
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs's "Jonas Salk: A Life"

Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, she graduated from the University of Rochester and studied medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She has served as Senior Associate Dean and as Director of the Clinical Cancer Center. Her academic honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa, Kaiser Foundation Award for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, Rambar Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. She has published ninety scientific articles and three books which reflect her cancer and medical education research. She currently cares for veterans with cancer at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center.

Jacobs's first biography, Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin’s Disease, was published in 2010.

Here the author shares her choice to play the lead in an adaptation of her new biography, Jonas Salk: A Life:
Alan Arkin would have been perfect to play the role of Jonas Salk a decade ago. Today, I think Kevin Spacey would be a good choice.
Visit Charlotte Jacobs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lyndsay Faye's "The Fatal Flame"

Lyndsay Faye is the author of critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow, and is featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. She is a true New Yorker in the sense that she was born elsewhere.

Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. Her second and third novels, The Gods of Gotham and its sequel Seven for a Secret, follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape.

The latest volume in the series is The Fatal Flame.

Here Faye dreamcasts an adaptation of the trilogy:
Throughout the course of writing the Timothy Wilde trilogy, I’ve been compelled to cudgel my underdeveloped brains when creative and imaginative folks ask me which actors I would pick to play the lead characters, and what the film version of The Fatal Flame or its prequels would look like. My books are historical thrillers that deal with darkness, dirt, and death—though I assure my potential readers there are also plentiful lewd jokes.

In any event, I know exactly what The Fatal Flame’s film version would look like—it would be Gangs of New York but with a grim Batman-esque palette, touches of the Warner Brothers’ version of Sherlock Holmes’s madcap and unabashed humor, and stark Coen brothers’ levels of bleak dust. As for casting The Fatal Flame, however, that is another matter entirely, because Timothy and Valentine Wilde live so large in my head.

Let’s get some of the easier casting out of the way first: have you seen Ripper Street? MyAnna Buring plays the sly, capable, ruthless-but-still-sympathetic brothel madam, and every time she smirks just so, I know she’d make a fantastic Silkie Marsh. Madam Marsh is a sociopath, but a real charmer nevertheless, and I can’t picture anyone worming her way into the highest levels of Tammany intrigue.

Chief of Police George Washington Matsell was literally a larger than life figure—over three hundred pounds, with a dogged, dour countenance that couldn’t quite mask his reserves of humor and fortitude. There are few character actors who could convey the power he wielded, nor the fact that he always sought to better understand the motives of criminals, be they evil inclinations or simpler explanations like poverty. John Goodman could nail this role to the wall.

The love of Timothy’s life, Mercy Underhill, is an enigmatic figure—a beautiful but morbid social worker whose published poetry is as shocking as it is lovely, and a sideways smile that often conceals her true thoughts. While she is highly sympathetic, she is a woman of dark visions and many secrets: who better to play Mercy than the brilliant and mesmerizing Natalie Dormer?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Roundsman Jakob Piest—he is physically unprepossessing, but one of the most genuinely kind and intelligent characters in the series, honorable to a fault though fairly useless in a fistfight. In a world of brutes, he is a plain, decent policeman, and I think Steve Buscemi could bring enormous heart and acumen to the role.

Now to the most difficult decisions: how on earth can I cast the Wilde brothers when they are already so real to me? My choices for Timothy Wilde and Valentine Wilde are Thomas Dekker and Adam Rothenberg, respectively.

Dekker owns a quality any actor playing Tim has to possess—he needs to be sincerely sympathetic, but with a highly developed sense of cynicism. Timothy is equal parts irony and angst, and while these attributes never cause him to grow callous, he has to convey his dislike of grim antebellum New York. Finally, and perhaps most challenging of all, is Tim’s debauched, disgraceful, but utterly brilliant older sibling Valentine—Adam Rothenberg projects dissipation with charm, and even when haggard and impaired, his strength of character is obvious. As a pair of rough-and ready copper stars fighting to survive the corrupt world of Tammany politics, I think Dekker and Rothenberg could succeed in coming close to the Wildes who run so *ahem* wild in my head.
Learn more about the book and author at Lyndsay Faye's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: Seven for a Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gwendolyn Womack's "The Memory Painter"

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing plays in college while freezing in the tundra at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She received an MFA from CalArts in Directing for theater and film and was a semi-finalist in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. She currently she resides in California and can be found at her keyboard.

Here Womack dreamcasts an adaptation of The Memory Painter, her first novel:
I have never written with an actor in mind, that’s just not how my imagination works. But posed with the question after the fact, it’s a lot of fun to try and cast the movie for The Memory Painter…(although an adaptation might be a challenge with all the time travel and history the book covers!).

It was really hard to choose between actors. I could imagine several people in the roles so I included two names for all the leads except Finn. Bryan: Ryan Gosling or James McAvoy. Linz: Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence. Michael: Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale. Diana: Reese Witherspoon or Amy Adams. Conrad: Anthony Hopkins or Jeremy Irons. Finn: Viggo Mortensen.
Visit Gwendolyn Womack's website.

Writers Read: Gwendolyn Womack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Elyssa Friedland's "Love and Miss Communication"

Elyssa Friedland graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 2007 and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Love and Miss Communication, her debut novel:
Ahh! This was truly an amazingly fun exercise, especially because I really believe my novel Love and Miss Communication is very cinematic. Any movie producers out there? I hope you’re reading this!

The book would definitely translate into a romantic comedy, and who better to star as Evie Rosen, my lovable, neurotic heroine, than Emma Stone? To be honest I didn’t picture Evie as a redhead when I was writing the book. Anne Hathaway was kind of in the back of my mind the entire time, but now that I have some distance from it I really see this role as perfect for Emma Stone. She was so amazing in Easy A, which is a really great movie and totally underrated, and while she is absolutely stunning I think she’s able to play an “everyday woman” equally well. Evie is strong, highly intelligent, funny, somewhat misunderstood and just a little bit off track in her life, and Emma Stone would nail that role.

The most fun role to pay in the book would have to be Bette Rosen, Evie’s ailing, big-mouthed grandmother. I like to think of her a bit as having the attitude of Maggie Smith, the dowager countess from Downton Abbey. But Maggie Smith doesn’t look right for the role. Too wrinkled (sorry Maggie!) and too regal. So I’m reaching for television talent to fill the role. Doris Roberts, the grandma on Everybody Loves Raymond, would be perfection as the beloved, nagging bubbe to Evie.

On to the men. I reached out to friends for this one. Jack, the celebrity chef who stole Evie’s heart and then trampled it carelessly, is very much a Hollywood bad boy type. He’s the guy every woman falls for even though she shouldn’t. So I see Colin Farrell fitting this role very nicely. Or Jon Hamm, channeling his jerky side from Bridesmaids. Dr. Edward Cooper is trickier. He’s really a good guy that Evie falls for over time. He should be handsome but not overtly reeking of sex appeal. I think Rob Lowe would do the trick.

The TWASPs (you’ll have to read the book to understand that acronym) would be amazingly portrayed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, but alas I think that is something of a pipe dream…

Evie’s group of friends would have to be played by my own group of friends, because I’m pretty sure I made drunken promises to at least two of them that if this book gets made into a movie I will try to cast them.
Visit Elyssa Friedland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Miss Communication.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Eve MacDonald's "Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life"

Eve MacDonald is an archaeologist, lecturer, and travel guide who has participated in excavations around the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Caucasus, including the site of ancient Carthage. She has taught at several universities in the UK and Canada and is currently sessional lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Reading.

Here MacDonald dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life:
What a movie Hannibal’s life would make. He was brave and fierce and arguably the greatest general of antiquity. A sword and sandals epic comes to mind – part Gladiator, part Alexander the Great – but there was no happy ending to Hannibal’s story, no redemption for him or Carthage.

Against a backdrop of vast landscapes I would start the film at Hannibal’s tomb at Libyssa (near Istanbul today). The tale would be told by a soldier who had fought with Hannibal, one of the many loyal followers whose life was shaped by his encounter with the great man. Then we would turn back in time through Hannibal’s life beginning with childhood at Carthage and moving to Spain, across France and down through Italy via the mighty Alps with elephants. The sets and cities would be magnificent with scenes at Carthage, Rome, the bay of Naples, Etruria and Ephesus.

I have often thought about who should play Hannibal in a film; it would have to be an actor who could convey the right mix of brave soldier and wise, charismatic and inspirational leader. It would have to be someone who could roughly fit the ethnic make-up of the multi-cultural Carthaginians - part Middle Eastern, part Berber - but really anyone from across the Mediterranean basin might fit the bill. There is a certain exoticism to Hannibal so my preference might be for a Spanish actor as Spain was a region deeply influenced by the Carthaginians and key to the story of Hannibal. Javier Bardem would be perfect because I think he could convey the complexity of Hannibal’s character, a man with razor sharp intelligence and a hugely inspirational leader. Another of my favourites for Hannibal would be the Chilean actor Pedro Pascal.

In my movie the Romans are the bad guys and many actors could fill the shoes of these leaders of the burgeoning empire, ever intent on conquest. Who would play Scipio Africanus or Fabius Maximus? I could see Tom Wilkinson as the elder statesman Fabius Maximus, a man who relentlessly tracked Hannibal through his years in Italy, or perhaps Charles Dance. The young Roman hero Scipio would need to be someone of both stature and a certain ambiguity – maybe Kit Harington with a haircut (to maintain the Game of Thrones theme).

Last but not least I like to think about the battle scenes. The movie would need to capture the strategic brilliance and chaotic reality of Hannibal’s great victories and more generally battle in the ancient world. This means a director who understands the ins and outs of epic warfare so I think Peter Jackson or Ridley Scott. The movie would have to convey a sense of the commander who was personally leading the charge and also directing the movements of his whole army while in the thick of battle. The battle scenes would be key to any movie but the backstory of the city and culture of Carthage and the pivotal Hellenistic world in which they took place should take centre stage. For the soldier and legend that is Hannibal remains the most famous aspect of the lost culture and destroyed city of Carthage.
Learn more about Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 8, 2015

Heidi Pitlor's "The Daylight Marriage"

Heidi Pitlor grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. She got her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and moved out to Colorado, where in Denver and Boulder she worked as a nanny, receptionist, freelance writer, bus girl, rape crisis counselor and counselor to homeless and runaway teenagers. She moved back to Massachusetts to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and worked as a temp at Houghton Mifflin Company. Soon after, she was hired as an editorial assistant in the company's trade division. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She wrote fiction early in the mornings before work and published her first novel, The Birthdays, in 2006. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.

Here Pitlor shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of The Daylight Marriage, her second novel:
My family likes to ask me to cast my book. I am uncomfortable with this question, mainly because my characters always come to me first as brief, blurry fragments, then thoughts and emotions, then personal histories, and finally souls with physical appearances. I don’t say this to come off as deeper than anyone else. It’s just how my writing process usually works. But acting is, of course, about appearances.

The question also makes me uncomfortable because it assumes or guesses that the book will or may be a movie. I’m thrilled to have my pages made into a book—to me that has always been the end goal. Anything else would be gravy.

But. If I had to, I might say that Edward Norton or Joaquin Phoenix might play Lovell, the husband. Or maybe John Cusack. And for Hannah, the wife? Rachel Weisz? Nicole Kidman? For the teenage girl, Janine, Kiernan Shipka or Chloë Grace Moretz?
Visit Heidi Pitlor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Daylight Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue