Friday, October 31, 2014

Mary Elizabeth Summer's "Trust Me, I’m Lying"

Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland Oregon with her wife, their daughter, and their evil overlor—er, cat.

Here Summer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Trust Me, I'm Lying:
I would like to go on record as saying that I know next to nothing about celebrity actors, especially teen stars. But I have been putting some thought into this lately, as I just yesterday signed a contract granting ABC Family the option rights to  Trust Me, I'm Lying. Going based on still-photo-looks alone, (I have no idea if these kids have any acting ability), I would dream cast  Trust Me, I'm Lying as follows:

Natasha Calis for Julep. Natasha has the right overall look, plus (from her IMDb picture, at least), it looks like she has a caginess to her that she keeps on the down-low. Haley Pulos and Elizabeth Gillies might also work for Julep.

Tyler is a tougher one to conjure up a casting for. He's so all-American, with mahogany hair, an athletic physique, and a charismatic smile that screams future politician. David Henrie or Lucas Till is the closest I can come to what I imagine Tyler to look like.

Sam, Julep's hacker partner and BFF, is half black half South American, so finding an actor to fit him is also rather challenging. Chris O’Neal or Nadji Jeter would be good contenders.

I hesitate to cast the rest of the characters for spoiler reasons, but for one character, I've had an actress picked out from the beginning. So I'll tell you the actress without telling you the character: Ruby Rose.
Visit Mary Elizabeth Summer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Trust Me, I'm Lying.

Writers Read: Mary Elizabeth Summer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Natalie C. Parker's "Beware the Wild"

Natalie C. Parker grew up in a navy family in which having adventures was as common as reading fairy tales. Though the roots of her family are buried deep in southern Mississippi, she currently lives in Kansas with her partner in a house of monsters. 

Here Parker dreamcasts an adaptation of Beware the Wild, her first novel:
One thing I have learned from this process is that I have no future as a casting agent. This was a true, capital ‘c,’ Challenge. I started off pondering which actors might capture the qualities and idiosyncrasies of each character. Actors must have nuance, after all. But it gathering a sense of nuance from photographs turns out to be a near impossible job, so I shifted tactics...

This dream cast was selected based on the following criteria:
Faces. They must have them!
See #1.
First up! The siblings.

The premise of Beware the Wild is this: there is a mysterious swamp in the middle of Sticks, Louisiana. One day, a boy goes in and doesn’t return. Instead, a girl climbs out of the swamp and takes his place. The only one to remember that the boy ever existed is his baby sister, Sterling.

For Sterling Saucier, I’ve chosen Georgie Henley of The Chronicles of Narnia fame. Not only are her eyes naturally blue-ish, but I think she has a stubborn jaw.

For her brother, Phineas, I’ve selected Jean-Luc Bilodeau. You might think it’s because his name lilts creole, but really it’s because he wears leather well.

And for the intruder-sister, Lenora May, I’ve picked Victoria Justice. I suspect her hair would hold curl very well and that is a requirement for Lenora May.

Don’t they look mighty fine together?
Next up, friends and enemies!

Sterling has two best friends: Candace “Candy” Pickens and Abigail Beale. For Candy, I’ve selected AnnaSophia Robb because she looks great in sunlight, and for Abigail, Shanica Knowles, because she has a practiced “take no hostages” stare.

Love interest Heath Durham was especially tough, but I’ve discovered (thank me later, Jason!) Jason Dolley whose cleft chin makes him appear simultaneously troubled and thoughtful.
And finally for our villain, Fisher, I’ve chosen Braeden Lemasters for the pure and simple reason that I think he would match the swamp exquisitely well.
Visit Natalie C. Parker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Beware the Wild.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 27, 2014

Charlie Lovett's "First Impressions"

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright, whose plays for children have been seen in more than 3,000 productions. He is a former antiquarian bookseller and an avid book collector. He and his wife split their time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Kingham, Oxfordshire, in England.

Lovett's novels include The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession and the newly released First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of First Impressions:
OK, I have to be honest here. My wife, Janice, and I have been casting this movie ever since she read an early draft of my new novel First Impressions. The book is subtitled A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, so it’s pretty clear where one of the casting challenges lies, but we first attacked the modern story, and I think we came up with some pretty exciting casting.

The book has two story lines, one involving a friendship between Jane Austen and an aging cleric in 1796 and the other set in the present day featuring young Sophie Collingwood. Sophie is freshly out of Oxford, dislikes her father, and loves her uncle Bertram, who has been her mentor in the world of old books. When he turns up dead, her world is turned upside down. What will excite moviegoers about the casting of Sophie’s family is that it will reunite three British actors who worked together as university students as Cambridge. Hugh Laurie will play the crotchety Mr. Collingwood, Emma Thompson will feature as Sophie’s empathetic mother, and the multi-talented Stephen Fry will star as kindly Uncle Bertram. Are you getting tingles? I am.

At the center of the modern story is Sophie, played by Emma Watson. Emma has the perfect combination of intelligence, kindness, and youth to pull off Sophie, and in the role she’ll be torn between two suitors, the rough-around-the-edges American Eric Hall, played by Chris Evans of Captain America fame, and the dashing but dangerous Winston Godfrey, who could only be played by Tom Hiddleston. We had tea with Tom’s mother one time, and she was delightful. I look forward to renewing the acquaintance at the premiere!

The center of the 1796 story is a deep friendship between Jane Austen, who was twenty years old at the time, and Richard Mansfield, a semi-retired (fictional) priest sixty years her elder. Jane is smart, funny, bold, and just slightly irreverent and Carey Mulligan will bring all that to the role. Her wise mentor will be played by Bill Nighy, and I can’t wait to see what he does when he gets hold of Richard Mansfield.

So there it is. The Academy Award nominations for supporting actor and actress will be flooded with performances from this film, but don’t be surprised to see leading actress nods for Mulligan and Watson. Casting this movie was easy; deciding which one of these brilliant performances to vote for—that’s the hard part.
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookman's Tale.

My Book, The Movie: The Bookman's Tale.

Writers Read: Charlie Lovett.

The Page 69 Test: First Impressions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Peter Watts's "Echopraxia"

Peter Watts is a former marine biologist and the Hugo-winning author of numerous short stories and novels such as Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth. He has been called "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive" by the Globe and Mail and whose work the New York Times called "seriously paranoid."

Here Watts dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel Echopraxia, the follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight:
Let's start behind the camera. It's almost tempting to nominate Shane Carruth for Director— after Primer and Upstream Color, don't you want to see what he could do with a budget of more than $8.67?— but given that Echopraxia seems to have left about half its readers confused, we might not want a director whose claim to fame is that his first movie took three viewings to understand. I've got nothing against challenging one's audience, but there can be too much of a good thing.

David Fincher, maybe— the man has a real way with mood, he's received more than his fair share of rave reviews, and bad direction was definitely not one of Alien 3's many faults. Fight Club was brilliant. Also, after The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher could probably get Trent Reznor back on board for soundtrack duties, which would be a bonus. I'd green-light Fincher in a second. He'd be the safe choice.

But if I didn’t want to play it safe, I'd risk the whole wad on Steven Soderbergh. He's shown a deft and subtle hand at first-contact scenarios (yeah, Solaris tanked commercially, but I liked it better than Tarkovsky's version). Contagion proves that he knows how to do Science right, which is almost unheard-of in Hollywood. And he was executive producer on what was, if not the best movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel, certainly the most Dickish movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel. I'd be fascinated to see what Soderbergh could do with Echopraxia.

Prometheus alumni need not apply. Sorry Ridley.

Screenplay? That would be me. Not because I've had any experience writing screenplays, but because I'm fucking sick of living hand to mouth as a midlist SF author, and screenplays pay better for fewer words. Besides, the guys who wrote Dude, Where's My Car? didn't have any screenwriting experience either, and look how well that turned out.

The cast. The simplest— and possibly the most compelling— solution might be to have Andy Serkis perform every role in a mo-cap suit, and sort it all out in post-production. Assuming that wasn't on the table, though, I went to my blog and asked for input. I got it, too. Almost a hundred comments worth. And it was helpful, more often than not, so I'd like to thank everybody who weighed in.

And the characters are…

Daniel Brüks: A baseline human, out of his depth, surrounded by demigods with opaque and world-changing agendas. We need someone who can convey haplessness, but who can also buckle down and snarl when backed into a corner. Out of 15 nominees, Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey got the most votes, and there's no question that either of them could pull it off. The candidacy of Morgan Freeman should get extra weight because it was put forth by the real-life guy I based the fictional Brüks on.

But in my heart of hearts, this has to go to Bryan Cranston. You've all seen Breaking Bad. Who else could so compellingly pull off hapless and ruthless at the same time?

Col. Jim Moore: Reserved, polite, a life-long military man who could kill you in an instant, with profound regret and no malice, should the situation call for it. A failed marriage to which he has long since reconciled himself; a son whose loss he continues to mourn after fourteen years.

People put forth a dozen names for this character. Kevin Spacey showed up again, but I just can't see the dude as career military (maybe I should check out this House of Cards series everyone's going on about). Bruce Willis has the body type, but could he could pull off the combination of quiet camaraderie, increasing obsession, and near-delusional hair-trigger scariness that the role requires? Stephen Lang has the body type and the scariness, but maybe I'm just type-casting the dude after his role as the evil mercenary in Avatar. Hmmm.

Daniel Craig.

Valerie: a member of the short-lived omnisavantic human subspecies that gave rise to the vampire myth. Fifteen nominees ranging from Amy Acker to Sigourney Weaver, but the moment someone mentioned Tilda Swinton it was game over. Swinton would have had my vote purely on the basis of her work in Orlando; having finally watched Only Lovers Left Alive just the other day, I'd say that choice is now clad in iron.

Lianna Lutterodt: A creature of abiding faith, kindness, and intelligence, who has placed too much trust in the beneficence of the hive mind to which she has pledged fealty. Played, I think, by Kandyse McClure— because the way McClure conveys the despair, the resolve, and the One Good Night of Anastasia Dualla just before calmly blowing her brains out is one of the few good things about the final half-season of Battlestar Galactica. This is a person who can both have faith and lose it, to shattering effect.

Rakshi Sengupta: drives the Crown of Thorns, is driven in turn by a mixture of love and rage. Abrasive and antisocial not because she lacks social skills, but because she can't be bothered to implement them. Think of 24's Chloe O'Brien on too much caffeine— and so my mind immediately jumps to Mary Lynn Rajskub, who played that character.

It would be really nice to cast an Indian in the role, just because that's the way I imagined the character. Unfortunately my movie-going tastes are largely limited to North American releases (as are those of my readers, apparently), which are not renowned for their prominent display of South Asian talent. As someone observed on my blog, the (relatively few) reader nominations for the part of Sengupta were either a) actors whose sole qualification was that they were Indian, or b) non-Indians. Nobody seemed able to name a candidate who was both Indian and whose previous performances commended her to the role of Rakshi. Which is kind of a drag.

I would hope that a talent search uncovers a relatively-unknown actor who could channel a very twitchy iteration of Chloe O'Brien. That said, though, the ethnicity of Echopraxia's characters have absolutely zero relevance to its plot; so while it would be nice if the character looked like Sengupta, it would be absolutely vital that she act that way. So if I can't have my druthers, I know Rajskub would nail the part (assuming she'd be willing to risk being typecast).
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Watts's website.

Blindsight is one of Charlie Jane Anders's ten great science fiction novels, published since 2000, that raise huge, important questions.

My Book, The Movie: Peter Watts's Rifters trilogy.

The Page 69 Test: Echopraxia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dave Zeltserman's "The Boy Who Killed Demons"

Dave Zeltserman's many novels include Monster: A novel of Frankenstein. His short mystery fiction has won the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen's Readers Choice awards. His crime thrillers, Small Crimes and Pariah, both made the Washington Post's best books of the year list in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and Small Crimes was selected by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008.

His horror novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, was shortlisted by the American Library Association for best horror novel of 2010 and was also a Black Quill nominee for best dark genre book of the year.

Here Zeltserman dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, The Boy Who Killed Demons:
The Boy Who Killed Demons has a number of teenage leads, and since I'm not up on teenage actors, I'm going to cop out here and use some adult actors, but when they were teenagers.

Henry Dudlow: Tom Hanks at fifteen

Sally Freeman: Evangeline Lilly at fifteen

Henry's father: Ty Burrell

Henry's mother: Julie Bowen

Wesley Neuberger: Paul Giamatti at fifteen

Curt Tucker: Clark Duke

Wesley's dad" Paul Giamatti

The Demon Connor Devin: Justin Bieber

Detective Thomase: Jeremy Renner

The Demon Hanley: John Carroll Lynch

Ralph Malphi: Tom Arnold at 17
Learn more about the book and author at Dave Zeltserman's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Small Crimes.

The Page 69 Test: Pariah.

The Page 69 Test: Outsourced.

My Book, The Movie: Outsourced.

The Page 69 Test: A Killer's Essence.

My Book, The Movie: A Killer's Essence.

Writers Read: Dave Zeltserman.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Killed Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Karen Miller's "The Falcon Throne"

Karen Miller writes speculative fiction. Mostly of the epic historical kind, but she’s also written Star Wars and Stargate novels and under the pen-name K.E. Mills writes the Rogue Agent series, about a wizard with special skills who works for his government under unusual circumstances.

Here Miller dreamcasts an adaptation of The Falcon Throne, book 1 of The Tarnished Crown series:
If I were to name every actor I'd cast in The Falcon Throne I think I'd still be here this time next year. But what I can do is mention the characters who most readily allied themselves with actors in my imagination. So, in no particular order:

Humbert - Roger Allam

I suspect that most people would know Allam from his portrayal of Javert in the original London cast of Les Miserables and, more recently, his work as DI Fred Thursday in the splendid early life of Morse series, Endeavour. But for me, it was his outstanding performance as Falstaff in The Globe's production of Henry IV Part 1 that caught my attention. You can see it for yourself on dvd and I urge you to do so. It is a truly astonishing piece of theatre and I defy anyone not to be outrageously entertained. Humbert isn't a rogue the way Falstaff is a rogue, but there's just something in Allam's presence, his authority, that tells me he'd bring Humbert to life perfectly.

Balfre - Tom Hiddleston

At first glance this would appear to be lazy typecasting. Hiddleston's best known for his electrifying turn as Loki in the Marvel Universe films, and yes - Balfre is a brother who feels himself hard done-by. But he's more than that. He's a tormented soul, a man as sinned against as sinning, and while he does have a darkness in him that's not all he is. Hiddleston has demonstrated his range in other works, most notably as Henry V in the BBC's Hollow Crown series - but the moment that stands out for me is in Thor: The Dark World, when Thor calls Loki on his pretence of indifference, the illusion disappears, and we see how devasted Loki is by the death of his adopted mother. Balfre requires a great range, and Hiddleston has it.

Grefin - Tom Mison

I'd never heard of Mison before Sleepy Hollow. But as soon as I saw him in that show I thought of him for Grefin. Balfre's younger brother is a good man who lets love blind him to reality. He's devoid of deceit, of malice, and it's not easy to project that without being wishy washy and dull. I think Mison has that quality in spades.

Vidar - James McAvoy

I think McAvoy is one of the most astonishingly courageous actors working today. When it comes to dropping emotional defences, he is fearless. The only other actor who comes close, for me, is Michael Fassbender. Vidar is a tricky customer. Another good man who's been warped by events beyond his control, he walks a terrible line between pain and rage, honour and dishonour. I know McAvoy could illuminate him brilliantly.

Roric - Chris Evans

The thing about Roric is that he is both the wrong man and the only man for a difficult job - and he knows it. There's a kind of doomed courage about Roric that makes me love him. Evans is a really human, accessible actor. I think he'd make a terrific Roric.

Harald - Martin Freeman

I was lucky enough to see Freeman as Richard III, in London. A spectacular turn. Straight away I thought of Harald, who is not a good man. Freeman has hidden depths of nastiness that would serve Harald well.

Berardine - Amanda Tapping

Berardine is a woman of strength, of courage, and a fierce loyalty to her dead husband, her daughter, and the people they serve. Amanda Tapping is grace and integrity personified and she would bring Berardine to life perfectly.
Learn more about the author and her work at Karen Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2014

Patrick Taylor's "An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War"

An Irish Doctor in Peace and At War is the new novel in Patrick Taylor’s beloved Irish Country series.

About the book, from the publisher:
Long before Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly became a fixture in the colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo, he was a young M.B. with plans to marry midwife Dierdre Mawhinney. Those plans were complicated by the outbreak of World War II and the call of duty. Assigned to the HMS Warspite, a formidable 30,000-ton battleship, Surgeon Lieutenant O’Reilly soon found himself face-to-face with the hardships of war, tending to the dreadnought’s crew of 1,200 as well as to the many casualties..[read on]
Here Taylor dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
I would cast the primary characters as follows and invite the readers to cast the minor players:

Doctor Fingal O’Reilly — Liam Neeson

Doctor Barry Laverty — A young Leonardo DiCaprio

Kitty O’Reilly — Minnie Driver

Deirdre Mawhinney — Keira Knightley

Maureen “Kinky” Kincaid — Brenda Fricker

Donal Donnelly — A young Colm Meaney

Surgeon Commander Wilcoxson — A young Jack Hawkins

Bertie Bishop — Peter Bowles

Elly Simpkins — A younger Kate Winslet

Sue Nolan — Kristen Stewart
Learn more about the book and author at Patrick Taylor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mike Maden's "Blue Warrior"

Growing up in a working class family in central California, Mike Maden spent a fair share of his youth in slaughter houses, canneries and feed mills but a lifelong fascination with history and politics ultimately led to a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California (Davis) focusing on the areas of conflict, technology and international relations. After brief stints as a campus lecturer, political consultant and media commentator, Maden turned to studies in theology and a decade of work with a Dallas-based non-profit where he eventually discovered fiction writing. Drone was the result of a recent challenge by two published friends to try his hand at a novel. Written primarily in Texas, Blue Warrior was edited in the shadow of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee where Maden and his wife Angela now happily reside.

Here Maden dreamcasts an adaptation of Blue Warrior:
I chose Gary Sinise to play the lead role of Troy Pearce the first time I visited this blog, but my dear wife has since informed me that as much as she admires Mr. Sinise’s tremendous acting skill, she thinks the better choice to play Troy would be Hugh Jackman. Despite the fact that Troy Pearce never sings nor flashes adamantine claws out of the back of his hands, I began to see her point. He has the physicality and presence to play the character. And since I dedicated Blue Warrior to my wife, it occurs to me her opinion should matter most—at least this go around.
Visit Mike Maden's website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Drone.

The Page 69 Test: Drone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jeff Somers's "We Are Not Good People"

Jeff Somers was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and regrets nothing. His books include the Avery Cates series of novels published by Orbit Books. He sold his first novel at age 16 to a tiny publisher in California which quickly went out of business and has spent the last two decades assuring potential publishers that this was a coincidence. Somers publishes a zine called The Inner Swine and has also published a few dozen short stories; his story “Ringing the Changes” was selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2006, edited by Scott Turow and his story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” appeared in the anthology Crimes by Moonlight, published by Berkley Hardcover and edited by Charlaine Harris.

Here Somers dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new book, We Are Not Good People:
Let’s talk about Scoot McNairy.

First of all, his name. Jesus Christ, Scoot. I want anyone not only named Scoot but named Scoot and a survivor of that adolescence on my team. I pledge my troth to Scoot, to all the Scoots of this world.

Second of all, everything Scoot’s ever been in. Seen him in Halt and Catch Fire? Not a good show. Scoot, however, is fantastic in his role as an alcoholic, angry programmer. Mess him up a little, and he would be a fantastic Lem Vonnegan – who is also a sort of alcoholic, angry programmer, although his programs involve a magical grammar fueled by blood. Lem is “good with the Words,” meaning he can quickly and adroitly piece together a spell using an economy of words, quickly casting something efficient and effective. Usually while drunk and anemic and on the verge of passing out from blood loss. Thus, Scoot McNairy.

Any film of the book would have to keep the magic subtle except for a few set pieces. This isn’t the sort of story where amazing things happen as actors on a green screen pretend to be amazed, this is a story where awful things happen and then you’re amazed and simultaneously horrified when things go south from there. The awe and amazement of the magical aspect is soured and mixed with awfulness.

It’s also the sort of film where every scene would be shot in dim, washed-out lighting, and everyone except for the main villains would be dressed sort of shabby, in ill-fitting clothes. There are very few people in the story who would qualify as “glamorous,” and of course most of those are glamorous thanks to the liberal use of magic. Which is, of course, what I would expend my own magical energies on: Looking good. And possibly casting a spell so theme music played every time I walked into a room, probably "Princes of the Universe" by Queen.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: We Are Not Good People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Minerva Koenig's "Nine Days"

Minerva Koenig is a licensed architect running her own one-woman practice. When not architecting or writing, she likes to sew, read, play chess, do yoga, dance, wrangle cats, and fight the patriarchy. Koenig lives in Austin, Texas.

The publisher's description of her new novel, Nine Days, begins:
She's short, round, and pushing forty, but Julia Kalas is a damned good criminal. For 17 years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband's illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas....[read on]
Here Koenig dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
I didn't really plan it this way, but when I've thought about actors who could play my characters, the best fits always seem to be the lesser-known and local. This pleases me no end. I'm a sucker for the undiscovered underdogs of the world, having been one myself for so long.

When I learned that I would be doing readings in front of large groups of people -- something that scares the bejesus out of me -- I considered hiring someone to read in character as Julia Kalas (my protagonist). That's how I found local Austin actor Cyndi Williams, whom I think would do really interesting things with the role.

The other day someone mentioned Camryn Manheim in a totally unrelated conversation, and I immediately knew she's who'd I'd cast as Teresa Hallstedt. She's got it all: the height, the size, the gravitas.

Hector Guerra, in my imagination, has always looked like a beefier Rob Trujillo (bass player for Metallica). I doubt Rob would consider changing careers and putting on a couple of pounds, and who knows if he can act, so for Hector I'd go with Vincent McClean. He'd have to rough up a bit for it, but I've seen him do it and know that he can.

John Maines would be played by Ed Hattaway. This is partly nepotism -- I've known Ed since I was in my 20s and love him like a brother -- but he's also a hell of an actor. He'd knock it out of the park.
Visit Minerva Koenig's website.

--Marshal Zeringue