Sunday, June 24, 2018

Eric Bernt's "The Speed of Sound"

Eric Bernt was born in Marion, Ohio, and raised in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and Madison, Wisconsin. He attended Northwestern University, where he learned that journalism was not for him—but storytelling was. Upon graduation, he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote seven feature films including Virtuosity (starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) and Surviving the Game (starring Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, and F. Murray Abraham). He has also written for television (Z Nation). Bernt lives in Agoura Hills, California, with his wife and three children.

Here Bernt shares some thoughts about adapting his new novel, The Speed of Sound, for the screen:
Even when I'm writing a screenplay (I've had seven movies produced to date), I never think of a specific actor in a role unless an actor has been cast or is 'attached' to a project. I think about how I want the audience to feel during the journey, as well as afterward. In this regard, my hope is that an audience watching the movie (or television series) version of The Speed of Sound would feel the emotional honesty achieved in Call Me By Your Name with the excitement and intensity of technology-driven action in The Bourne Identity. I do recognize what a challenge it would be to achieve both in the same film, but I like to set my sights high.
Visit Eric Bernt's website.

Writers Read: Eric Bernt.

The Page 69 Test: The Speed of Sound.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2018

Demetra Brodsky's "Dive Smack"

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A. from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs where she is always trying to make more time for the beach. Her new novel Dive Smack is dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you'll understand why.

Here Brodsky dreamcasts an adaptation of Dive Smack:
This is such a fun question. I don’t think there’s a writer out there who hasn’t thought about this as they watch the scenes they’re writing play out in the heads. I spent a lot of time thinking about Theo Mackey and watching springboard diving videos, but at the end of the day Lucas Till is my perfect Theo Mackey - I feel like he has the perfect mix of athletic and kind.

The easiest one for me is Dylan O'Brien for Chip Langford. I seriously can't picture another person more Chip-like to pay Theo’s best friend.

For Iris Fiorello, Theo’s crush and love interest who has a similar tragic background, I’d pick Belarusian model Zhenya Katava. I know, I know, she’s not an actress, but her eastern European beauty is how I picture Iris who is a first generation Romanian.

Mads Mikkelson is the actor I've always seen as Dr. Phil Maddox while I was writing. His diction when he played Dr. Lecter on the TV show Hannibal was perfection and I tried to adopt some of those mannerisms for him in Dive Smack.

Alan Arkin would be supremely perfect as Theo's cranky, but loving Grandfather, Bruce Mackey.

And no one would be a better suited to play his grandfather’s best friend than James Brolin as Fire Chief Curtis Jacobs.
Visit Demetra Brodsky's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Demetra Brodsky & L.B. and Ponyboy Curtis.

The Page 69 Test: Dive Smack.

Writers Read: Demetra Brodsky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Yoon Ha Lee's "Ninefox Gambit"

A Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon Ha Lee finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas.

Lee's new novel is Revenant Gun, book three in the Machineries of Empire series that begins with Ninefox Gambit.

Here Lee dreamcasts an adaptation of Ninefox Gambit:
While I certainly wouldn't say no if someone offered to make my book Ninefox Gambit into a film, I suspect the special effects budget would be prohibitive! One of the hazards of writing space opera, I guess. I had actually imagined the book in animation instead, like Voltron: Legendary Defender or Code Geass or Avatar: The Last Airbender. But it costs nothing to dream, either way.

The first of my two main characters is Shuos Jedao, an undead general known both for never losing a battle across four hundred years and for an infamous massacre in which he blew up two armies, one of them his own. I'd cast Daniel Dae Kim. I've enjoyed his range in the different roles I've seen him in (I was so sad when his Gavin the evil lawyer died in Angel!) and I'd be fascinated to see how he interpreted a treacherous ghost general.

The second is Jedao's unwilling protégée, Captain Kel Cheris. She's dedicated and brilliant in a completely different way--she's a mathematician--and although she starts out loyal to the Evil Empire, working with Jedao makes her start to question her beliefs. Watching Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Pacific Rim makes me think she'd be perfect for the role.

In case you haven't figured it out, my space opera is full of cockamamie Asians! Because why not. That being said, I'd be just as happy with generalized people of color, not specifically people of Asian descent, in my hypothetical film.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2018

Rebecca Makkai's "The Great Believers"

Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the short story collection Music for Wartime, which appeared in 2015, and of the novels The Hundred-Year House, winner of the Chicago Writers Association award, and The Borrower, a Booklist Top Ten Debut which has been translated into eight languages. Her short fiction won a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and was chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2008-2011). The recipient of a 2014 NEA fellowship, Makkai is on the MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada college and has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Tin House, and Northwestern University.

Here Makkai dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Great Believers:
If I get to indulge in this lovely daydream, I’m going to start by changing the parameters: I think The Great Believers would work better as a limited TV series than as a movie. Ten episodes. Great thing about TV shows, you can have an intro montage each time. I’d want photos of actual groups of friends from Chicago at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Friends dancing, friends posing, people in wheelchairs at the Pride parade, people at candlelight vigils, people at protests, people sick, friends lounging on the Belmont Rocks. While my novel is fiction, it’s about an experience that many very real people lived through—or lived only partway through—and I want those people there.

I’ve made myself a promise—one I’m intentionally putting in writing here—that if I’m lucky enough to have film or TV interest in this book, I would sell the rights only with the stipulation that the story stay in Chicago. Everything out there already is about San Francisco or New York. The story of AIDS in Chicago is different, and important, and fascinating. I could hand them a big long list of consultants, people who’ll kick their butts on 1980s Boystown details as much as they kicked mine. And we’re filming in Chicago, not in frickin’ Vancouver.

Some casting:

For Yale Tishman, my central guy, the one whose life simultaneously falls apart and takes on greater meaning over the course of the book, I want a young, gay cross between Paul Reiser and David Eigenberg. But no New York accent, please.

For Fiona, the woman we know as a flighty but loyal friend in the 1980s, and as a mother full of regret in 2015 Paris, I want both Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn, but fifteen years ago.

For Charlie, Yale’s British partner, I want Russell Tovey. He looks nothing like Charlie as I imagined him, but he’s British, and he was fantastic in the late, great Looking—a perfect mix of charming and exasperating, which is just what we need.

Speaking of Looking, I want Jonathan Groff for Teddy, Yale’s cattiest friend. It’s more of an appearance thing, because I’ve mostly seen Jonathan Groff acting sweet, but I bet he could do bitchy if needed.

For Richard, Yale’s older friend who chronicles the epidemic through his photography, I want Victor Garber, a fantastic character actor. (If you don’t think you know who he is, Google him; you totally do.)

For Julian… Hmm, I just spent a very pleasant five minutes Googling images of young, gay, beautiful actors. End result: We’re going with a young Matt Bomer.

For Asher Glass, Yale’s great crush, I want a younger Mark Ruffalo. I’m cheating a bit here, because Ruffalo played the Larry Kramer character in the movie of The Normal Heart, and Asher is, in small part, a Larry Kramer character, but this is fantasy world so I don’t care.

For Nora, Fiona’s great aunt, who’d been an artist’s model in 1920s Paris, I want Ellen Burstyn. Or better yet, for the sake of theme: I want someone who was famous in her 20s, but who no one born after 1975 has ever heard of. One of those women who, you’re watching something with your mom, and your mom is like “Oh my goodness, that’s Doris Nightly!” and you’re like, “Who on earth is Doris Nightly?” Anyway, let's get Doris Nightly, who I just made up.

We’re left with a problem here, which is that for personal fandom reasons, I really want Neil Patrick Harris involved in this, and we have no part for him. So maybe he can just produce it. Call me, Neil.
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stephanie Butland's "The Lost For Words Bookshop"

Stephanie Butland lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she's not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet.

Here Butland dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Lost for Words Bookshop:
The first time I visited my UK publisher's offices there was quite a debate going about who would play the main characters in the movie of The Lost for Words Bookshop!

Archie was a toss-up between Simon Callow and Jim Broadbent. (I'd go with Jim Broadbent — no-one does avuncular quite like him.) Or maybe Kiefer Sutherland?

Nathan has, I think, the quality of a young Jonny Lee Miller, but a young James McAvoy was also in the frame from the editorial team. (I'd have cast McAvoy as Rob.) I'd also love to see the poet/rapper Akala in the role.

It all hangs on Loveday, though, doesn't it?! I think Carey Mulligan's ability to convey everything she's feeling in the flick of an eyelid or the tilt of a chin would serve Loveday well. Or maybe Florence Pugh, an up-and-coming British actor, could fill her shoes. Faye Marsay would be someone else who would do a great job. I'd ask Jane Campion to direct I love the way her work gets every detail right, and makes the viewer feel as though they are there.
Follow Stephanie Butland on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jeff Wheeler's "Storm Glass"

Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to write full-time and is now a Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Here he dreamcasts one major role in an adaptation of his new novel, Storm Glass (The Harbinger Series, Book 1):
I admit that I’m a bit of a nut for period dramas. I’ve seen nearly every Jane Austen and Charles Dickens adaptations, along with a healthy dose of Elizabeth Gaskill and Victor Hugo. When I decided to write the Harbinger series, I wanted to tap into that era but create something new in a fantasy world. I’ve always visualized my books inside my mind as I write then, so imagining it on the big screen is a big part of my process.

In the first book of the Harbinger series, Storm Glass, one of the main characters that both protagonists admire is Vice-Admiral Brant Fitzroy. This is a man, a father, who has made it through tragedy, a difficult relationship with his own father, and still held to his principles. Although he loves the “Mysteries” around the blossoming scientific age of his world and their sky ships and floating manors, he has fought in wars and dabbled in music. He’s a good leader, an understanding father, someone who has a reputation for integrity that must be upheld despite the penchant for corruption in his world. I pictured the actor-singer Dallin Vail Bayles as Fitzroy. Not only can he belt out tunes from Les Miz (he was Enjolras in a national production), but his CDs are in my car and I listen to them constantly. He’s a voice a compassion and understanding. The perfect Lord Fitzroy.
Visit Jeff Wheeler's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Queen's Poisoner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

John M. Coggeshall's "Liberia, South Carolina"

John M. Coggeshall is professor of anthropology at Clemson University.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community:
With her basket full of blackberries, the girl paused on the soapstone boulders, gazing on the corn fields in the valley below her, until her owner’s voice shattered her thoughts. “Katie,” the older white woman shouted, “bring those berries over here now! I need them for my party tonight, so I’ll whup you if you eat any!” Smiling slyly, the enslaved girl reluctantly complied, carefully wiping the juice from her mouth and whispering to herself the irreverent nickname her parents secretly called their owner. “Yes, ma’am,” she dutifully replied aloud, and wondered what it must feel like to obey only her own parents and to pick her own berries. “What must it feel like to be free?” Katie thought.

If my book, Liberia, South Carolina: an African-American Appalachian Community, were a movie, this scene might open the story. The book tells the oral history of “Liberia,” a freedom colony established by freed slaves in the Blue Ridge foothills of South Carolina in 1865; the story then chronicles the community’s struggles through decades of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement. The book follows five generations of an extended family (and their neighbors and friends) in that community, a story told primarily (but not exclusively) through the perspectives of strong female characters. Despite the fact that their fortunes wax and wane with varied historical situations, the extended family persists into the present. Fictionalizing this story would be both easy and dramatic. I see the movie as a mash-up of The Waltons meets Roots.

The first documented family generation begins with a woman named “Aunt” Katie Owens, born a slave sometime around 1840. She had several children, some rumored to have been by a white father, and her son Will married Rosa Glenn (daughter of a former enslaved woman). Rosa had multiple children, some said to have been fathered by white men, and her oldest son Chris Owens married Lula McJunkin (granddaughter of a freed slave). The couple had eight children, including youngest daughter Mable Owens Clarke, who currently lives on family land and who (with her niece) manages a monthly fish fry to preserve the community and Soapstone Baptist Church.

While white-authored local histories describe a peaceful and harmonious relationship between the secluded Liberia Community and their surrounding white neighbors, black oral histories tell a more complex tale. Family stories of life under slavery describe strategies of resistance, from reluctant compliance to murder of oppressors. During Reconstruction, blacks established churches (like Soapstone Baptist) and schools, males held public office, and communities (such as Liberia) were established as black refuges from white control. Later, under the shadow of Jim Crow, blacks preserved their private thoughts and actions within the safety of Liberia, while publicly interacting with dominant whites under a carefully crafted mask of deference. After the decades following World War II, black public deference slowly dissolved, met with white resistance (e.g., violently attacking Mable’s childhood home) and the burning (by arsonists) of Soapstone Baptist Church in 1967. Rebuilt with both black and white labor and capital, the church and community survive today, supported by monthly fish fries and widespread public support.

I see Ava DuVernay directing, Oprah Winfrey producing, and Aja Naomi King (Aunt Katie as teen), Kerry Washington (Aunt Katie as adult), Octavia Spencer (Rosa Glenn Owens), Viola Davis (Lula McJunkin Owens), and Ruth Negga (Mable Owens Clarke).
Learn more about Liberia, South Carolina at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Stephen Brumwell's "Turncoat"

Stephen Brumwell is a writer and independent historian specializing in British-American military affairs of the eighteenth century. He received the George Washington Book Prize 2013 for his book, George Washington: Gentleman Warrior. He lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Here Brumwell dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Turncoat: Benedict Arnold and the Crisis of American Liberty:
In September 1780, the young United States of America came perilously close to losing its bitter war for independence from Great Britain. A plan to betray the Hudson River fortress of West Point into British hands, and with it, the Patriot’s revered leader, General George Washington, was only foiled at the eleventh hour by a truly extraordinary chain of events.

Most shocking of all, the plot was masterminded by one of Washington’s most trusted commanders, Major-General Benedict Arnold. When his treason was revealed on the very brink of activation, Arnold escaped to the British in New York - but only by the skin of his teeth.

This dramatic denouement marked the culmination of secret negotiations going back seventeen months. Despite the best efforts of Washington’s spies, Arnold, who’d been crippled fighting for American liberty, was never suspected of treachery. After his scheming was finally uncovered, Arnold’s horrified contemporaries blamed his greed. Since then, historians have argued that hunger for cash was bolstered by other gripes, particularly a conviction that he’d been ill-used by an ungrateful Congress.

But as I discovered while researching Turncoat, the reality was, if possible, even more remarkable. Above all, Arnold was driven by an unswerving self-belief, and an obsessive concern for his personal reputation. That posed an intriguing question: why would a man who cared so much about honor commit an act of betrayal that would be deemed utterly dishonorable? Answering that puzzle became central to my book. Scouring archives in the US and UK, I unearthed evidence that led to a startling conclusion: Arnold acted from what he sincerely believed to be the very best of reasons – to save his misguided countrymen from a corrupt and ineffective government, and from a long, bloody and stalemated civil war. But of course, his plot backfired, Britain lost America, and Arnold remains reviled as his country’s worst traitor.

The extraordinary facts of Arnold’s life and treason, as reconstructed in Turncoat, need no exaggeration on screen. A tight narrative and a varied cast of characters already provide rich raw material for a compelling movie adaption. In his blog, the experienced and versatile actor Andrew Sellon, who narrated the audiobook of Turncoat, observes that it ‘reads like a top-drawer Hollywood screenplay; it’s a true cinematic nail-biter.’

With its dramatis personae of colorful historical figures, Turncoat offers many challenging roles. Besides Arnold and Washington, there’s the defector’s doomed collaborator, the gallant young British officer Major John André. Washington’s resourceful aide (and man of the moment) Colonel Alexander Hamilton is another key player, while Arnold’s young bride, the beautiful Peggy Shippen (who was heavily involved in the conspiracy), adds a strong female character.

But who should play the enigmatic Arnold, the brave, handsome, headstrong, charismatic but conflicted veteran, constantly simmering with resentment against his detractors? The role could provide an Oscar-worthy opportunity for many actors, but one comes to mind: fans of The Revenant, Peaky Blinders and Legend will appreciate Tom Hardy’s ability to deliver powerful and convincing performances. He’d make a perfect Arnold.

Arnold’s treason would be a gift to any director, but I’d love to see the Australian-born Bruce Beresford take this on. His acclaimed Boer War drama Breaker Morant (1980) was beautifully paced, with a wonderfully convincing sense of time and place. A decade later, the same unflinching authenticity characterised Black Robe, about the Jesuit missionaries among the warring First Nations of New France. More recently, his TV mini-series Bonnie and Clyde (2013), was no less atmospheric. I’ve no doubt that Mr Beresford would transform Turncoat into a memorable movie. And if he needs a historical consultant, I might just be available….
Visit Stephen Brumwell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 8, 2018

Jenna Blum's "The Lost Family"

Jenna Blum is the New York Times and number one international bestselling author of the novels Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. She was also voted one of the favorite contemporary women writers by Oprah.com readers.

Here Blum dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Lost Family:
When I’m writing a novel, I often play “the casting game,” choosing the actors who will play them in the movie version. Psychologists would call this “positive ideation”—what writer doesn’t want her book made into a movie?—and it’s a great way to get through writer’s block.

For my first novel, Those Who Save Us, which is about a German woman who becomes the mistress of an SS officer to save herself and her little daughter during the war, I was so adamant that the Nazi be played by Alec Baldwin that I developed a little bit of an Alec….obsession. Friends called me while I was writing to say, Hunt For Red October is on TV!” I had photos of Alec in my writing notebook. I even stalked, ahem, went to meet him when he had a signing at Borders in downtown Boston for a book he’d just put out about dads’ right during divorce. The result of this meeting got written up in the Boston Globe.

For my third novel, The Lost Family, I played a similar game. The hero, Peter, is a movie-star handsome fellow who’s emotionally locked down by trauma, so I thought Jon Hamm (with a blond dye job) would be a good fit. June, Peter’s supermodel wife, could be Charlize Theron. And their daughter, Elsbeth, whose starring role in the novel takes place in the 80s, when she’s 15….who would play Elsbeth?

This is the most fun part of the casting game: when readers join in. If you’ve read The Lost Family, who would be your pick for Elsbeth? Julian? (I want to put James Franco in a time machine and de-age him 20 years for Julian.) Please write in and let me know! And thanks for reading.
Visit Jenna Blum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Emily Devenport's "Medusa Uploaded"

Emily Devenport has written several novels under various pseudonyms including one which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick award. She currently studies Geology and works as a volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Here Devenport dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Medusa Uploaded:
I love movies. I'm not one of those writers who worries that a movie will ruin her story. I often think about actors and actresses (sometimes also politicians and other public figures) when I'm writing. And if you've read Medusa Uploaded you will have noticed that I also tend to think about film scores.

I had a few different actresses in mind when I imagined Oichi, but the gal who showed up the most in my head was Ruth Negga. You may recall her from Agents of Shield and Preacher. For Lady Sheba, I always pictured Vanessa Williams. I adore Nichelle Nichols, and I'd love to see her playing a juicy villainess, so I think she'd be fabulous as Lady Gloria. For Oichi's mother, I'd like to see Michele Yeoh.

For Gennady Mironenko, I always picture Neal McDonough from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. I love that guy. And he would be the only “white guy” in the entire cast. Though I have to admit, when I was writing Baylor and Ryan Charmayne, I had a couple of white politicians in mind. I don't want to say who they are, but feel free to fill in the rascals of your choice. In their defense, they started out as straight-forward jerks in the beginning, but they develop layers as the story unfolds. Anyone casting them should bear that in mind.

Mehcad Brooks (from Supergirl) is a good template for Nuruddin. Captain Nemo should be Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes). And now that Sam Weber has depicted Medusa so beautifully on the cover, I can't see her any other way. She would take a lot of CGI, but I hope that her face would belong to a real actress, someone to lend a spark of life to the AI – maybe Chiaki Kuriyama (who played Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill).

As long as this is a wish list, I may as well go for broke and say I'd rather have Medusa Uploaded be a TV series. That way, everyone gets more screen time, the plot has a chance to unfold slowly, and all sorts of side plots I never imagined can grow naturally.

Plus there's more time to include more music...
Visit Emily Devenport's blog.

The Page 69 Test: Medusa Uploaded.

Writers Read: Emily Devenport.

--Marshal Zeringue