Thursday, August 21, 2014

Carys Bray's "A Song for Issy Bradley"

Carys Bray completed an M.A. in creative writing at Edge Hill University in 2010. That same year she won the M.A. category of the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, and her stories have since been published in a variety of literary magazines. She was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut collection, Sweet Home. She lives in Southport, England, with her husband and four children.

Here Bray dreamcasts an adaptation of A Song for Issy Bradley, her first novel:
I didn’t have any actors in mind as I wrote A Song for Issy Bradley, so it was a somewhat tricky task to look back and pair the characters with actors. Having said that, it was also quite fun!

A clean shaven, bespectacled Jude Law would make a good Ian Bradley, but David Tennant would also be great – in fact, my children are ardent Doctor Who fans and would be immensely impressed if David Tennant appeared in the film of my novel, so I’ll plump for him. Suranne Jones would be perfect for Claire Bradley (she has appeared in a number of British television shows including Scott and Bailey, The Secret of Crickley Hall and the Crimson Field). I’d like to see Robbie Coltrane as the rather eccentric but very kind-hearted Brother Rimmer. He’s the right shape and size, and I think he’d do a great job of playing a character who is ever-so-slightly bonkers.

The other important characters are children, and I found it difficult to select child actors - when I checked online, they were all much older in reality than they were in my imagination. So I decided to cheat and pick actors who might need to borrow the Doctor’s TARDIS and undertake some time travel in order to appear in the movie. I’d have Holly Bodimeade as Zipporah Bradley, Bill Milner as Alma Bradley and a very young Asa Butterfield as Jacob Bradley.

While I’m in charge of the film I’d also like to stipulate that the beach scenes are filmed in Southport, where the novel is set. And I’d like David Tennant to pop round to my house for tea at least once during filming – that’s not too much to ask, right?
Visit Carys Bray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tom Leveen's "Random"

Tom Leveen is the author of Sick, Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

His latest novel is Random.

Here Leveen dreamcasts an adaptation of Random:
Man, she’s way too old now, but Jennifer Lawrence would be awesome as Tori. Tori’s tough because she is not a likeable protagonist, nor was she ever meant to be. So having someone who could visually portray her weaknesses and vulnerabilities with the kind of understated strength that Lawrence has would be great. For a closer age, I’d like to see Valerie Tian (Words and Pictures) give it a whirl. She was fun in that.

For Noah, Chandler Riggs (Walking Dead) might be a fun choice. It’d be great to get him before anyone else does once WD is over!

And for Andy, how about Josh Ssettuba, also from Words and Pictures. Or better yet, put Riggs and Ssettuba in a room together and make ‘em read for both parts, see who’d be better for which.

A cool cameo would be Kiefer Sutherland as Tori's dad. Just so I could meet him.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Leveen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Sick.

The Page 69 Test: Sick.

Writers Read: Tom Leveen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Edgar Cantero's "The Supernatural Enhancements"

Edgar Cantero is a writer and cartoonist from Barcelona working in Catalan, Spanish and English.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel The Supernatural Enhancements:
First off, if my book were made into a movie, I’d want to be part of it. Even if I’m not allowed to take decisions.

I actually talked to producers already regarding The Supernatural Enhancements. When asked who would I cast to play the most charismatic role in the story—mute, punk-haired, Catholic-raised Niamh—, my answer was, “no one I know.” It still is. I’m not up to date on teen actresses, but Niamh seems too young to be played by anyone who has built up much of a name. Her partner and chronicler A. is slightly older, but I think anyone who reads the book will agree that Niamh is the real heroine, and I wouldn’t like a male star to steal the spotlight from her. So I’d go for relatively unknown actors in the lead roles.

One person I’d love to recruit for a supporting role: Carel Struycken as Strückner. Struycken is a Dutch-born character actor who played Lurch in the Addams Family films and was also Jack Nicholson’s servant in The Witches of Eastwick. I remember I checked his entry on IMDb once years ago, and there was a single thread in his discussion board, with the subject line “He’s my uncle,” allegedly started by Struycken’s proud nephew, explaining how his uncle was the nicest guy ever, although he was always unfairly cast as a freak because of his height. And I thought then it would be fun to create a redeeming character for Struycken—a seven-feet butler working in an eerie mansion who happened to be the kindest, most soft-spoken man in the world. I even named him after the actor, and I had Struycken’s picture up on my plot board while I wrote.

As for Aunt Liza, that’s where I let my ambition loose. Gemma Arterton is the least crazy of my options.
Visit Edgar Cantero's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stephan Eirik Clark's "Sweetness #9"

Stephan Eirik Clark was born in West Germany and raised between England and the United States. He is the author of the short story collection Vladimir's Mustache. A former Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, he teaches English at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Here Clark dreamcasts an adaptation of his newly released debut novel, Sweetness #9:
The character of David Leveraux came to me fully-formed. Even before I knew that he would fail to blow the whistle on a potentially dangerous new artificial sweetener, I could hear his washed-out English accent and see his neatly parted hair. Even before I knew he'd have a family that would inherit the same side-effects he first observed while testing that artificial sweetener on rats and monkeys, I could see him flashing a polite smile and feel his eagerness to please.

What I didn't ever picture when imagining David was a movie star, not in the beginning at least. David was always just David, and thankfully so. If I had started out picturing an actor in his place, that actor's personality and style of speech would have taken control. That actor would have become my character.

Instead, the reverse happened. I only started to cast Sweetness #9 in my mind when the novel was all but finished. By then, David was safely on the page, so I could entertain thoughts about who might best play him.

David works as a flavor chemist and lives in New Jersey, but he grew up in England and still has an accent that suggests as much. His personality is also more English than American, or at least what we used to think of as English. You know, a stiff upper lip, his emotions in check, his greatest efforts at control and restraint.

I'd trust an American like Steve Carell with the part, but I'd prefer to see a Brit take it on: Michael Sheen would be good, but because the story is a comic one, I think Steve Coogan -- with a proper haircut -- might be best.
Visit Stephan Eirik Clark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Martha Woodroof's "Small Blessings"

Martha Woodroof was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR,, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley.

Here she passes on the opportunity to dreamcast an adaptation of Small Blessings:
I must say no, no, no! to visualizing actors as the characters in Small Blessings. They are much to specifically drawn inside my head for me to see them inhabited by anyone else. I blame my mother for this. She read aloud to me long past the age I was able to read to myself, and got me into the habit of such precise imagining that I was ruined for life as far as movie adaptations of books go.

This does not mean, naturally, that I wouldn't love to see Small Blessings made into a movie. Just don't ask me to help cast it, okay?
Visit Martha Woodroof's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jon Keller's "Of Sea and Cloud"

Jon Keller is the author of the novel Of Sea and Cloud. He holds an MFA from Boise State University. After graduate school, he moved to a remote stretch of the Maine coast and spent several years working aboard a lobster boat and writing for a commercial fishing newspaper. Now a clam digger, he divides his time between Maine and Montana.

Here Keller dreamcasts an Of Sea and Cloud adaptation:
I’m not much of a movie watcher—though I love them, I don’t live in a place conducive to watching many. I now live aboard a boat, and before that in an isolated cabin, so my power supply is limited, as is my internet service.

That said, the actor that pops into my head concerning Of Sea and Cloud is Daniel Day-Lewis as Osmond Randolph. I see Osmond as a huge, epic sort—ideally, of a stature akin with “The Butcher” in Gangs of New York. They look a bit the same, too, now that I think about it…
Visit Jon Keller's website.

Writers Read: Jon Keller.

The Page 69 Test: Of Sea and Cloud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Toby Ball's "Invisible Streets"

Toby Ball was born in Washington, DC, grew up in Syracuse, NY, and attended Trinity College (CT). He has had stints in journalism (Congressional Quarterly), education (one memorable year as a high school social studies teacher), and nonprofits (the Carbon Coalition among others). He is now the Business Manager at the Crimes against Children Research Center and the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. He lives in Durham, NH, with his wife and two children.

Ball's novels include The Vaults, Scorch City, and the newly released Invisible Streets.

Here Ball dreamcasts an adaptation of Invisible Streets:
While I visualize scenes before writing them, I’ve never mentally put specific actors in the place of characters. I have a pretty strong sense of what I think the characters look like and what their demeanor is, and these two factors drove my thinking when casting these parts. So, without further ado:

Phil Dorman – Channing Tatum. This was the hardest one to cast. You need a younger guy, handsome, physically strong, who also conveys intelligence. Nobody seemed perfect, but Tatum seems close.

Torsten Grip – Mark Wahlberg. He’s not a great physical match, but he definitely can project that middle-age tough guy aura mixed with a hint of regret.

Frank Frings – Stanley Tucci. Sixty-ish, smart, charming, and attractive without looking like a model. He also has the right amount of toughness for when the chips are down.

Nathan Canada – Paul Giamatti. I think he could have a lot of fun with this role – similar in a way to what Ben Kingsley did in Sexy Beast. You can intimidate through force of personality rather than physical presence.

Speaking of whom…Panos Dimitropolous – Ben Kingsley. A once-big man, now shrunken and physically weak, but still mentally strong.

Will Ebanks – Johnny Depp. Again, not a great physical match, but he could portray the combination of languor, self-importance, and suppressed rage.

Joss Eastgate – Elizabeth Olson. I really like her as an actress and think she would be great as a child of wealth who is more enthusiastic about than committed to her passing interests.

Stanley Kubrick would have to direct.
Visit Toby Ball's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vaults.

Writers Read: Toby Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Holly Menino's "A Distance to Death"

Holly Menino grew up in a small Ohio college town, where her passionate interest in animals showed itself by age three, about ten years before she heard the call to be a writer. A graduate of Smith College, she has worked in both scholarly and popular publishing and is the author of Murder, She Rode.

Here Menino dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, A Distance to Death:
A movie? Based on my book? How fun is that?

But really a movie is not such a far-fetched idea. A Distance to Death is about a horse race over pretty scary terrain. A hundred miles of it—when, remember, the horse playing Seabiscuit, was supposed to run only a mile and three-sixteenths. So, plenty of time and room for action and two murders.

The plot's a done deal. The images come naturally. But casting the film is going to be trickier. The characters in my mysteries come to me as infusions from people I know, all blended together. Sometimes it takes four or five friends to create a character, and none of my friends are movie stars or any other kind of public figure. They're real. I hope that's what gives life to my characters, but I know it's also what makes it difficult for me to imagine a celebrity "doing" one of my characters. That mental block aside, I suppose any actor worth his or her salt should be able to play Tink or Charlie or any of the characters who are essential to the plot. I also suppose that physical resemblance should be a consideration.

So let's start with Tink, who's in the race only to prove she can finish it, that is, until the race gets really dirty. I would find Helen Mirren, in her blonde no-makeup phase, pretty believable. She's got the height, the legs, the right number of years. And she's played women with plenty of grit.

Now, what about Charlie, her third husband after four marriages—you'll need to read Distance to Death for an explanation—an astute businessman and card sharp who is kidnapped because of this talent. The actor for Charlie's role should be able to make a quiet, unprepossessing person come alive with subtleties, make it clear that still waters run deep. That requirement calls for an actor like Paul Giamatti. Again, the right build and age, and Giamatti can definitely carry off what Tink thinks of as Charlie's most attractive asset, his gaze.

Tink's close friend Frankie Golden, who ends up a close second to a man on a mule, will be played by Christina Hendricks, whose day job is playing Joan Holloway on Mad Men. She'll need a Minimizer, though, and not just for the bra. For professional reserve. Frankie will blow that all to hell. With similar downsizing advice to Christopher Walken, I nominate him for the role of the reluctantly wealthy scientist James Grant-Worthington.

The Isabel Rakow role? For her propriety and obsession with Darwin and success I need a combination of Shirley Temple and Donna Tartt. Please forward your recommendations.

My imagination is beginning to grind down. So for the next actor I'll turn to my list of real friends. Here I find the perfect actor to play Farrell, the ear-to-the-ground proprietor of the guest ranch. It's the guy who shoes my horse, Kurt Fisk. He is the right amount of gregarious, has the right amount of smarts mixed with a particular bumbling form of tact, and, like Farrell, is possessed by a dog.

But all this still leaves me with a casting problem. Gary Stevens, the most beautiful rider I've ever seen. He's the jockey-actor who portrayed George Wolff in Seabiscuit and would have had a major role in Luck if the series hadn't crashed before it opened. But I can't seem to find a spot for him. Maybe I need to take Tink out to the track in the next one....
Visit Holly Menino's website.

Writers Read: Holly Menino.

The Page 69 Test: A Distance to Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kelli Stanley's "City of Ghosts"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Here Stanley dreamcasts an adaptation of the latest novel in the series, City of Ghosts:
City of Ghosts is really the third part of what is, in effect, a trilogy. By the end of this novel, Miranda Corbie has changed from who she was when we met her in City of Dragons.

Because I write a series—and because a series gives an author the best chance possible to show the age, life, and growth that a person undergoes in the real world (as opposed to the unreal world of “reality” television)—as much as I’d love to see Miranda on the big screen, I think a television series would be an even more suitable venue for her.

Just think—we’re actually in the middle of a television Renaissance, propelled by cable, HBO, Showtime, and those upstart streamer-dreamers at Netflix. Now, If we could only ban vacuous, pampered socialites, pawn shop owners and stage mothers with precocious, singing toddlers …

So let’s talk TV.

My network of choice? I’d lean toward HBO. They’ve got decades of experience at producing drama that pushes the boundaries … just as Miranda pushes the boundaries of literary conventions.

The show runner of my dreams would be Terence Winter, the genius behind Boardwalk Empire (which also features Incubator Babies, at least in the opening credits) and the screenwriter of Wolf of Wall Street. Nic Pizzolatto would also be fantastic, of course—he created True Detective and his literary and academic chops would fit nicely into what I’ve tried to do with Miranda Corbie. I’d like to team them both up with Veena Sud (The Killing), who would provide a needed feminine perspective for the series.

Now, for the actors. Miranda’s tough exterior hides enormous pain, vulnerability and existential self-doubt. She suffers from PTSD; she is nearing 34 and still doesn’t know exactly who she is; she is self-destructive. Her outrage against social injustice and political hypocrisy borders on the obsessive—it is the focus of anger both generalized and personal, and her need to confront and battle it is ultimately far stronger than her cynicism. She is highly intelligent, courageous, audacious, uncompromising, and fiercely honest. Sadly, these descriptors are more commonly used and accepted for male protagonists, a stereotype that Miranda, in character and as a character, tries to explode.

Her use of her own sexuality—the only tool conventional society allows her—her locked-in yearnings to open up, to trust, to reveal her vulnerability—her fight to be both a woman and a human being and to be appreciated for who she is rather than what she is—all of these factors make her an exceedingly complex female protagonist, called by Library Journal “one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

So who could play Miranda? An exceptionally skilled actress with great intelligence, strength, beauty and vulnerability. Someone adept at playing a role within a role within a role. My choice … Michelle Williams.

Rick, of course, also grows and changes, especially in City of Ghosts. For Rick, I could see James McAvoy, Daniel Gillies or Cam Gigandet.

1940 San Francisco is a good CGI job and a few exteriors away. Chinatown could still be used as a filming location in many places.

I love movies, don’t get me wrong, but my dreams for Miranda are currently set on television. City of Screens, anyone?
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ken Kuhlken's "The Good Know Nothing"

Ken Kuhlken’s stories have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship. His novels have been chosen as an Ernest Hemingway Best First Fiction Book, a Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel, and a Shamus Awards Best Novel. The novels are Midheaven and the Tom Hickey California Crime series.

Here Kuhlken dreamcasts an adaptation of the new Tom Hickey novel, The Good Know Nothing:
I once tried to get The Loud Adios to Steve Martin, thinking a comic actor in a dramatic role might inspire some interesting complexity. Otherwise, after seven Tom Hickey novels, I haven't assigned the role of Tom to any actor, in part because he keeps aging. In The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, he's 22. In The Vagabond Virgins, he's 74.

But for Tom's sister Florence, who I sometimes consider the main character of The Good Know Nothing, I would cast a clone of Marion Davies, the actress who was also William Randolph Hearst's long-time beloved mistress. Or a clone Mary Pickford might work, since Tom's mother both works for and is a ringer for Pickford, and Florence, who resembles her mother, could be a double for Marion Davies.

Now that I'm casting, I wonder if Scarlett Johansson might be the answer. She could play all four of those women, two of whom are fairly angelic, another somewhat snooty and conniving, and the fourth deeply wicked.

And Harry Longabaugh, aka Hiram Beebe and the Sundance Kid, of course needs to be played by Robert Redford, who is about the right age.
Visit Ken Kuhlken's website.

Writers Read: Ken Kuhlken.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Know Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue