Thursday, April 2, 2020

Ed Ruggero's "Blame the Dead"

Ed Ruggero is a West Point graduate and former Army officer who has studied, practiced, and taught leadership for more than twenty-five years. His client list includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, CEO Conference Europe, the CIA, the Young Presidents Organization, Forbes, among many others. He has appeared on CNN, The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and CNBC and has spoken to audiences around the world on leadership, leader development and ethics. He lives in Philadelphia.

Here Ruggero dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Blame the Dead:
Lieutenant Eddie Harkins, the protagonist of Blame the Dead, is a former Philadelphia beat cop investigating the murder of a US Army surgeon in the wake of the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.

I’d like to see Eddie Harkins played by Lucas Hedges, an Academy Award nominee for Manchester by the Sea. Hedges is about the right age and looks like the kind of All-American kid who—like Eddie Harkins—stepped up to become a citizen soldier when his country needed him. In his role as a closeted gay teen in Ladybird, Hedges’ shows the kind of emotional and moral confusion Harkins exhibits as he investigates the murder of a particularly loathsome victim while dealing with his own personal demons. And because Harkins, a former patrolman, has never been a detective, he is in over his head from the start. Hedges can portray that confusion while still getting across the strong underlying sense of justice that drives Eddie.

Lieutenant Kathleen Donnelly is a US Army nurse who, along with her comrades, contends with heat, dirt, chaos and the constant threat of imminent, violent death as she cares for her patients in a field hospital in war-torn Sicily. Donnelly and Harkins grew up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood.

Saoirse Ronan is Kathleen Donnelly and has been since I conceived of this character. I’m a huge fan of the Irish actress (Eddie Harkins has a sister named Saoirse and another character’s last name is Ronan). The fictional Kathleen displays the kind of courage, both moral and physical, that Ronan brings to the role of Jo March in Little Women. Here’s Eddie Harkins’ take on Kathleen:
He thought about Kathleen Donnelly, her tired eyes and blood-splattered uniform, her dazzling competence and the way her mouth tasted.
If any actress can get all that into one scene, one line, one look, it’s Ronan. There is a short but powerful scene in Brooklyn in which Ronan’s character, Ellis, stands up to a bully in her Irish hometown. Up to this point, and even at the beginning of the scene, Ellis has been in this woman’s grip; she breaks that spell by summoning up just the kind of courage that Kathleen Donnelly displays when she cares for wounded GIs a few miles behind the front lines.

Private Dominic Colianno is Eddie Harkins’ driver and a somewhat reluctant sidekick in the investigation. Colianno is a combat veteran who has seen and done awful things.

Timothée Chalamet is a great choice for the deeply troubled Colianno. In Beautiful Boy, in which he plays a teenage addict and for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe, Chalamet shows a dark side that he struggles mightily to control. He leaves the viewer wondering if, like Dominic Colianno, he just might be a little crazy. Just as important for the role of this soldier, Chalamet displays a good—though understated--comic sensibility in his role as Laurie in Little Women. Finally, Chalamet looks like he could be the son of Sicilian immigrants to the US and is certainly up to the challenge of showing the soldier’s conflicted attitude about his role as an invader in his family’s native country.
Visit Ed Ruggero's website.

Writers Read: Ed Ruggero.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Katy Simpson Smith's "The Everlasting"

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and the novels The Story of Land and Sea and Free Men. Her writing has also appeared in The Oxford American, Granta, Literary Hub, Garden & Gun, Catapult, and Lenny. She lives in New Orleans, and currently serves as the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Literature at Millsaps College.

Here Smith dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Everlasting.
Ah, the fantasy of seeing words come to life! I don't have strong images of my characters when I write, but let's assume that a director comes calling (one who really gets women; Céline Sciamma, otherwise divine, might be a bit too stark, and Sofia Coppola might be too ethereal, so maybe Greta Gerwig for her sense of humor):

Tom, a biologist, mild-mannered and indecisive and overly vulnerable to romance: Ben Whishaw, Domhnall Gleeson, Tom Hiddleston; is there something about meek nerdiness that only British actors can pull off? All the Americans I know are too hunky.

Giulia, a young noblewoman with Moorish ancestry and a chip on her shoulder, full of dry wit: Gugu Mbatha-Raw has the perfect attitude, along with the chops to do historical pieces.

Felix, an elderly monk, gay, with a Zen-like acceptance of mortality: Tom Hanks might be a bit too young and vigorous, but his sweetness is right; the Pope-Francis Jonathan Pryce might be perfect.

Prisca, age 12, fierce and gangly and uncompromising: if only Atonement-era Saoirse Ronan could be caught in amber!
Visit Katy Simpson Smith's website.

Writers Read: Katy Simpson Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Taylor Brown's "Pride of Eden"

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include the story collection In the Season of Blood and Gold and the novels Fallen Land and The River of Kings. All three books were finalists for the Southern Book Prize.

There are two main characters in Brown's new novel, Pride of Eden:
Retired racehorse jockey and Vietnam veteran Anse Caulfield rescues exotic big cats, elephants, and other creatures for Little Eden, a wildlife sanctuary near the abandoned ruins of a failed development on the Georgia coast. But when Anse’s prized lion escapes, he becomes obsessed with replacing her—even if the means of rescue aren’t exactly legal.

Anse is joined by Malaya, a former soldier who hunted rhino and elephant poachers in Africa; Lope, whose training in falconry taught him to pilot surveillance drones; and Tyler, a veterinarian who has found a place in Anse’s obsessive world.
Here Brown deamcasts the leads for an adaptation of Pride of Eden:
For Malaya, the army vet and former anti-poaching ranger who comes to work at Little Eden, the book's exotic animal sanctuary, actors like Michelle Rodriguez, Toni Trucks, and Noomi Rapace come to mind, bringing the requisite attitude, intensity, and all-around "badass-ness" to their roles. However, Malaya is of Filipino descent, so an actor like Vanessa Lachey would be awesome, too!

For Anse Caulfield, the eccentric former racehorse jockey and soldier of fortune who owns Little Eden, I can think of no one better than my man Tommy Lee Jones. He has the endearing gruffness, the square jawline, and the laconic demeanor of the book's character. I also think Robert Duvall would do a great job.
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The River of Kings.

Writers Read: Taylor Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Daisy Pearce's "The Silence"

Daisy Pearce was born in Cornwall and grew up on a smallholding surrounded by hippies. She read Stephen King’s Cujo and The Hamlyn Book of Horror far too young and has been fascinated with the macabre ever since.

The set-up for Pearce's new novel, The Silence:
Stella Wiseman was a child TV star, but there’s nothing glamorous about her life now. Alone in her thirties, she’s lost her parents and her friends and she’s stuck in a dead-end job. But just as she hits rock bottom she meets Marco, a charismatic older man who offers to get her back on her feet. He seems too good to be true.

Is he?
Here the author sets the atmosphere of one possible adaptation of the book:
When I visualise the opening credits of The Silence I see a dark screen, a lightbulb and a moth, butting into it over and over again. Sometimes we’re irresistibly drawn to things that hurt us, unable to pull ourselves away even when it burns. That’s how Stella begins her story in The Silence, a moth drawn toward a bright, painful light. As the opening credits roll and the camera pulls back the song ‘Bad Ritual’ by Timber Timbre plays. That’s it. That’s the scene.
Follow Daisy Pearce on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Silence.

Writers Read: Daisy Pearce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Phillip Margolin's "A Reasonable Doubt"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes.

In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases.

Here Margolin dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new novel, A Reasonable Doubt, the third book in his series featuring Robin Lockwood, ex-MMA fighter and Yale law school graduate:
I don't think about who would play a character in one of my books if it was made into a movie. Two of my books have made it to the screen and actors I would not have cast in the lead roles did terrific jobs, so I have decided that I do not have what it takes to cast a movie.

That being said, I think Chloë Grace Moretz would be perfect as Robin Lockwood. She appeared in Kick Ass and one of my favorite films, 500 Days of Summer. She's about the right age and has the type of looks Robin has.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: A Reasonable Doubt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2020

Stephanie Wrobel's "Darling Rose Gold"

Stephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last three years with her husband and Cockapoo, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies.

Here Wrobel dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Darling Rose Gold:
The two main characters in Darling Rose Gold are Patty Watts, an overbearing mother with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and Rose Gold Watts, a young woman who has grown up isolated from the rest of the world because of her mother.

For Patty, I’d choose Kathy Bates to play her. Bates has the same physical presence and brassiness. She moves effortlessly between spunky and vicious, just like Patty does.

For Rose Gold, I’d choose Julia Garner of recent Ozark fame. Garner is one of those rare actors who can play the innocent as well as she plays the mischief maker. She would need to be able to do both in order to portray the character changes Rose Gold goes through.
Visit Stephanie Wrobel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Darling Rose Gold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Richard Fifield's "The Small Crimes Of Tiffany Templeton"

Richard Fifield earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York. For the past twenty years he has worked as a social worker for adults with intellectual disabilities, while volunteering as a creative writing teacher in Missoula, Montana. His first novel, The Flood Girls, was published in 2016.

Here Fifield dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton:
The Small Crimes Of Tiffany Templeton is a very different take on a Young Adult novel, and a response to the lack of rural, red state representation amongst the genre. I wanted to write a book that gave a small town the dignity and idiosyncratic characters that I have witnessed in real life. Small towns are rich in drama, and in my book, the main character is a teenage girl who returns from reform school and attempts to find redemption. My favorite book of all time is Harriet The Spy, and my book is my homage, but updated to explore the real interior life of a fifteen year old girl. Tiffany has a hard-boiled exterior, but the soul of an artist. The book is a reminder to all young women that shame and past actions do not have to define the rest of your life—Tiffany finds her redemption in the most unexpected places.

If they make my book into a film, here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles:

Tiffany Templeton—Lili Reinhart (Riverdale)
Vy Templeton—Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Ronnie Templeton, Jr—Taron Egerton (Rocketman)
Bitsy—Nick Robinson (Love, Simon)
David—Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things)
Ronnie Templeton, Sr—Cameron Britton (Mindhunter)
Kelly Plotz—Zoe Kravitz (Big Little Lies)
Waterbed Fred—David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Lou Ann—Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)
Mr. Francine—Kyle Maclachlan (Blue Velvet)
Mrs. Bitzche—Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills, 90210)
Coach Bitzche—Justin Theroux (The Leftovers)
Lorraine—Bryce Dallas Howard (Black Mirror)
Janelle—Anna Faris (The House Bunny)
Kaitlynn—Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale)
Mrs. Gabrian—Catherine O’Hara (Waiting For Guffman)
Mrs. Whipple—Goldie Hawn (Private Benjamin)
Mrs. McQuilkin—Kathy Bates (Misery)
Mrs. Hickey—Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent)
Mrs. Vanek—Margo Martindale (The Americans)
Mrs. Smetanka—Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Mrs. Bardsley—Joan Collins (Dynasty)
Mrs. Lambert—Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under)

With a YA book, it’s very hard to place age-appropriate actors in teenage roles, as productions usually take years to get off the ground. But if the movie were to be shot right now, this is my dream cast. Each one of my choices is my visualization of the character in glamorous, human form—in real life, this would be a small independent production with unknown actors, if they wanted to keep the small town universe feeling. You don’t see such gorgeous creatures in rural Montana. A few, yes. But this deck is stacked with beautiful people. Tiffany is the main character, and while I was writing the book, I fell in love with Riverdale, a combination of Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills, 90210, and my absolute favorite performances come from Lili Reinhart and Madelaine Petsch, who portray Betty Cooper and Cheryl Blossom. Either actress could play Tiffany—both give some of the most nuanced and deep performances as teenage girls that I have ever witnessed. They do anguish and comedy equally well, but most importantly, their performances are effortless. The other actors I cast are favorites from movies and television, and have left indelible impressions on me. For the eight older women, I wanted to cast my beloved icons! The Soiled Doves Of Gabardine deserve nothing but the best.

Normally, I would want a woman to direct, but this book is so particular, and so off-kilter, that I would choose Yorgos Lanthimos. The Favourite and The Lobster are two of my favorite movies of all time--he is a master in creating an unnerving, finely detailed universe. And his approach to comedy is a close approximation to what I attempt to do—situational, but heightened by camp and indelible characters.
Visit Richard Fifield's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Richard Fifield & Frank and Oscar.

The Page 69 Test: The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2020

David Hofmeyr's "The Between"

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2013 he graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. The Between is Hofmeyr's second novel. His first book, Stone Rider, was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Branford Boase award for first-time novelists. He divides his time between writing and working as a strategist for Ogilvy & Mather.

Here Hofmeyr dreamcasts an adaptation of The Between:
I like the look of someone like Mackenzie Foy for Ana. She has a quiet intensity. But I can’t say for sure who I’d pick for the main roles. Casting a YA novel is difficult because, in most cases, you’re dealing with unknowns, teens with just a few films to their name. All I can say is the actor who plays Ana must be able to convey her character arc. From fear to courage. And show vulnerability, but also strength.

Malik’s character might be a younger version of Timothée Chalamet, who I think is a fine actor. Hard to pin down. Someone confident in his own skin. A rebel archetype, but with a modern edge. Never cliché. A cipher. Someone with depth.
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

My Book, the Movie: Stone Rider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Susann Cokal's "Mermaid Moon"

Susann Cokal is a moody historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and sometime professor of creative writing and modern literature. She lives in a creepy old farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia, with seven cats, a big dog, a spouse, and some peacocks that supposedly belong to a neighbor.

Cokal's first young adult novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received several national awards, including a silver medal from the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award series. Her books for adults, Mirabilis and Breath and Bones, received some nice notice too.

Here Cokal dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Mermaid Moon:
Believe it or not, I never think about this when I’m writing. Maybe because I see all the characters as some aspect of myself, and so the truest production would be a Tyler Perry - type picture in which I’m basically everyone, and present onscreen in a directorial capacity too. Which I suppose would make me Thyrla or Sjældent or both, the two mature witches who live to manipulate people, magically and otherwise.

However, there are actors far more cinegenic than I am, so here goes:

Sanna is the heroine, and she’s strong and thick-waisted and blond, plus a good singer. And mermaids are taller than land-dwellers. But looks are only a small part of playing a role, so if I’m allowed to cast somewhat against physical type, I’d vote for Odeya Rush. She played the sweet and funny best friend in Dumplin’ and the shallow frenemy in Lady Bird, and I think it’s time she got a starring vehicle. As far as looks go, Dove Cameron comes closest; she is petite but could be made to look bigger with camera angles. She has a nice ethereality and a bit of sly wit to her, perhaps more than Sanna has. If she has limited availability, I’d ask her to play Frill, the ditziest but biggest-hearted of the mermaids.

Baroness Thyrla is the villain, pint-sized but vicious, with a penchant for sucking the life out of available bodies, including her own babies. Cate Blanchett has been queen of my heart for twenty years, and I’d love to see her in the ossuary chamber, speaking to the chattering skulls of her victims. Failing that, Blake Lively as we saw her in A Simple Favor—so witty, so casually cruel. She’d be the sort of James Bond of Thyrla.

Sjældent, the toothless,crafty, nearly dead sea-witch with the crabs and worms living among her scales and under her breasts: This is obviously the role over which Hollywood is going to be fighting. Judi Dench has proven she’s game for just about anything, so why not this? And if Cate Blanchett passes on Thyrla and Helen Mirren doesn’t snap that one up, I’d like to see if Dame Helen is ready at last to play ugly.

Young Baron Peder, the wastrel and wooer, could be played by almost any young man with a chin. Let’s give that to some up-and-comer who needs a job.

Tomas, the slightly neurotic nice boy tormented by his forbidden love for Sanna, isn’t supposed to be handsome but is, of course. I’d see him as Bex Taylor-Klaus, or maybe a young Rico Rodriguez from Modern Family or Fred Savage from The Wonder Years, though all of them would have to de-cute it a bit.

I’d cast Kett, the well-meaning maid, with Beanie Feldman … Addra, the beautiful meangirl mermaid, with Yara Shahidi in a red wig (or the obvious, Bella Thorne) … a slightly younger Stellan Skarsgård as Bjarl, Sanna’s merman father … and for Pippa the Strong, the no-nonsense mermaid about Sanna’s age, I’m thinking it’s time for someone like Olympian Katie Ledecky to climb out of the pool and into the ocean, or maybe Simone Biles should test her range off the balance beam (a strong girl doesn’t have to be tall).

I realize that with some of these choices I’m leaning toward comedic actors. I see humor in the story—and creepy things are always creepier with a bit of comic edge too.

For director, I would beg Greta Gerwig please, please, please to take an interest. And to let me help with the screenplay.
Visit Susann Cokal's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mermaid Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Bridget Tyler's "The Survivor"

Bridget Tyler grew up in Berkeley, California. She went on to attend NYU, living in New York and London before completing her degree and moving to Los Angeles to work in the film and television industry as an executive and writer. She now lives in Oregon with her husband, who is a robotics professor at Oregon State University, and her daughter.

Here Tyler dreamcasts the leads for an adaption of her new novel, The Survivor, a sequel to The Pioneer:
I used to do this all the time while I was writing, in an effort to really see my characters. But when you asked this question I realized I never did for the Pioneers universe - I could always see Joanna in my head, so trying to picture an actress playing the role is actually really hard. I'd want her to be played by a real teenager though, not a 20 something whose already had the chance to be famous, so I'm going to say in a dream cast Jo would be a newly "discovered" talent.

Alice on the other hand, is a fabulous role for one of the amazing grown-up-lady movie stars out there right now. Jennifer Lopez, Gina Torres, and Julia Roberts all jump to mind as people who could play bad ass commanders who are also working mamas just trying to do their jobs and hold their families together. Jodie Whittaker is a little young, but I adore her and she has the right energy for this role. It would be so fun to see the Watson family on screen!
Visit Bridget Tyler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue