Monday, February 20, 2017

Lara Elena Donnelly's "Amberlough"

Lara Elena Donnelly is a graduate of the Alpha and Clarion writing workshops. Her fiction won the Dell Magazine Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy and she has been published in Icarus, Strange Horizons, Grim Corps, and Mythic Delirium. Donnelly has worked as professional fire performer, belly dancer, and is knowledgeable in aerial acrobatics and burlesque.

Here Donnelly dreamcasts an adaptation of Amberlough, her debut novel:
Amberlough: The Movie. Or, as has been suggested by several people, the BBC miniseries. (Someone even said it should be made into a Broadway musical!) At any rate: the media adaptation!

In a perfect world, I’d pop in my time machine, grab RuPaul circa 2005 for Aristide, then power back to the 50s and snatch Damn Yankees-era Gwen Verdon to play Cordelia. The role of Cyril DePaul would be played by my high school boyfriend’s older brother, a stage actor you’ve probably never heard of.

But as you may have noticed, we don’t live in a perfect world, and time travel isn’t really an option. So in a slightly-less-than-perfect-but-certainly-better-than-the-reality world, in which Amberlough is made into a movie, I’ve got some more viable options.

Once upon a time, I thought Baz Luhrmann was the natural choice to direct Amberlough, but I’m not sure he’d do justice to the heavier parts of the story. I recently finished watching The Night Manager, and I think Susanne Bier would slay an adaptation of Amberlough. She’s got high-tension romance, cutthroat politics, and luscious wealth porn down pat.

Ryan Gosling could pull off Cyril’s charm and his brutality. Plus, he’s almost a ringer for said high school boyfriend’s older brother. Shave his scruff, pop him into white tie, and tell him to turn on his signature smirk.

Oona Chaplin has the right face for Cordelia—long, downturned nose, freckles, toothy smile. Plus she has incredible acting range, which is a necessity when you’ve got a character whose arc is as long and wide as Cordelia’s. She can play raging, snarky, sexy, and emotionally devastated with equal facility.

The problem of Aristide seemed insurmountable, initially. I was leaning strongly toward Taye Diggs. He’s sultry, smart, and a triple threat. That smile and that musical theatre cred would serve him well onstage at the Bumble Bee Cabaret.

Then I finally watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and remembered how deliciously scathing Yanic Truesdale is as Michel. Sorry Taye, but Yanic might have won this round.
Visit Lara Elena Donnelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2017

Martine Murray's "Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars"

Martine Murray studied law at Melbourne University, then pursued painting and joined a circus before starting a dance company called Bird on a Wire. After an injury, she began writing and illustrating books for children and young adults. Her novels, including The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, have won several awards in Australia. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages. She lives in Castlemaine, Australia, with her daughter and dog.

Here Murray dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars:
I am terrible at getting round to watching movies, though I really love them. So I don’t know many contemporary young actors, I haven’t even seen Harry Potter, which I should perhaps not admit. So if someone were to play Molly or Pim….

Maybe Pim would be like Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Molly could be the actor who played the youngest daughter in Captain Fantastic. I say that partly because it is the most recent film I saw and I can’t remember any other films with young girls. Though Molly Ringwald in some ways embodied the outsider sort of energy of the Molly in my book too or maybe I just morphed them together then because of the name, but I think that works.
Visit Martine Murray's website.

The Page 69 Test: Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.

Writers Read: Martine Murray.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sheryl Scarborough's "To Catch a Killer"

Sheryl Scarborough is an award-winning writer for children’s television. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Washington state, and has always had an obsession with forensics. When she was twelve, her home was the target of a Peeping Tom. Scarborough diligently photographed his footprints and collected the candy wrappers he left behind. Unfortunately, he was never caught. But the desire to use evidence to solve a great mystery was sparked inside Scarborough all the same.

Here Scarborough dreamcasts an adaptation of To Catch a Killer, her debut novel:
I set out to see if I could cast my book from the characters of Gossip Girl. I tried this because, strange as it may seem, I have found parallels between Gossip Girl and my actual life, despite that fact that I’m not a rich, celebutante and I don’t live in New York city. So, here goes nothing.

Erin: (main character) She’s an iceberg, what’s really going on is all below the surface. She would be Blair, played by Leighton Meester.

Spam: She’s sassy, smart and completely irreverent. While Selena Gomez really would be the perfect Spam, in a GG world she would be Taylor Momsen’s Jenny Humphrey.

Lysa: She’s the smooth talker and most politically correct of the group. She’s African-American so Zendaya would be an excellent choice to play her. But in GG parlance Lysa would likely be the early Serena van der Woodsen, played by Blake Lively.

Journey: He’s hunky and mysterious. A wounded soul. He’s kind of new, but Dylan McTee, who plays Nate Griffin on Sweet Vicious would look the part. And since two Nates would be double great, Chace Crawford would be my GG choice for Journey. (It’s the strong jaw and soulful eyes.)
Visit Sheryl Scarborough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 13, 2017

Patricia Harman's "The Runaway Midwife"

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River.

Here Harman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Runaway Midwife:
Have you ever thought about running away, completely re-inventing yourself? You don’t really want to end it all; you just want the world to stop so you can get off. The stress has to be something terrible and overwhelming. I used to fantasize about escaping my life a lot and then I wrote a book about it.

In The Runaway Midwife, nurse-midwife, Clara Perry has had it. Her biology professor husband is screwing around. Her daughter, studying abroad in Australia, won’t answer her texts. Her best friend commits suicide without leaving a note and then as if things can’t get worse, one of her OB patients dies at a homebirth and Clara’s being blamed for it and accused of medical manslaughter.

Clara, is at the point where ordinary sensible solutions, things she would recommend to her patients, like going to a counselor, taking an antidepressant or divorce, seem as unhelpful as climbing Mount Everest with two broken legs.

So what does she do? The only thing a sensible, a down to earth, cautious person like Clara, would never do. She runs to a small island in Canada where she hopes she will never be found.

Jennifer Aniston would be perfect for the role because she’s funny and exudes the down to earth intelligence my protagonist has. She’s attractive in a natural sort of way, and, like my heroine, she could play crazy and reckless.

The supporting role of the cop on Seagull Island, who suspects something about Clara is off, goes to John Cusack. Good looking, but not overly so. Watchful. Restrained. Intelligent. And sexy if he wants to be.
Visit Patricia Harman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Runaway Midwife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rachel Wahl's "Just Violence"

Rachel Wahl is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the University of Virginia.

Here she shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of her new book, Just Violence: Torture and Human Rights in the Eyes of the Police:
My mother tells me that when I was a child, I watched the film version of Don Quixote with her. Only I could barely watch it, because I incessantly demanded to know who in the film was “good” and who “bad.” My ten-year-old self apparently couldn’t stand the moral ambiguity of a film in which characters were too complex for such distinctions.

Has nothing or everything changed between my early encounter with the windmill-fencing knight and my book on how police understand their own violence? The book, in essence, asks the same question, but with an expanded way to answer it. I ask whether police who use torture understand themselves morally, and if so, of what that moral understanding consists. I examine what this self-understanding means for the moral crusades that I still stand behind: human rights efforts to prevent torture.

So, I don’t know who I would choose to play the police officers in my book. I know that I would want to avoid the heroes and the villains, even as I would affirm the heroic nature of the struggle to prevent torture and the horror of torture itself. But I would hope for actors who could do what the best do so well: show the human behind the act.
Learn more about Just Violence at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2017

Leigh Gilmore's "Tainted Witness"

Leigh Gilmore, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Wellesley College, is the author of The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony (2001), Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women's Self-Representation (1994), and coeditor of Autobiography and Postmodernism (1994).

Here Gilmore dreamcasts a film based on her latest book, Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives:
Most of the cases I write about involve actual women, a couple of whom, including Anita Hill and Cheryl Strayed, have been played by talented actors in film versions of their lives. But if I may tweak the premise of “my book, my movie” a bit to fit a scholarly work, I write about two figures that are rife with dramatic potential: the tainted witness and the adequate witness. These are not actual people, but they represent roles people can play -- either by force, when one becomes a tainted witness, or by choice, when one acts as an adequate witness. In my fantasy film of Tainted Witness, I would want to see Viola Davis play both roles because she can do anything, as far as I’m concerned, including make us feel the human cost enacted by processes of judgment and doubt. The tainted witness is the woman whose words are turned against her, whose reputation is smeared, and whose important contributions are cast aside by those with a competing agenda. Viola Davis would convey the complexity of the circumstances out of which testimony emerges. She would speak from the wound and make an audience see the injustice women often face when they bear witness. The adequate witness is the one who can receive testimony without deforming it. She does not substitute her own terms in the place of the witness’s or insist that the testimony only counts if it comes from a pure or sympathetic victim. The adequate witness is steady, just, and non-harming. I can see Viola Davis powerfully embodying the ethical situation of bearing witness, a situation that is full of potential and consequence, but is also often a scene of betrayal.
Learn more about Tainted Witness at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kayla Rae Whitaker's "The Animators"

Kayla Rae Whitaker’s work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, BODY, Bodega, Joyland, The Switchback, Five Quarterly, American Microreviews and Interviews, and others. She has a BA from the University of Kentucky and an MFA from New York University. After many years of living in Brooklyn, she returned to Kentucky, her home state, in 2016 with her husband and their geriatric tomcat, Breece D’J Pancake.

Here Whitaker dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, her debut novel, The Animators:
Casting The Animators as a movie: I have this reoccurring, impossible fantasy of placing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the cartoonists Sharon and Mel, respectively. Can you imagine Bette smoking a joint in her bathrobe and cramming Cheetos into her mouth, or Joan doing the Axl Rose dance, pointing to someone, cigarette clamped in her mouth, yelling, “Because it’s rad, that’s why”? I can. And it’s awesome.

Sharon’s a weird mix of misanthropy and deep vulnerability – she is a difficult character to come to know, but you are glad to know her once you have. Rocky-era Talia Shire would be a good fit. The obvious, golden choice, however: Janeane Garofalo, the 90s-era, thinking-woman’s heroine. Younger Millennials may not realize the extent to which Janeane was our woman, back in the day. Today, if you want to cast a sharp, smartassed brunette with wit and pathos, you have more than one option. For about a decade, Janeane was all we had. The Truth About Cats and Dogs would be a far better movie if it just featured her, and no one else, for ninety minutes.

In the book, several people tell the rowdy, outgoing Mel that she reminds them of Lori Petty in Tank Girl – blonde, wiry, with soft, girlish features in the face. Good casting, but for the fact of Mel’s voice which, as Sharon notes when they first meet, is “like broken glass.”

The cartoons, though – this is the important part. What would Sharon and Mel’s cartoons look like in a film adaptation? In a perfect world, Sharon and Mel’s cartoons would be a bright, chaotic cross between the girls’ heroes: John K (of Ren and Stimpy fame) and 70s alt-cartoon legend Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Wizards). The work should have an edge of throwback. It’s been said that Millennials are excessively preoccupied with nostalgia, and that this preoccupation denotes self-absorption, which I find to be an unfair conclusion. Our generation has witnessed a faster technological progression than perhaps any other. The act of looking back is, I think, an attempt to understand our placement in this history.
Visit Kayla Rae Whitaker's website.

Writers Read: Kayla Rae Whitaker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thomas J. Hrach's "The Riot Report and the News"

Thomas J. Hrach is associate professor of journalism at the University of Memphis.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Riot Report and the News: How the Kerner Commission Changed Media Coverage of Black America:
When I wrote The Riot Report and the News, I tried to focus on the characters that made the history of the Kerner Commission. The commission was an 11-member group appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to study the causes of the riots in American cities. While there many people involved in the story of the commission, no one character stood out more than Otto Kerner, the namesake of the commission and governor of Illinois. The goal of the book was to give some love and credit to Kerner for being a major figure in the history of journalism even though he was never a reporter, editor, TV executive nor had anything to do with the news media.

Kerner never got his due in history mostly because his time in public office was marred by a scandal that ultimately led him into prison. But as history now shows, the prosecution likely was politically motivated and Kerner was punished for a crime that was later determined to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. He was his own worst enemy for sure by never acknowledging any wrongdoing, refusing to accept any blame and ultimately failing to mount a proper defense.

But my story about Kerner covers the period before he got into legal trouble. It was the time in his life when he rose to great fame and respect, even though he likely had already sowed the seeds of demise. So who would play this complicated character in a film? He was sometimes portrayed as having movie star good looks. He was once voted by the news media as the nation’s most handsome governor. He was always impeccably dressed in a suit and tie. His former press secretary said he dressed like a banker, often much more formally than the situation dictated. George Clooney, Paul Giamatti or Colin Firth would do the job. They certainly look the part – middle aged white men able to project an air authority and aloofness.

The key to playing the role would be showing an outward toughness while still displaying a compassion for those downtrodden. After all, Kerner was a former prosecutor who had a soft spot for the poor and minorities. While Kerner never experienced a day in poverty or oppression, he came from an immigrant family that likely passed down that experience to him. Kerner’s ancestors came to Chicago in the late 1800s as immigrants from Bohemia, and they all had a bit of chip on their shoulder.

Another key to the role would be a fierce loyalty. After all, Kerner showed loyalty to the man who appointed him the commission, President Johnson. And even though Johnson privately rejected the report and never got around to sending Kerner even a thanks for it, Kerner stayed loyal. He never criticized the president, and even made excuses for the president’s lack of action on the Kerner commission recommendations.

Alas, Kerner’s life ended early, dying of cancer in 1976 at the age of 65. He was let out of prison early only because of his poor health. So whoever plays the man in film would have to be able to play the part of a man beaten down by scandal and disease. But even though his life ended so tragically, he got one more moment of fame when the news reporters of Chicago feted him at an event called a “Newsman’s Testimonial to Otto Kerner,” which was conducted just months before he passed. That event was a final recognition for his contributions to the history of journalism.
Learn more about The Riot Report and the News at the University of Massachusetts Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Riot Report and the News.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 3, 2017

Lydia Reeder's "Dust Bowl Girls"

Lydia Reeder is the grandniece of Sam Babb, the extraordinary basketball coach featured in Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory.

Reeder has a Master of Arts in Speech Communication from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Arts in Adult Learning and Instructional Design from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has worked as a copywriter and editor on behalf of corporate and organizational clients, and most recently developed eLearning for a national nursing association.

Here Reeder dreamcasts an adaptation of Dust Bowl Girls, her first book:
Dust Bowl Girls is an epic sports story about a struggling women’s college basketball team called the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals. In the fall of 1931, they unexpectedly start winning game after game, and against all odds, become inspirational heroes. Their tough, visionary coach, Sam Babb, was my great uncle. Since it's about real people, I didn't write it with any actors in mind. But many times after I have described the book, those listening comment that it would make a great movie. It’s Hoosiers and A League of Their Own rolled into one.

My great Uncle Sam, the coach, was my grandmother’s favorite brother. He died long before I was born, but his charisma had left a strong impression on those who had known him. Both my grandmother, her sister, and other relatives said that Sam reminded them of Spencer Tracy, especially his Academy Award winning performance as Father Flanagan in Boys Town. Like Flanagan, Sam was always looking out for the underdog.

Dust Bowl Girls is very cinematic. The team of teenage farm girls, all expert athletes, traveled across country in a creaky, old crank-start bus competing against other women’s teams. Their fiercest opponent was the famous athlete Babe Didrikson, who played for the national champion Dallas Golden Cyclones. The fabulous Lori Petty, at age 20 (A League of Their Own, Tank Girl), would have made a great Babe.

Doll Harris, the confident team captain, was tiny at 5’2”, and part Irish-part Cherokee. To play Doll, readers have mentioned the Irish and American actress Saoirse Ronan or Maisie Williams, the fantastic actress from Game of Thrones. Personally, Doll reminds me of a teenage Ava Gardner.

For director, I would love Ava DuVernay (Selma, Wrinkle in Time) or Ron Howard, who happens to be from Oklahoma.
Visit Lydia Reeder's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nancy Peacock’s "The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson"

Nancy Peacock’s novel The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson was self-published in 2013, and in 2015 won First Place in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book- Mainstream Fiction category. That same year the book was picked up by Atria Press, a division of Simon and Schuster. Peacock is the author of two earlier novels, Life Without Water (chosen as a New York Times Notable Book) and Home Across the Road, as well and the memoir and writing guide, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life.

Here Peacock dreamcasts an adaptation of The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson:
When my first novel was published, I chose all the actors for a movie that never happened. Those actors have aged out ten-fold now. Because of that I have a little fear that choosing actors for a movie made out of my book just might be a bit of jinx. Because of that belief I am working with a counter jinx by putting age and gender off the table as I cast the story.

For the main character, Persimmon Wilson, a freed slave who rides with the Comanche in 1800s Texas, I’d love to see young Denzel Washington. He has a range of depth and emotion that makes me believe this part was made for his younger self.

For the role of Chloe, a much-abused, light-skinned house slave, whom Persy is in love with, and ultimately rescues I’d cast younger Halle Berry. Ditto on her ability to act a range of emotion and depth.

And putting age, gender and physical bulk aside completely, I’d cast Linda Hunt in the role of Mo Tilly, a wizened, much sun-tanned man who befriends Persy in his travels through Texas. She is the perfect height, and her acting range is fabulous. Plus I think she’d enjoy playing the part.

That said I hope there is a movie made of The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson. I’d love to see a sensitive treatment made of this story, and I’d love to Persy ride into the hearts of millions as he rode into mine.
Visit Nancy Peacock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue