Friday, February 16, 2018

R. E. Stearns's "Barbary Station"

R. E. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate. When not writing or working, R. E. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. She recently moved to Denver, CO with her husband/computer engineer and a cat.

Here Stearns dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Barbary Station:
People keep talking about how cinematic Barbary Station is, but I never thought about it that way while I was writing it. When I'm thinking of how characters look I reference images of non-celebrities, like pictures I stumble across on Instagram while I'm looking for something else, or hair models for cosmetology students. It reminds me that I'm writing about people who have neither the time nor the money for professional physical training.

Of course, one point-of-view character would rather be running than walking in any given situation (that's Iridian,) so somebody like Dominique Tipper, Florence Faivre, or Freema Agyeman could play her easily. It helps that we already know from Sense8 that Ms. Agyeman doesn't mind kissing women on screen.

Casting Iridian's girlfriend Adda would be harder. She's curvy in a different way than Hollywood prefers. Assuming they could be convinced to put on weight: Jennifer Lawrence (I know, everybody's tired of her, but she's the right size), Ashley Benson, or Lena Dunham. This probably shows that I know nothing about casting! But it's fun to imagine our heroines wearing much more makeup than they usually do.
Visit R. E. Stearns's website and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: R. E. Stearns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Laura Madeleine's "Where the Wild Cherries Grow"

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine changed her mind and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. The author of The Confectioner's Tale, she now writes fiction, as well as recipes, and was formerly the resident cake baker for Domestic Sluttery. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, eating cheese, and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom.

Here Madeleine dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book to reach the US, Where the Wild Cherries Grow: A Novel of the South of France:
Oh, I always find these things really tricky. I never have a particular actor in mind while writing, or an image, other than a photograph or portrait. In Emeline’s case (one of the lead characters in Where the Wild Cherries Grow) the closest I ever came looks-wise was the Italian photographer, actor and activist Tina Mondotti.

But I’ll give a casting list a go. It’s made easier by the fact there are some brilliant young actors out there…

Emeline Vane: I think Rooney Mara is a captivating actor, and that she could capture some of Emeline’s inner life, and the emotional changes she undergoes. Or perhaps Florence Pugh? I saw her recently in Lady Macbeth and was impressed.

Bill Perch: Bill is a character very much inspired by my father. He’s a working class lad, who’s earnest, frustrated and feels things deeply. Maybe Josh O’Conner or Billy Howle.

Aaro Fournier: César Domboy. Or Rami Malek? I’m open to suggestions!

Clemence “Maman” Fournier: Julianne Moore. She’s been one of my favourite actors since Far From Heaven.

Director: Hettie McDonald directed an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End recently, which I really enjoyed. Or Todd Haynes! He could capture the lustrous colour and light of the south of France.
Visit Laura Madeleine's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

Writers Read: Laura Madeleine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mira T. Lee's "Everything Here Is Beautiful"

Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was named a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, New York Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, Real Simple, and Electric Lit, among others. It was also selected as an Indies Introduce title (Top 10 Debut) and Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association.

Here Lee dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel:
Everything Here Is Beautiful is a messy cross-cultural family drama starring two Chinese-American sisters, a one-armed Israeli, a Swiss urologist, and a young Ecuadorian immigrant. Sometimes it still amazes me that the story was published in written form, never mind dreams of having it made into a movie (a long shot, given the cast, says my film agent. But… I have a film agent, how ridiculous is that?!).

There are still relatively few prominent Asian/Asian-American actresses today, and even fewer leading roles for them, though it’s hard to say which is supposed to come first. Miranda, the older, more strait-laced sister, possesses an ingrained sense of responsibility that bumps up against her desires for freedom and self-fulfillment. The inimitable Sandra Oh, or Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu, or Downsizing’s luminous newcomer, Hong Chau, might fit the bill. Lucia, the younger sister, struggles with a serious mental illness, making hers the more challenging role. She’s quirky, free-spirited, bursting with life — until her illness takes hold, and then she’s sheathed in darkness, paranoid, irrational, often irascible. Heavily medicated, she takes on another dimension: dulled. We haven’t seen an Asian-American actress in this kind of dramatic role, which would demand a virtuosic range, but I’d try out Kelly Marie Tran (who lights up Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Hawaii Five-O’s Grace Park, who might shine portraying Lucia’s softness along with fierceness, Mission Impossible III’s Maggie Q, or comedian Ali Wong.

For the men in the sisters’ lives, we have plenty more options. Stefan, the Swiss doctor, has the “essence” of an elk, calling for a Colin Firth or Viggo Mortensen type, albeit younger - Tom Hiddleston, most recently of The Avengers, or Matt Smith, of The Crown. Yonah, the Israeli, is ceaselessly charismatic, even as he wavers in and out of midlife crisis. Brash and warm, he’s Mandy Patinkin twenty years ago - possibly Big Bang Theory’s John Galecki, or Sacha Baron Cohen, though going in another direction entirely there’s also Jay Duplass (of Transparent fame). Manny, the Ecuadorian, is younger, solid, steadfast, though as an undocumented immigrant with a baby daughter, he’s also anxious and skittish. Diego Luna of Rogue One fame could play up his sensitive side, though Anthony Ramos is the more fitting age. Then there’s Oscar Isaac, who has the perfect look (does he have a younger brother?), and whose versatility also makes him an excellent candidate for Yonah - because who doesn’t want an actor like Oscar Isaac somewhere in their movie?

A lot of great roles for a diverse cast, that’s for sure. Ang Lee to direct. (Though a mini-series for Netflix, or Oprah’s network, or produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine would be just fine, too).

Now, wouldn’t it be amazing if a movie like this could actually get made in today’s Hollywood? Sigh. One can dream.
Visit Mira T. Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nina Sadowsky's "The Burial Society"

Ballantine published filmmaker Nina Sadowsky’s debut thriller, Just Fall, in March 2016. She is developing a TV series based on the book. Sadowsky has written numerous screenplays and produced many films including perennial favorite The Wedding Planner. She also teaches script development and producing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Here Sadowsky shares some thoughts on adapting her second novel, The Burial Society, for the big screen:
It’s not fair to ask me to play this game. I became a writer after a 25-year career as a film and television producer. In my prior incarnation, one of my customary tasks was to create lists of potential cast for every project on my slate. I rarely even took a script on if I didn’t understand its casting potential from both a creative and an economic standpoint.

Because of this history, it’s impossible for me to have a dreamy-eyed vision of my perfect cast. Of course I think first about creative fit. But past that, I inevitably weigh a litany of other factors, starting with box office appeal, both domestic and foreign. For example, if I’m trying to fund a project through the pre-sale of foreign distribution rights (a typical practice in independent filmmaking), I have to gauge an actor’s appeal in each individual market. How an actor performed in past movies or television shows of a similar genre is one consideration in the determination of that appeal. I also have to look at the balance of the value of one actor to the ensemble as a whole, and then those relative values must be weighed with respect to the budget. While spending extra for a star director or “name” cast certainly happens (it’s called “breakage” because it “breaks” the budget), every project does have its budgetary limitations.

Scheduling is also an ever-constant concern. The most sought after actors and directors, the ones most likely to get a project a “greenlight,” are also the busiest. Getting the planets to align around the right combination of director and cast creatively, financially and logistically is a Herculean task, so one learns to be flexible.

I adapted my first book, Just Fall, for television and have done a variety of “lists” for my lead, a woman who discovers on the night of her wedding that her husband is a contract killer. She’s written as a blonde (who quickly dyes her hair black while on the run) in a conscious inversion of the Hitchcock blonde trope. We’re currently discussing a variety of actors including many dark-haired women and I’m prepared to adjust the script to fit.

My new thriller, The Burial Society, is about a woman who lives off the grid and helps abused women, whistleblowers and others whose lives are endangered escape into new, safe lives. The themes of the novel are self-reinvention and the need for courage in order to face change. My protagonist is a woman of many identities and disguises. And while I have too much information in my head to commit to a dream of one actor, I do hope that if I’m lucky enough to sell this book for an adaptation that the part instead will be an actor’s dream.
Visit Nina Sadowsky's website.

Writers Read: Nina Sadowsky.

The Page 69 Test: The Burial Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2018

Jane Corry's "Blood Sisters"

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men–an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her suspense debut.

Here Corry dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Blood Sisters:
This would be my dream come true! However, I have to be honest here. I’m more familiar with older actors and actresses.

I still pine for Robert Redford - as a teenager, I dreamed of him sweeping me off my feet! So I would like a young RR to play Crispin. I think his boyish good looks and charm would be perfect.

Similarly, a youthful Tom Hanks would be just right for Robin. I can just see him being rather awkward at the beginning and then growing into the more self-assured adult towards the end of Blood Sisters.

Alison is more of a challenge. She needs to appear traditional but have hidden depths. I’d like a total ‘unknown' for her. It would be great if someone made their name from taking her on.

As for Kitty, someone really special would need to play her. Blood Sisters came out in the UK last summer and ever since then, I’ve had lots of emails from readers to say how much they love her. I think a young Goldie Hawn would fit the bill perfectly. I know that she would be both funny, sad and shocking - which is just what the role needs.

Director-wise, I’d be really interested in Jodie Foster. She would be able to delve into the shocking, sensitive issues in Blood Sisters. George Clooney would be good at this too. If nothing else, it would give me a chance to tell him that his wife went to the same school in the UK as my daughter!
Follow Jane Corry on Twitter and Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: My Husband's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2018

C. M. Wendelboe's "The Marshal and the Moonshiner"

C. M. Wendelboe entered the law enforcement profession when he was discharged from the Marines as the Vietnam war was winding down.

In the 1970s, his career included assisting federal and tribal law enforcement agencies embroiled in conflicts with American Indian Movement activists in South Dakota.

Wendelboe moved to Gillette, Wyoming, and found his niche, where he remained a sheriff's deputy for more than 25 years. In addition, he was a longtime firearms instructor at the local college and within the community.

During his 38-year career in law enforcement he had served successful stints as police chief, policy adviser, and other supervisory roles for several agencies. Yet he always has felt most proud of "working the street." He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a fiction writer.

Here Wendelboe dreamcasts an adaptation of The Marshal and the Moonshiner, the first book in his Nelson Lane Frontier Mysteries series:
I frequently have actors in mind when I develop characters, only because it helps to keep me focused. In my recent novel, The Marshal and the Moonshiner, I envisioned John Goodman as my lead sleuth, Nelson Lane. Nelson is a middle-aged U. S. Marshal, a big, husky former Marine in WWI. When John Goodman portrayed Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, he took scheming to a new level. And as “Big Dan” in O Brother, Where Art Thou, he depicted a ruthlessness while maintaining a dry sense of humor as he makes short work of Everett and Delmar, robbing and beating them. I can see Goodman bulling his way past moonshiners and bootleggers to get the information he wants.
Visit C. M. Wendelboe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rebecca E. Zietlow's "The Forgotten Emancipator"

Rebecca E. Zietlow is Charles W. Fornoff Professor of Law and Values at the University of Toledo, College of Law, where she teaches Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, and Constitutional Litigation. She received her B.A. from Barnard College, and her J.D. from Yale Law School. In 2012, she received the University of Toledo Outstanding Faculty Research Award.

Here Zietlow dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Forgotten Emancipator: James Mitchell Ashley and the Ideological Origins of Reconstruction:
If they made my book into a movie, the actor who I would like to play the lead role is Jeff Bridges. Jeff Bridges is a charismatic actor who exudes passion, and, if necessary, extremism. Plus, Bridges has the hair to play the leading character in my book, James Mitchell Ashley.

James Ashley was a staunch anti-slavery advocate from the time he was a boy, when he witnessed slavery first hand as he worked on boats in the Ohio River. Ashley ran away from home because he disagreed so strongly with his pro-slavery father. Eventually, Ashley became a leader in the fight for the abolition of slavery. He represented northwest Ohio in the United States House of Representatives from 1858 to 1868. He was one of the founders of the anti-slavery Republican Party, and a leader in Congress during the Civil War and early Reconstruction Eras. As chair of the House Committee on the Territories, Ashley presided over the abolition of slavery in DC and the territories. Ashley introduced the first Reconstruction measure, and was the first member of Congress to propose amending the constitution to abolish slavery. At the side of President Abraham Lincoln, Ashley led the fight for the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, in the House of Representatives. According to noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “In every phase of the great conflict over slavery, [James Ashley] bore a conspicuous and honorable part. He was among the foremost of that brilliant galaxy of statesmen who reconstructed the union on a basis of liberty.”

Ashley was a character in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln, about Lincoln’s role in the congressional approval of the Thirteenth Amendment. In Lincoln, Ashley was played by David Costabile as a mealy mouthed moderate, a foil to the radically impassioned Representative Thaddeus Stevens. In real life, however, Ashley was as radical as Stevens, if not more so. He was a single-minded opponent of slavery who seized on the Civil War as an opportunity to end it by any means possible. Ashley advocated voting rights for Blacks as early as 1856, and he supported woman’s suffrage. Ashley also supported workers’ rights, saying he would not be a slave to a corporation.

Ashley was known for being passionate and a bit over the top. When he arrived in Washington in 1859, Ashley was very popular, known for his good looks, charm, and great mane of hair (in which he took great pride). He was an influential leader during the Civil War and early Reconstruction era. Towards the end of his time in Congress, though, Ashley was too radical for his party. Ashley led the first unsuccessful attempt to impeach President Andrew Johnson. There were rumors that Ashley believed that Johnson was behind Lincoln’s assassination. Ashley lost the election in 1868. For a brief time, he served as governor of the Montana territory, where he angered former confederates by speaking out against the use of Chinese “coolie” labor to build railroads.

As you can see, Ashley was a fascinating character whose life was full of drama. However, Ashley is not the only reason why The Forgotten Emancipator would make a great movie. The book also describes the political anti-slavery movement and the nascent labor movement in the first half of the nineteenth century. Anti-slavery constitutionalists argued that slavery was unconstitutional even before the 13th Amendment. They formed the Liberty and Free Soil Parties and, eventually, the Republican Party. Labor leaders argued that they were subject to wage slavery and fought for better wages and a shorter working day. Leaders in both movements developed a theory of rights that influenced Ashley and other members of the Reconstruction Congress.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, The Forgotten Emancipator is about the Reconstruction Congress. Ashley and his Reconstruction colleagues amended our Constitution to end slavery and become the rights protecting document that Americans revere today. Yet, these heroes of our history remain virtually unknown. Ashley and his colleagues deserve to be not only known, but celebrated. The Forgotten Emancipator tells their story, a victory for liberty and equality over the dark force of slavery and oppression. Movie producers, take heed!
Learn more about The Forgotten Emancipator at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 5, 2018

Tracee de Hahn's "A Well-Timed Murder"

Tracee de Hahn writes the Agnes Lüthi mystery series set in Switzerland. The new book in the series: A Well-Timed Murder.

Prior to writing fiction she began her career in the practice of architecture, using the need to see great buildings as an excuse to travel. After several years in Switzerland, and receiving an advanced degree in European history, she turned her hand to the non-profit world, eventually running alumni relations for a west coast university.

Having left the ‘real’ world to purse a writing career, she now lives with her husband and Jack Russell Terriers and Flemish Giant rabbit in southwest Virginia in a Victorian house with the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the far distance. There they have a marvelous deep porch where limitless cups of Lady Grey tea can be enjoyed while the next book is plotted. She loves reading and travel and cooking and is an occasional amateur painter.

Here de Hahn dreamcasts an adaptation of A Well-Timed Murder:
I’ve consistently avoided the casting question. That changed when I saw Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane. I’ve admired her work for years, from The Help, to Zero Dark Thirty and The Martian. The power and nuance of Chastain’s performance in Miss Sloane made me understand that I’d always cast my protagonist based on appearance. Now I realize that I want her cast for character (let hair and makeup and costume teams work their magic to transform Chastain’s appearance). Agnes Lüthi is strong and vulnerable, she’s dedicated to her family and to her job. She wants a private life but shrinks from a new relationship after her husband’s betrayal and death. I know that Ms. Chastain has the ability to show these conflicting emotions. She would bring Agnes to life!

If we talk directors, I want the team that produced and directed the television series Broadchurch. They achieved an intensity that balances despair with hope, coupled with an attention to characters and story that is engrossing.
Visit Tracee de Hahn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tracee de Hahn & Alvaro and Laika.

The Page 69 Test: Swiss Vendetta.

Writers Read: Tracee de Hahn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurie Gwen Shapiro's "The Stowaway"

Laurie Gwen Shapiro has most recently written articles for publications including The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, Los Angeles Review of Books, and has her own history column focusing on unsung heroes for The Forward. Shapiro is also a documentary filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for directing IFC’s Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale and an Emmy nomination for producing HBO’s Finishing Heaven.

Shapiro's latest book is The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica.

The stowaway: Billy Gawronski—a skinny, first generation New York City high schooler desperate to escape a dreary future in the family upholstery business—who in 1928 jumped into the Hudson River and snuck aboard a ship headed to Antarctica, the planet’s final frontier.

Here Shapiro dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book:
In 1928 Admiral Byrd was still Commander Byrd. He left for Antarctica at the young age of 38, strong but slight, very handsome – a true heartthrob for many. Leonardo DiCaprio or Emile Hirsch for Byrd?

And Billy could go to Ansel Elgort? That‘s the first person that comes to mind. He looks like him a bit even. But maybe you have to go even younger like one of the kids on Stranger Things, like Finn Wolfhard.
Visit Laurie Gwen Shapiro's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Stowaway.

Writers Read: Laurie Gwen Shapiro.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 2, 2018

Molly MacRae's "Scones and Scoundrels"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

Here MacRae dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Scones and Scoundrels, book two in the Highland Bookshop series:
I worked through this interesting exercise a year ago when my Highland Bookshop Mystery series debuted. Now, with the second book out, and looking over last year’s choices, I think they hold up pretty well. I’m making two changes among the main characters, though, and inviting a new director to the project (and if this were real life, these changes would be very exciting). I’ve also cast some of the secondary characters left out last time, and several of the new characters.

Changes in main character casting:

Caroline Quentin will appear as Janet Marsh, the retired American librarian who dreamed up the offbeat retirement scheme of buying a bookshop in Scotland. Quentin will have to age a few years and assume an American accent for the part, but I know she can do both. I’d previously cast Kathy Bates as Janet. She would have brought intelligence and the right touch of humor to the role, but Quentin will bring those and an incredible spark of joy.

Emma Thompson will appear as Christine Robertson, one of Janet’s business partners. Christine is a Scotswoman returning to her hometown to help run the bookshop and to look after her aging parents. Like Quentin, Thompson is a few years too young for her role and will have to assume an accent. Thompson is half Scottish, though, and spends part of each year in the area where my fictitious town is located, so she’ll have no problem. And I think she’ll have fun slipping into Christine’s “Queen Elizabeth” persona. I originally chose Dinah Sheridan to play Christine. She would have been fantastic, but was an unrealistic choice. Sadly, she died in 2012.

Reprising their roles from the first film:

Linda Cardellini as Janet’s daughter Tallie Marsh, a burnt-out lawyer and law professor who joins the bookshop venture.

Sarah Michelle Geller as Summer Jacobs, the fourth bookshop partner, a newspaperwoman turned baker.

Peter Capaldi as odd jobs man Rab MacGregor.

David Tennant as Constable Norman Hobbs.

Secondary characters not previously cast:

Richard Rankin as Reddick, a member of the Major Investigation Team from the Specialist Crime Division of Police Scotland.

Douglas Henshall as newspaperman and fiddler James Haviland.

Barbara Rafferty as library director Sharon Davis.

New characters:

Jenny Seagrove as eccentric visiting author Daphne Wood (Seagrove is older than Daphne, but she’s perfect for the role).

Olivia Colman as English teacher Gillian Bennett.

Mandie Fletcher has brilliantly directed British comedy series for years, including Clatterford, Absolutely Fabulous, and Blandings. If she were to direct the film version of Scones and Scoundrels, it would be an absolute dream come true.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Scones and Scoundrels.

Writers Read: Molly MacRae.

--Marshal Zeringue