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

Friday, March 6, 2020

William Boyle's "City of Margins"

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His books include: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and is nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Here Boyle dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, City of Margins:
Heavily inspired by films with big ensemble casts by directors like Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph, and John Sayles, City of Margins has that same double VHS sprawl, with nine key players and lots of bit parts. If it was to get made into a film, here's who I'd like to play the lead roles:

Ava Bifulco: Marisa Tomei

Donna Rotante: Elisabeth Moss

Donnie Parascandolo: Vince Vaughn

Mikey Baldini: Alex Wolff

Antonina Divino: Florence Pugh

Nick Bifulco: Jesse Plemons

Rosemarie Baldini: Amy Ryan

Ralph Sottile: Robert Longstreet

Pags: Kevin Corrigan

This was tough. I’m a big film lover, and I often think about certain actors as I write. Edie Falco, John Turturro, and Steve Buscemi are just a few saints of my imagination. I also write a lot with James Gandolfini in mind, and I’m sad I’ll never get to write something he could actually star in—that would’ve been the greatest. City of Margins presented other challenges, as it was probably the first book I’ve written where I didn’t picture actors in at least a few of the main roles. This is a dream cast, unattainable by any measure, but it feels very right. The younger roles (Antonina and Mikey) were the hardest to come up with actors for. I’m thinking the Safdie Brothers to direct—this could be their Magnolia. And I’d need to strong-arm my way into being music coordinator, so I could control the soundtrack, which needs plenty of Garland Jeffreys and Lou Reed.
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle.

The Page 69 Test: City of Margins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Marty Ambrose's "A Shadowed Fate"

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College, Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction. Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels.

A few years ago, Ambrose had the opportunity to take a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction. Her first book in a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth. Ambrose’s second novel, A Shadowed Fate, begins where the first novel ends with Claire on an “odyssey” through Italy to find the fate of her daughter, Allegra, whom she now believes might have survived; her narrative plays out with Byron’s memoir from 1821, and Allegra’s own story.

About A Shadowed Fate:
Florence. July, 1873. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rossetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trelawny. Her calm life in Italy has been changed forever.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron—a journey that would allow Claire to lay her tumultuous past to rest. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rossetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest.

Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?
Here Ambrose dreamcasts an adaptation of A Shadowed Fate:
As a theatre minor in college, I always imagined how different actors might play the characters in my favorite books; and, needless to say, I’ve thought quite a bit about who might portray my major characters on the big screen. Although I write about mostly larger-than life actual literary figures from the nineteenth century, I still think there are actors who could play them with depth and complexity.

My heroine, Claire Clairmont is probably the most challenging because in my historical mysteries she is both a young woman of seventeen and an older woman in her early 70s. So, I always imagined her as being played by two actors. I would cast Jessica Brown Findlay as a young Claire. She is the British actress who played Sybil in Downton Abbey, and I think she captures the rebellious quality and the intense romantic longings that are so much a part of Claire as a young woman. The older Claire would have to be played by Helen Mirren, of course. A grande dame. She has that classy and worldly, yet spirited aspect that defines Claire in her later years. Still youthful in a timeless way, Mirren would be a perfect choice to show how age hasn’t dimmed Claire’s impulsivity or joie de vivre.

Lord Byron would also be a difficult casting choice. He is portrayed in my novel only during his exile years in his twenties and early thirties, so it would have to be an actor who can capture this stage in this brilliant poet’s life. I think Theo James would fit the bill perfectly. He looks quite a bit like the portraits of Byron—darkly handsome, but with a brooding quality. He is a classically-trained actor who has appeared as Sydney in Jane Austen’s Sanditon, a character who has a Byronic essence about him: romantic, mysterious, and compelling. I think James’s powerful physical presence could bring to life this time in Byron’s life when he was moving from a poet to a man of action during the Italian revolutionary movement but, also, he would be able to maintain a certain refined quality. I’d love to see him take on this role.

My third main character is Edward Trelawny—a dashing figure who has been a part of Claire’s life for decades. He was a soldier, a writer, and bon vivant. And he has loved Claire his entire life. I would like to see Jeremy Irons play this aging hero. The actor has a world-weary ethos, as well as wistful idealism about him. Trelawny is the one man who Claire can always depend on, and Irons could embody the qualities of a steadfast lover who has been loyal throughout his relationship with her. Irons just shines in historical drama with his elegant, British persona.

I can only hope that a casting director would like these choices ... and let me play a walk-on, so I could meet all of these amazing actors.
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Shadowed Fate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 2, 2020

Serena Kent's "Death in Avignon"

Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer - and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

Here authors deamcast an adaptation of their new novel, Death in Avignon:
There’s no doubt in my mind [writes Deborah] that Jennifer Aniston would make a brilliant Penelope Kite: she has impeccable comic timing and there’s a lot of self-deprecating humour in Penelope. Aniston would bring exactly the right balance of quirky and adorable, too – and she is exactly the same age as Penelope, looking great for 50.

The trouble is that I didn’t write this book on my own, and my co-author has equally strong views, so this post is going to be an insight into our creative differences behind the scenes! Husband Rob and I have even being doing book talks entitled “How to Write a Murder Mystery with your Spouse – without Actually Committing One”. At least we’re still laughing.

For the role of Clémence Valencourt, the ultra-chic Parisian real estate agent who becomes Penelope’s unlikely friend, I would have no hesitation in casting French film star Arielle Dombasle, tiny, blonde and determined.

The gorgeous Mayor of St Merlot would be played by Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for the silent movie The Artist (a first for a French actor). No question, Dujardin’s the man. Absolutely non-negotiable. Even if we have to kidnap him.

Susan Sarandon would make a wonderful Frankie, Penelope’s larger-than-life best friend. She would have to bulk up, or wear a fat suit, but Sarandon would bring the sassiness that is Frankie’s hallmark. She may be a big woman, but Frankie is attractive with bucketloads of charisma.

Monsieur Charpet would ideally be played by the late French actor Raimu, real name Jules Muraire. But perhaps if John Candy were still alive, he might have enjoyed growing a walrus moustache and pulling the mournful faces required for Penelope’s aged gardener.

I am assuming [writes Rob] that we can draw actors from any period for this movie. It is important that we can, as my favourites are almost all from a different age! It is quite interesting when the choice of actor reveals a difference in our perception of the character.

The role of Laurent Millais, the Mayor, needs an archetypal French film star: insouciant, brimming with Gallic charm (some would say arrogance), smouldering with every line. For me it would have to be Alain Delon in his heyday. And Penelope’s wrinkled retainer Monsieur Charpet would be played well with a comic slant by Maurice Chevalier.

The British artist Roland Doncaster is a rumbustious but attractive rogue – so Hugh Grant, maybe? Or Albert Finney, even better.

The diminutive but aggressive Inspecteur Reyssens is easy – Herbert Lom.

This leaves us to cast our three heroines – the difficult ones. Frankie is larger than life and would be well suited to the very funny British comedienne Miranda Hart.

Clémence, small sharp and perfectly formed, would be well suited to Audrey Hepburn at her most sylph like. For the really tricky part, Penelope, I am casting around a bit. Possibly Renée Zellweger, or a younger Alison Steadman. She is far and away the most difficult to cast for me! [Just as well that Jennifer Aniston is perfect, then, writes Deborah.]
Visit Serena Kent's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Provence.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Avignon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Suzanne Redfearn’s "In An Instant"

Suzanne Redfearn is the award-winning author of three novels: Hush Little Baby, No Ordinary Life, and In An Instant. Born and raised on the east coast, Redfearn moved to California when she was fifteen. She currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband where they own two restaurants: Lumberyard and Slice Pizza & Beer. In addition to being an author, Redfearn is an architect specializing in residential and commercial design.

About In An Instant:
Life is over in an instant for sixteen-year-old Finn Miller when a devastating car accident tumbles her and ten others over the side of a mountain. Suspended between worlds, she watches helplessly as those she loves struggle to survive. Impossible choices are made, decisions that leave the survivors tormented with grief and regret. Unable to let go, Finn keeps vigil as they struggle to reclaim their shattered lives.

Heartrending yet ultimately redemptive, In an Instant is a story about the power of love, the meaning of family, and carrying on…even when it seems impossible.
Here Redfearn dreamcasts an adaptation of In An Instant:
I love this prompt. What author doesn’t want to dream up a cast of actors to play their characters? Of course I want Bradley Cooper for the male lead, and if Brad is not available, I guess I would settle for Hugh Jackman. I will have to be on the set of course for script consultation and perhaps wardrobe fittings, and though the story is serious and not musical in the least, we might need to add a ditty in there somewhere so they can sing.

The narrator for In An Instant is a dead feisty sixteen-year-old named Finn. I don’t think you would see her after her death, which happens pretty early in the story, so the voice would be really important. Maybe someone who has a great rasp, like Lindsay Lohan when she played Maggie in Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Mo, Finn’s best friend, is one of the heroines in the story. Dauntless yet fragile, she struggles to find the truth as the story of their survival is rewritten. She is easy to fall in love with, so I imagine an intelligent beauty like a young Amanda Seyfried.

Chloe, Finn’s sister, is the only one who knows Finn still lingers. Damaged more than the others because of choices she made that fateful night in the snow, she teeters on the edge of self-destruction, and though she was rescued, it’s not certain she will survive. I imagine someone like Ashley Greene when she played Alice Cullen in Twilight, a dark complex beauty who is able to be both strong and broken at once.

Ann, Finn’s heroic mother who saved them all, is haunted by her decisions. She struggles with the choices she made and to move past her guilt. She is the backbone of the story and needs an actress who is tough yet incredibly real. A friend suggested Rosamund Pike, and I think she would be perfect.
Visit Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

My Book, The Movie: No Ordinary Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Alena Dillon's "Mercy House"

Alena Dillon is the author of Mercy House, a LibraryReads and Amazon book of February 2020, and the humor collection I Thought We Agreed to Pee in the Ocean. Dillon’s work has appeared in publications including LitHub, River Teeth, Scary Mommy, Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, Bustle, and The Smart Set. She teaches creative writing at Endicott College and St. Joseph’s College and lives on the beautiful north shore of Boston with her husband, newborn son, and little black pup named Penny.

Here Dillon dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of Mercy House:
I have a distinct image of Sister Evelyn in my mind because she is based (loosely) on a nun I knew, so it’s harder in this case to assign her an actress. However, there are so many incredibly talented older actresses I would be so honored to see inhabit (no pun intended) the role.

Meryl we know is spectacular in everything and has already played a nun in Doubt.

Frances McDormand portrayed tough, gritty women with Olive Kitteridge and Three Billboards.

Sarah Lancashire fought for women in a similar way to my character in Happy Valley.

I really don’t have a particular vision, and would just be so thrilled to see Evelyn come to life. That’s the ultimate dream, right?
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ismée Williams's "This Train Is Being Held"

Ismée Williams, the author of Water in May, is a pediatric cardiologist who trained and practiced for over a dozen years at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant partially raised by her abuelos, and the mother of three daughters. She also has a dog, Rowan, who is commonly mistaken for a muppet.

In Williams's new novel, This Train Is Being Held--
Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.

Isa is a dancer. She'd love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren't dead set against it...just like she's dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa's privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she'd ever tell that to Alex.

Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?
Here Williams dreamcasts an adaptation of This Train Is Being Held:
Alex Rosario is an athlete with a tender and poetic heart. And he’s super good-looking (he’s nicknamed Papichulo!) So the actor has to look the part. Of course Alex could be played by famed baseball great Alex Rodriguez, if A-Rod were younger and wore brown contact lens. A contemporary pick would be Reggaeton singer, Ozuna, who is set to star in his first feature film this year. Ozuna is half Puerto Rican and half Dominican–which would be fine–however he’s only 5ft 5in. The director would have to get creative with the shot angles to make sure Alex looked tall.

Isabel Warner is a blonde, tall, lithe ballerina who is half-Cuban. She has the epitome of a ballerina body type (I took ballet for 13 years and was always jealous of girls like her!). Isa could be played by Bella Thorne, who is tall, occasionally blond and half-Cuban. She has the ideal look for Isa. You would believe she is a dancer.

Jorge Lendeborg, Jr would be great for Alex’s friend, Danny, who is sweet but gets involved with the wrong crowd. If you’ve seen the movie Shot, you’ll know why I picked Jorge for this role.

Bryan, Alex’s smart-ass friend who tries to get Alex to play the field more–and I don’t mean baseball, could be played by Jason Genao, from On My Block.

Manny Perez, a well-known Dominican actor who has played strong, furious characters would be perfect for Alex’s macho papi.

Vivian Lamolli would make a good Kiara, the sassy Dominicana from Alex’s neighborhood who has been pursuing Alex for years and feels the burn of Alex choosing Isa over her.

Madelaine Petsch from Riverdale would be a good choice for Isa’s loudmouth, uber silly best friend, Chrissy, another dancer who distracts Isa with her own boyfriend troubles.
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

My Book, The Movie: Water in May.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Alyssa Palombo's "The Borgia Confessions"

Alyssa Palombo is a writer living and working in Buffalo, NY. She attended Canisius College in Buffalo, where she majored in English and creative writing with a minor in music. She is a classically trained mezzo-soprano who also dabbles in playing piano. When not writing, Palombo can usually be found reading, hanging out and laughing way too hard at nonsensical inside jokes with friends, traveling (or dreaming of her next travel destination), at a concert, or planning for next Halloween. She is a metalhead and a self-proclaimed French fry connoisseur. She also owns way too many hoodies, pairs of sunglasses, and pajamas, but never enough books.

Palombo's historical novels include The Violinist of Venice, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Borgia Confessions:
I, for one, would love to see The Borgia Confessions on the big screen (or the small screen, should some network or streaming service want to adapt it!) and as such have thought about who I would envision playing some of the characters. There are a lot of characters in this book, so my picks for a few of the main ones are below:

Maddalena Moretti – Sophie Turner

I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, and I loved Sophie Turner’s portrayal of Sansa Stark, and the way she grew the character over the eight seasons of the show. I think for that reason that she would make a great Maddalena, and she definitely looks the part for me!

Cesare Borgia – Francois Arnaud

Okay, so this is cheating, because Francois Arnaud has already played Cesare Borgia – on Showtime’s series The Borgias. But he did such a great job with the role, in my opinion, and so when I was writing The Borgia Confessions I couldn’t picture anyone else as Cesare.

Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI – Charles Dance

I thought Jeremy Irons did a great job with this role on Showtime’s The Borgias, and I also think that the late Philip Seymour Hoffman would have made a great Pope Alexander. Otherwise, though, I think Charles Dance would be awesome in this role – between Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones and Lord Mountbatten on The Crown, he’s good at playing those political power players!

Lucrezia Borgia – Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning just looks like Lucrezia Borgia to me, and I also think she’s a great actress – I think she would do some cool things with this role!
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Constance Sayers's "A Witch in Time"

Constance Sayers’ debut novel, A Witch in Time, is out now from Redhook (Hachette Book Group).

A finalist for Alternating Current’s 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Prose, her short stories have appeared in Souvenir and Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women as well as The Sky is a Free Country. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

She received her master of arts in English from George Mason University and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She attended The Bread Loaf Writers Conference where she studied with Charles Baxter and Lauren Groff. Currently, she’s a media executive at Atlantic Media and she’s twice been named one of the “Top 100 Media People in America” by Folio and included in their list of “Top Women in Media.”

She lives outside of Washington DC and is the co-founder of the Thoughtful Dog literary magazine.

Here Sayers's dreamcasts an adaptation of A Witch in Time:
I love this exercise! In college, I took a bunch of film and screenwriting classes. I’ve heard that A Witch in Time has a distinctly cinematic feel, which probably is something I did intentionally from all the years of writing scripts. I tend to always “see” my books as films as I write them.

When I’m writing, I have an idea of someone inhabiting the character—usually an actor. For the character of Luke Varner, it was always, always Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie circa his Lew Ashby portrayal on Californication. He has that gritty appeal that I think any actor playing Luke needs. Another actor who I think could be a fabulous Luke is Tim Rozon who plays Doc Holliday on Syfy’s Wynonna Earp.

Now, the Juliet/Nora/Sandra/Helen character is a very interesting casting problem. For the audio book, there are four different actresses reading the different roles and I think that works well for the audio version. For the film/tv version, I think that one actress should play all four characters. Visually, I think one actress with multiple transformations (hair and make-up) illustrates the continuity that they are really one essence. I also think this actress needs to have a timeless quality, so that she’s as believable as a modern-day media executive as she is a 1930s film star. Genevieve Angelson from Good Girls Revolt would be my first choice if I were casting. I also love Emma Bell from Different Flowers, Perry Mattfeld from In the Dark, or Kennedy McMann who plays Nancy Drew in the CW reboot.
Visit Constance Sayers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2020

Debbie Herbert's "Scorched Grounds"

Debbie Herbert is an Amazon Charts, Washington Post, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author who’s always been fascinated by magic, romance, and Gothic stories.

Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team.

Herbert's new novel is Scorched Grounds.

Here she dreamcasts the leads in an adaptation of the new novel:
Since my book is heavily influenced by Southern Gothic, I'd love to see Renée Zellweger in the lead role. She was brilliant in the movie Cold Mountain.

For the role of the ne'er do well father, Jack Nicholson would be perfect. He has an edgy charm that is mesmerizing.
Visit Debbie Herbert's website.

The Page 69 Test: Scorched Grounds.

Writers Read: Debbie Herbert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Robert Dugoni's "A Cold Trail"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, the Charles Jenkins Series and the David Sloane series. Since 2013, Dugoni has sold more than 5,000,000 books, and My Sister’s Grave and The Eighth Sister have been optioned for television series development. He is also the author of the best-selling standalone novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and The 7th Canon, a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel. His expose, The Cyanide Canary, became a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel. His David Sloane novels have twice been nominated for the Harper Lee Award for legal fiction.

Here Dugoni dreamcasts an adaptation of his new Tracy Crosswhite novel, A Cold Trail:
I had this discussion with friends some years ago. There are a number of different directions that could be taken with respect to actors.

For Tracy Crosswhite, Charlize Theron comes to mind because of her similar physicality, and she’s played tough as nails characters. People have mentioned others like Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett. Me, I’d be happy with any of that stellar group.

For Dan O’Leary people have suggested Bradley Cooper, Peter Stormare and William Hurt. He’d have to be someone in good shape, with a sharp whit and likeable.

Del and Faz, the two Italian stallions. This is a tough one. You’d need two big, Italian looking guys, but many of the better known actors from the mafia movies of the 1980s would now be too old. This would require some thought.

Kinsington Rowe – Someone like Josh Duhamel or Matt Damon, even Matthew McConaughey - Actors who physically could play a guy who played football in college and is now in his 40s.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2020

David Sosnowski's "Buzz Kill"

David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental protection specialist, while living in cities as varied as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska. He is the author of three previous critically acclaimed novels, Rapture, Vamped, and Happy Doomsday.

Here Sosnowski dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, Buzz Kill:
If Buzz Kill is ever optioned for a movie, I feel sorry for the casting director. Assuming the script stays true to the source material (admittedly a pretty dubious assumption), the poor casting director is going to need to find three actors with some especially rubbery facial skills. That’s because three of the main characters – Roger, Pandora, and Gladys Lynch – all share an inherited condition identified as HEFS: Hyper-expressive Face Syndrome. Or, as one of the characters puts it, “Take Jim Carrey. … He’s like the HEFS poster child.”

Hmmm…

Maybe the casting director would get one freebie in that hard-to-cast trio. Roger, Pandora’s father and Gladys’ son could be played by the actor invoked to describe the syndrome: Jim Carrey, setting the stage for a lot of self-referential, meta-jokes and (dare I say?) sight gags.

Okay, but that still leaves two female equivalents of Jim Carrey to be cast, one young (Pandora, around sixteen) and another old (Gladys, in her early nineties). I’m going to need to take some liberties here because I can’t think of any exact fits for either, but here goes: For Pandora, a much younger Kristin Wiig might do, while for Gladys, a much older Laurie Metcalf or Carol Burnett. I guess I could check to see if Wiig has a daughter or the other two surviving mothers. Or maybe technology might come to the rescue! There are, after all, the age-tailoring CGI techniques recently used in the movie The Irishman with the Robert De Niro of Taxi Driver costarring next to the De Niro of, well, the latter part of The Irishman.

Hmmm…. Maybe I don’t feel so sorry for that casting director after all.
Visit David Sosnowski's website.

Writers Read: David Sosnowski.

The Page 69 Test: Buzz Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Christopher Bollen's "A Beautiful Crime"

Christopher Bollen is the author of The Destroyers, Orient, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the critically acclaimed Lightning People. He is the editor at large of Interview magazine. His work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, New York magazine, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Bollen applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Beautiful Crime, and reported the following:
The difficulty of casting young characters is that often by the time a novel is optioned, a production company hires a screenwriter, the script is shopped around to studios, and the project gets a green light, all of those original actors are too old to play their parts. But since this thought experiment, like Hollywood, is pure fantasy, I would cast Frank Ocean to play Clay Guillory. No, Frank Ocean isn’t an actor, he’s a musician, but this would be his break-through role. Ocean has some of the toughness and warmth that encapsulates Clay, who can be hard to read but is really the heart of the book. I could also see him being played by Lakeith Stanfield, who is such an exquisite performer. He doesn’t immediately remind me of Clay, but Stanfield seems capable of embodying any form he chooses and he’d be able to get the fragility under the cool surface.

For Nick, if only Nicholas Hoult were a few years younger. I think Hoult would be able to portray his innocence and charm as well as his greed. Or who is a young, tall Jude Law? The irony is that I’m the Editor at Large of Interview Magazine, which covers do many young actors up to its eyeballs. I should be able to rattle off a number of potential Nicks. The problem is, while I write scenes from a cinematic point of view—I think it’s encoded in my generation, babysat as we were by television sets—I never think of characters that way. Okay, okay, I’ll say Logan Lerman would do an excellent job. Or George MacKay. Or a very young Montgomery Clift.
Visit Christopher Bollen's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Crime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Francesca Flores's "Diamond City"

Francesca Flores is a writer, traveler and linguist. Raised in Pittsburgh, she read every fantasy book she could get her hands on and started writing her own stories at a young age. She began writing Diamond City while working as a corporate travel manager.

When she’s not writing or reading, Francesca enjoys traveling, dancing ballet and jazz, practicing trapeze and contortion, and visiting parks and trails around San Francisco, where she currently resides.

Here Flores dreamcasts an adaptation of Diamond City:
This is such a fun question, but also difficult!! I think my main character, Aina, could be played by Bianca Santos. She's the actress who looks closest to her, though I'd hope to find a newer actress who's closer in age to Aina.

Luke Pasqualino would be the perfect Teo (Aina's best frined), he looks very much like the Teo in my head and has played in fantasy/action roles before.

Kat Graham would be great for the role of Raurie, who's one of Aina and Teo's other friends.

Tomohisa Yamashita would be Ryuu, yet another friend in the book. That would be a dream cast!
Visit Francesca Flores's website.

Writers Read: Francesca Flores.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 27, 2020

Chana Porter's "The Seep"

Chana Porter is a playwright, teacher, MacDowell Colony fellow, and co-founder of The Octavia Project, a STEM and fiction-writing program for girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Here Porter dreamcasts an adaptation of The Seep, her debut novel:
In The Seep, Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.

Trina—Shakina Nayfack

You probably know Shakina from the Transparent series finale or as Lola in Difficult People. I’m very lucky to have Shakina reading the audiobook of The Seep. I think she’d make a wonderful Trina for the movie.

Deeba— Mindy Kaling

I would love to see Mindy with a shaved head, not to mention married to another woman. I bet Mindy is fun at a dinner party. She’d fit in.

Horizon Line— Jaden Smith

Jaden is pitch perfect as rockstar Horizon Line, a devotee of The Seep who has a dark secret.

YD— Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin as a Yiddish speaking tough butch restauranteur? Yes please.

Pina the Bear— Natasha Lyonne

Some of my readers have remarked that Pina, the bear with ascended consciousness, is their favorite character. Lately I’ve been imagining Pina as Natasha Lyonne. Small but tough, funny in the driest way possible.

The Boy—Roshon Fegan

As Trina’s life collapses around her, she becomes obsessed with protecting a boy she’s never met from Horizon Line. In the book the boy is supposed to be around 18. I'm thinking of Roshon from 2011. What a cutie!
Visit Chana Porter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Peter Riva's "Kidnapped on Safari"

Peter Riva is the author of Kidnapped on Safari. He has spent many months over thirty years traveling throughout Africa and Europe. Much of this time was spent with the legendary guides for East African hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is his passion. Nonetheless, his job for over forty years has been working as a literary agent. In his spare time, Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books, including the previous two titles in the Mbuno and Pero Adventures series, Murder on Safari and The Berlin Package. He lives in Gila, New Mexico.

Here Riva dreamcasts an adaptation of Kidnapped on Safari:
Making movies always requires imagining who would play the leads and supporting cast. It is a fruitless exercise since studios and directors always have candidates that the script writer and/or author may not have thought of. Insofar as my “casterbation” of this fruitless exercise is concerned, I can clearly see Mbuno played by Don Cheadle or even by Edi Gathegi (he may be a bit young). No question Cheadle could capture the role of a deeply spiritual, action-competent, and focused safari guide.

For Pero Baltazar, I can easily see Josh Duhamel, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Vince Vaughn, or—if I had a choice—Jeremy Renner. Jeremy Renner perhaps captures the essence of Pero in that he always seems to be thinking—it’s what Pero does—weighing events and actions carefully. There is nothing casual about the roles he takes, especially Wind River which was brilliant. I also admire Mark Ruffalo’s ability to be secretly vulnerable (meaning not egotistic, as Pero is not egotistic) whilst being capable of action.

And, to be clear, I would make sure that the place itself, the land of East Africa, was displayed as a major character.
Visit Peter Riva's website.

Writers Read: Peter Riva.

The Page 69 Test: Kidnapped on Safari.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

M.L. Huie's "Spitfire"

M.L. Huie is a writer, teacher and actor. In addition to working ten years as a features journalist he has written several plays that have been performed throughout the US and in the UK. He is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association, and teaches theatre and acting at the university-level. He is married to a brilliant woman and has two genius kids.

Here Huie shares some thoughts on the lead and director of an adaptation of his new novel, Spitfire:
I write historical fiction and movies are a large part of my research. My debut novel Spitfire takes place in London and Paris of 1946. I’ve traveled to both of those cities, but only film can allow me to venture back in time. So, it’s natural that I also “cast” my book with actors to help me more clearly “see” the book as I’m writing.

My protagonist Livy Nash is a young woman of 26 in this book. She’s English and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. She’s working-class, direct, funny and pretty damaged when we first meet her. Livy was one of many women recruited to serve as a spy behind enemy lines during World War Two, and her war ended in tragedy. She comes home a broken woman, but soon after the book begins she’s recruited anew by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming.

So, the actor who plays Livy in the film or HBO series of Spitfire (hey, I’m not picky) would have to have a pretty wide range as well as be believable in physical confrontations. Livy is not glamorous or regal. She’s not a character who will be hobnobbing with dukes and countesses in later books.

When I wrote the book I cast every character with famous actors except Livy. I saw her very clearly in my own mind. As a result I’ve had a hard time pinning down who would do her justice. After considering the question to amuse myself for a while my wife Brook suggested an actor she had seen in HBO’s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. It was Shailene Woodley.

I watched her in a few episodes and felt she had the requisite toughness along with a certain vulnerability, which I feel are part of Livy’s character. To my mind she certainly looks the part. Ms. Woodley also has a bit of action star on her resume in the Divergent series, where she leads a group of resistance fighters in a dystopian future. Of course my one concern would be whether could she pull off Livy’s specific British dialect. Ms. Woodley is originally from California. But as an actor myself, I know most of us are trained in dialects. How many times have you discovered that one of your favorite actors was actually Australian and British? I’m sure given the time she could look and sound like any one from anywhere.

Choosing a director for the sprawling, star-studded, big-budget adaptation of Spitfire (a boy can dream, ya know) proved much easier. The movie needs a woman at the helm and Greta Gerwig is ideal. Her film of Little Women proved she could take a period piece and make it feel relevant. It is possible that Ms. Gerwig might bring along the wonderful star of her films Little Women and Ladybird, Saoirse Ronan, to play Livy.

Sigh. OK, fine, Greta, if you insist.
Visit M.L. Huie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Maureen Johnson's "The Hand on the Wall"

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan).

Johnson's new book, The Hand on the Wall, is the third title in Truly Devious Series, which is set at Ellingham Academy, a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. In pursuit of the mystery behind Elligham's ghastly crimes: student and true-crime aficionado, Stevie Bell.

Here Johnson shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of The Hand on the Wall:
This is a tough one for me because I genuinely never think about this. I have a total mental blind spot in this department. This may come from working in theater for several years and having to keep my mind open about how things would be cast and staged. I had to keep my thoughts on the writing only.

I had a long think about this, though, and came up with Millie Bobby Brown as Stevie. I think she’d be very good. Stevie may have a bit of Stranger Things’ Eleven’s otherworldly focus. I think she would be a good fit. She’s got a great American accent (she’s one of these secretly English people, they are very sneaky).

Other than that—and that took me a really long time to think up—I’ve got nothing. My ability to not mentally cast is almost my superpower. I’m really focused on the book as a book. Anyone you want for the movie is okay with me. You can be in it, if you want.
Visit Maureen Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chad Dundas's "The Blaze"

Chad Dundas’ debut novel Champion of the World was a 2016 Boston Globe Best Book of the Year as well as a finalist for the David J. Langum Sr. Prize for Historical Fiction and Reading the West Book Awards. His short fiction has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, Sycamore Review, Sou’Wester and Thuglit.

Since 2001, he’s worked as a sportswriter for outlets such as ESPN, NBC Sports, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report, and the Associated Press, among others.

Here Dundas dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Blaze:
A person much wiser than myself, a hardened publishing industry veteran, once advised me that if Hollywood ever comes calling with an offer on one of your books, you cash the check and never think about it again. If they ever actually start filming, he said, then it’s OK to get excited. Maybe for that reason, I seldom imagine my characters as famous actors while I’m writing.

In fact, one of the main characters in my first book, Champion of the World, is a 40-something African American wrestler training for a chance to compete for the world championship while dealing with his own long-buried secrets. Yet it wasn’t until months after the book came out that a reader pointed out to me there’s a very famous actor who fits that physical description almost exactly. Sorry, Dwayne!

After having it painstakingly pointed out to me that maybe I dropped the ball not checking to see if The Rock and his Seven Bucks Productions company were interested in the movie rights to Champion of the World, I tried to be a bit more mindful of such things while writing The Blaze. Though, honestly, just barely.

The Blaze is a very different book than Champion. It’s a contemporary mystery/thriller set in my hometown of Missoula, MT. Matthew Rose, the male lead, is a late-twenties Iraq war veteran who returns to Montana having suffered significant memory loss after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during an IED explosion. To play him, you’d need somebody age appropriate who can bring an innate likability while also having an edge to them and capturing the confusion and vulnerability of a man who remembers very little of his own life. I’m reminded by the job Rami Malek did on USA Network’s Mr. Robot, even though Malek is a good 10 years older than Matthew and now a bonafide Oscar winner. I think a young actor like Logan Lerman or Josh Hutcherson might fit the general physical requirements and have the depth to pull it off.

The female lead, Georgie Porter, is Matthew’s lifelong friend and former romantic partner. She’s working as a small-town newspaper reporter when Matthew comes back to town. Georgie is smart, ambitious, stubborn and totally perplexed by the version of Matthew who reappears in her life after the two of them have been estranged for a few years. After seeing her in The Leftovers and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’m a little bit partial to Margaret Qualley in that role. As an added bonus Qualley, the daughter of longtime in-state resident Andie McDowell, is actually from Montana. So, she wins the role based on that alone.

The book takes place during a brutal Montana winter and my hope is that any movie adaptation would be cold and atmospheric and – maybe – could even be filmed on location.

But I’m not holding my breath.
Visit Chad Dundas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

J.T. Ellison's "Good Girls Lie"

In J. T. Ellison's new thriller, Good Girls Lie, Ash Carlisle leaves the U.K. after the death of her parents to attend the Goode School, a prep school for young women located in a small Virginia town that is a stepping stone to the Ivy League. Initially unprepared for the mean girls and the hazing, things get worse when students start dying...and suspicion falls on Ash.

Here Ellison shares a couple of ideas for the leads in an adaptation of the novel:
I’m always reticent to cast my own books, because there are so many people who would be brilliant in the main roles. So I turn to friends for inspiration.

For example, my friend Gare Billings has cast Florence Pugh as Ash, which I love. And he sees Anne Hathaway as Dean Westhaven, which I also love.

Because in my mind, I was envisioning Blake Lively or Jodi Comer as Dean Westhaven.

Any of the three actresses would bring a different dimension to the role.

That’s just little taste of how a great actress can shape a role.
Learn more about Good Girls Lie.

Visit J.T. Ellison's website and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Lars Iyer's "Nietzsche and the Burbs"

Lars Iyer is a Reader in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, where he was formerly a longtime lecturer in philosophy. He is the author of the novels in the Spurious Trilogy, and more recently the widely acclaimed Wittgenstein Jr.

Here Iyer dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, Nietzsche and the Burbs:
My title character, Nietzsche, is dark, remote and brilliant. He’s also touched by madness. As such, he’s the perfect lead singer for Nietzsche and the Burbs, the band at the heart of my novel. Could we persuade a young James Duval, who’s appeared in so many great Gregg Araki films to play him? I’m sure he could master the posh English accent.

Paula, the band’s rock-solid bassist, tough but sensitive, open to love, could only be played by the queen of cool, Kirsten Stewart circa the so-so Adventureland. Kirsten would need a Mohican, though.

Art, who thinks of himself as the ideas-man of the band, is a leader of teens, but not conventionally comely. He puts me in mind of Leo Fitzpatrick, who’s fantastic in those terrific Larry Clark films, Kids and Bully. Leo’s an artist, too, so he could do some set-design for us.

For Chandra, guitarist and narrator, I’d like to persuade the infinitely cool Alap Momin, AKA Oktopus, who used to be part of the great hip hop act Dälek, to try his hand at acting. We’d have to reverse-age him, à la The Irishman, but he could give musical advice too. He really knows how to use drones – important to the band.

Merv, marimba player extraordinaire, is a genuine Dostoevskian innocent, a holy fool. I think we could approach my namesake Lars Rudolph to play him, following his brilliant turn as János Valuska in Belá Tarr’s The Werckmeister Harmonies.

Bill Trim, who becomes the band’s drummer, is a thug with a queer heart. Following his performance in Hail Caesar!, can I elect Channing Tatum to play him?

I’d like to persuade two other musicians to play Noelle and Tana, friends of the band: respectively, the Billie Eilish, so funny, so sad, so bored-eyed, and my current favourite, Clairo, whose woozy, gauzy, dreamy album Immunity is on repeat in my office. I think she could summon up all of Tana’s sadness.

Who would direct the film? There’s Terry Zwigoff, who made Ghost World – one of the teen films by which all other teen films should be judged. He’s been quiet of late; we need to get him out of enforced retirement. There’s also the magnificent Catherine Hardwicke, who made another electrifying teen classic, Thirteen. She should be given the opportunity to go wild again. But I think Gregg Araki is my man, the director of Nowhere, of Mysterious Skin, of Now Apocalypse, with his outsider teens, full of queer energy, looking for love but making do with friendship. No one does teen apocalypticism better. His soundtracks are great, too.
Visit Lars Iyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nietzsche and the Burbs.

--Marshal Zeringue