Thursday, July 2, 2020

Elle Cosimano's "Seasons of the Storm"

Elle Cosimano's debut thriller, Nearly Gone, was an Edgar Award finalist, won the International Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and was awarded the Mathical Book Award recognizing mathematics in children’s literature. Her novel Holding Smoke was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award and the International Thriller Award. Her books for young adults have appeared on several statewide school and library reading lists.

Here Cosimano dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Seasons of the Storm:
Seasons of the Storm is a young adult urban fantasy/adventure about a group of teens who, upon their untimely deaths, have each been turned into the immortal embodiment of a season on earth. Gifted with elemental magic, they’re forced into a vicious cycle in which each Season must hunt and kill the one who comes before them in order to lay claim to their limited time on earth. I started drafting the story years ago, so many of the actors I envisioned while creating the characters are now too old for the roles. But there are plenty of amazing and talented young actors today who could easily play their parts.

Jack Sommers became the living embodiment of Winter in 1988 after a skiing accident took his life. With a skater’s build and garage-band style, he’s the story’s cool and brooding rebel. Cocky and willful, Jack’s known for his ambitious and often dangerous plans, and I can picture Colin Ford pulling off this role with aplomb.

After dying from cancer in the early 1990s, Fleur Atwell was revived to become one of the most powerful Springs in the world. Her long pink hair, emotional warmth, and sunny disposition contrast her badass grip on some deadly earth magic, and she can be ruthless when it counts to protect the people she loves. Emilia Jones would make a fantastic Fleur.

Julio Verano took the mantle of Summer after drowning while surfing off the coast of southern California in 1985. Carefree and often reckless, he’s known among the Guards as being a troublemaker with a stormy temper, and among the Seasons as being a hot beach boy and a flirt. Diego Tinoco, with his radiant smile and impressive physique, would be perfect for the part.

Amber Chase, a rebellious runaway, became an Autumn when she froze to death in 1969. A studious and highly skilled fighter with fiery red hair and sharp, catlike eyes, she’s become aloof and stoic, resigned to her violent life as a Season after so many years. I could see Abigail Cowen or Bella Thorne being a fantastic fit for this role.
Visit Elle Cosimano's website.

Q&A with Elle Cosimano.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2020

Diana Clarke's "Thin Girls"

Diana Clarke is a writer and teacher from New Zealand. She received her MFA in fiction from Purdue University and is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Utah.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Thin Girls:
It’s hard for me to think of this book as a movie. My main fear about putting this work into the world is its potential to do harm. It deals with subjects that can send minds spiralling and it unrelentingly talks of bodies when, sometimes, I think bodies are best left unsaid. These are the concerns I have with the story in book form.

In film, though, those concerns are amplified. I’m so anxious and uncomfortable about the ways in which women’s bodies are generally mediated: as spectacles, disasters, masterpieces, objects of nothing but desire. Thin Girls deals with extreme thinness and fatness and both gaining and losing weight, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen these subjects covered responsibly on a screen to date. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I hope it is!

If I’m not panicking about all of that, though, then I’d cast the Olsen Twins as the leads. Duh. It’s a book about twins and they’re the face of twinship. Mary Kate would play Rose. While I think every woman in the western world has disordered thinking about eating and food, Mary Kate struggled with anorexia, specially, which is what Rose is diagnosed with, so I think she’d understand the character through and through without having to do any scary research or method acting stuff. Ashley would play Lily. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think the Olsen twins are acting much these days. I miss them.

When I talked with my film agents about the book, they thought Dakota and Elle Fanning would suit the characters, and I agree with that casting choice, too. There’s this Nicholas Winding Refn film, Neon Demon, which played an important role in inspiring the book I’m working on now, and Elle Fanning is the star of that story.

The film’s soundtrack is easy. I listened to non-stop bubblegum pop while I wrote this book, and something about the contrast between writing such dark material and listening to these upbeat adolescent tracks (I’m talking "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies and "Wouldn’t It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys) made me realise that the negative space surrounding these sticky sweet songs is super eerie. Once a song finished, the space between that track and the next one felt quieter than silence. It’s like, listen to this clappy, dancey music so you can pretend you’re not sad and scared. I love it.

Colour scheme would also be really important to me in the cinematic version of Thin Girls. I see colours when I write and they play an important part in my revision process. As I draft, I see hints of hues and, when a section is working, the colours stop being murky and become really clear. I know it sounds woo-woo, but I see this book in three distinct parts with three corresponding colour schemes. There’s this clinical white and grey section set at Rose’s recovery facility in the beginning, followed by a grungy neon and too-bright-against-too-dark scheme when Rose is discharged from the facility and as she unravels further into her illness. The last section of the book is nature drenched, lots of greens and blues, as the story finds its hope.
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2020

Meghan Holloway's "Hunting Ground"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Here Holloway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Hunting Ground:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page…I gave the subject of starring roles for Hunting Ground some consideration before I came up with my answer.

I wrote Hector more in the vein of an antihero than a hero. He lived a hard life from the time he was a boy, and he is a cold man driven by obsession. The only gentling influences in his life are Frank, his dog, and Maggie, his wife’s closest friend. Although he is a bit younger than the character, I think Josh Brolin could pull off the stern, weathered, distant character of Hector.

Evelyn is a complex character. Her family background is bittersweet, and she is a taciturn, reserved woman who is proud of the work she does and longing to make connections in her new home. She knows what it is to be prey, and a past encounter with a predator six years ago has left its mark on her. She has a brittleness to her, but also a strength of character and incredible resilience and tenacity. Emily Blunt is such a talented actress. I love the range of characters and emotions she plays, and I think she would make a brilliant Evelyn.

Jeff is a character who strikes everyone as handsome and charming, but Evelyn quickly sees beyond the facade. I could see an actor like Eric Bana playing a role in which a suave exterior hides something far more sinister and twisted.

If you’ve read Hunting Ground, tell me what you think of my choices for these leading roles. Who would you cast to portray Hector, Evelyn, and Jeff?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Jane L. Rosen's "Eliza Starts a Rumor"

Jane L. Rosen is an author, screenwriter, and Huffington Post contributor. She lives in New York City and Fire Island with her husband and three daughters.

Here Rosen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Eliza Starts a Rumor:
As an author I am asked many questions like where do you get your ideas (where don’t I,) and when is your best time to write (first thing in the morning,) and what do you do about writer’s block (write through it). Originally a screenwriter, I tend to write visually and in doing so I picture each character as a person in my head. I don’t picture actual actors though, more like blurry avatars. Which brings me to my favorite question, who do you see cast in the film version of your book?

I’ll start with Eliza.

Eliza Hunt is a stay at home mom, in the most literal sense of the word. She suffers from agoraphobia and has hardly left the house since her twins flew off to college. She is a good person who gets herself into hot water, as the title of the book implies, by starting a rumor. She is funny, in a self-deprecating way, even when dealing with some very serious issues. I believe that Eliza Hunt is the perfect part for Drew Barrymore. Drew has great comic timing and priceless facial expressions and while she hasn’t really displayed her dramatic acting chops since Grey Gardens, I know she would kill it with Eliza.

Next up, Olivia York.

Olivia is outwardly perfect, and inwardly pretty close to perfect as well. She needs an actress who can grow with her as the story unfolds. I choose Emmy Rossum to play Olivia. Maybe you are only familiar with Emmy as Fiona in the Showtime series Shameless, but I ate lunch next to her once at Barneys (may it RIP) and she carried herself with such beauty and class that it was hard to concentrate on my Fred’s Chopped Chicken Salad. I would love to see her play the bookish, graceful new mother, Olivia York.

Alison Le.

My dream casting of Alison Le would be Maggie Q. Like Alison, Maggie Q’s parents met when her father was stationed in Vietnam during the war. Aside from the spot on lineage, I can just see her as the smart lawyer trying to navigate single motherhood without giving up too much of her previous self. Maggie is the perfect fit for the pragmatic and beautiful Alison Le and it would be refreshing to watch her whip a baby bottle out of her bag instead of a 357 Magnum.

Amanda Cole.

For Amanda I choose January Jones. Amanda’s looks have always been her calling card and I think the same could be said of January. Aside from her beauty and talent, I miss Betty Draper and having binged Mad Men four times already, I think it's time that January Jones has a new vehicle to star in. For my sake at least!

Jackie Campbell

There are no shortage of actors to play the big love interest in Eliza Starts A Rumor, but I am going for Sterling K Brown. While his character, a tall, handsome, slightly nerdy father of a teenage girl isn’t a far leap from the character he plays on This is Us, the six foot tall actor is exactly who I picture knocking knees with Maggie Q on a train ride through the Hudson Valley.

Bonus casting: Spencer, the cocky, athletic husband of Olivia—Ethan Peck. I hate to be shallow but just look at him, and also he is Gregory Peck’s grandson. My choice for Eliza’s husband, Luke Hunt, belongs to one of my favorite cinematic heart throbs, Sam Shepard. Since he is sadly no longer with us, I will have to leave that one up to the casting director.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Catherine McKenzie's "You Can't Catch Me"

Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, where she now practices law. Her bestselling novels include Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, Hidden, Smoke, The Good Liar and I'll Never Tell.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, You Can't Catch Me:
I often get asked if my books were made into a film, who would play the lead roles. This is a difficult question for me because, although I do describe my characters, they are not necessarily fully physical humans to me. What I've found is that I often react negatively to certain suggestions -- not her, I've been known to say, but don't have a clear view in mind of who should play what person. That being said, here's a few possibilities:

Jessica Williams (Jessica 1, the main character): Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley

Jessie (Jessica 3): Emma Stone

JJ (Jessica 4): Emma Watson

Liam: Clive Owen, Simon Baker

But honestly, it would just be so cool to have the book become a movie or a TV show that I don't think I would be picky!

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Emily Temple's "The Lightness"

Emily Temple holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

Here Temple dreamcasts an adaptation of her first novel, The Lightness:
The Lightness is a novel about a teenage girl who follows her missing father to a meditation center in the mountains—a place famous for its supposed connection to feats of levitation. She doesn’t find him there, but she does find a mysterious group of girls hell-bent on achieving transcendence (both literal and metaphysical) themselves. It’s a book about desire, obsession, magic, female friendships, bodies, and belief—and it includes a very strange scene involving menstrual blood. So obviously my dream director is Sofia Coppola. I imagine the final product being somewhere between The Virgin Suicides and The Bling Ring, with just a hint of The Beguiled.

As far as casting goes, it’s tougher, because most of the main characters in the book are teenagers, and I admit that I am old and don’t know who the cool teenage actors are. But for Luke, the sexy, lecturing, possibly-enlightened gardener with a man bun, I can’t help but imagine Jared Leto. Luke’s in his early 20s, so Leto is much too old at this point (though who knows with Hollywood magic), but let’s say a Jared Leto type. Or maybe this is just because Jordan Catalano ruined my childhood. Actually, Timothée Chalamet might do the trick if he grew his hair out—and if it wouldn’t hurt too much to see him as a villain.

If we agree to stretch the boundaries of who could play a teenager, Florence Pugh would make an excellent Serena—the ringleader of the group of girls, manipulative, smart, and alternately alluring and terrifying. (My Lady Macbeth, if you will.) Anya Taylor-Joy would be another good choice—both of them are beautifully strange. Maybe they have younger sisters.

Finally, my narrator’s father is this sort of distant, wandering blonde dharma bum—for him, I feel obligated to say Matthew McConaughey. For her mother, a passionate Italian immigrant who takes up all the space in the room, I must choose Monica Bellucci. And as for my narrator herself? I think she’d have to be played by someone brand new.
Visit Emily Temple's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 15, 2020

Lindsay Wong's "My Summer of Love and Misfortune"

Lindsay Wong is the author of the bestselling, award-winning memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. She has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, and she is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

Here Wong dreamcasts an adaptation of My Summer of Love and Misfortune, her first YA novel:
If they made my book into a film, I would love Ali Wong to write and direct it. Ali Wong is hilarious and I believe she would capture the absurd comedy and emotional resonance of My Summer Of Love And Misfortune perfectly. I loved Always Be My Maybe, and I wish I had an ounce of her brilliance.

Lana Condor (To All The Boys I Have Loved Before) would make an excellent Iris Wang. Despite being flawed, selfish, and lost, Iris is generally well-meaning and I think the actress would capture all these multifaceted sides of Iris. For the rest of the movie roles, I wonder about bringing in the cast from Kim’s Convenience. Andrea Bang would make a formidable and funny Ruby, and I think Paul Sun-Hyung Yee who plays Appa would be perfect for Uncle Dai or Iris’ father. When I was writing Iris’ dad’s lines, I kept thinking about how Yee would deliver them with perfect comedic timing.

Actually, can they just bring in the casts of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat to make this film? Joe Zee should be the executive producer and style all the clothes and the outrageous dog grooming outfits!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

David Philip Mullins's "The Brightest Place in the World"

David Philip Mullins is the author of The Brightest Place in the World, a novel, and Greetings from Below, a story collection that won both the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and the International Walter Scott Prize for Short Stories.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of The Brightest Place in the World:
The Brightest Place in the World opens with an explosion at a chemical plant in the Nevada desert, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The novel then traces the lives of four characters who are directly affected by the disaster, and by the death of an employee of the plant: Andrew Huntley. Russell was Andrew’s best friend—an anxiety-afflicted bartender with a marijuana habit. Emma is Russell’s wife, a blackjack dealer who was having an affair with Andrew, unbeknownst to Russell. Simon is another employee of the plant, and could have saved Andrew’s life during the explosion but drove away in fear, leaving Andrew to perish. Lastly, Maddie is Andrew’s daughter, a brainiac teenager who takes off with Russell on a secret road trip through the Nevada desert, during which she develops a penchant for shoplifting that leads to the novel’s climax.

I like the idea of Brad Pitt playing Russell. I’m thinking of the Brad Pitt of True Romance—Floyd, the stoner. For Emma I’m envisioning Andie MacDowell, one of my favorite actresses. Here I’m thinking of the Andie MacDowell of Short Cuts—Ann Finnigan, the grieving mother. I can see someone like Adam Driver playing Simon. His performance as Charlie Barber in Marriage Story comes to mind as an example of his mastery as an actor. And as for Maddie, it has to be Brighton Sharbino, whom I thought of while writing The Brightest Place in the World. An odd choice, perhaps, since I’ve seen her only as Lizzie Samuels in The Walking Dead, but there you have it.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Paul Mosier's "Summer and July"

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011 but has written in some fashion his entire life. He is married and the father to two daughters, one of whom has passed to the next dimension. He lives near his place of birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, and talking nonstop. He has written three critically acclaimed books for middle grade readers: Train I Ride, Echo’s Sister, and Summer and July.

Here Mosier dreamcasts some of the main characters for an adaptation of Summer and July:
If Summer and July were made into a movie, picking the actors to play the leads, Summer and Juillet, is tricky because they are 13, and anyone who looked like them today would age-out by the time the movie was shot.
If Elle Fanning had a little sister she’d make a great Juillet. 
Summer would need to be a prototypical blond surfer girl. 
The one character that really suggests an actor is The Big Kahuna, who could be played by Kris Kristofferson 20 years ago, or Jeff Bridges with his Lebowski look. 
Otis would need to be a black male in his late teens who looks like he can surf, and Juillet’s mom I imagine as a 40 year old with a Tina Fey look. 
My favorite director is Wes Anderson, but someone with an eye not for the built environment but for the camera’s eye, like Sean Baker of The Florida Project, might make the most of the setting.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Wesley King's "Sara and the Search for Normal"

Wesley King is the author of the Edgar Award–winning OCDaniel, which Booklist praised as “complex and satisfying” in a starred review. It was also named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year and received Canada’s Silver Birch Award. King’s first middle grade novel, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!, was called “a well-drafted coming-of-age story” by Publishers Weekly. King is also the author of The Vindico and its sequel, The Feros, which were both Junior Library Guild selections, and Kobe Bryant’s New York Times bestselling Wizenard series.

Here King dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Sara and the Search for Normal:
I always enjoy this game. And, in fact, the companion book OCDaniel is currently being developed for a film by the amazing team at Ley Line Entertainment. That one is still in screenplay production, but I am sure all authors at least think about adaptations at every stage. For myself, I prioritize directors and subsequently the style. Sara and the Search for Normal is very voice-y and sarcastic and relies so much on her singular voice and her changing view of the world. Getting Sara right would be a critical. I don't know a ton of young actresses (Sara is twelve), but definitely someone who can master that droll delivery, but is evocative enough to portray our inner demons in an external way. No small order. Well, enough pretext. Here is my list: 
Director: Taika Watiti (he can balance humor an heart so well) 
Sara: Siena Agudong 
Erin: Whoever is the current teen Emma Stone 
Her troubled father: Tom Hardy (why not?) 
Mother: Rachel McAdams (I needed a Canadian) 
Random extra walking in the background: Me

Q&A with Wesley King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Debra Bokur's "The Fire Thief"

Debra Bokur is an author, journalist, editor, screenwriter, and illustrator. Her work has appeared in a variety of domestic and international media outlets, including National Geographic Traveler, Islands, Spa Magazine, Experience Life Magazine, Natural Home, Yoga Journal, Global Traveler, and Women’s Adventure. She is a recipient of the 2015 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.

Here Bokur dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fire Thief:
My Dark Paradise Mysteries series is set in Hawaii, and The Fire Thief delves into the potential connection between ancient indigenous legends and several violent deaths that begin with the murder of a teenage surfer. Detective Kali Māhoe of the Maui Police Department balances her police training, a degree in anthropology and her knowledge of the islands’ dark lore to connect the dots. Aided by her uncle, Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, she investigates sightings of a faceless, malevolent spirit that appears to be connected to a string of solar panel thefts, all leading back to the bodies collecting on Maui’s sandy beaches.

I was a theater major, and practically everything I write begins in my head as a screenplay, so casting a film version of The Fire Thief happened early in the story process. My descent into make-believe even included an imaginary lunch with director Ron Howard, during which he offered to give me his dessert if I’d agree to let him direct the movie. Not only did I say yes, but in the spirit of fostering a good working relationship, I let him keep half his slice of pineapple upside-down cake.

When I write the character of Kali Māhoe, it’s an image of actress Keisha Castle-Hughes that wanders around my writing room. You might know her from Whale Rider, a film role that earned her a 2004 Academy Award nomination when she was only 13 years old. More recently, this New Zealand actress of Maori descent played Obara Sand in Game of Thrones (Season 5), and I believe she’s got the chops to play Kali.

Also from New Zealand, veteran actor Jay Laga’aia would bring out both the fun and toughness of Walter Alaka’i. Plus, Laga’aia has already played a captain—Captain Typho in two of the Star Wars films, to be exact—so I’m pretty sure he’s already got all the training he needs (plus some) to be a gravity-bound Hawaiian cop.

For policeman David Hara, it’s got to be John Cho. As I explained to Ron Howard during our (okay, my) fantasy lunch, this pick is non-negotiable.

I know that actress Lyrica Okano already has a job in the Hulu series Runaways. Still—she’d be perfect to stretch into the complicated role of Makena Shirai, a confused meth addict who’s an important part of the world portrayed in the Dark Paradise Mysteries.

When I’m working on scenes featuring store proprietor George Tsui, also a regular in the series, it’s the smiling face of Hawaiian actor Dennis Chun that always pops up. Chun’s creds include both Magnum, P.I. and Hawaii Five-O, so he’d be a natural.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Natalie Jenner's "The Jane Austen Society"

Natalie Jenner was born in England and emigrated to Canada as a young child. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College where she was the 1990 Gold Medalist in English Literature, her LL.B. from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, and was Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995. In addition to a brief career as a corporate lawyer, Jenner has worked as a recruiter, career coach, and consultant to leading law firms in Canada for over twenty years.

Most recently she founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

Here Jenner dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Jane Austen Society:
In The Jane Austen Society there are eight main characters who band together at the end of WWII to save Jane Austen’s house, which is a bit of a handful for any producer to both cast and afford. Drawing quick distinctions between all these characters, both physically and temperamentally, became critical early on in the writing. But one thing they almost all had in common: a bona fide British accent. As a result, my dream cast would be a who’s who of leading actors in British film and television.

Because I write without any kind of an outline or idea of what lies ahead, I get to know my characters over time. But with The Jane Austen Society, one particular actor and his performances directly influenced one of my characters right from the start. Benjamin Gray is the widowed village doctor in my story, as well as the keeper of everyone's secrets. When I was writing, I kept imagining this pillar of the town who was so handsome and tall and comforting in tone, but also so inwardly tormented. In that respect the character called to mind the performance by British actor Richard Armitage in the 2004 BBC drama North and South where he played John Thornton, who has always struck me as the ultimate romantic period drama hero. I could see Matthew Goode for the character of the lawyer, Andrew Forrester, who is described as ramrod-straight in both posture and behaviour. For the farmer Adam in my book, I think James Norton from the television series Grantchester and the recent BBC War & Peace would capture the quiet gentleness of that character, and Tom Hughes of the ITV series Victoria would make a perfectly cutting Yardley, the Sotheby’s auctioneer. As for Jack Leonard, the rakish Hollywood producer who is so ostensibly lucky and golden, only Armie Hammer will do.

I thought Hayley Atwell, who always gives such confident and centred performances no matter the role, would make an excellent version of my American actress character Mimi—and she has the perfect bone structure to pull it off. For Evie Stone, the small, suspicious and intellectually precocious servant girl who is secretly cataloguing a potentially invaluable family library in the book, I wish I could shave a few inches of height off of Saoirse Ronan because she would just be perfect in the role. Adeline Grover, the war widow, is one of my favourite characters in the book because she is just so no-holds-barred damaged, and British actress Ruth Wilson always captures that mix of directness and vulnerability so well. As for Frances Knight, the heiress to the estate at risk of dispersal in my book, I think Olivia Colman could really do justice to a woman in her late 40s who has let life pass her by but still has one last spark left.

In terms of location, my book is set in the actual village of Chawton, England, where Jane Austen lived and wrote her books, and where the first real-life Jane Austen Society started up in the 1940s in an effort to preserve Austen’s cottage as a museum. It was a one-week trip that I took to Chawton three years ago that inspired me to write my book in the first place. Any film production company interested in my book should know that not only do all the locations for my book already exist, Chawton House today has welcomed film crews inside to film. Fingers crossed that the actual rooms and grounds that inspired my book could come to life all over again on film in a neat little existential loop.
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nancy Star's "Rules For Moving"

Nancy Star is the author of the bestselling novel Sisters One, Two, Three, a Publishers Weekly top ten print book and Amazon Kindle bestseller of 2016. Her previous novels, which have been translated into several languages, include Carpool Diem, Up Next, Now This, and Buried Lives. Her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Money, and Family Circle. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, Star worked for over a decade as a movie executive at the Samuel Goldwyn Company and the Ladd Company, dividing her time between New York and London.

Here Star dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Rules for Moving:
Often when I’m writing, it feels as if I’m watching a movie in my head. Scenes unspool, stakes rise, characters reveal secrets. The ending can be as much of a surprise when I write it, as it is to the reader who reads it. So dreamcasting my novel is my idea of fun!

A bit about the book: Rules For Moving is the story of online advice columnist Lane Meckler, adored for the wise, witty advice she gives to her readers, but an ill at ease odd duck in her actual life. A social distancer before there was a word for it, Lane is okay with her outsider status until the day her son Henry stops speaking to everyone but her. To help her son, she finally needs to figure out the reason that she’s always felt other than.

The perfect director for this book to screen translation: Lisa Cholodenko. I bet you know her work: she directed the HBO adaptation of the novel Olive Kitteridge and the award-wining limited series Unbelievable. She also directed one of my favorite films, The Kids Are All Right, starring the luminous team of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.

Why Lisa Cholodenko? She’s brilliant at finding the sweet spot between heartbreak and humor, and a genius at revealing what’s true in a character. She’s perfectly suited to portray the tensions in Lane’s life as pressure builds at work and home and she would totally get both Lane’s single-minded devotion to her son, and Lane’s mother’s peculiar strategies for avoiding what’s difficult.

Who are the actors in this dream movie? For Lane Meckler, imagine Amy Adams. I’m thinking particularly of her work in Sharper Things, where her character, like Lane, was great at her job (in her case, a journalist) but had to work hard to keep it together in her private life. Like Lane, that character also has vague haunting memories which she tries hard to ignore. Plus Amy Adams can do anything! But so can Reese Witherspoon, who would also be wonderful in the part! And because there is humor as well as heartbreak in this novel, I’ll hedge my bets by saying either Kristen (Kristen Wiig or Kristen Bell) would be fantastic in bringing a different slant to the material, which has room for them to show their comic brilliance and their dramatic chops.

On to the fun of casting Lane’s mother, Sylvie, a woman who’s lived her life making sacrifices no one understands, and whose solution for what to do when things get tough is to move house. Sylvie has a novel’s worth of depth and secrets and Meryl Streep, the job is yours if you want it! Also, Annette Bening: you would be divine! As for Lane’s father, the gruff but misunderstood Marshall Meckler, Robert De Niro, if you’re free, come aboard!

Last to cast is Lane’s love interest: Nathan. There are a lot of great choices here for actors who are terrific at playing regular guys who are slightly worn around the edges, big-hearted fellows with good souls who aren’t completely perfect. Nathan has his share of secrets too. For Nathan, I see Mark Ruffalo, or Steve Carrell, or Kevin Bacon. But Brad Pitt, if you’re interested, let’s talk!

Now that the movie’s cast, I’m going to go make some popcorn. But books don’t turn into movies overnight, so I recommend you make some popcorn and pick up the book! Did you know eating popcorn goes very well with reading too! Either way, have fun!
Visit Nancy Star's website.

Q&A with Nancy Star.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Florence Gonsalves's "Dear Universe"

Florence Gonsalves is the author of two books of young adult fiction, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants and Dear Universe. In 2015 she graduated from Dartmouth College where she majored in Philosophy, while taking as many poetry classes as she could. Her work experience ranges from publishing in NYC, to farming in Maine, to one really bad holiday shift at UPS. She currently lives in Portland, Maine.

Here Gonsalves dreamcasts an adaptation of Dear Universe:
Seeing my baby on screen would be a dream.

I love Perks of Being a Wallflower, both the book and movie, for how it handles heavy topics alongside the beautiful flings and flirtations that come with being a teen. I'm in awe that the author, Stephen Chbosky, also directed the movie. It’d be my ideal scenario to be involved in every part of the process, from the screenwriting to the casting. As exciting as a movie deal would be though, I know it'd be hard to put my story in the hands of other people, as Dear Universe is very personal for me and my family. If somehow Chloë Sevigny circa 2001 could play Cham, I would lose my mind. Since time travel isn’t yet possible, I’d love to see Adel Farine or Emma Roberts as Cham. For Brendan I vote Corey Fogelmanis; he’d really rock a tutu.
Visit Florence Gonsalves's website.

Q&A with Florence Gonsalves.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Liv Constantine's "The Wife Stalker"

Liv Constantine is the pen name of bestselling authors Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Their debut thriller, The Last Mrs. Parrish, was a Reese Witherspoon book club selection, a People Magazine book of the week, a Target book club selection, and is in development for television.

Their second novel, The Last Time I Saw You, is in development for film.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of their new novel, The Wife Stalker:
Every author has more than likely imagined sitting in a darkened movie theatre and seeing the characters they’ve created walk off the page and onto the screen. To hear them speak and watch them interact would be a thrilling experience, and so it is an amusing game the author plays––the game of choosing the actors who would be perfect for each role. Because our stories are equally plot and character driven, our process involves simultaneously fleshing out our characters and loosely outlining the plot, and so from the very beginning we have fun identifying an actor we feel has the qualities and appearance of that character.

The three main characters in The Wife Stalker are: Piper, a young and beautiful mystery woman who moves to Westport, Connecticut after leaving California and a past she wishes to hide; Joanna, a woman committed to caring for her family, and Leo, a high-powered criminal attorney with whom both women are in love. Piper is young, hip, west coast, into yoga, meditation and all things new age. The actor who seems to fit the bill for her is Margot Robbie. Joanna is little older than Piper, settled, down to earth, and fiercely devoted to Leo and children Evie and Stelli. Maggie Gyllenhaal is our choice for Joanna. Leo is smart, decent and going through a rough patch. He’s a character we have warm feelings for, and so the actor we chose needed to be someone we felt the same way about. As we went down the list of possible candidates, we both smiled and nodded when we got to Robert Downey, Jr. Perfect.

But what if we were making this movie 50 or 60 or even 70 years ago. Who would be the perfect players? And would the era and the stars of old give the story a different bent?

From the 1950s we would have chosen Audrey Hepburn for Piper, Bette Davis for Joanna and Gary Cooper for Leo. Audrey would have brought more innocence to Piper and Bette more fearsomeness to Joanna. Gary would have turned Leo into a more brooding and distant Leo. This film would have been at the top of the melodrama scale.

In the 1960s, Doris Day would have made an interesting Piper, turning her into a sunshiny and warm Pollyanna, one the audience would love and root for. Joanne Woodward would have made a strong and determined Joanna, but one who would seem too invincible for Doris to go up against. The Leo of the 1960s could have gone to one of two actors. Paul Newman (Joanne Woodward’s real life husband), if we wanted the audience to root for Joanna, or Rock Hudson, who obviously would absolutely have to end up with Doris Day, turning the film into a romantic comedy.

For the 1970s production of The Wife Stalker, Joanna would be played by Barbra Streisand, and Leo––yes, you guessed it––Robert Redford. In this case there would be no need for Piper or the film The Way We Were. This film would have been a certified tearjerker.

Lastly, we thought about what the choice of director might mean in how our story would be brought to life. So for example, if Quentin Tarantino directed, Joanna would be played by Uma Thurman, Kill Bill style. The role of Piper would go to assassin Lucy Liu with bad guy David Carradine as Leo, turning the story into “grindhouse cinema”––the term for low-budget, horror and splatter movies.

We think we’ll stick with the 2020 cast.
Visit Liv Constantine's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Nancy Wayson Dinan's "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here"

Nancy Wayson Dinan is a native Texan who currently lives in San Jose, Costa Rica and teaches at Texas Tech University. Her work has appeared in Arts & Letters, Crab Orchard Review, the Cincinnati Review, and others. She earned her MFA from the Ohio State University in 2013 and is a PhD student in fiction at Texas Tech.

Here Dinan dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here:
This is such an interesting exercise, as I didn’t have a clear choice in mind while I was writing, but it is fascinating to think about this now with the book almost out in the world. In the book, devastating storms have hit the Texas hill country, and Boyd has only a short time to rescue her friend Isaac.

Boyd, the protagonist, is empathetic to the point where she needs to be isolated from society at large, and because of this need for isolation, focuses her attention on the natural world. I picture Boyd as slight, very wary, a bit awkward because she is self-conscious. She is also not concerned about her appearance, and she doesn’t want to call attention to herself. I think that the Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone would make an excellent Boyd, though I do think that Lawrence is physically much prettier than I picture Boyd to be. In much of the book, Boyd is walking across the back country of central Texas, so she is a little dirtier and rougher than she normally would be.

Isaac, Boyd’s on-again off-again boyfriend, is not nearly as self-conscious as Boyd, and he moves through the world with confidence. In the novel, Isaac’s confidence is shaken as he finds himself in a situation where Boyd must rescue him. Is it cheating to cast an actor who is no longer with us? If not, I really imagine Heath Ledger playing this character – Ledger had a similar confidence, and to me, Ledger’s confidence seemed tempered with a certain kindness, which is at the heart of Isaac’s character.
Visit Nancy Wayson Dinan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Demetra Brodsky's "Last Girls"

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning art director and designer turned writer. She has a B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. Dive Smack, her debut YA thriller, is dedicated to the Monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death.

Here Brodsky dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Last Girls:
For every book I write, I create a Pinterest board to go with the plot and characters. I always have a specific actor or image in mind. Sometimes, it's an actor I've seen in a movie or TV show that gives me the vibe I'm looking for, but mostly it's just good luck. Here's how I see the Juniper sisters in Last Girls play out in the movie in my head.

Honey: Diana Silvers

Honey is protective and loyal. I loved Diana Silvers’s performance in Booksmart. She’s has the right mix of confidence, responsibly, and sarcasm to back up Honey’s traits.

Birdie: Emily Rudd

I haven’t seen Emily Rudd in much but she gives me a false ingénue vibe that I think would work well for Birdie if she were able to balance Birdie’s rebellion with her fierce and romantic nature. To me, Birdie would be the hardest to play because she feels everything so viscerally.

Blue: India Eisley

I think India Eisley plays quiet, contemplative characters really well, illustrated by her performances in My Sweet Audrina, I Am The Night, and Underworld Awakening.

Toby: Cole Sprouse

Without ruining too much of the plot for anyone who hasn’t read Last Girls, just trust me when I say Toby gave me serious Jughead Jones vibes while I wrote him. Not the comic book Juggy. I mean, the brooding, smart Riverdale Jughead.

You can visit the Last Girls Pinterest board to see more.
Visit Demetra Brodsky's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Demetra Brodsky & L.B. and Ponyboy Curtis.

Q&A with Demetra Brodsky.

The Page 69 Test: Last Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 7, 2020

John Farrow's "Roar Back"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today," while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

Here Farrow shares some insights about the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of Roar Back, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series:
Having had one feature made from a novel of mine (The Timekeeper), been the story director on another (Uvanga), having had other novels in development, and having had several plays produced, I know that casting and the choice of director is out of the writer’s whimsy. I take the monies and I runs. (I feel a rant coming on but shall nip that in the bud.) Casting my principal detective, Émile Cinq-Mars, is both easy and difficult. He’s younger in Roar Back than in other novels, so it would not be hard to find a tall, dark, handsome, strong individual to fit one part of the physical description, and many a fine actor would love to play a solitary cop who uses his brains yet possesses brawn, and who sticks to his moral code while those around him slide into slime. Secondary aspects are more difficult — I know because we’ve tried in the past. Gargantuan nose. Speaking English with a French accent. Having identifiable French-Canadian facial features with a suggestion of First Nations heritage. Still, if wee Tom Cruise can play six-foot-six Jack Reacher, accommodations can be made.

Martin Scorsese ought not to be the director, it’s best if someone acquainted with the milieu of Montreal did that, but what a wonderful casting agent he’d be. He’d be adept at getting the right faces for the Russian mobsters, the Hells Angels and ageing Mafioso, even local cops and FBI. Also, the juvenile toughs. He’d put the right art people in place to give them all the right look, and that would be critical for this menagerie of hoodlums and innocents, enforcers and those willing to stand against them. Then again, maybe it should be Scorsese.
Visit John Farrow's website and Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Roar Back.

Q&A with John Farrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2020

Isla Morley's "The Last Blue"

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and five tortoises.

Here Morley dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Last Blue:
Picture James Franco and John Krasinksi in the roles of two documentarians on assignment to an Appalachian outpost during the Depression, the former a gifted writer tired of being on the government’s dime and the latter a photographer whose career is flailing. This will be a departure for Krasinksi from the Jack Ryan brand, but does he really want to be typecast as an action hero when there’s so much depth and unmined potential? Stay with me, now. Soon after arriving in Chance, Kentucky, these two friends hear outlandish rumors about a secretive family quarantined in Spooklight Holler, and instead of heeding warnings to steer clear, they head into the wilderness in search of a scoop. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Tulip Fever) is perfect in both appearance and skill to be cast as Jubilee Buford, a woman forced to live in isolation on account of her shocking blue skin, the target of superstition and prejudice her whole life. There isn’t any accent Vikander can’t master, and here she will do a flawless eastern Kentucky drawl in a historical drama based on the real-life case of “The Blue People of Kentucky.”

Never has Jubilee interacted with outsiders, but now she must contend with two Northerners whose purpose she cannot discern, a task increasingly complicated as the men seek to befriend the rest of her family and the family’s sole neighbor, the cantankerous distiller played by Renée Zellweger (think Cold Mountain’s Ruby Thewes aged twenty years). Jubilee’s ally has always been her brother, the only other blue-skinned member of the family, but Levi (Lucas Black) is more volatile than usual, hiding his own illicit activities that threaten to endanger the family’s wellbeing every bit as much as the devious purpose of the two outsiders with their recording device and camera.

As for the director, Greta Gerwig is the only candidate. Okay, now someone have her yell, “Action!”
Learn more about the book and author at Isla Morley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Above.

Writers Read: Isla Morley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Matt Gallagher's "Empire City"

Matt Gallagher is the author of the novels Empire City and Youngblood, a finalist for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Paris Review and Wired, among other places. He’s also the author of the Iraq war memoir Kaboom and coeditor of, and contributor to, the short fiction collection Fire & Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

Here Gallagher dreamcasts an adaptation of Empire City:
If Empire City were turned into a film ...

Though it's set in an alternate America, Empire City is very much concerned with modern issues of war and peace and the relationship between a republic and its military. There's only been one great post-Vietnam war film made, in my opinion: Three Kings, written and directed by David O. Russell. So he's my dream director, because I know he can walk the line between sincerity and dark humor so important to stories of armed conflict, and I know he understands the character nuances and ambiguities inherent to compelling soldier leads.

Speaking of those leads...

In a perfect world, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (of McLovin fame) plays Sebastian Rios. Sebastian's a goofball, but deep down possesses the heart of a lion. I think Mintz-Plasse could tap into that range fundamental to Sebastian's arc.

I got Anne Hathaway playing the role of Mia Tucker. This one was easy - a few years ago, I was assigned a piece at The Intercept that involved watching Hathaway play a drone operator in a one-person drama. Hathaway was so good, from her pushups to her lingo to her total presence, I've had her in mind for Mia Tucker from the day I started writing Empire City. Dream big, right?

And then there's the character of Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, the heart and soul of Empire City. He's a layered man, full of contradictions, a Haitian immigrant who joined the International Legion to earn American citizenship and has turned himself into a rugged, devoted warrior in the years since. One actor comes immediately to mind who could crush the role: Michael B. Jordan, whose work and complex characters I've admired since he was a teenager on The Wire.
Visit Matt Gallagher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Empire City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2020

Nicole C. Kear's "Foreverland"

Nicole C. Kear is the author of the memoir Now I See You, chosen as a Must-Read by People, Amazon, Martha Stewart Living, Parade, Redbook, and Marie Claire UK among others. Her books for children include the new middle grade novel Foreverland, the chapter series The Fix-It Friends, and the middle grade series The Startup Squad, co-written with Brian Weisfeld. Her essays appear in the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, New York, Psychology Today, Parents, as well as Salon, the Huffington Post and xoJane. She teaches non-fiction writing at Columbia University and the NYU School of Professional Studies.

A native of New York, Kear received a BA from Yale, a MA from Columbia, and a red nose from the San Francisco School of Circus Arts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, three children and two teddy bear hamsters.

Here Kear dreamcasts an adaptation of Foreverland:
I used to be an actor, and consequently, dreamcasting is something of a habit of mine. This exercise was the most fun I’ve had in ages.

I’ve chosen the inimitable Greta Gerwig as the director of the film. She’s the master of funny, heartbreaking coming-of-age stories, which leave you feeling uplifted in the most earned way. It’s exactly what I was hoping to achieve when I wrote Foreverland.

Foreverland’s leading lady is Margaret, a shy, eccentric girl with trouble at home who runs away to live away in her favorite amusement park. Natalie Portman, at 12 years old, would be perfect. She’d express Margaret’s intelligence and intensity, and poignantly portray her emotional journey as she learns, through the course of her adventures, to make her voice heard. There’s a really fun scene about halfway through the book in which Margaret goes “all witness protection program,” giving herself a DIY makeover to avoid being caught by security. She explains that she’s never liked looking in mirrors because the plain, cookie-cutter girl she sees reflected doesn’t feel like her. By going incognito, she ends up transforming her outer self to match her inner self – lopping off her ponytail, cutting short bangs. I can visualize Natalie Portman, the age she was in The Professional, staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she slides her hair in between the scissor blades.

Margaret’s transformation would not be possible without Jaime, a 12-year-old boy who has also run away to live at the park for mysterious reasons of his own. Jaime is Margaret’s polar opposite – he’s fast-thinking, thrill-seeking, irrepressible. He never looks before he leaps or thinks before he speaks. When he smiles, it’s an infectious, whole-face, 1000 watt grin. For Jaime, I see a 12-year-old Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is such a versatile actor, and can handle comedy (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) as masterfully as drama (Sicario), which would be important in the portrayal of Jaime. More than anything, though Del Toro possesses that vulnerability which is the key to Jaime’s character – while he acts tough, at his core, he’s defenseless. His humor and charisma may be what draws Margaret (and the reader) in, but what steals their heart is this vulnerability, and I know Del Toro would nail that.

Belle’s a supporting character but one of my favorites – she’s a teenage girl who works at the park and is Jaime’s protector (and food court connection). When Margaret first meets her, she observes: “She doesn’t look like a Belle. She looks more like a Mephistopheles.” Belle wears safety pins as earrings, and steel-toed Doc Martens in the middle of summer. The spikes on her belt, Margaret notices, do not look ornamental. I’d cast a teenage Rooney Mara as Belle. Her tour de force in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo still haunts me. She’d bring Belle to life in all her dangerous complexities.

The Captain of Security is Foreverland’s villain – he’s in hot pursuit of Margaret and, especially, Jaime, who's the Moby Dick to his Ahab. He’s the kind of man who intentionally wears too-tight T-shirts, to show off his chiseled muscles. I almost cast Dwayne Johnson, because who doesn’t want to cast Dwayne Johnson in everything and also, he’s got the muscles in spades. But the Rock is just too darn likeable, so I opted instead for Matthew McConaughey. There is no drawl anywhere like McConaughey’s, and though it’s often appealing, it can be downright chilling.
Visit Nicole C. Kear's website.

Q&A with Nicole C. Kear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2020

Mariah Fredericks's "Death of an American Beauty"

Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history.

Here Fredericks dreamcasts an adaptation of Death of an American Beauty, the third Jane Prescott mystery:
My son once asked me if I thought Lupita Nyong’o could play Jane Prescott. And while I’m not sure that the novels would adequately reflect the experience of a lady’s maid in 1910s New York as played by Ms. Nyong’o, it’s good casting. As an actress, Ms. Nyong’o projects a rare combination of penetrating intelligence and emotional generosity. There’s a depth of kindness to her that I associate with Jane, something she shares with the first actress I thought of, Carey Mulligan.

My new book, Death of an American Beauty, is the third in the Gilded Age Jane Prescott series. It is 1913, Jane is on vacation and is staying at her uncle’s refuge for women who are leaving the world’s oldest profession. It is the night of the refuge’s annual dance, known as The Whore’s Ball. One of the women is found murdered, and Jane’s uncle becomes the prime suspect. To clear him, Jane has to search for Otelia Brooks, a woman who came to the refuge years ago and may be the only person who survived an attack by the killer.

As a female servant who solves murders, Jane has to have allies; there are places she can’t go alone, people she would not have access to without help. Her key ally is tabloid reporter, Michael Behan. Mel Gibson circa Gallipoli was my starting point for this character. Frank Dunne’s arc from cocky, ridiculously good-looking guy to shattered awareness has notes I like for Michael. If you can’t stomach Gibson, feel free to swap in Dominic West or Morgan Spector. For Jane’s uncle, the difficult, principled Reverend Prescott, I have always thought of Ian Holm. For Jane’s friend, Anna Ardito, let’s resurrect Anne Bancroft. (Let’s resurrect her anyway.) If Ms. Bancroft is otherwise engaged, Susan Sarandon would be wonderful. She looks the part and the politics match.

Death of an American Beauty introduces some new characters to the series. I would love to see Viola Davis in the part of businesswoman Otelia Brooks and Don Cheadle as her husband, Norman. Jane strikes up a lively romance with an ambitious songwriter, Leo Hirschfeld. He could be played by Oscar Isaac with just a touch of Ben Feldman (Mad Men, Superstore) for sweetness. And since I’m obsessed with Succession, I want J. Smith-Cameron for Mrs. Rutherford, the social climbing wife of the owner of the city’s most fabulous department store.

One important part I found hard to cast was Louise Tyler, née Benchley, Jane’s shy employer who is unsuited to society life and to whom Jane feels enormous loyalty. So few actresses are allowed to be individual enough that they can believably play awkward, while hinting at great potential. One instinct took me to Shelley Duvall, another to Gwendoline Christie. I thought of Cynthia Nixon, who did such a wonderful job as Eleanor Roosevelt in Warm Springs. Then my friend Leontine Greenberg suggested Sally Hawkins and I think Ms. Hawkins gets the part.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Brigit Young's "The Prettiest"

Brigit Young, born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has published poetry and short fiction in numerous literary journals. She is a proud graduate of the City College of New York, and has taught creative writing to kids of all ages in settings ranging from workshops at Writopia Lab to bedsides at a pediatric hospital. Young is the author of the middle grade novels Worth a Thousand Words and The Prettiest. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughters.

Here Young dreamcasts an adaptation of The Prettiest:
The Prettiest explores the fallout of an anonymously written list of the fifty “prettiest” eighth grade girls in a Michigan middle school. The story alternates between the perspectives of Eve Hoffman, a shy girl disturbed by her spot as “number one” on the list; Sophie Kane, the school’s most popular girl who is furious about her number two ranking; and Nessa Flores-Brady, a confident and gifted kid who is not on the list at all.

I’m not quite up to speed on current child actors, and boy, do they grow fast, anyway. (Are the Stranger Things kids getting their PhDs by now?) When I dream up my middle school aged characters, I usually picture the younger selves of adult actors. I envision the shy, sensitive, and wide-eyed Eve as a young Rachel Weisz. For Sophie, I imagine a 13-year-old Brie Larson, who emanates an inner steely strength underneath her America’s sweetheart looks. And for Nessa, I picture a young Adrienne Lovette, an up and coming actress most recently seen on a recent episode of Better Call Saul as the first female dealer in the Breaking Bad universe. A kid with her energy would be fantastic at capturing Nessa’s poise and humor.

The most important adult character in the novel is the empathetic principal, Principal Yu, who wants to help the girls but feels a bit helpless at times. I can see the put-together but relatable Constance Wu capture the chaos of this moment in Principal Yu’s professional life quite well.

As for a director, I’d love for Olivia Wilde to take the helm. She’d infuse the story with the emotional authenticity it needs. Plus, she’d highlight the jokes!
Visit Brigit Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Prettiest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Dan Stout's "Titan’s Day"

Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim, as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller.

Here Stout dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Titan’s Day:
I admit that I'm not one for knowing actors and casting, but if there was going to be a Titan's Day movie, there is one element that I definitely have a feel for: the cinematography. Titan's Day (and the Carter Archives series) is a blend of noir fantasy, set in a world with 1970s-era technology. That means disco glam and narrow, cobblestone streets, contrasts of dark and light, and a feeling that the killers lurking in the shadows might only be matched by the secrets held in people's hearts. I try to put that feeling on each page, entwined inextricably with the story itself. A great source of inspiration are the directors of photography who helped shape classic noir.

The visual language of film doesn't translate directly to the page, but as I write these books, I'm often thinking of the way great noir imagery makes me feel. Films like Night of the Hunter (DP: Stanley Cortez), The Third Man (DP: Robert Krasker), Chinatown (DP: John Alonzo, who replaced Stanley Cortez), and Out of the Past (DP: Nicolas Musuraca). The powerful visuals of those creators, combined with the deft editing of Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, Cape Fear) would make fore a pretty great translation for Carter, Ajax, and the rest of the residents of Titanshade.
Visit Dan Stout's website.

My Book, The Movie: Titanshade.

The Page 69 Test: Titan's Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Beth Morrey's "The Love Story of Missy Carmichael"

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. She lives in London with her family and dog.

Here Morrey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, her debut novel:
I used to work in TV, so it’s reasonable to assume I would have actors in mind when I wrote my book, but I didn’t, initially - I had real people in mind. Yes, there’s a disclaimer that says any resemblance is accidental etc, and that’s true – my characters are not wholly based on real people, but there might be one thing about someone I know that I use to kick-start a figure, and the rest follows from there. However, as I got to the end of writing the first draft, and indulged in fantasies about selling the movie rights for millions, I did start to cast it mentally, and it was quite helpful for embedding characters in my mind, so that when I went over the text again in the edit, I could strengthen them, enrich their dialogue and deepen their back stories. So here is who I would choose…

There is no working actor dog, to my knowledge, who could play Bobby, so we’d have to do an open casting to find a new canine star, who would go on to win the Palm Dog Award. Bobby is probably some sort of Collie/German shepherd mix, and I’d insist on finding a mixed breed with an incredibly plumy waving tail and melting brown eyes. I would personally have to audition a lot of dogs to find the right one.

Angela would be played by Saoirse Ronan. She would have to dye her hair red, and age by about ten years. As long as she did that, we’d be grand. Saoirse would be good at that barnstorming, tempestuous edge Angela has, and she’s a big star so she’d draw in the crowds. Emerald Fennell would play Sylvie – again, she’d have to age by at least a decade. She could nail that bracing, flippant style Sylvie has, but equally be capable of hinting what a dark horse she is. She could also help with adapting the novel for screen as she’s wonderful writer too.

The young Leo (who appears in flashback) would be played by James Norton, who I reckon would be able to look impossibly handsome but also convey a kind of careless arrogance and self-absorption. He’d be so dashing you’d be able to see how Missy could overlook it, or be blinded to it.

Missy is obviously crucial, and I’d want an experienced, respected actress to give the film gravitas. But she’d have to have a kind of diffidence, a reserve, hinting at untold depths. Missy is a very attractive woman, and although she’s nearly 80, she doesn’t look it. I imagine her with lovely cheekbones, a tall, sparse figure, and long dark-grey hair. Who fits the bill? Harriet Walter, who read the audiobook, could do it. She has the necessary spiky reserve. But that makes me look like I’m lacking in imagination, choosing the book’s narrator. The actress I kept coming back to, while I was editing, is Geraldine James. She looks right, and is doing such wonderful work in the Netflix adaptation Anne with an E. She’s got immense warmth under the prickly surface, such nuance to her performance, and I think she would take the role of Missy and run with it. She’d win awards, and I would bask in her glory.

The movie would be directed by Greta Gerwig, who would bring lashings of poignancy and resonance to the story, and I would insist on a cameo appearance as a dog walker with my own dog Polly.
Visit Beth Morrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & Polly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2020

Aaron Jackson's "The Astonishing Life of August March"

Aaron Jackson is a writer and comedian. With Josh Sharp, he optioned and adapted a screenplay of their stage musical Fucking Identical Twins which is currently in development with Chernin Entertainment. He was recently a cast member on Comedy Central's The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, and has also appeared on Broad City, The Detour, Crashing, The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and Funny or Die’s Jared and Ivanka, a series he also cowrote. He lives in New York City.

Here Jackson dreamcasts an adaptation of The Astonishing Life of August March, his first novel:
My book is about a boy who was born and raised in a New York City theatre during the middle of the 20th century, so it's full of over the top, theatrical characters.

It's tricky to cast the main character, August, as it's a coming of age novel and he goes from birth to his late thirties. No matter his age, he's always precocious, adventurous, rebellious and opinionated. For the adult August, I think someone like a young Ben Whishaw would've been great.

Percyfoot is so fun to think about casting wise. He's a celebrated, pompous stage actor. I've always imagined Stephen Fry who I grew up watching in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. Kevin Kline would obviously be amazing. A younger Ian McKellan would've been divine.

Miss Butler is the ancient and stubborn laundress who finds and "adopts" August. Angela Lansbury, Cecily Tyson, Maggie Smith. Any iconic legend would do.

Most of the book takes place in New York City. The whimsy and comedy of a Woody Allen New York would serve nicely. Also, since much of it takes place in a theater, to capture the busyness and bustle of a cramped theatre, the long tracking shots of filmmakers like Alfonso Cuarón or Joe Wright in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice would be amazing to set the mood.
Follow Aaron Jackson on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Astonishing Life of August March.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 10, 2020

Patricia Marcantonio's "Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace"

Patricia Marcantonio was born in Pueblo, Colorado. She has won awards for her journalism, short stories and screenplays. Her children's book Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos has earned an Anne Izard Storyteller’s Choice Award and was named an Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Commended Title, and one of the Wilde Awards Best Collections to Share with recommendations from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She now lives in Idaho.

Here Marcantonio dreamcasts an adaptation of her first Felicity Carrol mystery, Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace:
Being such a huge movie fan, I really love this idea. I've talked to writers who will picture certain actors when writing characters. I don't do that. But after the book is published, I do amuse myself thinking who would be great if my novel is adapted into film (which I always hope for.)

For Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace here is my dream cast and I had so much fun putting it together.
Felicity - Margot Robbie

Jackson Davies - Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Sheriff Tom Pike - Chris Evans

Hellie - Emma Thompson

Reverend Phoenix - Ron Perlman

Dr. Lennox - Tom Hiddleston

Mrs. Albert - Robin Wright
Hollywood please take notice.
Visit Patricia Marcantonio's website.

The Page 69 Test: Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace.

Writers Read: Patricia Marcantonio.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Jack Heath's "The Truth App"

Jack Heath is the award-winning author of more than thirty thrillers, including Hangman (for adults) and 300 Minutes of Danger (for children). His novels have been translated into seven languages and adapted for film.

Here Heath dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Truth App:
Casting is tough. One of the best things about a book is that the characters look different in the heads of every reader, so it's hard to find an actor who suits everyone. But here are the actors who suit me for The Truth App:

Even though the other characters nickname him "Gary Oldman", the hitman who tries to murder Jarli on page 1 should instead be played by Scott Glenn (from The Leftovers, Sucker Punch and Daredevil). He's lean and mean, with scary eyes and a threatening growl. What more could you ask for in a villain?

Anya, the teenage boxing champion, could be played by Ever Gabo Anderson (from Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and the forthcoming Peter Pan movie). She has a quiet intensity which would be perfect. And when it's time to kick Scott Glenn's butt, she can channel her mom, Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Hellboy 3).

Maria Eaton, the ex-army surgeon turned school nurse, could be played by Marta Dusseldorp (from A Place to Call Home and Janet King), who does a great weathered "I've seen it all" gaze. Compassionate but firm, honest but secretive. The more I think about it, the better it works.

The giant mercenary known as Anaconda isn't in book 1 of the series ... but when he shows up, he should be played by Dave Bautista (Stuber, Guardians of the Galaxy). Who else could rip an air vent out of the wall and use it as a club?
Visit Jack Heath's website.

Writers Read: Jack Heath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2020

Serena Burdick's "The Girls with No Names"

Serena Burdick is the Toronto Star, Publishers Weekly and international bestselling author of The Girls with No Names, now out in the US, Canada and Australia. It is forthcoming in Portugal, Spain, Lithuania and Russia. She is the 2017 International Book Award Winner for Historical Fiction for her novel Girl in the Afternoon. Burdick studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, holds a Bachelors of Arts from Brooklyn College in English literature and an Associates of Arts from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in theater. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Here Burdick dreamcasts an adaptation of The Girls with No Names:
The Girls with No Names is told from three, first person perspectives, Effie, Mable and Jeanne.

In the role of Effie Tildon, a thirteen-year-old girl with an incurable heart condition, I’d cast Millie Bobbie Brown who has a perfect mix of innocence and strength. She’s a solid actor who could pull off this off well.

In the role of Mable Winter, a feisty, hardened sixteen-year-old who’s gone through sever trauma and loss, Saoirse Ronan would shine. She has just the right spunk and vivacity.

Lastly, since I am an actor turned writer, and because it’s always nice to cast a fresh face, if you will, I’d go ahead cast myself in the role of Jeanne Tildon, Effie’s mother who finds herself with two missing daughters and a husband who does as he pleases. She has a quiet strength, and rare endurance in the face of loss.
Visit Serena Burdick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue