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

Monday, December 30, 2019

Lee Goldberg's "Lost Hills"

Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Ian Ludlow thrillers Killer Thriller and True Fiction, King City, The Walk, fifteen Monk mysteries, and the internationally bestselling Fox & O’Hare books (The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam, and The Pursuit) cowritten with Janet Evanovich. He has also written and/or produced many TV shows, including Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, and Monk, and is the co-creator of the Hallmark movie series Mystery 101. As an international television consultant, he has advised networks and studios in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, China, Sweden, and the Netherlands on the creation, writing, and production of episodic television series.

Here Goldberg dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of his new novel, Lost Hills:
I wrote Lost Hills first as a screenplay, just to get the story down and satisfying myself that it worked. I then used the screenplay as a detailed outline for my novel. Initially, I had actress Erin Cahill in mind as my heroine, Eve Ronin, the youngest female homicide detective on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. You may not recognize Erin by name, but millions of viewers know her face from the 875 Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies she's starred in over the years. Erin is actually too old to play the part now, but she was in her mid-to-late 20s, the same age as Eve, when she starred in my film Fast Track: No Limits. It was Erin's voice and face that were in my mind when I wrote Lost Hills...and even now, as I finish up the sequel, Bone Canyon, where the talk of a movie version of Eve's adventures, and who should play her in them, is a subplot in the storyline.
Visit Lee Goldberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 27, 2019

Darcie Wilde's “And Dangerous to Know”

Darcie Wilde is the award-winning author of the Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, a Regency-set historical mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen. The new book in the series is And Dangerous to Know.

Here Wilde dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of the novel:
I’m not one of those authors who pictures a particular actor or person when they’re writing. The characters evolve too quickly into being their own people in my mind for me to hold onto a “real life” image for them. That said, the casting game is always a fun one, especially for a series. So, here we go…

And Dangerous to Know is a period mystery, set in Regency era London (think Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes), so we need somebody who can handle the language, and look good in the clothes. My two lead male characters are Adam Harkness, who is a member of the London’s proto-police force the Bow Street Runners, and Lord Casselmaine, an English aristocrat. They should be played by Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman, respectively. John Barrowman would of course be acceptable for Adam Harkness (Dr. Who fans will get the joke), but he’d have to dye his hair blond for the role.

For our second “runner,” the careful, thoughtful, Sampson Gautier, the only available choice is Idris Elba, because I think Mr. Elba should be in everything.

Likewise, for Lady Melbourne, our hostess and mistress of the haut ton who is threatened by blackmail and scandal, the only possible choice is the great Dame Maggie Smith.

That leaves my two female leads. We’ve got the best friend,“tiny, dark, quick” Alice Littlefield, who is a journalist and social gossip writer. She should be played by Keira Knightley, or maybe Minnie Driver, from about the time she was in An Ideal Husband (hey, it’s all a fantasy, we can do time travel if we want, right?).

Which brings us to my lead character, Rosalind Thorne. Rosalind is an aristocratic woman who finds herself in what got called “reduced circumstances,” after her father deserts the family. What that actually meant was she’s been left without any money and had to fend for herself. Rosalind manages by helping other women with particular problems. Like blackmail, scandal, and murder.

The problem with casting Rosalind is she’s a tall woman with an hourglass figure, which, as we know, is not a popular look with Hollywood casting directors. Come to that, it wasn’t a popular look in Rosalind’s own time. It turns out this thing we do where we judge women by how well they fit the current clothing fashions, or compare to popular celebrities, is not new. But anyway. I think here I’d have to time-travel again and say who I’d really like in the part would be either Kate Winslet, from about the time she was doing Sense & Sensibility, or her co-star, Emma Thompson, from about the time she was playing Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

Lights, camera, action!
Visit Darcie Wilde's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

L.C. Shaw's "The Network"

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. When editing her work, she loves to procrastinate by spending time on social media, and when stuck on a plot twist has been known to run ideas by her Silver Labrador and Golden Retriever who wish she would stop working and play ball with them. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Here Shaw dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Network:
If The Network is made into a movie, I’d love to see Charlie Hunnam cast as Jack. The first time I watched Sons of Anarchy, I thought, that’s Jack Logan. He looks like what I imagine Jack to look like and I think he would capture Jack’s personality.

Natalie Portman would be the perfect Taylor Phillips. I admire her versatility and talent and think she would make Taylor really come alive on the screen.

Damon Crosse is the most enigmatic character in the book, and requires an actor with a strong presence. Al Pacino is my dream Damon. He has the range and the charisma to make Damon Crosse a villain viewers would love to hate.
Visit L. C. Shaw's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson.

Writers Read: L.C. Shaw.

The Page 69 Test: The Network.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 20, 2019

Lisa Preston's "Dead Blow"

Lisa Preston turned to writing after careers as a fire department paramedic and a city police officer. She is the author of the highly acclaimed, best-selling novels, Orchids and Stone and Measure of the Moon and the Horseshoer Mystery Series. She is also the author of several non-fiction books and articles on the care and training of dogs and horses.

Here she shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of her new novel Dead Blow, the second Horseshoer Mystery:
In struggling to answer the question of which actors I’d like to star in a film based on Dead Blow, I realized my first fail on this came about fifteen years ago. I was running down a trail a few miles into an impromptu ride-and-tie (R&T). Don’t ask. Wait, you asked? Okay, R&T is an obscure sport in which every team is composed of two runner-riders and one horse. The saddle is tricked out to accommodate riders dressed only in running togs, and the bridle includes a lightweight rope to allow the runner-riders to tie the horse to a handy tree. At the start, the rider is faster, thus gets ahead of the running teammate. Maybe a mile out, the rider ties the horse and runs solo down the course. When the back runner gets to the horse, she unties, hops on and rides ahead then ties the horse up where it waits for the partner runner-rider. All the way to the finish line, we leapfrog each other with the horse.

Yes, R&T is a real thing, and the fastest way to move two people with one horse.

During a race, you spend more time with competitors than your teammate. So, there I was running alongside a sixteen-year-old who was part of another team, gabbing about the sport, explaining that in the early days, Robert Redford had entered a R&T.

“Who?” she asked.

“Robert Redford.”

Blank look.

At the time, I was around forty and suddenly felt old in the face of the pop culture gap between me and the girl. Now I’m fifty-five and couldn’t identify by name any two actors in their twenties, couldn’t pick ’em out of a line-up.

When writing The Clincher, (the first novel in the series), I had in mind the young Reese Witherspoon’s rendition of the pre-teen country girl in The Man in the Moon as I imagined Rainy ten years younger, struggling through some tough childhood times. But I never had a twenty-something in mind for the barely adult Rainy as she faces a day-to-day life of shoeing horses, finding her place in the world, and solving a murder or two along the way.

Rainy affects a cowboy twang, which her partner and readers come to see stems not a little from reaction to her uprooted childhood. She admires, adopts, and revels in being country. Who can impersonate that different way rural folk talk, and more than that, what actors can carry themselves like cowboys?

Actually, any good actor. Watch the movie Loving and appreciate the Australian actor Joel Edgerton’s portrayal of the wonderful redneck Richard Loving. Edgerton doesn’t carry himself that way, speak that way, or even eye another cast member in that manner except when he portrayed the role of Richard Loving. Watch Ledger and Gyllenhaal in the adaptation of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, but watch the supporting roles too, watch the country wives—Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway. I’ll write books and trust the pros to accomplish good casting, directing, and acting.

When my publisher (Skyhorse) released The Clincher as an audiobook, the actress Megan Tusing voiced the entire novel. She adopted an accent, did a great job, and is young enough to play Rainy Dale, the 23-year-old series heroine. Can Tusing ride or beat a horseshoe on an anvil? I don’t know, but Rami Malek couldn’t sing or dance before he trained to play Freddie Mercury, and Malek knocked it out of the park. Megan Tusing could certainly train enough as a shoer and rider to do a wonderful job in acting the role of Rainy Dale.
Visit Lisa Preston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Kylie Brant's "Down the Darkest Road"

Kylie Brant is the author of more than forty novels, including Cold Dark Places in the Cady Maddix series, the Circle of Evil Trilogy, and the stand-alone novels Pretty Girls Dancing and Deep as the Dead. A three-time RITA Award nominee, five-time RT Award finalist, and two-time Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Brant is a member of the Romance Writers of America, including its Kiss of Death mystery and suspense chapter; Novelists, Inc.; and the International Thriller Writers. Her books have been published in thirty-four countries and have been translated into eighteen languages.

Here Brant dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Down the Darkest Road:
I recently attended a screen-writing workshop in Vancouver where I learned the difference between concepts suited to movies vs TV. Strong female leads flourish in television and series, I was told, so the small screen is where Down the Darkest Road would fit. While I usually have difficulty visualizing actors to play the parts in my books, I looked up actresses with strawberry-blonde hair and there was Cady Maddix. Well, sure, she goes by the name of Rachel McAdams, but she’d be perfect for my formidable, commitment-phobe US Deputy Marshal. Cady has a dark and damaged past, in some ways reminiscent of McAdams’s tough cop, Ani Bezzerides, on True Detective Season 2. Both are survivors, and their personal journey is fascinating.

Fifteen-year-old Dylan Castle is also a main character in the book. He brings to mind Ethan Andrew Casto. The actor always manages to look tragic in his roles, and that’s how I picture Dylan. Haunted by a past he can’t quite remember and hunted by a killer he can’t forget, Dylan epitomizes tragedy.

Tom Hardy is arguably Hollywood’s best bad guy and his performances as Alfie Solomon in Peaky Blinders and John Fitzgerald in The Revenant are both chilling in their casual brutality. That trait characterizes Bruce Forrester in the story. Without a moral code, he seeks to satisfy his own needs first, with a careless disregard for whoever gets in his way.
Visit Kylie Brant's website.

The Page 69 Test: Down the Darkest Road.

--Marshal Zeringue