Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Alex Kenna's "What Meets the Eye"

Alex Kenna is a lawyer, writer, and amateur painter based in Los Angeles.

Before law school, Kenna studied painting and art history at Penn. She also worked as a freelance art critic and culture writer. Originally from Washington DC, Kenna lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and giant schnauzer, Zelda. When she’s not writing Kenna can be found nerding out in art museums, exploring flea markets, and playing string instruments badly.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, What Meets the Eye:
I was addicted to film and TV thrillers long before I started writing crime fiction. That’s probably why I always pictured my book, What Meets the Eye, as a movie.

The story follows Kate Myles, a struggling PI, who lost her family and police career after an accident damaged her back and led to an opiate addiction. Struggling to pay the bills, Kate reluctantly agrees to investigate the suspected suicide of Margot Starling, a beautiful and famous painter. Along the way, Kate seeks help from her former LAPD partner, Luke Delgado, with whom she shares an unspoken attraction. The book also uses a series of flashbacks to trace Margot’s rise in the art world.

I’ve been casting the story since the first draft of the first chapter. Here are a few of my fantasy picks.

Kate: From the beginning, I’ve pictured Kate as Jessie Buckley. Buckley can do literally anything, is naturally likeable in an intelligent, adult way, and is blessed with an incredibly expressive face. In the book, Kate is struggling to regain custody of her seven-year-old daughter, who she only sees on weekends. Buckley was brilliant in The Lost Daughter as a loving, but deeply flawed, mother. She also carried a slow-burn mystery in The Woman in White. Buckley excels at playing understated characters who don’t try to draw attention to themselves. In her hands, even the most quiet, introverted women become magnetic through the sheer force of her talent and charisma.

Margot: Like many great visual artists, Margot is not neurotypical. She struggles with bipolar disorder and has experienced significant trauma. Jennifer Lawrence (a writer can dream, right?) would be perfect for Margot. In Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence starred as a young, mentally ill widow, who falls in love with a man suffering from bipolar disorder. She brought an incredible amount of nuance and sensitivity to the part. Lawrence could convey Margot’s passion, talent, and pain without turning her into a caricature.

Luke: For Luke Delgado, Kate’s LAPD love interest, I’d have to pick the dynamic Pedro Pascal, who was great as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones. Luke is a manly guy, with a broken nose he never bothered to fix, and a fierce loyalty to the people he cares about. Pascal already convincingly played a rugged law enforcement officer in Narcos. And of course, he happens to be sexy, which doesn’t hurt.

John: Adding to Kate’s troubles are her hostile interactions with her ex-husband, John. John and Kate were fundamentally incompatible and share a mutual resentment. Initially brought together by physical chemistry, they were trapped in a bad marriage after Kate fell pregnant. I envisioned John as having a mild case of OCD and Kate a flaming case of ADHD. John’s the guy who makes his bed every morning with hospital corners. Kate’s the woman who leaves the oven on and has to go back to the grocery store because she forgot the milk. Now she has to keep him happy to obtain visits from her daughter, while John condescends to her and spits out insults. For John, I would love to cast Dev Patel. Patel is an incredible actor who could play any part, and he always seems to radiate kindness. Just for variety, I’d love to see him as a low-grade jerk. He has the nuance to show John as someone who is flawed, but not a one-note monster. And his good looks could help explain why Kate initially fell for John.
Visit Alex Kenna's website.

Q&A with Alex Kenna.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Sharon Dempsey's "The Midnight Killing"

Sharon Dempsey is a PhD candidate at Queen’s University, exploring class and gender in crime fiction. She was a journalist and health writer before turning to writing crime fiction and has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times. Sharon also facilitates creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges.

Here Dempsey dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Midnight Killing:
The Midnight Killing is a murder mystery that deals with toxic friendships and long held secrets that refuse to stay buried. A murder, staged as suicide, draws my investigators Forensic Psychologist, Rose Lainey, and Detective Inspector, Danny Stowe, to investigate the cold case of a missing child. The story opens with a crime scene: James McCallum, thirty-five-year-old architect, found hanged in the grounds of his former school, Osbourne College in Belfast. There’s some suspicion as to whether or not it is suicide since there has been no suicide note left as such, but an old friend, Lorcan Burns, contacts the police saying he had a missed call from the victim, and a text message saying: ‘I’m really sorry but I can’t keep going. The reckoning is coming.’

When Rose and Danny dig into James’ life, they discover encrypted files on his computer all about a missing child, Maeve Lunn, in the Donegal town of Mistle.

Emer, Ivy, Lorcan, James were best friends at school and have kept in touch over the years. The remaining three gather to mourn their friend and find themselves drawn back to the past and a secret they have held tight for nearly two decades.

When I write I do visualise the scenes and write as close to a cinematic style as possible without losing the interiority and integrity of a novel. I love story in every format so it’s tempting to think about how my book would look on the screen. The beautiful settings of Northern Ireland and even the city of Belfast, lend themselves to heightened drama so that would be another huge motivator to see it transferred into a screenplay. As for dream casting, I would love to see either Colin Morgan or Jamie Dornan play Danny Stowe. They both have the right look (handsome beyond!) and the perfect build to carry it off, plus they have that emotional intelligence that I hope my character of Danny conveys. And as for Rose, well, actor Valene Kane would be at the top of my wish list. I think she’s mesmerising on screen and has that quiet intelligence and steeliness that suggests you can’t mess with her!
Visit Sharon Dempsey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Larrie D. Ferreiro's "Churchill's American Arsenal"

Larrie D. Ferreiro is an engineer, historian and the author of several award-winning books in history, science and technology, and was the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist in history for his book Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It. He teaches at George Mason University in Virginia and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Here Ferreiro shares some ideas for adapating his new book, Churchill's American Arsenal: The Partnership Behind the Innovations that Won World War Two, for the screen:
Churchill’s American Arsenal would work well as a miniseries streaming on Amazon, Apple TV+ or Netflix, alongside other WWII epics such as Masters of the Air and Band of Brothers.

Churchill’s American Arsenal describes how British and American combat scientists and engineers, working both across the Atlantic and side by side, invented and brought to the front lines the weapons and innovations that won World War Two. The book is constructed around Churchill’s post-Dunkirk speech, each chapter describing how these inventions played key roles in various parts of the European campaign: fight in the air, fight on the seas and oceans, fight on the beaches….

Each episode of the miniseries would be character-driven, with the focus on the American and British combat scientists who were equally home in the laboratory and on the war front – not only building and testing the latest inventions (radars, fighters, tanks….) but also demonstrating them in battle alongside the foot soldiers and deckplate sailors. An international cast would bring the personal stories of these real-life combat scientists into vivid detail.

Think of The Imitation Game meets Saving Private Ryan, serialize it, and you have Churchill’s American Arsenal – the miniseries.
Learn more about Churchill's American Arsenal at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Brothers at Arms.

The Page 99 Test: Brothers at Arms.

The Page 99 Test: Churchill's American Arsenal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 11, 2022

D. M. Rowell's "Never Name the Dead"

Like her protagonist Mud, D.M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah) comes from a long line of Kiowa Storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley startups and corporations with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter writing mysteries that share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas.

Here the author shares some insights on an adaptation of her new novel, Never Name the Dead:
As I wrote Never Name the Dead, I did think of the book becoming a movie one day. But since I never imagined my book would be published, I thought it would be me producing the feature film and submitting it to film festivals. I’ve produced independent documentaries in the past, and had always wanted to create a feature film. My book seemed the perfect vehicle.

My novel is a brisk mystery, all taking place in less than twenty-four hours. I like the fast pace of the book and would want that energy in the movie.The adventure starts with Silicon Valley professional Mae Sawpole receiving a call for help from her traditional Kiowa grandfather. The call sends Mae on an unexpected spiritual quest as she returns to her childhood home in the former Kiowa, Comanche, Apache Reservation area of Oklahoma. There she’s called Mud, a childhood nickname that stuck. Upon Mud’s arrival, she finds her grandfather missing, a precious Kiowa artifact stolen, illegal fracking and a body. Mud faces angry tribal members, old enemies, wildcat frackers and a charging buffalo in her hunt for a murderer.

While I envisioned Never Name the Dead as a movie, I never put a face or name to the ideal actors to play the different characters. I always saw Mud as a Kiowa or other Native actor, not the faces I typically saw on screen. If I produced the movie, I planned to reach out to locals in the Oklahoma area to find the right Mud and Denny.

While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind, I knew the spirit I wanted for Mud. The type of actress I want to see play Mud would be similar to Zendaya’s portrayal of MJ in the Spiderman movies. MJ is an independent and strong multiracial woman. She projects quiet strength and confidence. These are characteristics I want to come across in the portrayal of Mud, while also showing the character as a bit of a klutz that can easily laugh at herself. Mud can do amazing things one moment and fall over her tangled feet the next.
Visit D. M. Rowell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Emily J. Edwards's "Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man"

Emily Edwards earned her degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and took the long road to becoming an author, working for over a decade as a wine and spirits journalist, radio producer, and creator of the podcast, F*ckbois of Literature. She currently resides in Connecticut with her husband, and several quadrupeds.

Here Edwards dreamcasts her new novel, Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man:
The best part about writing a detective story during the 1950s is getting to immerse your main characters into one of the most interesting and tumultuous times of American media. Daydreaming about my characters on the silver screen was as natural as having those same characters talk about Humphrey Bogart taking a turn in The Maltese Falcon.

Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man is a mid-century, Private Investigator murder mystery. Viviana is the Girl Friday to New York City’s best P.I., Tommy Fortuna. One day, they gain a new client, the industrialist Tallmadge Blackstone, who has asked Tommy to trail his young daughter, Tallulah. The next day, a body shows up in Tommy’s office, and Tommy is M.I.A. Viviana takes on the cases in an effort to keep the police from pinning the murder on her boss.

When I was writing, it was most important for me to imagine not who was going to play my leading lady, Viviana Valentine, but who was going to play the supporting cast. While Viv was very hard to #DreamCast for a film version (but you’ll see who I chose eventually!), the supporting characters were not.

First and foremost, I knew that the character of Tommy Fortuna, Viv’s boss, best friend, and private investigator, had to have that effortless cool and a rugged masculinity, but more than anything, he believes in Viviana and her capabilities. I needed someone who had his own identity and sure looked good in a suit, but would watch Viviana work with a smile on his face and awe in my heart– but also be able to deliver a one-liner without flinching. In my mind, Dustin Milligan, better known as Ted from Schitt's Creek, made an excellent Tommy Fortuna.

Secondly, I had to cast one of Tommy’s clients, a mean sonofab**** who has oodles of money and looked like he was up to no good. His name is Tallmadge Blackstone and at one point in the novel, he looks very large and menacing. Now, most actors are not that large (I lived in LA for 15 years and at 5’10”, I towered over most celebrities I saw on the street!), but without a doubt the perfect casting is Joe Manganiello, best known from True Blood. That’s a man who is built like a brick wall and could command a room!

Tallmadge Blackstone’s daughter, Tallulah, plays an essential role in the story, and there’s no one who could be her better than Barbie Ferreira from Euphoria. Tally is a fresh 18 years old, spoiled rotten, but knows exactly how people view her and what people want from her. She’s a curvaceous beauty who is frequently trapped by gossip magazine photographers and would be eaten alive by the public if she wasn’t such a force of nature by inclination.

And now, we get to the main character, Viviana Valentine. Viv is defined by her sense of humor, her ability to let things roll off her like water on a duck’s back. She gets internally frustrated but always has a comeback ready on her lips. She’s not a glamorous girl, like Tallulah, but charms the socks off people without thinking twice. I love her so much, and I cannot imagine anyone playing her but: Kaitlyn Dever, the breakout comedian from Booksmart.

Collectively, I feel like this casting best captures the essence of Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man. The book is a comedy in its head and detective story in its heart. I hope this helps readers better visualize the action of the novel!
Visit Emily J. Edwards's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Debra Bokur's "The Lava Witch"

Debra Bokur is the author of The Dark Paradise Mysteries series from Kensington. She’s traveled the world as a writer, journalist and staff editor for various national media outlets, with more than 2,000 print pieces carrying her byline to date. Her work has garnered multiple awards, including a 2015 Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism. For more than a decade, she served as the poetry editor at a national literary journal, and her poetry and short fiction have been widely published. Among her favorite writing credits are a series of original literary essays commissioned by the Celestial Seasonings tea company that appeared on the artfully illustrated boxes of ten separate tea flavors. She continues to travel in her capacity as the Global Researcher and Writer for the Association for Safe International Road Travel, and as a monthly columnist for Global Traveler magazine.

Here Bokur dreamcasts an adaptation of The Lava Witch, the third Dark Paradise mystery:
The Lava Witch has a slightly larger cast of characters than the first two books in the Dark Paradise Mystery series, and it wasn’t easy to narrow down some of my imaginary casting choices.

That said, I’d love to see the character of Charlie Holmes played by young actor Jace Norman, who appeared in Nickelodeon’s popular show Henry Danger; or possibly by Tanner Buchanan, who showed range and potential in the political thriller Designated Survivor.

For Maya Holmes, actress Isabella Gomez (of the Netflix series One Day at a Time) would be my choice. And Don Cheadle is hands-down my pick for Dr. Davos O’Connor. Cheadle has performed in more films than there’s room here to list, and I’ve admired every one of his performances. And, since this venue allows my dreamcasting to be as fabulous as I’d like, I’m going to pretend that he’s read The Lava Witch and we’ve already had lunch so he could tell me in person his take on the role.

For scientist Byron Coolidge, actor Jason Ralph—who starred in the series The Magicians and who also had a recurring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—would be excellent. Robert Sheehan (Umbrella Academy, Misfits) is a natural for the part of Vance Sousa, while either actress Liana Liberato or Maisie Williams would no doubt do a great job as Gloria Marsh.

Jody Phillips could be played by Jaime Ray Newman (Veronica Mars, Bones, Eureka, The Time Traveler’s Wife) or by Lauren Lapkus (Big Bang Theory, Orange Is the New Black). I’d round out my casting with Maggie Q (The Divergent Series) as Officer Jennifer Kama, and either Charlie Plummer or Lucas Hedges as Trey Carter.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Briana Una McGuckin's "On Good Authority"

Briana Una McGuckin lives in a charmingly strange old house in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University and an MLS from Long Island University. Among other places, her work appears in the Bram Stoker Award–nominated horror anthology Not All Monsters, the modern Gothic horror anthology In Somnio, and The Lost Librarian’s Grave anthology. McGuckin has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, a perhaps concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and a fascination with all things Victorian.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, On Good Authority:
On Good Authority is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense story in which a lady’s maid called Marian Osley must teach a terrible master the difference between servitude and surrender—and confront her dark desire for the footman, Valentine Hobbs, along the way.

I don’t generally cast people in my head as I’m writing, but when the book was done I did happen to see an image on my Google home screen of Timothée Chalamet attending some event in connection with Little Women. He was in a dark vest and white shirt, and I had to do a double-take. I may have said, out loud to no one, “Valentine Hobbs?”

Since, in conversation about who would play the leads in my dreams, I said I would put Anya Taylor-Joy in the role of Marian. When I added that Chalamet would make a good Valentine, the person I was speaking with said I was describing a “sort of Tim Burton Gothic.” And that’s exactly right, I think. I would want it to be darkly beautiful like that, and rich, in the vein of Sweeney Todd.

I could also see it handled as a dark fairytale by Guillermo del Toro. I loved The Shape of Water, and I think there are similarities in the themes, the misunderstood love story and the way that what is truly evil hides behind the guise of normalcy, what we’ve been trained to see as right and virtuous.

There’s Mr. and Mrs. Bornholdt, master and mistress of the manor house, to cast as well—both of them running hot and cold, but never at the same time or for the same reasons. I think Emily Blunt would be a fantastic Mrs. Bornholdt, because she has the range, going from severe and strict but also to a place of secret warmth, sometimes.

As for the master and villain, Mr. Bornholdt, I’d be really excited to see Dacre Montgomery’s take on it because, well: Mr. Bornholdt may be a monster, but he is an attractive one, and he knows it. He leverages his conventional beauty to his advantage, to ensnare people. I think that’s important to the story, to that way in which real danger can hide behind what’s pretty, as I was saying about The Shape of Water. Montgomery really brought a magnetism to Billy in Stranger Things which would be good for the villain here, too.
Visit Briana Una McGuckin's website.

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Roger A. Canaff's "City Dark"

Roger A. Canaff is a former special victims prosecutor and author of crime thrillers including Bleed Through, second in the ADA Alex Greco series and the 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin silver award winner for Mystery and Thriller.

Here Canaff dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, City Dark:
City Dark is a legal and psychological thriller set in 2017 New York City, but also tracks the night of the NYC blackout in July of 1977. The protagonist, Joe DeSantos, was abandoned by his mother on that night, leaving him and his older brother Robbie to navigate the city to safety. 40 years later as the story begins, Joe is a brilliant and hard-charging prosecutor but with a terrible drinking problem. He finds himself accused of two brutal murders (including his disappeared mother) and due to alcoholic blackouts has no memory of the nights of the murders. The book tracks both the mystery of Joe’s current situation and the terrible night from his childhood that may be reaching back for him in the present day.

I have envisioned George Clooney to play Joe DeSantos, mostly because Clooney brilliantly played an attorney in a desperate situation in Michael Clayton. Clooney is about the right age, has a similar gestalt, and has a deep, confident voice I imagine would be perfect for Joe. More than any contemporary actor I can think of, Clooney seems to possess the streetwise, city-hardened, but still boyish and charming aura that I think would be perfect for an on-screen adaptation of my protagonist.

Another important character is Aideen Bradigan, a former colleague of Joe’s who takes his case as a defense attorney and struggles to unravel the mysteries of both past and present along with him. For this role I would love to see Kate Winslet. Winslet’s performance in HBO’s Mare of Eastown, where Winslet, a British actor, nevertheless melted perfectly into a Philly-area detective right down to the flawless accent, was genius. Bradigan’s character is Irish-American, she is a cop’s widow, and she is tough, smart and stoic. I think Winslet would nail the character and bring out the best of her onscreen.

Finally, I’d love to see Ben Mendelsohn as Robbie DeSantos, Joe’s haunted, destructive and tragic older brother. Mendelsohn’s brilliant performance in the Netflix series Bloodline as the troubled, black sheep bother Danny Rayburn is primarily why, but I have seen Mendelsohn in several other roles and he is always incredibly natural and compelling.
Visit Roger A. Canaff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Danielle Binks's "The Year the Maps Changed"

Danielle Binks is an author and literary agent from Melbourne, Australia. The Year the Maps Changed was her debut novel and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book. She has since written her first young adult novel, The Monster of Her Age, and has edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing, which won an Australian Book Industry Award.

Here Binks dreamcasts an adaptation of The Year the Maps Changed:
Since my book is Middle Grade and there's a lot of kid-characters, I'd love to do an open-casting call and find some new talent. It still boggles that they did that for To Kill a Mockingbird and found *the* Scout in Mary Badham! As for Luca, Fred's father - I have this idea that he is very much Eric Bana. Hands down. I think the fact that Eric Bana's father is Croatian means he'd also have a lot of background knowledge about the unrest in Eastern Europe during the 80s and 90s, and the Kosovo War conflict borne out of the dissolving of the former Yugoslavia. That background I think would really open the role up for him, even as he's playing the local police officer of the small Australian town where Kosovar Albanian refugees arrive - I think he'd bring some critical empathy underlying to the character.

And as for directors? I could go a very Hollywood hype model and say I'd love the Duffer Brothers to bring some Stranger Things magic to the big-screen, but I'd much prefer to keep an Australian perspective, so my dream would be Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland (she did the Black Widow movie, and one of my favourite indie films in Somersault - so I think she'd tow a good line between cinematic and thoughtful, and I think she'd be a wonderful creator for young actors to work with especially.) I would trust that Shortland would bring dynamism to the weighty female roles within especially; young Fred learning that the world stretches beyond her back door, Anika her almost-stepmother who is not at all trope-fueled but rather complex and dealing with her own grief, and Nora - the Kosovar Albanian refugee, who is a pregnant mother when her homeland is thrown into turmoil and she's sent far away.
Visit Danielle Binks's website.

Q&A with Danielle Binks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Jason Mosberg's "My Dirty California"

Jason Mosberg lives in Los Angeles where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and TV creator.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, My Dirty California:
I've definitely thought about the prospect of My Dirty California getting turned into a movie or a TV show. I actually wrote the pilot script before I wrote the novel. I work in Los Angeles as a screenwriter and TV creator. I decided to turn My Dirty California into a novel when the pandemic started.

I'd love to see My Dirty California get made as a limited series. It would be too difficult to make it as a movie. I've thought about actors and even have some actors reading the book as we speak! I can't say who my first choices are because this will live on the web forever and I don't want actors who eventually play the parts to read this and feel like they were my second choice.

So to make it interesting, I'll pick actors who are older or dead. I think River Phoenix would have made a great Marty, a twentysomething drifter who gets killed but lives on through the book via hundreds of video log entries he left behind. I think a young Robert Redford would make a great Jody, the character who's looking into his brother Marty's death. The character of Penelope is a thirtysomething woman who is looking for proof we're living in a simulation. I love casting comedic actors in dramatic roles. (Vince Gilligan is the master at this.) I think Mary Tyler Moore in her 30s would have been a fantastic Pen. The character of Tiph has been described as a young, pulpy, Black, female version of Indiana Jones. I think a young Pam Grier would be excellent.

Hopefully one day soon, you'll see who my dream cast is!
Visit Jason Mosberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue