Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Patrick Rothfuss's "The Name of the Wind"

Patrick Rothfuss's debut fantasy novel The Name of the Wind has earned some extremely good reviews.

The overview to the story introduces--
the tale of Kvothe — from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more — for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.
Here Rothfuss shares some ideas about the above-the-line talent for a film adaptation of his new novel:
Over the years I've thought of my book as a movie. While I'm not nearly the movie junkie that some of my friends are I still watch movies and television, and I still daydream. These days I don't think you can be alive and untouched by the visual appeal of movies, I think it's safe to say that all writers are.

I had one person point out to me that in one page of the book I'd moved through three changes in point of view, and several different verb tenses. I'd had hundreds of people read the book by that point, thousands maybe, and nobody had noticed that before. Even me. I'd always thought of that particular passage as a slow pan out, like the camera pulling back into the distance. Of course, I don't have a camera to work with, only words. So I apparently had to break a few of the ordinary writery rules to achieve the same effect.

Anyway. On to the meat of things. Who would I get to work on the movie if I got to build my dream team?

Screenplay: Joss Whedon. Do I really need to explain why? No. I don't think so. I wouldn't mind having him for director either, as I think his style would be perfect for handling this sort of character-centered story. However, if I couldn't have him for director, I'd gladly pick...

Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Pan's Labyrinth blew me away. Seriously. It was the most perfect, badass, realistic faerie tale I've seen in years. I want that guy on my team.

Casting for Denna, the female lead, is easy. I'd love to see Natalie Portman in that role. I've admired the hell out of her for about ten years, ever since I saw Beautiful Girls. I think Denna would be the most difficult part to play in the entire the movie. She's a complicated character, and to make her real, I would need a real actress with some serious versatility and talent. Portman has talent and versatility in spades.

Second, Portman is a dead ringer for Denna, physically. The teardrop face, the dark hair and eyes. The charisma, charm, and body-type, all pretty much dead-on.

I don't know who I would want for my main character though. Kvothe is ... tricky. I don't think I'd like a star in the role. I don't want Brad Pitt as Kvothe. I just want Kvothe as himself. To that purpose, I think I'd need to get a no-name actor with some serious acting chops to play the male lead.

The other hard part of casting Kvothe is that I don't have a good idea what he really looks like. I spend most of the time looking out from behind his eyes. Kvothe should be attractive, lean and red-haired. But other than that, I think his personality is more important than what sort of nose he has. His personality is what drives the story. It's what makes the readers love him while at the same time they find him a bit exasperating. I need a real actor to pull that off too.

There are a lot of secondary characters, and I'm already running out of space here. I could see Johnny Depp doing a good Elodin, and Edward Norton playing a very good Elxa Dal. Both of them would be wasted on those smaller parts though, and honestly I feel guilty even suggesting them for anything other than lead roles.
Visit Patrick Rothfuss's website and his blog, and read an excerpt from The Name of the Wind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Michael Scott Moore's "Too Much of Nothing"

Michael Scott Moore is the author of Too Much of Nothing, "a ghost story told from the droll point of view of Eric Sperling, a teenager who competes with his friend Tom for a girl and finds himself, to his utter surprise, killed in a fit of rage."

Moore does not have any specific actors in mind for these characters if the book is adapted for the big screen, but he does have some notion of the aural atmosphere of the adaptation:
Amazingly, I haven't given it any more thought than, "Something like the Billy Crudup film of Jesus' Son."

Not for any special reason except the kick-ass soundtrack -- I remember hearing that Denis Johnson got to pick the songs himself.
Visit Radio Free Mike to learn more about Michael Scoot Moore and his fiction.

The Page 69 Test: Too Much of Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Linda L. Richards's "Calculated Loss"

Linda L. Richards is the author of three Madeline Carter novels: Mad Money, The Next Ex, and Calculated Loss.

Here she shares some thoughts about the casting for film adaptations of the novels:
There's been some very strong interest in optioning the Madeline Carter novels for film. For various reasons -- mostly just the nature of the beast, I guess -- nothing has come of it yet. But through all of that, I've had reason now and again to think about this stuff.

As I write, I never have any real living and breathing human in my head. My characters are so real to me, they seem to occupy all available space. I know just what they look like, and they don't look like anyone else, if you follow.

Sometimes, if I'm watching a movie or something on TV, I'll say, "Now she could play Madeline." And who have I said that about? At various times, Julia Roberts, Debra Messing, Jenna Elfman, Sharon Stone, Drew Barrymore ... a few others, as well. Do you see the range here? Honestly, though, I think it would be interesting to see any accomplished actress take it on: she'd bring some of herself to the role, make it her own.

But see, the casting would alter the thing, wouldn't it? The Madeline Carter film starring Julia Roberts is, by its very nature, quite different than the one starring Jenna Elfman. The budget is different, for one thing. And the level of attention that would be paid to both the film itself and the details in the filmmaking.

I know that, whoever was cast in the film, it would never be exactly as I envisioned it, but it would be a new creation, given birth to, in a sense, by the character that I dreamed up. That in itself is exciting, somehow.

When I interviewed Kazuo Ishiguro several years ago for January Magazine, he summed it up perfectly. He said that when he saw the rushes as they were making the film version of Remains of the Day he was put out by the differences. However when he saw the film, he was enthralled: it wasn't his book anymore, but a whole new thing.

I think that's what I'd feel. I hope so, anyway. Not upset by what was different, but excited to see what I'd created brought to physical life through someone else's imagination.
Read more about the Madeline Carter novels at Linda L. Richards's website.

Richards's fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published January 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur.

Richards is the editor of January Magazine and a contributor to The Rap Sheet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bella DePaulo's "Singled Out"

Bella DePaulo is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.

Here's how she responded when I asked her about the casting for a film adaptation of her non-fiction book:
When Geena Davis accepted the Golden Globe for her role as Commander in Chief, she told a touching story about the little girl who looked up at her and said that she, too, wants to be president when she grows up. As some in the crowd started aw-ing at the cuteness of it all, Davis admitted that the tender tale had never really happened. She was just mocking the kinds of sappy stories people tell at awards shows.

Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After is my book that takes aim at all the sentimentalized myths about marriage and coupling, and the scare stories about staying single, that are perpetuated ad nauseam in contemporary American society. You know the ones: Marry, and you will never be lonely again. Stay single, and your life will be miserable and tragic until you die alone in your tiny apartment, where someone finally discovers you weeks later, eaten by your cats. Singled Out says: Those things don’t really happen.

So who should play leading roles? First dibs should go to people who can talk the talk. Take Janeane Garofalo, for example, who said of her passions, “Paying attention to news, paying attention to politics, those things are important to me as I’ve gotten older. What isn’t important is how fat I am and my face is falling, that I don’t have a man in my life, those things magazines waste a lot of time on.”

Someone who could play the role of a person who is single in later life is Lauren Bacall. In 2004, a Newsweek reporter asked her: “You’re 80. You look fabulous. You seeing anyone?” Bacall answered, “Well, I’m talking to you and I’m looking out the window and I’m waiting for my dog to come back from her walk. She’s the one I see the most of and I’m very happy with that.”

Singled Out, the movie, would have attitude. It would be filled with lines like one of my favorites from Mona Lisa Smile. When Julia Roberts arrived at the place where she would be staying with the other female college professors, the rules of the house were explained to her: no male visitors, no hotplates, etc. Roberts moaned that she wasn’t sure she could make it through an entire year without a hotplate.

Do you have examples of clever, original, singles-triumphant replacements for the usual mawkish Hollywood endings in which the unlikely couple overcomes two hours of obstacles and weds in the end? If so, please send them my way! We need a fresh infusion of creativity to keep up with the many imaginative ways that people really are living their lives.
Read about some of the highlights from Singled Out and a Q & A with the author.

Visit Bella DePaulo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Singled Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Albyn Leah Hall's "The Rhythm of the Road"

Albyn Leah Hall is the author of the novels Deliria and, more recently, The Rhythm of the Road.

Here she shares some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of the new novel:
The Rhythm of the Road is the story of Josephine, an English truck driver’s daughter, who spends her childhood in her father’s truck. Together with her Irish father, the sweetly depressive Bobby Pickering, Josephine lives out an ersatz version of the American dream, obsessively listening to country music while traveling the English motorways. Josephine and Bobby can’t believe their luck when Cosima Stewart, a beautiful country singer from Texas, hitches a lift with them. As Cosima’s career begins to rise, they become her biggest fans. This is harmless enough until Bobby, already a tormented and fragile soul, disappears on an overnight ferry to Dublin. Josephine, now a teenager and in denial about her father’s disappearance, manically pursues Cosima, conjuring a friendship that does not exist and even following her to California.

A road novel and psychological thriller based on two continents, Rhythm should be a delight to cast. The easiest role to fill would be Cosima herself, though it would be helpful if the actress could sing. Charlize Theron would be excellent, as would Reese Witherspoon. Rick, her arrogant, rock-star boyfriend who deflowers the young Josephine could be played by any number of young actors: Jude Law, and Matthew Macfadyen, and Jake Gyllenhaal are all contenders. The casting of Bobby, whose descent into mental illness is pivotal to the storyline, is trickier. My first choice would be Heath Ledger, provided he could do a Northern Irish accent. (Ledger also shows a great capacity for aging, as he did in “Brokeback Mountain.”) Another important character, appearing at both the beginning and end of the book, is Rosalie, Josephine’s long-lost mother. This actress needs to be able to play quite a range, from the young, drug-addled Goth from Los Angeles to the Orthodox Jew whom she eventually becomes. (I would also need an actress capable of aging herself, from nineteen to forty.) Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, and Drew Barrymore are all strong possibilities. For Cleat, the gun-toting sociopath whom Josephine meets in Bakersfield, we need an actor willing to be both grotesque and charismatic; Ryan Gosling could be an idea.

The most difficult person to cast is Josephine herself. As Josephine grows from a sweet daddy’s girl to a promiscuous stalker, this actress needs to encompass a huge emotional range. Given the age range she spans, we may require two or three actresses in any case; I could see Abigail Breslin for the pre-teen Jo, provided she can do an English accent. My ideal scenario would be to cast the rest of the characters by famous actors, leaving the young Jo to be cast by a fabulous unknown.
Read an excerpt from The Rhythm of the Road and learn more about Albyn Leah Hall's writing at her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Michael Lowenthal's "Charity Girl"

Michael Lowenthal is the author of, most recently, Charity Girl.

Here's how he responded when I asked him about the casting for a film adaptation of his novel:
The thought of Charity Girl being made into a movie prompts me to confess two dirty little secrets:

1) Although I'm a novelist, I like movies better than books. I'm simply an unreconstructed sucker for sitting in a dark room with light flickering on a screen. Indeed, I love movies so much, and would be so beyond overjoyed for my novel to be adapted for the screen, that I can't bring myself to name potential actors to play my characters, for fear of jinxing the possibility.
2) I am such a non-visual thinker that when I'm writing a novel, I rarely remember to describe my characters' physical appearance. I only go back and fill this in when my friends remind me that it's important. So I can't honestly say that I "pictured so-and-so in the role of Frieda (my main character)," because in truth I never particularly pictured what Frieda (or any of my other characters) looks like.

Frieda is a bundle wrapper at the old Jordan Marsh department store (it's Boston, 1918) who gets caught up the U.S. government's World War I anti-vice campaign and incarcerated (as were 15,000 such women) for the “crime” of having venereal disease. When pressed to, I described her in the novel as being (in contrast to the refined girls in her magazine pinups) “the raw, unmilled grain: brown hair that ripened in the sun with red highlights, cheeks that went to freckles after June.” She's seventeen years old, the daughter of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia. My hunch, then, is that she'd be played by a relative newcomer. Fantasy: the role of Frieda is the vehicle that turns an unknown into a star. (Think Natalie Portman, pre-Star Wars?)

Felix, the soldier Frieda falls for, is “tall and fidget-thin, with forceful features and an agitated poise. His uniform, a quarter-inch short at every cuff, made her think of bursting seams, magic beanstalks.” (See how I avoided - or was incapable of - tying him down to precise physical characteristics? I'd like to think of this vagueness as my little gift to casting directors: Do what you will!)

I can't be so presumptuous as to say that I can imagine the following writers and directors reading my novel, but here are some folks whose movies I greatly admire: Lynne Ramsay, Tim Blake Nelson, Tony Kushner, Atom Egoyan, Sarah Polley, Ang Lee, Bill Condon. Oh, I could go on and on ....
In addition to Charity Girl, Michael Lowenthal is the author of the novels Avoidance and The Same Embrace. His short stories and nonfiction have appeared in many of the best places.

Charity Girl was inspired by a line in Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, in which she likens the incarceration of American women during World War I to the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Lowenthal says, “The latter historical episode I had, of course, heard about, but not the first ... I immediately had two thoughts: (1) how awful, and (2) what a great basis for a novel.”

Visit Lowenthal's website and learn about his other writing.

The Page 69 Test: Charity Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Richard Chwedyk's "Bronte’s Egg"

Science fiction writer and poet Richard Chwedyk shares some ideas on the casting of a film adaptation of his Nebula Award-winning novella, "Bronte's Egg:"
My best-known work is the novella "Bronte's Egg," a story that takes place in a kind of rescue mission for genetically engineered toys that look like small versions of dinosaurs, called "saurs." The central character is a little bundle of energy named Axel, who wakes up one morning wanting to send a message to "Space Guys," and to build a robot he's calling Rotomotoman. At the same time, an apatosaur named Bronte has produced an egg – something that bioengineered saurs are not supposed to be capable of doing. Bronte and the other saurs hope to hatch this egg, but keep it secret from "the humans." Axel's and Bronte's efforts ultimately converge. That's the story of mine that moviemakers might be most interested in, with an assist from my other saur stories "The Measure of All Things" and "In Tibor's Cardboard Castle." A book-length collection of saur stories will be coming out eventually.

I think you can read the whole "Bronte's Egg" by going here, or to the e-book of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 2002.

I see a film of "Bronte’s Egg" done in live action, with the saurs brought to life by computer animation. Short of that, the kind of wonderful animation done by Studio Ghibli. It would need actors with great voices, and actors who can pack a lot into very few lines.

Movies were my first love. My brother and I used to play this sort of casting game all through our childhoods and adolescence. Not long ago, I had the chance to do a little "speculative casting" with the late, brilliant, John M. Ford, who was far better at it than I could ever dream to be.

But this was tough -- much tougher than I thought it would be. I can hear my characters’ voices when I write, but as I pondered which actors could do the job, a dozen possibilities came to me that would do just as well, if not better. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great performers and great voices. So take this list as a fanciful musing that touches upon the possibilities of interpretation. Next week, I’ll come up with a different list and not repeat one name.

The Saurs

Axel -- I DON'T KNOW!!! A number of wonderful voices came to mind but I couldn't decide which one would be best. Read the novella and make your own suggestions.

Doc -- Jeremy Irons

Agnes -- Glenn Close

Preston -- Laurence Fishburne

Sluggo -- Philip Seymour Hoffman

Bronte -- Parminder Nagra [from "Bend It Like Beckham"]

Kara -- Gail Petersen [lead singer/songwriter for The Catholic Girls, a kick-ass New Jersey rock band]

Hetman -- Morgan Freeman

Jean-Claude -- Graham Greene

Pierrot -- French Stewart

Charlie -- John Goodman

Rosie -- Joan Cusack

Geraldine -- Megan Mullally

Tibor -- Lenny Henry

Ross -- Gilbert Gottfried

Diogenes -- Edward James Olmos

The Humans

Tom Groverton (the human who takes care of the saurs) -- Tobey Maguire

Dr. Margaret Pagliotti (the human who looks after the saurs' health) – Fairuza Balk

Susan Leahy (head of the Atherton Foundation) -- Patricia Arquette

The Visitor (from "The Measure of All Things") – Michael Chiklis

The inspectors from the government's Bioengineering Office

Mr. Chase – Stacy Keach

Dr. Yoon – Gong Li

Dr. Phillips -- Denzel Washington

Not saur – Not human

Reggie (voice of the Reggiesystem computer) – Gary Oldman

Can I pick a director while I’m at it? I can think of no one better than Brad Bird, unless it's Joe Dante. Either one can change my cast list and probably do a better job.
"Bronte's Egg" won a Nebula Award and was nominated for a Hugo and a Sturgeon Award as well.

Chwedyk's poem, "Rich and Pam Go to Fermilab and Later See a Dead Man" was nominated for a Rhysling Award, and if you didn't catch it on the Strange Horizons website you can read it in The 2004 Rhysling Anthology, available from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Read about some of Chwedyk's other publications.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Kevin Wignall's “People Die”

The publisher's description for Kevin Wignall's People Die reads:

JJ is a model employee. He does his work quietly and competently, and he keeps his nose clean. But JJ's job is murder for hire, and when the kind of company he works for undergoes restructuring, people don't get fired -- they get fired upon. So for the first time in his life, JJ is not just a predator; he's the prey, and he doesn't even know why. All he knows is that the people close to him are being killed, former allies are turning against him, and the only person offering help is the best friend of one of his victims.

It's one of the golden rules -- never become involved with a target's friends or family, with the people who loved him. But JJ's running out of options, and, despite himself, he's drawn by the lure of passing through that door, from his side of death to theirs.

Sounds like a story I'd pay to see adapted for the big screen. Of course, the success of the film adaptation might depend on who played "JJ"....

Wignall shares some thoughts on that critical matter here:

Both my last book, For the Dogs, and my forthcoming book, Who is Conrad Hirst?, have been optioned for film so I know better than to even dream of them actually becoming movies, let alone who I’d like to see cast in them.

People Die, my first novel, is actually the book that’s had the most film interest over the years but it’s the one that still hasn’t been optioned, in part because of plot problems. When the director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Near Dark) wanted to adapt it, nearly all of the discussions we had were about how to remove the second half of the plot.

Subsequently, a producer from Marc Platt’s (Wicked) company wanted to concentrate on the second half of the plot and remove the first section. So it was always about plotting – at no point were there ever concerns about casting.

JJ, the central character, is a thirty year old government hitman – charming, intelligent, very aware of the impact of what he’s doing but completely capable of detaching himself in the crucial moment. When he becomes a target of his own organization he has to befriend the family of one of his victims to get to the bottom of why he’s wanted dead.

Lots of names were mentioned as a potential JJ – Jude Law, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt (this was five years ago). In talks with Kathryn Bigelow’s production executive I actually said I was open to any suggestion except Tom Cruise – with some irony, when our talks collapsed, Bigelow went on to sign a deal with … Tom Cruise.

I jokingly say on my website that I don’t care if the actor is English or even a man, and I suggest that Clare Danes could play the part – this encouraged a different producer to get in touch and suggest that Ashley Judd might be ideal in the role!

Of course, five years on, most of those actors are either now too old or their careers have moved in different directions. Now there are other actors I could see in the role – James McAvoy, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling – and for all I know, there might be a talented twenty year old out there hoping he can option the book and wait a few years before playing it.

And the truth is, the best performances are always the least expected. Ideally, the person I’d want to play JJ is someone none of us have heard of, but who’ll be associated evermore with his role in the film of People Die. Either that, or someone who you really might not expect to play such a character … hmm, Ashley Judd suddenly doesn’t seem such a strange proposition.
Visit Kevin Wignall's website to learn about his books and stories, and check out his posts at the group blog "Contemporary Nomad."

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 4, 2007

Anthony Neil Smith's "Pyschosomatic"

Here's the lowdown on Anthony Neil Smith's debut novel, Psychosomatic:
“Because Lydia didn’t have arms or legs, she shelled out three thousand bucks to a washed up middleweight named Cap to give her ex-husband the beating of his life.”

But the beating turns to murder, and the murder into lust and desperation between Lydia and an underworld clean-up man. Meanwhile, overgrown frat boy car thieves take up cop killing as a side hobby. When these paths cross, a horror show of violence unfolds as they all slide into a hell of their own design, surrounded by the neon and noise of the casino strip on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Who should tell this story in a film adaptation? Here's what the author thinks about that:
Pyschosomatic as a movie? I wish.

It would have to be dirty, sweaty, like an old exploitation flick. I want the audience to leave feeling kinda sick (in a thrilling way).

So, Psy is a pulp "cartoon," for lack of a better word, that takes place on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The movie version would have to nod to the rebuilding after Katrina (I wrote it several years before), which means an even bleaker landscape -- paradise with debris spread all over.

You've got Lydia, a woman who lost her arms and legs and now has some fake limbs sculpted to resemble Jayne Mansfield's. She's manipulating poor bottom-rung criminal Allan, way overweight and for sale to the lowest bidder. When they run afoul of Terry and Lancaster, a brains-and-brawn theiving duo, everything goes to hell. Double cross, triple cross, lust, violence, and hate. What's it really worth to stay in these relationships, no matter how shitty they are?

For director, I'd have to say either Craig Brewer (Black Snake Moan) or Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects) to help cover it with dirt and a sense of the absurd.

For Lydia, I'd want someone like Kate Winslet. Don't be fooled: Winslet can turn on the nasty, and she can try on an over-the-top fake accent, too. A real change of pace.

For Allan, how about Jorge Garcia from Lost (the guy who plays Hurley)? He strikes the right note, seems to me.

Then for Terry (brains) and Lancaster (brawn), respectively: Justin Timberlake (he does comedy well, even though this is some dark stuff, and I'd love to see him react when his partner goes batshit insane), and Tobey Maguire. Absolutely against type, but it could work. I'm a gambler.

That leaves a couple more to fill: young temptress Megan pops up in her old-fashioned nurse's uniform. I'd say it would fit Lindsey Lohan, finally playing down in the gutter where she belongs rather than in "family friendly" tripe. Then there's Norm, a goofy fucker and one of Lydia's old flames, who might be just right for Jon Heder (and he'd get the living shit beat out of him).

Toss in some tunes from Amy Winehouse, most of the Bloodshot Records stable, juke joint blues, and Jimmy Buffet (hey, it happens on a beach), and I'd still have complaints. But I'd have a big fat check in my pocket, too.
Learn more about Pyschosomatic and Anthony Neil Smith ... and the soundtrack for [his] (fake) movie.

Smith's other works include The Drummer and Plots With Guns.

Check out his blog, "Crimedog One," and his MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Judith Kelman's "The First Stone"

Judith Kelman's new novel The First Stone is certainly cinema-worthy, based on the publisher's description:

He's a world-renowned, brilliant cardiac surgeon. But since Dr. Malik moved in upstairs with his family, Emma has started to wonder what kind of a man he really is. On quiet nights, home alone with her three-year-old, pregnant Emma can hear muffled thumps and screams from the apartment above and pleading words in a little girl's voice. If she reports Dr. Malik, she might put her own husband's career on the line. But the sounds from the apartment above keep haunting her, until she confides in a friend.

Soon, Malik becomes the target of an investigation. When he discovers the role Emma played in it, her life begins to unravel. And just as she is about to bring a new life into the world, she starts to fear for her own.

Here Kelman explores some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of her novel:
At the gala premiere of The First Stone, I'll ask to be seated next to leading lady Renée Zellweger. I can easily picture her as the big screen embodiment of my protagonist, Emma Colten, a talented portrait artist, wife of a surgical resident, and mother of a rambunctious three-year-old son with a baby daughter on the way. Zellweger has the right comedic sensibility and a perfect hint of endearing self-doubt. She comes across as likable, honest, and resilient, all hallmarks of Emma as she navigates some serious emotional white water in this story of hospital politics, sexual duplicity, and the lethal danger that can be unleashed by an innocent disclosure.

Edward Norton would be perfect as Emma's husband. He has Sam Colten's distractible, sad-puppy appeal along with a hint of a simmering undercurrent that leaves you wondering whether the aw-shucks facade might be hiding something darker.

To play Mrs. Kalisher, Emma's wise octogenarian friend and neighbor, I'd wish to channel the spirit of Helen Hayes. Casting directors like to go with what's safe, but authors can claim far greater latitude, so I'd hold an open call to fill this role with a living counterpart of Ms. Hayes and to find the perfect, puckish little boy to play Sam and Emma's son Tyler.

The monsters in this piece: Sam's cold, arrogant father and Dr. Douglas Malik, the world's leading cardiovascular surgeon (who is ironically heartless) could be portrayed deftly by Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro. Then what couldn't they play deftly? And while I'm fantasizing, why not swing for a grand slam home run?

Which reminds me. I'll have to remember to call before the opening and ask Renée what she plans to wear. If she showed up in the same dress or looked so unforgivably fabulous she made me seem like an even bigger troll by comparison, I might feel duty-bound to kill her off (loosely disguised, of course) in my next book.

And then who would I get to play the heroine in that film?
Learn more about The First Stone at the publisher's website.

Check out The First Stone at "The Page 69 Test" and "The Page 99 Test."

--Marshal Zeringue