Monday, June 25, 2007

Kelley Armstrong's "Exit Strategy"

Exit Strategy, the first of Kelley Armstrong's "Nadia Stafford" series, debuts in July.

Here's the lead-in to the story, from the publisher:
Regulars at Nadia’s nature lodge don’t ask what she does in the off-season. And that’s a good thing. If she told them, she’d have to kill them. She’s a hit woman for a Mafia family. Tough and self-sufficient, Nadia doesn’t owe anyone any explanations. But that doesn’t mean she always works alone. One of her contacts has recruited her in the hunt for a ruthlessly efficient serial killer cutting a swath of terror across the country. The assassin is far too skilled to be an amateur — and the precision of the killings is bringing the Feds much too close to the hit man community for comfort.

To put an end to the murders, Nadia will have to turn herself from predator to prey as she employs every trick she knows to find the killer. Before the killer finds her…
So who might the author see carrying her story to the big screen? Kelley Armstrong:
Ah, the “casting game.” One of the first contests I ran on my website was a fantasy casting for my first novel, Bitten. At the time, Warner Bros had optioned it, and Angelina Jolie was signed to star. The project died in development, but it was fun while it lasted.

One thing I learned from that experience was that any casting choice (even hypothetical!) is bound to be controversial among readers. There were lengthy and heated debates on my discussion board about the suitability of Ms. Jolie to the role. At the time, I avoided any prodding to pick my own choices, but for this new novel, I’m going to have some fun and play the game.

Exit Strategy is a crime novel about a contract killer for the Mob who is persuaded to join a small group of her colleagues tracking down a hitman who appears to have turned serial killer.

Nadia Stafford

I’m going to pick Evangeline Lilly from Lost for my main character. It might be just the show setting, but she has that fresh, outdoorsy look that fits my wilderness-lodge-proprietor protagonist. On Lost, Lilly does a good job of playing a character who seems very normal, likable and friendly, but harbours a dark past. That fits Nadia. She isn’t “playing” the sociable, friendly lodge hostess. That’s one side of her. The other is a deeply damaged ex-cop whose past caused her to snap and kill a suspect. Now, to keep her lodge afloat, she’s a contract killer for a small New York mob family … and it’s a job that satisfies more than her need for cash.


For Nadia’s mentor, I’m going with Gabriel Byrne. He’s got the basic look, and he’s Irish, like my mysterious, monosyllabic hitman. He’s a bit older than Jack, but in Hollywood terms, that’s not big an issue as it would be with a female character. Jack is a true professional killer, and I’ve seen Bryne in several criminal roles, which probably influences my choice. Like Nadia, Jack shift between dangerous and disarmingly normal with ease, and I think Bryne could do that easily.


Ah, Evelyn. My retired hitwoman. Jack’s former mentor, she’s an invaluable resource and she knows it, offering her skills to get closer to Nadia — the “project” Jack stole from her. I’m going to pick Helen Mirren for Evelyn. She doesn’t physically resemble my image of the character, but having seen her play a no-nonsense woman in a man’s profession (Prime Suspect) she’d be an excellent Evelyn.


I’m tempted by Quentin Tarantino. I’m a huge fan of his early work and he’s always good with edgy female characters. But this wouldn’t be his kind of story, and if he took it, he’d turn it into something that suited him better. I’m not a writer who would expect the movie version to be a literal translation of her story. It has to be an interpretation better suited for the big screen. But I’d like it to be recognizable as my story, and Tarantino works with original ideas, not adaptations.
Read more about Exit Strategy at Kelley Armstrong's website and read the first three chapters online.

--Marshal Zeringue