Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kristy Kiernan's "Catching Genius"

In March 2007 Kristy Kiernan applied the Page 69 Test to Catching Genius, her debut novel.

Here she develops some ideas for actors and director should the book be adapted for the movies:

When I go to a baby shower I know that when they pass me a roll of toilet paper I'm supposed to tear off however many squares I think will go around the mommy-to-be's belly. It's an expected party-game, and I know how to play it.

In much the same way, when I attend a book club function, I know that as soon as someone says "movie" I'm going to be asked to cast Catching Genius. Though it's an expected game, I haven't gotten nearly as good at it as I have the whole toilet paper/pregnant belly game.

The truth is I didn't have actors in mind when I wrote the book. I envisioned sisters Connie and Estella, their mother June, the men in their lives, Luke, Tate, and Paul, and Connie's sons, Gib and Carson as wholly original beings. But after so many conversations about who readers thought should play my characters, I admit that I have finally given it some serious thought.

For Connie, a mix of resentment and love on the edge of a dangerous boiling point, I like the idea of Robin Wright Penn. There's a lot of depth there that could be easy to overlook because of her beauty, just like Connie.

For Estella, the damaged math genius who made her own life the way she wanted it (or thought she did), come on, who else but Jodie Foster? That scary intelligence mixed with vulnerability? Perfect! Plus she has the right hair for it.

June, fiercely loving, but demanding and occasionally unsympathetic, with a shocking story about her past that she kept from her own daughters, I struggle with. I think Glenn Close comes, well, close, but I keep seeing Jane Seymour tilting her head, June's quasi-haughty move, just so and think she might be perfect.

Luke, perpetual man-boy, whose infidelity pushes Connie over the edge, has a lot of contenders in Hollywood, but there must be a sad quality there, too, a history that he can't escape, no matter how much money he has, or how many baristas he fools around with. Possibly Rob Lowe?

Paul, Estella's love, tall, rangy, gentle. Smells like wood shavings and varnish, dances with Estella standing on his feet so she doesn't have to touch the grout lines. He's lovely, isn't he? I'm thinking Anthony Edwards.

And Tate, oh, all the women do love Tate. He's got problems, there's no question there, but he knows what they are, he knows where they came from, and once in a while he even owns up to them. Plus he brings fresh seafood over all the time and can build a bonfire. We need someone a little rough around the edges, someone with calluses on his hands who might take off to the woods for three days with nothing but a pocketknife. Luke Wilson has a quiet strength I like for Tate.

Gib, the troubled teenaged son of Connie, infuriated with his father, uncertain of his mother, jealous of his younger brother. He's a good kid, but what's going to become of him? I think Jason Dolley, star of a series on the Disney channel, would be an interesting choice.

And sweet Carson, concerned about everyone around him, into jazz clarinet and composing, unaware that he's a little prodigy. Nathan Gamble from Babel has just the right look, the right voice.

And the director? Please, does anyone do dysfunctional better than Jodie Foster? Watch Home For The Holidays before you suggest another director. She is exquisitely talented and does sibling relationships beautifully.

Read an excerpt from Catching Genius.

Curious about the inspiration for Catching Genius? Read Kiernan's backstory.

Visit Kristy Kiernan's website. Her new novel, Matters of Faith, comes out in August 2008.

The Page 69 Test: Catching Genius.

--Marshal Zeringue