Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sandra Parshall's "Disturbing the Dead"

Sandra Parshall is the author of The Heat of the Moon, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2006, and Disturbing the Dead, which came out in March 2007 to favorable reviews.

Should Disturbing the Dead ever be adapted for the movies, here are Parshall's thoughts -- with a little help from her friends -- about who might star in and direct the picture:
I’m probably a rarity in that I have difficulty picturing actors playing my characters – with one exception. Meryl Streep would be a natural to play Judith, Rachel’s mother in The Heat of the Moon.

I often clip photos of models from catalogs to inspire me when I begin writing new characters, but along the way my mental images diverge from those in the photos, and the pictures are discarded. “Casting” my second book, Disturbing the Dead, with models proved impossible because many of the characters are Melungeon – mixed race with dark skin and hair and, in a few cases, blue eyes.

Some of my friends have no trouble naming actors to play my characters, and their choices remind me that writing long, detailed descriptions of the people in a novel is a waste of time, because regardless of what I write, every reader will see the characters in his or her own way.

Gigi Pandian suggested Adam Beach for the role of Tom Bridger. My immediate reaction was, “He’s much too short!” I also think his features aren’t sharp enough. Tom is part Cherokee and looks it. Beach doesn’t have an angular Cherokee face. (I agree with Gigi, though, that he’s cute.)

Kim Striker thought Joe Lando could play Tom – and my immediate reaction to this suggestion was, “He’s much too old!” I looked Lando up on the internet, and sure enough, he’s more than 10 years older than Tom. I appreciate Kim’s comment on her choice, though, because it tells me I did a good job of presenting the character: “He has the same quiet competence, self-confidence and vulnerability I see in Tom.”

Kim nominated Kimberly Williams-Paisley from the Father of the Bride films and TV’s According to Jim to play Rachel Goddard, my young veterinarian heroine, because the actress has “an energy and enthusiasm I associate with Rachel” as well as the right physical appearance. True enough, but I could also accept Michelle Williams, suggested by Carol Baier, in the role.

Who would I want to direct the movie of Disturbing the Dead? No contest: the Coen brothers. With them in charge, I could be sure the book’s brooding, rather gothic tone would be conveyed whole to the screen. To tell you the truth, though, if anyone made a film of one of my books I would have no expectations. A book is a book and a movie is a movie, and any similarity between the two is purely coincidental.
Learn more about the author and her writing at Sandra Parshall's website.

The Page 69 Test: Disturbing the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue