Monday, September 28, 2009

Gail Carriger's "Soulless"

Gail Carriger began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon, according to her official biography. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by a harem of Armenian lovers, where she insists on tea imported directly from London and cats that pee into toilets. She is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit.

Here she shares her thinking about casting a filmed adaptation of Soulless, her first book:
Soulless is a comedic take on the urban fantasy genre set in Victorian London. With that kind of elevator pitch, you can probably guess I'd skip Hollywood and take less money if I could sell it to the BBC as a mini series. I'd settle for a fist-full of unknowns so long as it came out as well as their Cranford adaptation, but my assignment is to cast my ideal film, so here were go...

Our Intrepid Heroine

Alexia Tarabotti, London's only preternatural, is an Italian-looking spinster with no soul, a big mouth and, quite frankly, even bigger nose. Visually, I modeled her off of Italian actress Sabrina Impacciatore, but Sabrina seems a little too regal for the role. Perhaps Claudia Black might be better suited to running around whacking obstreperous vampires willy-nilly with a parasol, but that girl's gotta eat about ten cream teas first, then we'll talk.

Werewolves of Note

For our hero, an oversized scruffy Scottish werewolf, I'm going to deviate from the expected--Gerard Butler--and pick Sean Bean (with dark hair and color contacts) or perhaps James Purefoy. All are big guys who manage to emit a general air of clumsy confusion combined with slightly too wide smiles that look as though they might, just possibly, tear out your throat if they could just remember what that other thing was they wanted to do first. For Professor Lyall, Lord Maccon's long-suffering beta, I'm choosing Kevin McKidd of Rome fame. And for Lord Maccon's claviger, the irreverent Tunstell? Gotta have Alan Tudyk hamming it up with shockingly red hair and a penchant for singing bad opera at inopportune moments.

Vampires of Interest

Lord Akeldama is Alexia's dearest friend, a gay vampire in charge of a spy network the Scarlet Pimpernel would envy. I modeled him (of course) off of Richard Chamberlain circa The Slipper and the Rose. I'm thinking, Paul Bettany. He stripped starkers for A Knight's Tale so I figure he's probably open to most possibilities. In the enemy camp, I'd like Jennifer Ehle to portray Countess Nadasdy. Elizabeth Bennett may seem like an odd choice for a vampire queen, but the countess is a rosy-faced shepherdess type. I'd surround her with three over-dramatic vampire males, each more cape-swirling than the last: Jason Isaacs as Lord Ambrose, Richard E. Grant as Dr. Caedes, and Gary Oldman as the Duke of Hematol.

Mundanes of Relevance

Ivy Hisselpenny is Alexia's foil and female BFF. I had the hardest time casting her until I remembered Melanie Lynskey who's perfect. As for Alexia's outrageously impossible family? I'll take one each of the following: Squire Loontwill - Hugh Laurie, Mrs. Loontwill - Imelda Staunton, Felicity - Jo Joyner, and Evylin - Kimberley Nixon. We mustn't forget Floote, the oft put-upon butler who has Alexia's best interests at heart. I choose the lovely Philip Glenister. I can think of no better straight man in the business right now. For Mr. MacDougall, Alexia's timid American beaux (I know, I know, an American - shocking!) I'd slip in Kevin Smith, just for a lark. And for Mr. Siemons, our scientist of suspicious motivations? Who could beat out a pipe-puffing, mutton-chop sporting Stephen Fry?
Learn more about Soulless and its author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brian Ruckley's "Godless World" trilogy

Brian Ruckley's recently completed fantasy trilogy, the Godless World, consists of the books Winterbirth, Bloodheir, and Fall of Thanes.

Here he shares some thoughts on the way ahead should anyone be thinking of doing a big screen adaptation of his tale:
Well, you've got start with the director, since that's likely to decide whether you get a masterpiece or a turkey. My Godless World trilogy is big, dark, epic fantasy: it's got its fair share of mayhem, set in dramatic landscapes, involving lots of heavily armed people. For those action scenes, I was directly influenced in my writing by certain types of movies, so it seems only fair to give one of the relevant directors a shot at this adaptation - I'll nominate Ridley Scott or Mel Gibson. They've shown they can conjure up the sort of high impact, visceral, immersive battle scenes I was trying to create (and imitate), and can deal with big, visually rich settings.

Character-wise, I've got lots to choose from, and most of them face some pretty trying circumstances (to put it mildly - I'm using 'trying' in the sense of 'catastrophic' and 'virtually intolerable') as events unfold. The main plot is about an old conflict that flares up after years of dormancy, but then spirals out of everyone's control as new and much more powerful players get involved. I deliberately adopted an uncompromising and fairly realistic approach to depicting the consequences of the mounting chaos, so we probably need actors who can do 'haggard' and 'beset' and 'struggling on against unreasonable odds' quite well. I'm not the kind of writer who casts the book in their head as they're writing, so for a lot of the characters it's hard to come up with good matches. But a few do spring to mind, so here goes:

My personal favourite amongst the characters is probably Taim Narran, a veteran warrior endowed with stubborn loyalty and persistence, generally good intentions, and a not inconsiderable talent for killing people (though he takes no great pleasure in it, being a basically decent sort of bloke). If we could just age him a tiny little bit, I think this is Daniel Craig's role. He's got a certain capable, slightly rough around the edges, stubborn aura about him.

Another of the key protagonists, operating in a much more morally grey area than Taim Narran, is Kanin, the leader of an invading army who gets caught up in some violent and thoroughly unpleasant events that make him question whose side he's really on. For him, I think maybe Clive Owen would do the trick (in his dark, troubled action hero mode rather than his romantic lead mode).

Some of the main characters in the story are na'kyrim, half-human wielders of a mysterious power called the Shared, and casting them is tricky. One - Yvane - is a rather querulous and strong-willed woman of advancing years, and if we can turn back the clock a fraction, I'd like to see the Judi Dench of maybe six or seven years ago take a shot at that. The real challenge, though, is casting Aeglyss, a na'kyrim who is at the heart of much of what happens in the trilogy. Part of the problem is the radical changes he undergoes in the course of the story, going from being a feeble, bitter man to becoming the biggest threat the world has seen in many years. For him, we need someone who can do both drastic physical deterioration and hugely threatening, sometimes at the same time. It's a tough call, but I think maybe Ralph Fiennes.

All in all, I'd say we've got the kernel of a stellar cast there. Blockbuster in the making, surely? And hopefully undreamed of riches for all involved (especially the writer of the original books...).
Learn more about Brian Ruckley and his books at his website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jordan Christy's "How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World"

Jordan Christy is a music publicist and has worked with dozens of artists and celebrities, in addition to various TV and media outlets. She has also written for local and national fashion magazines and music trade publications. Her new book is How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace.

Here she shares some ideas for screenwriter and principal cast should the book be adapted for the movies:
I would be lying if I said I hadn't imagined How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World making it's debut on the big screen. I would also be lying if I said I hadn't already picked out my dress for the premiere, and carefully arranged the track numbers for the movie's corresponding soundtrack (floor-length Reem Acra; Sara Bareilles kicks off the album). Since the book is a non-fiction guidebook, it would have to be cleverly adapted by an excellent screenwriter in the vein of He's Just Not That Into You. We basically need to get Nora Ephron on the phone, asap. If she's too swamped, I'd like to have a chat with Tracey Jackson and see what she'd do with the storyline.

Anne Hathaway is the obvious choice for the leading role, given her Audrey-like features and real-life role model qualities. There would be a gaggle of smart, funny, honest girls with supporting roles, including (but not limited to) Ginnifer Goodwin, Jenna Fischer, Gabrielle Union, Rachel Bilson, and America Ferrera. Ideally, I would like to make a small appearance as well, even if I just play Extra # 23 and have to get someone's Starbucks. Given the chapter on dating, we would need a ruggedly handsome guy for Anne to interact with, too - I'm holding out for either Hayden Christensen or Ryan Gosling.

See? It's already shaping up to be a great movie! You better hurry and Fandango your tickets for opening night before it's sold out.
Learn more about the book and author at Jordan Christy's website, blog, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Randa Jarrar's "A Map of Home"

Randa Jarrar is a novelist, short story writer, and translator. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, A Map of Home, won the 2009 Arab American Book Award, as well as the Hopwood and Geoffrey James Gosling Awards at the University of Michigan, where she received her MFA. Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the US after the first Gulf War. At the age of 13, she enrolled in 10th grade, and went on to attend Sarah Lawrence College at 16. Two years later, she became a single mom, and by the age of 22, she had a Masters’ degree and a four- year-old. She began A Map of Home at the age of 23, writing the bulk of it in a trailer in small-town Texas.

Here she shares her preferences for the main cast and director of a big screen adaptation of her novel:
I've been told my novel is cinematic. The characters are all larger-than-life crazies who move big, talk big, and live big.

In the role of Nidali, the sassy talking main character, I see Alia Shawkat, who was Maeby in Arrested Development. She has perfect comic timing, is absolutely stunning, and I can see her swearing left and right.

Baba would be played by- who else?- Tony Shalhoub. A natural comic genius and endearing soul, he would make the perfect conflicted Arab father, a poet and a tyrant. He would make me cry up on screen.

And for Mama, there is no one but Kathy Najimy. She looks Egyptian-Palestinian, is fabulous and sassy, would look gorgeous at a piano, and is the funniest woman on screen.

The director would be the talented and beautiful Cherien Dabis. She is my hero. She has worked on The L Word and directed shorts and most recently, Amreeka, a funny story about an Arab-American single mom. I can relate.

It would be shot in Texas, even the scenes in Kuwait and Alexandria, Egypt. We could take a stretch of West TX desert and shoot there, and use a winter Corpus Christi for the Egypt scenes, since it's in a beach town in the winter.

I can see it already.
Learn more about the author and her work at Randa Jarrar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brian Keaney's "The Hollow People"

Brian Keaney is a UK-based writer of fiction for children and young adults. He has written 16 novels and a number of plays . His latest books are: (in the UK) Nathaniel Wolfe and the Bodysnatchers published by Orchard Books; (in the US) The Cracked Mirror published by Alfred A Knopf.

Here he shares some thinking about the major cast and director for a cinematic adaptation of The Hollow People, the first book in The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus series:
The Hollow People is set in a nightmare society where people have handed over their minds to the state. It’s a world in which everything and everyone is controlled. Even dreaming is a crime. But Dante, the teenage boy at the centre of the story refuses to submit. That makes him unique. So whoever plays him must be able to convey a character who is not afraid to be different, no matter what it costs. The actor who immediately springs to mind is Robert Pattinson, who recently starred in Twilight. He has the right kind of look – like someone who doesn’t care if the whole world is against him; he’s still going to be himself.

For Beatrice, the girl from a good family who throws it all away to befriend Dante, I would like to see Ivana Baquero, the star of the outstanding Spanish language film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Playing a character who is both scared stiff and terrifically brave, she really convinces me.

The other really important character in the book is Ezekiel Semiramis, a man who terrifies the authorities, because he has harnessed a mysterious energy called Odyllic Force that gives him the power to step outside time. Whoever plays Ezekiel needs tremendous personal power. What about Viggo Mortensen, best known for playing Aragorn in The Lord Of The Rings? He has the ability to look right through the camera, so that you feel he’s looking directly at you. Alternatively Johnny Depp. He’s a wonderfully versatile actor and he has that delightful unpredictability that the character of Ezekiel demands.

Ezekiel is the leader of a band of outlaws called the Púca. Two of them, in particular, play an important part in the story. There’s Albigen, Ezekiel’s right hand man and the Púca’s fiercest fighter. I’d like to see him played by Jake Gyllenhaal who was compelling in Donnie Darko as a boy who refuses to conform. Then there’s red-haired Maeve whose parents were outlaws and who has known no other life but resistance to authority. Rachel Hurd-Wood who was so good in An American Haunting would be perfect for the part. Her natural hair colour is red and she’s got exactly the right mixture of feistiness and fragility.

Finally there’s the evil Dr Sigmundus, a dictator who sacrifices his own identity for the sake of power. No one does an archetypal villain better than Alan Rickman. I loved his portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard and, of course, he’s terrific as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. But perhaps he’s been overused. So maybe someone else. Dennis Hopper was completely terrifying in Blue Velvet but that was a long time ago. Perhaps Christopher Walken who was so impressive as a sadistic gangster in Last Man Standing.

That only leaves the director. I’d like to see what Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth would make of it. Or Terry Gilliam whose movie, Twelve Monkeys is one of my all-time favourites. But I think the man whose phone call I would most like to receive would have to be Steven Spielberg. He’s the consummate story teller and I think he’d do a great job. So if by any chance you’re reading this, Steven, the rights are still available.
Read an excerpt from The Hollow People and view a video of Brian Keaney discussing the book.

Learn more about the author and his work at Brian Keaney's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charles Salzberg's "Swann’s Last Song"

Charles Salzberg is a writer who lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Esquire, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. He has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, taught advanced non-fiction at Sarah Lawrence College and the New York Writers Workshop (where he is a Founding Member,) the Writer’s Voice, New York City Open Center, and the Hunter College Writing Program.

Here he shares his preferences for the lead actor and director of a film adaptation of his Shamus Award-nominated debut novel, Swann’s Last Song:
When I first began writing Swann’s Last Song, I had no idea what Henry Swann looked like, or even how old he was. But I did know he wasn’t going to be the stereotypical slick, handsome, charismatic private eye whom women swooned over and men wished they could be, the ones played by Paul Newman, Robert Redford, or George Clooney. Just the opposite, in fact. I wanted a down and out, living on the edge, marginalized, cynical loser whose aim was simply to make enough money to pay the rent on his seedy office and seedier apartment and maybe buy a few rounds of drinks for himself and his boys at the Paradise Bar and Grill, across the street from his office.

And so, the first thing I did was make him a forty-something year old skip tracer who made his living repossessing cars and finding deadbeats who skipped on their bills, their wives or both. His clients weren’t high-class movers and shakers, but mostly women on welfare, which is why he had a sign in his office, Foods Stamps Unacceptable as Payment.

As I wrote, a clearer picture of what Swann looked like began to develop. The interesting thing is that I first began writing the book twenty-five years ago and so, in terms of actors who could play the part, that’s changed over the years. I didn’t want someone who was conventionally handsome, and so the first actor I thought of was Dustin Hoffman, who’s amazing at transforming himself. But he’s a too old now, as is Gene Hackman, another guy who could have pulled off being an appealing anti-hero.

In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the perfect actor might have been Robert Mitchum. But we’re in the 21st century now and so other actors come to mind—all of them top rate, but each of them bringing something else to the table. Alec Baldwin, for instance. Sure, he’s good looking, but he can also dirty himself up, especially when he’s put on a few pounds. He’s a terrific actor and he’s got an edge, which is important for Swann. Philip Seymour Hoffman can do no wrong. The extra weight he might bring to the role would be more than made up for by his chameleon-like ability to inhabit any part he plays. Stanley Tucci is another actor who can transform himself. He’s not classically handsome, but he’s got the kind of charisma that makes you like him even when he’s playing an unlikeable character. On the younger side, there’s Liev Schreiber, Robert Downey, Jr. and John Cusack, all of whom, now that they’ve aged a little and added character to their faces, bring similar assets to the table. Of this group, Downey would probably be best at bringing life experience to the role—he’s certainly had his share of ups and downs. But I’d be happy if any of these were cast as Swann.

As far as directors are concerned, I know who I wouldn’t want on the film: guys like Michael Bay. Nothing blows up in Swann’s Last Song, and I want to keep it that way. Sidney Lumet. That would be one choice. His body of work, running from Dog Day Afternoon to Prince of the City to Find Me Guilty and the incredible Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, is mind-boggling. And since a good part of the book takes place in New York—the other locales being L. A., Mexico and Germany—I couldn’t do any better than Lumet in terms of portraying this city.
Read more about the book and author at Charles Salzberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 7, 2009

Eileen McVety's "Welcome to the Company..."

Eileen McVety's first book, a mock employee handbook entitled Welcome to the Company (or what it's really like working here), was published by Inkwater Press in March 2009. A professional writer with more than 20 years of communications writing experience, McVety is the founder of Spot-on Writing, inc.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is a published essayist and short-story writer whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Tiny Lights, Career Woman, Philosophical Mother, and The Minetta Review.

Here she shares some ideas for principal cast and director of an adaptation of Welcome to the Company...:
Part comedy, part how-to documentary, the film version of Welcome to the Company (or what it’s really like working here) is comprised almost entirely of antagonists. The sole protagonist, the unnamed new hire, is essentially you, the viewer. You are an eager and enthusiastic employee, too new in your role to be jaded yet by your working environment. If you are a woman, you might be played by a wide-eyed Amy Adams; if you’re a man, maybe a cool and inquisitive Justin Long. But sorry to say, YOU are basically irrelevant to the story. You are merely a foil for the madness and hypocrisy surrounding you.

Your boss is Gordon Wiggins, CEO of the Gordon Wiggins Group, played by Will Ferrell. Gordon is over-the-top friendly, but beneath his superficial affability exists a simmering resentment for being stuck in the same lousy profession for 30 years. Gordon’s insecurity is evidenced by the fact that the only photo of himself he’ll allow to be featured in the employee handbook dates back to the late 70s, back when he still had hair and idealistic hopes for the future.

Steve Buscemi would play the role of Gordon’s alcoholic and nepotism-benefiting brother, Keith Wiggins. Keith’s hobbies include spontaneous weeping, erecting Lego sculptures, and sleeping it off. In most scenes, you’re likely to see him passed out at his desk.

Stacey Miller is the long-time executive assistant at the Gordon Wiggins Group, a world-weary “lifer” at the company who is universally regarded as the office slut. She enjoys faux-finish painting, tequila, and line dancing. I see a somewhat younger version of Carrie Fisher playing this role. But not much younger.

Then there’s Chief Red Cloud, the token ethnic hire, who confounds his coworkers with his haughty, bombastic expressions. In this role, I see Graham Greene, the Native American actor who played the friend of Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves. Chief Red Cloud is the type of coworker who can silence a conference room by waltzing into it and announcing, “Why if it isn’t the Three Muses and Euripides awaiting the wrath of Medea.” No one understands Chief Red Cloud but they know enough to be a bit fearful of him.

Finally, I see Martin Scorsese directing this movie because corporate America is nothing if not a bloody battleground filled with back-stabbing, deception, and a litany of carnal vices—all of which is best underscored by a foreboding and foot-tapping soundtrack.
Learn more about Eileen McVety and Welcome to the Company... at the Spot-on Writing website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aaron J. Elkins' "Gideon Oliver" novels

Edgar-winner Aaron Elkins is the creator of forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective, and the author of many other highly praised mysteries and thrillers. His Gideon Oliver books have been selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series.

Here he shares some background and reflections about their journey to the small screen:
Actually, my books have been made into movies--five big-production TV movies--back a few years. I think the reason so few people remember them is the same reason people supposedly forget the real pain of childbirth or dental procedures: they are too wretched to bear remembering. In 1990 (I think), ABC TV brought Columbo back for another round, along with two other shows with which it would alternate. The other shows were B.L. Stryker, with Burt Reynolds, and Gideon Oliver, with Louis Gossett, Jr., which was based--very loosely--on my Gideon Oliver series. They all flopped, deservedly, and never returned for a second season.

In my case, they changed the protagonist from white to black; they moved him from the University of Washington to Columbia University; they converted him from a physical anthropologist to a cultural anthropologist; they changed him from a joyfully married man to a widower, but gave him a nineteen-year-old daughter to compensate; and they awarded him a black belt in kick-boxing or karate--I forget which.

Other than that, of course, they stuck quite closely to my character.

They took a few interesting liberties with the tenor of my stories too. Those of you who have read my books would know that there are certain kinds of things, ugly things, I'm highly unlikely to write about, e.g., animal mutilation, satanic cults, child pornography, torture, etc. I figure if people want to read about them, all they need to do is open the newspaper. Mystery fiction, as I see it, is a way of getting away from those awful things. Well, every one of those topics turned up in the first half-hour of the first show. After that, I don't know; I quit watching. It wasn't my kind of show.

You see, unless you're John Grisham or Stephen King, when you sign a contract with Hollywood for your books, you give away all control. That's just the way it is. If you don't like it, there are plenty of other writers eager to take your place.

Am I bitter about it all? No way. I knew ahead of time how it would work, and I just left it to them; anything else would have been pointless and frustrating. They paid good money, and they paid on time. (What they paid me for is hard to understand, since they used so little of it, but I was happy to take it.) And most important, they couldn't really hurt the books. TV is TV and books are books, and readers know the difference.

So, after what they did to my work the first time, would I accept another Hollywood offer? Just try me!
Fellowship of Fear is the first Gideon Oliver novel; the latest (#16 in the series) is Skull Duggery, new in bookstores this month.

Visit Aaron J. Elkins' website.

--Marshal Zeringue