Monday, November 23, 2009

Gail Dayton's "New Blood"

Gail Dayton was born in Ohio, only because her dad was in the Air Force at the time. She got to Texas as soon as she could—at one year old. She was raised in Texas and Idaho, reading everything she could get her hands on, especially adventure stories. She was reading and loving fantasy and science fiction back when she still thought kissing was icky. Then she grew up.

Now, Dayton lives with her husband of 30-plus years on the Texas Gulf Coast two blocks from the beach, and writes fantasy romance for Tor Paranormal Romance. She reads in the back yard—the beach is too sandy for her Sony reader—but she still considers everything she reads a beach read.

Here she explains who she has in mind for the leads in a film adaptation of New Blood, published earlier this year:
I am one of those authors who needs to cast my main characters before I can really get a story untracked. Often, I use character actors—those actors who’ve made a career of playing the villain, or the hero’s best friend or father or brother. Sometimes I do use “the big names.” It’s not always my choice, because while sometimes I do cast my characters myself, sometimes they cast themselves after I’ve come up with the character, and sometimes they show up already wearing an actor’s face and tell me to get busy and write their story—once I figure out what it is.

That’s what happened with New Blood. Jax walked fully formed out of the swamp in my head where my story ideas come from. (Some authors have a basement, some have a factory in Tulsa, I have a swamp ... which probably gives you an idea of what’s in there.) He was wearing a brown leather duster over a Victorian era suit with a brocade waistcoat and high boots. He told me his name was Jax, he was searching for something but didn’t know what. It was my job to figure out what that was. Oh, and he was wearing the face of English actor Jason Flemyng.

Y’all may not be familiar with Flemyng. He played Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and did a fabulous job. But he first came to my attention as the coachman Nettley in From Hell. I had been seeing a lot of movies with Flemyng in them—and one day, Jax just showed up. It took me a while to realize that Jax had a lot of secrets to uncover, and that he belonged in the vague story idea I had about a universe where blood magic worked differently than what is found in the usual fantasy— a place where if you steal blood from someone, the magic would turn on you. During the story, Jax moves from a magic-haunted servant bound without will to the blood sorceress, to a man who chooses and fights for the destiny he wants. Flemyng is such a wonderfully talented actor, he can create all those nuances with ease.

And it was time to cast Amanusa, the heroine in New Blood. I had a lot of trouble with her, because she’s very tall, very blond, and more striking than beautiful. I had seen the Swedish athlete Carolina Klüft win the heptathlon at the Olympics in Greece in 2004, and thought she looked something like Amanusa. But she’s not an actress, is she? Wouldn’t work for a movie.

But Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager and many other television roles) could definitely play the part. She’s striking and beautiful. Amanusa grows into her beauty and her strength during the story, and Ryan plays strong women so well, it would be perfect for her.

I cast most of the secondary characters in New Blood, but the alchemist Harry Tomlinson, the conjurer Grey Carteret, and the would-be wizard Elinor Tavis will all get starring roles in their own books, so I’ll save those for another blog.

Besides, if I let the secondary characters have faces, they tend to get uppity and try to take over the story. Then I have to either do a characterectomy and take away face and personality, or I have to promise them their own book—like I did Harry, Grey and Elinor.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Dayton's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue