Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gail Dayton's "Heart's 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 her new novel, Heart’s Blood:
Heart’s Blood is the second book in my blood magic universe, following New Blood, which was released March 2009. Grey Carteret is the main character in Heart’s Blood, but — since I cast my characters as I write them — the part was cast during the writing of the first book. I knew when I cast him that I would be giving him his own book. Secondary characters who have someone playing their part do tend to get uppity and demanding.

Grey is an aristocrat, the third or fourth son of a duke, with at least two older and two younger sisters as well. He’s the black-sheep member of the family, since magic is frowned upon by the nobility, and he is not only a conjurer associating with spirits, but he’s the magister of the conjurer’s guild. So I needed someone who could do both aristocratic and dissolute. Ralph Fiennes seemed to fill the bill perfectly.

Except during the writing of the story, Grey’s smart-ass side started coming out. He would just SAY these things ... and they wouldn’t be coming out of Ralph Fiennes’s mouth. Grey had decided for himself that Johnny Depp (as seen in From Hell or The Libertine, not Pirates of the Caribbean) was the actor he would inhabit. He just morphed from one into the other, all on his own. So Johnny Depp played the part during the writing of Heart’s Blood. He does smart-ass beautifully, as well as dissolute, with a core of honor beneath. Perfect for Grey Carteret.

(Yes, the hero on the cover of the book looks more like Doogie HowserNeal Patrick Harris as he was then, not as he is now. Just paste a cut-out of Depp over it. Or use your imagination.)

Pearl was a little more difficult. She has the strength to blackmail Grey into taking her as his apprentice. She’s been living on the streets in London’s East End, but hasn’t always been there. She’s tough and tiny, able to disguise herself as a boy because she’s so small — and because she can use blood sorcery. And she’s only 20. Pearl is someone who thinks outside the box to accomplish what she thinks needs doing, because she’s too small to tackle things head on. She’s also wary of depending on anyone other than herself. I think I’d like to see Marcy Rylan (Guiding Light) take on the part. She’s small and delicate-looking, like Pearl, and she has to be tough to work on a soap. [grin]
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Dayton's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: New Blood by Gail Dayton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vonda McIntyre's "Starfarers"

Vonda N. McIntyre's publications include the Nebula and Hugo award winning novel Dreamsnake, which is based on the Nebula-winning story “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand.”

Here she shares the tale of the genesis of Starfarers, “the best SF TV series never made,” and the novels it spawned:
Starfarers didn’t start out as a novel quartet. It didn’t start out as a single novel, a short story, or prose.

It started out as a hoax.

Some years back, I was to be on a SF convention panel, “Science Fiction on Television.” This panel used to turn up at conventions with some regularity, and it always followed the same pattern: Somebody pulled out a list of all the SF television series of the recent past and read it aloud, inviting the audience to agree how terrible all the shows were. (Since then, things have changed, and some good SF has been on tv, but at that time aside from Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek, you had choices such as Time Tunnel and Lost in Space.)

This particular panel bores me to death, so, having promised to be on it, I had to do something different.

I had always thought the TV miniseries was the perfect form for SF — I wished Masterpiece Theater would produce one of our field’s classics — but at the time no one had tried it.

When the panelist next to me whipped out his list and started to read titles, to the audience’s groans, I let him get through a couple of lines before I raised an eyebrow.

“Hold on,” I said. “Haven’t you seen Starfarers? Hasn’t anybody seen Starfarers?”

Of course nobody had (because I made it up).

“It was a terrific miniseries. It was hard to find because CBS kept moving it around — isn’t that always what happens with good shows? It was about an O’Neill colony starship, a university town in space, preparing for its first research expedition. But there’s a political change, and the current administration decides the expedition should be cancelled and the starship turned into an orbiting spy station.

“So the faculty and staff of the starship do what any red-blooded space explorers would do.

“They steal the starship.”

I told the audience a little about the exploratory company:

J.D. Sauvage, alien contact specialist and long-distance swimmer, joining the alien contact team after a sojourn with a pod of killer whales and their genetically engineered human cousins, the divers (who live in Canada because they’re technically at war with the USA);

Victoria Fraser MacKenzie, Canadian physicist, inventor of the starship’s propulsion system, descendent of slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War;

Satoshi Lono, geographer, web-savvy nightowl and Marathon runner;

Stephen Thomas Gregory, geneticist, oversupplied with good looks and charm that mask his troubled family past.

Victoria, Satoshi, and Stephen Thomas are members of a family partnership, trying to recover from the loss of their fourth partner, Merit.

The story was part space adventure, part alien contact story, part family saga.

At the end of the panel, local filmmaker Ryan Johnson was about to set out on a quest for videotapes of the series. I had to confess that the series was a hoax, “the best SF TV series never made.” After a moment of disappointment, he said, “I’ll make you a trailer!”

And he did.

Several friends formed the Starfarers Fan Club, and we did a number of panels at sf conventions over the next couple of years. I fondly remember one in which the next panel was “Hollywood screenwriting,” and the panelists in the back of the room waiting for their panel to start were completely fooled by Ryan’s trailer, which was designed to look like it had been fortuitously snagged off a tv broadcast.

We always called Starfarers “the best SF TV series never made,” and the audience almost always failed to hear the “never made” part.

After a few panels, I realized it was a pretty good story and I wanted to write it, so I did. It ended up being a quartet, which I think of as one long novel that I couldn’t afford to write all at once: Starfarers, Transition, Metaphase, and Nautilus.

Over on the Book View Café blog, we were discussing casting possibilities, and the interesting idea came up of a vintage cast from 1940s movies. We kicked that around for a while.

It turned out to be impossible.

The problem with a vintage cast is that the faculty and staff of Starfarer is a diverse group. Satoshi is of Hawaiian and Japanese background, Victoria is Canadian. Stephen Thomas’ boss is the daughter of Cambodian refugees. J.D. has six biological and social parents, and Zev is from a family that has chosen genetic engineering to allow them to live in the sea. Stephen Thomas is one of the few people in the book who’s the default human being as far as movies are concerned: a white guy in his late twenties or early thirties. And even he isn’t quite “default,” not that you can tell by looking, because like most of the characters in Starfarers, Stephen Thomas chooses his lovers for other qualities than whether they’re of the opposite sex.

One hopes that if a miniseries were ever made of Starfarers, the producers would honor the diversity of the people in it, and not claim (as happens far too often) that because they were color-blind with casting, it really wasn’t important or significant that everybody turned out to be white. That claim is just plain ridiculous.

Aside from a diverse cast of human characters, the quartet includes biomechanical creatures (the silver slugs and the artificial stupids) and aliens who are alien physically as well as culturally. None of the aliens is remotely human. One group vaguely resembles six-limbed meerkats. One being is the size of an island, and another is as delicate and insubstantial as vacuum.

And then there is Nemo, the squidmoth.

As J.D. thinks, at the end of Transition: Squidmoths?

Those folks are going to require some serious CGI.

So who would be my ideal (human, or mostly human) cast? When I wrote the novels and when we were doing the Starfarers panels, we had a cast in mind, but some of the actors are no longer in the business. The vintage cast was a no-go, and while it was tempting to try for a time-travelling 1960s cast (mainly because Peter O’Toole in his Lawrence of Arabia days would have been perfect as Stephen Thomas, and Peter O’Toole is in all my favorite movies, and Lawrence of Arabia is my candidate for the best movie ever made), I decided to go with contemporary actors.

Alien Contact Specialist J.D. Sauvage is Camryn Manheim. She can be funny or serious, sexy or reserved. You can believe her as a long-distance swimmer and as a person who could make friends even with alien intelligences.

For Victoria Fraser MacKenzie, I want Tracy Heggins. Heggins would be perfect for the sophisticated and politically savvy head of the Alien Contact Team. Victoria is a physicist, but she’s no girl geek. Heggins is stunning; she projects intelligence and strength. She can also be vulnerable — an important quality for Victoria, who is still grieving over the loss of the fourth member of her family partnership, Merit.

For Stephen Thomas Gregory: Cillian Murphy. Stephen Thomas is the biologist of the team, preternaturally handsome, very smart, the newest partner and youngest of the family, the person knocked most off-center by the death of Merit, who proposed to him.

And for Satoshi Lono, the geographer of the Alien Contact Team, and the person whose good sense, intelligence, passion, and love keeps the family partnership from dissolving?

George Takei, of course.

There may be some truth to the suggestion that the Starfarers group developed Satoshi for Takei, to give him a part to play where he got to do a good deal more than navigate a starship. And if Satoshi is some years older than the rest of the Alien Contact Team, older than the other members of the family partnership?

That’s OK.

George Takei is timeless.
The Starfarers Quartet debuted at Book View Café on 20 December 2009. For more about Vonda N. McIntyre, please visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Claudia Dain's "Courtesan Chronicles"

Claudia Dain is a two-time Rita finalist and a USA Today bestselling author.

Here she shares her thinking about the director and principal cast for a film adaptation of the Courtesan Chronicles:
This is so easy, the actor part of the equation, anyway. I always work from a photo to create and cement a character. I like to be able to stare at an intriguing face, to see the subtle and not so subtle differences between one brown-eyed brunette and another. Plus, then I don't forget the details, like the scar is on the left cheek and not the right.

I didn't use to need physical props to remember my characters, but now I do. I'd like to blame it on age but since I'm not 92, is age really the factor here?

Don't answer that.

I'm writing a long-running series (the fifth book out in July 2010) and the central heroine must be played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She's that perfect blend of smart sophistication, sex appeal, and innate good humor; my Sophia Dalby character to a T.

Her hero should be played by Clive Owen. Dark haired and green eyed, tough, and yet still a gentleman, he's a man who is not intimidated by anything or anyone, yet doesn't make a big deal out of that fact.

In the director's chair, I'd love to see Bonnie Hunt. She has a light touch and can hit both the humor and romance button in the same instant. That's not easy to do well.

To produce? That's tougher. Someone who isn't afraid to take on the costs of filming a Regency historical. All those location shots! All those lavish costumes!
Learn more about the author and her novels at Claudia Dain's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Joel Shepherd's "Sasha"

Joel Shepherd was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974. He has studied Film and Television, International Relations, has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, and traveled widely in Asia. His first trilogy, the Cassandra Kresnov Series, consists of Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch.

Here he shares some ideas about casting opportunities for a film adaptation of Sasha, the first book in the A Trial of Blood and Steel series:
One giant plus for any movie made of Sasha, is that unlike my previous ‘Cassandra Kresnov Series’, Sasha would be relatively cheap to film. Yes there are some quite big battle scenes at the end, but most of the story is character driven rather than action driven, so aside from the costs of shooting in some very pretty, wild terrain (New Zealand? Canada?), I can’t see any prohibitive expenses. There’s also no magic or dragons or other giant, flame spewing monsters, so special effects would barely be needed (and wouldn’t that be just wonderful, to see some character based fantasy that didn’t just rely on eye candy?).

Since characters drive the plot, by far the most important part of the film would be casting. And for my main character Sasha, I have exactly the same problem I had with the Cassandra Kresnov Series -- there’s very few actresses in Hollywood who have established themselves playing tough female roles. There are probably quite a few who could do it, but haven’t been given the opportunity. But I don’t know who they are.

As a character, Sasha is something of a force of nature. She was born a Princess, daughter of the King of Lenayin, and was a very wild kid. In any other circumstance she might have had it beaten out of her, but Lenayin loves individualists and Sasha’s older brother, Prince Kristoff, was a little wild himself and encouraged her, perhaps unwisely. But Kristoff was killed when Sasha was eight, Sasha was heartbroken, and went to live with Kristoff’s old mentor Kessligh, greatest warrior in Lenayin , to take Kristoff’s place as his student.

Any actress playing Sasha would have to get into the shape of her life, think Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. Swordfighting in my novels isn’t some magical gift -- talent perhaps is (as Tiger Woods or Roger Federer could tell you), but talent has to be worked at, and Sasha works hard. She’s only an average sized girl, twenty years old in the novel, but she’s got muscles all over. She’s not bulky at all, because she relies on speed more than power, but has technique to achieve both.

She fights with an exotic swordfighting style called the svaalverd, the like of which I’m not sure has ever actually existed with swords, so I’m not actually certain that it’s possible, I’m just presuming it is. It’s inspired by the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu, which was created by a woman (the story goes) named Yim Wing Chun a long time ago in China, and was designed specifically to enable a weaker fighter to beat a stronger one, using the power derived of form and technique to overwhelm the inferior power of size and muscle. Or in other words, it was designed in part to allow women to beat men, by using a man’s greater size and strength against him (the irony being that these days far more men practise it than women). To portray this in a movie would be fascinating, and would require a very good fight choreographer with an excellent imagination who grasped the concept. Sasha’s blindingly quick, has amazing footwork and balance, and parries often with an angled blade so she’s not meeting force with force, but deflects her opponent’s blade past its target, leaving him open for the next cut. The more power her opponent uses against her, the better she likes it, because a big swing that misses its target will leave him completely exposed on the follow through.

Another key character is Kessligh, Sasha’s mentor. I’ve always imagined him as a guy with a very rugged and memorable face. Michael Douglas comes to mind, though only in a general sort of way. Kessligh’s an even better fighter than Sasha, not quite as fast any longer (he’s about fifty) but deadly experienced. He’s a philosophical guy with a hard edge, whose emotion when you get it out of him is that much more valuable because it’s so rare.

Sasha’s most prominent brothers, Damon and Koenyg, could be played by any number of tough young Hollywood guys. Damon is taller, more cynical and less self confident. Koenyg is a brick wall, average height but built like you might see in the WWF, and with similar attitude.

And then there’s Sofy, Sasha’s younger sister, intelligent, sophisticated and ‘girly’, an utterly different personality to Sasha, yet somewhat worshipful of her all the same. She has no interest in being ‘just like’ Sasha, but has huge admiration for Sasha’s strength of character. Sofy is the peacemaker in a world filled with warriors, and it is a struggle for her to retain her youthful optimism in the face of all her world’s troubles. As a character type, I don’t think she’d be difficult to cast compared to Sasha, but again, her character’s surface simplicity becomes more and more complicated the further the story goes, so some real acting talent would be required.

Lastly, I think Sasha the movie would require some awesome cinematography. Lenayin is a very rugged, beautiful land, rather like its people in that it can be difficult, dangerous and wonderful all at once. The native Goeren-yai are animists who believe spirits live in all things, and beautiful photography could capture their sense of wonder at the land around them, and help to convey why it is that they are like they are.
Read an excerpt from Sasha and learn more about the land of Lenayin. Visit Joel Shepherd's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Crossover.

The Page 69 Test: Sasha.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 11, 2009

Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series

Meg Gardiner's novels include the Jo Beckett series -- The Dirty Secrets Club and The Memory Collector -- and several Evan Delaney novels, which feature "a smart-aleck freelance journalist, deal with religious extremism, a high school reunion killer, and sex, drugs, and rock’n'roll. (They’re set in California. Of course they do.)"

China Lake (of the Evan Delaney series) won the 2009 Edgar award for Best Paperback Original; Stephen King calls the series “simply put, the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last twenty years.”

Here Gardiner explains some casting choices for a big screen adaptation of the novels:
Here I go, stepping into a bear trap.

I’ve always avoided being pinned down about who should play Evan Delaney. I write about her in the novels: She’s a tomboy who doesn’t know that she’s beautiful. She’s athletic, has a quick laugh, a quicker tongue, and a sharp sense of humor.

The books are fast-paced thrillers set in southern California. And when the Winnipeg Free Press reviewed Kill Chain, it said, “You just want to see what Rachel Weisz could do as Evan Delaney, a Santa Barbara freelance journalist whose father has gone missing.”

Rachel Weisz is fabulous. It’s a kick to hear that somebody sees her as Evan. Others have said they picture Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sarah Connor—meaning Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies. And not one of those actors is the Evan of my imagination.

Here’s the wonderful thing about fiction: After I write the book, readers do creative work of their own, and imagine the world of the novel fresh in their own minds.

But if I had to pick a big-screen actress to play Evan, I’d go with Hilary Swank. She’s feisty but vulnerable, has strong looks with an underlying tenderness, and can run like hell. Plus, in Kill Chain, Evan says she has a better chance of landing the space shuttle than of fixing her computer. In The Core, Hilary Swank actually does land the space shuttle. That’s good enough for me.

(And in the background, my husband calls: “But give Evan Sigourney Weaver’s voice.”)

Other characters also take some thought. Jesse Blackburn, Evan’s boyfriend, combines Jensen Ackles from Supernatural with Keanu Reeves in Speed—and maybe Matt Damon in Jason Bourne mode, if his dialogue were written by The West Wing writers. But casting Jesse’s tricky. He’s a smartass, drives too fast, is as brave as all get out, and once had the world at his feet as a world-class athlete. But he’s been disabled by a hit-and-run driver. He can’t walk. Any hot men out there who are paraplegics and first class actors, please grab for the role. Meanwhile, the guy who comes closest to looking like him is Brazilian actor Reynaldo Gianecchini.

Then there’s Evan’s family. Mark Harmon would be great as her dad, Phil Delaney. Jamie Lee Curtis — though she’s too young in real life — would be good as Evan’s mom, Angie. And let’s have Jon Hamm play Evan’s fighter-pilot brother, Brian. Oh, yeah.

As for Evan’s guardian demons — the spy couple, Jax Rivera and Tim North — Jada Pinkett Smith would play a fierce Jax, and Jason Isaacs a coolly threatening Tim.

What do you know—that wasn’t painful at all. I don’t even have to gnaw off my own foot to get out of the trap.
Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ellen Byerrum's Crimes of Fashion mysteries

Ellen Byerrum is a journalist in Washington, D.C., and a produced and published playwright. She holds a Virginia private investigator’s registration.

Here she shares her thinking about the characters in her Crimes of Fashion mysteries, both on the page and on the screen:
It’s funny how many people ask me who would I cast in movies of my books. At least I don’t have to make up an answer on the fly because two of my books, Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover, have already been made into Lifetime Movie Network films. They aired this past summer in June and July. As it turned out, I was pretty lucky with the cast, and the movies were fun and they still resembled my books.

When I write I have a very clear picture of my characters; their age, height, hair and eye color, as well as their background and quirks and style of dress. But that’s only natural: I write Crimes of Fashion mysteries. The books feature Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant (yet stylish) fashion reporter turned amateur sleuth who works in Washington, D.C., which she likes to call “The City Fashion Forgot.” In addition to Lacey, there are her friends, her love interest, her suspects, and her coworkers to complicate her life. But I don’t write with actors in mind. Not even now, after the movies. Of course if Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant were available…

As a playwright, I learned that unexpected casting choices often produce the best results. Your first-choice actor may not work the way you imagined or have the right chemistry with the rest of the cast. Counting on one actor to play a particular part can be shortsighted and limit the creative possibilities. So I was not thinking about who I would cast as Lacey Smithsonian when the movie deal came up.

I wanted an actress who would bring Lacey to life, rather than someone famous who simply plays the same role every time. Some movie stars essentially just play themselves, not the character. But Maggie Lawson brought abundant charm and wit and intelligence to the role of Lacey and won lots of applause from my readers, and from me.

Some of the movies’ characters differed from the books, but they all brought something unique to their roles. Sadie LeBlanc’s character look as Stella Lake was not exactly the spiky-haired, leather lass, punk goddess hairstylist in my books, but she was very funny and engaging and had great chemistry with Maggie’s Lacey, as did Sarah Edmondson, who played attorney and conspiracy theorist Brooke Barton. Jocelyne Loewen took a small role as food editor Felicity Pickles and made it very funny and left a lasting impression.

The leading men in the movies offered lots of eye candy for the ladies. Victor Webster played Lacey’s main squeeze Vic Donovan, who is a private eye in the books, but a homicide cop in the TV flicks. (A couple of readers complained he was too handsome! Oh please, I beg to disagree. How can a man be too handsome?) Mark Consuelos offered a sharp, humorous and smart turn as police reporter Tony Trujillo. James McDaniel was appropriately cranky and caring as Eye Street Observer editor Douglas MacArthur Jones, Lacey’s boss.

Mary McDonnell made a wonderful Rose Smithsonian, Lacey’s loving but smothering mother. And Katharine Isabelle played a spunky Cherise Smithsonian, Lacey’s little sister, a former high school cheerleader with a lethal high kick.

While I don’t write my characters with actors in minds, I have to confess a few actors have always struck me as perfect, mostly for the secondary characters I love to have fun with. For instance, I would love to see a Wally Shawn-type actor play my happy-go-lucky death-and-dismemberment reporter Harlan Wiedemeyer. Maybe someday. I’m crossing my fingers.
Visit Ellen Byerrum's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain Chronicles

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild. She has been nominated for the Edgar, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards and was the first female president of the Horror Writers Association. She is best known as the creator of the heroic vampire, the Count Saint-Germain. The latest volume in the Saint-Germain Chronicles is Burning Shadows.

Here she shares some insights about the difficulty of casting the principal parts in any adaptations of her Saint-Germain Chronicles ... and names some actors who might have done the story justice:
When asked what actor I would like to play Saint-Germain, for the last quarter century, I've said James Mason in 1954. He was short, he was smart, he was a grown-up, he had incredible dark eyes, and a truly seductive voice; he rode well, he was a fine musician, and he seemed to lack that short man's chip on the shoulder -- I say seemed because I can only assess that from his acting; I didn't know the man himself. But no, I didn't and I don't imagine him as Saint-Germain while I write. Since the character is based on a real man, when I visualize him, that is who I see in my mind's eye. The historical man looked a lot like the late French film director François Truffaut, but with eyebrows angled in a more Slavic manner than and his nose more out of line than Truffaut's.

With a book series that has run longer than some actor's careers, settling on one for the role has seemed a bit ... unrealistic. There are actors who might do it very well, but as time goes by, who they are changes. Since Saint-Germain himself was about five-foot-six and stocky, he isn't the current "image" of a vampire, and that narrows the field right there. While I occasionally see an actor I think might be the right fit for the role, it doesn't happen very often, since the real man is so well-established in my imagination. But I have a great respect for the manner in which an actor can accommodate a role and give it authenticity through their art, and I sometimes can see possibilities in unlikely places.

Another factor in these stories -- and it would be a crucial one in casting most of the novels -- is Roger. The right balance needs to be struck between Saint-Germain and Roger. Among the current crop of actors who would look about the right age and can play the demeanor is British actor Michael Kitchen. But if he were cast in the role, it would definately influence who would play Saint-Germain. The relationship between the two is one of the major means of establishing that the foreignness of the two isn't just geographical. And with as long-enduring a relationship as those two have, much of what goes on with them is by implication as much as discussion, so the chemistry of the actors would be very important in terms of getting the tone right.

The great stage director Frank Corsaro and I once spent the better part of a dinner discussing who should play Saint-Germain, and Roger, for that matter. The time factor entered into our thoughts: in the 70s, Alan Bates (he'd need contact lenses, but short and tending to stocky; perhaps a bit too flamboyant, which Saint-Germain distinctly is not); for the 90s, Sting (wig/dye-job, contact lenses, a bit too tall, but great presence); Ralph Fiennes for the end of the 90s (wrong build, needs contacts, and a strong Roger to anchor, but has wonderful self-contained intensity). For Roger, in the 70s, Ian Richardson (providing the Saint-Germain had a more beautiful and distinctive speaking voice than Richardson's), in the 80s Edward Petherbridge (too tall, and would need a very elegant Saint-Germain to out-elegant him); in the 90s, we couldn't agree. We also had a good time debating Olivia, ranging over a great number of really good actresses, but never narrowed it down to one per decade. Frank said that it was a juicy role for any woman, and I, naturally, agreed. We were also in full accord about Saint Sebastien: the only actor for the role was, and is, Christopher Lee: the book is dedicated to him with an operatic joke, and he is familiar with the book. If he weren't available, we thought --- staying with actors who have played Dracula --- possibly in the 80s Jack Palance, and in the 90s Frank Langella.

There is also the problem that leading men tend to be handsome, and handsome changes from era to era and culture to culture. The real Saint-Germain wasn't handsome by the standard of his day, he was attractive, and attractive remains fairly constant. Casting the role to adhere to the standards of male handsomeness for this time will be inconsistent with standards of other centuries and other cultures. Making full allowance for the adaptability of actors, perhaps Saint-Germain would be better served by one of many fine character actors who are attractive but not so handsome that their very faces scream "Early twenty-first century!" After all, the old guy is over 4,000 years old, and Roger is just over 2,000, and they've been over a good portion of the world.

If a producer started out today to film all the Saint-Germain tales, novels and shorter works, at the rate of one a year, it would be 2034 before the films caught up to where I am now --- and that doesn't include Out of the House of Life or the Olivia books. In the meantime, I plan to write some more, so there would be at least two, and probably three Saint-Germains, and the same number of Rogers, so the casting conundrum would continue into the future, and probably remain just as perplexing as it is now.
Visit Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jordan Summers' "Red"

Jordan Summers' many books include the Atlantean Quest series as well as the Phantom Warriors series.

Here she shares her preferences for director, producer, and stars in a big screen adaptation of Red, the first book in her Dead World series:
If I could choose a director for my novel, Red, it would be an easy decision. I love a lot of different directors, but Peter Jackson would have the job. I believe he (and Weta) could do wonders with the post-apocalyptic world I established, especially since there are genetically created werewolves, vampires, chimeras hiding in plain sight.

I’d want Jerry Bruckheimer to produce, although I’m not sure I can picture those two titans working together.

When it comes to the actors, the decision gets a little tougher. I originally started out with Hugh Jackman in mind for Sheriff Morgan Hunter, but that changed as I got to know Morgan better. He was a lot more rough and tumble than Hugh. He was striking, but not handsome in the traditional sense of the word. Morgan suddenly became a combination of Clive Owen and Daniel Craig. I’d audition those two for the part.

Gina ‘Red’ Santiago is the hardest to cast of them all. She’s tough, but rather naïve when it comes to social interaction. She’s been insulated, even though she’s in law enforcement. The actress would need to be able to play vulnerable and capable. When I first ‘saw’ her in my mind, I pictured Angelina Jolie. (I have no doubt she could pull off the role.) As I got into the story I realized Red was Hispanic, so my image of her began to change. It’s difficult to narrow down who I’d pick for the part, but I’d audition Rosario Dawson, Jordana Brewster, and Roselyn Sanchez. And you can bet, I’d be the first in line to see the finished product.
Learn more about the author and her work at Jordan Summers' website and blog.

Read about Crimson, the latest book in the Dead World Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luke Lively's "A Questionable Life"

Luke Lively has over twenty-five years experience as a bank executive and currently runs Lively Consulting Services, providing leadership, training and operational support to the financial services industry. His clients include banks, insurance, internet and software companies. Lively regularly lectures on organizational change, leadership and client service to a variety of businesses, governmental, community and non-profit organizations and has been published in a number of banking publications including The American Banker.

If his debut novel A Questionable Life is adapted for the big screen, here are Lively's suggestions for director and principal cast:
My book, A Questionable Life, has been described as ideal for movie adaption, especially with the current economic and social conditions. Set against a backdrop of greed, deceit and corruption, the story follows a ruthless banker, Jack Oliver, as he attempts to climb to the top of the corporate ladder in Philadelphia. When his plans are derailed, Jack’s life begins an uncontrollable downward spiral. On the verge of losing everything he had worked to achieve, Jack’s best friend, John Helms connects him with an old, rural banker—Benjamin “Benny” Price. Benny helps Jack to change his greedy perspective by introducing Jack to a different kind of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural Virginia—a life of giving.

- With much of the movie connected to hiking and the outdoors, the ideal Director would be Robert Redford. Redford has already made excellent movies in rural surroundings (A River Runs Through It). In addition, Redford won an Oscar directing a movie where a family was destroyed by class consciousness and greed (Ordinary People). Also in his list of directing credits is an inspirational story of redemption and hope (The Legend of Bagger Vance).


Benjamin “Benny” Price
- Redford, aging gracefully would also be ideal to play the role of Benny Price, the wise, experienced life-coach. Tall and exuding a calm confidence, Redford would fit perfectly as director and co-lead.

Jack Oliver
- Philip Seymour Hoffman is perfectly suited to take on the character of the despicable, greedy banker, Jack Oliver. Hoffman is engaging even when he is bad (Mission: Impossible III) and would bring the complex character traits and collision of ethics and morality Jack Oliver faces to life for movie audiences similar to his Oscar winning performance in Capote. Physically, Hoffman again fits the character of self-indulgent, hard-drinking and chain-smoking Jack Oliver.

Tina Oliver
- Julianne Moore not only looks like Tina, the left-behind wife of Jack Oliver, but has portrayed characters (The End of the Affair) struggling with life choices. Seeing Moore together with Hoffman would showcase the vast differences in how the two characters set out to find happiness together and instead are forced to deal with shattered dreams, forgiveness and redemption.

John Helms
- If ever there was a happy-go-lucky character described as a “Southern John F. Kennedy, Jr.” Matthew McConaughey fits the bill. The role of John Helms requires the good looks and womanizing exuberance McConaughey is capable of delivering. Seeing McConaughey and Hoffman on screen offers both a visual and philosophical divergence that would maintain a grip on audiences.

Ann Price
- Meryl Streep, utilizing Hollywood’s best make-up artists to age beyond her years, would be an amazing Ann Price. The final scenes of the movie pull together the themes of love, forgiveness and redemption. No one could be a better fit than Oscar winning Ms. Streep.

There you have it—a sure-fire Oscar winning film and office blockbuster, A Questionable Life.
Read more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Luke Lively's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lara Zielin's "Donut Days"

Lara Zielin is a magazine editor by day and young-adult author by night. She grew up in Wisconsin eating cheese and watching the Packers, both of which she never really stopped doing even after moving to Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Here she shares some thoughts about the actors and director for a big screen adaptation of her debut YA novel, Donut Days:
Donut Days’ protagonist, Emma, is something of a budding hipster living in a community of conformists. Her parents are evangelical ministers who want her to attend a Christian college when she graduates from high school, but Emma can think of nothing worse.

Emma has a funny, often sarcastic voice, so the actress who plays her would need to be edgy, but not too edgy since the book takes place in the Midwest and, well, no one is that mean in the heartland. I think Ellen Page would be a fabulous option. Emma Watson, too, if she lost the British accent. I also think Amanda Bynes could do the role a great justice, and also I’d like her to play me in the Lifetime movie they’ll make about me one of these days: Lara Zielin: The Lara Zielin story: Hallowed Pages [subtitle] Not Without My Pen.

Emma’s in a fight with her best friend, Nat, who is tall and gorgeous, and who has red hair. Her character is more conservative and simple than Emma, so I’m thinking of someone fresh-faced and wholesome like Hayden Panettiere (but with scarlet locks).

Emma’s love interest is a nerd-turned-hunk, which would be a fun twist to bring from real life to the screen. Peter Billingsley is a bronze god of a man, who was Ralphie in A Christmas Story. But he more directs than acts now, so maybe Patrick Dempsey, except a few years younger. But not too young, because then he’s back to being a geek. It’s very nearly a quandary, you see.

To direct, I’d love Rob Hess, who always does an amazing job of capturing humor and drama in his films (full disclosure: I’m sleeping with him. We’re married.).

If not Rob, then Mark Waters who did an awesome job making Mean Girls fast and engaging, or Spike Jonze because he’s amazing and why not. I mean, come on, Being John Malkovich? That’s just brilliant filmmaking right there.

I would caution all the actors and producers and the director that they’d better bring to set a love for donuts and pastries because a big chunk of the book/movie takes place as people camp out in front of a donut shop waiting for it to open (full disclosure: I gained 20 pounds writing this book. I called it research.).
Learn more about the book and author at Lara Zielin’s website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A.W. Hill's "Nowhere-Land"

A.W. Hill is the author of Nowhere-Land: A Stephan Raszer Investigation, as well as two previous Stephan Raszer novels; he has won numerous literary prizes. He is a Grammy Award-winning music supervisor for films, and was vice president of music for Walt Disney Pictures.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a cinematic adaptation of Nowhere-Land:
Stephan Raszer (the name is an acronym), protagonist of Nowhere-Land and the two novels that preceded it, was real for me long before any of his plots took shape.The first tic I pictured was the squint he registers when something doesn't smell right, or when he's faced with a metaphysical puzzlement. It's a gesture stolen from the facial repertoire of the great Steve McQueen, who is the most enduring model for Raszer. When the first book was in movie development at Paramount under Alphaville and director Alex Proyas, I had to give some serious thought to who a latter-day McQueen might be (not that I would have had any say about casting), and I thought of guys like Daniel Craig (not yet Bond), Guy Pearce, and Viggo Mortensen, all guys whose vulnerability is just barely disguised by tough exteriors, all "on the borderline of handsome." That's still pretty much how I see the character.

Raszer's women are a special breed of dirty angel. They're more grounded than he is, but only because their wings would otherwise carry them off. Monica Lord, his indispensable assistant, has always been Claire Danes. No one else comes remotely close. The character of Ruthie Endicott in Nowhere-Land, a "slice of rhubarb pie too good to spoil with ice cream," is a tougher call. She would be, I think, the present-day version of Valerie Bertinelli at 22. Cat's eyes, full of guile, and impossible to resist.
Learn more about the book and author at A.W. Hill's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Roxana Robinson's "Cost"

Roxana Robinson is the author of Cost, three earlier novels, and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Vogue, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.

Here she shares her preferences for casting the main roles in Cost...and reminds us of the importance of location scouts and production designers:
If Cost were to be made into a movie, for the parents, Julia and Wendell, I think Meryl Streep and Sam Waterston would be excellent. They'd be able to enter into those characters beautifully. For the two sons, Steven and Jack, I'd see maybe Emile Hirsch and Jamie Bell.

This is all after the fact, though, as I don't write with actors in mind, and in fact I don't write with real physical people in mind.

Just as important as the actors would be the house. This is an old shabby white clapboard farmhouse on the coast of Maine. Beyond it is a meadow, sloping down to the water. Beside the house is an old barn, on the other side, an orchard. This would all have to be exactly right: I do write with a very clear sense of setting and structures.
Read an excerpt from Cost, and learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

The Page 69 Test: Roxana Robinson's Cost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vincent H. O’Neil's "Exile Trust"

Vincent O’Neil won the St. Martin’s Press “Malice Domestic” award in 2005 with his debut novel Murder in Exile. The “Exile” series consists of Murder in Exile, Reduced Circumstances, and Exile Trust. Exile Trust was also published as a large-print book by Thorndike Press, and will be released in early 2010 as a paperback in Harlequin’s new “Worldwide Mystery” imprint. His short story “Finish the Job” was selected for the anthology Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers (Level Best Books, November 2009) and another of his short stories, “Blood Tells” will appear in the anthology Bad Cop ... No Donut (Padwolf, 2010).

Here he shares some casting ideas for a big screen adaptation of his “Exile” series:
A pair of book reviews first prompted me to think about the possible casting of my “Exile” mystery novels. Both reviews covered the first book in the series, Murder in Exile, each in a different way. One observed that my main character, background checker Frank Cole, had Jim Rockford’s wisecracking good nature while another said Frank’s unbending loyalty conjured up memories of Thomas Magnum. As The Rockford Files and Magnum, PI are among my all-time favorite shows, this made me ponder who might play Frank and his friends if the “Exile” series ever made it to TV or the big screen.

Frank is a low-key guy, early thirties and quite bright. At the beginning of the series he relocates to the small town of Exile, Florida to restart his life after a disastrous business bankruptcy. His new job as a background checker is what pulls him into murder investigations—making Frank a reluctant amateur sleuth. He’s dogged in his approach and not afraid to make mistakes, but he’s more brains than brawn when it comes to fisticuffs or gunfights.

With all that in mind, I soon decided on Noah Wyle of the hit TV series ER (and many other endeavors) for the starring role. The actor playing Frank Cole has to demonstrate a self-deprecating intelligence backed up by stubborn determination and a good sense of humor. Noah Wyle has covered all those bases in his career, and he possesses one of Frank’s most important attributes: People just plain like him.

Frank is alone in Exile at first, but he soon finds a girlfriend in photographer Beth Ann Thibedault. She’s much more confident than Frank and tries to steer him in the right direction in the series’ second book, Reduced Circumstances. Those qualities made me think of Maggie Gyllenhaal, the smart prosecutor who gives tough love to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight. Although that role qualified her to play Beth Ann all by itself, her performance in the literary-themed Stranger Than Fiction showed that she can also play the tender, nurturing partner that Frank needs as he tries to rebuild his life.

Frank’s best friend in Exile is a local retiree named Gray Toliver, a sarcastic know-it-all who would be annoying if he didn’t actually know it all. Gray acts as a sounding board for Frank’s early cases, but has to take over one of his investigations in the series’ third book, Exile Trust. Envisioning a crusty-yet-supportive actor for this role brought up one of my personal favorites, Robert Loggia. Blending two of his previous roles, that of Al Pacino’s doomed criminal mentor in Scarface and Hector Elizondo’s cagey assistant coach in Necessary Roughness would create a very close approximation of Gray Toliver. Loggia is the caliber of actor who can tell Frank he’s a naïve fool while in the same breath expressing complete confidence in his ability to get the job done—and that’s what Gray does best.

Last but not least, Exile’s chief of police is a brilliant small-town cop named Denny Dannon. Provided someone could pry him away from his outstanding spot on CSI, that role would have to go to the inimitable Laurence Fishburne. As Exile’s de facto mayor and guardian angel, Chief Dannon commands respect with just a look—and we all know Laurence Fishburne can do that.

An excellent cast for a great series. Anybody got their numbers?
Read sample chapters and discover other information about the books and author at Vincent H. O’Neil's website,

The Page 69 Test: Exile Trust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lawrence Watt-Evans' "Dragon Weather"

Lawrence Watt-Evans has been a full-time writer and editor for more than twenty years. The author of more than thirty novels, over one hundred short stories, and more than one hundred and fifty published articles, Watt-Evans writes primarily in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic books. His short fiction has won the Hugo Award as well as twice winning the Asimov’s Readers Award.

Here he shares some casting ideas for the principal roles in an adaptation of Dragon Weather, a novel in the Obsidian Chronicles, the story of Arlian of the Smoking Mountain, a man obsessed with revenge on the dragons that killed his family:
The fact is, I try not to cast my novels -- I prefer to let the reader do it. I don't usually give much physical description of the protagonist, either, so that the reader can imagine himself in the role. (I know not every reader does that, but some do.)

But since you ask, let me consider one of my own favorites, Dragon Weather. I absolutely did not cast it when I was writing it, but I had a pretty good idea of what the characters were like, so looking back now, I can see who would fit. Alas, some of the ages aren't right, but allow me some impossibly good make-up, or maybe a little CGI, to fix that.

The book has a cast of hundreds, and I'm not going to try to find someone for every role; let's restrict it to the four most important characters.

I'm tired of the cliche of casting British actors for the villains and Americans for the heroes, but I can't help myself -- the chief villain, Lord Enziet, needs to be played by Alan Rickman. He's so good at playing supercilious villains, and his face and physique are perfect.

The poor doomed sweetheart, the girl called Sweet, I'd like to see played by Dichan Lachman -- if you don't recognize the name, she plays Sierra on the TV series Dollhouse. (I'd actually been thinking of maybe Kristin Bell or Sarah Michelle Gellar when I started on this, but then I remembered Lachman and that was that.)

For the mentor/sidekick Black, I'm thinking Russell Crowe.

As for the hero, Arlian of the Smoking Mountain -- well, it took me awhile, but you know, I think a younger Robert Downey, Jr. would be perfect. Arlian's a little disconnected from the people around him because he's obsessed with revenge, and Downey's good at that sort of disconnect. His appearance is very much what I'd imagined for Arlian. So if he wants it, the role is his.

And hey, that final confrontation between Arlian and Enziet, with Downey and Rickman -- I want to see that!
Learn more about the author and his work at Lawrence Watt-Evans' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jim DeFelice's "Leopards Kill"

Jim DeFelice is the author of many military thrillers and has frequently collaborated with New York Times bestselling authors Stephen Coonts, Larry Bond, and Richard Marcinko. DeFelice’s solo novels include Threat Level Black, Coyote Bird, War Breaker, and My Brother's Keeper.

Here he shares an idea about which action-movie star might be a good lead for adaptations of a few of his novels, including Leopards Kill:
There’s one at every book signing – the reader who comes up and says, “You don’t look anything like your book.”

If I’m in a certain kind of mood – in other words, if the person is buying – I smile and ask, “What should I look like?”

The answer is inevitably an actor. The exact one tends to vary somewhat depending on age, but the most common by far is Bruce Willis.

What readers really mean – I think – is that they see Bruce Willis in the role of the book’s lead character. This is great, though it would be even better if Bruce Willis saw himself as the book’s lead character.

And that of the movie to follow.

Which makes sense – he stars in thrillers and action movies, I write thrillers and action books...

Now the truth is that I don’t actually model my characters after anyone when I’m writing them, not even me. (Honest.) But if Bruce Willis is the star of the movie they make of your book, all sorts of good things happen. So when they ask if I had “Bruce” in mind, I always agree. Who knows? They’re calling him by his first name; maybe they’re a friend of his.

Where it gets tricky is when the reader wants to know which Bruce Willis I had in mind: “He’s done so many movies... the Die Hard Bruce Willis? Or the True West Bruce Willis?”

More the former than the latter, but I’ll take what I can get.

What most people don’t know is that Bruce Willis did star in the movie version of a book I wrote – the novelization of The Sixth Sense. The only thing is, I wasn’t thinking of Bruce Willis when I wrote it. I had Anthony Hopkins in my head, and it was his voice I heard in every line. (Specifically, the Anthony Hopkins of The Edge, which I’d just seen twice before starting work on it. Don’t look for the book, by the way; as far as I know the only edition now in print is Japanese. The story about what happened is much longer than this blog, and has nothing to do with Bruce Willis.)

It’s possible that I’ve lost my chance with Bruce Willis, but I still try to make shots. Lately I’ve been working with a game company on a new video game. Recently one of the producers asked me who I saw as the lead character.

“Bruce Willis,” I said, without hesitating.

Of course, I just got the storyboards the other day, and I have to say, the character doesn’t look much like Bruce Willis – not even The First Deadly Sin Bruce Willis. I guess he wasn’t available.

I’m not ready to give up. One of my books, Leopards Kill, comes out in paperback this month. It’s an action adventure story, with a strong character, biblical themes, an epic landscape – a perfect Bruce Willis vehicle if ever there was one. I’ve been telling people that Bruce Willis would be perfect in it. Well, mostly I’ve been telling my agents that, in hopes that they’ll tell his agents that, but I’m happy to share.

The Bruce Willis of Tears of the Sun, by the way. If I have a choice.

I have learned a few things over the years about movie stars and book characters and fiction and fantasy.

After nominating Bruce Willis as the lead for the movie, most women readers ask me who I want to play the strong, smart, and sexy heroine.

I always smile and say, “My wife.”
Learn more about the author and his work at Jim DeFelice's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rebecca Barnhouse's "The Book of the Maidservant"

Rebecca Barnhouse teaches and writes about medieval topics and children’s literature set in the Middle Ages.

Here she shares some casting ideas for a cinematic adaptation of her new novel, The Book of the Maidservant:
I thought about this and then took a look at the blog. Can't believe it: THE EXACT SAME ACTORS were just cast in a zombie movie that I was considering for my middle grade novel set in the Middle Ages. I thought about changing things, but decided these actors are talented enough to pull off both roles with ease. So here's my vote:

Abigail Breslin would be perfect for Johanna, the maidservant of my title because she can be both naive and feisty. Plus, she has an appealingly medieval-looking face.

And who else could play Dame Margery Kempe, who was either exceedingly pious or completely bats, better than Kathy Bates?

John Mouse, the charming, waggish student on his way to the great law school in Bologna, is more problematic. I'm thinking there will have to be a casting call for a teenaged John Cusack type.

Finally, John C. Reilly is my choice for Petrus Tappester, the snarling owner of the Cock and Hen who bedevils both Johanna and Margery as they take their pilgrimage from England to Rome.
Learn more about the book and author at Rebecca Barnhouse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lauren Bjorkman's "My Invented Life"

Lauren Bjorkman grew up on a sailboat, sharing the tiny forecastle with her sister and the sail bags. She now lives in Taos, New Mexico.

Here she shares some ideas about actors and director for an adaptation of her debut YA novel, My Invented Life:
When my agent called to say that Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B had expressed an interest in My Invented Life, I immediately thought about actors. Not that they were going to ask me for suggestions. It was just plain fun to think about. Eventually the deal fizzled. But the question remained. How would I cast a movie of my book? To add to the challenge, I enjoy movies with unknowns or lesser-knowns.

My heroine, Roz is a very tall, not-very-skinny teen. As a drama queen and theater geek, she lives to be the center of attention. And she’s wounded. Her older sister who she’s worshipped since forever recently deleted her from her life. Roz hides the wound behind a snarky and hilarious attitude. Whoever plays her would have to be tall. Mandy Moore fits the bill at 5’10’’ and has proven herself capable of playing a teen with an attitude.

Still, I imagine Roz’s face to be more like singer/songwriter Pink. Or like Busy Philipps who played a punky girl in the movie Home Room. Busy looks tough but vulnerable, and has the perfect chin. She would have to dye her hair brown, though.

Someone much shorter and sweeter should play the older sister, Eva. Eva is the perfect one—talented, funny, and, well, perfect. Though she’s excellent at ballet, cheerleading, and acting, she doesn’t brag. Some perfect girls are detestable, but Eva is not. In fact, she’s rather adorable and insecure. Ashley Greene (Twilight) would do justice to Eva’s sense of humor.

On the outside, Carmen is the smart, beautiful, Latina best friend to Eva. On the inside, she’s a bundle of complex phobias. Emily Rios (Quinceañera) would capture this unusual mixture of haughtiness and fear. Not to mention Carmen’s more hidden loveable side.

When it comes to the sexual orientation of my characters, ambiguity rules. Nothing happens beyond a little kissing (e.g. no sex), but my actresses would have to be comfortable showing attraction to another girl onscreen.

I’d like Ang Lee to direct because he’s so good at revealing the emotions beneath. And he’s the most versatile director around, trying his hand at so many genres—Chinese movies, dramas, a Jane Austen movie, a surreal martial arts movie, a superhero movie, and a gay western. It’s about time that he did a smart teen movie about sisters, Shakespeare, sexuality, and secrets.
Read an excerpt from My Invented Life, and learn more about the book and author at Lauren Bjorkman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2009

Walter Greatshell's "Xombies: Apocalypse Blues"

When not writing satirical horror novels, Walter Greatshell dabbles in freelance illustration (with an eye to creating dark children’s books, comics or graphic novels), humorous nonfiction (a throwback to his early days as a freelance journalist and arts critic), and stage acting (including in local productions of Oedipus Rex and Karel Capek’s R.U.R.). He has been a graveyard-shift nuclear-submarine technician and the general manager of a Providence landmark: the Avon Cinema.

His latest book is Xombies: Apocalypse Blues.
If they made my book Xombies: Apocalypse Blues into a film, here's who I'd like them to cast:

For the plucky-but-difficult heroine, Lulu Pangloss, I originally envisioned Christina Ricci circa Addams Family Values, but she's the wrong age bracket now, so I'm thinking Abigail Breslin or Dakota Fanning. The '70s actress Kim Darby (True Grit) would have been ideal.

For her doomed mother, I can picture Kathy Bates, but the ultimate crazy-mom candidate would have been late-Fifties-era Shelley Winters.

Steve Buscemi would be a bug-eyed marvel as Lulu's estranged dad, Fred Cowper--both before and after Xombification.

The role of unctuous Chairman Sandoval demands the sleazy charm of Alec Baldwin. In an earlier time, it would have been George Sanders (Rebecca).

Commander Coombs calls for the seriousness and desperation of Harvey Keitel.

The nasty Navy duo of Kranuski and Webb should absolutely be played by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Their physical types are perfect, and they would also bring a funny edge to the characters. This whole thing should be played as dark comedy.

For Dr. Alice Langhorne, I can think of no actress as scary as Sharon Stone, although Glenn Close comes a close second. Or maybe even Meryl Streep, a la The Devil Wears Prada.

My ideal director would have been Stanley Kubrick in his most satirical Dr. Strangelove mode. Since he's dead, I would go with Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) or Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers).

But why have actors at all? I wouldn't mind seeing the whole movie done with puppets (check out the Xombies: Apocalypse Blues book trailer on YouTube), or CGI, or Miyazake-level anime! Let's get crazy, people!
Learn more about the book and author at Walter Greatshell's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue