Sunday, November 28, 2010

Katia Lief's "Next Time You See Me"

Born in France to American parents, Katia Lief moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in Massachusetts and New York. She teaches fiction writing as a part-time faculty member at the New School in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn.

Lief's latest novels are You Are Next and Next Time You See Me.

Here she shares some ideas on who might bring her characters to life in a cinematic adaptation:
Next Time You See Me is the second in a series of suspense novels beginning with You Are Next, in which two strong characters, Karin Schaeffer and Mac MacLeary, battle evil and also come together romantically. Karin is the emotional heart of the series. She’s a damaged, impulsive, restless former cop whose combination of training and fearlessness draws her to danger; she’s also a strong, resilient, loving woman who feels perhaps too deeply. Tall and lean, with the ability to look plain or beautiful, and the capacity for a broad range of emotion, Hilary Swank would make a perfect Karin Schaeffer.

And Matt Damon would make her pitch-perfect counterpart as Mac MacLeary, whose strength and persistence help Karin save herself in You Are Next, and whose love shows her that renewed life after a terrible loss is possible. Matt’s quiet handsomeness and Hilary’s quirky beauty would create sparks on screen. They’re both excellent actors with a palpable presence; they’re both smart and they’re both sexy. I can close my eyes and see them bring Karin and Mac to three-dimensional life as their story catapults across the big screen in Next Time You See Me.

Detective Billy Staples, whose role grows in Karin and Mac’s lives throughout the first two novels, and takes center stage in the third (not yet published) book, should be played by Jamie Foxx, a talented actor with the chops to grow his character in scope and depth as his connection to two trouble-magnets whiplashes him into danger beyond that of his day job with the NYPD.

The movie version of Next Time You See Me would be directed by my husband, Oliver Lief, who produced, directed and edited the book trailer. But if I couldn’t get him, I’d try Roman Polanski, whose films are among my very favorites.
Read an excerpt from Next Time You See Me and view the trailer.

Visit Katia Lief's website.

The Page 69 Test: Next Time You See Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sheldon Russell's "The Insane Train"

A former Oklahoma public school English teacher, Sheldon Russell retired as a professor emeritus from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2000. With The Yard Dog (Minotaur Books, 2009), he introduced the Hook Runyon series. The first book finds Hook investigating a murder at an Oklahoma railroad yard near a German POW camp during WWII.

Russell's second Hook Runyon novel, The Insane Train, is out this month.

Here is Russell's choice to portray his main character when Hook hits the big screen:
My protagonist in The Insane Train is Hook Runyon, a one-arm railroad bull who collects rare books and drinks busthead liquor. He’s both down-in-the dirt tough and intellectually curious. He’s sensitive but lethal and has an abiding affection for the underdogs of the world.

The actor who comes to mind, I mean as long as we’re dreaming here, is George Clooney. Consider Clooney’s performance in the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? No matter how uneducated and unsophisticated his character, no one but no one underestimates his intelligence and wit. He’s a perfect choice to play Hook.
Learn more about the book and author at Sheldon Russell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Yard Dog.

Writers Read: Sheldon Russell.

The Page 69 Test
: The Insane Train.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keith Raffel's "Smasher"

Keith Raffel is the author of Dot Dead and Smasher.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a cinematic adaptation of Smasher:
A pair of award-winning scriptwriters have picked up an option on my Smasher: A Silicon Valley Thriller. I do know the chances of actually seeing it on the screen at the cineplex are about the same as a Wall Street banker turning down her bonus. Still, like Willy Loman, a man "is got to dream." So humor me, will you, and play along?

Who should play the protoganist Ian Michaels? He's 37 or so, about six feet tall, dark hair. He's a Silicon Valley workaholic and a pretty good runner. Here are some candidates my kids and wife came up with.

Chris O'Donnell? Kind of a pretty boy. I don't think so.

My kids are big fans of the show Chuck and are plumping hard for its star Zachary Levi. He plays a klutzy spy on the show, but my wife is convinced he’s the guy.

Leo DiCaprio? Well, he is a genuine movie star and we'd get funded if he opted in, wouldn't we?

And what incredibly talented actor can take on Rowena Goldberg, 30, top homicide prosecutor and marathoner who's married to the aforementioned Ian? She's about 30, 5' 4", and brunette.

Here's my first pick to play Rowena, but I'm told she's no longer available. Sigh. If only.

Natalie Portman? If she doesn’t get the role, I am going to have a lot of irate friends, both men and women. (Like Rowena, she's even Jewish.)

And there's also Jill Flint from another of my kids' favorite shows, Royal Pains.

The English actress Rebecca Hall who plays Claire in Ben Affleck’s recent The Town may have the right looks, but my oldest daughter is not crazy about the American accent she used in the film.

Finally, there's the scene-stealer part – Ricky Frankson, a driven, Silicon Valley billionaire and fan of Sun Tzu's Art of War. Here's the description from the book:
All in all, Frankson looked about as good as a man of sixty-one could look. A field of wavy black hair showed nary a gray strand that might betray his age. A deep notch divided his eyebrows, but the forehead above them was unlined and his cheeks were smooth. The girth of his biceps, half-hidden by the sleeves of the T-shirt, substantiated the rumor that his early morning routine included weightlifting in a home gym. Scuttlebutt also had it that he invested tens of millions in biotech companies researching life extension. Maybe he was a beta tester. Or maybe he had a portrait up in his attic that aged in his stead.
If George gets the part, my wife promises she’d accompany me to the premiere.

Who plays driven better than Al Pacino?
Read an excerpt from Smasher, and learn more about the book and author at Keith Raffel's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 19, 2010

Miles Corwin's "Kind of Blue"

Miles Corwin, a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of three nonfiction books: The Killing Season, a national bestseller; And Still We Rise, the winner of the PEN West award for nonfiction and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; and Homicide Special, a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Here he shares his idea for the lead actor and director of an adaptation of Kind of Blue, his first novel:
My main character, Ash Levine, is a Jewish LAPD homicide detective. The actor would not have to be Jewish, but I think I might help if he was Jewish or part-Jewish. I liked the English movie, An Education, and Peter Sarsgaard is a terrific actor. But he simply wasn’t convincing as a Jewish character. He couldn’t pull it off.

Ben Stiller or David Schwimmer might work as Ash Levine. A young Paul Newman would be wonderful.

The guy I’d like to direct the movie is Curtis Hanson. My book has a noirish feel, and Hanson really captured that mood in L.A. Confidential.
Learn more about the book and author at Miles Corwin's website.

Writers Read: Miles Corwin.

The Page 69 Test: Kind of Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paul Grossman's"The Sleepwalkers"

Paul Grossman has been a freelance journalist for many years with published articles in major magazines such as Vanity Fair and Details. He had a highly successful Actor’s Equity reading of his first stage play, The Pariah, at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan—a drama about Hannah Arendt and the Adolf Eichmann war-crimes trial, which is currently in the hands of the Perry Street Theater Company for production development. Grossman is also a long time teacher of writing and literature at Hunter College.

His new novel is The Sleepwalkers.

Here he shares some thoughts about a big screen adaptation of the novel:
The Sleepwalkers would make an extremely exciting but very big budget movie. The setting--Berlin in the early 1930s--is such an integral part of the story. Potsdammerplatz, throbbing with traffic. Alexanderplatz, swarming with crowds. A chase scene through the Tietz Department Store alone would make a real thrill ride through one of the great emporiums of prewar Europe.

I’m not sure about a director or any of the other cast members, but I definitely have one star in mind for the lead: Adrien Brody. His unmistakably Semitic face and intelligent, sympathetic eyes make a dream candidate for the role of Inspektor Willi Kraus.
Visit Paul Grossman's website.

Writers Read: Paul Grossman.

The Page 69 Test: The Sleepwalkers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mary Anna Evans' "Strangers"

Mary Anna Evans is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates, and the recently released sixth novel in the series, Strangers.

Should Faye Longchamp make the jump from page to screen, here's Evans' idea of the actors who should play the major roles:
Ooh! I love this game!

I'm not one of those writers who always has an actor or actress in mind when I write my characters. This makes it especially fun to pretend I'm a casting director, so I can select people I think would be believable in the roles. My imaginary people are very special to me, so being able to say "Ross looks like President Obama...and he talks like him, too," is an easy way to tell people what's in my mind as I spin my tales.

While playing the movie-casting game with my friends, they always turn the conversation to finding a way to wangle screen time for themselves. Someone will say, "I want to be the cranky librarian in Findings!!!" Then someone else will say "I want to be the voodoo queen in Floodgates!!!" I hate to break it to them, but I think they'll be relegated to non-speaking roles in a crowd scene in Wally's bar. This is because most of them have northern accents, which doesn't really work in the vicinity of Sopchoppy, Florida. I, however, have never lost my Mississippi drawl, so I might actually get to talk.

I've always pictured Halle Berry as Faye, the archaeologist heroine of all my books, but Hollywood would have to work a little movie magic. Faye is a bit less curvaceous than Halle Berry, so much so that she is mistaken for a boy from a distance. Only a blind man could mistake Ms. Berry for a boy, so the movie's costumer would need to be a genius. If I were Halle Berry, I'd give my eyeteeth to play a character as smart and tough and resourceful as Faye. And she'd get to run and jump and dig and just generally get dirty. I'd think that would be fun for an actress.

Her best friend Joe is particularly difficult to cast. He has to look very young--about 25--for the plot of Artifacts to work, so several actors who come to mind are just too old. Among those are Lou Diamond Phillips, A Martinez, and Jimmy Smits. Taylor Lautner is young enough, and he has the required eye-popping Native American good looks, but he is about nine inches shorter than the six-foot-six Joe Wolf Mantooth.

Or, come to think of it, I chose the name "Mantooth" for Joe, because I wanted a Native American name that was familiar to mainstream America. I remembered Randolph Mantooth from Emergency!, the show about paramedics from the 1970s. In his youth, Randolph Mantooth would have had the right look, and he's half Seminole, so he has a Native American heritage that's not completely unlike the mostly Creek Joe. He's six-foot-one, so we're getting close to Joe's skyscraper build. Jimmy Smits is six-foot-three, though, so he's even closer.

I get an awful lot of email from ladies who desperately wish Joe were real. Let's all picture a buff 25-year-old Jimmy Smits with hair to his waist...hmmm...oh, my. Yes. I do believe he'll do.

For the new release, Strangers, I need an ethereal blonde for the missing girl, Glynis Smithson. Either Evan Rachel Wood or a very young Gwyneth Paltrow would fill the bill. For the Jazz Age beauty Allyce Dunkirk, only a haunted brunette with a slender form, delicate features, and dark eyes will do--perhaps Natalie Wood. And for the doomed silent movie starlet, Lilibeth Campbell, I need someone curvaceous, ambitious, naive, and barely out of her teens. Let's go with Jean Harlow at age 20.

I think I'll stop there, before I begin casting inanimate objects. Because I know exactly what the brooding and possibly haunted house, Dunkirk Manor, looks like...
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Todd Ritter's "Death Notice"

An editor and journalist for more than 15 years, Todd Ritter began his career as a film critic while attending Penn State University. His favorite films are thrillers, although he has a soft spot for horror movies that scare the wits out of him. He considers Alfred Hitchcock to be the greatest director the world has ever seen. His debut mystery, Death Notice, was released in October by Minotaur Books.

He thinks it would make a fantastic movie. With, he writes, the correct casting, of course:
I know a lot of authors envision actors and actresses when writing their main characters. I’m guilty as charged. Kind of. When I started writing Death Notice, one particular actress served as my muse for Chief Kat Campbell, the heart and soul of the book. Her name is Elizabeth Mitchell, and fans of the show Lost will know her as Dr. Juliet Burke. Kat is a single mother to a 10-year-old son with Down syndrome. She’s also the police chief of a small town terrorized by a serial killer. The actress who plays her needs that rare combination of maternal warmth and kick-ass toughness. Mitchell has that combo in spades. Plus, she really knows how to wield a gun. (The runner-up would be Ashley Judd, my agent’s suggestion and another great choice to play Kat.)

The two male protagonists of Death Notice are more difficult to cast, mostly because everything about them — looks, attitudes, flaws and strengths — sprang completely from my imagination. Nick Donnelly, the state police investigator brought in to help Kat catch the killer, is handsome, intelligent and brings a bit of street smarts to a sleepy farm community. Jon Hamm, of Mad Men fame, would make a great Nick. He’s got the looks and the smarts, plus he’d be able to show the way the case slowly eats away at Nick piece by piece.

Then there’s Henry Goll, the obituary writer who becomes the unwitting link between the police and the killer. Henry is scarred, both physically and emotionally, from an accident five years earlier. He is also a bit of a recluse, and the murders drag him kicking and screaming into a world of human interaction that he wants no part of. Whoever plays him needs to express Henry’s fear, reticence and pain while simultaneously showing a man waking up to all that the world can offer. In other words, we need a heavy-hitter.

Enter Robert Downey Jr. He can do drama. He can do action. And he can do world-weary. Even better, he can do all three at once. In my mind, he’s the perfect Henry.
Learn more about Death Notice and its author at Todd Ritters' website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

The Page 69 Test: Death Notice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Patricia Gussin's "And Then There Was One"

Patricia Gussin is the author of And Then There Was One, The Test, Twisted Justice, and Shadow of Death.

Here she shares some observations about the challenges in casting an adaptation of And Then There Was One:
One job that I’ll never have is that of casting director. No, you’ll never see my name scrolling across the big screen, at least not in that capacity. When I consider And Then There Was One as a movie I see it starting just as it did in the book. A nineteen year old and a nine year old, cousins, frantic, looking for nine year old Jackie’s two sisters, Sammie and Alex. Jackie and Alex and Sammie are identical triplets. They live in Tampa and they are visiting cousins in a suburb of Detroit. The three girls and their older cousin are at a mall. All four went into a movie theater. To resolve a squabble about which movie to see, the four slit up into twosomes. No big deal, the movies were showing right next to each other. But as Jackie and her cousin waited, Sammie and Alex never came out.

Family and law enforcement descend on the mall, but the girls disappeared. The tension is severe and the emotions running on overdrive.

So let’s take a look at the scene. First the parents. Mom, Katie Monroe, is a forensic pediatric psychiatrist in Tampa. she is African American, grew up in Detroit and was in town visiting family. Dad, Scott Monroe, is at a Yankee game in the Bronx. He, too, grew up nearby Detroit in Gross Pointe. He’s white and is a former professional baseball player, now a sports commentator and affiliated with the Yankee’s spring training operation in Tampa.

That’s the primary cast. A family of five. A smart, attractive forty something black woman, a good-looking, well muscled white man, and three adorable little girls, identical in looks, but not in personalities. Jackie, the safe triplet, is logical, well balanced, even-keeled. Alex, one of the missing girls is sweet, shy, sensitive. Sammie is rebellious one, a trouble maker. All three are avid baseball fans.

Wouldn’t it be fun to cast this movie? There aren’t many movies about biracial families. And Then There Was One is anything but stereotypical. They are a happy, American whose life disintegrate before them.

During the search for the girls, Special Agent Streeter, FBI, lead the charge. He is atypical for a fibber. He’s truly collaborative and genuinely concerned and doggedly persistent. But as the week goes n with still no idea of who took Alex and Sammie or why, he’s haunted by self-doubts.

The Monroe parents are devastated, of course, but could they have played a role?

No one knows.

This is super-charged psychological thriller. It requires a black woman as the mother, a white man as the father, and three girls who look very much alike. Jackie the safe triplet is the primary child actress with a role that must portray the avalanche of survivor guilt that takes her over the breaking point. A strong (could be white or black) FBI agent and a cast of very, very bad villains. At the risk of tipping off the plot, the role of Kathy Bates in Misery, does come to mind.

But where to find identical nine year olds that could pass for triplets. I think that the trailer put together by CoS Productions did a good job.
Visit Patricia Gussin's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: And Then There Was One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Joseph Skibell's "A Curable Romantic"

Joseph Skibell is the author of the novels A Blessing on the Moon, The English Disease, and the recently released A Curable Romantic. He has received a Halls Fiction Fellowship, a Michener Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other awards. He teaches at Emory University and is the director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.

Here he shares some ideas for writer, director and principal cast for an adaptation of  A Curable Romantic:
A public confession: recently a colleague showed me a letter he’d received from Tom Stoppard. Knowing my publisher would soon be mailing out galleys of my novel, A Curable Romantic, I committed the address on the letterhead to memory and put Mr. Stoppard name at the top of the recipient list.

I was wrong. I know it was wrong. But I was already thinking about a movie. The first thing you need is a good script, and Stoppard’s witty erudition as a dramatist would be perfect for bringing the book to the screen.

There are even Stoppardian puns in the text. My favorite: renouncing his fees from the patients he couldn’t cure as a general practitioner on the Russian Steppes, Dr. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, tells the novel’s protagonist Dr. Sammelsohn that he didn’t feel right taking a patient’s “ruble without a cause.”

Stoppard is a longtime collaborator of Steven Spielberg, and I hoped he might mention the book to him. Spielberg’s ability to work on an epic canvas, his preoccupation with innocence as a theme, his understanding of the thin membrane between imagination and reality, are in tune with the novel’s concerns. My wife Barbara worked as a dietitian in LA, and she treated Spielberg’s stepfather once. That’s the only connection I have, so it’s probably better if Tom Stoppard serves as the go-between.

Meanwhile, the visual and literary playfulness of Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson recommend these men for the job as well, and I’m sorry that Francois Truffaut is dead.

For actors? Though they’re probably too old to play him at 39, both Robert Downey Jr. and George Clooney would make perfect Sigmund Freuds. I think they’d have fun with the smugness and moral obtuseness of my version of the man. My brother, Steven Skybell, a Broadway actor, is also perfect for the part. According to family lore, we’re actually related to Freud, so perhaps there’d be a family resemblance in his portrayal.

For Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, the gentle, utopian creator of Esperanto? A younger Wally Shawn is physically close, but Shawn’s performances are always propelled by a wonderful mania. I doubt he could compellingly portray Dr. Zamenhof’s gentleness and humility. Were he of the right age, Dustin Hoffman could play either of these men, as well as Dr. Sammelsohn’s third father figure: Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Szapira, the so-called Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto. Rabbi Szapira is a heroic, if little-known figure of the 20th Century, and Hoffman would know exactly how to portray the smallness of the person and the greatness of the man.

Ita, Dr. Sammelsohn’s second wife and the tragic heroine of A Curable Romantic, never really appears “onstage.” We see her, as a child, in Sammelsohn’s memories, then as a dybbuk living inside Freud’s patient Emma Eckstein, then as a spirit speaking through an Esperantist named Fraŭlino Zinger, then reincarnated as a small boy and finally as a young doctor in the Warsaw Ghetto. The only actress I know who could portray Emma as Emma, and Ita as Emma, ad infinitum, is of course Meryl Streep.

(I’m beginning to wonder when I last saw a movie? These are mostly the great actors from my childhood!)

For my protagonist, Dr. Jakob Josef Sammelsohn?

I don’t know if he has the acting chops, but I’d recommend Justin Rice, the sometime film actor and guitarist for the Indie band Bishop Allen. He’s funny, charming and endearing onscreen, and he looks exactly like I did when I was his age. It’s almost eerie, in fact. Barbara and I were watching the two Andrew Bujalski movies he appears in recently, and I kept saying to her, “Remind when I made these films again? It’s weird, but I don’t remember being a rock star.”
Read more about A Curable Romantic and visit Joseph Skibell's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Curable Romantic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trish J. MacGregor's "Esperanza"

Trish J. MacGregor was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She has always been interested in the hidden, the mysterious, the unseen, and in her latest novel, Esperanza, was able to combine this interest with her love of Ecuador.

Here is MacGregor's take on the cast and director for the picture should Esperanza be adapted for the big screen:
What a cool thing to write about! Good visualization, too.

Okay, since Ian Ritter looks like George Clooney, he’s the ideal for that role. For Tess Livingston, an FBI agent whose near-death experience turns her life inside out, Scarlett Johansson is my pick. Dominica, the bruja whose tribe in Esperanza now numbers 60,000, the largest anywhere in the world – I think Alice Braga, from I Am Legend and City of God, would be close to perfect. But hey, if she’s busy, Penélope Cruz would be great and then her hubby, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) could play Dominica’s brujo lover, Ben.

For the shape shifter, dog/human – Nomad/Wayra – Johnny Depp, please. For Charlie, Tess’s dead father, now a light chaser (the good guys), Richard Gere. Then there’s Tess’s mother, a former hippie, psychiatric ER nurse, now 63, cool lady: Susan Sarandon. For Tess’s niece, 19-year-old computer geek, Maddie, well, I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask my daughter, who is Maddie’s age!

Director? I don’t know. This book touches on questions about life after death. Clint Eastwood is doing Hereafter, so he probably wouldn’t be interested something that’s so close in theme. Vincent Ward, who directed What Dreams May Come, based on Richard Matheson’s wonderful book, would be my next choice.

Of course, the movie would end up costing what has been spent on the war in Iraq, so… It’s fun to dream, though.
Visit Trish J. MacGregor's website and blog.

Writers Read: Trish J. MacGregor.

The Page 69 Test: Esperanza.

--Marshal Zeringue