Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sandra Balzo's "Triple Shot"

Sandra Balzo's novels have been nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity awards and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. In addition to her books about coffee-maven Maggy Thorsen and displaced journalist AnnaLise Griggs, Balzo writes short stories, two of which have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, winning the Macavity, Derringer and Robert L. Fish awards.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries:
Uncommon Grounds, the first Maggy Thorsen coffeehouse mystery, was published in 2004. Since then, I've written six more, the most recent being the just-released Triple Shot.

Over the course of my series, Maggy has weathered countless storms (including a "thunder-snow" that destroyed her shop), the loss of business partners in very different ways and, of course, the obligatory deaths of a dozen friends and neighbors. I have put the poor woman through the proverbial wringer.

What I haven't done, though, is describe her. And I didn't realize it until just now.


I suppose since Maggy was my earliest fictional creation--and a first-person one, at that--I saw her as my alter ego. And who describes themselves in dialogue? ("Hi honey, I--your petite, red-haired wife, with the scar on my left knee--am home!")

Accidental omission or not, I admit I'm intrigued by the idea of readers deciding for themselves what Maggy looks like. But ... how do you cast a movie centering around a character even the author knows inside, but not out?

Well, what facts do we have? Maggy, in her mid-forties, quit a public relations job to open a gourmet coffeehouse with two friends, but only after her husband left home--and Maggy--the day their son went off to college. She loves red wine, craves caffeine and, on occasion, runs a mile or two.

Maggy's funny, cynical and very, very human. Not everyone's cup of tea--or, more to the point, coffee. The woman's a non-cozy hero in a cozy series. She has hard edges and, even now in Book Seven, they haven't been smoothed over.

So cast a comedic leading lady in the role, say Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts? Only problem: Maggy is not the star of her life--especially in her own mind. She's just scratching by, her humor coming more from friction with the outside world. A little ticked, Maggy's much more Katherine than Audrey on anybody's Hepburn-scale.

The names Julianne Moore and Rene Russo come to mind, but the actresses are a little too old (sorry, ladies--believe me, I feel your pain). So ... I'm going to go with the suggestion of a reader at my most recent booksigning:

Diane Lane. Think Under the Tuscan-roast Sun. The Perfect Grind or Uncaffeinated.

Now we can turn to supporting characters. They're much easier, frankly, since Maggy has seen and described them.

Her new business partner is Sarah Kingston, a prickly real estate broker who packs a gun. Good thing, too, because in Triple Shot, three fellow sales agents have been killed on the job. Sarah has a long face and a neighing laugh and wears trousers under long, flappy jackets.

Jane Lynch. Before Glee.

Jake Pavlik is the county sheriff and Maggy's love interest. He rides a Harley and wears a buttery leather jacket for which Maggy--who's never called him anything but "Pavlik"--has a borderline fetish. The sheriff is nearly six-feet tall, with dark, wavy hair and eyes that go from sunny blue, through "dirty-Chevy" gray, all the way to abyss-black, depending on mood.

Dylan McDermott, of course.

Whew, did it! There are more regulars to be cast, of course, but for now, get me those three franchise players and we'll talk.

My people will call your people.
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Balzo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue