Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ted Kosmatka's "The Games"

Ted Kosmatka was born and raised in northwest Indiana and spent more than a decade working in various laboratories there before moving to the Pacific Northwest. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He now works in the videogame industry where he’s a full-time writer at Valve, home of Half-Life, Portal and Dota 2.

Here he shares some casting ideas for a big screen adaptation of The Games, his first novel:
I'm a huge movie buff so this is the kind of question that I can really sink my teeth into. The movie in my head has evolved somewhat since I first started thinking about my novel in those terms. I've always thought that Terrence Howard would play an awesome Silas because he's so good at playing conflicted characters. (Plus I'm just a huge fan.)

My thinking on Baskov has changed somewhat over time, and now I'm leaning toward John Malkovich as an actor with the right mix of intellectualism and menace.

Anthony Hopkins is another actor who could be really interesting in the role of the Baskov villain.

For Ben, the unapologetic side-kick to Silas, I can see Simon Pegg filling the bill nicely.

Vidonia could be played by Eva Mendes or Zoe Saldana.

Evan is probably the hardest for me, because I've always pictured the role filled by a young Philip Seymour Hoffman, but he might not be young enough now, as the book is written. Giovanni Ribisi could possibly be a great Evan. He's played some excellent, twisted characters.
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Kosmatka's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

The Page 69 Test: The Games.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aimee Phan's "The Reeducation of Cherry Truong"

Aimee Phan grew up in Orange County, California, and now teaches in the MFA Writing Program and Writing and Literature Program at California College of the Arts. A 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, Aimee received her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where she won a Maytag Fellowship. Her first book, We Should Never Meet, was named a Notable Book by the Kiryama Prize in fiction and a finalist for the 2005 Asian American Literary Awards. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Oregonian among others.

Here she shares her vision for casting an adaptation of her new novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong:
If The Reeducation of Cherry Truong ever became a film, I’d prefer Vietnamese actors to play the central roles. Listening to a fake Vietnamese accent sounds like nails on a chalkboard for me. But given how few Asian American actors, much less Vietnamese, there are in the mainstream media, we need to cast a wider net.

We follow Cherry from ages eight through twenty-one, so we’d probably need at least two actresses to encompass her journey. For the adult Cherry, I could imagine standup comedian Rosie Tran because she is just quirky enough to handle her transformation from awkward, chubby teenager to ambitious, but conflicted premed student.

Cherry’s older brother, the charming, tragic gambling addict Lum, would be a dream role for any young Asian American actor. Perhaps John Cho or Parry Shen, who have both demonstrated extreme likeability and complexity in their past roles.

For Cherry’s beauty pageant cousin Duyen, I could imagine Youtube internet sensation Michelle Phan. I know she is a makeup guru, and not necessarily an actress, but this could be her ideal debut. And she could do everyone’s makeup!

Tony Leung, with that gorgeous, long-suffering face, would be perfect for Yen, the middle brother who anchors the Truong family in Paris. And because I only like him kissing Maggie Cheung on screen, and she is just wonderful when despondent, she could play Yen’s wife, the haunted, unbalanced Trinh.

Dustin Nguyen, of 21 Jump Street fame, is now old enough to convincingly play Cherry’s overworked, embattled father Sanh, while Maggie Q of Nikita fame, who is half Vietnamese, would make a fierce, glamorous Tuyet, Cherry’s young mother.

Kieu Chinh, so beloved as the deceased mother in The Joy Luck Club, could certainly bring the sympathy and tenderness necessary for Grandmere Hoa in Paris. Kim-Ly, the crafty, snarky grandmother in California, is the trickiest to cast: I’d want a senior version of Margaret Cho in that role because the character can be so funny, audacious, yet heartbreaking at the same time. Perhaps the actress who played Margaret’s sitcom grandmother, Amy Hill? Anyone who played Kim-Ly, frankly, would need to be a scene-stealer.
Learn more about the book and author at Aimee Phan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Reeducation of Cherry Truong.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saladin Ahmed's "Throne of The Crescent Moon"

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan.

He holds a BA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College, and an MA in English from Rutgers. His poetry has received several fellowships, and he has taught writing at universities and colleges for over ten years.

His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, and have appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy and numerous other magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, as well as being translated into five foreign languages.

Here Ahmed dreamcasts an adaptation of Throne of the Crescent Moon, his first novel:
Well, there aren't exactly a ton of high-profile Arab or African actors in Hollywood, so casting Throne of The Crescent Moon is pretty tough, and inevitably involves a bit of ethnic drag:

For the fat old ghul hunter Adoulla: Some cloned amalgamation of Tony Shalhoub, Laurence Fishburne, and John Rhys-Davies.

For the conflicted holy warrior Raseed: Since the blog rules allow us to draw on actors who've passed away, I have to go with the late Brandon Lee.

For the shapeshifting tribeswoman Zamia: Girlfight/Resident Evil-era Michelle Rodriguez (playing young).

For the weary-but-powerful magus Dawoud: The late, great jazz master Sun Ra.

For the homesick but level-headed alkhemist Litaz: Sadly not a lot of hot, tough, middle-aged Black actresses working getting screen time in Hollywood today - maybe Angela Bassett?
Learn more about the book and author at Saladin Ahmed's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Throne of the Crescent Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2012

John Welshman's "Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town"

John Welshman is the author of Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Here he shares some casting ideas for a cinematic adaptation of the book:
With the help of our teenage son, I had a lot of fun with this. The book focuses on 12 people whose stories are woven into the narrative. They have been chosen to represent, as far as possible, the idea of the Titanic as being like a ‘small town’. So there are passengers and crew members; children as well as adults; women as well as men; rich and poor; and people from Britain, the United States, South Africa; Finland, and the Lebanon. I try to see the disaster through their eyes, and the book is as visual as possible. Here is my cast list:

Adrien Brody would play the part of Lawrence Beesley (35), an English science teacher travelling to visit his brother in Toronto. With the skill of a novelist, but the precision of as scientist, Beesley observes events as they unfold.

Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) would take the part of Harold Bride (22), the Assistant Wireless Operator. Young and relatively inexperienced, Bride is totally unaware of what is in store for him.

Abigail Breslin would play the role of Edith Brown (15) travelling with her parents Elizabeth and Thomas in Second Class. Born in South Africa, the family is migrating to live in Seattle in the United States.

Asa Butterfield, star of Hugo, seems perfect for the part of Frank Goldsmith (9), travelling with his parents Emily and Frank, from Kent, in England, to Detroit. Frank had a younger brother, Bertie, who died of diphtheria, but Frank is as adventurous as any nine-year-old.

Kenneth Branagh, recently so successful in My Week with Marilyn, would play Archibald Gracie (53), a wealthy American amateur military historian who has recently been on holiday in Europe, and who is travelling First Class. With an old-fashioned gallantry, Gracie offers his ‘protection’ to any unaccompanied ‘ladies’ in First Class.

Rooney Mara seems perfect for Elin Hakkarainen (24), a domestic servant from Finland who is travelling with her husband Pekka to start a new life in Monessen, Pennsylvania. The couple got married in Helsinki in January 1912, and are excited about their future together.

Isabella Cramp looks ideal as the girl Eva Hart (7), travelling in Second Class with her parents Benjamin and Esther. Originally from Seven Kings, near London, the family are migrating to live in Winnipeg, Canada. Eva is carrying the large teddy bear that her father bought for her in a department store in London.

Kelly Macdonald would take the part of Violet Jessop (24), a Stewardess who is working in First Class; born in Argentina of Irish parents, her best friend is another Stewardess, Elizabeth Leather. Violet is full of resentment at what she sees as the exploitation of the Stewardesses by rude and difficult First Class passengers.

Tom Hanks would play handsome Herbert ‘Lights’ Lightoller (38), the Second Officer, born Chorley, Lancashire, in 1874, who as the Titanic sails has recently been demoted from First Officer to Second.

Liam Neeson would take the part of capable Arthur Rostron (42), born Bolton, Lancashire, 1869, who has had a long career on various ships, and who is Captain of a liner called the Carpathia.

Cate Blanchett would play Elizabeth Shutes (40), born Newburgh, New York, a governess in First Class who is travelling with her charge Margaret Graham (19).

And Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) seems perfect for the beautiful Hanna Touma (27), originally from the village of Tibnin, in the Lebanon, who is travelling in Third Class with her children Maria and Georges to Dowagaic, Michigan.
Learn more about Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2012

Larry D. Sweazy's "The Devil's Bones"

Larry D. Sweazy's Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger western novels include The Rattlesnake Season, The Scorpion TrailThe Badger's Revenge, and The Cougar's Prey.

Here Sweazy shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of The Devil's Bones, his first mystery novel:
Casting this book would be interesting. It’s a small town murder mystery that jumps back in forth in time from the present to nineteen years in the past. The narrative follows two characters, Jordan McManus, a young deputy implicated in a murder investigation, and Tito Cordova, an abducted half-white, half-Mexican, trying to find his way home to Indiana from Mexico to find out what happened to his mother, and to settle the score—so the actors would have to reflect each other in both time periods. I have always seen this as a stark, independent movie where character counts more than plot. Not that there’s not plot, there’s plenty, but first and foremost, for me anyway, this is a character novel.

So, the actors would have to be able to play to the range, I think, reflected in the novel. There are four characters that come immediately to mind, that I would love to have a say in casting: Jordan, his brother, Spider, Jordan’s ex-girlfriend, Ginny Coggins, and Tito. For Jordan, I’d could see Mark Walhberg being capable of pulling off the anger and vulnerability that he would need to inhabit Jordan’s skin. Spider would be a great role for Paul Rudd playing it serious. I love seeing actors taking a risk against type. The Devils’ Bones is no romantic comedy. Jennifer Lawrence has been a favorite since Winter’s Bone, and I have no doubt that The Hunger Games will continue her rise into the stratosphere, but this is about dreaming, after all. I think Lawrence would be perfect for Ginny because the character is far enough from the girl in poverty (Winter’s Bone), but close enough that Lawrence could differentiate the role with gusto. Gael García Bernal, of The Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mamá También, would be perfect as Tito, especially the flashback scenes as he makes his way from Mexico to Indiana. García Bernal would bring the necessary authenticity to the role that it would need to have the full impact of the ending. I have no clue who would play the children. All four of these characters would have to have young teenage counterparts.

Of course, if this really were an independent movie, then we probably wouldn’t have heard of any of the actors, or the director, for that matter. And that would be just fine with me if the movie was made with care, love, and respect. Spending some time in January at Sundance would be a dream come true.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy and Brodi and Sunny.

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy (March 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cara Black's "Murder at the Lanterne Rouge"

Cara Black is the author of the best-selling Aimée Leduc series. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son and visits Paris frequently.

Her new novel, Murder at the Lanterne Rouge, is the 12th book in the Aimee Leduc Series.

Here Black shares her choice for one of the co-stars of an adaptation of the book:
I'm not sure who I'd like to play Aimée Leduc because there are so many stickthin, big-eyed, androgynous French actresses it would be hard to chose. But I definitely see the late, great actor Philippe Noiret, when I write the character of Morbier, Aimée's godfather and Commissaire. Basset hound eyes and grease stains on his tie and that sardonic grin. If I put him at a cafe table with Aimée they start talking and do all the work.
Learn more about the book and author at Cara Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2012

Madeline Miller's "The Song of Achilles"

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University, and has been teaching both languages for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Here Miller dreamcasts an adaptation of The Song of Achilles, her first novel:
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the life of Achilles from the point of view of his lover and best friend Patroclus. The novel follows the two from boyhood through the events of the Trojan War.

I never imagine actors as any of my characters when I’m writing, so trying to dream-cast my book turned out to be surprisingly hard. Also, since these characters are famous and beloved, I knew people would have strong feelings about them, as they did about Brad Pitt’s Troy. But here goes….

The only person I can imagine as Achilles is Heath Ledger. I know what you’re thinking—that I’m just saying that because of the association with Brokeback Mountain. But actually, if I’m being honest, it’s because of 10 Things I Hate About You. In that movie, Ledger shows the enigmatic self-possession, the surprising warmth and depth, and the playful mischief of Achilles as I imagine him. Also, he looks golden.

I found it almost impossible to choose an actor to play his lover Patroclus—the closest I got was Zachary Quinto, whom I loved in Star Trek. Patroclus and Spock have basically zero in common, but Quinto’s watchful sweetness resonated with me.

I am always impressed with the presence and conviction Viggo Mortensen brings to his roles and would definitely want him in my cast. In particular, I enjoyed picturing him as the wise centaur Chiron. I heard that in Lord of the Rings he carried his sword everywhere as part of getting into character. Does this mean he’d be wearing his horse-legs all the time for mine? I don’t know, but an author can dream....

I think Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the most talented actors working today, and I’d absolutely cast him. I’m not quite sure which role he’d play—probably I’d just ask him which one he wanted and star-struckedly hand it over. Similarly, Sean Bean. I know he played Odysseus in Troy, but I’d like to see him as something else—maybe red-haired, good-natured Menelaus.

Another actor I really appreciate is Tom Hardy. Diomedes? He doesn’t really look like the ruthless king of Argos as I imagined him, but I bet he could convey the right air of powerful, smiling menace. He also might be a good younger Odysseus.

There are a number of older male characters in my novel (Peleus, Phoinix, Priam, etc), and I fully intend to stack them with the cream of the English acting crop: Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Derek Jacobi and Peter O’Toole.

As for my director, I want Ang Lee. And, I promise, it’s not just because of Brokeback Mountain. In all his movies, Lee lovingly capture the small, lyric hopes and beauties of human life. Even though The Song of Achilles is based on an epic story, its scope is profoundly personal, and I think Ang Lee could portray that perfectly. To get the epic in there, maybe Peter Jackson could produce. I’m sure he’d make Achilles’ sea-nymph mother Thetis just as terrifying as she should be.

Speaking of which: maybe Tilda Swinton for Thetis? She certainly has the striking looks, and acting chops. My family suggested Angelica Huston or Bette Davis both of which would be equally good and scary choices.

And, of course, I want a good screenwriter and adapter. I think I’ll just tap all my favorites: Peter Shaffer (Amadeus), Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility), and Tom Stoppard (a lot). That should do it, right?

All right everyone, start clearing your schedules….
Visit Madeline Miller's website.

See Madeline Miller's top ten classical books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jim DeFelice’s "The Helios Conspiracy"

Jim DeFelice’s new book, The Helios Conspiracy, received a starred review from Kirkus, who called it a “complete success with its appealing investigator, rapid-fire dialogue and convincing storytelling.”

He is the co-author of American Sniper, the New York Times number one best-seller.

Here the author explains how he and his wife are and have always been in complete accord about the actor to play the lead in a big-screen adaptation of The Helios Conspiracy:
One Saturday night not too long ago, I sat down to watch a movie at home with Debra, my (unpaid) editorial advisor, occasional editor, and wife. The movie was The Lincoln Lawyer, which we had somehow missed when it was first released.

The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as an aggressive criminal defense attorney, whose good clients include the local branch of Hells Angels and others of similar repute. (Highly recommended, by the way.)

We were maybe five minutes into the movie when we looked at each other.

“He’s perfect,” said Debra. “He’s absolutely your character. He could play him.”

“You’re right,” I said. I’d noticed the similarity, too. Even though the movie was based on another book – Michael Connelly’s, of the same name as the movie – it was as if the movie had channeled my creation, changing the surrounding and plot, yet somehow nailing the character perfectly. Physically, stylistically – it was him.

“I can’t believe how perfect he is,” added my wife.

“Yes,” I agreed.” “Even the character he’s playing – it’s eerie. Except of course that he’s a lawyer, and my character is –”

“That doesn’t matter. He has everything – the style, the wisecracks, the sideways smirk, the grace.”

“You have to have your agent send the book to his agent,” said Debra.

“First thing in the morning. You really think he’s perfect?”

“It’s as if I’m watching your book.”

“Yeah, you’re right. He might be just a hair old –”

“Old? No way.” My wife was adamant, then thoughtful. “Do you think he smokes?”


“You’d have to have him smoking in the movie.”

“What book are you talking about?” I asked.

“Helios [The Helios Conspiracy, just published by Tor/Forge]. As Andy Fisher.” The main character in the book, Fisher is a wise-cracking and roguish FBI agent.

“Oh,” I said.

“Matthew McConaughey would be the perfect Fisher... That is the book and character you were thinking of, isn’t it?”

Long pause. I suppose I should mention that writers and editors, paid or otherwise, have complicated relationships.

“Well?” she asked. “Were you thinking about Fisher?”

“Of course, that’s what I was thinking,” I said, grabbing for a beer. “He’d be perfect.”

And he would be.
Learn more about the book and author at Jim DeFelice's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Leopards Kill.

Writers Read: Jim DeFelice.

The Page 69 Test: The Helios Conspiracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christopher Hebert's "The Boiling Season"

Christopher Hebert graduated from Antioch College, where he also worked at the Antioch Review. He has spent time in Guatemala, taught in Mexico, and worked as a research assistant to the author Susan Cheever. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his son and wife, the novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean.

Here Hebert shares some ideas for the lead actors in an adaptation of his new novel, The Boiling Season:
My favorite books and movies tend to be heavily atmospheric, stuff that’s saturated in a rich sensory world. Not surprisingly, I’m a pretty cinematic writer myself. Place is definitely one of the biggest characters in The Boiling Season.

The book is set in a Caribbean island loosely based on Haiti, and it has some political aspects to it. For those two reasons, I can’t think of a film adaptation without thinking of Jonathan Demme, who has deep connections to Haiti himself and has a subtle political sensibility. The same goes for Paul Haggis. Then there’s Danny Glover, who’s directing a biopic about Toussaint Louverture that I can’t wait to see. Though, according to IMDb, I’m going to have to wait until 2013.

There aren’t a whole lot of movies out there with serious roles for actors of color. There’s no lack of those in The Boiling Season. Don Cheadle has the simmering intensity to make an amazing Alexandre, the main protagonist, who tries to escape the turmoil all around him by creating his own personal Eden. For Alexandre’s friend Paul, the black market entrepreneur, I wish I could have a young Idris Elba doing a sort of punk Stringer Bell. I guess I’d have to settle for the closest approximation, but I have no idea what that is.

Anthony Mackie would be a searing Dragon Guy, the resistance leader. Denzel Washington has the perfect combination of gravitas and warmth to be a great Senator Marcus. For the senator’s friend, M. Rossignol, the corrupt Minister of Health I can’t decide between the quietly brilliant Jeffrey Wright and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who can play everything from Thabo Mbeki to a space assassin. Meryl Streep would be natural for Mrs. Freeman, the American businesswoman. But what isn’t she a natural for?

The younger ones are a little tougher. I think maybe they should be unknowns, but since that’s less fun than imagining actors we know, I’ll say Jaden Smith as Hector and Zoe Saldana as Mlle. Trouvé. Honestly, though, she’s probably just too beautiful. Assuming there is such a thing.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Hebert's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boiling Season.

Writers Read: Christopher Hebert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tobias Buckell's "Arctic Rising"

Tobias S. Buckell is the author of Halo: The Cole Protocol, Sly Mongoose, Ragamuffin, Crystal Rain, and the newly released Arctic Rising. His books have been finalists for the Nebula Award, the Prometheus Award, and the Romantic Times Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. He hails from the Caribbean, where as a child he lived on boats in Grenada and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Ohio after a series of hurricanes destroyed the boat they were living on, and he attended Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio, where he still lives today. Buckell fell in love with science fiction at a young age, reading Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov novels when he was seven years old.

Here he shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Arctic Rising:
Idris Elba to play Prudence Jones, the Caribbean secret agent. He has a sense of easy gravitas. He might overpower it a bit, but the actor himself I think could bring that down a bit to fit the role just right.

Genevieve Nnaji as Anika Duncan. She's one of Nollywood's leading ladies and judging by the movie Ije, I think would do well.

And Jewel Staite for Violet! She has that friendly, mid-west sort of thing going on. The dissonance of her being a cheerful drug lord with her headquarters over a dance club made out of a greenhouse would be terrific.
Learn more about the book and author at Tobias S. Buckell's website and blog.

Writers Read: Tobias S. Buckell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ellen Ullman's "By Blood"

Ellen Ullman is the author of a novel, The Bug, a New York Times Notable Book and runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the cult classic memoir Close to the Machine, based on her years as a rare female computer programmer in the early years of the personal computer era.

Here she explains why she won't dreamcast her new novel, By Blood:
Gabriel García Márquez refused offers for a film based on One Hundred Years of Solitude. He said that a reader, after seeing the movie, would never again be able to see Colonel Aureliano Buendía as anyone but the actor. I have never forgotten that, because it agreed so completely with my experience.

In a novel, there's a private, interior sense of a story and its characters. Once a film is made, everything becomes physical, actual. Call me weird, but if I deeply love a book, and a movie is made of it, I try never to see it.

It's the same for me when I'm writing: I never think of an actor for a role.

I was explicitly remembering García Márquez in the parts of By Blood where the narrator, an eavesdropper, is trying not to see the actual people he is overhearing, so he can preserve his inner image of them. From pages 23-24:
Over the weeks, a certain picture of the doctor had grown in my mind -- nearing sixty, a slight limp (which I heard as she walked by my door), gray hair, perhaps a bun -- an image simultaneously particular in certain details but vague overall, the way a character in a novel, barely described, can yet occupy a distinct place in one's mind.
From another passage, which is on page 69:
... a sudden double-mindedness came over me. Two images of my dear patient began to war in my mind: first the rather ordinary face of the young woman in the elevator (a flushed cheek, a sweaty brow), then the vague yet delicate and lovely place in my imagination in which my dear patient had always lived.
Read more about By Blood at the Farrar, Straus and Giroux website.

The Page 69 Test: By Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2012

Catherine McKenzie's "Spin"

Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. A graduate of McGill University and McGill Law School, McKenzie practices law in Montreal. Her novels Spin and Arranged are International Bestsellers. They, along with her third novel, Forgotten, will all be published in the US by William Morrow in 2012.

Here are her thoughts on her part in casting an adaptation of Spin:
Spin has recently been optioned for film so this question comes up a lot. The funny thing is – and maybe this is antithetical to your question – I have a hard time imagining who should play the roles in the book. I don’t write that way – I am not a visual reader or writer. In fact, my books often come out in first draft as mostly dialogue and I then have to go back and fill in the descriptive parts. What I’ve also noticed is that whenever someone says – oh, so-and-so would be perfect for the part of Katie (the main character) etc. my usual reaction is “No, not her!” even if it’s an actress I like. Which I guess means that I have a definite idea of what Katie doesn’t look like. If I’m being perfectly honest, I believe my preference would be for all the roles to be filled by virtual unknowns. I know this makes no sense commercially, but for me I think I’d have an easier time seeing someone I didn’t know in the role. But when it comes right down to it, I know that these issues are completely out of my control. When you sign an option you are inherently letting go (unless you’re JK Rowling or something), just like you are when you make your last edit & let your book out into the world.
Learn more about the book and author at Catherine McKenzie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Spin.

Writers Read: Catherine McKenzie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Zoë Sharp's "Fifth Victim"

Zoë Sharp wrote her first novel when she was fifteen, and created the no-nonsense Charlie Fox after receiving death-threat letters as a photojournalist. Her work has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry (twice), Benjamin Franklin, and Macavity Awards in the United States, as well as the CWA Short Story Dagger. Charlie Fox was optioned for TV by Twentieth Century Fox and one of Sharp’s short stories was made into a short film.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of the Charlie Fox series:
I think everybody who writes their main character in first person has the problem of how best to describe them on the page. You can’t have them constantly looking in a mirror – and Charlie really is not the kind of girl who spends a lot of time gazing at her reflection. In fact, usually she only glances in a reflective surface to check her scars aren’t too visible.

My favourite description of Charlie came from Paul Goat Allen at the Chicago Tribune and doesn’t tell you what she looks like at all, but describes her perfectly: ‘Ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction.’

What I do know about her is that she’s late twenties, with reddish-blonde hair cut so it will fit under a motorcycle helmet and still retain some style. She favours bike leathers over a dress but when she has to dress up she picks something dark so it won’t show the blood and stretchy enough not to restrict movement. Having seen Red Cap, I used to think that Tamzin Outhwaite might be right for the role, but now I think Kate Beckinsale might be just right for Charlie. Her performances in the Underworld movies show she certainly has the physical ability to play the character. Or possibly Natalia Tena just for a different face. I confess when I hear Charlie’s voice in my head, it’s that of Clare Corbett, who does the UK audiobook versions.

Because Charlie sees and describes the other characters as she encounters them, it’s always a lot easier to build up their pictures. Mind you, that changes all the time. For her former army training instructor and lover, Sean Meyer, maybe a brooding Sam Worthington, or even Max Beasley. And once Charlie and Sean move to New York City to join Parker Armstrong’s close-protection agency, his role would have to be taken by Mark Harmon. I always saw Charlie’s clinical surgeon father as Michael Kitchen, but her mother was more difficult to cast. Hmm, I wonder if Frances McDormand can do a really good upper-middle-class English accent…?

Oh, and directors? Got to be the late John Frankenheimer. Yes, I know he isn’t with us any longer, but this is my world, right?
Visit Zoë Sharp’s website, blog, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Third Strike.

The Page 69 Test: Fifth Victim.

Writers Read: Zoë Sharp.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 5, 2012

Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Drowning Girl"

Caitlin R. Kiernan's novels include Silk, Threshold, Low Red Moon, Murder of Angels, Daughter of Hounds, and The Red Tree. Her award-winning short fiction has been collected in six volumes, including Tales of Pain and Wonder; To Charles Fort, With Love; Alabaster; and A is for Alien. She has also published two volumes of erotica, Frog Toes and Tentacles and Tales from the Woeful Platypus.

Here she names some possible directors and actors for a big screen adaptation of her new novel, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir:
This is a game I always play with myself, as I'm writing a book and afterwards. But in the case of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, it's much more difficult than usual. There are, I think, multiple reasons for this. For one, it's such a quiet book, and so personal. But, no reason here to get into all the reasons, those specifics. My dream director would almost certainly be Lars Von Trier. especially looking at what he did in Melancholia and Antichrist. Alternately, Terrence Malick and Darren Aronofsky, they'd be almost spot on. Any of these three directors could nail the mood of the film. That quiet desperation and mounting tension, the way it is always on the edge of and finally spirals into the surreal.

It's much, much harder to imagine casting the film. I see a tremendous number of films every year, and so I'm very familiar with probably hundreds of actors, but I think that actually makes it more difficult. It would be an all-female cast, I know that. The closest thing the novel has to an antagonist is a very strange woman named Eva Canning, a character who may, or may not, be a supernatural creature of some sort. She'd have to be able to combine vulnerability and threat. Kristen Stewart might make a wonderful Eva. Though I hate those wretched, silly Twilight films (and books), I've seen her actually act, in The Runaways and Adventureland. She can project the menace and the weaknesses of Eva Canning. The antagonist, India Morgan Phelps, or Imp, she's a lot harder to pin down. For one, she's schizophrenic and has an oddly contradictory worldy innocence about her. I very much want to say Hailee Steinfeld, who played Mattie Ross in the Cohen Bros. adaptation of True Grit, but she's too young. It seems like a little bit of a stretch, but possibly Jennifer Lawrence could pull it off. If she could get a New England accent down. This game is usually fun, and far easier, but The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is a very different book for me.
Watch The Drowning Girl trailer and visit Caitlin R. Kiernan's website and journal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jacqueline E. Luckett's "Passing Love"

Jacqueline E. Luckett worked in sales for Xerox for twenty years. During that time she married, raised a family, and took creative writing classes where she reignited her love of writing.

In 2004, she formed the Finish Party (featured in O Magazine, October 2007) along with seven other women writers-of-color. She calls these outstanding women her mentors and advisors, her friends and the toughest (and most loving) readers around.

Here Luckett shares some ideas for the lead actors in an adaptation of her new novel, Passing Love:
Passing Love: The Movie! If it could happen to other authors, it could happen to me. Right? Right!

There are two leading roles in Passing Love that actresses, filmmakers, and directors should be fighting over. Passing Love is the story of two women who believe that going to Paris will change their lives. The story moves back and forth between the present day and the jazzed-fueled Paris of the 1950s.

Nicole, the present day character, is in the middle of her life. Nicole had deferred her dream to go to Paris because of fear and complacency. Her goal is to shake things up, to step out of the ordinary, to do something she’s never done before. She’s spurred to go to Paris by a friend. Browsing through the city she finds a photo at an small antiques store that impacts her family. Her simple vacation turns into an adventure.

Angela Bassett! Are you available? She’s a bit young for the role, but she’d make a great, intense Nicole. Angela has the ability to mold herself to a character and make an audience love her.

Ruby’s story begins when she’s a sixteen-year-old in Mississippi 1944—the novel follows her over a period of 60 years. She’s salty, determined, and fearless.

If either Dorothy Dandridge or Lena Horne were alive (and young) either one of them would have made a perfect, sultry Ruby especially as the older Ruby we see at the end of the story. Their allure and sexiness were in the back of my mind when I first thought of Ruby. Since neither woman is available, I visualize Halle Berry as the perfect mixture of naughty and nice that embodies Ruby.

Ahem! Ladies, are you ready?
Learn more about the book and author at Jacqueline E. Luckett's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Passing Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Randall Silvis's "The Boy Who Shoots Crows"

Randall Silvis is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist and teacher.

Here he dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of his latest novel, The Boy Who Shoots Crows:
When I can see a scene playing out in my head like a scene in real life—as if I am not at the moment creating a scene but standing off to the side and observing the scene play out--I know that the writing is going well. This process is facilitated when I have a physical model for each the characters. And from the first day of conception of The Boy Who Shoots Crows through the last tweak of the final paragraph, I saw Diane Lane as my Charlotte Dunleavy. There is to Ms. Lane an elegance of bearing, the dignity borne of having lived a somewhat privileged life, but absent the haughtiness and narcissism of believing the privilege one’s due. This is Charlotte, a small-town girl, adored only child of middleclass parents. From kindergarten through a Seven Sisters education, she stood out. Inquisitive, intelligent, talented, lovely, and appreciative of her many gifts and opportunities. And yet, one of life’s blows—the death of a parent, her husband’s betrayal—can leave her reeling, feeling flung off balance from a suddenly tilting earth.

Charlize Theron could wear the role well, too. Even Angelina Jolie. Natalie Portman if she were older. Each as seemingly elegant and perfect in her beauty as a tawny doe, yet capable of being startled by a sudden noise, stopped in her tracks by the hurtful and unexpected.

And Sheriff Gatesman, so softened by life’s hardness, so familiar with sorrow.... I always saw James Dickey in that uniform. The same James Dickey who, in the movie made of his novel Deliverance, muses, without much hope, “I'd kinda like to see this town die peaceful.” And what actor could become James Dickey as Sheriff Gatesman? Philip Seymour Hoffman, given a bit of make-up and a few extra inches of height, would be my first choice. I would love to see what such a fine actor might do with that depth of compassion, that gravitas, those insuperable wounds. He is, to my mind, precisely the kind of man needed by a Charlotte Dunleavy or a Livvie Rankin—the only kind of man who might reach a woman so deep and lost in the belly of her whale of grief.

I understand, though, that a female audience might disagree, might wish that the hand reaching into that darkness were attached instead to an actor with the face of George Clooney. And yes, Clooney could pull it off. Not the stuttering bumbler of Burn After Reading but the emotionally pole-axed Clooney of The Descendants, a man who wants only to do good but, while doing so, must drag his own whale of grief behind him. Thin out his hair and darken the bags under his eyes, attach a drag to his smile and let the eyes carry the role, let the eyes tell the tale of the struggle against despair.

I can even more easily envision Pierce Brosnan in the role. Still strikingly handsome though no longer the pretty boy. His face is now marked by time and softened by sorrow. I can see him, too, feeling his way through life with a delicate, uncertain tread. I can see a troubled woman longing to be cradled in his arms.

Which brings me to Livvie Rankin, my favorite character from the novel. Strong, tenacious, uncomplaining Livvie, she with so few blessings in life, she whose first thought is always for someone other than herself. My model for Livvie was my mother as a young woman, and the actress who most closely approximates my image of my mother is the Hilary Swank of Million Dollar Baby, dark-haired and pretty, dark-eyed and tender, as bruised as a boxer who never wins but never goes down, as resolute as stone, as determined as a wide, deep river.

Some of the scenes in The Boy Who Shoots Crows remain as vivid inside my head as a recent memory. I can see the shafts of sunlight in the red pine forest, I can smell the damp pine needles, can feel the coldness of the snow soaking though my boots. Does that then mean, you might ask, that you are the boy, that Jesse is you? Of course Jesse is me. Just as Charlotte is me, and Gatesman is me, and Livvie is me. I am he and I am she and they are me and we are all together because I know what they know, I feel what they feel. To be human and painfully alert to your humanity is to know grief and guilt, remorse and shame, and to strive against all odds to carry on in spite of those burdens. This is what The Boy Who Shoots Crows is all about, whether the novel is packaged as a mystery, which it is not, or as a thriller, which it is not. It is a novel about the options available when life blindsides us, as it inevitably will.
Learn more about the book and author at Randall Silvis's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Shoots Crows.

--Marshal Zeringue