Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wiley Cash's "A Land More Kind Than Home"

Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and teaches English at Bethany College.

His stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Roanoke Review and The Carolina Quarterly.

Here he shares some casting insights in the event that his first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, is adapted for the big screen:
A Land More Kind Than Home tells the story of two young brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town in the form of Carson Chambliss, a snake-handling, poison-drinking, fire- carrying pastor whose past is just as mysterious as the power he claims to possess. I didn’t set out to write a novel that features a dangerous religious leader, but it seems that Chambliss has stolen the show; he’s the character that most readers want to talk about. I have to admit that I had a lot of fun creating Chambliss; he brings tension and discomfort to the scene whenever he’s on the page. His terrifying interaction with Adelaide Lyle, the church matriarch who knows too much about him, is what my agent used to sell the novel. Even the sheriff investigating the tragedy that occurs inside the church is made uneasy in Chambliss’s presence.

But imagining Chambliss as an actor was something I hadn’t really thought about until I saw  Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone, the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s wonderful novel. There’s a scene in which Harris’s character is explaining how he treated a father after discovering that the man’s young son had suffered years of abuse. Harris’s narration is calm and measured at first, but when his authority to bend the law is challenged, he suddenly exhibits a righteous anger that is shocking in its intensity. As I watched the scene unfold, I felt my skin begin to crawl; That’s Chambliss, I thought. In my mind, Ed Harris has been Chambliss ever since.

As actors, the other characters don’t loom as large in my imagination. They live on the page for me, and it’s there that I can see them best. But, if I had my choice, I would love to see Sissy Spacek play Adelaide Lyle. She’s obviously too young for the role, but she played a great character who is much older than her in the film adaptation of The Help, so I think she could do the same here. I want Spacek for the role because of her beautiful voice. The audio book of To Kill a Mockingbird was released a few years ago with Spacek as the reader. It’s incredible. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve had a crush on Sissy Spacek since I saw her in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

I’ve gone back and forth a couple of times about who I imagine playing Clem Barefield, a local sheriff with his own painful past who must untangle the events that led to the tragedy inside the church. Tommy Lee Jones is an obvious choice; he’s played law enforcement so often that it probably feels like a part-time job to him. I’ve also thought about Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall. These two actors can evince both a sense of tragedy and hope just by looking into the camera. I’d always really appreciated Hackman, but he blew me away in The Royal Tenenbaums. And Duvall in The Apostle? I could watch that movie ten times a day and still tear up during the baptismal scenes.

I love all of these actors, and I’d pay to watch them do anything from taking a nap to reading the phone book. I couldn’t go wrong with a single one of them.
Learn more about the book and author at Wiley Cash's website.

Writers Read: Wiley Cash.

--Marshal Zeringue