Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mark Alpert's "Extinction"

Mark Alpert is the author of Extinction, a science thriller published this month by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. A longtime science journalist, he specializes in writing novels that incorporate real theories and technologies. His earlier books — Final Theory and its sequel, The Omega Theory — have been published in more than twenty languages. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

Here Alpert dreamcasts an adaptation of Extinction:
Someone once told me that adding a helicopter scene to a movie will, on average, boost the movie’s box-office take by a surprisingly large amount -- $30 million, $50 million, I forget how much exactly. I have no idea if this is really true, but just to be on the safe side I put helicopter scenes in all of my novels. Besides, helicopters are fun! I flew in a Huey helicopter over Honduras in the mid-Eighties when the military was assigning National Guard units to build roads in that country. (They were also deployed there to intimidate the Sandinistas across the border in Nicaragua.) I was just a cub reporter then, accompanying some of the Guardsmen from Alabama, but the helicopter crew let me sit next to the side door and wear the radio headset and everything.

Anyway, I tried to relive that experience by writing a helicopter battle into my latest science thriller, Extinction. The book is about the merger of man and machine, so it has lots of fascinating and ominous technologies: bionic arms, artificial eyes, cyborg insects (this is a real-life project funded by the Pentagon -- the bugs have electronics implanted in their brains and flight muscles so they can serve as radio-controlled micro-drones). But the most ominous technology of all is Supreme Harmony, a surveillance network created by the Chinese government to crack down on political dissidents. To analyze all the thousands of hours of video collected by the cyborg insect drones, the Chinese Ministry of State Security lobotomizes condemned dissidents and inserts electronics into their eyes and brains, allowing the video to be wirelessly transmitted to their visual cortices. In other words, their brains are enslaved to the surveillance network and forced to search the video images for signs of dissident activity by their former comrades.

Creepy, right? Supreme Harmony is sort of like the Borg in Star Trek. By communicating with each other over the wireless links, the lobotomized brains come together to form a collective consciousness. And this newly born entity isn’t happy about working for the Chinese government. In fact, it doesn’t care for the human race at all. This would be a very cool thing to dramatize in a movie. Each of the former dissidents -- which are called Modules once they’ve been forced into the network -- is able to tap into the memories and skills of all the others. They may have very different-looking bodies, but they share emotions, facial expressions, visceral reactions. When one of them smells something bad, they all cringe.

The real challenge for the director of this movie would be finding actors and actresses who can compete with the Modules and the drones for the viewer’s attention. The hero of the book is Jim Pierce, a former Army intelligence officer who lost his arm in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998. In the years afterward he went back to school, became an expert in prosthetics and built himself a really amazing bionic arm. He has a daughter named Layla who’s equally brilliant, but she rebelled against him by becoming a hacker for a Wikileaks-like organization that publicizes classified military documents. She uncovers the existence of Supreme Harmony, and the Chinese government tries to kill her. Jim rushes to her defense, aided by Kirsten Chan, a colleague of Jim’s from his Army intelligence days who is now the NSA’s expert on China.

You need a tough, older actor to play Jim. Harrison Ford might be good for the role, he can do that straitlaced Army thing. But Liam Neeson might be more interesting -- he’s good at darkness and desperation. Sandra Oh would be a great choice for Kirsten. She’s tough and charming and about the right age. The woman playing Layla would have to be much younger, early twenties, and I’m not so familiar with young actresses. Emma Watson, perhaps? Layla isn’t quite that beautiful, but maybe it would work.
Learn more about the book and author at Mark Alpert's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Omega Theory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lucinda Rosenfeld's "The Pretty One"

"Perfect. Pretty. Political. For nearly forty years, The Hellinger sisters of Hastings-on-Hudson-namely, Imperia (Perri), Olympia (Pia), and Augusta (Gus)--have played the roles set down by their loving but domineering mother Carol." So opens the publisher's description of The Pretty One: A Novel about Sisters by Lucinda Rosenfeld. "Perri, a mother of three, rules her four-bedroom palace in Westchester with a velvet fist, managing to fold even fitted sheets into immaculate rectangles. Pia, a gorgeous and fashionable Chelsea art gallery worker, still turns heads after becoming a single mother via sperm donation. And Gus, a fiercely independent lawyer and activist, doesn't let her break-up from her girlfriend stop her from attending New Year's Day protests on her way to family brunch."

Here Rosenfeld dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
There are so many characters in The Pretty One that I'm going to limit the casting to my fictional family (i.e. the Hellingers). Here goes:

Bob Hellinger - Donald Sutherland

Carol Hellinger – Barbra Streisand

Perri Hellinger – Tina Fey (alternate: Rosemarie DeWitt)

Pia Hellinger - Gwyneth Paltrow (alternate:  Amanda Peet)

Gus Hellinger – Mia Kirshner (alternate: Milla Jovovich)
Learn more about The Pretty One at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2013

David Menconi's "Ryan Adams: Losering"

David Menconi is a music critic and arts reporter at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. He has also written two books – 2012’s Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown and 2000’s Off The Record – which are closely connected even though one’s a non-fiction biography and the other’s a novel.

Fittingly for our purposes here, Menconi points out here, that connection centers on the idea of casting:
When it comes to casting the Ryan Adams bio-pic based on Losering, I went through that process a long time ago – only in reverse. Going on two decades ago, I was writing Off The Record, a roman a clef set in the music business that focused on a crazy-brilliant-troubled rock star overcome with self-consciousness. Since this was my first (and so far only) foray into book-length fiction, the characters were pretty directly based on real people I knew.

The plot called for my rock-star character, Tommy Aguilar, to be a charming never-do-well who remained likable even while doing objectionable things, plus a brilliant musician. On both counts, Ryan was the perfect model. During Whiskeytown’s mid-’90s days as a local Raleigh band, I went to every show I could and lurked about, committing Ryan’s mannerisms to memory. Ryan had was a great performer who had a flair for the dramatic in everything from onstage presentation to offstage interviews, making an impression with even the most mundane movements and gestures. He worked guitars, microphones, beer bottles and cigarettes (not to mention admirers and haters) with equal facility. It was like watching a Rock Star 101 master class, hardscrabble bar-band life as performance art at the highest level.

And so Ryan became Tommy in my mind’s eye, even though they didn’t really sound much alike. Ryan certainly had plenty of rough, raw and wild moments with Whiskeytown back then; but my imagined Tommy was exponentially more volatile, with a penchant for triggering riots. Still, as I wrote Off The Record, I heard them speaking in the same voice, and I’ve always thought of Tommy as Ryan’s evil twin. You could say that Ryan and I spent a lot of time in each other’s heads back then, although only one of us was aware of that.

Who, then, should play Ryan in Losering? While it’s tempting to say no one but Ryan himself could do it (and his only big-screen appearance to date is as himself, a performance scene in Judd Apatow’s This Is 40), there is only one actor I can imagine pulling it off: Johnny Depp, who has the right combination of grit, edge and depth. Depp is pushing 50, of course, which means he’s a couple of decades too old. But he’s been playing Keith Richards in Pirates of the Carribbean movies for 10 years now, so how hard could it be?

If anybody is capable of bringing the young Ryan’s brash swagger to life, it’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
Learn more about Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown at the author’s blog.

The Page 99 Test: Ryan Adams: Losering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2013

Matthew Kadane's "The Watchful Clothier"

Matthew Kadane is an associate professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Watchful Clothier: The Life of an Eighteenth-Century Protestant Capitalist:
It's hard to imagine casting for a historical figure who you can't describe physically. The subject of my book, Joseph Ryder, was a prolific eighteenth-century diarist, but in the two and a half million words he wrote he never once said anything about the way he looked. Did he have a sturdy frame, if only from the physical demands of his work as a clothier? Or do his fairly regular complaints about unspecified illnesses suggest he was frail? Did he ever wear a wig, or did he feel the ambivalence about wigs that he felt about the social elites more likely to wear them? Did he wear eyeglasses, which might explain slightly smaller late-life handwriting? He does mention having a bad leg beginning in his 60s. Did he start walking with a cane, or did he limp around Leeds unassisted as his puritanical religion and ascetic worldliness fell out of step with a society visibly headed toward industrialization by the time he died in 1768. All I can say about the way Ryder looked with any certainty is that he was white and male, the prerequisites for so many of the cultural options British society offered him.

It is also in some ways liberating not to have to match the looks of an actor with a character. The more important thing about casting Ryder would in any case be to find someone who could capture his piety and his ambivalence about economic success. The actor's face would also have to be compelling enough to sustain interest during countless close-ups on Ryder as he writes in his diaryPaul Giamatti could be the guy. He can agonize, and he can convincingly transition from middle to late life. (Ryder wrote from his late 30s through to his early 70s, and so whoever plays him would have to get the various phases of life as right as Giamatti gets them in, for example, Barney's Version.) Sam Rockwell also comes to mind. He's a better physical match for someone who I imagine was neither too much this nor that. Rockwell also pulled off a compelling one man show in Moon. The Watchful Clothier the movie, like the book, would almost entirely be about Ryder. It's hard to imagine a scene without him somewhere in it.
Learn more about The Watchful Clothier at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Francis Knight's "Fade to Black"

Francis Knight was born and lives in Sussex, England. She has held a variety of jobs from being a groom in the Balearics, where she punched a policeman and got away with it, to an IT administrator.

When not living in her own head, she enjoys SF&F geekery, WWE geekery, teaching her children Monty Python quotes, and boldly going and seeking out new civilizations.

Here she dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of her new novel, Fade to Black:
When I think about casting Fade to Black, I think about who was playing in my head at the time, but also what the place looks like in my mind. The city, its atmosphere, is almost a character in its own right, so the director has to be right too. My son would never forgive me if I didn’t put forward Tim Burton for that. Myself, I’d be happy with several different directors, including Mr Burton who I think would give it a great gothic feel, though Christopher Nolan in Memento mode would be superb. Nothing like wishing for the best, right? Maybe Frank Miller could help out with the visuals. Oh, now Burton and Miller together, that would be fabulous!

Casting Rojan, the MC, is a bit tricky. I need sarcasm, cynicism but an overall humanity lurking underneath. Christian Bale might work very well, or Guy Pearce, but, no, just not quite. Adam Beach would be perfect – I could really see him playing a guy who hates everything on the outside, but on the inside….

Jake – Devon Aoki. I’ve seen her in several films now and she gets across the emotion without showing the emotion, if you know what I mean. Subtle performances. Plus, she looks like she knows one end of a sword from another and that’s going to help in this instance. In fact, I half had her in mind when the character of Jake came to me.

Dendal – Jim Broadbent without a doubt. A fantastic actor in so many things, and I think he could do Dendal real justice. I can just see him, off in his own head and humming happy songs.

Pasha, I honestly couldn’t say. I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote him. He’s the one character I don’t think I could cast in advance, not until I saw the guy.

And Dwarf, well the only thing I could say here is cast the guy I used to know who he’s based on!
Learn more about the book and author at Francis Knight's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Diane Kelly's "Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria"

Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. A recipient of the 2009 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, she has received more than two dozen RWA chapter awards. Kelly’s fiction, tax and humor pieces have appeared in True Love Magazine, Writer’s Digest Yearbook, Romance Writers Report, Byline Magazine, and other publications.

The recently released Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria is the 4th novel in her Death and Taxes series.

Here Kelly dreamcasts an adaptation of the series:
My Death and Taxes series stars rookie Special Agent Tara Holloway, a criminal investigator for the IRS who goes after white-collar criminals. Tara is smart and sassy, and sexy in her own tough chick way. A recovering redneck, she grew up in a small east Texas town where her daddy gave her her first weapon - a pink Daisy BB gun - at a very young age. She’s a veritable sharpshooter who, after several violent run-ins with tax cheats, has become known as the Annie Oakley of the IRS.

I’ve always thought that Emma Stone’s character in Zombieland is similar to Tara. Capable, competent, no-nonsense. Emma Stone would be perfect to play Tara, even if Emma’s breasts exceed Tara’s by a cup or two. Yep, Tara’s cups do not runneth over. As for Tara’s gun nut father, Tommy Lee Jones would be cast in that role. Her petite, longsuffering mother would be played by Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty on That 70’s Show.

Tara’s primary partner, Eddie Bardin, is a black man who finds her country ways a little hokey, but tolerates them. He’s a good mentor and, with their complementary skills, the two make an awesome team. I see Blair Underwood playing Eddie. I also see Blair in my dreams every night, but that’s a different story...

Tara’s boss, Lu “The Lobo” Lobozinski, is not only in her sixties, but she’s stuck in the sixties. She wears her hair swept up in a strawberry-blond beehive, along with go-go boots and groovy 1960’s couture. Though she’s a chain-smoking, order-barking hard ass, she clearly has affection for her agents and they return the sentiment. Kathy Bates would be absolutely perfect for the role of Lu.

Along for the ride is Tara’s boyfriend, Brett, a landscape designer with sandy hair and a sweet, relatively naive disposition. I see Bradley Cooper playing Brett. Of course Brett is challenged fairly early on in the series by a tough agent named Nick who seems perhaps better suited for Tara. Nick would be played by Val Kilmer.

In book #1, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, Tara teams up with a Latina DEA agent named Christina Marquez to pursue a sleazy ice cream truck driver who’s selling drugs off his truck. I can easily see David Spade playing the role of drug dealer “Joe Cool” Cullen. Jessica Alba would be great as Christina. The other villain in this book is a con artist running a foreign currency exchange scam. I could see Ray Wise, the man who played the devil in Reaper, as the villain. He plays manipulative schemers so well!

Given that my books pair action, humor, and romance, they’d translate well to the screen. Several of my reviewers and readers have mentioned how much they’d love to see the books as a TV series or full-length film. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Hollywood will take notice!
Learn more about the book and author at Diane Kelly's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christine Bold's "The Frontier Club"

Christine Bold is Professor of English at the University of Guelph. Her books include U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920; Selling the Wild West: Popular Western Fiction, 1860-1960; Writers, Plumbers, and Anarchists: The WPA Writers' Project in Massachusetts; and The WPA Guides: Mapping America.

Here Bold shares some suggestions for casting a big screen adaptation of her latest book, The Frontier Club: Popular Westerns and Cultural Power, 1880-1924:
Because The Frontier Club focuses on a group of clubmen who hunted, politicked, and wrote together, and so made the modern western, the movie would need an ensemble cast—say the boyish bonhomie of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven (this would be Roosevelt’s Nine) crossed with the menace of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. In fact, a cameo figure in the book—the thuggish Cheyenne Clubman Major Frank Wolcott—already appeared in Cimino’s film, played by Ronnie Hawkins as patsy of the big cattlemen. Cimino also created the smoky clubroom settings—from 1870s Harvard to 1890s Wyoming—in which frontier clubmen hatched the violence which they wrote into the national psyche. Given that the book revolves around popular print culture (rather than casino heists or gun fights), I’d be well advised to seek a new director: if Steven Spielberg can make the oft-told passage of a constitutional amendment nail-bitingly suspenseful, he could surely convert the connections between popular westerns and government policy-making into high-stakes action.

Like the Boone and Crockett Club, the cast would need two strong leaders:

• Theodore Roosevelt—who tends to be played for laughs (Robin Williams) or as caricature (Tom Berenger)—is more complex as a hunter-writer: Philip Seymour Hoffman embodies the right combination of heft, raw energy, and vulnerability.

• George Bird Grinnell—co-founder of the Boone and Crockett Club book series, influential editor of Forest and Stream, and conservation lobbyist extraordinaire—complemented Roosevelt’s hyper-energy with his self-restraint: Daniel Craig’s tight jaw, disciplined physicality, and gentlemanly veneer are perfect.

• With Owen Wister, author of the bestselling novel The Virginian, we can mine the analogies with Ocean’s cast. Matt Damon exudes similar self-doubt: the talented junior, desperately eager to belong to the club but never secure about his position within it. (Damon and Wister also share the eeriness of seeing their deaths prematurely announced in the press.)

George Clooney—billed as “the smooth operator” in Ocean’s Eleven—looks right for Madison Grant, the dapper man-about-town who steered the club’s policies at some key junctures. Grant’s ruthless eugenics could be a challenge for the liberal actor, though.

Brad Pitt, taciturn except for his manic laugh in the film, is an intriguing match for Winthrop Chanler, the least known because the least published of the frontier clubmen, but epitomizing their blend of hi-jinks and aristocratic hauteur.

• Both ensembles contain elder statesmen. Elliott Gould conveys the cold wiliness of Henry Cabot Lodge, the frontier clubmen’s voice in Congress. A generation older, Carl Reiner could play S. Weir Mitchell, the Philadelphia writer-physician who mentored Wister but was prone to querulousness as his influence waned.

• At the febrile edge of the frontier club was the popular sports editor Caspar Whitney, a middle-class interloper on whom clubmen relied for their popular audience but never quite accepted; Scott Caan as a somewhat muscle-bound henchman could fit that role. For the final clubman—Frederic Remington, the pre-eminent artist of the West, often assumed to have been a Boone and Crockett Clubman but in fact an outsider—I’d have to reach more deeply into the Ocean’s trilogy for Robbie Coltrane’s girth, boorishness, and skin-deep amiability.

There are more women attached to the frontier club than to Ocean’s gang, but these actors would represent a strong start: Catherine Zeta-Jones as the feisty, dark-eyed Molly Wister; Julia Roberts as the long-suffering wife, Daisy Chanler; even Angie Dickinson (in the film’s first incarnation) as the imperious, domineering mother Sarah Wister. For reasons the book makes clear, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac would be relegated to servant roles; the latter would be great as the boisterous ranch cook Homer.
Learn more about The Frontier Club at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Frontier Club.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Julie Kibler's "Calling Me Home"

Julie Kibler began writing Calling Me Home after learning a bit of family lore: as a young woman, her grandmother fell in love with a young black man in an era and locale that made the relationship impossible. When not writing, Kibler enjoys travel, independent films, music, photography, and corralling her teenagers and rescue dogs.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Calling Me Home:
While writing Calling Me Home, as most writers are prone to do—I pictured various actors in lead roles.

But some of the characters were tough.

There aren’t many actresses I could picture in the role of my youngest character, my point-of-view character in the past storyline—a teenager.

As I wrote, I played with the idea of Ellie Kendrick, a British actress who portrayed Masterpiece Theater’s Anne Frank and Shakespeare’s Globe’s Juliet. She has the right combination of looks and awkward, “smart girl” characteristics. But she’s British, and she’s growing up fast—already 22.

Then one weekend, well after I sold the book, I saw a film at the Magnolia at the Modern, a theater in an art museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and one of my favorite cultural spots.

When Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), entered the screen in early scenes of Higher Ground, an indie film directed and acted by the elder Farmiga, I nearly stopped breathing. I leaned toward my husband and whispered, “That’s Isabelle.”

He ignored me, accustomed to my whispered comments and having no idea how significant this moment seemed to me. I’m not even sure he heard me.

But this lovely young actress embodied almost everything I’d imagined about my character Isabelle, a teenage girl in 1930s Kentucky who falls in love with a black teenage boy, her housekeeper’s son. Isabelle is a bit of a loner. She’s often shy and awkward, yet a flame burns inside her that won’t let her accept the status quo. When she dares to fall in love on the wrong side of the race line, she ignores the danger, the warnings, and pursues the relationship with everything in her.

As the teenage Corinne Walker in Higher Ground, Taissa Farmiga mirrored this personality so eerily, I had goose bumps on my scalp. I’ve watched the film at least four times now; that never changes.

Farmiga has since appeared in the FX television series American Horror Story as Violet, a troubled teenage girl. Though vastly different from the role she played in Higher Ground, I still saw glimmers of my character Isabelle in her portrayal.

My original vision of Isabelle was as a shorter, darker-haired girl. Farmiga is lanky and blonde. Strangely, my cover art ended up featuring a lanky blonde. It was not my first cover. It was redesigned fairly late in the game, after the advance readers’ editions had already shipped. Was that fate?

The film would have to be optioned and put into production fast, because Farmiga is growing up and will soon be the wrong age to represent my character Isabelle. She is currently 18—perfect for the role of a character who ages from 16 to about 24 during the course of Calling Me Home. Farmiga still has a few years before it wouldn’t work.

(As a side note, Vera Farmiga would be a perfect choice for Isabelle’s mother. There is a 21-year age difference between these sisters, but their genetic ties are clear.)

And if I tossed out another name? A big, familiar name?

Meryl Streep, aged to almost 90, would excellently resemble Taissa Farmiga as the present-day Isabelle.

And if Streep isn’t available, Betty White would do in an easy pinch. As funny as she is, there is a depth to White I’m not sure has been thoroughly mined in a film.

If anyone has the right connections, would you please send each of these leading ladies a copy of my book? Isabelle will thank you.
Learn more about the book and author at Julie Kibler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Calling Me Home.

Writers Read: Julie Kibler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Katherine Howe's "The House of Velvet and Glass"

Katherine Howe was born in Houston, Texas, and holds degrees in art history and philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is the author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and which has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Here Howe shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of her latest novel, The House of Velvet and Glass:
The House of Velvet and Glass, a story of one Boston Brahmin family reeling in the aftermath of the Titanic sinking, is tricky to cast, for one thing because people's bodies today look very different than they did one hundred years ago. Sibyl Allston, the main character who must face the coming of the twentieth century with all its glory and terror, is in her late twenties, a brunette with rich brown eyes. I think Winona Ryder would make a beautiful Sibyl, both because of her coloring, but also because of her unique ability to portray strength and fragility at once. Benton Derby, Sibyl's friend and confederate, has short, steely hair and pale blue eyes, and is built like a wrestler. Mark Wahlberg has the right age and build for Benton, though he has dark eyes. Sibyl's wastrel brother Harley is slighter and much younger than Benton, and should be played by the sort of actor one might dearly wish to punch in the face. I'm open to suggestions! Harley's lover Dovie Whistler, a blonde-haired and green-eyed actress, would be wonderfully portrayed by Dakota Fanning, who I'd love to see in a 1910s early jazz age bob, her eyes ringed with kohl. Finally, the patriarch of the Allston family, Lan, appears at two different stages in his life: first as a distinguished retired sea captain of about seventy, which I think would be perfect for Daniel Day Lewis, and next as a privileged teenage boy from Salem who's shipped out on his first clipper voyage to China. I'm not sure who the teenage Lan should be, but whoever it is, he should be comfortable dealing with a shimmering blue macaw.
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Howe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The House of Velvet and Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dina Nayeri's "A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea"

Dina Nayeri was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran and moved to Oklahoma at ten-years-old. Her debut novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, was released in 2013 by Riverhead Books (Penguin), translated to 13 foreign languages, and selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers book. Her work is published or scheduled for publication in over 20 countries and has appeared in Granta New Voices, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salon, Glamour, and elsewhere. She holds an MBA and a Master of Education, both from Harvard, and a BA from Princeton. She has worked in high fashion, management consulting, university admissions, investment banking, and once as a grumpy lifeguard. Now Nayeri is at work on her second novel (also about an Iranian family) at the Iowa Writers Workshop where she is a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea:
It's hard to write a pretty young Iranian character and not envision Golshifteh Farahani playing her in the movie. But I wouldn't make her my main character. Instead, I would cast this Iranian starlet as the beautiful best friend in the novel, Ponneh. For my main character, Saba (and her twin sister, Mahtab), I would cast someone whose expression can hint at a lot of hidden sorrow, who isn't quite so stunning but is striking and unique, and who has the air and charisma of the storyteller. Maybe Zuleikha Robinson? As for the male lead, I would cast one of my friends who is a dreadful actor, but looks exactly right for the part.
Learn more about the book and author at Dina Nayeri's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 11, 2013

Molly Cochran's "Legacy"

Molly Cochran has written and ghostwritten over 25 novels and nonfiction books, including the Edgar-winning bestseller Grandmaster and The Forever King, recipient of the New York Public Library award for Books of the Teen Age, both co-written with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction bestseller Dressing Thin.

Cochran's most recent novels are the YA titles, Legacy and Poison.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Legacy:
I think every novelist sees the story in her head as a movie and its characters as actors she's familiar with although, since the visualization is entirely mental, sometimes the actors are too old/retired/dead to serve as realistic candidates for a real movie. But since this is all fantasy, I'd choose Zooey Deschanel to play the lead character, Katy Ainsworth, in the movie version of my novel Legacy. Katy is a quirky character, a nerdy beauty whose curiosity and balls-to-the-wall courage always land her in hot water... and sometimes near death.

Her long-suffering boyfriend, Peter, ought to be played by the guy who plays Finn on Glee, just because they're both nice guys who are basically clueless.

Katy's great-grandmother, a good-natured witch with a distinct prejudice against cowen (non-magical persons) should be portrayed by Maggie Smith, although Betty White would add a nice dimension, too.

And Hattie Scott, the High Priestess of the New England village where Katy attends boarding school, would be a terrific vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg.

These characters, by the way, look nothing like the people on the cover of the book. I had no say in that, alas, so please don't hold me accountable for "Katy's" grumpy expression. The sequel to Legacy, titled Poison, just came out a couple of weeks ago. Same cranky people on the cover, so use your imagination.
Learn more about the book and author at Molly Cochran's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Savanna Welles's "When the Night Whispers"

Savanna Welles is a New Jersey-based writer. She loves jazz, cooking for friends, and spontaneous trips to distant places. Although she has published books under her real name, Valerie Wilson Wesley, When the Night Whispers is her first paranormal romance.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of When the Night Whispers:
If they were to make When the Night Whispers into a film (A girl can dream can't she.), I'd love to see the role of Asa, the captivating, seductive demon, played by Idris Elba. He's an incredible actor, as impressive as a gangster in HBO's The Wire as he was as Luther, the offbeat cop in the BBC production of the same name.

As for Jocelyn, Taraji P. Henson, the actress in Person of Interest would be a good fit. And Luna, nobody could play that role but S. Epatha Merkerson--the Lt. from Law and Order and currently Thaddeus Steven's mistress in Spielberg's Lincoln.

As for a director--Oz Scott who has directed countless TV shows and plays.
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Wilson Wesley's website.

The Page 69 Test: When the Night Whispers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 8, 2013

Phillip DePoy's "December's Thorn"

Phillip DePoy is the author of a number of mysteries, including the Edgar Award winning play Easy. He has published short fiction, poetry, and criticism in Story, The Southern Poetry Review, Xanadu, and Yankee, among other magazines. As a folklorist, Depoy has worked with Joseph Campbell and John Burrison. He is currently the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University.

DePoy's Fever Devilin novels include The Drifter's Wheel and A Corpse’s Nightmare.

Here DePoy shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of December's Thorn, the 7th of seven Fever Devilin novels:
Who doesn’t play this game? The trouble is, no two people ever have the same opinions. I love Gregory Peck’s Ahab. Plenty of other people hate it. And I have a genuine difficulty with December's Thorn (and all the Fever Devilin novels) in that I have no idea who should play Fever Devilin, the main character. I do, however, have lots of opinions about the other characters.

My first choice for Issie, the mysterious ghost-bride, would be Dakota Fanning. I get that she’s a little young, but she’s always been older than her age, she’s a great actor, and she’s from Georgia. I think that Sheriff Skidmore Needle ought to be played by Walton Goggins (yes, Boyd Crowder on Justified)—a perfect combination of rural sensibilities and intelligence; also raised in Georgia. The rugby-playing Shakespeare scholar, Andrews, might be Hugh Grant, don’t you think? Drew Barrymore should play Dr. Ceri Nelson because she has the perfect sense of humor for it. As to Fever’s long-time fiancé Lucinda Foxe, why wouldn’t Renée Zellweger be great?

Now for the main character, the first-person narrator, many people have made suggestions ranging from a young (The Night of the Hunter) Robert Mitchum (alas, dead) to the relatively British Clive Owen (alas, British). Who’s haunted enough to be Fever; who’s got one foot in this world and the other in the next? The Grapes of Wrath Henry Fonda? The Steppenwolf Max Von Sydow—or is he too Scandanavian? How about Shoot the Piano Player’s Charles Aznavour? Too French? I have no idea.
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Drifter's Wheel.

The Page 69 Test: A Corpse's Nightmare.

The Page 69 Test: December's Thorn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Carl Rollyson's "American Isis"

Carl Rollyson, Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, has published more than forty books ranging in subject matter from biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, and Jill Craigie to studies of American culture, genealogy, children’s biography, film, and literary criticism. He has authored more than 500 articles on American and European literature and history. His latest books are Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews, a biography of Dana Andrews published in September 2012, and the biography American Isis: The Life and Death of Sylvia Plath, released in January 2013.

Here he shares some ideas for adapting American Isis for the big screen:
Who would I want to play Sylvia Plath? Before I answer that question let me say a few words about Sylvia, the film starring Gwyneth Paltrow. It is a sorry thing. Poor Sylvia, she could not write as fluently as her Teddy boy. She baked cakes when she should have been penning poems. She gassed herself because she could not have him to herself. Poor Sylvia. The film is such a farrago of half-fact and simplistic psychologizing - not to mention that gratuitous nude scene with Paltrow perched on a sofa, bereft because Ted has abandoned her for the pregnant Assia Wevill.

What is astounding about Plath is her relish of multiple roles. But the biographies present her as a mass of contradictions - feminist and subservient wife, high-art poetess and hack writer, the Mademoiselle who wrote a potboiler (a term the Plath character uses for The Bell Jar in Sylvia).

The filmmakers, like her biographers, are simply parroting what her contemporaries said about her. Susan Sontag, a member of the same generation, lamented in an interview that Plath felt obliged to seek popular attention so cravenly. Plath, however, viewed literature as a campaign to be fought on all fronts. The extraordinary point about her is that she was open to all forms and levels of literature. She regarded all writing as human expressiveness; she embraced it with Whitmanesque fervor.

I happen to have written a biography of Marilyn Monroe, and I was particularly struck by a Plath journal entry that reveals a rare insight into Monroe and into the role of a certain kind of literary figure in our culture, but also that reveals Plath's own unique stature, which has made her a cynosure for a holistic sensibility no other writer has been able to bring off as completely. In mid-September 1959, Plath mentions reading Arthur Miller, and about two weeks later she records:
Marilyn Monroe appeared to me last night as a kind of fairy godmother. An occasion of "chatting" with audience much as the occasion with Eliot will turn out, I suppose. I spoke, almost in tears, of how much she and Arthur Miller meant to us, although they could, of course, not know us at all. She gave me an expert manicure. I had not washed my hair, and asked her about hairdressers, saying no matter where I went, they always imposed a horrid cut on me. She invited me to visit her during the Christmas holidays, promising a new, flowering life.
Only Sylvia Plath dreams of audiences with Marilyn Monroe and T.S. Eliot, divining in her dreams that both are necessary. Like Monroe, Plath sought to fashion a persona that put her on a level with everyone - with readers of popular magazines and of literary journals.

So who should play Sylvia in my movie? To me, the answer is obvious: It has to be an actress who is auditioning for the role of Marilyn Monroe, an actress that is not obviously a Plath lookalike anymore than she is a Monroe double, an actress who nevertheless can inhabit the role, and play Plath in all of her yearning and provisionality, an actress who wins our hearts because she is not copying Plath but interpreting her. Who else but an actress who has done for Monroe in Smash what she could also do for Plath: Katharine McPhee.
View the video trailer for American Isis, and learn more about the book and author at Carl Rollyson's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: American Isis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Laurie Boyle Crompton's "Blaze"

Laurie Boyle Crompton’s debut YA novel is Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains).

Here she shares some ideas for bringing an adaptation of the novel to the big screen:
If Blaze were made into a movie I'd love to see it cast with some talented unknowns who are trying to break into acting. Writing is a tough gig but acting seems next to impossible! I enjoy encouraging people to pursue their dreams even when they seem beyond reach and love the idea of Blaze helping to make dreams come true. Inexperience is fine, but cast members would need to have an excellent sense of humor because a movie about Blaze would have many, many funny moments.

I'd love to see someone like Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig write the screenplay. Seriously, those women are comedic geniuses. And I think Drew Barrymore did an awesome job directing Whip It and would love to see what she'd do with Blaze. Of course, Kevin Smith has the amazing comic book background knowledge, but I can't quite picture the mash-up between his style and Blaze's story. While writing the book I was careful to make sure readers don't need to be into comics to enjoy it and I'd want the movie to be similar in that way. Of course, I did write in a natural place for Stan Lee to do a movie cameo and would be thrilled to see something like that actually happen! 'Nuff said.
Learn more about the book and author at Laurie Boyle Crompton's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cathy Marie Buchanan's "The Painted Girls"

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the national bestseller The Day the Falls Stood Still, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and an Indie Next pick.

Here Buchanan shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her latest novel, The Painted Girls:
It’s tricky business casting The Painted Girls, which tells the story of the real life model—Marie van Goethem—for Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. As per the BBC documentary Private Life of a Masterpiece: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, when Degas unveiled the artwork back in 1881, it was to reveal something very strange by the standards of the day—a highly realistic wax sculpture of a ballet girl dressed in a fabric tutu, slippers and bodice and wearing a wig of real hair. The public took one look and were horrified. They didn't see a young girl in her ballet clothes. They saw a whore and linked the little dancer with a life of corruption and young girls for sale. She was called a “flower of the gutter.” They said her face was “imprinted with the detestable promise of every vice.” Such notions were underpinned by a long history of often less than noble liaisons between the wealthy season ticket holders to the ballet and the young ballet girls.

Through Marie’s real life older sister Antoinette, The Painted Girls also tells the story of a teenage boy—Émile Abadie—who Degas drew on trial in the criminal court for a grisly murder. Degas titled the work Criminal Physiognomies, in keeping with prevailing “scientific” ideas about innate criminality and certain facial features—a forward thrusting jaw, a low forehead—that marked a person as having a tendency toward crime. In 1881 he exhibited the portrait alongside Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

Are there teenage starlets out there bearing the “criminal physiognomies” Degas sought to capture in both artworks? I’m not so sure, but here’s my cast:

Marie van Goethem (14) – Elle Fanning, who is not a traditional beauty and who studies ballet

Antoinette van Goethem (18) – Jennifer Lawrence, again not a traditional beauty

Charlotte van Goethem (9), the cherub of the three sisters — Isabella Acres

Bad boy Émile Abadie (19) — Steven Strait

Ignoble season ticket holder Monsieur Lefebvre — Steve Buscemi

Edgar Degas — Robert Downey, Jr.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathy Marie Buchanan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painted Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cassandra Rose Clarke's "The Mad Scientist's Daughter"

Cassandra Rose Clarke is a speculative fiction writer living amongst the beige stucco and overgrown pecan trees of Houston, Texas. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a bachelor’s degree in English, and in 2008 she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Mad Scientist's Daughter:
I’m enough of a movie nerd that I picked out a dream director to go with my dream cast, so let’s start there. I would love to see The Mad Scientist’s Daughter movie directed by Wong Kar-wai, a Hong Kong director I’m sort of obsessed with. His films depict repressed longing and separated lovers beautifully, and he captures intense, subtle emotions through a blend of music and striking imagery. I would be thrilled to see how he’d adapt my book.

Next up is casting. The novel follows the main character, Cat, over the course of about thirty years, with a sizable chunk of time spent on when she’s in high school and college. For young Cat, I can’t think of anyone more perfect than Kara Haywood, the actress who played Suzy Bishop in Moonrise Kingdom. I love her intensity and subtle melancholy.

I think Kate Winslet would be wonderful for adult Cat. Again, she can generate the right intensity and melancholy, and she does a good job with flawed, often unlikeable characters (like Clem in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She’s also beautiful in the way I pictured Cat — a blend of classical and quirky and a little vulnerable, all at once.

Finn, the android Cat falls in love with, was a difficult character to cast. I finally decided on Danny Pudi, best known for playing the robotic Abed on Community — so he could certainly pull of Finn’s personality. He also has Finn’s large dark eyes. Win.

Richard Feversham, the human man Cat eventually marries, could be played by any one of the strong-jawed, handsome blond men currently working in Hollywood. I’d probably go with Chris Pine.

Finally, we have the titular mad scientist, Cat’s father Dr. Novak. I struggled a bit with this one, too. At first I wanted to go with Lance Henriksen, partially because it amused me (Bishop!) and partially because, fifteen years ago, he would have been pretty perfect. If I have to choose an actor who’s the right age now, I pick Jeff Bridges. He’s a pretty different sort of actor, I guess, but he has that affable distant quality that works well for Dr. Novak. Plus, I liked him as a computer genius dad in Tron: Legacy.
Learn more about the book and author at Cassandra Rose Clarke's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue