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