Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Patricia Bracewell's "Shadow on the Crown"

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon a writing career.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her recently released first novel, Shadow on the Crown:
With Game of Thrones on HBO and Vikings on the History Channel, Medieval seems to be all the rage right now. In thinking about a film of Shadow on the Crown, which is set in 11th century England, it’s hard not to be drawn to actors who I’ve seen already dressed for the part and ready to go!

That being said, I’ve tried to think outside of that box, just a little. In the role of Emma of Normandy I would cast Mia Wasikowska, who starred in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010 and in Jane Eyre in 2011. She appears vulnerable at first, but she also demonstrates a core of steel that is absolutely necessary for the character of Emma.

I find myself stuck inside that Medieval box, though, with the casting of Æthelred. Sean Bean, no question about it. I’m a huge fan of his work, from the Sharpe series through Patriot Games to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. He’s played good guys and bad guys, and sometimes a poignant combination of both. Can he do dark and haunted? Let’s find out!

And then there is Elgiva – the girl we love to hate. She is beautiful, alluring, and delightfully nasty. Although television watchers have seen actress Jessica Findlay most recently as darling Sybil in Downton Abbey, I think she could do naughty just as well as she does nice. She would make a terrific Elgiva.

The casting of Athelstan is probably the most difficult for me. The king’s eldest son, he is restless, frustrated, thwarted by his father at every turn. All of his restlessness, though, comes from a need to prove himself while he waits in the wings as heir to the English throne. There is an innocence about Athelstan that makes him too honorable to scheme for what he wants, and that quality of innocence has me thinking that  Eddie Redmayne might be a good choice for the role. I’ve seen him in plenty of costume dramas – his work in Pillars of the Earth and Black Death strikes that Medieval note again – but I’ve never seen him with a beard! He’s co-starred with Sean Bean before and I think they’d make a good father/son team – lots of conflict!
Learn more about the book and author at Patricia Bracewell's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow on the Crown.

Writers Read: Patricia Bracewell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Selena Coppock's "The New Rules for Blondes"

A natural blonde who is (now) more faithful to her colorist than she has ever been to any boyfriend, Selena Coppock is a standup comedian, storyteller, and writer based in New York City. When not pushing her pro-blonde agenda, Coppock can usually be found in a dive bar lamenting the breakup of Guns N' Roses and putting Bob Seger's "Night Moves" on the jukebox.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The New Rules for Blondes: Highlights from a Fair-Haired Life:
The New Rules for Blondes is a collection of humorous essays celebrating and subverting the blonde stereotype and the personal essays are real stories from my life. I've had lots of insane adventures with my life-long best friend Suzanne and I always pictured us as a sort of Romy & Michele duo (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow from the fantastic 1997 film). But most of these stories come from back when we were in our early 20s, so I'd probably want two young actresses to capture that youthful energy and naivete: Blake Lively and Emma Stone.

While we're talking about dream casting, I'd tap Glenn Close or Meryl Streep to play the role of my blonde mentor: my mother. My mother is a gorgeous woman who is just pure class and grace, and I think that either of those actresses could nail the role of Susan.
Learn more about the book and author at Selena Coppock's website and blog.

Writers Read: Selena Coppock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Amy Brill's "The Movement of Stars"

Amy Brill is a writer and producer who has worked for PBS and MTV, and has been awarded fellowships by the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Millay Colony, and the American Antiquarian Society, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

Here Brill dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Movement of Stars:
If I had a dollar for every person who told me that my book should be a movie, I’d buy an island and retire. Since I’m too polite to collect, though, I’ll have to wait for a greenlight like everyone else. In the meantime, I’m happy to offer some casting ideas for the movie version of The Movement of Stars, which is set in 1845 Nantucket, in the era of tall ships and whaling voyages. It’s about the relationship between an aspiring female astronomer, an ambitious black whaler, and the forces that divide and bind them. There are Quakers, sailors, stars, suitors, an enormous fire, a secret wedding, a forbidden romance, and so much more!

For the main character, 25-year-old Hannah Gardner Price, I see Anne Hathaway, or, if she is too old by the time the greenlight arrives—which will probably be around the time the unicorns return from exile in Neverland—maybe Kristen Stewart.

For Isaac Martin, her student in navigation and romantic interest, I see someone young and lesser-known—Corbin Bleu has the right look, but really I want a 25-year old version of Terrence Howard. If development limbo takes long enough, maybe the Pinkett-Smiths will have another male offspring.

For Edward Price, Hannah’s unconventional wild-card of a twin brother, theater actor Ryan Heindl has the right look but is a bit out of the age range; Tom Felton, who played Draco in Harry Potter, would be perfect if he can pull off an American accent. He sure has outgrown that pouty evil-wizard look! What was I saying? Oh, right… moving on.

For Mary Coffey, Hannah’s nemesis-turned-never-mind-no-spoilers-here!, it has to be Amanda Seyfried, though if Anne Hathaway is also in the film everyone will expect them to burst into song at any moment. Wait a second… maybe I’m on to something…

Finally, for Dr. Hall, Hannah’s onetime mentor, I cannot see anyone but James Lipton. Even though Dr. Hall doesn’t look anything like him. But when I get to Heaven, I’d like God to say, “James Lipton will play Dr. Hall!”
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Brill's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Movement of Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Drew Maciag's "Edmund Burke in America"

Drew Maciag has taught history at the University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, and Nazareth College.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism:
Edmund Burke in America (The Movie) would call for a "cast of dozens." Options that spring quickly to mind are Anthony Hopkins as the inscrutable John Adams, Daniel Day Lewis as the wacky Rufus Choate, and (a middle-aged) Dustin Hoffman as the conservative alchemist Russell Kirk. Although Johnny Depp is the obvious choice for Tom Paine, I'd rather see Charlie Chaplin (talkie version) inhabit that role. Who better than Spencer Tracy to portray the twin sides of Theodore Roosevelt (Rough Rider/frontier adventurer and presidential Victorian-Progressive)? Vincent Kartheiser (of Mad Men) will be at his inconsequential best playing any of the younger Burkean conservatives of the 1990s (frustrated little characters!). All these men (there are no significant parts for women in this ideological war movie) must ultimately act in the shadow of the legendary British statesman, Edmund Burke.

Actually there are several Edmund Burkes; that is, there are multiple sides to his personality and political philosophy. The actor best able to project each of them while remaining true to the character's core identity was Raymond Burr. Burr's physical frame was a bit too imposing; but better to err on the side of visual gravitas when casting this monumental part. The Raymond Burr who was Perry Mason, the skillful, dignified, articulate, rational, principled advocate for justice, is the Edmund Burke who supported the American colonists, the natives of India, the Catholics of Ireland, the victims of slavery, capital punishment, the pillory, debtors prison, and penal colonies. The Burr who was R. Frank Marlowe--the cock-sure, self-righteous, overly dramatic prosecutor in A Place in the Sun--will be equally convincing as the older Burke who became a reactionary crusader (if this were the only side to Burke’s persona, then Charles Laughton would be perfect!); and since this later Burke requires a mysterious menacing quality (some thought he was going insane) the Burr who was (murderer) Lars Thorwarld in Rear Window comes to mind. Finally, Burr as Robert Ironside—the wheelchair-bound detective—is the Burke who, throughout his life, was effective yet constrained, accomplished yet resentful, respected yet inadequately rewarded, never all he felt he could be; always he projected a tough, brave front, but it never completely obscured his inner sense of vulnerability (or his ultimate humanity).

While he's not on my list of great directors, the only first-rate director with enough proven dramatic range to pull off this complex historical saga was William Wyler. Of course, the story can easily be rewritten as an anti-ideological warfare "dark comedy" and handed over to Stanley Kubrick; or if you insist on employing the still-living, it would be interesting to see what the Coen Brothers might do with the likes of E. L. Godkin, Woodrow Wilson, and Judge Robert Bork! (Wyler would shoot in luminous black and white, with classic static camera work; the Coens would shoot in color, with a hint of sepia tone, and lots of steadicam fluidity, which will lend the characters a subtle sense of transience, relativity, and irony. The Coen version would give the story a more contemporary feel; Wyler’s would appear to be more historically convincing. Neither version would capture the reality of the historical drama, because in “real life” few of the characters experienced the same political or cultural milieu; I guess that’s what makes the story interesting in the first place.)
Learn more about Edmund Burke in America at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Susan Bordo's "The Creation of Anne Boleyn"

Susan Bordo, Otis A. Singletary Professor in the Humanities at University of Kentucky, is the author of Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, a book that is still widely read and assigned in classes today. During speaking tours for that book, she encountered many young men who asked, "What about us?" The result was The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. Her work has been translated into many languages and frequently reprinted in collections and writing textbooks. A popular public speaker, Bordo lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and daughter, and teaches humanities and gender studies at the University of Kentucky.

Here Bordo dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen:
You might think it would be a daunting task to pick out actors to play characters who have been cast, often memorably, many times before. But actually, it’s an opportunity that I have fantasized about. It is well known to Tudor scholars but virtually no one else that the BBC, Hollywood, and Showtime have rarely made choices that remotely resembled—either physically or in their “essence”—the central players in the drama of Henry VIII and ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Charles Laughton  caricatured dynamic, quixotic Henry as a chicken-tossing buffoon; at the other end of the spectrum, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in the Showtime production, refused to get fat (“Jonny would never have allowed us to make him appear grotesque,” the show’s creator Michael Hirst told me.) Anne has usually been played, from Merle Oberon to Natalie Dormer, by actresses who are way too conventionally gorgeous to convey the not-exactly-beautiful but striking je ne sais quoi that Anne was said to embody. Most annoying, Katherine of Aragon has, with one exception (Annette Crosbie in the 1970 BBC The Six Wives of Henry VIII) been played by dark-complected, dark-haired actresses. Katherine had golden hair and fair skin—but she was Spanish, and ethnic stereotyping has prevailed over historical fact.

My book is neither fiction nor a full-blown biography, so it’s unlikely to be made into a movie. However, if some creative screenwriter was to do for it what Sofia Coppola did for Caroline Weber’s The Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution and turn a cultural study into movie art, here is my dream cast:

For Henry, Russell Crowe, an actor who can be seductive, thoughtful, boyish, and callous as is variously called for—and who would be happy to get fat, even without an artificial body suit. He has the range, he has the right look, and he might be capable of replacing my devotion to Robert Shaw as the perfect Henry (Shaw’s role was small—in A Men for all Seasons—but when he was on screen, he was completely in command.)

For Anne Boleyn, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Like Anne, she’s dark and slender, with “duckies” (Tudorese for breasts) that “are not much raised.” She’s not exactly pretty, but you cannot take your eyes off her, and she’s capable of altering everything mammary-mad men think makes a woman sexy.

For Katherine of Aragon, Laura Linney. She has both softness and steel in her—and she actually looks something like the real Katherine!! Katherine was not the pathetic “first wife” some imagine; she was a woman of deep conviction and great stubbornness. Linney could pull it all off, and putting her and Charlotte Gainsburg together on the same screen would raise the Katherine/Anne conflict way above sudsy standards.

For Thomas Cromwell, Benedict Cumberbatch, the British actor who made Sherlock Holmes both lovable and frightening at the same time. Cromwell was very, very smart and very ruthless. But he could also turn on obsequiousness or charm when needed. James Frain in The Tudors was good; I think Cumberbatch would be even better.

For Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador who plays a large role in my book’s version of events, as the originator of virtually every nasty rumor that has come down to us about Anne Boleyn, Christophe Waltz. Anthony Brophy, in The Tudors, made him way too sympathetic. Yes, Eustace was devoted to Katherine and Mary, but he was a viper when it came to Anne. In choosing Waltz, was I influenced by his portrayal of the smooth, scheming Nazi in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds? You bet.
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Creation of Anne Boleyn website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2013

James M. Tabor's "Frozen Solid"

James M. Tabor is the bestselling author of The Deep Zone, Blind Descent, and Forever on the Mountain and a winner of the O. Henry Award for short fiction. A former Washington, D.C., police officer and a lifelong adventure enthusiast, Tabor has written for Time, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Outside magazine, where he was a contributing editor. He wrote and hosted the PBS series The Great Outdoors and was co-creator and executive producer of the History Channel’s Journey to the Center of the World.

Here Tabor dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Frozen Solid:
Is there an author who hasn’t peopled his novels (secretly, guiltily) with stars from the silver screen? I do it secretly, guiltily, and frequently, though also fearfully, as if I could possibly be jinxing the whole thing by even thinking such self-aggrandizing bushwah.

But here! The chance to do so as an official response to an official offering from my gracious host Marshal. No guilt, no jinx, no fear. Let’s get right to it, then. The heroine in my current series of novels is Hallie Leland, 31, a Ph.D. microbiologist, born and raised in Virginia. She has fine hair cut very short, so blond it looks almost white in certain lights. She has an angular face in which dark-turquoise eyes are slightly misaligned— left higher than right—stands five-ten and weighs 130 pounds or so. She’s very fit, a restless type A, easily bored, an adrenalin junky and can be sharp as a switchblade.

Now, god knows I love Scarlett Johansson in everything she’s done, but (lack of height and excess of bosom aside) she just doesn’t do sharp well. Dewy-eyed, as in Lost in Translation, and beautifully vulnerable, or vulnerably beautiful, in Girl with the Pearl Earring, yes. Sharp, no. Neither, really, do Naomi Watts or Ali Larter, which is a shame because both have Hallie’s look.

The key to Hallie Leland is compressed frustration. You know how irritating it can be when you step out for a nice, brisk walk (or ski, run, scuba dive, bike ride, shopping trip—fill in from your experience) and then constantly have to wait for a companion (husband, wife, lover, friend, co-worker—fill in, again) to catch up? Consider doing that year after year since, say, elementary school. That’s been Hallie’s experience. It hasn’t made her conceited or rude, but she’s one of those people who have a finger or toe that’s always tapping. I think the actress who’s showed the potential (in Factory Girl, especially) to capture that aspect of Hallie Leland is Sienna Miller. She’s not 5-10, as Hallie is, but she’s blond, fit, smart enough to get a Ph.D. if she wanted one, and she can be sharp as a scalpel.

The second most important character in Frozen Solid is the South Pole Station Manager, Zack Graeter. He’s a retired Navy missile sub XO, early forties, about six feet tall. From the book: “He looked rude, if such a thing were possible. There was not much more to him than muscle strung over bone and wrapped in white skin. Steel-wool hair, high forehead, cheekbones like golf balls. A thin, hard mouth bent in a downward curve. His khaki pants and shirt were crisp, his black shoes and brass belt buckle polished to a sheen.”

The thing about Zack is he has to change, believably, from a fatally embittered man to one for whom the door of hope reopens, at least a crack, during the course of the novel. Fatal bitterness came from being falsely blamed for causing an accident on his boomer that killed three seamen. The sub’s captain was the real culprit, but that man was better connected and, in hallowed military tradition, the shit rolled downhill and landed on Graeter’s head. As if that weren’t enough, Graeter’s busty, lusty tart of a wife was the very model of the modern navy mate (as in marital), keeping herself awash in seamen while Graeter was fifty fathoms down for months at a time. Almost as hungry for rank as for sex, she jumped ship when the court-martial sunk Graeter’s career and landed, of all places, in the bunk of his conniving skipper.

My first thought was Eric Bana, who transformed so convincingly from human to monster and back again repeatedly in Chopper. Clive Owen, too, was a great changeling in Derailed. But then I remembered The Assassination of Jesse James, in which Brad Pitt changed from devil to angel and back again not only over the course of the film but in single scenes. For my money it was the best performance of Pitt’s career and one of the best in American film. Then I remembered The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—maybe the ultimate transformation film. Makeup and SFX had a lot to do with that work, but Pitt still was leading the pack.

Then it hit me: American Psycho’s Christian Bale. Oh yeah. Remember the screaming-hysterics-rant-confession scene where he’s on the floor in his apartment, huddling behind a couch with a police helicopter whap-whapping around outside his window while he leaves a detailed recounting of grisly homicides on his lawyer’s answering machine? And then, the next time we see him, he’s the buttoned-down, pore-cleansed, gel-washed, body-scrubbed, facially exfoliated, herb mint-facialled, smoothie-masked, eye-balmed, moisturized, single malt-sipping, Astroglide-slick executive. (Not to mention how he cut himself down to a walking skeleton for The Machinist.)

Christian Bale, meet Zack Graeter.
Learn more about the book and author at James M. Tabor's website.

Writers Read: James M. Tabor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tara Conklin's "The House Girl"

Tara Conklin is a writer and lawyer currently living with her family in Seattle, WA. Most recently, she worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes herself full-time to writing fiction.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The House Girl, her debut novel:
An audience member at a reading I gave recently in Atlanta asked me who I would you cast in a film version of The House Girl. The question totally stumped me. I blathered my way through the answer, mumbling something about Winona Ryder and Thandie Newton, choices that clearly showed I hadn’t been a regular movie-goer since, roughly, 1998. Afterwards, I asked a friend who she would like to see in a movie version of The House Girl. “Haven’t you already imagined your dream cast?” she asked. “Don’t you see your characters?” The answer is, yes, I can see them as vividly as the people sitting next to me in the coffee shop as I type this. But I do not see someone I’ve seen before. I envision my characters as wholly, completely themselves and imagining them as famous actors seems weird, almost a betrayal. Why would I want to imagine Winona Ryder when I could have the real thing, Lina Sparrow, in my brain? Still, that question in Atlanta (and participation on this blog) did start me thinking about my dream cast, and I admit that the exercise was more than a little fun. Because The House Girl contains four separate narratives, each with their own set of supporting characters, I’ve focused on casting only the main players. They are: Lina Sparrow, a 24-year old lawyer, living in 2004 New York with her eccentric artist father, trying to forge her own identity and find her own success working at a corporate law firm. Josephine Bell, a gifted artist and house slave who tends to her ailing mistress on a small tobacco farm in 1852 Virginia. Dorothea Rounds, an 18-year old white woman active on the Underground Railroad who tries to help a young, pregnant fugitive slave who comes to her house. And Caleb Harper, an alcoholic doctor working for a slave catcher who is struggling to redeem himself after a life of tragedy and waste.

For Lina, I’d cast Rooney Mara because she has that combination of strength and sadness that I see as quintessential Lina. Also, she has the right hair. For Josephine, I’ve had a tough time deciding on the right actress. I think I’d cast an unknown, someone new and amazing and hungry, as Josephine herself is hungry for a new beginning in life. If we’re looking far enough into the future (and don’t movies always take years and years to make?) I could see Quvenzhané Wallis in the role – she has such amazing presence and spirit, but she’d need a little more height before taking on Josephine. Jennifer Lawrence seems a perfect fit for Dorothea Rounds. Dorothea is young but wise beyond her years, which seems to be Jennifer Lawrence’s specialty. At one point, Josephine describes Dorothea as having ‘a face like a heart’ and I think Jennifer can pull that off. Finally, for Dr. Caleb Harper, I immediately picked the Scottish actor James McAvoy. His portrayal of Robbie Turner in Atonement struck just the right notes of tragedy, strength and passion. He’d have to put on a Southern accent for the part, but I’m confident he’d be up to the task.
Learn more about the book and author at Tara Conklin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The House Girl.

Writers Read: Tara Conklin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ted Kosmatka's "Prophet of Bones"

Ted Kosmatka is the author of the novels The Games and the recently released Prophet of Bones. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and appeared in numerous Year's Best collections.

Here Kosmatka dreamcasts an adaptation of Prophet of Bones:
For this exercise I enlisted the help of my family, who have all read the book, and we came to tense agreement about who might play the various roles. Paul Carlsson, the main character, was the hardest, so I’ll get to him last. For Paul’s father, I can see Stellan Skarsgård, from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For Paul’s mother, Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. For James, “Herpetology, mate,” I can imagine Tony Curran playing that role well. For Margaret, I can picture Phoebe Tonkin filling the part.

The role of Joseph Martial Johansson was a tough one, and I can see it going in one of several different ways. Nick Nolte  would contribute the right amount of menace. Rutger Hauer could also play the part, I think, and add some important charisma to the role. Charles Dance from Game of Thrones could provide an aloof intellectualism to the character. Any of those three would be interesting, though for very different reasons.

For Gavin McMaster, we all agreed Jon Voight would be perfect. The baby-faced Ekman could be played by Travis Fimmel, of Ragnar the Viking fame (he does a great job of playing the part of charming-but-might-kill-you). Paul’s long lost girlfriend Lillivati could be played by Reshma Shetty, of the show Royal Pains.

And last but not least, I think Paul, like Martial, could be played in one of several different ways. British actor George Young could play a great Paul, I think, if he can pull off a good American accent. Actors Sam Tan and Daniel "Cloud" Campos might also nicely fit the part.
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Kosmatka's website.

Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

The Page 69 Test: The Games.

My Book, the Movie: The Games.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jessica Soffer's "Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots"

Jessica Soffer earned her MFA at Hunter College. Her work has appeared in Granta, the New York Times, and Vogue, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Connecticut College and lives in New York City.

Here Soffer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, her debut, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.
In Apricots, I obsessed over characters’ particular, stray details, the weird ones, but I left out more overarching physical attributes. At least, I meant to. I believe in letting the reader fill in the blanks. Something fantastic happens when you’re reading and all of a sudden you realize that you’ve imagined Macbeth as the guy you see every morning at the coffee shop. That probably means that my version of Lorca (one of Apricots’ narrators) is not your Lorca. And my Victoria (another narrator) is not your Victoria. There might be mountains between us, which makes for tricky casting.

That said, I imagine Lorca as a breakthrough star. Remember Thirteen? How Evan Rachel Wood came out of nowhere and knocked our socks off? That idea—a face, a voice, a gesture that no one has seen before and has no expectations about—is what I’d hope for in a Lorca performance. I’d want to have no sense of how it could be done until it was done, and then boom. Spot on.

For Victoria, Lena Olin and Shohreh Aghdashloo come to mind, but they’d need to be made to look significantly older, and less glam. Their strength is what is attractive to me, and their takes on English, on ego, on vanity, on regret. I feel they could do all those things right. Victoria-ized. And I imagine they know what they’re doing in the kitchen, which would help.

There’s something Ron Rifkin-y about Joseph, but without the chic glasses. He’s endearing first and foremost. That’s the thing.

I’d love for Sofia Coppola to direct—of course of course of course—because she’s a master of sweetness undercut by torment. Melancholy gone awry. Endearment with a side of angst. Think: The Virgin Suicides. I love how she hits the off notes and that she hits them and they make the weirdest sound. No one else does that quite like her.

Her work (even Lost in Translation) feels more Los Angeles than Apricots, which is set in New York City and about it too, in a way. I think that has something to do with the measured charm of her characters. How they’re wringing their hands beneath the table as they’re carrying on with perfectly nice conversation. But you don’t see beneath the table until late in the game. In Apricots, there’s more wringing in plain sight, and early on. In New York City, everyone’s crying on the street. In Los Angeles, people cry in their cars. That’s the difference.

But I’d pack up the pages and move Apricots to Los Angeles in a second for Sofia. I’d move to Los Angeles in a second for Sofia. I’d move to the end of the earth, if she asked.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Soffer's website.

Writers Read: Jessica Soffer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stefan Bachmann's "The Peculiar"

Stefan Bachmann is a writer and musician. He was born in Colorado and now lives with his family in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. He began writing his acclaimed novel The Peculiar in 2010, when he was sixteen years old.

Here Bachmann shares some ideas for adapting The Peculiar for the big screen:
I remember the very first time I spoke to my editor on the phone, before The Peculiar had even sold, and she and my agent were like, "Now, Johnny Depp will play Mr. Jelliby, and Tim Burton will direct, and Danny Elfman will write the music, and Michael Bay will produce, and it will be great."

And I was like, "Uhhh."

Shockingly, neither Johnny Depp or Tim Burton probably even knows this book exists, but whatever. If they were to make the movie, I would be happy. I love Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, the updated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which most people seem to hate (Whyyy, people, it's so much fun... ), and the Gothic visuals in Sleepy Hollow. Burton and Deep are kind of the cliché pairing for vaguely creepy Victorian children's stories, but I think they would be great for this one. Johnny Depp doesn't really look at all the way I imagine Mr. Jelliby. It's Johnny Depp, though, so that's ok.

If for some unconscionable reason they didn't want to do it, Joe Wright would be awesome, too. I like basically all of his movies. They have a really great visual flair.

Bartholomew, the tragic half-faery, half-human who sets off on an adventure to solve the murders of other half-bloods (who are found floating in the rivers covered in red markings) could be played by Asa Butterfield. He might be a bit old now, but he was good in Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

The Lady in Plum, a beautiful villainess with a dark past and a sad secret, really only has about three sentences of dialogue in the entire book, so she could be played by anyone who is very tall.

As for John Wednesday Lickerish, the faery politician and main antagonist, I have no idea who would play him. He would need to be so plastered up with so much makeup and prosthetics and pointy ears, and a skull cap so that he looks bald, that whoever played him would be unrecognizable anyway. As long as his voice is windy and dark, I don't even care. He could be CGI.

And since I'm a music student and a little bit obsessed with these things, the score should be written by Dario Marianelli of Atonement / Brothers Grimm / Anna Karenina fame. Or Danny Elfman. Danny Elfman would be cool, too.
Learn more about the book and author at Stefan Bachmann's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2013

Katia Lief's "The Money Kill"

Born in France to American parents, Katia Lief moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in Massachusetts and New York. She teaches fiction writing as a part-time faculty member at the New School in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn.

Lief's Karin Schaeffer novels include You Are Next, Next Time You See Me, Vanishing Girls, and the recently released The Money Kill.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel:
The Money Kill is the fourth novel in a series, and when I previously (pretended to) cast the first two books in 2010, I chose Hilary Swank, Matt Damon and Jamie Foxx to play the lead roles. I still think they'd be terrific, but in the spirit of reinvention, I'm going to offer some alternatives for the series' latest installment.

Since great long-form television has lately proven its ability to rival the movies for high-end cinematic entertainment, and since I recently recovered from an addiction to Breaking Bad, I propose the brilliant Bryan Cranston to play my detective Mac MacLeary. If anyone can make sympathetic a man who leaves his wife for the love of another woman and still manages to be likeable and heroic, it's Cranston, who turned mild-mannered cancer-ridden Walter White into one of the most enigmatic, believable and compelling characters in all of television history.

While we're culling excellent actors from the ranks of illustrious good-parent-goes-bad drug-dealing television shows, let's cast Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds as Karin Schaeffer, my imperfect kickass investigator who teams with Mac MacLeary to do what it takes to fight crime. I have no doubt that Parker's range as an actor would capture the subtlety, intelligence, vulnerability and bravery that defines Karin Schaeffer.

In The Money Kill, Bryan Cranston and Mary-Louise Parker would get the chance to redeem their television personas by working for the right side of the law, and we would get to watch a mighty acting duo show us how it's done.

As for Detective Billy Staples, Karin and Mac's best friend and sometime partner, let's raid television's Criminal Minds to reclaim the mega-talented Forest Whitaker for the big screen. Though to be fair, I'm stretching the television theme a bit since Whitaker is an established Academy Award winning movie star. (Hey, how did he end up on TV?)
Learn more about the book and author at Katia Lief's website.

Writers Read: Katia Lief (November 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Next Time You See Me.

My Book, The Movie: Next Time You See Me.

The Page 69 Test: Vanishing Girls.

Writers Read: Katia Lief (July 2012).

Writers Read: Katia Lief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jonathan Sperber's "Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life"

Jonathan Sperber, the author of The European Revolutions, 1848–1851, is the Curators’ Professor of History at the University of Missouri. He has written extensively on the social and political history of nineteenth-century Europe.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life:
As a professor, I generally don’t think much about how my books would be on screen. To take just two examples from previous books I have written: why would Hollywood be interested in filming a scholarly monograph dominated by statistical tables with equations in the appendix, or a book based primarily on nineteenth century civil court cases? Although it is still difficult to imagine a film version of Karl Marx’s life, at least it is very faintly within the realm of possibility, so I have taken on the unfamiliar task of imagining actors in the main roles.

For the older Karl Marx, I would suggest Philip Seymour Hoffman, from his wonderful performance in The Master. Scientologists and Marxists both should rest assured: in making this suggestion, I am not asserting in any way that either their doctrines or their founders have any similarities. But Hoffman’s portrayal of a determined leader of a small group of disciples, with ideas most of society regarded as peculiar, is not unlike the position in life of the older Marx. Thinking of an actor who could play Marx as a young man proved more difficult. Ultimately my choice was Johnny Galecki: best known for his comedic role as the physicist Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory, he has also done more serious acting and would fit as the young man Karl Marx, who was both brash and reticent, privately convincing and self-assured, but publicly sometimes inarticulate.

A key role in any film about Marx’s life would be for Marx’s loyal friend, political associate, and chief disciple, Friedrich Engels. The Austrian actor Christoph Waltz would be an interesting possibility. The self-assured, arrogant and potentially violent characters he played in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained were not unlike Engels. Admittedly, Engels did not go around heavily armed and shooting people, but he did get into fist-fights with political opponents, and once, in a pub brawl in Manchester, developed legal problems, after poking someone in the eye with his umbrella. The lead female role in a Marx film would fall to his wife and life-long love Jenny von Westphalen. Michelle Dockery, who has done such a good job as the sensitive intelligent daughter of an aristocrat in Downton Abbey, would be appropriate for Jenny, who was herself very much the sensitive, intelligent offspring of an aristocratic family.
Learn more about Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lauren Roedy Vaughn's "OCD, the Dude, and Me"

Lauren Roedy Vaughn is an award-winning educator who has spent twenty years teaching English to high school students with language-based learning disabilities. Vaughn lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she is an avid yogini and Big Lebowski nut.

Here she shares her preference for the director of an adaptation of her newly released, debut novel OCD, The Dude, and Me:
I hope Stephen Chbosky is alive and well in the alternative universe where my book becomes a movie because he is someone who I think could tackle bringing OCD, The Dude, and Me to the screen with a sensitive touch. I thought he did a beautiful job directing the film version of his YA novel. Mr. Chbosky honored his target audience; many of my students gave rave reviews, stating that the writer/director understood them. I learned about The Perks of Being a Wallflower after I wrote my book. A high school student brought it to my attention because he asked me to read it in order to help him understand the book’s ending revelation. I was happy to oblige because my student (a football player) was so taken by the book. When a book resonates with my football players, I pay attention. I prefer not to offer a cast list for my pretend film. I’d like readers to envision the characters as their imaginations see fit. I’m sure the teens who read my story will be more imaginative about the casting than I could be.
Learn more about the book and author at Lauren Roedy Vaughn's website.

Writers Read: Lauren Roedy Vaughn.

The Page 69 Test: OCD, The Dude, and Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Steph Cha's "Follow Her Home"

Steph Cha is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School. She lives in her native city of Los Angeles, California.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Follow Her Home, her first novel:
Follow Her Home is a detective novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler, featuring a Korean-American female protagonist. It takes place in Los Angeles, and hard-boiled detective fiction is a genre so wrapped up with film noir that I’ve always thought of my novel in cinematic terms. Casting, however, would prove a real challenge, even in my head. I would need five Asian-American women in speaking roles. Greedy? Sure. But not if I’d said white men.

Juniper Song is a Korean-American woman in her twenties, so Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh are too old and uh, who else is on the scene? I actually had the now-deceased model Daul Kim in mind when I imagined the character – tall, skinny, with a striking, androgynous face. Brenda Song, who is adorable and small and has been in a number of things lately, could play Lori Lim, the novel’s flirty femme. I’d need a willowy beautiful teenager to play Juniper’s sister Iris Song, and an Asian woman in her forties to play her mother in flashback. Maggie Cheung could play Lori’s steely mother Yujin Chung. Actually, she’d be ideal for the role.

There is a real dearth of Asian-American actors and actresses in Hollywood, which makes my novel even less likely to be made into a movie than the next guy’s. No personal bitterness here, but I would love to see more Asian faces on big screens – and for heaven’s sake, yellowface does not count.

Moving on, though. Luke Cook, Juniper’s handsome friend and sidekick, is definitely a Ryan Gosling, so please, Mr. Gosling’s agent, tell him that for me. Latinos in Hollywood are in the same kind of boat as Asians, but I have at least one idea for Diego Díaz, Juniper’s close friend and ex-boyfriend. He is definitely a Diego Luna type – small, boyish, with a nice smile. For his wife Jackie, who’s a little bit older – Selma Blair.

Luke’s father William Cook could be played by Bryan Cranston, and for the vintage sociopath John – how about Matt Damon? He’s not too busy to play a supporting character in my fake movie, is he? Finally, I would want Enrico Colantoni for my shlubby P.I. Chaz Lindley. He’s a little trim and handsome for the role, but any excuse to use Keith Mars.

This masterpiece which is definitely getting made would be directed by David Fincher or Rian Johnson. I want atmospheric noir with clean edges, and either of those directors would be perfectly acceptable.

(Here is what Juniper Song looks like in my head.)
Learn more about Follow Her Home, and visit Steph Cha's website and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Steph Cha and Duke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2013

James Thompson's "Helsinki Blood"

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has received critical acclaim from all quarters, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was selected as one of the best novels of the year by Kirkus. Helsinki White was released to critical acclaim in 2012. The fourth book in the series, Helsinki Blood, was published in March, 2013. Thompson is also a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and holds a Master’s degree from The University of Helsinki. The first three books in his Inspector Vaara series have been optioned for film.

Here Thompson shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Helsinki Blood:
My problem with this exercise is that many of the actors I think would do a good job with characterizations in the book are the wrong ages. Also, it’s important that all the actors be intelligent, as they’ll need to absorb foreign languages to varying degrees. My protagonist is Kari Vaara. He is now, in the present, forty-four years old. He’s a complex man, intelligent, sometimes ruthless, sometimes compassionate. Matt Damon, I think possesses all the right qualities, including linguistics, and would do a good job, and is forty-two.

I can picture Jessica Alba doing a good job as Vaara’s wife. She’s beautiful, the right age, seems smart and charming, and as an actress could negotiate the difficulties of loving a man who does things she often doesn’t approve of. She also has an air about her that makes me think she would portray a good mother.

Milo and Sweetness, Vaara’s subordinates, collaborators and friends, are the problems. Milo is twenty-eight, has an extremely high IQ. He’s unpredictable and prone toward violence. I could imagine Giovanni Ribisi, Judd Nelson, or Johnny Depp in the role, but it would be difficult to portray any of them as that young.

Same with Sweetness. He’s twenty-three, huge—a monster-sized man—baby-faced, easy-going and good-natured, but extreme violence means nothing to him. No one who could pull that off comes to mind.
Learn more about the book and author at James Thompson's website and blog. Helsinki Blood is the fourth novel in the Inspector Vaara series.

The Page 69 Test: Snow Angels.

The Page 69 Test: Helsinki White.

Writers Read: James Thompson (April 2012).

My Book, The Movie: Helsinki White.

Writers Read: James Thompson.

The Page 69 Test: Helsinki Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Anita Hughes's "Market Street"

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in The Australian newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

Monarch Beach is Hughes's first novel.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her recently released second novel, Market Street:
I write very visually - I can see characters and locations when I write. Market Street is set in San Francisco. We all know San Francisco makes a wonderful backdrop for movies - Vertigo, Nine Months, Escape From Alcatraz, Milk. There is an almost endless list of great films that have been shot in San Francisco. So that would be the easiest thing to cast (and I see the location as a character itself).

The main character in Market Street is Cassie Blake - the young wife of a UC Berkeley Ethics professor who must choose between her crumbling marriage and opening a food emporium in Fenton's, her mother's high end department store. Cassie is about thirty - a bright, spunky brunette who has to navigate unfamiliar waters when she discovers her husband has been seduced by a student. I have been a huge fan of Rachel Bilson ever since I discovered her on the television series The O.C. years ago. I think it's time she made the leap to movies and she'd be excellent as Cassie!

One of my favorite characters I've ever written is Alexis, Cassie's best friend. Alexis is beautiful, wealthy but somehow very vulnerable - and she is funny, I love humor in books. Gwyneth Paltrow would make a perfect Alexis. She wears clothes fabulously and she has can portray a kind of fragility while making you laugh.

I'm not even going to try to cast the male leads - Aidan, Cassie's husband or James, the handsome architect who comes into her life. I think every female reader has her own fantasy men - so I'll leave that to their imagination!
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

Writers Read: Anita Hughes (July 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sean Ferrell's "Man in the Empty Suit"

Sean Ferrell's novels include Numb (2010) and the newly released Man in the Empty Suit.

Here he shares some suggestions for casting the lead in an adaptation of Man in the Empty Suit:
My book is about a time traveler attending a party where all the guests are him of various ages, from 18 to 70, so the audience would need to be willing to see a lot of the main actor. There are, I'm sure, many actors that people would love to see on screen for an entire film, talking to himself (literally), and being both hero and villain in every shot. But for me, there's a list of three.

First, rest in peace Heath Ledger. As I was writing the book I happened to see 10 Things I Hate About You, Brokeback Mountain, and The Dark Knight, all within a few months of each other. Mr. Ledger was able to do anything, from comic to dramatic to tragically demented, and the nature of my book, in which a man is surrounded by various versions of himself, would demand that kind of variety. I was very saddened by his death as I think he'd only begun to tap the best parts of his artistry.

Second is Robert Downey Jr., who simply exhales charm, self-loathing, and sarcastic judgment with every breath. The main character in my book doesn't like much of himself--his past or his future--and early on this is expressed with a passive-aggressive humor and exhaustion that is, I think, Mr. Downey's stock-in-trade. His verbal wit and speed of delivery would be interesting to see going against itself as the protagonist gets into verbal sparring matches with older and younger versions of himself.

Finally, I think it would be amazing to see Idris Elba play the role. You can see the wheels turning in him as he works. There's depth, and charm, and a seriousness in his work, yet there is also an effortless quality. He's a remarkable actor and I'd love to see what he would do with a my protagonist, a man who feels pinned down by both his choices and his fate.
Learn more about the book and author at Sean Ferrell's website.

The Page 69 Test: Man in the Empty Suit.

--Marshal Zeringue