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 Quvenzhan√© 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