Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kathleen Kent's "The Outcasts"

Kathleen Kent is the author of The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife. She lives in Dallas.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Outcasts:
For Lucinda Carter, the main female character who is a young prostitute fleeing her miserable life for rumored gold on the Gulf Coast of Texas, I would cast Jena Malone (who was in Hatfield & McCoys). Jena is young, beautiful, and intelligent and I think she’d have the depth to portray a woman who would stop at nothing to make a new life for herself.

For Nate Cannon, the newly minted Texas State Policeman, I would cast someone young and athletic, un-jaded, handsome but not too “pretty,” like Chace Crawford. Nate was too young to fight in the Civil War, but he is courageous and decent, so the actor who played him could not be slick, puffed up or self-conscious in a post modernist way.

Two veteran Texas Rangers, Captain George Deering and Dr. Tom Goddard, are a very important part of the story. In past movies my favorite gentleman cowboy was always Richard Farnsworth. Sadly, he is gone so for Dr. Tom I would cast, Timothy Olyphant. I loved him in Deadwood, and he can play the romancer as well as the lawman.

Kevin Costner has become an interesting character actor, so I would cast him as Deering, Dr. Tom’s older, more seasoned partner. Deering is a complicated character in that he is of the old guard of Rangers who were judges, juries and executioners in the frontier where violence was the first course of action. The Republic of Texas after the Civil War saw sweeping changes in law and order, and Deering was not a man to fit easily into that new social order.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Kent's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2013

Carrie Brown's "The Last First Day"

Carrie Brown and her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John Gregory Brown directs the College’s creative writing program.

They have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. Over the years, they have been fortunate to host many of the world’s great writers at their home, Sanctuary Cottage, and to introduce those writers and their work to hundreds of students.

Brown now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she lives at the University and works with undergraduate and graduate students in the University’s esteemed creative writing program. She and her husband travel between the two literary landscapes and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Here Brown dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Last First Day:
Much of the novel takes place at a beautiful and isolated boarding school for boys near the Maine coast. If I am invited to think about a film adaptation – may the gods bless me and keep me – I think about the novel’s setting and the brilliant quality of Northern coastal light, especially at the potent hours of dawn and dusk. I think about the light in forests, such as the one that surrounds the school in the novel, and the gleam of oak desks in darkened rooms, the crackled surface of old portraits, the green radiance of playing fields, the pewter tarnish of old trophies. I think of autumn light and spring light and winter light and …well, I think Vermeer, because what is more beautiful or beautifully lit than a Vermeer? Who could capture that on film? I don’t know. The novel is ruminative, quiet, the story of a long marriage. It is a story of devotion and happiness but also regret and loneliness and inevitable loss. Light -- and dark -- seem important to a story as deeply interior as this one. The score would be classical, I think. Piano mostly. Perhaps Fanny Mendelshon’s Das Jahr.

The novel follows the two main characters over their long lifetime together, so it would be a neat trick to cast actors. A talented make-up artist would be required. A good deal of the novel, however, occurs when Ruth and Peter, the couple at the novel’s center, are in what people sometimes carefully refer to as the “advancing years.” For Ruth, a friend suggests Julie Christie, based on her performance as the wife with dementia in Away From Her, the film adaptation of Alice Munro’s story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Or Meryl Streep for her combination of fragility, strength, humor, dignity, intelligence… and her extrasensory ability to convey a closely held, tragic secret, which is Ruth’s great burden in the novel. Also, my god; those cheekbones…

An actor with great kindness but not foolishness in his face -- though a degree of innocence -- should play Peter. I’m no good at this, I’m afraid. In my next life, I will watch more movies. I would have said Gregory Peck, but as we know, he is occupied making all the angels fall in love with him.
Learn more about the book and author at Carrie Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nicola Phillips's "The Profligate Son"

Nicola Phillips is an expert in gender history, and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Politics at Kingston University, she is also the Course Director of the History MA at Kingston. Phillips gained her PhD in history at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2001, and her first book was on women in business from 1700 to 1850. Her research focuses on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century gender, work, family conflict, and criminal and civil law.

Here Phillips dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, The Profligate Son: Or, A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice, and Financial Ruin in Regency Britain:
When I first started researching The Profligate Son almost everyone I told about the amazingly dramatic, but unpublished, three volume ‘diary’ it was based on, thought it must be a work of fiction. So naturally, while my long days in the archive were taken up with forensic research to check its veracity, my evenings were often passed in pleasant discussions of ‘who would play the key characters’ if the book ever became a movie.

The lead character is of course the Profligate Son himself, William Jackson, a slight but handsome lad with hazel eyes and brown hair, who was equally capable of exuding great charm and practicing shocking deceit. The actor who plays William would need to be convincing as a carefree, popular public schoolboy of 16 and then portray the corrosive physical and mental effects of a dissipated lifestyle, frequent imprisonment, and mounting disillusion, until his tragic death at the age of 35. Six years ago, when I started writing this book, I thought a young looking David Tennant (Dr Who) would be perfect for the part, but who would I choose now? I think Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe has boyish charm and an ability to portray dark brooding emotion; or, perhaps the talented Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man).

The other lead character is William’s father, Mr. Jackson, a wealthy but financially prudent East India Company merchant. He was a socially ambitious man possessed of an unshakeable moral certainty in the rightness of his own actions, and a fierce sense of personal injustice. He loved his precious only son but believed his prime duty as a father was to educate and discipline William. As a result, he was almost incapable of displaying either affection or approval. The emotional cost of his failure to control William and his fear of social disgrace was the onset of a creeping paralysis of his limbs. I think Ralph Fiennes (The Duchess) could portray this most disappointed of fathers with aplomb.

William’s mother, Jane Jackson, adored her errant son and worried constantly about his health and safety. Yet she was compelled to cut him off from her affection (sometimes by her husband) in a fruitless attempt to stop his bad behaviour. These resolutions never lasted long, however, and she found ways to secretly help William when he was in prison. On the surface, Jane was elegant, obedient and reserved - a model of wifely propriety. Yet her third husband (she buried two but never lacked suitors) described her as ‘hot and passionate’ and she was a talented artist. I think the superb Kristin Scott Thomas could turn in a powerful performance of a woman with hidden depths who lost her husband and her son, but retained her passion for life.

Two other key characters in William’s life were his uncles, Sir George Shee and John Evelyn, both of whom were former East India Company employees. For a long time John Evelyn called William his favourite nephew. He was a gentle natured, kind man, who followed a less stringent moral code than Jackson – he had an illegitimate son with his Indian mistress – and saw more good than bad in William. Sir George Shee rose furthest in society, as a baronet and member of parliament, but he too had got trouble in his youth and consequently viewed William’s early misdemeanours with greater understanding. I think Colin Firth (a consummate English gentleman) should play Evelyn, and Clive Owen the more powerful George Shee, who support the Jacksons through their family tragedy.
Learn more about the book and author at Nicola Phillips's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mary-Rose MacColl's "In Falling Snow"

Mary-Rose MacColl's first novel, No Safe Place, was a runner-up for the Australian Vogel literary award. Her first non-fiction book, The Birth Wars, was a finalist for the Walkley Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, and Banff, Canada, with her husband and young son.

Here MacColl dreamcasts an adaptation of In Falling Snow, her North American debut:
Oh, what a lovely thing to while away some time on!

With the main story set during World War I, In Falling Snow would make a great film, not least because this was such an iconic time in our history and because it has such great roles for women.

There’s Iris and Violet of course, 21 and 25, respectively, during World War I and full of such wonderful idealism, both still so spirited by the late 1970s when they are in their eighties. There’s surgeon and chief Miss Frances Ivens and the other doctors at Royaumont Hospital, and then in the 70s, there’s Grace, a 39-year-old obstetrician with three children. I didn’t have a film in mind while I wrote the novel but I can see the film so clearly, down to the dust motes in a ray of light at the start of the Royaumont scenes, and the snow when Iris arrives at the old abbey. And the scenes at Royaumont as a hospital, oh, they’d be marvellous.

In the present story set in the 1970s, old Iris would have to be played by Meryl Streep, I think, or Dame Judi Dench, to have the presence for the role. For young Iris in World War I, I’d probably have trouble selecting between Abbie Cornish and Mia Wasikowska. And young Violet could be played by Kate Winslet who’s just wonderful.

Grace is Cate Blanchett or Naomi Watts, such strong female leads. Grace’s husband David is George Clooney (with the added plus that he started out playing a doctor on ER) or Matt Damon (who I just love). This is sounding like a film I’ll go and see! Oh, and Ewan McGregor would be Dugald McTaggart, of course. He may have been a cad but he was a likeable cad.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary-Rose MacColl's website, and follow MacColl on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Douglas E. Richards's "The Cure"

Douglas E. Richards is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Wired and its sequel, Amped. Richards has a master's degree in molecular biology (a.k.a.“genetic engineering”), and was a biotechnology executive for many years.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Cure:
If they were to make The Cure into a film, I believe Scarlett Johansson would be an ideal choice to play the lead, Erin Palmer. Before I explain why, a brief description of Erin from the book’s jacket should prove useful:
Erin Palmer had a devastating encounter with a psychopath as a child. Now a grad student and scientist, she's devoting her life to studying these monsters. When her research catches the attention of Hugh Raborn, a brilliant neuroscientist who claims to have isolated the genes responsible for psychopathic behavior, Erin realizes it may be possible to reverse the condition, restoring souls to psychopaths. But to do so, she'll not only have to operate outside the law, but violate her most cherished ethical principles.

As Erin becomes further involved with Raborn, she begins to suspect that he harbors dark secrets. Is he working for the good of society? Or is he intent on bringing humanity to its knees?

Hunted by powerful, shadowy forces, Erin teams up with another mysterious man, Kyle Hansen, to uncover the truth. The pair soon find themselves pawns in a global conspiracy—one capable of destroying everything Erin holds dear. And forever altering the course of human history...
So why would Scarlett Johansson make a fantastic Erin Palmer? Erin’s graduate work involves her going into a prison and conducting brain scans on known psychopathic murderers and rapists, scenes I took directly from a fascinating conversation I had with Dr. Mike Koenigs at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, who actually does this in real life. Erin is described as having enormous appeal to the opposite sex, and while some might find Scarlett Johansson unappealing, many more find her irresistible (count me among this crowd).

When my character, Erin Palmer, goes into the prison, however, she has to make herself as hideous as possible, wearing drab clothing to hide her figure, wrapping her chest up with gauze tape, etc (since the last thing she wants is to be irresistibly appealing to psychopathic rapists). I believe Johansson, as appealing as she is, could make herself look pretty hideous if she set her mind to it. Finally, Erin is a strong character who is bright, professional, extremely competent, and capable of handling herself well, both physically and mentally, in desperate circumstances, all characteristics that I know Johansson can nail as an actress. Let’s face it, I had no idea who Natasha Romanoff was, and how she fit into The Avengers universe, before Johansson took the role, and now I find Natasha Romanoff to be one of the movie’s most memorable characters.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas E. Richards’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Valerie Miner's "Traveling with Spirits"

Valerie Miner is the award-winning author of fourteen books. Her new novel is Traveling with Spirits. Other novels include After Eden, Range of Light, A Walking Fire, Winter’s Edge, Blood Sisters, All Good Women, Movement: A Novel in Stories, and Murder in the English Department. Her short fiction books include Abundant Light, The Night Singers and Trespassing. Her collection of essays is Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews and Reportage.

Here Miner dreamcasts an adaptation of Traveling with Spirits:
Oh yes, the movie. Or the mini-series. Well, I’m not holding out much hope. One of my novels, A Walking Fire, was optioned for a film, but eventually the director couldn’t get funding for it. “Not enough action,” the potential backers sighed. Now, this is a book in which a woman is arrested on the felony murder rule, a man is killed in a fire; another man dies. The novel digs deeply into questions of family loyalty and betrayal. And it’s a contemporary revision of King Lear, set in the U.S. during the War in Southeast Asia. Oh, war, did I mention there is war, as well, in this book that doesn’t have enough action?

Well, Traveling with Spirits is a literary novel following a character’s growth of consciousness, but it’s also about death, grief, romance, deep friendship, political intrigue. Seems to me it would make a great film—especially with the back and forth stories from Delhi to Minneapolis to Moorty, an Indian Hill Station. So let’s be optimistic and dream on about the film or the mini-series. When the movie of Traveling with Spirits is made, I see these people as the ideal cast:

Dr. Monica Murphy--Amy Ryan—she would convey the right balance of passion, reserve, self-reflection and sexiness.

Beata Johnson--Audra McDonald—she’s could play Monica’s powerful, beautiful best friend.

Marie Murphy--Ellen Burstyn would do a wonderful job portraying the good and complicated character of Monica’s immigrant Irish mother.

Sudha Badami--Nandita Das would be brilliant as the self-confident, generous, funny, loyal friend of Monica in Moorty, who has given up the lights of Bombay to teach in a small rural school.

Dr. Ashok Nair-- Irrfan Khan would offer nuance to the complex philosophy professor who courts (and perhaps wins over) the reluctant Monica.

Jeanne Murphy—Rosie O’Donnell would be great as Monica’s troubled, sassy younger sister.

Raul Sanchez—Javier Bardem would offer Monica’s Argentinean medical colleague the required combination of smoldering intelligence, hot-headed self-determination and deep concern for his patients.

Kevin Walsh—John Lithgow can play cantankerous. A perfect choice.

Brigid Walsh—Sally Field would be splendid as Kevin’s wife.

Father Daniel—Art Malik would be great as the Goan priest. I’ve been in love with Malik since The Jewel and the Crown.

I’d love to see the film directed by Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta or Sofia Coppola. I could also see it as a four part series. On with the dreaming.
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Miner's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Valerie Miner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jeff Somers's "Chum"

Jeff Somers was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and regrets nothing. He is the author of the Avery Cates series of novels published by Orbit Books and The Ustari Cycle books Trickster and Fabricator (Pocket Books). He sold his first novel at age 16 to a tiny publisher in California which quickly went out of business and has spent the last two decades assuring potential publishers that this was a coincidence. Somers publishes a zine called The Inner Swine and has also published a few dozen short stories; his story “Ringing the Changes” was selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2006, edited by Scott Turow and his story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” appeared in the anthology Crimes by Moonlight, published by Berkley Hardcover and edited by Charlaine Harris.

Here Somers dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Chum:
The problem with casting your book is that Hollywood pre-selects for gorgeous, and none of my characters as conceived, with a few exceptions, are that good-looking. Probably because they’re all based on me in some way.

I never actually think about casting my book as I write and don’t have actors in mind as I create characters. Sometimes I use an actor as a physical template, but that’s not quite the same thing. After the book is done, though, it’s a lot of fun. I always imagine Chum as a POV film, where each sequence is shot from the POV of the character. I have no idea if that would be a good idea in practice, because I don’t make movies for a living.

We also have to get one thing straight: If someone pays me, say, three or four of those big bags marked with a green dollar sign in exchange for the film rights, they can cast whoever they want. They can cast Justin Bieber and all five of the One Direction kids and make it into a musical. They can cast Miley Cyrus in the male lead if they toss a few more bags onto the pile. I’ve heard of authors who have something referred to as “artistic integrity.” I do not know and do not wish to know what that is. I have a taste for top-shelf liquor and if Corey Haim sees Chum as his comeback vehicle and backs a dump truck full of gold coins onto my lawn, the movie is his.

Still, for fun: Let’s see ... the protagonist is Henry, no last name given. Henry’s a bit of a dummy and imagines he’s a good guy right up until the universe teaches him otherwise. I think Ryan Gosling has the right perplexed expression on his face for this character, though he’s likely too good-looking. We could tweeze off some hair, though, and get him into the zone.

For the evil plotting drink-stirring straw of the book, Tom Wallace, I see Tom Hardy if he can chisel the accent off. His voice is ideal, and as long as he’d be willing to also chisel off some muscles and do a Raging Bull turn with his belly, we’d be in business.

The other main male character, Dave “Bick” Bickerman, is touchy, as he’s not presented as a good-looking guy, is easily an alcoholic, and is kind of unlikable. Obviously this is a job for a slightly younger Joel McHale. Or maybe we could pass of McHale’s age as the effects of a lifestyle that would kill mortal men.

For the women of the book, I see Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an ideal Denise. She’s pretty and sarcastic but in a very unthreatening way. And for the dually doomed Harrows sisters, Mary and Miriam, I think the Fanning sisters would be great. By the time a film version got off the ground Elle Fanning would likely be the precise right age.

Then again, if producers came to me and said Brad Pitt wanted to see if he could still play a 30-year old, I’d be too busy bathing in a tub filled with gold coins to care.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Somers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yona Zeldis McDonough's "Two of a Kind"

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels A Wedding in Great Neck, Breaking the Bank, In Dahlia's Wake, and The Four Temperaments, as well as numerous books for children.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Two of a Kind:
Oh, what fun it is for writers to visualize actors bringing their characters to life; I do it all the time and know other writers do too. For the leads in Two of a Kind, I’d love to have seen either of the Hepburns—Katharine or Audrey—play Christina Connelly because both have the slender grace and poise that the character possesses. Jumping to the present, I’d go for Alicia Silverstone—she has the right delicate, refined features. For Andy Stern, I’d like to see Chris Meloni from Law and Order SVU because he has that scrappy nature and slightly rough edge that I think is essential to the character. Andy’s 80+ mother makes an appearance in the book and for her, I’d love to see Ruth Gordon or Ellen Burstyn--both sassy, gutsy ladies. Since there are also two teenagers who have major roles in this book, I am seeing Jeremy White (Shameless) for Oliver; love that kid! For Jordan, I imagine the lovely and ethereal Dakota Fanning.
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie, Willa and Holden.

The Page 69 Test: A Wedding in Great Neck.

Writers Read: Yona Zeldis McDonough.

My Book, The Movie: A Wedding in Great Neck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2013

Renee Swindle's "Shake Down The Stars"

Renee Swindle is the author of the novels Shake Down The Stars and Please Please Please.

She earned her BA from UC Irvine and MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University, and now lives in Oakland, California with her two dogs and three cats.

Here Swindle dreamcasts an adaptation of Shake Down The Stars:
Shake Down The Stars involves a woman who is stuck in life. She can’t stay away from her ex-husband. She isn’t attentive to the high school students she teaches. And she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But Piper has suffered from an unimaginable blow: five years ago, a car accident took the life of her young daughter.

When Piper’s ex-husband announces his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone. Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most…and show her how to live and laugh again. There’s actually a lot of laughter in the book, by the way.

I realized as I dreamt up the cast for Shake Down the Stars that I didn’t know young Hollywood all that much. I had to call on friends to help me find the best actors and actresses to audition. We ultimately came up with a sexy cast, and now all I want is for everyone to visualize someone in Hollywood buying the rights to my novel. Let’s make this happen, people! It would be great to see a cast like this come to life!

Piper: Gabrielle Union.

Spencer: Omari Hardwick (The A-Team, Kick Ass, Middle of Nowhere).

Selwyn: Kevin Hart.

Margot: Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries).

Curtis (Margot’s fiancé): Brian J. White (The Cabin in the Woods, Good Deeds).

Piper's mother: Angela Basset.

Piper’s stepfather, The Reverend: Courtney B. Vance (who’s coincidentally married to Angela Bassett).

Danielle (Margot’s best friend): Megan Fox.

Sharayray (student): Kyla Pratt (My friend pointed Kyla Pratt out to me. I think she’d be great.)

Tisa (Spencer’s girlfriend): Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights, Temptation).

Mr. Hoffman: Dustin Hoffman (I imagined Dustin Hoffman while writing the character, hence naming him “Hoffman”).

Coco: Octavia Spencer.

Clem: Susan Sarandon or if played younger Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights/Nashville).

Gladys (school principal): Loretta Devine.
Learn more about the book and author at Renee Swindle's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Renee Swindle & Mocha and Nikki.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Catherine Gilbert Murdock's "Heaven Is Paved with Oreos"

Catherine Gilbert Murdock grew up on a small farm in Connecticut and now lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, two brilliant unicycling children, several cats, and a one-acre yard that she is slowly transforming into a wee, but flourishing ecosystem. She is the author of several books, including the popular Dairy Queen series starring lovable heroine D. J. Schwenk, Princess Ben, and Wisdom's Kiss.

About her new novel, Heaven Is Paved with Oreos, from the publisher:
Fourteen-year-old Sarah Zorn intends to spend the Wisconsin summer with her “boyfriend” Curtis, waiting for a dead calf named Boris to decompose in time for the science fair. Her plans upend, however, when her fake-boyfriend strategy goes seriously awry just as her hippie Grandma Z invites her on a last-minute Roman holiday. As Sarah explores Italy’s ancient wonders, she can’t stop “boy-liking” Curtis ... or puzzling over her grandmother’s odd behavior. Written as Sarah’s journal, this satisfying middle grade novel navigates the murky waters of first love, friendship, and family with heart and good humor.
Here Murdock dreamcasts an adaptation of Heaven Is Paved with Oreos:
Ooooh, who would play my characters in a movie ... I love this.

Sarah would be played by a girl I met in Madison, Wisconsin, about four years ago. She's too old for the part now, and of course she's not a household name, but she had this wide-eyed wonder about the world, and writing, that I found absolutely charming. Think of an extremely young and innocent Heather Graham.

Z could be any number of amazing actresses of a certain age ... Diane Keaton, perhaps? This question is much harder than I thought it would be!

I do know one thing: Skandar Keynes would play Tips in Wisdom's Kiss, my last book. I'm pretty sure I wrote the part with him in mind.
Learn more about the book and author at Catherine Gilbert Murdock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013

Joshua Safran's "Free Spirit"

Joshua Safran is an attorney, writer, speaker, and occasional rabbi, and was featured in the award-winning documentary Crime After Crime, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and had its television debut as part of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)'s Documentary Film Club. He is a nationally recognized champion for women's rights and a zealous advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. For his work he has received national media coverage and numerous awards. He lives in Oakland, California.

Here Safran shares some ideas about an adaptation of his new book, Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid:
Like most everything I do, I went about writing my first book all backwards. First came the film, then the book. Sort of. The 2011 documentary Crime After Crime profiled my seven-year struggle to free a battered woman from prison. The film premiered at Sundance and had its television debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network. In one scene in Crime After Crime I talk about my own experiences with domestic violence as a kid and how overcoming that adversity led me to devote myself to pro bono work. The film also explores the strength that I draw from my Jewish faith. My book Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid is very much a back story to those scenes, telling the story of how my feminist radical mother ended up married to a violent alcoholic guerrilla fighter/shaman/poet, how we survived the years of abuse at his hands, and my unlikely reconnection with my Jewish heritage in the process. The book also brings readers on a journey through my years of hitchhiking across the American west with my mother, chasing her vision of an anarcho-syndicalist utopia, and encountering strange and outlandish characters along the way.

In preparation for my September 10, 2013 book launch, I teamed up with the producer and director of Crime After Crime, Yoav Potash, to create a short Hollywood-style film about the book. We were very fortunate to find an amazing cast and crew and filmed about 50 reenactments from my childhood in August. It was very surreal casting and directing actors to play my childhood-self, but we were blessed to find two child actors – Yonim Schweig and his brother Daniel – who perfectly captured the character and naturally fit the part at different ages. We also found uncannily talented actors who fully inhabited the roles of my mother (Jenn Tripp), stepfather (Xavier Galindo), and "Uncle" Tony (Mario de Alba), as well as a whole galaxy of stellar supporting performers. Our actors' were so talented that I found myself re-experiencing childhood wonder as I watched myself and my mother cuddling with lambs in the back of a pickup truck, and I found it very difficult to watch the domestic violence scenes as my stepfather brutalized my mother all over again.

I believe that using this type of short film to promote a book is the first of its kind and hope that it will allow audiences to connect with the stories and characters from the book at a deeper level. I would love to evolve our short film project into a feature-length movie. I would also love to team up with Jenji Kohan to produce a multi-season television series based on my childhood. She is uniquely qualified since she specializes in showcasing counter-cultural women leads like my mother and shares the same blend of humor and heartbreak that flows through my writing, and she is a master of blending the dark side of the Age of Aquarius with Judaism.
View still images from the Free Spirit short film: showing Young Joshua (Yonim Schweig) how to operate the rifle for the final confrontation with Joshua's stepfather; setting up a reenactment of the 1982 Rainbow Gathering in Idaho with Very Young Joshua (Daniel Schweig), Prophet Gregory (Keith Carlisle), with the real Joshua Safran as an extra and Butterfly (Melita Silberstein) in the background; directing Stepfather Leopoldo (Xavier Galindo) from a sinking paddleboat with Young Joshua (Yonim Schweig) in the foreground. All photos by Jaime Lastimosa.

Learn more about the book and author at Joshua Safran's website.

The Page 99 Test: Free Spirit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2013

April Genevieve Tucholke's "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"

April Genevieve Tucholke digs classic movies, red-headed villains, big kitchens, and discussing murder at the dinner table. She and her husband Nate Pedersen live in Oregon at the edge of a forest.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea:
I haven’t actually done this yet. Cast my characters. Not even in my mind, during an idle moment while waiting in line or staring out a car window. But there’s no time like the present…

Violet: Hailee Steinfeld. She isn’t blond and blue-eyed like my main character, but who cares. She has Violet’s wide-eyed, quiet depth. I loved this girl in True Grit. She just blew me away.

Neely. The laughing brother with the temper and the heart of gold: Anton Yelchin. He rocked his role in both J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek movies, but it was his riveting gravitas in Terminator Salvation that killed me.

Brodie: A friend recently pointed out to me that Caleb Landry Jones (Friday Night Lights, Antiviral) would make the perfect Brodie. He somehow looks innocent and terrifying at the same time. Eddie Redmayne would also fit the bill to a T, if he were a bit younger.

And River. The charming liar. Aaron Taylor-Johnson. I’ve had my eye on Aaron since he played the younger version of Edward Norton’s magician character in The Illusionist. Just watch him in this REM video.  There’s something about the cocky, crazy, vulnerable look in his eyes that is just so River. Yeah, this kid. He’s got the sparks. All of them.
Learn more about the book and author at April Genevieve Tucholke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mary Kay Zuravleff's "Man Alive!"

Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of The Bowl Is Already Broken, which the New York Times praised as “a tart, affectionate satire of the museum world’s bickering and scheming,” and The Frequency of Souls, which the Chicago Tribune deemed “a beguiling and wildly inventive first novel.” Honors for her work include the American Academy’s Rosenthal Award and the James Jones First Novel Award, and she has been nominated for the Orange Prize.

Here Zuravleff dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Man Alive!:
In atmospherics alone, Man Alive! is a natural for the big screen. As a fast-moving storm closes in on the beach, the novel opens with Dr. Owen Lerner being struck by lightning as he puts a quarter in the parking meter on his family's last night of vacation. The child psychiatrist is literally thrown into the air; however, aside from his searing pain, Dr. Lerner is enamored of his experience. In fact, all he wants to do now is barbecue, in hopes of capturing the heavenly smell that he associates with the moment he was struck.

Owen's wife, Toni, and their three children are desperate for him to be himself once again, but he's not convinced he should be medicating kids the way he used to. And as it happens, now he exhibits many of the problems he's known for treating, because people recovering from lightning have problems with ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and traits associated with autism. How far can he drift from his past life before everything falls apart?

Because the novel reveals the fragile eco-system of family life, I pick Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton as the movie's directors. Who better than a married couple to dramatize Toni and Owen's struggle? This team's brilliant Little Miss Sunshine wrings the same painful humor from family life that I'm trying to capture.

Robert Downey Jr., if he is willing to gain a few pounds, is my choice for Owen, a wry and wise shrink to kids and teens. (There would be added value in his possibly knowing about the many drugs Dr. Lerner dispenses.) Also, I recently heard Downey sing! Owen is a soundtrack fan, so there may have to be singing.

Either Mary-Louise Parker or Parker Posey should play Toni Lerner, an attractive renegade who is devoted to family over lifestyle or status. Her straight-talking approach, while never sarcastic, can sometimes seem flip--Toni is to the other mothers as these actresses are to slick Hollywood types. Smoky-voiced Chloë Grace Moretz, Jack Donaghy's nemesis on 30 Rock, is how I see Brooke, the Lerners's smart teenage daughter who, feeling completely ignored in the wake of her father's accident, enters a dangerous relationship with a fellow-gymnast named Natalio (take a look at Diego González-Boneta). Brooke's older brothers, identical twins at two different colleges, get into their own heartbreaking trouble. Based solely on his appearance (which I suppose I'm allowed to do), Jeremy Sumpter is the tall, surfer-dude math nerds Will and Ricky, whose birth order is flipped when the younger twin is the one who revives their dad. Ricky's mythology professor is up for grabs, as is Will's voluptuous girlfriend, Kyra, who may or may not have had sex with Owen.

With music by T-Bone Burnett & company. I'd not only see the movie but also buy the soundtrack.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Kay Zuravleff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dale M. Kushner's "The Conditions of Love"

Dale M. Kushner grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey, but the forested landscape of her adopted state, Wisconsin, is an inspiration. The natural world, Carl Jung, and Buddhism have been major influences on her work. She is on the faculty of The Assisi Institute, a Jungian think-tank in Vermont and will become the Poetry Editor for The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling in the fall of 2013. Her most recent collection of poetry, More Alive Than Lions Roaring, is currently looking for a home.

Here Kushner dreamcasts an adaptation of The Conditions of Love, her debut novel:
Once upon a time, movies shaped my education. Fiction held first place as a guide to life’s vicissitudes, but the classic movies of the thirties, forties, and fifties I watched repeatedly on our old Admiral TV. The actors of those films had a presence that refused to fade after the movie ended. Their characters and the situations they managed were archived in my mind as cautionary tales to be revisited when the occasion arose. Mern, one of my central characters in The Conditions of Love, is also infatuated with movie stars. Her greatest ambition is to go to Hollywood (the Hollywood of the fifties) and be discovered at Schwab’s drugstore like Lana Turner. One of my favorite lines in the novel is when she tells a friend, “Why be Betty Crocker when you can be Betty Bacall?”

With nostalgia in mind, here are my choices for actors to play in a film version of my novel.

For Eunice, my narrator, as a young girl, Natalie Wood as a child star. Eunice in her older years, Lauren Bacall.

As Mern, Eunice’s quirky and sometime malicious mother, Shelley Winters age 25.

As Eunice’s charming and dangerous father, Frankie, a young Frank Sinatra.

As Rose, the mysterious woman who rescues Eunice, Colleen Dewhurst or Ida Lupino.

As Sam, Mern’s devoted boyfriend, Karl Malden.

As Fox, Eunice’s older lover, Richard Burton in his youth.

Happily, there have been some film folks sniffing at the book and if anyone’s looking, here are some contemporary actors I think would be smashing in the film:

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Mern.

Daniel Day Lewis as Fox. (If only Jeremy Irons was a tad younger!)

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Sam.

Juliette Binoche as Rose.

John Hawkes as Frankie.

Young Eunice, Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men fame; the older Eunice, Naomi Watts.

It’s been great to have the opportunity to imagine characters I love embodied on film. Mern is over-the-moon happy about the attention.
Learn more about the book and author at Dale Kushner's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Dale M. Kushner.

The Page 69 Test: The Conditions of Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eric Gansworth's "If I Ever Get Out of Here"

Eric Gansworth is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. An enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, he was born and raised at the Tuscarora Reservation in Niagara County in upstate New York. His short stories, poetry, and nonfiction have been printed and reprinted in many literary magazines and anthologies, and his dramatic work has appeared at the Public Theater in New York City.

Here Gansworth dreamcasts an adaptation of his new YA novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here:
There seem to be many things against the realistic possibility, so I’m going to have to go into total fantasy-land for this one. This novel, adapted, would need to have an indie film aesthetic with a Michael Bay budget. So in my fantasy-land, all the Beatles and Paul McCartney music has been cleared for inclusion, as I can’t see it without those songs meaningfully in place. McCartney would also give permission for excerpts of his concert film, Rockshow, for the Wings concert scene. Even the choice of actors would be tricky. The tradition seems to be having child actors play child characters, but then, strangely, twentysomething actors are often cast to play high school age characters. Certainly, plenty of actors manage. Michael Angarano was a believable high school student in the adaptation of Stewart O’Nan’s Snow Angels, and he was twenty at the time.

I think we’ve been trained by popular culture to accept young looking adults are credible teens. Most of us don’t have occasion to jump back into that environment in the midst of an average school day. But when I was writing this novel, I visited some friends who teach at my old high school. I’m not an especially tall man--okay, in fact, I’m short. Yet, while walking those halls, I felt incredibly tall. The sensation made me realize that, when I was fourteen, fifteen, maybe even seventeen, I thought I looked like an adult.

This is mystifying in retrospect. I suppose the delusion sustains because all of our peers are, more or less, the same size, and we reject the visual information that teachers, parents, older siblings, are much larger than we are. So maybe that self-delusion allows us to accept the casting of thirty year olds as high school students. Consequently, I’m not sure I can even imagine what sort of actors would be perfect. I’d want Lewis and George to seem worldly and vulnerable at the same time, vividly present but also appropriately diminutive, not as in control of their worlds as they’d like.

Even if none of those things were possible, if each permission were refused, and all the available actors were over thirty, I still think Atom Egoyan would make an amazing film. He has this incredible ability to make narratively challenging films that, in their stylistic inventiveness--perhaps because of that boldness--they get to the truths of the stories. Also, he’s from Toronto, and deals with the snowy north in such a way that you could watch one of his winter scenes in August and still feel slightly hypothermic. His adaptation of Russell BanksThe Sweet Hereafter is by no means a literal translation, and yet, for all its divergences from the novel, the changes he made added to my understanding of its richness and complexity. I’d love to see the David Lynch or David Cronenberg version, to witness the horrifying subtext I’m maybe not even aware of, but Egoyan’s particular lens of isolated rural life and disconnection, even among the closest of relations, to me, would be the perfect refractor for this novel’s heart.
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Gansworth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue