Friday, February 28, 2014

Justin Gustainis's "Known Devil"

Justin Gustainis is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002. His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993. The Hades Project, his first novel, was released to rave reviews in 2003. Other books include the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations novels.

Here Gustainis dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Known Devil:
Adapting my “Haunted Scranton” series (Hard Spell, Evil Dark, and Known Devil), or any part thereof, as a movie would present several challenges. The biggest of these would be getting the tone right. Although the books contain moments of humor (at least, I hope they do), the overall tone is deadly serious. In the alternate universe where the series is set, all the monsters from your nightmares are real: vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, ghouls – the whole crew. It’s true, not all of them act like monsters, but the danger is ever-present. Being a cop in a world like that, especially a cop like Stan Markowski, who specializes in supernatural crimes, would be stressful, indeed. Some years back, there was a short-lived TV series called Special Unit 2 that had cops dealing with supernaturals – but it tipped the balance in favor of farce much too often, in my opinion. On the other hand, True Blood mostly gets the attitude right, but it lacks the police procedural element that is central to my books.

And, of course, you’d have to shoot the exteriors in Scranton. The city is as much a character in my books as any of the humans (or non-humans, for that matter).

If some Hollywood producer ever had the good taste to adapt my novels into a series of movies, these are the casting recommendations I’d make:

Stan Markowski -- the late Jack Webb was sort of the inspiration for Stan, but the character of Joe Friday is utterly lacking in both humor and a sense of irony. That’s not Stan. Karl Malden, in his Streets of San Francisco days, would have been pretty good, too. Among working actors, I’d pick James Spader. He would never have seemed right to me for the role until I saw him this season in The Blacklist. The way he approaches the character of “Red” Reddington tells me he’d be great as Stan.

Karl Renfer – casting Stan’s vampire partner (who doesn’t start out the series as undead) is tricky. Fifteen years ago, Christian Slater would have been perfect. Since he’s too old, I’d be inclined to go with a clean shaven Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide in True Blood.

Christine Markowski – Stan’s vampire daughter is a relatively small, but crucial role. I’d give it to Ellen Page, who received an Academy Award nomination for Juno.

Rachel Procter – the role of the police department’s consulting witch would be well-filled by Kerri Russell. She’s been doing some good work as a Russian undercover operative in The Americans.

Finally, the role of Stan’s hamster, Quincey should be played by my hamster Max.
Learn more the book and author at Justin Gustainis' website.

The Page 69 Test: Known Devil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Michelle Wildgen's "Bread and Butter"

Michelle Wildgen is the author of the novels Bread and Butter, You’re Not You, and But Not For Long. The film adaptation of You’re Not You, a New York Times’ Editor’s Choice and one of People Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2006, stars Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum. Wildgen’s work includes fiction, essays, reviews, and food writing. She is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, and an executive editor at the literary magazine Tin House. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here Wildgen dreamcasts an adaptation of Bread and Butter:
The first thing that would probably be jettisoned in making Bread and Butter a film would be the family tendency toward red hair. I mean, there are only so many out there. But I can try.

The oldest of the three brothers, Leo, is the sort who might take a few glances to see the attraction: reserved, a little serious, a little hard to know, a little rumpled. Oh, wait--actually, this is easy: Louis CK. He’s brilliant, unpredictable, perfect for Leo, and he and I have been looking for a project to do together. (Note: This last part is not actually true.)

Britt is the handsome, stylish middle brother, one of those annoying people who is always more chic than anyone else even though you can’t put your finger on why. Paul Bettany is cool—literally, I mean, with the pale hair and icy eyes—but also witty and acerbic in a distinctly non-cuddly way. You also get the feeling that man wears the hell out of a good suit.

I picture the youngest brother Harry as tall, rangy, bearded, bespectacled, noticeably intent and intelligent. Ever since I began this book, I’ve had the vague sense that he resembles someone I know in real life, but not till I sat down to write this do I realize who it is: my old friend from Bread Loaf, Austin Bunn, writer of the much-lauded indie film Kill Your Darlings. Austin, I had no idea you’d haunted me this way, but clearly you did, and I hope you’re ready to give acting a try.

The executive chef of Leo and Britt’s restaurant is the formidable Thea: skilled, stern, the epitome of the boss who does. not. fuck. around. She’s usually funny, and I think she’d still have the glimmer of it here, but Frances McDormand would also have the intensity. I could see her rolling out of bed, putting her hair in a bun, and running that line like a beast. Also, she looks like an actual person, and nothing ruins a character like having her played by someone all smoothed out and flat and shiny. I think she could handle the hard work of the kitchen, and plus, I like to cast Frances McDormand in all of my imaginary movies.

Finally, there’s Camille, whom both Harry and Britt pursue at different points. In creating her I had in mind one of Laurie Colwin’s great characters, the sort whose surface is so precise that her messy human vulnerabilities and desires come as a bit of a shock. Rebecca Hall has that sultry low voice and she can seem either statuesque and stunning or very approachable, and part of Camille’s draw is that she’s more perfectly put together than unshakably lovely. Hall’s gorgeous, but she’s also just plain interesting to look at.

Now I’m off to cast parents, pastry chefs, and local restaurateurs….
Learn more about the author and her work at Michelle Wildgen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bread and Butter.

Writers Read: Michelle Wildgen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Erin Lindsay McCabe's "I Shall Be Near To You"

Erin Lindsay McCabe studied literature and history at University of California, Santa Cruz, earned a teaching credential at California State University, Chico, and taught high school English for seven years before completing her MFA in Creative Writing at St. Mary’s College of California in 2010. A recipient of the 2008 Jim Townsend Scholarship for Excellence in Creative Writing and the 2009 Leonard Michaels Scholarship for Literary Excellence, McCabe has taught Composition at St. Mary’s College of California and Butte College.

A California native, McCabe lives in the Sierra Foothills with her husband, son, and a small menagerie that includes one dog, four cats, two horses, ten chickens, and three goats.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her acclaimed new novel, I Shall Be Near to You:
My Book, The Movie: I Shall Be Near To You, starring Jennifer Lawrence

I still remember watching the movie Winter’s Bone in the only art-house east of Oakland, CA (since demolished). We were barely into the movie when I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “That’s Rosetta.”

I had no idea who the actress was, but I knew almost the instant she appeared on screen that she was perfect to play the part of Rosetta, the feisty, strong-willed young woman who disguises herself as a man and enlists in the Union Army with her new husband in my novel I Shall Be Near To You. After the movie ended, we stayed to watch the credits and find out who that actress was.

“Jennifer Lawrence,” I said when her name rolled up the screen. “She’s my girl.” At the time, I had a draft of my novel finished and I had no idea if my book would be published, let alone if it might ever be made into a movie. And of course, that was before Jennifer Lawrence became Jennifer Lawrence. But I loved how she brought a fierce and quiet determination to the role of Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, traits that Rosetta shares, evidenced as she goes against her husband’s wishes to fight on the battlefield. I admired how Jennifer Lawrence could be strong and yet tender and vulnerable, just like Rosetta is as she struggles to find ways to still be a wife even when she’s wearing a soldier’s uniform. Somehow Jennifer Lawrence managed to portray Ree’s love for her family even though she never spoke it. And she never let Ree break down but you could see her holding the pieces together by sheer force of will, just as Rosetta must after the horror of Antietam.

Since then, I’ve watched Jennifer Lawrence bring those same qualities to life in the other characters she’s played. I’ve watched her tackle physically challenging roles, requiring that she shoot guns (and arrows) and throw punches. I’ve laughed as she’s taken on roles that allow for a bit of comedy, convincing me even further that she could bring Rosetta’s sense of humor to the screen. And then too, as J.Law has let more and more of her personality loose on the red carpet and various awards stages, I’ve loved her irreverence, the way she speaks whatever is on her mind, how sometimes she acts with beautiful humanity when you’d least expect it, just as Rosetta does. She seems genuine in a way that reminds me of Rosetta and in a way that must be difficult for someone on such a public stage with an image and a career to protect. It makes me think she would understand Rosetta’s drive to be true to herself at the same time that she’s hiding much of what’s essential about herself, the way there is truth to the part that Rosetta plays, the way a disguise can’t keep everything secret.

And then, of course, J.Law went ahead and chopped all her hair off, just like Rosetta does. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
Visit Erin Lindsay McCabe's website and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Erin Lindsay McCabe & Roxy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 24, 2014

Steven Cassedy's "Connected"

Steven Cassedy is Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at University of California, San Diego. He has published in a variety of fields, including Russian literature, French literature, philosophy and history of religion, Jewish studies, philosophy, history of science, history of music, history of ideas, and American studies. His books include Dostoevsky's Religion and Flight from Eden: The Origins of Modern Literary Criticism and Theory.

Here Cassedy shares some ideas for a big screen adaptation of his new book, Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a Few Disasters Transformed Americans at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century:
The movie version of this book would definitely be tricky. I actually started out with fictional characters as part of the book, each representing a social “type” from the era. Every chapter began with a story about one of the characters, to illustrate something about the topic of that chapter. My editor wisely talked me out of using the characters in the final version—they made the book a little too weirdly hybrid for most readers, she rightly thought—plus the little stories were, well, kind of boring.

But the book tells a number of real-life stories that could make terrific movies—or at least be part of some terrific movies. Perhaps one thing I’ve done in Connected is provide technical advising services for a great big movie that’s set in this era—but a movie part of whose point is exactly that it evokes an era and a place. Think of last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis, for example, which brings you back (with one or two goofs on the part of the Coen brothers) into New York City at the beginning of the 1960s. If you were around at that time and in that place, you remember that the subway entrances looked just exactly like that (no “1” train, but the IRT Broadway Local), and so did the automobiles that lined the streets.

A director who likes to make icons out of ordinary objects and who wanted to set a movie in the era of my book could feature Waltham watches, the Time Ball atop the Western Union Building, cans of Hawaiian pineapples, OK Records, public signs displaying personal hygiene rules, a Steinway upright piano. One of my aims is to show how an ordinary object can point out beyond itself with a myriad of imaginary filaments that connect it to a myriad of distant (or not-so-distant) points. In one chapter, I describe an 1894 Steinway upright (which actually belongs to my family), and I imagine that its original owner, a Mr. Byron Sherman from Morristown, New Jersey, is holding the family globe and putting an individual finger or thumb on each of the spots marking a place that provided a raw material for his instrument: Congo for ivory, Madagascar for ebony, Australia for wool (the felt in the hammers), the Adirondacks for spruce, and so on. He would end up clutching the globe as if it were a basketball. In fact, a man clutching the earthly globe was a frequent iconic motif in nasty political satire from this era: a grotesquely caricatured Jew with his arms greedily wrapped around the earth (cover image for the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion) or John Bull as an octopus spreading his tentacles over the various territories of Great Britain’s far-flung colonial empire. This is globalization (a big theme of my book), before the term was coined.

My idea is that these objects are stories—or they’re the characters in a larger story. I guess I’d leave it up to the director to figure out how to make the actual movie.
Learn more about Connected at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Connected.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jennie Shortridge's "Love Water Memory"

Jennie Shortridge is the author of five bestselling novels, including her latest, Love Water Memory, an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Pick and Library Journal’s Editors Pick. An avid volunteer, she is the co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit collective of Northwest authors who raise money and awareness for literature and literacy.

Here Shortridge dreamcasts an adaptation of Love Water Memory:
Love Water Memory is the story of a couple parted by amnesia and reunited, and the mystery of what happened and what will happen next, set in Seattle. I would love to see it produced as an independent film right here in the Northwest, where we have great filmmakers like Lynn Shelton and Gus Van Sant. And I’d love Northwest music to play a major role in the sound of it. Modest Mouse is already written into the story.

As for actors, I get my dream cast, right? So let’s say Toni Colette as Lucie, an amnesiac who has fled from her fiancé Grady (who is half Native American and difficult to cast, so I’m thinking the casting director might put out a call for auditions.) The strange and mysterious Aunt Helen would be well served by the talents of June Squibb, who was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the film Nebraska. Neighbor Susan has to be Sandra Oh!

As for locations, the old Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford, the Tulalip Indian Reservation an hour north of the city, and the San Francisco Bay all have major roles in the story, and each holds a different mystery.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennie Shortridge's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love Water Memory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 21, 2014

Drew Chapman's "The Ascendant"

Drew Chapman was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in History. His early work history included: newspaper reporter, bartender, bike messenger, knish vendor at Yankee Stadium, and bootleg T-shirt salesman at Madison Square Garden. He wrote his first novel in fourth grade. It remains unpublished.

After college Chapman moved to Los Angeles and began working in film production. He got an agent and took a position as staff writer for Disney Animation. He has since written on projects for studios including Disney, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers and Sony. He wrote and directed a feature film, Stand Off, with Dennis Haysbert and Robert Sean Leonard.

He also works extensively in television. He has sold pilots to ABC, Fox, ABC Family, and Sony TV. Chapman recently wrote and produced an eight-part limited-series for ABC called The Assets, a cold-war thriller based on a true story.

Here Chapman shares some thoughts on adaptation of his new novel, The Ascendant:
Who do I want to see cast in the movie version of my book? Good question. But here’s the problem. I’m a screenwriter as well as a novelist. I’ve seen firsthand how important it is to get the right person to bring your words to life. But here’s the additional problem: I’m also a producer on the shows I write. Which can lead to conflicting goals—and complicated internal dialogue. It’s my job to make the show sophisticated, but also as widely watched as possible. I just sold The Ascendant to Fox to turn into a TV show, so the conversation going on in my head runs something like this:

Novelist Chapman: I was talking to a friend and she said she thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be wonderful for the Garrett Reilly part.

Producer Chapman: Gordon-Levitt? He won’t do TV anymore. He’s a movie star. Plus, he’s too nerdy.

Screenwriter Chapman: It’s not a bad idea. We should try and get him.

Producer Chapman. I was thinking we should go after the guy from Chicago Fire. He’s really good looking. And women go nuts for him.

Screenwriter Chapman: He doesn’t exactly exude braininess. Garrett Reilly has to read as smart.

Producer Chapman: Are you being difficult?

Screenwriter Chapman. What? No. I just want to make this show as classy as possible…

Producer Chapman: Don’t take this personally—I really like you—but you’re being replaced. We’re going in a new direction on the writing front.

Screenwriter: What? You can’t.

Novelist Chapman: There’s this wonderful British actor. He’s only done stage work, but…

Producer Chapman: What’s your name again?

Novelist Chapman: Drew Chapman. I wrote the book this show will be based on.

Producer Chapman: There’s a book?

Novelist Chapman: The Ascendant. You told me you loved it.

Producer Chapman: Can you write dialogue? I just replaced the writer and I’ll need someone who can come up with fun dialogue.

Screenwriter Chapman: I’m still on the phone, you know.

Novelist Chapman: What’s the pay?

Producer Chapman: A hell of a lot more than you make writing books.

Novelist Chapman: I’m in. And did I mention that I love Chicago Fire? Really great show.
Visit Drew Chapman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jason Porter's "Why Are You So Sad?"

Jason Porter writes fiction. He is a graduate of the Hunter College MFA program. His novel, Why Are You So Sad?, was shortlisted for the Paris Literary Prize.

Here Porter dreamcasts an adaptation of Why Are You So Sad?:
This question is tricky for me. I regularly speculate about these things, but from the standpoint of a skeptical filmgoer who believes most Hollywood movies are awful, and one element of that awfulness is the terrible casting choices they make that always insert either the most beautiful person or Tom Hanks into any role. So when I think of who would star in the adaptation of my novel, it’s hard not to assume the worst.

The narrator is about forty. He’s sad but not without a sense of humor, though sometimes he doesn’t intend to be making a joke when he is, and other times he tries and it falls flat. I think Hollywood would try to plug in one from the following list: Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Jason Bateman, Paul Giamatti, or John C. Reilly. I like all of them, but I am so aware of them as celebrities it seems like they would overshadow or replace entirely the character who currently lives in my mind. I would love it if they chose Louis C.K., not because he’d be the best for it, but because then maybe somehow I would get to meet him. But he’s smart enough to write something much better than this so what would motivate him to play this role? One of my favorite people to look at on the screen is Luis Guzman. Why not use him? He’s a little bit older than the character, but I would prefer that to somebody younger. Seeing Mr. Guzman in a leading role would get me to the theater. And there’s no reason Ray can’t be Latino.

For the wife Brenda let’s choose Michaela Watkins. She’s very talented, but I choose her because we went to music camp together when I was a teenager. And the more famous she gets the more I get to name drop about how we went to music camp together. Plus I imagine that Hollywood will assume that if the main character is Latino than his wife’s ethnicity has to match. And Ms. Watkins is Jewish, so problem solved.

For the mysterious woman in the bar she needs to have silver hair, which is fairly easily achieved with wigs. Few people would look better in silver hair than Tilda Swinton. And she is good at acting. I always like it when they are good at acting.

For the boss I will only accept Dabney Coleman. There can be no other. He’s a little old for the part, but Hollywood made Brad Pitt look like a baby man. It can be done.

There are other characters and they will all be played by Michael Shannon and Kristen Wiig.
I began this post with ambivalence, but now I am getting excited to see it in 3-D. Let’s make this happen, Robert Zemeckis!
Visit Jason Porter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Peter Mountford's "The Dismal Science"

Peter Mountford’s debut novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, won the 2012 Washington State Book Award and was a finalist in the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Prize. In its full-page review, The Seattle Times wrote: “Debut novels don't come much savvier, punchier, or more entertaining...the work of an extraordinary talent.”

Here Mountford dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Dismal Science:
I have not really thought of this book as a movie, truth be told. But it does have a sort of filmic shape, I realize now, a three act thing. Not terribly Hollywood in its tone, mind you. This is not exactly X-Men. For Vincenzo, I suppose I’d like to use a time machine and go get F. Murray Abram back when he played Salieri in Amadeus. Maybe Robert De Niro could do it? Whatever happened to him, though? I know everyone’s supposed to be in awe of his acting abilities, but hasn’t he just been making schmaltz for decades?

Lenka was in the first book, and I had a hard time thinking of who might play her for my post in My Book The Movie back then, and I still have that problem, now. It would appear that Hollywood’s race problem has not improved much in the last couple years. Or maybe it’s my fault for watching too many American movies. Yeah, it’s probably that.

The sketchy pseudo-CIA agent Ben could be Mekhi Phifer, maybe. That’d be a fun role for an actor, I think. He’s this mysterious guy—very friendly and very menacing person. Vincenzo’s friend Walter would be another fun role. Some incredibly waspy man in his fifties or sixties? Surely they’re a dime a dozen, right? But who’s sufficiently wicked and smart and wounded? Albert Finney, but a little younger. Vincenzo’s daughter Leonora could be Ellen Page or someone. And her boyfriend Sam would clearly have to be Alex Karpovsky.

Actually, writing this, I’m seeing how it could be a cool movie. A reviewer compared it to About Schmidt, which seems an inapt comparison in a number of ways, but I could see how tonally that’s sort of right. Hey, do you happen to have Alexander Payne’s phone number?
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Mountford's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

My Book, The Movie: A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism.

Writers Read: Peter Mountford.

The Page 69 Test: The Dismal Science.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Susanne Antonetta's "Make Me a Mother"

Susanne Antonetta is the author of the memoirs A Mind Apart and A Body Toxic, a New York Times Notable Book, as well as the poetry collections Bardo, Petitioner, Glass, and The Lives of the Saints. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, Best American Essays, and other publications.

Here Antonetta dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Make Me a Mother: A Memoir:
Make Me a Mother is the story of my adoption of, and life with, my son Jin, who came to me from South Korea. Always funny, though sometimes just a little harrowing (hello, age thirteen! It inaugurated a period of a year and a half that Jin’s father and I still refer to as the Dark Ages), my book takes readers from Jin’s arrival at a few months of age to our trip back to Korea to visit the dozens of cribs of babies—and too few exhausted caretakers--at the orphanage where he once lived.

We first met our Jin at the South Satellite of SeaTac Airport in Seattle, “meeting cute” with our baby under the harsh lights outside of Customs. I was so nervous I raced through the airport security gate, all but tackled by the guards. My husband Bruce and I learned to stay up strolling him through our house all night, and later, how to connect with our son’s Korean culture. We joined a Korean church where we had barely a word in common with much of the congregation, but which we attended for years and with great love on all sides. There we had the signal joy of celebrating Thanksgiving with a feast of Korean meats and vegetables—bulgogi, kimchee, rice in nori—followed by a flock of roasted American-style turkeys.

In the end, through learning to be a mother I learned to be a daughter—to forgive and care for my own aging parents, to overcome my history as a high school dropout and drug user to become a mother. I learned how, time and time again, all families have to learn to adopt one another.

Casting? My tall, dimpled and adorable son is the easy choice. He’s a dead ringer for a Korean actor named Song Joong-Ki. I can’t really tell you much about Song Joong-Ki as an actor, but I can say confidently his face is plastered on random items all over Korea--I tote a little package of shaving cream with Song Joong-Ki’s face on it in my purse, sometimes pranking my friends by telling them Jin has turned model. When we last visited Korea, Song had begun his mandatory period of military service for his country, and teenage girls all over the country sobbed into their handkerchiefs. (Some of those teenage girls took to following my cute boy around, giggling behind their hands.)

My husband, the sweet, smart guy who rescued me from security at the airport and has been rescuing me ever since, is sardonic in that soft-spoken funny way so endearing in men from the South (he’s from Macon, Georgia). I’m going for Chris Cooper to play him.

As for me, I’m a big-haired Jersey girl who loves food, wine, and spoiling my guys, as long as they don’t expect me to. I grow my own produce and love to make things, but I also swear like a long-haul trucker with four blown-out tires. I’d say I channel a mix of Martha Stewart and Edie Falco as she appeared in The Sopranos.
Visit Susanne Antonetta's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 17, 2014

Adrian Bonenberger's "Afghan Post"

Adrian Bonenberger deployed twice to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army infantry, witnessing some of the most savage fighting of the counter-insurgency. He has written for the New York Times and Policy Mic, and is currently a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He recently published his war memoirs, Afghan Post, through The Head and The Hand Press.

Here Bonenberger dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of Afghan Post:
If I had an opportunity to bring Afghan Post to screen, the first thing I’d do is cast Channing Tatum as myself. Tatum is a healthy, strong young man (like I was at the time – I mean, I was probably a bit stronger, and I remember myself being handsomer), and capable of delivering emotionally honest performances with an intensity that many other mainstream actors seem to lack these days (see his work in Side Effects). At the same time, his comedic timing is usually dead on, and much of living through war, is keeping a very wide bandwidth for possible laughs – 21 Jump Street and its sequel look to be equal blends action and humor, which would be perfectly suited for Afghan Post. The book walks a line between dark humor and drama, and the movie would require an agile protagonist, capable of inhabiting several roles simultaneously, as so much of what occurs is emotional.

Because Afghan Post is epistolary, and delivered entirely by my voice, the movie would have to depart significantly from the book – I think that would make it exciting to re-invent given the space available to create coherent visual wholes within the space of ten years. I suppose the simplest thing to do would be to set it during my second deployment, with flashbacks to training and my first deployment – sort of an expanded vision of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line subplot, wherein a former U.S. Army Engineer officer is left by his beautiful wife while fighting in the Pacific. My girlfriend at the time could be played by Helena Bonham Carter, and the woman I’m with at the end of Afghan Post could be played by Anne Hathaway, on both accounts due to superficial resemblance and acting skill.

The truth is that there are stories far better suited to the screen than my own – I wasn’t writing this story to be adapted, or read, so much as felt – the transition of a combat veteran from a basically decent, ordinary human being to an alcoholic wreck. Because I wrote Afghan Post as the latter, it was difficult to imagine the former.
Learn more about Afghan Post at The Head and The Hand Press.

Read about Bonenberger's list of ten of the best contemporary war novels.

The Page 99 Test: Afghan Post.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2014

James L. Cambias's "A Darkling Sea"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He lives in Western Massachusetts.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, A Darkling Sea:
A Darkling Sea is probably the most unfilmable story ever told. Most of the action takes place in the dark, and half the characters are giant lobsters without facial expression who communicate with sonar images.

That being said, if James Cameron were to call me up and say "Unfilmable? I take that as a challenge! We're making the best damned giant alien lobster movie ever! It'll have an hour of black screen with no sound but clicks and pings. It's surefire Oscar bait!" . . . well, then this is the cast I'd request.

The Humans:

Alicia Neogri: She needs an actress who can be geeky and obsessive, but also a romantic pairing for Rob Freeman, so I'll pick Natalie Portman.

Henri Kerlerec: He's a brash, self-promoting French archaeologist. Javier Bardem would be a good choice, as his part in Skyfall shows he can be utterly over-the-top when he needs to be. (My friend Jonathan Hirsch "plays" Henri on the promotional Web site Casting directors take note.)

Josef Palashnik: He's a big, taciturn Russian guy. Adam Baldwin would be good. It would also be a nice breakout part for some other actor who only plays silent menacing henchmen.

Richard Graves: He has to be able to shift between endearingly geeky about languages and borderline psychopathic. The British actor Jason Flemyng would be perfect.

Robert Freeman: Rob is an Everyman who learns to become a hero. My wife suggests Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Dr. Vikram Sen: Ben Kingsley, no question. That's who I pictured while writing it.

The Sholen:

I assume all the aliens would be animated, so these are voice actor choices rather than faces. The Sholen all need "sexy" voices because so much of their culture is based on physical attraction.

Irona: Kevin Spacey, because he's great at voicing villains, especially villains who sound superficially reasonable.

Gishora: Kelsey Grammer, as he needs to be both pompous and tragic. James Earl Jones would be another good choice.

Tizhos: Scarlett Johansson has a marvelous voice, and would be a good choice. If not her, then Kathleen Turner.

The Ilmatarans:

Again, these are all voice actors. For a little internal consistency I've picked British actors. We will assume that dialogue is "translated" from sonar clicks to spoken BBC English.

Broadtail: Martin Freeman. He can be nervous and out of his element, but steely when he needs to be.

Holdhard: Emma Watson can sound shy and smart.

Oneclaw: Alan Rickman or Sylvester McCoy. Or any scene-pillaging older British character actor, really.

Longpincer: Jim Carter (best known as Carson the butler on Downton Abbey). He can sound patrician, like a country squire, but not too Wodehousian.

Strongpincer: Strongpincer's a barbarian bandit chief, so I pick Kai Owen. He's a Welshman so he sounds a little different from the others, and he can be a villainous goon when he needs to be.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Patience Bloom's "Romance Is My Day Job"

Patience Bloom is a senior editor at Harlequin Books and focuses specifically on Harlequin Romantic Suspense, which gives her full license to indulge in her love of the thriller genre and all things suspense.

Her new book is Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last.

Here Bloom dreamcasts an adaptation of the memoir:
Writing my memoir only amplified opportunities for full-on narcissism so, of course, I’ve cast the movie version of Romance Is My Day Job. Sacha Baron Cohen would nail the role of my future husband, Sam. They perform similar acrobatic stunts and both attract/repel with an insane sense of humor. If Sacha turned down the part, Sam adores Paul Rudd almost as much as me and would bestow upon him many man-love noogies.

For my brother, I would cast a thoughtful, fair-haired actor with gigantic blue eyes. The first one that came to mind was Michael Fassbender since he’s brilliant. As for Mom, that’s an easy one. Whenever I see Susan Lucci on screen, I think, Mama. I’ve watched All My Children since 1978 just because Erica Kane reminded me so much of her. But I could easily cast Sigourney Weaver since this actress exudes intelligence, warmth and pure steel. If you asked her, my mom would want Demi Moore to play her, and why not? We’ve told my stepfather that we’d cast Tommy Lee Jones in his part, but John Goodman is our choice.

The hardest person to cast would be myself. In my dreams, I’d put Julia Roberts in the role because we’re the same age, she’s like the sun and she’d need to consult with me for research purposes (and then we’d become best friends). In truth, my entourage has suggested Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams and Cate Blanchett—actresses that can easily play a bookish girl with a wicked streak. I would be lucky to have them play me and am open to being best friends with them, as well.
Learn more about the book and author at Patience Bloom's website.

The Page 99 Test: Romance Is My Day Job.

Writers Read: Patience Bloom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Johnny Walker" & Jim DeFelice's "Code Name: Johnny Walker"

"Johnny Walker" and Jim DeFelice are the authors of Code Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALs.

Here DeFelice shares a tale about casting an adaptation of the new book:
There was a time when I thought getting a book optioned for a movie was an event to be unanimously cheered, hoped for, and dreamed of. It was like winning the lottery, or finding a hundred dollar bill on the way into the bar: something without a downside, a thing every writer should fervently hope for.

Oh, what a naïve waif was I.

Having been through the various ups and downs, disasters and near misses that define a writer’s relationship with the vampire-zombie dream-killing complex that calls itself Hollywood, you’d think I’d be a little more hip to reality by now. But if hope springs eternal, then naiveté is the weed that grows right alongside it.

There are pitfalls to everything, especially for a writer. The ones you don’t fall into find a way to morph into trolls with teeth that will bite you when least expect it.

Take, for instance, my recent book, Code Name Johnny Walker (mandatory plug: it’s published by William Morrow and comes out this week).

My co-author and the book’s subject, Johnny Walker, and I were at a “session” with a marketing type, the movie producer who claims he has a piece of our project, and what is known in polite circles as representatives of the media. Right off, you realize the problem, I’m sure – that is a mix of individuals that should never be allowed to meet in the same city, let alone the same place. I can assure you that I, if not Johnny, would have greatly preferred to have stayed in the bar down the street. But I digress.

At some point, a media type tossed what to all the world seemed like a softball question: Who do you see playing the part of Johnny in the movie?

The producer demurred; there are many names in the pot. Johnny, who is an Iraqi, did likewise, claiming that he knew absolutely nothing about American movie stars.

Which of course left me.

I glanced at the marketing person, who was grinning broadly, as marketing people are wont to do when you’re about to get headlines by making a fool of yourself. I knew what that grin meant: Go for it!

As I started to open my mouth, I saw that the producer was having something akin to an epileptic fit. Not taking the hint, I continued. “Well I think that –”

“Arg!” yelled the producer, jumping from his seat and promptly falling on the floor.

“Medical emergency!” yelled his assistant. “Call 9-1-1!”

She leapt to her feet and ran to call 9-1-1. Her suitably short dress and plunging neckline – mandatory requirements for a Hollywood assistant – got more attention than her boss, who was writhing on the floor. Confusion ensued.

The press “opportunity” was, naturally over. The media types left, and we huddled around the producer, wondering whether to administer CPR or simply drive a stake through his heart.

“Gone,” said the assistant when the media had disappeared.

The producer’s color returned. He rose from the floor and dusted himself off.

“Are you O-OK?” I stuttered. “What happened?”

“Never, ever, answer that question with actual names,” he told me, in a tone that implied that I had nearly admitted to having axe-murdered my wife.

“But [redacted] would be great in the movie,” I answered. “And he’s close to signing. And if not him, [redacted]. Or even [redacted].”

“And what do we do if they pass?” asked the producer, shaking his head. “Every other actor in the world will think they’re our second choice.”

“But –”

“Worse – what if they hear what you said and realize they have the upper hand? Do you think we’d ever get a suitable deal?”

There were some other words sprinkled in there, very short words of the Anglo-Saxon variety. In fact, there were so many of them that you might even say that together they amounted to a harangue. I must say they flowed very poetically, even if they were less than complimentary. Finally, the assistant put an end to the tirade.

“Boss, why are you getting worked up?” she asked. “He’s only the author. No one’s going to pay attention to anything he says. Ever.”

An apology followed. I think it was sincere, because it included an offer to pay for dinner. I’m sure it was just an innocent coincidence that both he and his assistant turned out to have left their wallets back at the hotel that day...
Learn more about the book and author at Jim DeFelice's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Adam Christopher's "Hang Wire"

Adam Christopher is a New Zealand-born writer, now living in the UK.

His new books are Hang Wire and, coming soon, The Burning Dark.

Here Christopher dreamcasts an adaptation of Hang Wire:
I must admit, I tend to cast my novels pretty early in the writing process, if not during the outline. Usually it’s without conscious choice – as I start to flesh out a character and their story, someone pops into my head. When this happens, it’s usually a perfect fit. It doesn’t always work like this, of course, but I quite like it when it does. When it comes to writing, it becomes easier for me to “see” the action and transcribe it to the page.

It’s perhaps odd then that when it comes to visualizing the characters for, say, a book cover, I’m less confident. I personally don’t like covers that feature an exact representation of the characters within – the amazing thing about writing is that every single person who reads your book will imagine it in a completely different way. This also includes the characters, and I even reflect this in the text: while some people love detailed physical descriptions, I tend to shy away from anything more than a general summary, because I feel anything more is up to the reader. Whether or not a character has a bushy beard is generally irrelevant to the story – unless it informs their character in some way, or there is an important beard-related plot point later. In Hang Wire, a couple of characters do have detailed descriptions, because they’re important – the appearance of Bob, for example, is an integral part of his character. Like Joel. Ted, on the other hand, doesn’t really require much, despite him being the core of the story.

I cast most of the character in Hang Wire pretty early on:

Lucas Bryant as Ted, whose birthday dinner in San Francisco’s famous Chinatown is interrupted by an exploding fortune.

Kirsten Dunst as Alison, Ted’s girlfriend and fellow blogger who gets tangled in the plans of the Hang Wire Killer.

Walton Goggins as Joel Duvall, a 19th century wanderer who discovers something strange in the middle of an Oklahoma wasteland and finds himself dragged across the United States over the next 150 years.

Josh Holloway as Bob, the bare-chested, blonde-haired Adonis who teaches ballroom dancing to tourists down on the beach.

Grace Park as Benny, the young blogger whose family history has a rather complex and ancient secret.

John Goodman as Jack Newhaven, would-be antique dealer who falls under Joel’s spell.

Now that cast would make a pretty great movie!
Visit Adam Christopher's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Hang Wire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Giano Cromley's "The Last Good Halloween"

Giano Cromley was born in Billings, Montana. His writing has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Literal Latte, and The Bygone Bureau, among others. He is a recipient of an Artists Fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council. He teaches English at Kennedy-King College and lives on Chicago's South Side with his wife and two dogs.

Here Cromley dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Last Good Halloween:
The success of the movie version of The Last Good Halloween hinges on the casting of its central character, fifteen-year-old Kirby Russo. Casting children is hard because there's such a narrow time window wherein they look the right age, yet still have the acting chops to pull off a serious dramatic and comedic role. As for finding the right Kirby, I'd turn to Wes Anderson and the team he's used to cast the leads in both Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom. In casting Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer, and Jared Gilman as Sam Shakusky, he managed to find actors who could put up the prickly façade troubled kids often evince, while simultaneously depicting the vulnerabilities and fragilities that cause that prickliness in the first place.

Finding the right actress for Debbie Russo (the harried single mother of Kirby) is key to setting the right tone for the film. In the wrong hands, Debbie could come off as being self-centered and that was never my intention when I wrote her. At the same time, she's got to have enough grit to stand up to Kirby when he pulls some of his smartass maneuvers. Chloë Sevigny has the right mixture of tenderness and moxie to pull off this delicate balance. If there's anyone who doubts this, they just need to take a look at her work in the series Hit & Miss. Besides, I think her sense of humor is underappreciated, and I'd be excited to see what she'd bring to some of Debbie's juicy dialogue.

Like the casting for Kirby, selecting the proper actress to play his closest friend and love interest, Izzy, is both crucial and impossible, given my limited knowledge of youngish teenage actresses. The ideal person would be calm and outwardly confident, with a sense of being a bit wise beyond her seventeen years. In the novel, Kirby describes her as having an unconventional beauty and as possibly being part Native American. Those would be good places to start when throwing out the net to find someone to fill Izzy's shoes.

The role of Bradley Kellogg (Debbie's estranged husband) would best be played by Paul Rudd, someone who is classically handsome, is generally likeable, yet also can summon an undercurrent of selfishness. Rudd is one of those actors who seems perpetually caught between childhood and adulthood – this would serve him well as Bradley comes to terms with the life he's always led and the life he feels compelled to live.

When I wrote the character of Uncle Harley (Debbie's current love interest) I pictured Mark Ruffalo in that role. He has a kind of lumberjack's bonhomie, but with a subtle layer of heart-on-his-sleeve earnestness that would suit Uncle Harley. His work in the film The Kids Are All Right shows he's able to relate to child actors in a genuine way. I, for one, would love to see him square off in a battle of wits with Kirby over the breakfast table.
Visit Giano Cromley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Giano Cromley & Kaiya and Tanka.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chris Marie Green's "Only the Good Die Young"

Chris Marie Green is the author of Only the Good Die Young, the first book in the Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire series from Penguin/Roc, which features a fun-loving spirit from the ’80s. She also wrote the urban fantasy Vampire Babylon series from Ace Books as well as The She Code, a “geek lit”/chick lit/new adult hybrid with comic book art work by Billy Martinez of Neko Press Comics.

Here Green dreamcasts an adaptation of Only the Good Die Young:
Only the Good Die Young is about a ghost, Jensen Murphy, who has been caught in a time loop where she’s been experiencing her death over and over again. Unfortunately, since Jensen was murdered, and her death was violent, she’s blocked out the identity of the maniac who ended her life. Enter Amanda Lee Minter, a psychic/medium who pulls her out of this time loop for a good purpose—to help solve a modern killing. In fact, Amanda Lee hopes that Jensen will be able to haunt a confession out of the man who may or may not be guilty, and then they can start solving Jensen’s crime…

When I created Jensen, I had a definite template for her character since I wanted to bring back the crazy grittiness of my favorite ’80s slasher movies. So I used one of the best “final girls” ever—Ginny Field from Friday the 13th, Part II. She was played by a young Amy Steel, who had strawberry blond hair and a down-to-earth, girl-next-door vibe. Today, I think someone like Jane Levy from TV’s Suburgatory could capture Jensen’s essence (if she lightened her hair.

The role of Amanda Lee Minter is key, and I think a makeup-aged Michelle Fairley would be so very ideal. (Yes, I am a huge Game of Thrones fan!) The murder plot casting would be important, too. The main suspect, Gavin Edgett, is a brooding, cryptic man who fascinates Jensen, and he would’ve been perfect for a young Russell Crowe, especially in his L.A. Confidential days. Mark Wahlberg might be really interesting here nowadays. Gavin’s much younger adopted sister, Wendy, would be good for a fifteen-year-old spunky unknown Chinese actress to shine in—the same goes for her adopted Mexican brother, Noah. Their sister Farah would be great for a sultry beauty like Minka Kelly. (Hey, if I could put every Friday Night Lights cast member in this, I would.)

The ghosts would be a dream to cast—everyone from eternally drunk Petty Officer Randy Randall from the 1940’s (Rory Culkin!), to his contemporary, African-American war factory worker Louis (Lennie James) to Twyla, another ghost from the ’80s who is half Cyndi Lauper and half Cure fan—literally (major dream casting—Anna Kendrick). There’s also a spirit called “fake Dean.” Since he’s a maddening cypher to Jensen as he tries to lure her to an alternate part of Boo World called the Star Place, I can’t go into detail about his character, but he sure isn’t human. Yet he is very tempting, adapting the guise of Jensen’s first love on the earthly plane. He was a surfer, a sexy smart guy who left Jensen behind to go to college across the country before she died. I imagined Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam in the part since he is pretty much sex on wheels, in my humble opinion.
Visit Chris Marie Green's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Chris Marie Green.

The Page 69 Test: Only the Good Die Young.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2014

Eric Walters' "The Rule of Three"

Eric Walters, a former elementary-school teacher, is a bestselling children’s author in Canada. He is the founder of Creation of Hope, which provides care for orphans in the Makueni district of Kenya, and lives in Mississauga, Ontario.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Rule of Three:
The Rule of Three is the first in the trilogy about what happens when an air-borne computer virus takes out all the computers in the world. Instantly the entire planet is thrown back hundreds of years. There is no electricity, cars, trucks, airplanes, communications or telecommunications, no pumps for water or machines to produce and deliver food. My main character, Adam, is a high school senior. He is a fairly serious young man who is taking flying lessons because he hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pilot. His mother is the captain of the local police station and becomes the defacto leader when the community is thrown into chaos.

There is also a retired neighbor, Herb, who claims he worked for the government as a ‘paper pusher’. In reality he was much more – a covert agent of the C.I.A. who has experience in societal breakdown – and the tools, weapons, supplies and mind-set to start to deal with the situation. He provides them with the instrumental means to transform their neighborhood into an armed camp to provide for and defend themselves, while Adam and his mother provide the moral compass to preserve and respect life.

Adam’s mother – the police captain – is a source of calm and quiet despite the fact she is dealing with a world that has gone completely wrong. I see her as being played by Meryl Streep. In part this is simply an admission that that woman could play anything and do it believably. I’d love to just watch her act out the situations I’ve crafted and to have my words come out of her mouth ... well ... that would be amazing.

Herb is so clear in my mind because I’ve already visualized him – Sean Connery. The original James Bond always seemed to be in control. Connery has an air about him that he knows what’s going to happen and he’s the man who will make it happen. Rather than being a senior citizen who sits on his porch and yells at kids to get off his grass, he has the ability to transform himself into what he was/is – a trained killer, a man who can do whatever needs to be done. Does anybody really want to get Sean Connery mad at them? As well he has the force of personality to bend the will of others to his cause. He could convince people of what needed to be done.

Adam is young – sixteen – so is far too young for most established actors. I see him being played by Chandler Riggs of Walking Dead. Not only does he have experience in this sort of big-time ‘end of the world’ story but he would bring to the character a sort of innocence that gives way to having to do what needs to be done – including killing people. I’ve been impressed with his evolution in the series and his skill as an actor. I’d think he’d make a great Adam.
Visit Eric Walters' website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Aram Goudsouzian's "Down to the Crossroads"

Aram Goudsouzian is chair of the history department at the University of Memphis. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, The Hurricane of 1938, and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon.

Here Goudsouzian dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear:
It never crossed my mind until writing this piece, but Down to the Crossroads would make an amazing movie! Set against the dramatic backdrop of hot Mississippi highways, the march not only changed the course of American history, but also had incredibly uplifting moments, harrowing violence, and strong personalities battling for influence. Hollywood, I await your call.

The march had a cast of thousands, but it most revolves around three central figures: James Meredith, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King. All are juicy roles.

Meredith was a quirky, almost mystical hero – he had long believed in his special destiny, and after undergoing the extraordinary trial of integrating the University of Mississippi in 1962, he emerged even more unpredictable, individualistic, and complex. He was a deeply conservative man in the service of a great liberal movement. When a gunman wounded him on the second day of his solitary trek from Memphis to Jackson in June of 1966, it sparked a mass civil rights demonstration – both elevating Meredith and frustrating him, since he no longer controlled the march conducted in his name. The role demands the man whom many critics call our most underrated actor, Jeffrey Wright.

Carmichael vaulted into a political celebrity during the march. Born in Trinidad, raised in the Bronx, and educated at Howard, he loved to provoke and hated to compromise. He had just won a controversial election as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, signaling its evolution into a radical organization. On the march, it was Carmichael who first led the cry for “Black Power!” He crackled with energy – appealing to poor rural blacks along the route, debating his fellow civil rights leaders, and jousting with the press. The role needs an actor of great charisma who can summon deep wells of rage and tender moments of human connection. After his tour de force in 12 Years a Slave, I nominate Chiwetel Ejiofor.

King, naturally, was the “star” of the march, as his presence pulled in everyone from national reporters to local sharecroppers. These three weeks in Mississippi tested him as never before. Again and again, he had to communicate the concrete goals of liberals while expressing the angry discontent of the radicals. He injected people with pride and resolve, but he faced his own bouts of deep self-doubt and genuine fear. The role needs an actor who can project moral righteousness with an undertone of sadness – it’s perfect for “Bunk” from The Wire, Wendell Pierce.
Visit Aram Goudsouzian's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Down to the Crossroads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 8, 2014

M.L. Brennan's "Iron Night"

M.L. Brennan's first novel, Generation V, was published in 2013 from ROC Books, and is a work of urban fantasy. Its sequel, Iron Night, was published January 7, 2014. The third book in the series is Tainted Blood and will be available in November 2014.

Here Brennan dreamcasts an adaptation of Iron Night:
With one exception, I’ve never been the kind of writer who goes into a project with a cast of actors in mind to represent the characters. My characters tend to be a bit more of a collage of reference points that help me pinpoint attitude and outlook – for example, one of my characters, Suzume Hollis, was formed from one slow-motion strut into battle that I saw Laurie Jupiter (played by Malin Akerman) perform in Watchmen. But when it comes to my book Iron Night, I’ve had the opportunity to work with most of these characters for a while now, so this actually was much easier to do than I had ever expected.

My main character, Fortitude Scott, is the unlikeliest slacker vampire imaginable, a disappointment to his family, who isn’t a tough action hero, but as close to an everyman as possible. To play him I would choose Zachary Levi, who played the fish-out-of-water unwilling spy in Chuck. To play Fort’s older brother Chivalry, definitely Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek: Into Darkness fitness level – I think the physical dichotomy between the two would perfectly express all of their underlying differences. Fort’s sociopathic older sister Prudence would be played by Nicole Kidman, who is both the right age for the part and also capable of the right level of inhuman creepiness and coldhearted calculation. The matriarch of this vampire family is Madeline Scott, whose terrifying nature is hidden behind a veneer of dotty old lady, and who else could best capture that than Dame Maggie Smith?

That takes care of my vampires. Fort’s best ally, tormenter, and best friend is the dangerous prankster kitsune Suzume Hollis – this was probably the casting choice that took me the longest, and it’s not perfect, but Rinko Kikuchi (of Pacific Rim and Brothers Bloom) might have the range and physical toughness. This is the second book in my series, and there are some new characters, notably the half-elf Lilah who gets pulled in way over her head as she finds herself torn between family loyalty and justice – that part would be perfect for Kristen Connolly, who could probably just copy and paste her approach to Cabin in the Woods. There’s also a new and dangerous foe in this book, probably one of the creepiest I’ve written, and another character who hides a deadly nature beneath a deceptive façade – Soli would be a perfect character for Sofia Vergara of Modern Family.

That leaves just the humans – Fort’s roommate Gage is only in the book for a chapter until he is horribly murdered (I’m not giving away spoilers, it’s on the back!) but his inherent decency and friendship with Fort is one of the engines behind this book as Fort puts himself in danger to try and get justice for his friend. Gage would only be on screen for fifteen minutes at the most, but who better to play him than Chris Hemsworth (mostly known from Thor, but for Gage I think the best reference is his performance in Cabin in the Woods). And last but not least is the one character who was always based on an actual actor – grizzled private investigator Matt McMahon has doggedly been investigating the deaths of Fort’s foster parents for over a decade, unaware that Fort has been keeping the truth from him for his own safety, and completely in the dark about the things that go bump in the night. Jason Beghe played Mike Royce, Detective Beckett’s training officer, on an episode of Castle, and has always been my model for Matt McMahon.
Visit M.L. Brennan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Iron Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Catherine Tidd's "Confessions of a Mediocre Widow"

Catherine Tidd is the owner of and the author of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow.

Here she shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of her memoir:
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to forgive Brad for suddenly leaving me with three children under the age of five, no job, and a mortgage on a house that we bought because he liked the location. Oh, I know it wasn’t his choice. It’s not like I sit around picturing him up on a cloud in a chaise lounge, fruity beverage in hand, waving down to me and saying, “Have fun down there!” But there have been moments of deep darkness—as I figured out the bills, health insurance, and child rearing alone—when I have wondered if he didn’t get the better part of this deal.

I would imagine that casting a movie based on a memoir would be much like the actual writing of the memoir – slightly difficult because you want to stay as true to the people you’re writing about as you possibly can.

But when it comes to casting these roles, it’s less about the look of the actor and more about who can capture the spirit of the actual person. And so here are my picks for my memoir, Confessions of a Mediocre Widow, and a few reasons why I chose these amazing actors.

Brad (Matt Damon): Matt Damon has shown he has the depth to play a caring, but spunky father. He can be funny, carry a line with a twinkle in his eye, and still pull off a brilliant character (my husband was a rocket scientist). Perfect.

Catherine (Ginnifer Goodwin): I chose Ginnifer to play me because I believe that she has an expressive face and could pull of the “deer in the headlights” look, which is how I’ve felt for most of my widowhood. But I also believe she can be funny while delivering an emotional line. Good combo.

Haley (Joey King): She was an adorable girl who has turned into a beautiful teenager, just like my daughter. I believe that she could handle playing the caring, witty person Haley is.

Michael (CJ Adams): Who couldn’t love this kid? I believe he could pull off the quiet, smart, mellow mannerisms of my son – with a few tantrums in there just to let us know that he is actually human.

Sarah (Maggie Elizabeth Jones): SPUNK. That is Sarah. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, but you just can’t get mad at that face.

Kristi (Kristin Wiig): Only someone sharp and witty could play my sister. Kristin Wiig could deliver those funny, no nonsense lines without a problem.

Mom (Blythe Danner): Funny and versatile, I could imagine myself (my character) being comforted by Blythe Danner. She would be the perfect person to play how amazing and capable my mother is.

Dad (Tom Selleck): Something that I’ve heard over and over about my dad is that “he has a presence.” He’s funny, handsome, and caring. And he looks just like Tom Selleck (how lucky am I?).

Mike (Kevin James): One of the funniest people I know…this part has to go to a great comedian.
Visit Catherine Tidd's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kyle Minor's "Praying Drunk"

Kyle Minor is the author of two collections of stories: In the Devil’s Territory (2008) and Praying Drunk (2014). He is the winner of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize for Short Fiction and the Tara M. Kroger Prize for Short Fiction, one of Random House’s Best New Voices of 2006, and a three-time honoree in the Atlantic Monthly contest. His work has appeared online at Esquire and Tin House, and in print in The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories 2008, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers, Forty Stories: New Voices from Harper Perennial, and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013.

Here Minor shares his suggestion for the director of an adaptation of Praying Drunk:
One of the conceits at the center of Praying Drunk is that the stories in it are written from a literally realized fundamentalist Christian heaven, which is a dreary place:
The streets are paved with gold and lined with jewels. The sky shines with emeralds, diamonds, and rubies. The buildings are constructed of edifices of greens and reds and the fiercest blue. Nobody needs to sleep or make money, so nobody has to work or make a home. Big G makes us crowns, but all we're supposed to do is throw them at His feet. All the songs are triumphant and resolve to a minor key. It's pretty boring after a while.

The only other thing for most people to do to pass an eternity's worth of time is to drink liquor, blow fire, and pray. The climate is milder than hell, but they get all the movies and the hard drugs. Maybe it would have been better if we all had ended up there. I once spent a century honing a seventy-ton rock into compliant and foldable pages. I bound them with iron. I've written 397 books so far, which is nothing compared to my friend Joyce. There's nothing new in terms of material, so those of us who write stories keep grinding on the same material, in new versions, from new points of view, in new genres, trying to figure out what all that was, back when there was something to risk, when life was for living. When I retold the story about the suicide the last time, I added a robot, but it was a mistake. It wasn't enough: That story needed seventy-three robots, twelve pirates, three Vikings, three zombies, seven murders in polygamist cults, two slow trains to Bangkok, three bejeweled elephants in the court of Catherine the Great, six scarlet-threaded elevators to space, fourteen backlit liquor bars in Amsterdam, five bearded men spinning plates on top of thirty-foot poles in Central Park, four mechanical rabbits, three alarm clocks, two magic tricks, twenty-four test tubes, the Brooklyn Bridge, the London Bridge, the boob doctor's daughter...
So there's really only one writer-director with whom to trust the material -- the stories-within-stories, the stories held up as mirrors one to another, the stories and their sequels, the stories turned inside-out and outside-in, the stories that want us all to live forever and the stories that say enough with the living forever -- and that's Charlie Kaufman, maker of true things, or maybe Charlie Kaufman in collaboration with Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze. It's true I spent ten years writing this book, and I did the best I could do, and I offer it in the hope that it will make the reader feel so much, with the promise that it cost me much more than time to get it on the page, but I have little doubt -- almost zero -- that if Charlie Kaufman made the movie version, it would be better than the book version, because everything Charlie Kaufman makes is better than everything every bookmaker makes, he's undone me so many times, I always come away astonished and surprised, how could I not believe he could do it?
Learn more about Kyle Minor and his work at his website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Kyle Minor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Allen Steele's "V-S Day"

Allen Steele was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and received his B.A. in Communications from New England College and a Masters Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri. Before turning to science fiction, he worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Tennessee, Missouri, and Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C. His novels include Orbital Decay; Lunar Descent; Clarke County, Space; Labyrinth of Night; Jericho Iteration; The Tranquility Alternative; Oceanspace, and Chronospace. He is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award in the novella category.

Here Steele shares some ideas for an adaptation of his new novel, V-S Day:
It's not hard at all to see V-S Day becoming a movie. In no small way, this book springs from a past attempt to do just that.

One of my first published stories was "Goddard's People," an alternate-history story about what might have happened if the Space Race had occurred during World War II, with Robert H. Goddard and Wernher von Braun as the antagonists. As I explain in a long afterword to the novel, the story was originally intended to be a novel, but for various reasons I decided instead to reduce it to short-fiction length. After it was published in 1991, the story was twice optioned for the movies. The first time, I wrote the screenplay myself, expanding the original story (which took the form of pseudo-journalism) by expanding and dramatizing the major scenes while also adding new ones . The screenplay went through several drafts, but ultimately went nowhere; the producer-director who optioned "Goddard's People" was unable to find studio interest, so in the end it wound up in my file cabinet, where it remained for the next decade or so (the second time the story was optioned, I had nothing to do with the production; this attempt failed as well).

A couple of years ago, while searching my files for something else entirely, I stumbled upon the screenplay, and out of curiosity I pulled it out and re-read it. It was then that I realized that "Goddard's People" really should have been a novel all along. So I used the screenplay as the skeleton for a full-fledged novel, and again expanded it considerably by writing new scenes and including new characters (notably Robert Goddard's wife Esther, who was only briefly mentioned in both story and screenplay). I also had the benefit of more than a decade of new historical research into both Goddard and the Nazi rocket program, and therefore was able to correct some errors which occurred in the previous efforts.

So it's no accident that V-S Day often has a cinematic feel to it. On several occasions, I lifted scenes straight from the screenplay, describing them just as I imagined they would have been filmed. I also had the benefit of being able to draw upon pre-production art done by the noted space artist Ron Miller. The result is a book which almost seems like a novelization of a movie that never was.

Although it's science fiction, I took the approach of treating V-S Day (and before that, the "Goddard's People" screenplay) as if it was a WWII adventure story concerning events that never happened, rather like Alistair MacLean's classic novel The Guns of Navarone and the movie that came from it (or, more recently, Quentin Tarantino's movie Inglorious Basterds). So I imagine a movie of V-S Day would be much the same way. Although I never thought of the historical figures in the novel as anyone but themselves, it's pretty easy to imagine who could play them in the movie: Ben Kingsley as Robert Goddard, Christoph Waltz as Wernher von Braun, and Cameron Diaz as Esther Goddard. I could imagine it being directed by someone who's done this kind of movie in the recent past. Tarantino might be a stretch; on the basis of trailers I've seen for The Monuments Men, I think George Clooney could pull this off.

Not only that, but many scenes could be filmed on location, particularly in Worcester, Massachusetts. City Hall has changed very little in the last 60 years, Union Station has been recently restored, and while researching the book I located Dr. Goddard's former lab in the basement of the Science Building on the Clark University campus (it's now being used as a machine shop). The sportman's club in the novel is closely based on one that actually exists in rural New Hampshire -- I used to live down the road from it many years ago while I was writing "Goddard's People"), and although I haven't visited it myself, I understand that Dr. Goddard's lab in New Mexico still exists and has been preserved as a historic site. The potential for location shooting was taken into consideration during both previous attempts to make a movie from the original story, and it's even better today.

V-S Day would make a great movie. I'd love to see it optioned again. Who knows? Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Learn more about the book and author at Allen Steele's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2014

Carol Berkin's "Wondrous Beauty"

Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Emerita at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is the author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, First Generations, and Jonathan Sewall.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte:
Ah…who has not fantasized about casting the movie version of a book? I have spent many an hour with close friends, sipping Malbec and arguing good-naturedly over who should be cast if some smart producer decides to put Wondrous Beauty on the wide screen. Who should play Betsy Bonaparte, her lily-livered husband Jerome Bonaparte, her oppressive father, her many hapless and scorned suitors, her son and grandsons—and, of course, Napoleon?

For the young Betsy—Jennifer Lawrence? No, somehow not right. Keira Knightley? A good choice, and she should be comfortable in period clothing after all those historical dramas. Natalie Portman—another good choice; she has Betsy’s delicate beauty. Finally, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who I think is underrated as an actress. Whoever takes the challenge, she will have to be able to make a believable transition from naïve young American romantic to sophisticated, fiercely independent, witty and sarcastic expatriot to bitter and isolated old woman.

And for Jerome—egotistical, profligate, but a man who knows how to charm women? Well, what American woman wouldn’t want Ryan Gosling in any movie she can be on-the-set for? Who cares if Jerome was short and dark and Gosling is blond? That’s why the gods invented hair coloring…. On the other hand, Gosling’s fellow Mouseketeer, Justin Timberlake might be able to pull off Jerome’s swarminess. I’d like to see Liev Schreiber as her father—he has the intensity William needs, but my friends prefer Kevin Spacey. For her Russian lover, Viggo Mortensen would be perfect.

And for Napoleon—I am stumped.
Read more about Wondrous Beauty at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tessa Harris's "The Devil's Breath"

Since leaving Oxford University with a History degree, Tessa Harris has been a journalist and editor, contributing to many national publications such as the Times and the Telegraph.

Here Harris dreamcasts an adaptation of The Devil's Breath, the third novel in her Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series.
My Dr Thomas Silkstone mystery series actually started life as a screenplay. The premise was this: a young 18th century anatomist from Philadelphia crosses swords with another (less morally scrupulous) practitioner in London in an action-packed tale based on a true story. The script was optioned but remained languishing in so-called ‘development hell’. Determined that none of my vast research into the period should be wasted, however, I decided to develop my main character. Dr Thomas Silkstone was born. Based on a real-life anatomist by the name of Dr William Shippen Jnr, he was intelligent, handsome, sophisticated, and above all, a voice of reason in an age where old practices and attitudes were clashing with Enlightenment thinking.

I didn’t have an actor in mind to play Thomas, although I’d pictured him so many times. I just couldn’t think of someone sufficiently appealing but moody and suave enough. Until, that is, I saw Twilight in 2008. The first time I set eyes on Robert Pattinson I knew instantly he was my perfect Thomas. Ignoring his vampire tendencies, here was a young man, cool on the outside, yet caring and sensitive on the in.

As for his love interest, Lady Lydia Farrell, there could only ever be one actress. Dark, beautiful, and hiding a terrible secret that makes us see her as a tragic figure, it could only be the fabulous Keira Knightley.

There are other characters who keep reappearing in my series. The portly Oxford coroner, Sir Theodosius Pettigrew, is a bon viveur and a great ally to Thomas. Robbie Coltrane would be my first choice. The role of Dr Williiam Carruthers, Thomas’s blind and benign mentor, would go to an actor whom I’ve personally interviewed for a magazine article, Sir Anthony Hopkins. And as for Thomas’ nemesis and the villain of the piece Sir Montagu Malthus? He’s a domineering lawyer with a Machiavellian streak. I describe him as “a great raven of a man” and I’d give the part to Ciarán Hinds, a great character actor who’s recently appeared Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, The Woman in Black and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Game of Thrones on TV.

So, there you have my dream team of actors should any of my novels make it to the screen. A major production company has recently expressed interest in the series and I’m currently adapting The Anatomist’s Apprentice for TV, so who knows? The dream might soon be turning to reality!
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cora Harrison's "Cross of Vengeance"

Cora Harrison was born in County Cork in Southern Ireland and was educated in Cork city. After graduating from the National University of Ireland with a degree in French & German, she went to London and worked as a Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of the Linguaphone Institute (language teaching through the audio-visual method).

She married and had two children, staying at home with them until they were school age, and then started teaching. She was a teacher for twenty-five years – ten of which were spent as a headteacher. During these years she and her husband bought a small farm of twenty acres (with an Iron Age fort, stone cottage and river), which they used as a holiday cottage until they retired. Inspired by this place, she began writing books after her retirement, starting with the seventeen books in the Drumshee Timeline series, which told the history of Ireland through the lives of the people who lived on the little farm, from Iron Age times right up to the present.

In 2007 she wrote her first book for adults – the first in a series of detective stories which were placed on the nearby area known as the Burren, whose history and landscape form the background to her 'Mara the Brehon' series.

Here Harrison shares some ideas about an adaptation of the series:
The Burren mysteries are set in the mid-west of Ireland bordering on the Atlantic Ocean. There are ten books so far and each feature a murder to be solved by the Judge of the area: in the case of the Burren in the early sixteenth century this was one of the O’Davoren clan, in my books it is the invented woman, Mara O’Davoren, who has qualified as a Brehon and taken over from her father.

But if ever my Burren mysteries were to be filmed then there would be two starring roles.

The first is the landscape of the Burren; that one hundred-square-mile grey limestone plateaux dotted with lakes and spiralling mountains carved out in the Second Ice Age.

On a sunny day the place is a camera man’s dream with the Atlantic light drawing silver streaks from the stone, and exquisite tiny flowers in purples, pinks, cream and yellow from the Alpine and Arctic regions, marking the cracks or grykes of the limestone clints. A backdrop, some would say but I think of this clean, wind-swept environment as forming the character of the people who lived and farmed there and I think of it as an essential factor in the make-up of my principal character, Mara O’Davoren.

The O’Davoren law school existed right into the latter half of the 16th century and its ruins still remain on the edge of the Burren, but Mara, herself, is my own creation. I had read that there was once a female Brehon (a Brehon is a Judge and Investigating Magistrate) who had reproved a young male judge for a bad verdict and had told him that the pimples on his cheeks were the sign that inwardly he knew that he had been unjust. He reversed his judgement and the pimples disappeared. I was so taken by this that I created Mara, aged 37, divorced mother of a daughter, formidable in intellect, but possessing the female skills of ability to negotiate, tact and an instinctive understanding of human nature, attractive with black hair which she pins up behind her head, and dressing in well-fitting gowns – mostly of greens and browns which match the colour of her eyes – large hazel-coloured eyes, set beneath well-marked black brows.

I even found a model for a gown from an archaeological excavation of the area when this dress [photo left], dating from the sixteenth century, just the era that I was writing about, turned up buried deep in a bog in County Clare, not far from my stories are set.

It was perfect for Mara who, I reckoned, would always be careful of her appearance, would feel that she represented the face of justice in the area and had to earn the respect of the people in the kingdom who so willingly obeyed her decrees.

So who would I choose to act the part of Mara? Well, for that I have to go back to an icon of my youth, the film star that I desperately wanted to look like.

If I could have my dream, it would be Audrey Hepburn – I loved everything about her, her eyes, her hair, her movements and best of all, for my character of this attractive young judge who was obeyed and respected by the people of the Burren, Audrey Hepburn always seemed to be very intelligent, full of charisma and possessing a natural dignity – the sort of person that would be obeyed by others. I think that she could do the role very well.
Visit Cora Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue