Sunday, June 29, 2014

Barbara J. Taylor's "Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night"

Barbara J. Taylor was born and raised in Scranton, PA, and teaches English in the Pocono Mountain School District. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Wilkes University. She still resides in the “Electric City,” two blocks away from where she grew up.

Here Taylor dreamcasts an adaptation of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, her first novel:
Interestingly enough, when I think about a movie version of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, it’s always to cast the character of Grief, Grace’s alter ego who has haunted her since childhood. While writing the book, I pictured John Malkovich, but not because I was thinking about my novel as a film. Back in the late 80s, I saw Malkovich in a play in London called Burn This, written by Lanford Wilson. Malkovich played Pale, the foul-mouthed, coke-snorting brother of Robbie, a gay dancer who had recently been killed in a boating accident. At first glance, there was nothing appealing about Malkovich’s character with his angry disposition, long greasy hair, and lumbering movements. He’d been dropped into a world where he didn’t belong, one with the grace and sensitivity of artists, yet somehow, Malkovich’s presence on stage was electric. The attraction between Pale and a dancer named Anna became not only possible but necessary. Years later, I may have had to Google a few details about the play to jog my memory for this piece, but that relationship between Pale and Anna—unlikely, inevitable, combustible—stayed with me and inspired the character of Grief.

That said, I’ve recently added George Clooney and Liam Neeson to the list of who I’d like to see as Grief, but that’s probably less about the character and more about my celebrity crushes.
Learn more about Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, and follow Barbara J. Taylor on Twitter.

Writers Read: Barbara J. Taylor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 27, 2014

Marie Manilla's "The Patron Saint of Ugly"

Marie Manilla is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, Calyx Journal, SouthWrit Large, and other journals. Her novel Shrapnel won the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel. Still Life with Plums: Short Stories was a finalist for both The Weatherford Award and ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year.

Here Manilla dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Patron Saint of Ugly:
Unabashed bribe: The first person to get The Patron Saint of Ugly into Tim Burton’s and Wes Anderson’s hands will get a dozen cannoli. Seriously. I love their movies. I love their humor and quirkiness, their tilted sadness. I particularly loved Burton’s treatment of one of my all-time favorite books: Big Fish. I love Anderson’s wonderfully weird exploration of family dynamics in The Royal Tenenbaums. The Patron Saint of Ugly is such a quirky, funny, sad, tragic, irreverent, holy book, that it’s begging for Burton’s or Anderson’s vision. Cannoli, everyone. A dozen of them delivered right to your door.

We’re also going to need a skilled make-up artist, since the main character, Garnet, has a body covered in port-wine birthmarks that look like a map of the world, the landmasses shifting over time as a result of environmental upheavals and the land-grabbing, fall-out of wars.

For the cast…

Child Garnet: Abigail Breslin…if we could put her in a time machine and send her back to childhood. She was fantastic in Little Miss Sunshine.

Adult Garnet: Jennifer Lawrence. She’s already an irreverent smartass—just like Garnet!

Nonna Diamante, Garnet’s Sicilian grandmother: June Squibb. I adored her in Nebraska.

Marina, Garnet’s Barbie-esque mother, the epitome of beauty whose looks have done more damage than good: Nicole Kidman would fit the lovely bill.

Angelo, Garnet’s ever-shrinking father who can’t seem to earn the respect of his wife or father: Jason Schwartzman. He’d get to sport a righteous pompadour…plus he’s already worked with Wes Anderson!

Grandpa Ferrari, Angelo’s brutish father: Danny Devito would be perfect, and he’s just the right size.

Grandmother Iris, Marina’s aristocratic, martini-swilling, snob of a mother: The divine Anjelica Huston, of course.

Betty, Garnet’s buxom, slightly ditzy, gum-smacking aunt with a lazy eye and a heart of gold: Helena Bonham Carter…plus she’s already worked with Tim Burton!

Nicky, Garnet’s bookish brother who is too pretty for his own good: Macaulay Culkin…if we could slip him into the same kid-reverting time machine with Abigail Breslin.
Visit Marie Manilla's website.

Writers Read: Marie Manilla.

The Page 69 Test: The Patron Saint of Ugly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jonathan Holt's "The Abduction"

Jonathan Holt read English literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising company. He lives in London.

Holt's new novel is The Abduction, the second book in the Carnivia Trilogy.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of the series:
I’d like to think that not only The Abduction, but the whole Carnivia trilogy, would be filmed. I’m a big admirer of the Stieg Larsson books – that combination of cracking conspiracy plots with great characters – so the pitch for my movie would be ‘Dragon Tattoo meets Da Vinci Code’.

David Fincher would direct, naturally – no one gives heart to a thriller like he does, or at least not since the demise of the great Tony Scott.

Rooney Mara would be wonderful as my American protagonist, US Intelligence Analyst Holly Boland. I’m not sure who would play her Italian opposite number, Captain Caterina ‘Kat’ Tapo of the Venice Carabinieri. I have a very strong image of Kat, as she’s based on a real Carabinieri officer whose photo I found online… but surely finding a raven-haired, impulsive, sometimes strident, feminist Italian in her mid-twenties who’s also a great actress can’t be hard?
Learn more about the book and author at the Carniva website.

The Page 69 Test: The Abduction.

Writers Read: Jonathan Holt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Megan Abbott's "The Fever"

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, and The End of Everything. Her 2012 novel, Dare Me, was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is soon to be a major motion picture.

Here Abbott dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fever:
I never think of specific people while writing a book. It would feel too specific, maybe limiting. But, as a movielover since childhood, once the book is complete, I often imagine the possibilities. And so I find myself doing that with The Fever. It’s the story of the Nash family, father Tom, a high school science teacher, and his two teenage children, handsome hockey star Eli and earnest Deenie. Deenie’s friend is stricken by a violent seizure in class one day and, with terrifying rapidity, other girls at the school are similarly afflicted.

For Deenie, sixteen and serious, complicated and loyal, I imagine one actress. The same actress I had in mind after finishing my last novel, Dare Me, and the one before that, The End of Everything. And she is Kiernan Shipka, AKA Sally Draper on Mad Men.

I have loved Sally since Shipka’s first scene on the show, age six or seven, dry cleaning bag stretched over her upturned face. She is being scolded by her mother, not for risking suffocation but because she suspects Sally of making a mess in her closet. Everything about Sally, which are the things I see in Deenie, are in that brief scene. Feeling at the mercy of adults who are more concerned with their own cares. Feeling neglected. Wanting only to experience things, to have adventures, to explore.

And over the past seven seasons, we’ve seen Shipka develop and transform and, well, incandesce as Sally has. Now she’s a cigarette-wielding, mother-sassing teenager. But despite having been at the blunt end of her parents’ negligence, deceit and solipsism her entire life, Shipka shows through the nuance of her performance how Sally is still a fundamentally good and moral person—perhaps the show’s moral compass—which is how I see Deenie.

Is there any actress so skilled at managing the mix of innocence and cynicism, ardor and disappointment, curiosity and trepidation, as Shipka? And, as many times as her Sally is disillusioned, she is still infinitely capable of expressing fresh wonder, which seems to ripple across her face as if she’s surprising herself?

These are the elements I had in my head for Deenie Nash. For whom everything is changing in terrifying ways and for whom holding strong and fast to herself, her own moral compass, matters more than ever.
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thomas C. Field, Jr.'s "From Development to Dictatorship"

Thomas C. Field Jr. is Assistant Professor of Global Security and Intelligence Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Here Field dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era:
Like many tales from Bolivia, From Development to Dictatorship lends itself to the big screen. Recent cinematic renditions of Bolivian history include Steven Soderbergh’s epic Che: Part Two: Guerrilla, the Spanish drama Even the Rain, and Rachel Boyton’s brilliant documentary Our Brand Is Crisis, which is soon to be readapted by George Clooney. That the latter won the Independent Spirit “Truer Than Fiction” Award owes as much to Bolivia’s fairy-tale qualities as to Boyton’s exceptional artistic skill.

As an homage to Bolivia’s historical surrealism, my film opens with an appearance by the founder of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, played by Johnny Depp. Swigging bourbon whiskey with US Embassy officers as armed militias roamed the streets, Thompson (Depp) characterizes Bolivia as “A Never-Never Land High Above the Sea…a land of excesses, exaggerations, quirks, contradictions, and every manner of oddity and abuse.”

In order to fully capture the “manic atmosphere” Thompson (Depp) found in revolutionary Bolivia, the film should be directed by Robert Rodríguez, who can uniquely capture the film’s frequent bouts of violence. I especially look forward to seeing Rodríguez’s interpretation of a July 1963 battle in Irupata between a CIA-funded peasant militia and leftwing miners toting handmade grenades.

Structurally, the film begins with the Kennedy administration fretting in 1961 that Bolivia was “half way over the brink to chaos” and that it would “slide down and be the second Cuba.” These words are spoken by Kennedy’s handpicked ambassador, labor economist Ben Stephansky, a short, liberal worrywart of a Cold Warrior who will be played wittily by Woody Allen. The film then traces Stephansky’s (Allen’s) fervent scramble to shore up Bolivia’s revolutionary government, led by a brilliant, wiry technocrat, Víctor Paz, who will be interpreted flawlessly by Marc Anthony. The film’s irony lies in the fact that Paz’s (Anthony’s) government is beset by strikes against development programs Stephansky (Allen) is tasked with bringing to Bolivia. It ends with the US Embassy depressed that a good looking and highly popular air force general, René Barrientos (played here by John Leguizamo), overthrows Paz (Anthony) in a coup that represents the film’s climax.

Alongside Marc Anthony as President Paz, Danny Trejo will play Juan Lechín, the legendary mustachioed Bolivian labor leader who serves as Paz’s (Anthony’s) vice president until a US-backed decision to bust the unions. Serving as Lechín’s (Trejo’s) foil character, George López will play Guillermo Bedregal, the surly young president of Bolivia’s state-run mining corporation whose arrogant style sparks violent clashes with armed miners throughout the film.

The story takes place mostly on the ground, in the union halls and universities where resistance to US development programs is plotted and carried out. For that reason, one of the film’s main protagonists is union leader Federico Escóbar, a gritty miner who balances radical oratory with underlying stoicism. None other than Antonio Banderas can capture the drama of Bolivia’s toughest union leader being arrested (in another shoot-out) as a condition of Kennedy-era programs. In the aftermath of the arrest, Escóbar’s (Banderas's) strong-willed wife Alicia (played by the fiery Rosie Pérez) helps take four US development officials hostage in the union hall of Siglo XX mining camp. She is supported by her dynamite-toting colleagues, Jerónima Jaldín and Domitila Barrios (interpreted by Kate del Castillo and Michelle Rodríguez).

Smaller roles will be filled by Benecio del Toro, this time not as “Che” Guevera, but as Che’s nemesis, Communist Party chief Mario Monje. Gael Garcia Bernal will play José Luis Cueto, the small, babyfaced intellectual who edits the Party newspaper and survives a machine gunning by Paz’s (Anthony’s) secret police in the film’s penultimate scene. Finally, Demian Bichir will be cast as Irineo Pimentel, the humble leftwing union leader who is Escobar’s (Banderas's) main collaborator.
Learn more about From Development to Dictatorship at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: From Development to Dictatorship.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rachel Toor's "On the Road to Find Out"

Rachel Toor is currently associate professor of Creative Writing at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers in Spokane, the graduate writing program of Eastern Washington University. She lives with her dog, Helen, who raced in her first half marathon in February.

Here Toor dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, On the Road to Find Out:
This is a huge problem. A ginormous problem.

Plenty of great actors could play most of the characters. A younger undiscovered Ellen Page or Jennifer Lawrence would be great for my main character, Alice. I wouldn’t want her to look too much like a runner; she’s just a normal girl who decides to take up running.

If he could get himself a little paunchy, Tom Hanks would be perfect for Walter-the-Man, the family friend who treats Alice like a friend and speaks honestly and bluntly to her when she needs to get out of her college-rejection funk. Mary-Louise Parker is one of my favorite actors because she comes across as smart—I’d love to see her play Alice’s dermatologist mom.

I have no idea if she can act, but Olympian Deena Kastor as Joan, the former elite runner who mentors Alice, would be totally cool for the running geeks. And Miles, the teen love interest—a tall skinny dude with floppy hair who loves to read and watches old movies with his grandma—no problem. Plenty of guys like that around. Casting all of the parts but one would be a breeze.

The big problem would be who could play Walter, perhaps the best and most loveable character in the novel. Walter is smart, funny, wise, athletic, and a total hottie.

He’s also a rat.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of rats who could play him. Great rodent actors would leap at the opportunity—there aren’t that many sympathetic roles for vermin. No, there’s a bigger issue. Balls. Rat balls. They’re ginormous. Pornographic. Like if a man had cantaloupes between his legs. It might be off-putting to a movie audience unaccustomed to seeing colossal testicles on screen.

I based Walter on my rat, Iris. But for the novel I wanted the rat character to be male. The boys are more chill; women rats are busy all the time and I needed someone who would be able to provide a certain amount of calm for Alice during a turbulent time. Alice does mention that the size of Walter’s balls freaks some people out, but it’s not something she spends a lot of time thinking about.

If a male rat were cast in the Walter roll, everyone would come out of the movie saying “Rat balls!” and not pay attention to the story. But if they cast a female, the rat people would know that Walter was being played by a chick. They might feel the moviemakers weren’t knowledgeable about rats, a bad thing for a work that argues that bigotry and prejudice rely on ignorance to thrive.

The bottom line is that I think the book won’t be made into a movie. Unless, maybe, possibly, they wrote in a scene about neutering Walter. That might work. But the male audiences who will silently admire Walter’s nuts might get a little queasy. Right. Probably not movie material.
Visit Rachel Toor's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: On the Road to Find Out.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Rachel Toor & Helen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ian Worthington's "By the Spear"

Ian Worthington is Professor of History at the University of Missouri and author of Alexander the Great: Man and God, Philip II of Macedonia, and Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire:
My book uniquely compares the reigns of Philip II and Alexander the Great of Macedonia to show how Philip was the architect of the Macedonian empire and Alexander its master builder. In truly a case of West meeting East, Alexander's conquests brought down the Persian Empire and spread Greek culture as far east as India, making the Greeks aware of being part of a world far bigger than the Mediterranean. I also discuss the problems Alexander faced in dealing with a multi-cultural subject population, and how his successes and failures can inform makers of strategy in culturally different regions of the world today.

A major reason why previous movies about Alexander the Great flopped was because of credible actors. By this I don't mean actors who are poor (far from it), but actors who are believable as the people they're portraying. Colin Farrell in Oliver Stone's movie never worked because he never looked comfortable or credible as Alexander (compare that performance to his character in Phone Booth, still his best movie I think). Nor did Richard Burton in Rossen's movie. But casting Alexander is not easy. He was only 22 when he invaded Asia, died not too far short of his 33rd birthday, and he was no six-foot macho man with muscles like The Rock. We need an actor to play the adult king who is not too old, looks like he's had a few knocks in his life, and is not the "screen hunk" type. Two actors come to mind: Sam Worthington (no relation), even though he's in his late 30s, and even better perhaps British actor Max Beesley (albeit in his 40s).

Alexander is only one person, albeit a central one, in both the book and the movie. His father Philip II was also a great warrior and king, and he suffered all manner of wounds, including an arrow in his right eye (which was sewn shut afterwards). I really like Kim Coates as an actor. He is too old (no offense) to play Alexander, but perfect for Philip, who was not a big hulking man as the armor from what is probably his tomb shows. Coates is likewise slight of build, but he has a commanding presence and a toughness that would make him a very believable Philip.

There's also a host of characters too numerous to mention. Alexander grew up with several boyhood friends who became commanders during his campaigns, men such as Ptolemy (who founded the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt), Nearchus (the admiral who first sailed the thousand miles of the Makran coast), and Hephaestion (who became Alexander's lover). Some good and believable people to play them would be Henry Rollins, Charlie Hunnam, and – just go with me here – Macklemore. Alexander also inherited some tough old generals from Philip; they fought with him loyally, but he came to resent them and eventually did away with them. Chief among these were Parmenion (Ron Perlman is a shoe-in here) and Cleitus, whom Alexander stabbed and killed during a drunken argument – enter Muse Watson for Cleitus. And what about Alexander's bitter enemy, the Persian king Darius III? I'll tap Nestor Serrano for that role.

The pattern is emerging that we're not recruiting the sort of handsome, muscle-bound men with perfect white teeth that drive far too many Hollywood movies these days (no disrespect intended to any of the gentlemen named above). Instead, we need actors (or rappers) who have to look like they grew up in the tough love world that was Macedonia, where boys were taught to ride, hunt, and fight almost before they could talk, and men could not recline at the wild drinking parties until they had killed their first wild boar with only a spear. If only Alexander had carried a machete: we could then be treated to Danny Trejo as the king.

But of course we do need some beautiful people – this is a movie after all. And so we turn to the ladies, and just a few examples. For Philip's fourth wife and Alexander's mother, Olympias, there can be only one choice: Katey Sagal. No different from Gemma in Sons of Anarchy, Olympias was scheming, controlling, ruthless, and insecure; she may even have poisoned Alexander's older brother (the son of Philip by a different wife) so that Alexander would become heir to the throne, she may even have been part of a conspiracy to assassinate Philip so that Alexander could become king, and she was forever meddling in politics.

Then there is Alexander's wife, Roxane of Bactria (Afghanistan), one of the most tragic figures of this period. This one is a no brainer: the stunning Afghan actress Gihana Khan. Finally, Alexander was said to have had a sexual relationship with the Persian queen mother Sisygambis. To play her there is none better than the equally stunning Shohreh Aghdashloo.

If only this wasn't a dreamcast...
View a slideshow of the rise and fall of the Macedonian Empire in pictures.

Ian Worthington is Professor of History at the University of Missouri.

My Book, The Movie: Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece.

The Page 99 Test: Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chevy Stevens's "That Night"

Chevy Stevens is the author of Still Missing and Never Knowing.

Her new novel is That Night.

Here Stevens dreamcasts an adaptation of the new book:
When I first started writing That Night, I didn’t have an actress in mind for Toni, but I did think about Ryan Gosling for Ryan, who is Toni’s boyfriend in the book. While I was working on the outline, I listened to Eric Church’s song, “Springsteen” quite a bit. I Googled Erich Church and realized he was also a good model for Ryan—I liked his clothing style. This year I watched the movie Country Strong with Gwyneth Paltrow and thought the male actor, Garrett Hedlund, did an excellent job and could play Ryan. I recently created a status update on my Facebook, naming which actress I could see playing Toni and I realized Natalie Portman would be amazing (is there anything she can’t do?). She’s small, and slight like Toni. She also can wear her hair very short and still look beautiful. In the book, Toni has long hair in the beginning then when she is sentenced to prison, she cuts it all off in a fauxhawk. I’d be happy to see either of these talented actors in the movie for That Night!
Learn more about the book and author at the official Chevy Stevens website.

My Book, The Movie: Still Missing.

The Page 69 Test: That Night.

Writers Read: Chevy Stevens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mark Troy's "The Splintered Paddle"

Mark Troy is the author of Pilikia Is My Business, a private eye novel published in 2001 and republished in 2010. Pilikia was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America for Best 1st P.I. Novel. Game Face, a collection of short stories featuring P.I. Val Lyon, was published in 2011. The Rules, the first story in the Ava Rome series, was published as an ebook and audiobook in 2013.

Here Troy dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Splintered Paddle, the latest book in the Ava Rome series:
I haven't really thought about casting The Splintered Paddle, but some real actors and the characters they've portrayed, as well as some non-actors, have inspired the characters in the book. So this is a great experiment to see how they fit in the story.

The heroine, Ava Rome, is a woman of action and determination. She was tough enough to be an MP in the Army, so she is knowledgeable about guns and personal combat. If the movie were made thirty years ago, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series would have been ideal for the role of Ava. More than anything else, what attracts me is the set of Sigourney's jaw that says, “I’m going to kill monsters.”

Athletes are my greatest source of inspiration for Ava—Gabby Reese and Misty May-Treanor, for two. But if I could pick anybody, it would be U.S. Olympic goal keeper, Hope Solo. She has the body, the face, and the eyes filled with aggression. Looking in those eyes, you do not want to be a guy who breaks her heart. As a goalie, Hope Solo embodies the attitude that I see in Ava. She’s the last defense when everyone else on the team has been beaten. After she makes the save, she starts the offense. She stands alone for the team while the opposition lines up to take their shots. Also, she’s got the perfect name for a hardboiled PI, after Guy Noir, of course.

Ava has a tough-guy sidekick named Moon Ito. For Moon, I pick Daniel Dae Kim of Hawaii Five-O. Again, it’s the eyes. There is that no nonsense expression that reveals nothing but hints of the violence that could be unleashed if crossed.

The bad guys drive the story in a mystery. The Splintered Paddle has two main bad guys. Norman Traxler is a psychopath seeking revenge. I have always thought of him as resembling Max Cady of Cape Fear played by Robert Mitchum. (Robert DeNiro played Cady in the remake, but Mitchum is who I see in this role.) If cast today, I would give the nod to Michael Madsen, Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs. The other bad guy is an ethically challenged police detective who is both smooth and brash. Someone such as Charlie Sheen would be great for the part.

Working girl, Jenny Mordan, the victim of Ron Nevez’s harassment and later Traxler’s target, is strong-willed and stubborn, which puts her in frequent conflict with Ava who is trying to protect her. Jenny's unpredictability endangers both her and Ava. Miley Cyrus would be great for that role.

Director: Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. There will be bloodshed and bad words.
Visit Mark Troy's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Splintered Paddle.

Writers Read: Mark Troy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gary Corby's "The Marathon Conspiracy"

Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates.

The books in order are The Pericles Commission, The Ionia Sanction, Sacred Games and The Marathon Conspiracy.

Here Corby dreamcasts an adaptation of The Marathon Conspiracy:
The big problem with casting The Marathon Conspiracy is the bear. Yes, it’s a giant brown bear. It’s also one of the suspects. There’s bound to be someone who supplies giant brown bears for movies, but I don’t know who it is. We must hope the bear doesn’t eat the other actors.

The Marathon Conspiracy takes place at the Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron, which was the world’s first official school for girls. That means we need some schoolgirls. I’ll cast my daughters and their friends. I think they’d enjoy the experience.

I believe it was W.C. Fields who said, “Never work with animals or children.” Since the The Marathon Conspiracy is well stocked for both, I think it only fair that we cast him for a role. I’ll give him the role of Pericles.

For Socrates, I think I’ll cast Socrates. The rules do allow me to use anyone from any time!

For Nico and Diotima, my hero and heroine detectives, I’ll have Daniel Radcliffe, who against all my expectations has turned out to be a for-real actor; and Natalia Tena, who did a good job as Tonks in Harry Potter.
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

The Page 69 Test: The Marathon Conspiracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Donis Casey's "Hell With the Lid Blown Off"

Donis Casey is the author of seven Alafair Tucker Mysteries, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, Crying Blood, The Wrong Hill to Die On, and Hell With the Lid Blown Off. The award-winning series, featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, is set in Oklahoma and Arizona during the booming 1910s.

Here Casey dreamcasts an adaptation of Hell With the Lid Blown Off, which deals with murder near the small Oklahoma town of Boynton after a killer tornado sweeps through in the summer of 1916:
My sleuth, Alafair Tucker, is a woman in her early forties, who lives with her husband Shaw and their ten children on a prosperous farm in Oklahoma in the early part of the Twentieth Century. She never sets out to solve murders, but all those pesky kids keep getting involved in unsavory situations and need their mother to get them out of trouble. Fortunately for me, Alafair is the kind of woman who will literally do anything, legal or not so legal, for her kids.

Many of the details of Alafair’s life on the farm, such as using kerosine-soaked corn cobs to start a fire, come from my mother, who grew up on a farm during the Depression. Many of the incidents related actually happened, both in my family and my husband’s (the less savory ones, he points out).

I made a point of not physically describing my main character, Alafair, except in generalities, even though I have a clear picture of her in my head. After seven books, a few details about her appearance have slipped out. She has dark hair that she can’t do anything with. She has dark eyes and a sun-browned complexion. She’s middle-sized. I didn’t create Alafair or any of the other characters with actors in mind. Alafair and her family are all based on friends or relatives of mine, living and dead.

But that doesn’t keep readers from casting my movie for me.

One fan of the series suggested to me that Alafair should be played by Kathy Bates. Not two weeks later, another woman thought Joan Allen would be a good Alafair. That certainly runs the gamut of physical types. I’d be thrilled to have either of these actresses play Alafair. However, not to put too fine a point on it, they’re both too old. Sandra Bullock is closer to Alafair’s age, though considering that Alafair is a farm wife with many kids, Sandy would have to be deglamorized quite a bit. Of course, if Meryl Streep would agree to the part, that would suit me just fine, no matter how old she is.

Alafair’s husband, Shaw, is one-quarter Cherokee, six feet tall, hazel eyed, with black hair and a floppy mustache. Sounds just like Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck in his prime. However, Shaw has a certain straightforward, honest, Western sensibility that reminds me of parts I have seen played by Matt Damon or Matthew McConnaughey. Two blonds who’d need a dye job to portray Shaw, but they’re about the right age. If George Clooney is looking to expand his repertoire, I’d be willing to give him a shot at it.

Jubal Beldon, the villain/victim in Hell, hardly has a redeemable feature and is pretty creepy-looking, too, rather like Giovanni Ribisi’s weirdly calculating backwoodsman in Cold Mountain. But I vote for Tim Roth as Jubal. He was a fabulous villain in Rob Roy--heartless, smart, yet with a hint of wistfulness.

It’s good for a writer to keep in mind that once your work is out of your hands, the characters aren’t yours any more. They’re the reader’s. So I leave it to the readers to cast red-headed Trent, exuberant Wallace, mysterious Randal, Miz Beckie, and all those lively Tucker children and members of the extended Tucker family. Except for Grandma Sally, that is. I’ll play her myself.
Visit Donis Casey's website.

Writers Read: Donis Casey.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Michael A. Kahn's "Face Value"

A trial lawyer by day, Michael A. Kahn is the award-winning author of ten novels and several short stories. His new novel, Face Value (Poisoned Pen Press), is the ninth in his Rachel Gold mystery series.

Here Kahn dreamcasts an adaptation of Face Value:
Readers, friends, and relatives have been casting Rachel Gold and her brilliant, fat, and crude best friend Benny Goldberg since they first appeared 25 years ago in The Canaan Legacy. Back then, many suggested that Rachel be played by Amy Irving (who’d starred in a few films in the 1980s), and that Benny be played by John Candy (as a stand-in for John Belushi, who had died earlier that decade). Over the years, Amy’s career has faded and John Candy sadly followed John Belushi into the grave.

Also over the years, two other recurring characters have emerged, namely, Sarah Gold, Rachel’s irrepressible Jewish mother, and Jacki Brand, the massive former steelworker who underwent a sex-change operation while working as Rachel’s secretary (and attending law school at night) and who is now a partner in Rachel’s law firm.

Here are my casting choices:

Rachel Gold: Everyone seems to have their own Rachel. My top two choices are Natalie Portman and Kate Winslet;

Benny Goldberg: Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill;

Sarah Gold: There are so many wonderful actresses over the age of 60 that this is a tough casting decision. How do you choose among Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, and Susan Sarandon? Each would be an awesome version of Sarah Gold. I think, though, I will opt for Jane Fonda. She could channel that feisty, no-nonsense personality of Sarah Gold that so exasperates her daughter and so endears her to readers.

Jacki Brand: This role requires a burly male actor in drag. A younger James Gandolfini would have been perfect, but he’s obviously no longer available. My first choice is Channing Tatum. If he’s not available and we are able to sign Jonah Hill to play Benny, then I’d opt for Seth Rogan, who’d look lovely in lipstick and heels.
Visit Michael A. Kahn's website.

Writer Read: Michael A. Kahn.

The Page 69 Test: Face Value.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Daniel H. Wilson's "Robogenesis"

Daniel H. Wilson is the author of the New York Times bestselling Robopocalypse and seven other books, including How to Survive a Robot Uprising, A Boy and His Bot, and Amped. In 2008, he hosted The Works on the History Channel. He earned a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Masters degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Here Wilson dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Robogenesis:
Robogenesis is a sequel to the bestselling Robopocalypse, which was purchased by DreamWorks and put into movie development hell with Steven Spielberg attached to direct. That was years ago, but I’m still hoping very hard that the movie moves forward. Chris Hemsworth was attached as Cormac Wallace, which sounds good to me (although in my mind, Cormac is not quite as Thor-like in his buffness). My most ardent hope, however, is that the dozens of Native American characters in Robogenesis (including Lark Iron Cloud, Hank Cotton, and Cherrah Ridge) will someday be played by native actors.
Learn more about the book and author at Daniel Wilson's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Boy and His Bot.

The Page 69 Test: Robopocalypse.

My Book, The Movie: Amped.

The Page 69 Test: Robogenesis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lisa O'Donnell's "Closed Doors"

Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

Here O'Donnell dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Closed Doors:
Closed Doors has a lot of children in it and so I guess a director who is accustomed to working with children would be ideal. I am a big Jim Sheridan fan and I cite him all the time when asked this question. He works well with kids. My Left Foot, In America and Dream House. I also think Alan Parker would be equally amazing. Angela’s Ashes was an excellent interpretation of the book. Ideally you want a filmmaker who can take any kid and turn them into the characters created by the writer and that’s hard. Working with children isn’t easy.

I’d love Emily Watson to play Ma. Colm Meany to play Da and Phyllida Law to play Granny. I love her and we don’t see enough of her on screen. She’s from Glasgow and her performance in The Winter Guest where she plays opposite her daughter Emma Thompson is really special.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa O'Donnell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Death of Bees.

Writers Read: Lisa O'Donnell.

The Page 69 Test: Closed Doors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mike Mullin’s "Sunrise"

Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mullin juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mullin holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats.

Here he shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Sunrise, his third novel:
Since the last time I guest posted in this space, Ashfall has been optioned for development as a television series. However, casting the book is still a complete fantasy exercise for me—authors almost never get a voice in casting.

There’s a good reason not to include me in casting an Ashfall television series—I would be hopelessly bad at it. I watch very little television and only perhaps a dozen or so movies per year—I prefer to spend my time reading. So I had to turn to Twitter to get suggestions for this post.

For Alex, @seaofships suggested casting Nick Robinson.

And as Darla, @dahlia_lala proposed Maisie Williams.

There’s a small problem with their ages: Nick is 19 and Maisie is 15. In my books, of course, Darla is a year and a half older than Alex. But I suppose that is what I get for crowdsourcing the casting suggestions on Twitter. Who would you pick? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.
Learn more about the book and author at Mike Mullin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ashfall.

Writers Read: Mike Mullin.

The Page 69 Test: Sunrise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jenny Milchman's "Ruin Falls"

Jenny Milchman's journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour." Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Milchman is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. Her second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road.

Here Milchman dreamcasts an adaptation of Ruin Falls:
Here’s the log line for Ruin Falls, the movie:

The hardest part isn’t losing everything you love. It’s getting it back.

This novel centers around Liz Daniels, a woman who at the beginning isn’t very strong. She lets herself be led by her husband…but she’s not going to have her husband around for very long. As soon as she doesn’t, she must become strong on her own. Call it a twist on girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy. Girl must find herself.

Since this movie would be basically carried by Liz, the role will require a very strong female lead. Charlize Theron, perhaps. Or maybe Jennifer Lawrence given a few years? And even though the husband won’t get a lot of screen time, he’s important enough that we need a good actor, one who will make every minute on screen count and not mind how few of them there are. Someone who's not a leading man, but is recognizable, like Hank Azaria, or a character actor who's name I don't remember...because he's a character actor.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Cover of Snow.

Writers Read: Jenny Milchman.

The Page 69 Test: Ruin Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eileen Brady's "Muzzled"

Eileen Brady is a veterinarian living in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a wife and mother of two daughters and often has to chase her six cats and two dogs away from her laptop keyboard. The Kate Turner, DVM Mysteries is her first series.

Here Brady dreamcasts an adaptation of Muzzled, the first book in the series:
Piece of cake. I’d cast Meryl Streep as Dr. Kate Turner. When you read Muzzled you’ll know why. That’s Meryl at about 28 years old – think Kramer vs. Kramer. For Luke Gianetti, the handsome but out of reach (for now) police officer who is studying for his law degree, I’d like that handsome Irishman Colin Farrell. Of course, I’d have to do a little hasty rewrite and add an Irish ancestor into his family tree, but hey, it’s my movie, my screenplay.

I’ve got several eccentric characters in the book, such as the son of two English teachers, Henry James, a tattooed biker who loves to bake. Either Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson would do fine in this role. Betty White could play Mrs. Davidsen, an elderly lady whose outfits always match those worn by her much loved Chihuahua, Lil Man.

In my dream movie I’d be directing. Before I went to veterinary school to become a doctor I was an actress for over ten years. Yes, a real Equity card carrying actress with voiceovers, children’s theater and lots of off-off-off-off Broadway credits to my resume. Second choice would be Steven Spielberg because of his way with actors and animals, even extra-terrestrial ones. I’m sure that with his guidance my imaginary movie would be a fantastic one!
Visit Eileen Brady's website.

The Page 69 Test: Muzzled.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

David Fuller's "Sundance"

David Fuller's first novel, Sweetsmoke, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, as well as being shortlisted for a John Creasy "New Blood" Dagger Award in Great Britain. It was a Discover Great New Writers pick for Barnes & Noble, and an Original Voices pick for Borders.

Here Fuller dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Sundance:
As a recovering screenwriter (a term my wife coined for me a few years back, so when you hear others use it, you’ll know from where they stole it), I know the ‘business’ pretty well. And I know casting and how it works. I didn’t write the novel to be made into a movie, which is why I wrote it as a novel. But people talk, and when writing screenplays, you always start with your favorites, a little list you keep in your head. The dream list. Sometimes you even write the names down in case your agent bothers to ask who you see in the role. He’ll ignore your suggestions, but it’s nice to be asked. But before we get into the Pitts and the Clooneys and the Costners and the Hamms, when it comes to my novel Sundance, we had better begin at the beginning.

Robert Redford may well be available. And if I had written the novel twenty years ago, he would be the hands-down first choice. But if you cast him now, then you have to cast an older Etta, say Helen Mirren or Judi Dench. Even if you nudge their true ages up a notch for the story, keeping in mind the Sundance Kid would have been 46 in 1913, this perhaps is a notch too far.

So here’s how it will work: You’ve got that list of four or five guys, movie stars, because our image of the Sundance Kid was created by a Movie Star. And you go after them, and this is in no particular order. Well, Brad Pitt loves your project, he wept when he read it, he laughed, he was on the edge of his seat, and he wants to do it, only he’s busy for the next four years. Okay, well, if he liked it that much, maybe we can wait. Oh, well, gee, we sort of forgot to mention that after those four years, he’s decided to take a year or two off to be with his kids. But he loved the book and wants to do it. George Clooney has decided to play only modern parts now, because that historical fiction thing doesn’t really work for him, and besides, he doesn’t like wearing hats. Jon Hamm looks great in hats, but he’s tired of being associated with American icons like Don Draper, so from now on he’s going to play only German characters, as he does a wicked German accent. Kevin Costner also loved your book, and he’d be swell, I mean, he’s perfect, he loves westerns, he wears hats, cowboy hats, and he’s a movie star. But he just committed to an AMC series about the Wild Bunch, and they expect it to run for seven years, so he’s not available.

Right then you’re thinking of giving up and you hear, “All right all right all right,” and Matthew McConaughey , 44 years old, says he’d like to play the part, only he’d prefer to play Butch, and can we change the story so that it’s Butch who’s on the journey to find Etta. Only Butch wasn’t married to Etta, so it has to be someone else he was in love with, so we have to figure that out. And then, after you go through hoops, he passes because he’s got his own Sundance Kid story idea, where the Kid goes to China and shoots up the Great Wall.

Pretty soon, producers are calling you because Dolph Lundgren needs a project, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is available because Jon Hamm is getting all the good German speaking roles.

For the time being, I’m glad that Sundance is a novel and that people are able to read my actual words, and if they like, they can imagine the movie in their heads.
Learn more about the book and author at David Fuller's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Sweetsmoke.

The Page 69 Test: Sundance.

Writers Read: David Fuller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sheila Kohler's "Dreaming for Freud"

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later lived in Paris for fifteen years, where she married, completed her undergraduate degree in Literature at the Sorbonne, and a graduate degree in Psychology at the Institut Catholique. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and earned an MFA in Writing at Columbia. She currently teaches at Princeton University. Kohler's work has been featured in the New York Times, O Magazine and included in the Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O’Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize, and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. Her novel Cracks was nominated for an Impac Award, and has been made into a feature film to be distributed by IFC.

Here Kohler dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Dreaming for Freud:
I can imagine two actresses in the role of Dora (Freud's young patient in my novel who remains unnamed) They both played in the film of my novel Cracks. Juno Temple played Di and has also starred in Atonement; Imogen Poots who was Poppy, a more minor role in Cracks, is also a very talented English actress who was in The Last Quartet.

As for Freud perhaps he might be played here (he's forty four in the book) by Michael Fassbender who played Jung in A Dangerous Method. That would be a nice irony there!

For a director I would love Christine Vachan (Boys Don't Cry) who was also responsible in part for Cracks. I feel she would understand young Dora, a desperate adolescent who is surrounded by adults who betray her, and her need for a voice.
Visit Sheila Kohler's website.

Writers Read: Sheila Kohler.

The Page 69 Test: Dreaming for Freud.

--Marshal Zeringue