Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Erika Marks's "It Comes In Waves"

Erika Marks is a native New Englander who now makes her home in North Carolina with her husband and their two little mermaids. She is also the author of The Guest House, Little Gale Gumbo, and The Mermaid Collector.

Here Marks dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, It Comes In Waves:
I am a card-carrying movie junkie. Just ask my husband. It’s a joke in our house that we offer the perfect balance of knowledge to our two children: he, the biologist, covers the science, while I take care of the very important subject of enlightening our daughters about all things cinematic.

So it goes without saying that I see my novels as movies all the while I am writing them, and  It Comes In Waves was no exception. Sometimes I cast my books right away, other times I have to let the characters evolve and grow before it is clear to me who they resemble, or who they might be played by if my book was ever made into a movie.

(Did I mention how much I love this blog and the chance to cast my book for film? Thank you!)

Okay, here we go…

Claire: She’s tough but very vulnerable, a woman struggling to connect with her daughter, but also longing for the lost passion of her days as a champion surfer when she was madly in love and full of hope. I think Diane Lane would make a fantastic Claire in that she’d show the perfect combination of grit and fragility, and that all-important rawness of someone faced with their past and forced to confront it.

Jill: She’s the opposite of Claire but the role would need to be played by someone equally gifted at portraying the nuances of a woman, wife, mother, friend at a crossroads in her own life. I could envision Ashley Judd or Jennifer Garner bringing that mix of softness and steadfastness of Jill, but also be that woman who keeps her own feelings buried to keep the peace, to avoid the drama that Claire often indulges, to be the dutiful wife and mother.

Foster: Since we only know Foster in his early twenties, Garrett Hedlund might be a good choice for the fun-loving, big-hearted surfer.

Shep: All-star handsome but tender-hearted, Chris O’Donnell would be a good choice for the guy who never got over losing his one true love, Jill, and then got her back again.

Ivy: Foster’s mother is a true bohemian but also a tough cookie who still wants her own independence and always speaks her mind. I’d love to see Diane Keaton in that role and return to her more breezy Annie Hall days. Or Susan Sarandon would be fabulous too.

Maura: Sigourney Weaver or Jane Seymour would be perfect as Claire’s mom; always proper, slightly frosty and detached but always making sure to keep that tight, polite smile intact.

Gus: Out of all the characters, sexy surf shop owner Gus was the only one I had cast from the outset, having just seen the movie Breaking Mavericks, so he is, and will always be, Gerard Butler in my mind.
Learn more about the book and author at Erika Marks's website.

My Book, The Movie: Little Gale Gumbo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shannon Moroney's "Through the Glass"

Shannon Moroney is the author of the memoir, Through the Glass.

Here she shares some ideas for an adaptation of the book:
In 2005, my life was beautiful. I had a rewarding career as a high school guidance counsellor and was on track toward education leadership. I owned my first home in a small community I loved, was involved in meaningful volunteer work, had a wide circle of family and friends, and best of all—I had just married my soul mate, Jason. My twenties were a decade defined by education, travel and adventure. On the brink of a new decade, I hoped my thirties would be defined by motherhood.

Then, while away at a conference, a knock at my hotel room door changed everything. It was a police officer, there to tell me that my home was a crime scene and that Jason was in custody after confessing to the kidnapping and brutal sexual assault of two women. Investigators were already saying he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. I felt the world I knew shatter and fall to pieces around me.

In that instant, I began a terrifying journey through shock, grief and confusion as I transitioned from being a respected educator, volunteer, homeowner and happy newlywed to being the wife of a sex offender.

In shock and confusion, I pictured Jason in a prison cell, a rapist. In agony, I pictured his victims. Where were they? Who were they? What were they going through? Their ordeal was my own worst nightmare as a woman. How could this have happened at the hands of my husband? I tried to reach out to them, but was told by authorities that I was on the side of the offender. Lines were drawn. As the news of the crimes broke, stigma, shame and judgement befell me. The ripple effect of crime and trauma was far-reaching. While Jason was taken away to solitary confinement, I became the target for blame, judgement and guilt-by-association, left to answer for him in his absence.

Through the Glass is the story of what happened that day and all that came afterwards—from the conversations with Jason in prison, the reactions of friends, family and the community, my estrangement from the victims, and the slow criminal justice process.

It’s also about what came after the sentencing, and the choices I had to make about my relationship with Jason, my community, and my future. Determined never to allow violence and betrayal to control my life, I made a personal commitment to find a positive path forward, to regain trust and to one day help others affected by the crimes and incarceration of a loved one. Throughout my ordeal, I had been unable to find a book that could guide me or offer solace. Yet, with thousands of people incarcerated in Canada and over two million in the USA, I knew I couldn’t be the only one on this journey. I decided that I would have to be the one to write and offer a voice.

My vision for a film adaptation of Through the Glass:

At its core, Through the Glass is a story of one woman on two journeys. The first is private and personal: I am trying to rebuild my life after my husband’s crimes and to overcome trauma, stigma and guilt-by-association. I’m trying to understand who he was and how he could have done what he did. The second journey is public and political: I am a citizen, bearing witness on a justice system that leaves victims out in the cold and a society that can be as stigmatizing as it can be compassionate. My eyes are being opened to the plight of offender’s families, the limits of a retributive justice system, and the vast need for systems that actually heal people.

It would be so easy to make a lurid, sensational and cheap film based on the most scant facts of my story. I say this because I’ve seen various media outlets do it: eye-catching headlines superimposed on crime scene tape, like “Tall, Dark and Homicidal: I married a Rapist”. They make me cringe. It would break my heart to see my book—and my life—made out in this simplistic, tabloid and fear-mongering way. My vision is a film with integrity, intelligence and complexity, one that is as much about the universal, human themes of love and loss, trust and betrayal, hope and grief, as it is about true crime.

I would be proud of a film made in the vein of Dead Man Walking or Erin Brockovich, as both capture so beautifully the lives of ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, called to active duty in battles they didn’t want or ask for. Although the women are played by glamorous Hollywood stars, they are not themselves glamorous, nor perfect. They struggle. They face criticism. They have self-doubt. Yet, somehow they discover inner strength and take on warrior roles in controversial, important causes.

Who would I want to write and direct Through the Glass?

I would want one person to both write and direct, ideally someone who shares my vision and who is willing to work closely with me as an advisor or co-writer. Alternatively, it would have to be someone I trust so much that I could relinquish control completely and not be involved at all.

I’d also want someone who would recreate scenes of violence with respect for the victims and the viewer. This doesn’t mean to downplay, but rather to be delicate and sensitive, as I aimed to be in writing my book. It should be impactful, but not gratuitous.

Last year I had the privilege of meeting Sister Helen Prejean, author and anti-death penalty advocate portrayed by Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking, and one of my personal heroes. She spoke about her experience working closely with writer/director Tim Robbins on the adaptation of her book, how unfailingly respectful he was to her, how little ego he had, and how much he wanted to “get it right”. This type of working relationship would be ideal for me, and likely the only way I could bring myself to actually sell my book and life rights.

So, for Hollywood writers and directors, my choices would include Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking), Susannah Grant and Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich). For Canadian writers and directors, I’d be honoured to work with Sarah Polley (Away From Her and Stories We Tell) and Michael McGowan (One Week).

Casting Through the Glass

Leading Roles:

Me, Shannon Moroney. The temptation is to try to think of someone who looks like me, but I actually think that is immaterial. It would only be important to me that the actor get to know my true essence as a human being: optimistic, life-loving and generally sunny. I think that these traits, bound up with determination, an intense work ethic, and support from family and friends, are what made me able to triumph over trauma, and eventually to turn my own experience into advocacy for others. Someone who can capture this optimism while accurately portraying my painful journey would be the person I’d cast. I’d have to base my selection on auditions, rather than past performances.

Jason Staples: My husband, best friend and soul-mate turned rapist and kidnapper.

So split was Jason’s personality that the actor wanting to play Jason has to be able to take on two roles—to portray two distinct characters without allowing one to show through the other. They must both be authentic, as both aspects of Jason were real: the creative and kind friend, husband, employee and neighbour and the terrifying, violent criminal. Throughout his trial, he showed intense remorse to the people who knew him—even empathy—but in court he was robotic and emotionless. Accurately portraying this duality is essential to the integrity of the story, but it is no easy task.

When pondering who could play Jason, I first think of casting the Jason that I knew—my best friend and soul mate, someone who I loved with all my heart. Jason was also very handsome, tall with blue eyes and wavy brown hair. Think Clark Kent, with his earnest demeanor. The harder task is to think of someone able to portray the deeply tormented Jason, the man who in his worst moments chose to torment others in a perverse and sadistic way. Who is brave enough to get inside Jason’s mind and understand the darkness that was there? Can he leave an audience feeling conflicted and stirred up by Jason’s contradictions?

I think the best candidate is Joshua Jackson, a talented Canadian actor best known for his role as Pacey on Dawson’s Creek, but more recently for his Genie-award winning lead in the independent film, One Week. He bears a striking resemblance to Jason, but moreover I believe he could carry both characters.

Supporting Roles: There are over forty people to cast, many of whom just appear once or twice and could be portrayed very well by good character actors. Here are a few that appear throughout the story:

My Mum: Helen Mirren

My Dad: Tom Skerritt

Detective Jeff Morgan: Brad Pitt (I want to reward Jeff for being a hero)

Defense Attorney, Connie: Juliana Margulies

Crown Attorney: Tom Wilkinson

Dr. Sue Gleeson: Julie Walters

Rachael, my best friend: Michelle Williams
Learn more about the book and author at Shannon Moroney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ed Lin's "Ghost Month"

Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award, and was followed by in One Red Bastard 2012. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.

Here Lin dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Ghost Month:
If Ghost Month were made into a film, as the author I would have little to no power in casting it.

I'd be pleased, however, to see in the protagonist Jing-nan's role Mark Chao, who memorably portrayed a guy being raised by a single mom who goes on to join a gang for protection in the Taiwanese film Monga. He can appear conflicted and yet still resolute on what he's decided to do. Most importantly he looks like a music snob. I can see his eyes rolling if someone said Interpol were the new Joy Division.

I'd like to see Louis Ozawa Changchien in the role of the Taiwanese American. Is he a villain? Or is he really looking out for Jing-nan? Louis has a great menacing side, as shown in Predators and The Bourne Legacy, and he can also pull off an intelligent, calculating demeanor, as he did in the play Warrior Class. Bonus: Louis is a Taiwanese American.

I think Yaoyao (Kuo Shu-yao) should portray Nancy, a grad student at Taida and the former mistress of a jailed executive. Yaoyao's often dismissed as the singer with the baby face and big breasts. Yet she has acting chops--in fact, she won Best New Performer in Taiwan's Academy Awards last year for her role in Step Back to Glory (about a tug-of-war team). She's done dumbass commercials and starred in insipid videos, but I saw an interview with her where she dropped the fake smiles and was real. Yaoyao's life could have been much different. Her father passed away when she was still a young teen and she had to work in a restaurant to help support her family. She's no charity case now, and the role wouldn't be a gimme.

Chen Chih-yuan should portray Dwayne, the main cook at Jing-nan's night-market stall, Unknown Pleasures. There are a number of parallels with Dwayne here: Chen is of Amis descent; was a professional baseball player; and currently runs a barbeque joint on Taiwan's east coast. Chen, like Dwayne, also looks bad as hell. Sure, Chen was indicted for game-fixing that ended his playing career, but those charges were all bullshit.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Lin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

Writers Read: Ed Lin (May 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arthur Allen's "The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl"

Since 1995 Arthur Allen has been writing articles and books, mostly about science and medicine, for publications such as The Washington Post, Science, Smithsonian, Landscape Architecture, The New Republic and His 2007 book Vaccine was the first major U.S. work to examine the anti-vaccine movement, and he has written many articles about the science and anthropology of vaccines. In 2010 he published Ripe, a foray into the world of tomato breeding, genetics, culture and food snobbism, which allowed him to spend time in southern Italy, Mexico and western China.

Here Allen sketches a dream scenario for an adaptation of his new book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis:
I’m Steven Spielberg, or Agnieska Holland, or … Steven Soderbergh? Jim Jarmusch? It’s another beautiful day in Hollywood. The casting agent is in my office now (is that how it works?) and, over wheatgrass juice, Ethiopian coffee and macadamia nuts, we’re examining her selections for my pic, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl….

For some reason I’ve always imagined Ben Kingsley in the role of Ludwik Fleck. He’s monkish, intelligent, sly —a reprise of Kingsley’s 1982 role as Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, maybe Kingsley’s too old. Adrien Brody? Moritz Bleibtreu? (Run, Lola, Run; Munich.)

Ernestyna Fleck I had figured as Meryl Streep… but she’s a bit long in the tooth for the role (did it take me that long to finish this book?). Sophie Marceau? Marion Cotillard?

Already, I can see that it’s a good thing I didn’t quit my day job…

For Rudolf Weigl… Gerard Depardieu? Lives large, womanizes, idiosyncratic but lovable. On second thought, Depardieu is too large and wild to play Weigl, although the contrast with Kingsley would certainly be sharp. David Bowie? (Don’t laugh, he played Tesla in 2006)… Anyone can wear a stage goatee, but is there an actor who can play a man simultaneously genius and reticent, perceptive yet indifferent to the affairs of the world, a brave homebody, scornful and fun-loving, ribald and utterly absent-minded?

His wife Zofia Weigl is played by Rachel Weisz. Beautiful, talented, sensitive, troubled, sickly…

In the role of Erwin Ding, the unloved and often vicious SS doctor, Ralph Fiennes is the obvious choice, although what youngish actor worth his salt can’t play an ostensibly genial, deeply insecure, sadistic and opportunistic Nazi doctor? Michael Fassbender? Jason Schwarzman? (There’s a comical element here, which you’ll see if you read the book.)

Hermann Eyer is a tougher choice. A younger Bruno Ganz would have been my first choice—the Bruno Ganz from The American Friend. Thoughtful, moody, preoccupied, skilled. Maybe Marek Kondrat (the Polish actor)?

As Bruno Weber, the SS doctor at Auschwitz, Benno Fürmann (who plays a persecuted Jew in Into Darkness.)

Anyway, it’s a start.
Visit Arthur Allen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Vaccine.

Writers Read: Arthur Allen (July 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 24, 2014

M. D. Waters's "Prototype"

M.D. Waters lives with her family in Maryland. She is the author of Archetype and its newly released sequel, Prototype.

Here Waters dreamcasts an adaptation of the novels:
I chose my character inspiration for Archetype really early on. Almost immediately I saw Katie Holmes as Emma, but if I had to choose someone to play her in the movie I’d choose Jennifer Lawrence. She’s truly a brilliant actress and capable of all sorts of roles.

As for Declan and Noah, I had Bradley Cooper and the model David Gandy in mind. I wouldn’t mind seeing Bradley playing Noah, but I also think Charlie Hunnam would be amazing. Stephen Amell would be a great Declan.

Lastly (listen up, universe!) I need JJ Abrams to direct the movie. I’ve loved him since his days on Alias. He’s not afraid of romance, and handles it spectacularly. The romance was very important to me in Archetype and Prototype, as were the action scenes. I wanted the reader to feel every second of that story and I think JJ Abrams is capable of doing that and more on screen.
Visit M. D. Waters's website.

Writers Read: M. D. Waters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rufi Thorpe's "The Girls from Corona del Mar"

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. A native of California, she currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and son.

Here Thorpe dreamcasts an adaptation of The Girls From Corona del Mar, her debut novel:
While I didn’t write The Girls from Corona del Mar thinking of what it would be like as a movie, the challenge of trying to imagine it as one is delicious. Because it is a story of friendship, the chemistry of the two lead actresses would be the most important thing. I’m thinking of the kind of chemistry between Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted, or between Susan Sarandon and Gina Davis in Thelma and Louise. Both actresses would need to have a lot of heart, I think, since in their different ways Mia and Lorrie Ann are both difficult, even as they are lovable.

Mia jokes continuously that she has a little black stone for a heart. There is something angry in her and distrustful, but also funny and biting. As much as she bemoans her own weakness of character, she loves those close to her passionately and unendingly, and in her life she manages to make moral decisions. I would love to see someone with a bit of fire in them for the role, but also with a real intellect. I think Jena Malone would be dynamite. I’ve loved her in literally every film she’s ever been in. Huge fan.

For Lorrie Ann, who is so effortlessly good, so beautiful and vulnerable, I always described her as having the sensuality of a woman in a Vermeer painting, and I suppose that colors the actresses I would choose. Thora Birch and Jennifer Lawrence both have that kind of sexuality: simple, like fruit, an utter lack of coquettishness. But I think Jennifer Lawrence has the psychological complexity in her performances to really follow Lor down the dark road that is the second half of the novel. I’ve never seen Birch in a role like that, but who knows, maybe she just hasn’t had the chance or hasn’t wanted to.

I think it could make a gorgeous movie, truthfully. There is so much that could be visually compelling, the settings of California, India, and Istanbul. It is also very much a novel of scenes, of people talking and fighting and finally recognizing themselves in each other. Both of my parents were actors and I grew up in the theater, so I think my love of plays always shows a little bit in my novels. It would be a life dream to see the book made into a film, even if it wound up being made into a bad one! Thanks for giving me the chance to imagine it.
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

Writers Read: Rufi Thorpe.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kimberly Elkins's "What Is Visible"

Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of What Is Visible, her first novel:
What one lies in bed and dreams about: the movie that has been playing across the mind’s Technicolor screen since the book began, or perhaps even before. My novel, What Is Visible, spans the course of almost fifty years, but I’m choosing not to worry about that fact at the fantasy casting stage, believing as I do in the power of Hollywood to completely transform.

For the movie of What Is Visible, the key casting is Laura Bridgman, the first deaf-blind person to learn language fifty years before Helen Keller; Laura, who also couldn’t taste or smell, the scarlet fever taking four of her five senses at age two; Laura, who thousands came daily to visit at Perkins Institute, who charmed the likes of Dickens and Darwin; Laura, considered the second most famous woman of the nineteenth century, second only to Queen Victoria, and now lost to history.

Since I first saw the astonishing Mia Wasikowska in In Treatment years ago, she has been my Laura. She even looks a great deal like the historical Laura, ethereal, frail but also fierce. And now, not to jump on the trend train, but in my mind’s eye there is another contender, the endlessly mutable, endlessly watchable Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black. I don’t own a television, but I do sneak in my pleasures online, and she is one, a superbly gifted chameleon.

For Dr. Howe, Laura’s mentor and the founder of Perkins, the actor must be a dark-haired charismatic, as Howe was known as the “handsomest man in Boston.” Arrogant, autocratic, and yet capable of the greatest tenderness with Laura, his darling, his prodigy, until he felt that she had betrayed him and he turned on her in the worldwide press with a vengeance. Daniel Day Lewis would be the uber Howe, the one I’ve always pictured exercising his dominance over all, but if Mr. Day Lewis declined, then the surly, sexy intelligence of Clive Owen would do the role more than justice. Or Hugh Dancy, a wonderful and, in my opinion, often under-rated actor, who can bring a curl of cruelty to his beautiful lips as easily as a smile.

And since we’re talking Hugh Dancy for Dr. Howe, who better to play his wife, the fiery poet, abolitionist and suffragist, Julia Ward Howe, than Dancy’s real-life spouse, Claire Danes? Claire Danes, who’s grown up before our eyes, would own the part of Julia as surely as she owns Homeland. You can’t take your eyes off her. But if not Ms. Danes, my head and heart would go out to two other wildly talented redheads who would make Julia glow: Amy Adams or Jessica Chastain.

As for directors, Scorsese proved he can knock our socks off with a period piece with The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York. But I’d also love to see what Steven Soderbergh would do with What Is Visible, since I think historical drama is probably the only pond he hasn’t dipped his toes into. And oh, Jane Campion, Jane Campion!

Ah, perchance to fantasize...
Visit Kimberly Elkins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Susan Slater's "Rollover"

Susan Slater's books include the Ben Pecos Indian series and the Dan Mahoney mysteries.

Here Slater shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Rollover, the second Dan Mahoney novel:
I almost hate to even tackle this question it brings up such ugly memories ... and here’s the story. About four years ago I wrote a women’s fiction novel, 0 to 60. It was optioned by Hollywood three weeks out of publication. Wow! I just knew I was on the fast-track to fame. I’ve learned later that Forrest Gump was optioned for seven years before becoming a movie and that one can grow old(er) and gray(er) waiting—but this is hindsight talking.

I was so excited I decided to write the screenplay myself—I’d be ready when the big offers came in. I couldn’t keep Susan Sarandon out of my head when writing the novel and the screenplay really turned out to be, I thought, a perfect acting vehicle for her. I only needed to make those all-important contacts with producers and I would be on my way.

Santa Fe, New Mexico has a screenwriters workshop once a year and brings in fifteen or so producers that can be privately “pitched” for an extra twenty-five dollars each. Great! Exactly what I was looking for. I bought over two hundred dollars worth of “pitch-time” and lined up in the hotel hallways waiting my turn with the rest of the wannabes.

My first “pitch” was to the producer of the movie, Miss Potter. The first question she asked was whom did I see in the lead. I proudly said, “Susan Sarandon.” With a derisive laugh she tossed the screenplay onto the table and said, “Susan Sarandon hasn’t carried a movie in fifteen years, why would you think she could do so now?” And then she yelled out, “Next.” So this last month when my agent was called by a Hollywood movie broker inquiring whether the movie/TV rights were still available for my newest mystery, Rollover, I laughed.

But then I started thinking . . . if the writer doesn’t have someone in mind, and he/she just lets someone who doesn’t really know the story take over—that’s giving up a lot of control. Not that it wouldn’t be lost anyway but I’d like to think I have a say. So, here goes:

If the Dan Mahoney series were purchased for TV, it would remind the viewer of Castle—lots of quirky characters, family members and good deductive detective work. Not a cozy but definitely not a thriller! As a movie? It gets tougher. Sandra Bullock would have to play Elaine. That’s the only given. Someone to play Dan is a bit more challenging. Christopher Meloni? John Stamos? Either would be good choices. But it would probably be easier to cast Simon, the Rottweiler.
Learn more about Rollover at the publisher's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susan Slater & Toby and Tess.

The Page 69 Test: Rollover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rebecca Makkai's "The Hundred-Year House"

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose first novel, The Borrower, is a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine's choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper's, Tin House, Ploughshares, and New England Review.

Here Makkai dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Hundred-Year House:
Would a reverse chronology translate well to film? I think it would, and my evidence isn’t Memento (because I refused to watch it lest it influence the book) but the infamous backwards episode of Seinfeld. I should emphasize that this was not an influence on The Hundred-Year House, except maybe in the sense that it gave me courage: yes, people are capable of thinking backwards. They might even enjoy it.

The novel starts in 1999, with the core characters who will be our emotional centers even as we move back to the years before their birth. For Doug, who is, if anyone, the book’s main character, I’d want Paul Rudd. He’s so good at winning our sympathy, at getting us to love characters who make poor decisions. A tightly wound Jennifer Garner can play his wife Zee. There’s another woman – Miriam – who moves into their house with them (the event that starts the whole chain of events) and here’s where I need some magic: Andie MacDowell, circa 1992, if she could act.

When we move back to 1955 in the next section, I’m going to keep my magical powers. I need Grace Kelly, somewhere around Rear Window vintage (for Grace, a miserable heiress), plus – for her horrible, violent husband George – the really good-looking guy from the Walker Evans photos that accompanied James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. And let’s just assume he has the acting skills of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

When we go back to 1929, the place is an artists’ colony, and here, if not everywhere, I want a Robert Altman vibe. Chaotic and overlapping and bright, the filmic equivalent of literary modernism. There needs to be a bit of makeup trickery involved with at least one of these characters (have you seen the amazing movie version of Sleuth?), but lest I spoil the book I’ll zip my lips. For Gamby Devohr, the spoiled heir to the estate who threatens the colony with closure, I want a clean-shaven and restrained Zach Galifianakis. For the painter Zilla Silverman, I want Selma Blair. And for Edwin Parfitt – the poet whose subtle presence holds the story together – it has to be Tobey Maguire.

And then there’s the house itself, Laurelfield, which needs a gravity of its own. I don’t think it matters what mansion you pick – the key would be shooting it like a character, so it seems alive. I have no idea what that means, but a really smart cinematographer would, right?

Although the book moves straight backwards in time, I’m not convinced that a movie would have to. I think of Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play Arcadia, and the way its two casts of characters, separated by more than a century, inhabit the same sets, sometimes even at the same time. Film can do certain things that prose can’t, and if I were lucky enough to see a movie made, I’d want to see the medium flexing its muscles.
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 14, 2014

Susan Spann's "Blade of the Samurai"

Susan Spann is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing law and a former law school professor. She has a deep interest in Asian culture and has studied Mandarin and Japanese. Her hobbies include Asian cooking, fencing, knife and shuriken throwing, traditional archery, martial arts, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Here Spann dreamcasts an adaptation of her newest novel, Blade of the Samurai:
An actor did inspire one of the major characters in Blade of the Samurai, but ironically it wasn’t my protagonist, ninja detective Hiro Hattori, or his Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo, that my mind “pre-cast.”

I’ve always been a fan of actor Ken Watanabe—most people know him best from his Oscar-nominated role in The Last Samurai, (where he starred opposite Tom Cruise), or for his role as Saito in Inception (2010).

While writing Blade of the Samurai, I envisioned Ken Watanabe in the role of Matsunaga Hisahide, the 16th century daimyo (samurai lord) who walks “onstage” in Blade and plays a significant part in several of the upcoming Shinobi Mystery novels.

Ironically, Matsunaga-san is not a wholly fictitious character (though the novel obviously contains my fictional version of him) – he’s a major historical figure whose actions had a significant impact on Japan in the samurai era. Some histories consider him a hero, while others portray him as a Darth Vader-esque villain hungry to seize control of all Japan. The Shinobi Mysteries offer an actor a chance to play him as a little of both—he’s a powerful, complex character, and I must admit that I wrote him with Ken Watanabe’s masterful acting skills in mind.

I’d be delighted to see the Shinobi Mysteries on film, regardless of which actors end up cast in the various roles. That said, I admit to a secret hope to one day see Ken Watanabe bring my version of Matsunaga Hisahide to life.
Visit Susan Spann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ann Garvin's "The Dog Year"

Ann Garvin is a professor of health and nutrition at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater; she also teaches creative writing in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Here Garvin dreamcasts an adaptation of her newly released novel, The Dog Year:
I love this question because it gives me permission to ‘go there’ in my head. In fact, I’ve already gone there a bit already with Pinterest.

I confess I do not visualize actors while I am writing. I am inventing them as I write so I don’t have a clear vision on them until I’m done.

After I’m done I agonize about the actors as if it is a real decision I need to make. As if I’ve really won the lottery and now I have to spend the money. I love a little delusion in my life.

The cast would look something like this…

Lucy Peterman—Kate Winslet Of course! Who wouldn’t want Kate? She is the perfect mix of funny and sad.

Richard (Lucy’s husband)—Matt Damon – the good guy, the adorable saint.

Charles (Lucy’s brother)—Justin Kirk (From Weeds, he played a brother there too; a brother to a dead guy. I hope he doesn’t mind because he is wonderful.)

Mark (Lucy’s nemesis)—Timothy Olyphant (Most currently in Justified. A bad boy gone good. A good man with a bad past. Irresistible).

Sara—Kaitlyn Dever also from Justified. She is a soulful young actress with a big future.

Sidney—Natalie Portman: Complex and a scene-stealer; everyone else has to work to keep up.

Stuart From Frozen Foods—Andy Milder (Also from Weeds, the perfect sleeper man. Kind, with hidden gifts).

Now, I must return to reality, as this kind of fantasy is an author’s addiction.
Visit Ann Garvin's website.

Writers Read: Ann Garvin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A.M. Dellamonica's "Child of a Hidden Sea"

A.M. Dellamonica is the author of Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Sci-Fiction and Strange Horizons, and in numerous anthologies; her 2005 alternate-history Joan of Arc story, “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic,” was shortlisted for the Sideways Award and the Nebula Award. Dellamonica lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Here Dellamonica dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Child of a Hidden Sea:
Imagining a lavish big-budget multi-episode production of my latest novel is, of course, incredibly gratifying, and casting it in my imagination is just plain fun. I think it's a rare writer who doesn't occasionally imagine getting a full-scale Hollywood treatment of their work, who doesn't wonder which actors might be the right ones to bring their characters alive.

I will start with Clydon Banning, because he's easiest. Cly is Paul Gross. Not Paul Gross as he was in his twenties when he was playing the buttoned-down and thoroughly virtuous RCMP Constable Benton Fraser on Due South. No, Cly was inspired by the garrulous, naughty, fun-loving and possibly evil Paul Gross we see as Darryl Van Horne in Eastwick.

The book owes two debts to Gross. One of the things that fascinated me about the aforementioned Mountie show, Due South, was the way it objectified its lead, both as a jaw-droppingly beautiful young man and an unattainable icon in uniform. This is something we more frequently see with female characters in media: the camera lingers over their every plane and curve, and they're portrayed as untouchable, possibly even angelic. Other characters are visibly mesmerized; extras and walk-ons stare and try to lay hands on them. This kind of portrayal plays on the desire to possess something we aren't meant to have, and it's one we see less frequently applied to men. So that idea of a guy who is irresistibly beautiful--so much so that his other gifts are sometimes ignored--was one I wanted to experiment with. It's why Captain Parrish is so darned pretty.

With that in mind, here's a picture of Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor, my top choice for Parrish.

Sophie Hansa, the main character of Child of a Hidden Sea, was a tougher call. She has the big eyes of Zooey Deschanel, but Deschanel's persona is wrong, so wrong. Analeigh Tipton resembles my mind's image of Sophie, and she has the kind of frame that would look right in scuba gear... but I've never actually seen her act. I threw this question out to some people who've read the book, and they came back immediately with Tatiana Maslany, from Orphan Black. Of course! She's perfect: her look is right, and we know from the show that she's extremely versatile.

(Wow, this book has a big cast!)

Emile Hirsch has the right look for Bramwell Hansa, I think. Bram is a genius, the sort of person who finishes high school when he's thirteen and moves on to collecting degrees in physics and mechanical engineering the way most of us collect Facebook friends. He dresses casually but neatly, in a way that's meant to deflect attention from his huge intellect and his essential nerdiness: he wears contacts instead of glasses, and the one time he shows up in an Invader Zim t-shirt, rather than throwing on something from the Gap, Sophie takes it as a sign that he's stressed out.

As for the three matriarchs from Verdanni, Gale Feliachild would be Helen Mirren (Gale was always essentially meant to be a sort of seafaring, female Doctor Who), with Mira Furlan as her high-strung sister, Beatrice Vanko. Finally, Queen Latifah, in age make-up, would play Fleet politician and wheeler-dealer Annela Gracechild, the Winston Churchill of Stormwrack.
Visit A.M. Dellamonica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Child of a Hidden Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kelly Parsons's "Doing Harm"

Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins, and he is on the faculty at the University of California San Diego. He lives with his family in Southern California.

Here Parsons dreamcasts an adaptation of Doing Harm, his first novel:
I love movies. Some of my favorites include, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Searchers, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Graduate, Raging Bull, and—because I’m a child of the eighties—Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back.

In fact, I frequently listen to movie soundtracks as I write, blocking out scenes in my head and imagining how they would play out on the big screen: gestures, facial expressions, choreography, even lighting.

So I’m a little embarrassed (and more than a little surprised) to admit that, until very recently, I had given almost no thought as to how I would cast Doing Harm. But here goes.

The lead role, Dr. Steve Mitchell, would preferably go to an actor in his late twenties to mid thirties. It needs to be someone who can look convincingly ordinary while invoking sympathy for a potentially unsympathetic protagonist: perhaps Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Jesse Eisenberg, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The actress who plays GiGi, the medical student who figures large in the story, should be young (medical students are typically in their twenties), attractive, and—most importantly—convey fierce intelligence and ambition: Emma Stone, Ellen Page, or Emma Watson.
Finally, for the role of Luis Martinez, the Harvard-educated surgery trainee with the shadowy past, I would envision the excellent Rodrigo Santoro.
Learn more about Doing Harm at the publisher's website, and visit Kelly Parsons's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Kelly Parsons.

The Page 69 Test: Doing Harm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Laura Lane McNeal's "Dollbaby"

Laura Lane McNeal grew up in New Orleans, where she lives today with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. She also has an MBA from Tulane and ran her own marketing consulting firm in New Orleans.

Here McNeal dreamcasts an adaptation of Dollbaby, her debut novel:
This is a great question to ponder! If Dollbaby is made into a movie, which several people have suggested would be a great follow-up to the book, it’ll be interesting to come back at a later date and re-read what I’ve posted here.

When I was writing the book, I focused on the characters as fictional characters, so I don’t have any preconceived notions as to who might play the characters in a movie. There was, however, one scene in Dollbaby that felt similar to one in a movie, and that is where Norwood is speaking to Graham after Balfour’s death, when Fannie suffers a nervous breakdown and is taken away for an unknown period of time. As Graham is looking into his father’s eyes as Norwood speaks, it reminds me of the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is speaking to Scout on the front steps of their house, trying to explain why certain folks are taunting Atticus for defending a black man in court.

I’ve gotten some feedback on Twitter concerning casting for the movie. One person felt Della Reese would have made a great Queenie, and another suggested Kerry Washington might make a great Dollbaby. If the book is made into as a movie, it will be interesting to see how the director might handle the different time periods involved, especially for Fannie, who we see evolve from the age of sixteen to sixty, and Ibby, who enters the story as an impressionable pre-teen that the readers watch grow into a young adult.
Visit Laura Lane McNeal's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 4, 2014

Nicolas Barreau's "One Evening in Paris"

Nicolas Barreau was born in Paris, the son of a French father and a German mother. He studied romance languages and literature at the Sorbonne and worked in a bookshop on the Rive Gauche in Paris but is far from an inexperienced bookworm. With his other successful novels, The Ingredients of Love, The Woman of My Life and You'll Find Me at the End of the World, he has gained an enthusiastic audience.

Here Barreau dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, One Evening in Paris:
From an early age on I have been fond of films. Be it on television or in the movies. So it is not such a big surprise that I ended up writing a novel where a little art cinema in Paris is the place for romance, secrets and love.

From all the novels, I have written One Evening in Paris has the most wonderful setting for me – not only because it takes place in Paris but in this little charming “Cinema Paradis” where we all would like to sit in those old red velvet seats watching films about true love.

Maybe we would miss the popcorn, but ... well ... you cannot have everything.

And yes – there is this one film that inspired me most: Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore. It’s an old film but every time I see it I’m touched by the eternal truth about love and life. And by the bitter-sweet ending that makes you want to cry and to smile at the same time. That leaves you with the feeling that even if not every dream can come true you can still go on dreaming as long as you are here on this planet. And besides – this film has the most loveable end I ever saw in a movie – showing all the (once forbidden) kisses over kisses – all those scenes cut out and put together by the old cinema owner who leaves all these happy endings as a gift and treasure to his friend Toto (then a boy, now a famous art director himself).

Whenever I write a book I see everything like in a movie. As soon as I’m able to visualize a character or a scene I know I’m in the story and it will develop nicely. I can literally see the people, I hear them laugh, I am with them when they walk along the little Parisian streets. And when the story comes to an end, I’m somehow sad to leave them there ... In other words all my novels are films in my head and especially One Evening in Paris.

Mélanie and Alain, the main characters, have a highly romantic disposition. They are dreamers. That’s probably why they love films so much. In film, everything is possible. No reality, please! And by the way, who needs it?

I can see my Mélanie – a little shy but nevertheless with a head of her own and with her wonderful bright laughter played by Mélanie Laurent or Marion Cotillard – both actresses are most adorable. Alain Bonnard on the other side could never be the George Clooney type. Alain is not so sure and self-convinced, but it is due to his imagination and sensitivity that he not one second gives up the idea of finding the beautiful girl in the red coat who has simply vanished. If I were asked, someone like Ewan McGregor would be perfect for this character. Well – let’s see what happens!
Visit Nicolas Barreau's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Nicolas Barreau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kim Church's "Byrd"

Kim Church's short stories and poetry have appeared in Shenandoah, Mississippi Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prime Number Magazine, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received fiction fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center.

Born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, Church earned her B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her J.D. degree from UNC School of Law. She has taught writing workshops in a variety of settings, from college classrooms to death row. She lives with her husband, artist Anthony Ulinski, in Raleigh, where she divides her time between writing and law.

Here Church takes the first step to seeing Byrd, her first novel, adapted for the big screen:
Dear AnnaSophia Robb,

I hope you’re having a nice summer.

I loved your performance as the girl next door in The Way, Way Back, and think you’d be perfect for the role of Addie Lockwood in the movie of my debut novel, Byrd.

Addie grows up in a small North Carolina town where she escapes the confines of family life by reading books, writing poems, listening to Joni Mitchell albums, and fantasizing about Roland Rhodes, the new boy in school, a handsome, popular guitar player. Roland is oblivious to Addie until their senior year, when they form an unlikely friendship.

Years after graduation they reconnect in California, where Roland’s music career has landed him, and Addie comes home pregnant. Conflicted, unready to be a mother, she gives birth to a son and surrenders him for adoption without telling Roland, and without imagining how the secret will shape their lives.

Told in letters and vignettes easily adaptable to film, Byrd is a story about making and living with hard choices—a coming-of-age, coming-to-terms story.

One reviewer has described Addie as “diaphanously sensitive,” which could just as easily refer to you in The Way, Way Back. Remember the scene where you’re walking home from the beach with Duncan (Liam James), who’s younger (14 to your 16), shy, awkward, and moping because his parents are divorced and he’s stuck spending the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk boyfriend (Steve Carrell)? You’re wearing a Rolling Stones tongue camisole and a turquoise sweater that doesn’t match, an outfit Addie might have worn. You ask Duncan, “So where is it you go on your sexy pink cruiser?”—referring to the girl’s banana bike he’s been riding. “Nowhere,” he says. He starts to elaborate but you cut him off. “No,” you tell him, “let it be yours.” I love that line. I love how a day or two later, you get on your own bike and follow him anyway, to Water Wizz, where he’s gotten a summer job without telling his mother. “What happened to ‘let it be yours’?” he says, and you say, “Eh, I held out as long as I could.”

You are understated, natural, funny. Tender and edgy at the same time.

That’s the essence of Addie.

My book follows Addie from fourth grade into her 50s. My husband is worried you may be a little young to play the grown Addie, but I’ve explained they can work wonders with makeup. And Addie needs an actress who can embody her youthful spirit. I think you’d make her shine.

So if you’re reading this, and I like to believe you are, please let me know where I can send a book for your consideration. The Way, Way Back was a breakout movie for Liam James. Let Byrd be yours.

Thanks, and best wishes,
Visit Kim Church's website.

Writers Read: Kim Church.

The Page 69 Test: Byrd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Karen Keskinen's "Black Current"

Karen Keskinen was born in Salinas, California. She has also lived in California’s San Joaquin Valley and in Wellington, New Zealand. She now resides in Santa Barbara where she is a full-time writer. She is the author of Blood Orange and Black Current.

Here Keskinen dreamcasts an adaptation of Black Current:
Who will I choose to play Jaymie Zarlin, when my books are made into movies? Hands down, there’s no contest: it’s Hilary Swank!

Not long ago my nephew, Corey Reich, flew down to Los Angeles to meet Ms. Swank on the set of her latest film, You’re Not You. Corey, an undaunted guy in his twenties who lives courageously with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), was invited to chat with the actress and explain the challenges he faces. Not only was this Oscar-honored lady eager to make a film about ALS, but she also wanted to get it right. That’s our kind of girl!

Jaymie is tall, lean, sexy, and strong. Apologies for stating the obvious, but so is Hilary. Jaymie has long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, and prefers to lounge around in sweats and jeans. So does Hilary. Jaymie is tough and a little prickly on the outside, but vulnerable and generous on the inside - just like Hilary.

Their motto is, take it or leave it! Like Hilary Swank, Jaymie Zarlin is always herself.
Visit Karen Keskinen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Current.

--Marshal Zeringue