Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mario Erasmo's "Strolling Through Rome"

Mario Erasmo is Professor of Classics at the University of Georgia specializing in the Legacy of Classical Antiquity. He is the author of several books, including Death: Antiquity and Its Legacy and Reading Death in Ancient Rome and the volume editor of A Cultural History of Death in Antiquity. His forthcoming Strolling Through Florence: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Renaissance City (IBTauris) offers step-by-step strolls through historic sites and streets in the shadow of Brunelleschi's iconic dome.

Here Erasmo dreamcasts an adaptation of his 2015 book, Strolling Through Rome: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Eternal City:
Guide/Narrator: Colin Firth

Event: Sack of Rome in 1527 but there are many pivotal events and history makers in Rome's storied past worthy of more plays by Shakespeare or Racine or operas by Monteverdi or Purcell, including the martyrdom of St. Lawrence (258); the execution of Constantine's second wife Fausta and his son Crispus from his first marriage instigated by Constantine's mother Helena potentially for adultery (326); the meeting between St. Francis and St. Dominic in the church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill in 1215; and the political fortunes of the populist leader Cola di Rienzo (1313-1354) that pitted him against the papacy and the powerful Colonna and Orsini families until his short-lived return to papal favour for assistance in returning power to Rome from Avignon.

Scene: Vatican Corridor to Castel Sant' Angelo

Pope Clement VII de' Medici (Privileged; Detached; Wavering): Daniel Day-Lewis

Goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (Fiery; Swashbuckler; Seducer): Rufus Sewell (he faces down danger with aplomb playing the role of detective Aurelio Zen in Rome). In his Biography he claims to have singlehandedly saved the life of the Pope who famously fled the Vatican by the Vatican Corridor to Castel Sant' Angelo from the attacking mercenary forces of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Epilogue: The same pope refused to grant Henry the VIII of England an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain). The Sack essentially halted the course of the Renaissance in Rome that was revived by Michelangelo who designed the Campidoglio for the triumphal entry of the Holy Roman Emperor into Rome (1536) through the Roman Forum in the style of triumphing generals of ancient Rome. The emperor then entered Florence in triumph then ruled by Cosimo I de' Medici under his protection.
The Page 99 Test: Strolling Through Rome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 28, 2015

David A. Bell's "Napoleon: A Concise Biography"

David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Department of History at Princeton. Born in New York and educated at Harvard, Princeton and the École Normale Supérieure, he previously taught at Yale and Johns Hopkins, where he also served as Dean of Faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of three prize-winning books, most recently The First Total War (2007).

Here Bell shares his assessment of the prospects for adapting his new book, Napoleon: A Concise Biography, for the screen, large or small:
My subject, Napoleon Bonaparte, has been acted hundreds of times in films. Among just the English-speaking actors to play him have been Marlon Brando (Désirée), Ian Holm (The Emperor’s New Clothes), Rod Steiger (Waterloo) and Eli Wallach (The Adventures of Gerard). My favorite Napoleon film, though, is probably the kitschy but delicious French biopic done by Sacha Guitry in the 1950’s, which features both Daniel Gélin and Raymond Pellegrin as Napoleon, and Guitry himself as Talleyrand.

The Weinstein Company has optioned Andrew Roberts’s recent biography for a television series, so I doubt anyone is going to want to film my own Napoleon any time soon.
Learn more about Napoleon: A Concise Biography at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: David A. Bell.

The Page 99 Test: Napoleon: A Concise Biography.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Julia Knight's "Warlords and Wastrels"

Julia Knight is married with two children, and lives with the world’s daftest dog that is shamelessly ruled by the writer’s obligatory three cats. She lives in Sussex, UK and when not writing she likes motorbikes, watching wrestling or rugby, killing pixels in MMOs. She is incapable of being serious for more than five minutes in a row.

Here Knight dreamcasts an adaptation of Warlords and Wastrels, the concluding volume of the Duelists trilogy:
I think the most important way to decide this would be – would they look right in the right sort of clothing (think Musketeers) and can they pull off the swagger? I didn’t really have any actors in mind when I was writing, but one or two did spring to mind later, especially when I saw the covers. Kacha there has a hint of Ronda Rousey about her, and she would fit perfectly with how I imagined her. Aaron Taylor-Johnson could pull off Vocho’s ego and panache I’m sure (and he wears a little Musketeer beard very well!) For their long-suffering servant, Cospel, Nick Frost would be excellent.

Santiago Cabrera would do very well for the rather intense Petri, and for the mysterious Dom? Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. At least I know they can act fencing!
Visit Julia Knight's website.

The Page 69 Test: Warlords and Wastrels.

Coffee with a Canine: Julia Knight & Frek.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Laura DiSilverio's "The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle"

Laura DiSilverio is the national bestselling author of more than a dozen mystery novels, including the Book Club Mystery series featuring The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco and The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle, the Mall Cop Mysteries, and The Reckoning Stones. She is a former Air Force intelligence officer and past president of Sisters in Crime.

Here DiSilverio dreamcasts an adaptation of The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle:
I am so excited to blog here today because for once I know exactly who I want to cast as my main characters. I actually cut out these actors' photos before I wrote any of the books, and tacked them up in my office. The Readaholics have always been clear to me, and I hope none of you will gasp and say, "Oh, no, that actor couldn't play Amy-Faye (or Lola or Brooke)."

For those of you who don't know, the Readaholics are the five women who participate in a mystery book club in fictional Heaven, Colorado. In each book, they are reading a classic mystery that somehow figures into solving the murders they end up investigating. In The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco, they were reading The Maltese Falcon. In the latest book, The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle, they're reading Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.

They are Amy-Faye Johnson, the main protagonist, who is a 32-year-old event organizer; Brooke Widefield, Amy-Faye's best friend who is a former Miss Colorado and who married into the richest family in town; Lola Paget, a couple years ahead of Amy-Faye and Brooke in school, who turned the family farm into a plant nursery and supports her grandmother and younger sister; Maud Bell, a sixty-something fishing guide and conspiracy theory blogger; and Kerry Sanderson, a Realtor and Heaven's part-time mayor, who is a late forties divorcee with a grown daughter and a teenage son.

Here's my cast list:

Amy-Faye — Amy Adams

Brooke — Jaimie Alexander

Lola — Lupita Nyong'o

Maud — Helen Mirren

Kerry — Frances Fisher

Yes, it's a very expensive cast. Leave a comment on my Facebook page and let me know what you think.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura DiSilverio's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Swift Run.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Paullina Simons's "The Bronze Horseman"

Paullina Simons is the international best-selling author of novels such as Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman, and Tatiana and Alexander.

Her latest novel is Lone Star.

Here Simons dreamcasts an adaptation of her novel The Bronze Horseman:
In The Bronze Horseman, Alexander the dashing Red Army officer, patrolling the streets of a large city the day Hitler invades the Soviet Union, meets and falls in love with Tatiana, a comet of innocence and desire. I had visualized them in their entirety, him tall, her tiny, him dark-haired her blonde, the fire between them burning on all the pages of my story.

For the last fifteen years my readers and I have engaged in heated discussions about who can possibly live up to the images we have built up in our minds of these two unforgettable characters. This is an instance where the image on the screen, even the Imax version, cannot compare to the vividness of our imaginations.

But if we were to try, if we were to agree that somebody must play them on the screen, then Henry Cavill would be a fine choice indeed as a stand-in for the real thing. He is tall and has a strong face. He has grace in his gait and humor in his gaze. He looks great with stubble and in uniform. He can be a fighter and also carry roses. He’s got the big shouldered full lipped approach to life that is essential in our Alexander.

And Tatiana? Well, there is Lea Seydoux. She plays quite the minx in some of her films, and we’d have to tone down her ostentatious appeal, but she’s got a good look for a Russian girl caught in the crossfire of history and forced to grow up real fast.

The question is, can those two, Henry Cavill and Lea Seydoux, ignite the screen the way the fictional Alexander and Tatiana ignited the pages of my novel? Would there chemistry between them, a spark, a delight? Would there be fire? Because if there is, everything else in the film will be built on that. If they work, everything works. If they don’t work, nothing else will, no matter how full and well realized.

I think they can work. They’d be amazing. If wishes were horses.
Visit Paullina Simons's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lone Star.

Writers Read: Paullina Simons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Kim MacQuarrie's "The Last Days of the Incas"

Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and is perhaps the only American to have been chased up a tree by a female grizzly bear, to have lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, and to have won four national Emmys for his documentary films. He is the author of The Last Days of the Incas and, most recently, of Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries.

Here MacQuarrie shares some ideas about casting the adaptation of The Last Days of the Incas:
I’m perhaps fortunate in that the FX Channel is currently in the process of developing one of my books—The Last Days of the Incas—into a 13-part dramatic series. It’s the (non-fiction) story of how 168 conquistadors, led by a band of four brothers, managed to conquer an Inca Empire of ten million. The truth is, I hadn’t really considered the casting, but now that there is this opportunity, here goes:

Francisco Pizarro: (the eldest brother, shrewd, uneducated, a great leader of men): Jeremy Irons

Hernando Pizarro (arrogant, power hungry): Javier Bardem

Gonzalo Pizarro: (the handsomest of the brothers): Colin Farrell

Juan Pizarro: (the youngest—brash and impetuous): Gael García Bernal (played Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries)

Atahualpa: Inca emperor whom Pizarro captured: Wes Studi

Manco Inca: (young Inca emperor who ultimately leads massive rebellion against the Spaniards) Martin Sensmeier

Manco’s wife: Julia Jones (who played Leah Clearwater in the Twilight Saga films; the younger Pizarro brothers lusted after her, even though she was both the emperor’s sister and wife (!?))
Visit Kim MacQuarrie's website.

The Page 99 Test: Life and Death in the Andes.

My Book, The Movie: Life and Death in the Andes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 18, 2015

Emily Ross's "Half in Love with Death"

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her novel Half in Love with Death. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

Here Ross dreamcasts an adaptation of Half in Love with Death:
I’ve often fantasized about a movie of Half in Love with Death, my YA novel about a teen’s search for her missing sister. The Arizona desert setting provides a cinematic backdrop for my psychological thriller, set in Tucson in 1965. I’d love to see suburban neighborhoods encroaching on the desert and disaffected teens looking for anything to alleviate their boredom coming to life on the big screen.

I’d choose Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper from Mad Men) as Caroline, my 15-year-old protagonist. Like Sally, Caroline comes of age in the ‘60s. As Shipka literally grew from a child into a teenager on screen, I often thought of my young protagonist. Like Caroline, Shipka has a quiet loveliness and changes from child to sophisticate in an instant. Both Sally and Caroline are able to strike the rocky balance between innocence, intelligence, and reckless daring.

Zac Efron would be my choice for Tony, the charismatic boyfriend of Caroline’s missing sister Jess. With his pale blue eyes and pretty-boy good looks, Efron is Tony! As they search for Jess together, he weaves an irresistible spell. But as they grow closer, Caroline sees Tony’s sweet face as a mask for a tortured, otherworldly being. She is drawn to the mystery of him even as it frightens her. Efron, I believe, hides some serious darkness behind his handsome façade.

I’d also hire Terrence Malick, director of the haunting, poetic movie Badlands. Featuring a teen girl who runs off with the young man who murdered her father, Badlands was an early inspiration for my novel.
Visit the official Emily Ross website.

The Page 69 Test: Half In Love With Death.

Writers Read: Emily Ross.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Adam Christopher's "Made to Kill"

Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer, and award-winning editor.

The author of Made to Kill, volume 1 in The LA Trilogy, Christopher is co-writer of The Shield for Dark Circle Comics and author of the official tie-in novels novels based on the hit CBS television show Elementary.

Born in New Zealand, Christopher has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Made to Kill:
The characters in Made to Kill can be divided into two groups – the speaking parts, and the extras. Set in Hollywood, 1965, the book drops the names of a lot of stars, but most of them appear silently at the periphery of scenes, looking moody and evil and possessed by… well, that’s a spoiler.

The two main characters pose an interesting problem. Raymond Electromatic is a robot, six feet ten of bronzed steel with a face that looks human, but is immobile. While he is a Philip Marlowe-type, I’d actually like to see—or perhaps, hear—Andre Braugher behind the metal mask.

Ada is even harder to cast, as she’s just a voice—a little older, smoky, husky. Kathleen Turner or Christine Baranski would do nicely. She’s actually based, rather loosely, on Anne Francis, who starred as private eye Honey West in the ABC TV show of the same name in the mid-1960s. Although only thirty-five at the time—perhaps a little younger than Ada should really sound—she is perfect in my mind.

Emma Stone as Eva McLuckie, elfin movie starlet in trouble. With a 60s bob haircut and enough black eyeliner to make her look like a princess from ancient Egypt, she’s perfect.

Tom Hardy (with a big beard) as Charles David. I’m serious. Hardy can do moody very well, and he actually grew some impressively scary facial hair a few years ago.

Brad Pitt as Fresco Peterman. I’m a fan of Pitt, and I love his slightly vague, slightly addled performance as Tyler Durden in Fight Club. This is exactly what Fresco Peterman needs to be—he’s the biggest and handsomest movie star in town, prone to smiling a lot. People think he’s a little dim, when he is anything but.

Chip Rockwell is another oddity—as a movie producer, we see him briefly in Brisk Money, the prequel novelette to Made to Kill. But in the main book, he’s reduced to something far less than human. If we assume that the movie of Made to Kill will roll some of Brisk Money into the plot, then I’d like Alan Alda to have a cameo as the ill-fated Rockwell.

Peter Capaldi as the desperate Soviet scientist, Dr Vitaly Bobrov. It’s all in the eyebrows.

David Duchovny as Special Agent Touch Daley. Now, this might be a bit of a cliché, but Touch Daley is a mix of Fox Mulder, Dale Cooper, and the younger Rust Colhe. Pour Duchovny into a sharp black suit and give him a natty hat, and he’s the man on Ray’s trail.

The other characters in Made to Kill are cameos—of them all, I think only Rico Spillane actually has any dialogue (let’s cast John Stamos in that role). So here’s my wishlist for the rest:

Elizabeth Michell as Alaska Gray, Emma Watson as Millicent Olivier, Vinnie Jones as Bob Thatcher, Taraji P. Henson as Shiera Shane, and Henry Czerny as Parker Silverwood.
Visit Adam Christopher's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Made to Kill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kim MacQuarrie's "Life and Death in the Andes"

Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and is perhaps the only American to have been chased up a tree by a female grizzly bear, to have lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, and to have won four national Emmys for his documentary films. He is the author of The Last Days of the Incas, a non-fiction work that is currently being made by FX into a 13-part dramatic series and, most recently, of Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries.

Here MacQuarrie dreamcasts an adaptation of Life and Death in the Andes:
For Life and Death in the Andes, which is about a 4,300-mile journey along the Andes, looking into characters such as Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I would expand one of the chapters into a film. One of the lesser-known stories I looked into is a young Charles Darwin in Patagonia on the square-rigger ship, the H.M.S. Beagle. Darwin was only 25, yet was gathering the evidence that would lead to both his theory of evolution and make him question his religion. The ship’s captain, Robert Fitzroy, was extremely religious. He’d been conducting an experiment of “civilizing” three naked Patagonian natives (whom he’d captured on an earlier voyage and had taken to London, where they met the King and Queen, learned English, and were now being returned to Patagonia). Darwin and Fitzroy would later clash, with dire consequences for one of them; the “civilization experiment” would also have unintended consequences. So, a quick casting for a story that takes place at the southern, tempestuous end of the world:

Charles Darwin: Paul Bettany (has played him well before)

Captain Robert Fitzroy: Christian Bale

Jemmy Button: (native Patagonian): Rick Mora

Fuegia Basket (native Patagonian): Kristin Kreuk (from Smallville)

York Minster (native Patagonian): David Mythunder
Visit Kim MacQuarrie's website.

The Page 99 Test: Life and Death in the Andes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Jack McDevitt's "Thunderbird"

Jack McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer.

In his new novel Thunderbird, a stargate more than ten thousand years old has been discovered on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The race to explore and claim the stargate quickly escalates, dividing those involved into opposing camps who view the teleportation technology either as an unprecedented opportunity for scientific research or a disastrous threat to security. In the middle of the maelstrom stands Sioux chairman James Walker.

Here McDevitt shares some ideas about the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of Thunderbird:
Johnny Depp as Brad Hollister.

Angela Bassett as April Cannon.

Chaske Spencer as James Walker.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

To be honest, I never thought of an actor while I was doing the writing. All three characters are based on real people whom I have known. (Or are fusions of several.)
Learn more about the book and author at Jack McDevitt's website.

The Page 69 Test: Firebird.

The Page 69 Test: Thunderbird.

Writers Read: Jack McDevitt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holly Messinger's "The Curse of Jacob Tracy"

Holly Messinger enjoys books, silk dresses, molten chocolate cake and well-balanced edged weapons. She lives on a Liberal reservation in Kansas with her Sparring Partner and a cat who knows more than he's telling.

Here Messinger dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Curse of Jacob Tracy:
The titular hero of The Curse of Jacob Tracy was partly inspired by and named after country singer Trace Adkins. Years ago when I was constructing the character, a friend showed me Adkin’s music video for “I’m Tryin’,” which is an anthem about the difficulties of blue-collar life. Adkins was about 38 at the time and the poster-boy for roughneck masculinity: tall, lean, craggy, solemn. In the video he looms around the edges of the sets like one of the angels from Wings of Desire—outside of the characters’ lives, but listening and sympathetic. And that was how I saw my character Trace—a big man who cared deeply about the troubles of the world around him but felt constrained from action. And of course his overcoming those constraints is the arc of the book.

Adkins is a little long in the tooth these days to play Jacob Tracy, and I just haven’t seen an actor in the current thirty-something set who has the same combination of manliness, world-weariness, and country-boy charm. Chris Hemsworth is probably the closest option. Chris Evans and Jensen Ackles are also contenders, though they are both prettier than I would like. I figure somewhere in Texas or Oklahoma is a frustrated actor, working oil rigs and playing Curly McLain in community theater, who would be perfect to play my cowboy.

For Trace’s partner Boz, I like Mahershala Ali. I’d seen him on the SyFy series Alphas and in Predators, but neither of those roles allowed him to shine and so it took me a while to realize they were the same actor. I love Ali’s gunfighter-cool gaze and expressive mouth, and his graceful self-possessed carriage. All too often in period movies the black man is the servant or the runaway slave or some exemplar of Black Success, but Boz is just a working guy, and I find a certain heroism in that. Like so many men of his time, Boz went to war, lost a wife, and now focuses on the day-to-day grind. He doesn’t expect the world to give him anything, but he’ll fight for what’s his.

The actor who plays Boz has to carry the heart of the movie. He has to convey toughness and pragmatism and a growing sense of dread, because he’s also the everyman who’s bewildered by all this bizarre supernatural shit Trace has dragged him into. I think Boz realizes more than Trace that their friendship has been a sort of cocoon, which they both cling to in lieu of growing and living full lives. But he stays out of loyalty and does what needs to be done while Trace is still brooding over the morality of his actions.

Miss Fairweather was the last character I fully developed in the book, because I didn’t know at first if she would be an out-and-out villain or a more ambiguous anti-heroine. But from the moment I set eyes on MyAnna Buring in Ripper Street, I said, “That’s my Sabine.” It was eerie to see a living face so perfectly lifted from my brain, as if by Silly Putty: her catlike face, her wide blue eyes, her cynical little mouth. Buring can go from a warm smile to withering scorn to cool calculation to big-eyed horror on the turn of a dime. And of course she’s a marvelous actress; my only fear would be that she’d be reluctant to take on another role so similar to that of Long Susan. But I sure would like to see it.
Visit Holly Messinger's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Curse of Jacob Tracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stephanie Thornton's "The Conqueror's Wife"

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and high school history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. Her first two novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora and Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, focus on two of history's forgotten women: Theodora of the Byzantine Empire and Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Her third novel, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, is the story of Genghis' wife and daughters.

Here Thornton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Conqueror's Wife:
I'm not much of a movie-goer, but I can tell you that Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair of Hunger Games fame) would make a perfect Alexander the Great if The Conqueror's Wife was ever made into a movie.

I also imagined Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth of Game of Thrones fame) as Alexander's kid sister Thessalonike as I was writing the novel. (Only Christie would need a long blond braid to complete the ensemble.)

Penelope Cruz would make a lovely Roxana, but she'd have to perfect an evil scowl and accompanying diabolical laugh.

A Gladiator-era Russell Crowe would round off the cast as Alexander's boyhood companion, Hephaestion.
Visit Stephanie Thornton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Conqueror's Wife.

Writers Read: Stephanie Thornton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 7, 2015

Triss Stein's "Brooklyn Secrets"

Triss Stein is a small-town girl who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York City. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident which she uses to write mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the second Erica Donato mystery, following Brooklyn Bones.

Here Stein dreamcasts an adaptation of Brooklyn Secrets, the third Erica Donato Mystery:
Cast a fantasy movie of Brooklyn Secrets? That’s much more my speed than fantasy sports. And it’s all mine, so I can play with actor’s ages, ignore their unlikely interest and summon up the best of the best. This has not been part of my writing process but I may just have to keep these names/faces/personalities in mind for the work-in-progress.

Erica, my protagonist, is a Brooklyn girl through and through, but whose life has brought her a long way from the old neighborhood. She is a single mother of a teen-age daughter, a grad student in urban history (Brooklyn!) endlessly writing her dissertation, always pressed for money and time. She is gutsy, determined, a little too impulsive, and a bit of a smart aleck. (Brooklyn!)

So. Amy Brenneman fifteen years ago. She is easily convincing as smart, conscientious, perhaps impulsive, perhaps overwhelmed. She can be humorous. She is attractive but real, not excessively glam, and could be less attractive- Erica having a hard day! - as needed. I think she would be (would have been) perfect.

Chris, Erica’s daughter is fifteen. Need I say more? She is a wise, maturing young lady one minute, trying to take care of her mother. And the next she is a kid who still sometimes sleeps with her stuffed animals. She is intellectually curious and stubborn just like her mother. In her first romance. Done right, it’s a role with a lot of shading. Of course Kiernan Shipka, Shailene Woodley and Abigail Brennan could all have both the acting chops and the personality. Sarah Hyland of Modern Family plays a cute ditz in a comic role but they are giving her more to do lately. I suspect there is a deep vein of untapped talent there.

Joe is Erica’s long-time friend, contractor and biking buddy. He is a little older and steadier, has his own life of bachelor fun but is a rock for both her and Chris. In fact, Chris is actively promoting him as a romance for her mother. He’s both a working guy and smart enough and smooth enough to deal with his high-end clients. And he is ahead of Erica on the idea that there is more than friendship here.

Let’s go for my ultimate dream casting: Liev Schreiber. I have seen him play a cross-dressing ex-Marine, a violent fixer for criminals, a good-hearted young husband. I am convinced he can do anything and make it real, make it subtle, make it memorable. Plus, he has the believable physical appearance for the part.

Leary, Erica’s elderly, grumpy friend and information source? The one and only John Goodman. No one, but no one, could do it better. Though if Mr. Goodman was unwilling, we could go another way, and cast Steve Buscemi. I think he’d be hilarious. And he is a real Brooklyn guy himself; I’ve seen him in the neighborhood.

Erica’s dad is tough. He needs to be someone who can establish a real presence, but not so much star power he would over shadow the character. Alan Arkin would bring a surprising twist or two. Martin Sheen would fully inhabit the role, checking his star persona at the door. Hector Elizondo has the fatherly air and the urban background and is never less than believable.

Now, how can I find a part for me in this fantasy film? I’m not missing out on all this fun. Perhaps we need a scene with an advisor for Erica, or a school principal for Chris. An older woman with glasses and a bookish air. I know I’d be perfect for that.
Visit Triss Stein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Brooklyn Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 4, 2015

Gini Koch's "Alien in Chief"

Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine "Kitty" Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series. Touched by an Alien, Book 1 in the Alien series, was named by Booklist as one of the Top Ten Adult SF/F novels of 2010. Alien in the House, Book 7 in the Alien series, won the RT Book Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award as the Best Futuristic Romance of 2013. The latest novel in the series, Alien in Chief, has been nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award as Best Urban Fantasy of 2015.

As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series and she's made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of other pen names as well, including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch.

Here Koch dreamcasts an adaptation of Alien in Chief:
The question of “who would you cast” has been coming up since the first book in my Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, Touched by an Alien, came out. In part because the aliens in my series, at least the ones living on Earth, are all drop-dead gorgeous.

The female A-Cs, who Kitty nicknames the Dazzlers, are all sapiosexual and feel that brains and brain capacity are the greatest attribute. Therefore, they feel that Stephen Hawking is flat out the hottest person on the planet. The male A-Cs like our smart, gutsy women. The A-Cs in general have no skin color or sexuality hang-ups, though they do have some religious ones.

So, I get to pick really great looking actors for my list, but it does shift as the years go by, for a variety of reasons.

The main reason is that there’s almost no one out there who looks exactly like the characters as I see them in my mind – with some notable exceptions. The other reasons are that there are those actors who I think are perfect (check out my Pinterest page for my current examples), there are actors who look right but I don’t think could actually do the roles right and vice versa, and then there are those actors who I think could open a movie or launch a TV show and ensure that it has legs.

Funnily enough, a fan nominated Touched by an Alien over at the If List so you can see who my fans are suggesting. Some of their suggestions make me wonder if I’m at all good with description, but, hey, you see who you see, am I right?

But, since this is about who I envision, here we go with my top choices.

Katherine “Kitty” Katt, my accidental badass heroine who saves the day with her knowledge of comics and pop culture, hairspray, and rock ‘n’ roll: Emma Stone

Jeff Martini, my alien hero who’s also the most powerful empath on the planet, the Head of Field for Centaurion Division, and a carefree, cocky flirt (or is he?): Chris Hemsworth

Christopher White, Martini’s brooding cousin, the Head of Imageering for Centaurion Division, and Martini’s rival for Kitty’s affections: Chris Pine

James Reader, the former top international fashion model who’s never met a skill he can’t master quickly and who becomes Kitty’s BFF in the new world she’s flung into: Matt Bomer – in this case, Bomer was literally born to play Reader – he looks exactly like I envisioned Reader.

Tim Crawford, the “bench player” who proves his worth: Joseph Gordon-Levitt – this is another case of an actor being extremely close to how I see the character; only I think Tim has curly hair, not that I think I’ve ever mentioned it in the books.

Richard White, the Supreme Pontifex, Christopher’s father, Martini and Gower’s uncle: My original choice, and who I use in the books is Timothy Dalton. However, I had the opportunity to meet Ted Danson a couple years ago and he’s a stone cold silver fox, so he’s who I’d pick now.

Lorraine, one of the two Dazzlers that becomes one of Kitty’s BFFs: Scarlett Johansson – this one is also how I see the character

Claudia, the other Dazzler who becomes Kitty’s BFF: Jessica Alba – again a match for how I see the character

Paul Gower, Martini and Christopher’s cousin, Richard’s nephew, another member of Alpha Team, and Reader’s husband: D.B. Woodside

Charles “Chuckie” Reynolds: Joel McHale. He really doesn’t come in until Book 2, but he’s integral to the series and another very real rival for Kitty’s affections.
Learn more about the book and author at Gini Koch's website.

The Page 69 Test: Touched by an Alien.

The Page 69 Test: Alien in Chief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ginger Strand's "The Brothers Vonnegut"

Ginger Strand grew up in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, but mostly on a farm in Michigan. She is the author of one novel and three books of narrative nonfiction, including Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate. She has published essays and fiction in many places, including Harper's, The Believer, Tin House, The Iowa Review, The New England Review and the New York Times, as well as This Land and Orion, where she is a contributing editor. In addition to writing frequently about collisions between nature, culture, science and the arts, Strand frequently works with photographers, and has contributed essays to photography books by Lisa Kereszi, Kyler Zeleny, and the Magnum Agency project Postcards from America.

Here Strand dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic:
The Library Journal review of my nonfiction book The Brothers Vonnegut said it was ripe for adaptation into a film. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve spent hours Googling “hot young actors.” Not for prurient reasons, really. I was trying to identify actors who might want to produce it. After all, what hot young actor wouldn’t want to play Kurt Vonnegut?

The events of the book unfold in the late 1940s, when Kurt Vonnegut, as yet unpublished, is working in PR at General Electric. His older Bernard, a hotshot scientist at GE, got him the job. Bernard has invented something fantastic: cloud seeding to make rain. But the military has gotten involved and Bernard is having doubts about letting his invention be weaponized. Watching him struggle, Kurt, after years of bombing out with editors, starts writing a new kind of story, about scientists and the military and inventions getting weaponized. That lands him his first magazine acceptance, and the rest is history.

The young Kurt—GE company man by day, would-be writer by night—is not the Kurt Vonnegut you see in your head. Before the Mark Twain suit and Einstein hair, Kurt Vonnegut was a tall, thin, dapper young man. In his twenties, he looked a bit like a lighter-haired Zac Efron. Think Zac Efron in a gray flannel suit, toting a manual typewriter and smoking like a house afire. Kind of High School Musical meets Mad Men.

Then again, Zac Efron is a brunette so perhaps he should play Bernard, who looked like Kurt but with a mad-scientist pouf of curly brown hair. Maybe the lighter haired Kurt could be played by Jesse Spencer—aka Robert Chase on House MD—as long as he could lose the Aussie accent. But Jesse is older than Zac...

In my obsession with the perfect pairing, I went to, the ideal tool for someone with delusions of casting. You upload a photograph and the site uses facial recognition software to generate celebrity matches. I loaded up Kurt Vonnegut’s Army photo, some wheels spun around, and the winner was: Jimmy Kimmel!

As far as I know, Jimmy Kimmel, is not an actor but a comic. Pictriev’s second pick was Cameron Bright, who played the vampire Alec in the Twilight movies. Bright might look like Kurt Vonnegut if he dyed his hair lighter, but he has a sultry brooding quality that isn’t quite right.

I continued juggling faces in my head. And then I found the perfect actor—on the radio. Adam Driver, who plays Adam Sackler on Girls, was being interviewed on Fresh Air. Somehow he just seemed right. He grew up in Indianapolis, like Kurt. He volunteered for the military, like Kurt. He seems smart and thoughtful and morally engaged, like Kurt. Does he look like Kurt? Who cares? That’s for the stylists and makeup artists to sort out. Adam Driver, email me and I’ll send you my book. You’re my perfect Kurt Vonnegut!
Learn more about the book and author at Ginger Strand's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Brothers Vonnegut.

--Marshal Zeringue