Thursday, March 31, 2016

J.T. Ellison's "No One Knows"

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

Here Ellison dreamcasts an adaptation of her first standalone novel, the newly released No One Knows:
No One Knows has already had some interest, so I hope this isn’t a purely hypothetical exercise. This one was very hard, because I haven’t had anyone in mind for any of these roles outside of Chloë Grace Moretz, who has always been Aubrey Hamilton to me. That innocent face hides so much! I can absolutely envision her in this role as the young widow who’s lost her entire world and is trying to put herself back together again.

Finn Wittrock, who was in Unbroken, could totally pull off young doctor Josh Hamilton. He has the cockiness Josh has, and those eyes!

Josh Hutcherson would be perfect as Chase Boden, no doubt. I can totally see him conflicted over his role in Aubrey’s life, struggling with the right thing to do versus his nascent feelings for the young widow.

Daisy Hamilton, Josh’s mother – now she’s the hardest casting for me. The actress would need to be both brittle and fragile, with a huge range to cover all of Daisy’s many facets. Penelope Ann Miller, Madeline Stowe, Tatum O’Neill, Lolita Davidovich, heck, Sharon Stone – wow, could you imagine that? She could take Daisy in a completely new direction. Daisy’s role in the book ranges over twenty years, and I assume any script would expand her time on screen because she’s such a fascinating character.

Will any of this happen? No One Knows!
Visit J.T. Ellison's website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Writers Read: J. T. Ellison.

The Page 69 Test: No One Knows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kristi Abbott's "Kernel of Truth"

Kristi Abbott, who also writes as both Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr, lives in northern California, although she was born in Ohio like the heroine of her new novel, Kernel of Truth. She loves snack food, crocheting, her kids, and her man, not necessarily in that order.

Here Abbott dreamcasts an adaptation of Kernel of Truth:
Well, the movie rights haven’t sold yet so this is pure fantasy, right? Since it’s fantasy, I don’t have to be bound by people being the right age or even actually alive, right? Super. I’m good to go, then.

I’d cast Jenna Elfman as Rebecca Anderson, my protagonist. She has the kind of natural beauty and grace I’d like for Rebecca as well as a bit of playfulness about her that would totally be perfect for my sassy heroine.

For Garrett, local lawyer and Rebecca’s love interest, I’d choose Matthew Goode. He’d have to lose the British accent, but he did that with no apparent problem in The Good Wife. There’s a twinkle about him that makes me smile and a quiet power that makes him the alpha dog in any room. Plus, let’s face it, he’s easy on the eyes.

I think Bradley Cooper would be perfect for Rebecca’s ex-husband, Antoine, assuming he can pull off a French accent. Handsome, charming, but a little too slick. Of course, if Bradley Cooper was in Kernel of Truth, I’d have to do a rewrite so Antoine would take off his shirt several times.

For the director, I’d pick Nora Ephron. I know she’s no longer with us, but this is fantasy. She had the absolute perfect balance of wit and heart in her movies and essays and books. I can’t think of anyone who would handle it better.
Visit Kristi Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kernel of Truth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 27, 2016

James Anderson's "The Never-Open Desert Diner"

James Anderson was born in Seattle and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston. For many years he worked in book publishing. Other jobs have included logging, commercial fishing and, briefly, truck driver. He currently divides his time between Ashland, Oregon, and the Four Corners region of the American Southwest.

Here Anderson shares some ideas for the above-the-line talent to adapt his new novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, for the big screen:
I like movies very much, but where adaptations are considered, I regard them as a sort of translation. If a novel, for instance, is a cranberry, when it becomes a movie it will be something else. A pear, perhaps. It is unreasonable to expect your cranberry to remain a cranberry in something as collaborative and primarily visual as a film. In this respect I regard the director as being as important as the actors. The choice of director will determine, along with the screenwriter, how the story is told, with the director taking the lead from beginning to end.

As a novelist, if you’re lucky, a director will share your vision, though go about realizing that vision in his or her own way. The idea of putting my novel in the hands of a great director is quite exciting because it opens it up to all kinds of possibilities that I cannot begin to imagine. Unlike some novelists, I welcome that imaginative release.

My dream list of directors begins with the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, Frank Darabont, David Cronenberg, Robert Redford, Kathryn Bigelow, Debra Granik, Sofia Coppola, Kelly Reichardt. All of these directors have certain qualities that I believe would result in a creative vision that I would find both different and yet in tune with my own. To paraphrase Jamie Wyeth, “Terror is often an essential element of beauty.” They also have a real feeling for landscape as character. I also have a sense that these female directors might bring something very special to a film of The Never-Open Desert Diner. If Ida Lupino were still around, I think she’d have done a terrific job. There isn’t room here to elaborate, as much as I would like to. Let’s just say there are some amazing female characters in my novel, and what happens to them as a result of men is central to the story.

Actors: The protagonist is a truck driver, Ben Jones, who was abandoned as an infant on the Warm Springs reservation. To his knowledge his mother was a Jewish social worker and his father a Native American. I’d love to see newcomer Arthur Redcoud, or maybe Tom Hardy.

As for Walt Butterfield, the elderly but fit and haunted (and dangerous) owner of The Never-Open Desert Diner, the obvious choices are Sam Elliott, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones. But lately I’ve been thinking Billy Bob Thornton could do it. If Lee Marvin were still alive, he’d be my number one choice.

Music: Very important. I’d love to see Dave Grohl or Eddie Vedder score it. And certainly include Yo Yo Ma. There is an alienated punk-grunge-classical vibe to my novel that runs just beneath the surface and contributes to the tension between the characters and the desert. If someone were to lay down a C&W soundtrack it would suck and a huge opportunity missed. A big theme in the novel has to do with opposites attracting and resulting in something extraordinary, both people and music.
Visit James Anderson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 25, 2016

D. Peter MacLeod's "Northern Armageddon"

D. Peter MacLeod is a curator at the Canadian War Museum and the author of The Canadian Iroquois and the Seven Years’ War.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution:
If Northern Armageddon were a movie, it would be an action-adventure—landing craft hurtling down the St. Lawrence River in the dark, propelled by a falling tide; an elite assault force climbing a 200-foot cliff; the advance through hostile territory to the Plains of Abraham; forming a mile-long thin red line composed of a mix of British and American soldiers; and a decisive battle that shapes the history of North America and the world.

But it would also be a psychological thriller, following James Wolfe as he falls from resolute optimism to complete collapse, confined to bed convinced that his expedition to capture Quebec is doomed to fail, his career is over, and his death from illness is imminent. Then he bounces back. Resolute, decisive, and aggressive, letting nothing stand in his way, Wolfe leads his troops to success at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and dies at the moment of victory.

So who plays Wolfe? Benedict Cumberbatch (best known as the star of Sherlock) would be my choice. He has the right build and the right face to stand in for Wolfe, and his vast experience playing the brilliant, quirky, mercurial Sherlock Holmes would be stand him in good stead playing the brilliant, quirky, mercurial James Wolfe.
Learn more about Northern Armageddon at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Judy Sheehan's "I Woke Up Dead at the Mall"

Judy Sheehan is one of the original cast members and creators of the long-running stage hit Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding. She was the playwright-in-residence at New York City’s prestigious Looking Glass Theatre and has had plays produced there and at regional theaters around the country.

Here Sheehan drops a memo to her dream producer-director with some casting suggestions for an adaptation of her new novel, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall:
Dear Joss Whedon,

Here is how you should cast your movie, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall. I remain confident in your influence, skill, and your powers of time travel.

Sarah: Skyler Samuels. Loved her as Chloe King, adored her in Scream Queens. She has the right balance of smarts and vulnerability. If I were sixteen, I’d want her to be my BFF. But your first choice for the lead is almost never available. If Skyler turns you down (No!!) call Vanessa Marano from Pretty Little Liars. And you’ll be fine.

Nick: Play it smart. Call both Taron Egerton and Jack Quaid at the same time, and see who takes the role. You can’t lose. Handsome, charming, talented guys. You’re good to go.

Harry: Ansel Elgort. Accept no substitutes. Done. He’ll gripe about how the role draws him back to The Fault in Our Stars. Please stock craft services with his favorites, and keep him on set. I want to see what he looks like bald. Don’t you?

Lacey: Shanice Williams is the first choice. She has the ideal presence for Lacey’s self-confidence and her transformation. If she’s (understandably) busy, cast an unknown. Shanice would approve and even celebrate that.

Alice: Nina Dobrev has the right waif-like quality. If you can’t get her, time-travel to get a younger Alexis Bledel. Those early Rory Gilmore years would work perfectly for sweet, lovely Alice.

Bertha: Abigail Breslin, please. The only problem here is that she’ll play the part so well, she’ll get typecast as the fussy, nerdy type for a few years. Sorry, Abigail. Loved you in Little Miss Sunshine. Tweet me!

Declan: Zac Efron. #micdrop. Yes, you’ll need the High School Musical version of him, as the Baywatch version is too ripped. Too ripped. Too, too, too, too, too ripped.

Dad: Martin Freeman. Or Nathan Fillion. Or Kyle Chandler. The Author would be equally pleased to be on the set with aaaany of them.

And cast Trinity Rep’s Fred Sullivan, Jr. as the screaming man in Washington Square Park. He’s a brilliant actor who can do so much more than this part requires, but you’ll love having him there. So will I.

And, of course, you’ve got Lin-Manuel Miranda writing the score. I’m satisfied.
Visit Judy Sheehan's website.

Writers Read: Judy Sheehan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 21, 2016

Viola Shipman's "The Charm Bracelet"

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages. He is at work on his second “heirloom novel,” which will be published in 2017.

Here Rouse dreamcasts an adaptation of The Charm Bracelet:
Oh, every author dreams about this, whether they're having a brain-freeze in the middle of a page, or having drinks with friends. It's also a big question authors get at events and book clubs. The Charm Bracelet would make a compelling film and a great vehicle for three generations of actresses. In short, the novel is about how the charms on a grandmother's bracelet reconnect her in this too-busy age with her daughter and granddaughter and remind them of what's most important in life: Family, friends, faith, fun, love and a passion for what you do. The book was inspired by my grandmothers' charms, life and lessons, and is written under one of their names as a tribute to the women who made me who I am today.

Lolly Lindsey is the bigger-than-life, wig-wearing matriarch of the family, who still collects charms, lives in the resort town of Scoops, Michigan, and draws tourists into the local fudge shop by singing Hello, Dolly in full costume. Now 70, Lolly is battling dementia and knows time is running out to reconnect with a daughter and granddaughter whose lives have become too busy for her and her family stories. Lolly is based on my grandmothers, and I learned through their charms that they were women who had led lives filled with incredible love, loss, hope and tragedy. Her daughter, Arden, works for the Chicago celebrity magazine Paparazzi, editing and writing code for the magazine’s website. While she is not content with her job, she spends many hours working, knowing that she must pay college tuition for her daughter, Lauren, an artist who is majoring in business solely to please her mother. The three women are reunited over Memorial Weekend, and their lives are changed through Lolly's unfettered desire to live in the moment and share the stories of their lives via the charms on her bracelet.

I have a lot of great actresses in mind for the three Lindsey ladies. I would love to see Shirley MacLaine as Lolly, or Lily Tomlin. I also see a number of mother-daughter combos starring in the movie: Reese Witherspoon and her daughter, Ava, could star as Arden and Lauren, or Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson as Lolly and Arden. Or perhaps Ellen Burstyn as Lolly, Kristen Bell as Arden and Kiernan Shipka as Lauren. Maybe June Squibb as Lolly, Sandra Bullock as Arden and Ariel Winter as Lauren.

Can you tell I've thought a lot about this? Truly, it would be a dream to see this book as a movie, and it would be wonderful to see three generations of actresses tackle these roles and bring this family to life.
Visit Viola Shipman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Elizabeth Marro's "Casualties"

Elizabeth Marro is the author of the novel, Casualties, the story of a defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was safely home from war. Now, she must face the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son. Casualties was a finalist in the 2014 San Diego Book Association Unpublished Novel Contest.

Here Marro dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
Lately, everyone who has been written me after reading Casualties, has suggested actors who would be perfect for the roles of Ruth, my protagonist. Few have said, though, who might be just right for the roles of Robbie, her son, or Casey, the would-be conman and veteran who forms an unlikely partnership with her that helps them both. I’ll aim to fill in those blanks here with some of the candidates I used to list as I was writing -- or, more accurately, procrastinating.

Ruth: the lead vote-getter from readers is Julianne Moore and I’m right there with them. She’s a wonderful actor with the ability to play a woman who is both vulnerable and tough and needs to be honest with herself before she can take the first step toward healing. That said, I believe Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton would be wonderful choices too and after seeing August: Osage County, I’m convinced Julia Roberts could bring a lot to this role.

Robbie: a few years back, my pick would have been a young Heath Ledger or Aaron Paul or even Michael Pitt whose face is the right combination of soft and hard. I’m not sure who to suggest from the many talented younger men out there right now. I haven’t seen many of their movies.

Casey: I always imagined Denis Leary or Aaron Eckhart in this role. I could see Ryan Gosling who can play pretty much any kind of role.

Well, that was fun! Dreamcasting must be like playing one of those fantasy baseball or football games -- all the fun of fantasizing without any of the gambling or anxiety.
Visit Elizabeth Marro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jacquelyn Mitchard's "Two If By Sea"

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the number one New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels for adults, including The Deep End of the Ocean, which was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and also made into a major feature film.

Here Mitchard dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Two If by Sea:
You know, I never, ever do this. I never imagine who would play the parts in the movie of my novel. And it has served me well. In The Deep End of the Ocean, the detective Candy Bliss is described as a tall, cool Nordic blond, impeccably dressed. She was played in the film by Whoopi Goldberg, so … okay. But anyhow, here goes: I would like Ryan Gosling to play Frank in the movie. He’s a good actor and he’s not just Mr. Romantic Lead anymore or Mr. Smooth-Talking Psycho. I think he could bring that combination of bemusement and strength that is Frank’s character to the screen. He’s around forty, and I think he would relate well to the child actor who is Ian … and I have no idea who that would be. Claudia would have to be Amy Adams (American Hustle). She’s smart and she could be a tomboy and a tough cookie, which is Claudia down to the ground. For Hope (Frank’s mother) who is a really important character, I would choose Allison Janney (West Wing, The Hours). She’s too young for that part. But I would choose Allison Janney to play anything, because she’s so smart and cool. I would want Liam Neeson to play Louis, the villain. The key to Louis is that he’s attractive and smart and sophisticated along with being appalling and entirely without conscience. Liam Neeson is always the good guy; it would be fun to see him be the really, really bad guy.
Visit Jacquelyn Mitchard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Michelle Adelman's "Piece of Mind"

Michelle Adelman has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University, and BS and MS degrees in Journalism from Northwestern University. She has worked as a magazine writer and editor, a university instructor, and a high school English teacher and dean. She grew up in Connecticut and has lived in New York, San Diego, and the Bay Area, where she currently resides.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Piece of Mind, her first novel:
One of the first questions people like to ask me—after they inquire about whether my book has yet hit the New York Times bestseller list, and when Oprah will be spreading the word about my genius—is whether I’ve sold my movie rights. Not yet, I say, and then I laugh. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t at least consider the possibility of my book as movie. My novel is already dominated by dialogue delivered by quirky characters, and thus it’s easy to imagine different actors trying to inhabit these roles.

The 27-year-old protagonist, Lucy—brain injured, vulnerable and messy in every sense of the word—seems like a wonderful vehicle for any young actress seeking a rich, complex performance. I often think of an unknown actress in this role, someone who can establish her career with the part of a lifetime. But when I first imagined Lucy on the screen, I pictured a young Toni Colette trying to shape the character with her fierce heart and spirit. After watching Brie Larson’s raw performance in Room, I could see her taking on the challenge as well—losing any semblance of celebrity in the role and morphing into the character.

Since I’ve allowed myself to dream of Academy Award winners, I can see Meryl Streep as the deceased mother, both in flashback and ghost form, and Shirley MacLaine or Ellen Burstyn as the feisty, yet elegant older confidante, Enid. I can see Mandy Patinkin as Lucy’s overprotective Jewish father. In many ways, he’s a perfect fit.

The role of Lucy’s 21-year-old brother, Nate, would probably be taken on by an unknown, though in my fantasies, I can imagine him as a young Ryan Gosling, the vulnerable and handsome actor in his Half Nelson days, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his youth, someone who has shown so much emotional range without losing his charm or overall appeal. Perhaps someone like the young version of Jake Gyllenhaal, the guy who first wowed audiences in his Donnie Darko days.

I dream of indie film directors and producers taking notice, Sofia Coppola, perhaps, or the Duplass brothers, as despite my highly paid dream cast, I can see this adaptation as a small, gritty film with a great deal of heart.
Visit Michelle Adelman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Michelle Gable's "I'll See You in Paris"

Michelle Gable is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel The Paris Apartment.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, I'll See You in Paris:
At book signings people often ask who I’d cast in my novels. It’s a tough, unanswerable question because I don’t think of my characters in that way. And I don’t expect them to end up on screen! To find the ideal roster for I’ll See You in Paris, I enlisted the help of friends. This cast turned out pretty solid!

Gladys Deacon, the Duchess of Marlborough, was a real-life spitfire and is the cornerstone of I’ll See You in Paris. Many considered her the most captivating—and smartest—woman of her time. She was also a bit crazy. This would be the most complex role. It’s almost impossible to balance beauty and intelligence with mental instability, and the fact Gladys lived well into her nineties. Almost impossible because Ellen Burstyn would be as fierce as the Duchess.

The real Duchess disappeared from her palace in the 1930s and turned up in the English countryside in the 1970s at almost a century old. In my novel, a young woman named Pru has lost her fiancé in the Vietnam War and answers an advertisement to serve as helpmeet to a cultured older woman. Although “cultured” is a stretch, given the firearms, dilapidated, Grey Gardens-style manse, and the packs of spaniels roaming the grounds. Skyler Samuels of Scream Queens and American Horror Story would make the perfect wide-eyed, waifish, angelic Pru.

Then there is Win Seton, the wannabe biographer and failed writer who comes to Banbury, England to write about the Duchess. He also hopes to romance Pru, if he doesn’t irreversibly bungle their friendship first. Win is British, handsome, cheeky and older than Pru and Jude Law is the first person who came to mind to play him.

Wrapped around the tale of Win, Pru, and the Duchess is a modern-day storyline, taking place in the weeks following 9/11. In this we have a somewhat uptight former lawyer named Laurel, whom Hope Davis would brilliantly portray. Laurel’s daughter Annie is a smart but insecure recent college graduate without any professional prospects. I can picture Allison Williams embodying Annie, who experiences the most growth throughout the novel.

Thank you for the chance to dream about I’ll See You in Paris: The Movie. And thanks to my friends for helping me with the cast. I think we nailed it.
Visit Michelle Gable's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Paris Apartment.

My Book, The Movie: A Paris Apartment.

The Page 69 Test: I'll See You in Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sean Beaudoin's "Welcome Thieves"

Sean Beaudoin is the author of seven novels--including Wise Young Fool--and the new short story collection, Welcome Thieves.

Here he shares a general guiding principle for casting an adaptation of Welcome Thieves:
Well, it's a short story collection, so unless one particular one were adapted, it'd have to be like Short Cuts, with every good actor in Hollywood waiving their fee and playing bit parts. I always get a kick out of how supposedly college-age characters (think St. Elmo's Fire) are played by people clearly in their mid-thirties, while musicians (think Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown) are often played by people who appear to have never picked up an instrument before. So for Welcome Thieves I'd like to subvert that trend and have all the parts played by elderly musicians.
Visit Sean Beaudoin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jeff Zentner's "The Serpent King"

Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults.

Here Zentner dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Serpent King:
Let me first say that even though I write young adult novels and am a huge lover of movies and TV shows, I’m a little out of touch when it comes to the young actors. You ask me to cast my main character off the top of my head? I’ll come up with someone who was big when I was a young adult, but who is now currently in his fifties and has adult children.

I was very impressed with Ezra Miller in both Whip It and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I think he’d make a great Dill. And I had Mae Whitman in mind while writing Lydia. I think she’s got the perfect look and attitude. Travis is more difficult. There are very few red-haired, 6’6”, 250-pound teen actors out there. So I think he’d have to be an unknown.

For help with this, I turned to my friend, Lygia Day Peñaflor, who works with young actors and has a phenomenal debut, Unscripted Joss Byrd, also coming out in 2016. She cast The Serpent King thusly:

Dill- Zach Page

Lydia- Stefania Owen

Travis- Riley Griffiths

Those would all be fantastic picks too.

I can very easily tell you, though, right off the top of my head, who should direct a film adaptation of The Serpent King. Jeff Nichols. Hands down. Nichols did Mud and Shotgun Stories, two of my favorite movies of all time. He really understands the melancholy beauty of the rural South in a deep way and he’s captured it in a manner I’ve never really seen anyone else accomplish.

Would I love to see a film adaptation of The Serpent King? Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of film in general and of book-to-film adaptations specifically.
Visit Jeff Zentner's website.

Writers Read: Jeff Zentner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lynda Cohen Loigman's "The Two-Family House"

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, The Two-Family House:
I’m pretty sure this is every author’s favorite way to procrastinate. After all, what could be more fun than dream-casting actors to play your characters on screen? Just the thought of it makes me giddy.

The Two-Family House is a character-driven story, written from the alternating viewpoints of four adults. Later on, the voices of two children are added as well. Writing this way allowed me to fully inhabit each character, and to dig deeply with respect to their motivations and thoughts. You might say I’m a little overly attached to my characters at this point – which only makes imagining real people to play them more exciting!

When I was halfway done writing The Two-Family House, I began to imagine Natalie Portman as Rose. Rose changes so much throughout the book – she goes from desperate and timid to assertive and bitter. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Black Swan, you’ll know why I have such an appreciation for Natalie Portman’s talent to transform herself. Natalie is the perfect age to play Rose, and since she’s also a young mother, I feel like she would be able to bring that maternal experience to the role.

Helen is the tougher female character for me to cast. She is what my grandmother would have called a baleboste – the Yiddish word for a traditional wife, mother, homemaker type. The actor who plays Helen must be oozing warmth and love, but still be tough as nails. She has to be a likable person who does something many might find unforgivable. The setting for the story is 1940’s and 1950’s Brooklyn, so the actor must be able to play that period convincingly. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal? Kelly Macdonald (without the Irish accent) would be great too. I’m fairly sure that both Maggie and Kelly would have to gain weight to play Helen. Don’t worry ladies – I am more than willing to meet for donuts.

On to the men. For a long time, I pictured Mort as Steve Buscemi. But since I’m committed to Natalie as Rose, he may be a tad too old (Sorry Steve!). Just the other day, a vision of Jesse Eisenberg popped into my head. I was thinking about his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, where he was so terrific playing an awkward genius – someone who is distant and emotionally disengaged from the people around him. Sounds to me an awful lot like my character, Mort, at the beginning of the book. By the end of The Two-Family House, Mort truly redeems himself, and I think Jesse could nail that part as well.

Last comes Abe. He is a teddy bear – full of kind intentions and unable to hold a grudge. He is someone who enjoys good company and lots of good food. If Josh Gad is up for taking on a meaty, dramatic role, I could see him doing it. If not Josh, maybe Chris O’Dowd (but again, we’d have to work on replacing the Irish accent.). Mort and Abe are brothers, after all, so it would be a bonus if the actors playing them looked a little bit alike.

I think I’d better stop there. This has been so much fun – thanks for indulging me!
Visit Lynda Cohen Loigman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Two-Family House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Jennifer Scanlon's "Until There Is Justice"

Jennifer Scanlon is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the Humanities in Gender and Women's Studies at Bowdoin College. She is the author of Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown.

Here Scanlon dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Until There Is Justice: The Life of Anna Arnold Hedgeman:
In the biopic, I envision Melissa Harris-Perry playing Anna Arnold Hedgeman. An enormously accomplished academic, public intellectual, television host, and scholar-activist, Harris-Perry has yet to take on a film role. I believe that given her enormous versatility and brilliance, that’s the next step! Her deep understanding of the ways in which black women refuse and refute stereotypes, and craft full and complicated lives, makes her the perfect person to portray someone like Hedgeman, who has historical import but who also has much to tell all Americans today.

Then, with the runaway success of Hamilton, which tells an American story in new, far more inclusive ways, I see Until There is Justice making its way to Broadway, with Audra Williams in the lead role. Williams won a record-breaking sixth Tony award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday on Broadway, and she readily acknowledges that she stands on the shoulders of the African American women who came before her (she cites Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll Ruby Dee, and Billie Holiday). I believe she will see Anna Arnold Hedgeman in that same light, as a black woman who defied stereotypes, defined herself on her own terms, and paved the way for others.
Learn more about Until There Is Justice at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Until There Is Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Brad Smith's "Rough Justice"

Brad Smith was born and raised in southern Ontario. He has worked as a farmer, signalman, insulator, truck driver, bartender, schoolteacher, maintenance mechanic, roofer, and carpenter. His novels include Shoot the Dog and other Virgil Cain mysteries, All Hat, which was made into a major feature film, and One-Eyed Jacks, which was shortlisted for the Dashiell Hammett Award.

Here Smith tags a few actors he'd like to see in an adaptation of his new novel, Rough Justice:
I am of the opinion that Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi and Amy Sedaris should be in every movie, so I would cast them first and then just build the rest of the film around them.

If we’re reaching into the past, I would have to include Strother Martin, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and W. C. Fields. What the hell—throw in the great Stan Laurel too.
Learn more about the book and author at Brad Smith's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Shoot the Dog.

My Book, The Movie: Shoot the Dog.

The Page 69 Test: Rough Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 3, 2016

J. Aaron Sanders's "Speakers of the Dead"

J. Aaron Sanders is Associate Professor of English at Columbus State University where he teaches literature and creative writing. He holds a PhD in American Literature from The University of Connecticut and an MFA in Fiction from The University of Utah. His stories have appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and Beloit Fiction Journal, among others.

His first novel, Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery (Penguin Random House) features a young Walt Whitman’s as he finds himself in the middle of body-snatchers, medical students, and the law.

Here Sanders responds to the invitation to dreamcast Speakers of the Dead:
I’ve been waiting for someone to ask! One thing I did early on in the writing process was collect images of actors I imagined playing my characters to help me imagine them as three-dimensional beings instead of illustrated two-dimensional people from the past. Here is that cast:

Walt Whitman: James Franco or Ryan Gosling

Henry Saunders: Henry Cavill

Elizabeth Blackwell: Anne Hathaway

Samuel Clement: Sean Bean

Frankie Clement: Margaret Qualley

Isaiah Rynders: Paul Giamatti

Marie Zakrzewska: Ruth Wilson

Lena Stowe: Catherine Keener

Abraham Stowe: Dominic West

Some of my favorite films are directed by Danny Boyle: Trainspotting and Sunshine to name two. I think he brings an interesting energy to a film that would be fun to see with a historical mystery. And he often works with John Murphy on the score.
Visit J. Aaron Sanders's website.

The Page 69 Test: Speakers of the Dead.

Writers Read: J. Aaron Sanders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Susan Meissner's "Stars Over Sunset Boulevard"

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, Secrets of a Charmed Life (a 2015 Goodreads Choice award finalist) and A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014. She is also RITA finalist and Christy Award winner. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Meissner is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not working on a novel, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Meissner is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Here Meissner dreamcasts an adaptation of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard:
It might surprise you to know that dream-casting my books with current-day movie stars is usually really hard for me. I think it’s because I spend a year with these people when I am writing their story, so they already seem fully fleshed in their own right. I think it’s much easier to dream-cast someone else’s novel rather than my own! I admire people who can ponder a book’s characters and then quickly come up with an ensemble of perfectly-suited actors.

But I persevered and have done the work to give you my dream cast for my newest book, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. This novel is about two studio secretaries who become best friends while working on the 1939 movie set of Gone With the Wind. They are both on a desperate search for happiness, and their desires will sometimes collide despite the affection they have for each other. This story is framed with a contemporary thread about a young woman who owns a vintage clothing re-sale shop in Hollywood, who is stunned one afternoon when the iconic curtain-dress hat that Vivien Leigh wore as Scarlett O’Hara shows up in her boutique.

For Violet, studio secretary #1 who wants to be needed, I pick Anna Kendrick of Pitch Perfect and Up in the Air. For Audrey, studio secretary #2 who wants to be wanted, it’s Elizabeth Debicki, who played Jordan in The Great Gatsby. Audrey has very distinctive Lillian-Gish-like features and Elizabeth has the needed doe-eyes and classic features. And for Bert, the kind costume assistant infatuated with Audrey but whom Violet loves, it’s Andrew Garfield, lately of The Amazing Spiderman. For my present-day vintage store boutique owner, it’s Emma Stone, for sure.
Visit Susan Meissner's website.

Writers Read: Susan Meissner.

--Marshal Zeringue