Monday, May 30, 2016

Andy Mozina's "Contrary Motion"

Andy Mozina is a professor of English at Kalamazoo College and the author of the short story collections The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and Quality Snacks, which was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize.

Here Mozina dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Contrary Motion:
Matt Grzbc, the novel’s protagonist, is a divorced harpist living in Chicago and preparing for a symphony audition. He’s tall, ambitious, handsome, late 30’s, with a slightly robotic affect, a dark sense of humor, some crippling anxieties, a romantic life on the skids, and a six-year-old daughter to help raise. While trying to do justice to the important relationships in his life and prep for the audition, he plays weddings, brunches at the downtown Marriott, and bedside vigils at a hospice. After careful reflection, it seems to me that only John Krasinski, aka Jim Halpert from The Office, can play the role. He can do hangdog, he can do wiseass, he can do internal distress. He doesn’t look like a harpist, but neither does Matt, so that would be just right. Krasinski also wrote and directed Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, the film adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s short story collection, so I feel we have some influences in common.

Matt has two love interests. His ex-wife Milena’s good sense, resilience, and unself-conscious sexiness could call for Jennifer Lawrence in a quieter, less warrior-like mode. His tightly wound girlfriend, a feisty lawyer, would be played by some magical combination of Chloë Sevigny and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As far as Matt’s daughter goes, I’d have to have many long conversations with the casting director over this role. We would look for a child who could throw fits, weep at the drop of the hat, have many irrational fears, withdraw, show warmth and humor, and find moments of zen-like calm when least expected. We would hold numerous open-call auditions in hotel ballrooms in big cities. No luck. Then we’d crisscross the country, scouting shopping malls, playgrounds, and county fairs. After giving up, we would find her screaming at her mother in a Walgreen’s parking lot in Racine, Wisconsin. A star would be born.
Visit Andy Mozina's website.

The Page 69 Test: Contrary Motion.

Writers Read: Andy Mozina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Holly Schindler's "Spark"

Holly Schindler is a hybrid author of critically acclaimed traditionally published and Amazon bestselling independently published works for readers of all ages. Her previous YAs (A Blue So Dark, Playing Hurt, and Feral) have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, won silver and gold medals from ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, been featured on Booklist’s First Novels for Youth, School Library Journal’s “What’s Hot in YA,” and been selected as a PW Pick. Kirkus praised her latest YA, Spark, for “crisp prose [that] flows easily between the past and present,” and Booklist claimed the novel casts “a shimmering spell.”

Here Schindler shares some guidance for casting an adaptation of Spark:
Spark is about the magic of the theater. More specifically, it’s about the magic of losing yourself in the theater. We’ve all had that experience—being able to lean back into a seat in the audience and completely forget ourselves for a couple of hours. It’s pure escapism. But if you’re on the stage, you don’t just get to forget yourself, you actually get to become someone else—step into another character’s skin.

Two of the main characters in Spark get a chance to shed their perceived flaws when they step onto the stage. That’s part of the magic that lives inside that old Avery Theater. And by losing those “flaws,” by shedding the things they believe are holding them back, those two characters also get a chance at finding love.

Casting Spark, then, would require getting some non-household names. I think it’s far easier to blur the lines between fact and fiction, completely escape into another world, when you don’t know the actors’ real-life names.
Visit Holly Schindler's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Feral.

Coffee with a Canine: Holly Schindler & Jake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Margaret Dilloway's "Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters"

Margaret Dilloway has been a writer ever since she learned how to write. In high school she was a California Arts Scholar in creative writing and she won a National Council of Teachers of English writing award. She practiced writing in a variety of forms, such as being a theater critic and a contributing editor for two weekly newspapers, doing technical writing, and writing plays, before publishing three critically acclaimed books for adults: How to Be an American Housewife, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, and Sisters of Heart and Snow. Her research for Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters included a trip to Japan and a samurai sword-fighting class. Dilloway lives in southern California with her husband, three children, and a goldendoodle named Gatsby.

Here Dilloway dreamcasts an adaptation of Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters:
Joey Morris as Xander. My husband and I were watching Genie in a Bikini on Nickelodeon with our youngest and we turned to each other and said, "Xander!"

Paris Berelc as Jinx-- she has mad gymnastics skills!

Charles Vandervaart as Peyton.

Caitriona Balfe from Outlander for Xander's Mom.

Joe Odagiri, a wonderful Japanese actor who went to college in Fresno, for Xander's Dad-- he's known as the Japanese Johnny Depp, and I think Xander's dad is sort of quirky yet strong, like him.

Daniel Henney for the young grandfather.

Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa for the old grandfather.

Kyoko Kagawa as Obachan (Xander's grandma).
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Dilloway's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Dilloway and Gatsby.

The Page 69 Test: Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sarah Strohmeyer's "This Is My Brain on Boys"

Sarah Strohmeyer is a bestselling and award-winning novelist whose books include The Secrets of Lily Graves, How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, Smart Girls Get What They Want, The Cinderella Pact (which became the Lifetime Original Movie Lying to Be Perfect), The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, Sweet Love, and the Bubbles mystery series.

Here Strohmeyer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, This Is My Brain on Boys:
I suppose I had Ellen Page in mind when I wrote about my extremely literal, brilliant and warm-hearted character Addie. (Poor Ellen. The curses of a youthful face!)

For Tess, her redheaded, wild, intuitive friend, I would love Jennifer Lawrence, and for Kris, I like Ellar Coltrane because I think he can pull off a serious guy with a definite insouciance.

But, to be honest, when I wrote the book I had in mind my son’s friends who are now juniors in college. That was the way it was with Smart Girls Get What They Want, too…. I like blending characteristics of people I know.
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is My Brain on Boys.

Writers Read: Sarah Strohmeyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2016

Larry D. Sweazy's "See Also Deception"

Larry D. Sweazy's novels include A Thousand Falling Crows, Escape from Hangtown, See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for books the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 (for the short story "See Also Murder"), and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010. Sweazy was awarded the Best Books in Indiana in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. And in 2013, he received the inaugural Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year for The Coyote Tracker, presented by the AWA (Academy of Western Artists). Sweazy has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies.

Here Sweazy dreamcasts his new Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, See Also Deception:
I think the demands of character are deep with Marjorie Trumaine. The role would require an actress to be vulnerable and strong, wise and afraid, sad without being maudlin, and fearless when it came to going after the truth. It would be a nuanced role, a lead in a movie—everything revolves around her—which in today’s Hollywood is an unfortunate rarity (a female lead role). Reese Witherspoon comes to mind as a candidate to play Marjorie. I think she could get the North Dakota accent, and after her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in Wild, I’m certain she could reach the emotional depths that playing Marjorie would require. Her spunk was evident from the beginning in Man in the Moon, and that attribute is also a necessary ingredient to bring Marjorie to life. Can she carry a movie? Absolutely.

Hank is another central character, and hugely important. I’ve been seeing Tom Hiddleston a lot lately, and I can imagine his face as Hank’s. Gaunt, but wise, trapped in a body that is useless to him. It’d be all about the face, the emotion, the frustration of not being able to help Marjorie. A minimal physical role that offers a huge acting challenge.

Betty Walsh is another integral character in this novel. She’s young, just out of high school, smart, ambitious, and eager to explore the world around her. She’s not quite a woman, but hardly a little girl, so this offers an actress another complex role. I liked Vanessa Hudgens’ portrayal of Rizzo in Grease Live, recently. I think she showed a wide range of emotion. She could play Betty and bring something interesting to the part.

In all mysteries, nothing is really what it seems, and I think these roles would be complex, challenging, and hopefully fun for the actor to play. I like the look of this cast, but there’s one more role that would need to be filled, and that’s the land. North Dakota, the wide open prairie, the loneliness and danger of it, would have to be portrayed just as accurately as all of the main characters in the book. Care would need to be taken how it is portrayed, and if this were my movie, I’d be just as concerned about land as I was Marjorie and the rest of the cast.

I never put an actor’s face to a character when I’m writing. I don’t think in movie terms at all. For most writers movies and books are apples and oranges, two different things, and in movies, writers have little control, if any, so it’s rare to do an exercise like this. It’s always fun to put a face with a name.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy & Brodi and Sunny (April 2013).

The Page 69 Test: See Also Deception.

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Laura McNeal's "The Incident on the Bridge"

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and has worked as a freelance journalist, a crime writer, and a high school English teacher. She is the author of Dark Water, a finalist for the National Book Award. She and her husband, Tom, are the authors of Crooked, Zipped, Crushed, and The Decoding of Lana Morris.

Here McNeal dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Incident on the Bridge:
If they made The Incident on the Bridge into a movie, I’d prefer that people who are not already famous play the teenagers, but that’s because I love to see movies in which the actors, especially young ones, are unknown to me. Then I don’t have to erase my feeling that, for example, Shailene Woodley is the girl from The Descendants. That said, I loved Lily James in the BBC version of War and Peace. Something about her teeth makes her endearingly fragile-looking. She would make a lovely, self-doubting Thisbe, I think. The next role I’d want to cast is Frank Le Stang, and since I can ask for the impossible here, I’d want Mark Rylance. I fell completely in love with his Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and then found him just as convincing as the soviet spy Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies. He’s the kind of actor who could make you feel sorry for Frank Le Stang.
Visit Laura McNeal's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laura McNeal & Link.

The Page 69 Test: The Incident on the Bridge.

Writers Read: Laura McNeal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Suzanne Myers's "I'm From Nowhere"

Suzanne Myers was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of Princeton University and USC Film School. Her feature film Alchemy won Best Feature at the SXSW Film Festival. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two sons, and dogs. She also rides and shows horses.

Here Myers dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel I'm From Nowhere:
Because I was a screenwriter and film director before I was an author, when I’m writing a new book, I do tend to “cast” it so that I have pictures in my mind as a starting point for the main characters. Sometimes what happens is that by the time the book comes out, the actors are too old to actually play those characters in the movie version, but I think it helps me.

Here’s how I would cast I'm From Nowhere:

Wren- Tavi Gevinson or Maisie Williams
Honor- Elle Fanning
Chazzy- Logan Lerman
Nick- Nicholas Hoult
Hannah- Kristen Wiig
Edward- Peter Sarsgaard
Visit Suzanne Myers's website.

Writers Read: Suzanne Myers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Laura Lippman's "Wilde Lake"

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full-time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001.

Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards.

She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity.

Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., she attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Here Lippman shares her idea for casting the lead in an adaptation of her new novel, Wilde Lake:
Writing Wilde Lake, I needed to shut down any thoughts of movies, especially one particular movie and one particular actor. It was imperative that I banish Gregory Peck from my mind. Which is ironic, because I never think of Peck when I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird. I read the book when I was 11 or 12 and had not yet seen the film. In my mind, Atticus Finch looked more like Wally Cox, whom I knew from Hollywood Squares: Slender, be-spectacled. If you remember the book, Scout describes her father as "old," relative to other fathers, not someone inclined to throw a ball around with his son. That's why the scene when he shoots the rabid dog is so vivid; Jem and Scout have no idea that their father is a crack shot.

But, perhaps because I'm middle-aged now, I did begin to wonder if Atticus Finch was celibate. Whether he looks like Gregory Peck or Wally Cox, it seems unlikely, doesn't it? There would have been women eager to provide companionship to a widower with a good job. And if he wasn't keeping company with women in public, well -- you can see where I'm going with this. To Kill a Mockingbird is a child's eye view of the world until its final paragraph, which suggests that Scout has allowed hindsight to shape her memory of what happens when she stands on Boo Radley's porch, tries to see the world from his perspective.

That said: Anna Kendrick for Lu Brant. She's much too young now, but it takes forever for things to get made and I think she would be very good at inhabiting Lu's tightly compartmentalized life.
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

T.R. Ragan's "Furious"

T.R. Ragan (Theresa Ragan) is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her exciting Lizzy Gardner series (Abducted, Dead Weight, A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead, and Evil Never Dies) has received tremendous praise. In August 2015 Evil Never Dies hit #7 on the Wall Street Journal bestselling list. Since publishing in 2011, she has sold two million books and has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, PC Magazine, Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly.

Ragan grew up in a family of five girls in Lafayette, California. An avid traveler, her wanderings have carried her to Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, China, Thailand, and Nepal, where she narrowly survived being chased by a killer elephant. Before devoting herself to writing fiction, she worked as a legal secretary for a large corporation. Ragan and her husband Joe have four children and live in Sacramento, California.

Here Ragan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Furious:
I enjoy spending time searching for actors and actresses who I think could play parts in books I’m working on. I find pictures on the Internet or cut them from magazines and then pin them on my office corkboard for inspiration.

Long before I began writing Furious, book 1 in the Faith McMann Trilogy, I chose Sandra Bullock to play Faith McMann, a schoolteacher, wife and mother of two small children. Faith must find a way to deal with the death of her husband as she sets out into the dark world of human trafficking to find her kids. I think Sandra would do a great job portraying the variety of emotions displayed by Faith’s character.

For the other roles, I chose Drew Barrymore to play Faith’s sister, Jana. Mostly due to sheer size, I would love Vincent Peter Jones, an English actor, to play Beast. I also selected Lenny McLean to play his father. Sadly, Lenny McLean passed away after the making of the movie, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. As far as directors go, there are so many great directors out there, but I think Lenny Abrahamson (The Room), David Fincher (Gone Girl), or Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker) would do a great job of bringing realism to the Faith McMann Trilogy.
Visit T.R. Ragan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Furious.

Writers Read: T.R. Ragan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Jeff Wheeler's "The Queen's Poisoner"

Jeff Wheeler's best-known fiction includes the Legends of Muirwood & Covenant of Muirwood trilogies, The Whispers from Mirrowen trilogy, and a graphic novel, The Lost Abbey.

Here Wheeler dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel The Queen's Poisoner, book one in The Kingfountain Series:
The story behind The Queen’s Poisoner has been stewing in my brain for years. The challenge for me was writing from the point of view of an eight year-old boy and making it accessible to adults as well. I believed that an eight year-old could pull off the role after re-watching M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Unfortunately, the actor Haley Joel Osment isn’t the right age anymore, but it would need to be a kid like him, one with the right mix of vulnerability and thoughtfulness that really made that performance so memorable. I’ll also never forget what he did in the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence as well. The main character in my book, Owen Kiskaddon, was actually based on my youngest son, even down to the patch of white in his hair. So while I was writing the scenes, I had some source material to work with.

That being said, however, I did have an actor in mind as I developed the role of Owen’s nemesis, the brutal ruler of Kingfountain, King Severn. I’ve been impressed with the work of Richard Armitage since I first saw him in my favorite BBC miniseries North & South. I saw him next in the campy re-make of Robin Hood and he was probably my favorite character in that series as the vengeful and ambitious Guy of Gisborne. I was thrilled to learn that he was cast as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s re-make of The Hobbit movies. The man can play brooding, angry characters! I’d read on-line somewhere that he was a fan of Richard III and had always longed to play that role in Shakespeare’s play. It so happens that the inspiration for the setting of The Queen’s Poisoner was the War of the Roses with an alternate history where the usurper defeated his enemy in battle instead of losing it. If Hollywood ever decides to make a movie out of this series, you know who I’ll be insisting plays my conflicted antagonist King Severn.
Visit Jeff Wheeler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Poisoner.

Writers Read: Jeff Wheeler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lauren Belfer's "And After the Fire"

Lauren Belfer's debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a number one Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages. Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010.

Here Belfer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel And After the Fire:
And After the Fire alternates between two plot lines, one in the present, one in the past, each with a strong female protagonist. As I worked on the novel, I decided that the ideal movie version would feature the same actress in both roles. This would be a tour-de-force opportunity for an actress, if I may say so myself! The historical figure, Sara Itzig Levy, lived from 1761-1854, and the novel presents her from girlhood until shortly before her death at age 93. She was a skilled musician, and for over fifty years she hosted a salon that brought together artists and intellectuals from across Europe, aristocrats and commoners alike. In the present-day story, the fictional Susanna Kessler is in her thirties, a highly-focused young woman who is recovering from a devastating act of violence. I’ve often imagined Natalie Portman or Rachel Weisz in both these roles – and Natalie Portman could direct, as well; recently, she made her directing debut in A Tale of Love and Darkness.

Sara and Susanna each have a strong love interest, and here I’d pick different men for the roles. For Susanna’s love, how could I resist Daniel Craig, with his handsome gravitas, especially if Rachel Weisz is the lead actress? And as Sara’s beloved husband, Clive Owen would be perfect.

And After the Fire encompasses two centuries of history and has a large cast of characters, real and fictional. In the supporting roles, I’d pick Adrian Brody to be the composer Felix Mendelssohn. Emily Blunt to play Felix’s sister, Fanny. Jim Broadbent would be terrific as Rev. Frank Mueller, a (fictional) Lutheran pastor and the moral center of the novel. And as Frederic Fournier, the conniving impresario, who else but Ralph Fiennes?
Learn more about the book and author at Lauren Belfer's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance.

My Book, The Movie: A Fierce Radiance.

The Page 69 Test: And After the Fire.

Writers Read: Lauren Belfer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Camille Griep's "New Charity Blues"

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Letters to Zell is her first novel.

Here Griep dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, New Charity Blues:
I have always been guilty of daydreaming and writing with a cinematic ribbon running through my mind. In keeping, I’d love to share my (unlimited budget) casting via the opening montage for the film version of New Charity Blues.

The movie begins with images of a dark and ruined City. Ex-ballerina Syd, played by Julia Goldani Telles (an actress and dancer from the criminally short-lived series Bunheads fame), is climbing a dilapidated staircase. As the music slowly gets louder, she discovers young Mina, played by Kylie Rogers (of The Whispers), trapped while searching for Buster (played by a black and white American Bulldog to be cast by a nice trainer somewhere) who is emerges from a dark corner of the room. When the camera returns to the corner, the frame goes black.

Over a slower portion of the theme music, the scenery brightens into a sunset. Cas Willis, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, If I Stay), is on horseback, loping over the green hillsides of New Charity alongside her twin, Len, played by Lucas Hedges (The Slap). Homeward bound, they are shown into the barn by their brother Troy, played by Chord Overstreet (of Glee fame). Cas looks down the hill, into the distance, to a cloud of dust: the chaos erupting at the old Turner Ranch.

When the dust clears, montage music still swelling, we are back in the city, where Syd delivers the injured Mina to Doc, played by Nick Nolte (Cape Fear), before joining Agnes, played by Kelly Bishop (Dirty Dancing), for a dinner of canned tuna and corn. Rain pelts the windows as they eat in silence. Syd scratches one of Agnes’ many cats’ ears before bending over to light a candle and the scene goes blurry.

Another candle comes into focus, this time in the middle of a dinner table, New Charity’s lush green scenery out the window. Cas, Len, and Troy sit with the rest of their family: Governor Willis, played by Neal McDonough (Minority Report); Mama Willis, played by Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City); and Perry, played by Anton Yelchin (Charlie Parker), as well as the vile Bishop, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways).

As the opening credit music again begins to fade, the camera pans away from the dinner table, out the window, and down the grassy hillside to the Turner Ranch where the earlier chaos has now died down. Deacon Pious Turner, played by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), sobs into the shoulder of Sheriff Jayne, played by Kristen Johnson (3rd Rock). The lens zooms out over the silver horse sculpted gates sealing the wall of New Charity where a camp of Survivors including Nelle, played by Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black); Mangold, played by Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me); and Linsey, played by Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter).

Now that we’ve been introduced to the major characters of New Charity Blues, we can settle in with our popcorn and watch the rest together.
Visit Camille Griep's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Camille Griep and Dutchess Marie Siefker-Griep.

The Page 69 Test: Letters to Zell.

The Page 69 Test: New Charity Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2016

Anita Hughes's "Island in the Sea"

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in The Australian newspaper, and was named "One of Australia's Next Best Writers." (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

Hughes received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley's Masters in Creative Writing program.

Her debut novel Monarch Beach was released in June 2012, followed by Market Street in March 2013, Lake Como in August 2013, and Rome in Love and French Coast in 2015.

Here Hughes dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Island in the Sea:
One of the most enjoyable questions an author can be asked is: who do you see cast in your book, the movie. Imagining your characters on the big screen is every author's dream and casting it before Hollywood comes calling is a common preoccupation.

Casting Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story is easy, because I cast one of the main characters, Lionel, in my head, before I wrote his first dialogue. Pierce Brosnan is witty, handsome, British, and can play disgruntled and slightly depressed while remaining incredibly charming.

Juliet is also quite easy to cast. There are so many strong, beautiful twenty-something actresses in Hollywood. I could see Emma Stone or Lily Collins or even Mila Kunis at Juliet.

Henry, the tennis heartthrob from New Zealand, could be played by Chris Helmsworth (he is hard to look away from anytime he appears on the screen) and Vanessa Hudgens or Selena Gomez would be wonderful as Gabriella. (Gabriella has a wonderful voice so it would be great to cast an actress who is also a singer).

A lot of readers have enjoyed Lydia, Gabriella's grandmother. Lydia has a lot of life experience and wisdom to pass on to Gabriella and Juliet. I could see Jane Seymour or Helen Mirren as Lydia.

Thank you for the opportunity to let me daydream! And I always love to hear others' thoughts on their favorite actors and actresses for the parts.
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

My Book, The Movie: Market Street.

My Book, The Movie: Lake Como.

My Book, The Movie: French Coast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Emily D. Edwards's "Bars, Blues, and Booze"

Emily D. Edwards is a professor of media studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She began her media writing career as a journalist, reporting for ABC and NBC affiliates in Alabama and Tennessee. She has written and produced news stories and documentaries for both radio and television. In the early 1970s when employees in small and medium market stations wore many hats, Edwards wrote, produced, and directed television news, commercials, and public service programs. In 1984 she earned a Ph.D. in journalism and mass communication at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and moved back to Alabama to direct the broadcasting program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 1987, she joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she is now a professor in the Department of Media Studies.

Here Edwards shares some reflections on a cinematic version of her new book, Bars, Blues, and Booze: Stories from the Drink House:
The movie question is interesting because I am a filmmaker and initially considered making this as a documentary. I chose to write a book instead because 306 pages can tell more stories than two hours of edited video tape and some subjects didn't like the idea of being on camera. If this book was reimagined as a feature film, a fair number of stories would have to be cut, and it would need an ensemble cast and alternate, multiple story structure, imagine movies like Dreamgirls (2007), Crossroads (1986), Get on Up (2014) and Blues Brothers (1980) with the structure of a movie like Crash (2005).
Visit the official Bars, Blues & Booze website.

Writers Read: Emily D. Edwards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2016

William Carlsen's "Jungle of Stone"

William Carlsen was a reporter for two decades at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. He has also worked for the New York Times and taught journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Here Carlsen dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya
I always had two actors in mind as I wrote my book, in part because it lends itself so much to a film, but also to help visualize my two protagonists as I wrote. The first, John L. Stephens, was a lawyer from New York before he set off on adventures in Greece, Turkey, Russia, Egypt and the Holy Land and returned to write bestsellers about his travels. Then he went off in 1839 with Frederick Catherwood, a British architect/artist, to discover the Maya civilization in Central America, Mexico and Yucatan. Stephens was described by a contemporary, Herman Melville, as a man with dark eyes and an intense blazing gaze, and by another as highly nervous and full of energy. So I thought of James Franco for the role. Catherwood was described as taller, a reserved Englishman who intently guarded his privacy, and, as an artist, a man of very few words. Called throughout their books together by Stephens as "Mr. Catherwood," there could be no other actor I would think of in the role than Colin Firth. Well, one can dream, of course. But they would make the perfect pair.
Visit William Carlsen's website.

Writers Read: William Carlsen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tom Fox's "Dominus"

Tom Fox's storytelling emerges out of many years spent in academia, working on the history of the Christian Church. A respected authority on that subject, he has recently turned his attentions towards exploring the new stories that can be drawn out of its mysterious dimensions.

Here Fox dreamcasts an adaptation of Dominus, his first novel:
Ever since the first scenes of Dominus began to appear in my head, I’ve always thought it the kind of story that would lend itself well to film (though, perhaps, what author doesn’t!) — and perhaps because I’m a visual thinker, often ‘seeing’ the scenes I’m writing as if they’re being played out in my mind, I feel in some sense as if I’ve already seen the film. But until you asked the question, I can honestly say I never went as far as casting, and it’s been a pleasant experiment to visualize which actors I’d seek out, if I could have my fancy.

Dominus includes a large cast of characters, so there’s an ensemble for the making that I can imagine would be a casting director’s dream (and a financier’s nightmare). Everyone from the frail and ‘miraculously’ healed pope (for which I would go and grovel at the feet of Giancarlo Giannini, who played a pope so masterfully in Joshua (2012) before going on to James Bond franchise fame, and who is the perfect match of gentility and humility, with a strain of ferocity behind him; or Benicio del Toro, whom I’ve always thought blended power and peacefulness so well), to the aggressive, terrifying villain of Caterina Amato (a role that for some reason I think Halle Barry would do masterfully: she has the ability to go from smiling friend to wicked enemy in a heartbeat), to the self-sacrificial commandant of the Swiss Guard (whom I could easily see come to life in the hands of Chris Hemsworth, though he’d have to put away the Thor costume), and so many others.

But the core of the book’s cast lies in the two protagonists of the story — the assertive, struggling Roman police officer, Gabriella Fierro, and the jaded ex-priest turned reporter, Alexander Trecchio — together with the mysterious ‘stranger’ who walks into the Vatican in the book’s opening pages and sets everything in motion. For the latter I would probably look no further than Tony Goldwyn. Though he’s most well known to audiences today as the conniving, lust-possessed president in the television series Scandal, he played a superb, mysteriously other-worldly, ‘maybe-supernatural’ character in the film Joshua (which while not one of my favourite films, included truly superb performances by him, F. Murray Abraham, and Giancarlo Giannini, whom I’ve already cast as my pope), and his ability to convey mystery, compassion, peace and power (and perhaps a little deception) all at the same time fits ‘the stranger’ of Dominus perfectly. Even when he’s not aiming for it, he conveys mysteriousness, which is what our ‘stranger' needs.

Gabriella Fierro is such a powerful character — a woman battling her way through a man’s world, gentle but hardly fragile, with a powerful intellect and a commanding personality. And there are so many wonderful female actors working today, one is almost spoiled for choice. I could easily see Gabriella coming to life in the hands of Anne Hathaway (who has just done too many good films to list), Jessica Chastain (whose performances in The Martian, Interstellar, and Stolen were spectacular), or even Evangeline Lilly (whose versatility is amazing: she was transformed in The Hobbit and The Hurt Locker, but I first got to know her amazing depth in television’s Lost). All these women covey power without it being overbearing — strength that is sometimes hidden yet can sustain more than just a single person, and that’s Gabriella to a tee.

As to Alexander Trecchio, the priest who loses his faith, unable to take the scandals that rock his religion, and deeply desires to escape the world of the Vatican only to find himself forcibly pulled back into it — everything comes down to the ability to portray intelligence and seriousness at the same time as brokenness, weakness and doubt. I’ve been very impressed with the recent work of both Ben Affleck and Christian Bale, both of whom started out in roles of a more unrestrained machismo, but who also show the ability to become fragile, incomplete, troubled. In either of them, Alexander would really come alive.

So there you have it: a cast (or the first few members of it) that brings Dominus off the page in the cinema in my head. But I suppose the great thing about a novel is that you might cast it completely differently, and so might the next reader. An infinite ensemble … it seems fitting for a story that asks whether the impossible could be possible.
Learn more about Tom Fox's Dominus at the publisher's website, and visit Tom Fox's Twitter perch. 

Writers Read: Tom Fox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2016

Karen Halvorsen Schreck's "Broken Ground"

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me, which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now teaches writing and literature.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Broken Ground:
I did have specific people in mind as I developed Ruth Warren and Thomas Everly, the main characters of Broken Ground. As never before in my writing, in fact, I turned to particular photographs of these people for inspiration.

Set in the 1930s, Broken Ground is the story of a young oilrig widow who tries to escape her grief and the Texas Dust Bowl by heading west to attend college. There she becomes immersed in the lives of Mexican migrant workers in a camp near Los Angeles, and learns of the long-term repatriation program of that era—the massive, forced deportation without due process of people of Mexican heritage, many of them U.S. citizens. Ultimately, Ruth and her friend, WPA worker Thomas Everly, must decide what stand they will take in the face of this injustice.

My inspiration for Ruth came to me from an author photograph on the back of the book, Whose Names Are Unknown, originally slated for release by Random House in 1939, but only published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2004. Sanora Babb is the book’s author, and her strong features and (from what I’ve read) even stronger character evoke Ruth for me. Babb has an open, attractive face that feels completely of her time. She is not a tall woman, nor thin, by no means cover-model-perfect or movie-actress-beautiful. She appears hale and hearty; her firm jaw and the set to her mouth communicate strength and determination. No matter who holds the camera, Babb appears completely present—wise, kind, unassuming, and observant. With her bright, alert, intelligent eyes, she has the gaze of the best journalists. And she was one.

Babb’s lyrical, intimate novel, based on her field notes from her work with the Farm Security Administration and her own early experience as a child of the High Plains, addresses the same subject matter as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. But in tone and style the books stand in sharp contrast. Sadly, when Steinbeck’s novel was received with great acclaim, it was decided readership potential for the subject matter was tapped out. Here’s the thing: Babb’s supervisor at the FSA loaned her notes to Steinbeck while he was working on TGOW. Her work most likely fueled his. So I drew upon Sanora Babb as my inspiration for Ruth, not only because she perfectly fit the part, but also because I wanted to celebrate Babb’s life and her work.

As for Thomas Everly: his character has a physical challenge that I needed to wrap my imagination around. In order to do that, I couldn’t take anything for granted when it came to his characterization. I had to clearly, consistently know his height and heft, the momentum behind his movements, his agility. So whom did I ultimately choose to represent my soulful, compassionate main man? Well . . .Gary Cooper. Typical, you may say. But I’d never seen any movies featuring Cooper (gasp!), so he was a completely new face for me, who also emanated the ethos of the particular era in which Broken Ground is set. The first photo of him that grabbed me was pinned on a Pinterest board: “Whiskey Soaked Coolness.” But other images reveal quiet composure—still waters, deep depths. Thomas doesn’t have Cooper’s beautiful, blue eyes. But he does have his broad brow. I always imagined Thomas as a kind of lion, coiled power belied by stillness, and I see this in Cooper’s photographs too.
Visit Karen Halvorsen Schreck's website.

--Marshal Zeringue