Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mandy Mikulencak's "The Last Suppers"

Mandy Mikulencak is the author of The Last Suppers, which recently received a starred review from Library Journal and was named to Barnes & Nobles’ list of Best New Fiction of December 2017. Set in 1950s Louisiana, the novel follows a young, female prison cook who feels compelled to prepare meaningful last meals for death row inmates. When she uncovers troubling truths about her father’s murder and the man executed for the crime, her ideas on what constitutes truth, justice and mercy are irrevocably changed. Mikulencak also authored the young adult novel, Burn Girl, which received a 2016 Westchester Fiction Award.

Here Mikulencak dreamcasts an adaptation of The Last Suppers:
When I start to envision the characters in my books, it can feel like a subconscious rather than conscious exercise. Our brains house so much information on popular culture – TV, movies, books, magazines. I think authors instinctively draw from that virtual storehouse of attributes to form a picture in their minds of what their own characters look or talk like, and what mannerisms they possess. Sometimes it’s a perfect fit. For my current novel, The Last Suppers, I believe that Josh Brolin would be ideal for the role of Roscoe Simms, the warden. A secondary character – Dot, who works in the kitchen with the main character, Ginny – is absolutely Octavia Spencer (although my husband insists that Oprah Winfrey would make a perfect Dot). Ginny’s father, Joe – whose character is only told in flashback – is tougher to describe. Actors Ben Mendelsohn or Chris Cooper come very close, but they’d have to be 22 years old and much taller.

I have had an extremely difficult time casting the main female characters in both The Last Suppers and Burn Girl. It’s a peculiar phenomenon. I visualize certain attributes very clearly. In The Last Suppers, Ginny describes herself as having the body of a 13-year-old boy. The warden, her lover, describes her this way: Roscoe couldn’t get over how much she looked like her father had at twenty-one. Hair like a squirrel’s nest, a strong chin, eyes a little too large for her face. She didn’t get Joe’s height, though, or Miriam’s curves for that matter.

I’ve wasted far too much time searching IMDB trying to find the perfect young actress (about 29 or 30 years old). Yet, I can’t form a full picture of Ginny. It’s almost like she’s in soft focus and I’m struggling to make out her facial features. I’m very curious how readers envision her.

As for the director of The Last Suppers? Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men), Taylor Sheridan (Wind River) or David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).
Visit Mandy Mikulencak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue