Monday, September 24, 2018

Kathleen J. McInnis's "The Heart of War"

Kathleen J. McInnis is a U.S. national security policy geek by trade, who happens to be moonlighting as a novelist. Or maybe it's the other way around?

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon:
It’s funny. While my career in U.S. national security requires me to write a lot, it’s always analytic pieces that I’ve had to put together. So when I started writing The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon – my first real work of fiction – I didn’t have a clue where to start.

I decided to take a cue from my buddy Mike Flanagan, who’s a writer and director of horror movies, and compiled a book of actor’s headshots to give myself a clear sense of what the characters look like. But, because I’m an analyst by training, my version of was enormously elaborate: each page had an image of an actor that fit the bill, along with notes on their character, bios, and even Myers-Briggs personality types.

Yet as I went through rewrite after rewrite (after rewrite!), the story changed significantly, and so did the characters. And it turns out, they had opinions about what they looked like, and were very insistent that I go back and get that right. As it happens, they also told me to stuff my Myers-Briggs character notes and just listen to them tell their story. So when I sent the final manuscript to the publisher, the characters looked and felt very different to the beginning of the writing process five years ago.

Dr. Heather Reilly, the story’s protagonist, is a strong and intelligent woman but with some profound pain at the center of her being. She is brave, but at times naïve. And she’s in an environment where the work is deadly serious, but she and her colleagues use humor to cope with the Pentagon’s insanity. While I have a very clear idea of what Heather looks like, I think that capturing her spirit would be more essential to pulling off a movie adaptation. Some actors that I think could really capture those kinds of dualities while bringing humor to the role include Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence.

Incidentally, the one character who didn’t change much for me over the course of writing: the main antagonist, Ariane Fletcher. Fletcher is a complicated woman, but Heather mainly sees her as the boss from hell. It always seemed to me that Helena Bonham Carter would be perfect for the role.
Visit Kathleen J. McInnis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue