Saturday, July 20, 2019

Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel's "In the Woods"

About In the Woods by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel:
It should have been just another quiet night on the farm when Logan witnessed the attack, but it wasn’t.

Something is in the woods.
Something unexplainable.
Something deadly.

Hundreds of miles away, Chrystal’s plans for summer in Manhattan are abruptly upended when her dad reads tabloid coverage of some kind of grisly incident in Oklahoma. When they arrive to investigate, they find a witness: a surprisingly good-looking farm boy.

As townsfolk start disappearing and the attacks get ever closer, Logan and Chrystal will have to find out the truth about whatever’s hiding in the woods…before they become targets themselves.
Here Jones dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
Chrystal – She’s strong. She’s talented. Her dad is a bit eccentric. So is she. She quote Kierkegaard and has a bass guitar. She’s got the Maya Hawke vibe going on. So Maya Hawke?

Logan – He’s trying to be a poet. He’s kind of failing. He’s got farm boy arm strength and some kind eyes and a ridiculously charming smile. He’s occasionally sexist, but he’s trying. So, maybe Roshon Fegan?

Mr. Lawson-Smith (Chrystal’s dad) – Quirky? Eccentric? Basically Doctor Who as a kindergarten teacher/cryptozoologist? I’m going for Matt Smith. Oh! But if Maya Hawke is Chrystal it would be tremendous for her dad to be her actual dad. I think Ethan Hawke could pull off the vibe here.

The Monster – I can’t tell because it would be such a spoiler. Such a spoiler.
Visit Carrie Jones's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Carrie Jones & Tala.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Chris Tebbetts's "Me Myself & Him"

Chris Tebbetts is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of James Patterson’s Middle School series. Originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio, Tebbetts is a graduate of Northwestern University. He lives and writes in Vermont.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Me Myself & Him:
I love questions like this—in part because I was a film major in college; I’m a freak for movies in general; and when I write, some part of me is always imagining my scenes on the screen. I think about where I’d put the camera (aka, what I want to show the reader), when to use a long shot (description of the setting), when to go in for a close up (get inside the character’s head), etc., etc., etc.

As for my prospective actors, I saw a preview the other day for Spiderman: Far From Home, and I have to say, Tom Holland has that average-guy, accessible-but-funny feel to him that I associate with my character Chris (who is, of course, partially based on myself). And Zendaya has impressed me ever since launching off from the Disney Channel (is that where she came from?). She’d be perfect for Anna. As for the character of Wexler, I’d love to see what Thomas Barbusca (who was so good in the movie version of another of my books, Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life) could do with that role.
Visit Chris Tebbetts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

Keely Hutton's "Secret Soldiers"

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua.

Hutton has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Secret Soldiers:
If I could cast a movie adaptation of Secret Soldiers, I would pick the following talented actors for the main roles.

Thomas – Noah Jupe, the young British actor who played Marcus Abbott in A Quiet Place could handle the emotional range of the 13-year-old Dover miner desperate to get to the Western Front.

George – Levi Miller, the young Australian actor who played Peter in Pan and Calvin in A Wrinkle in Time could bring the charismatic London street urchin to life.

Charlie – Jacob Tremblay, the young Canadian actor who played Auggie in Wonder and Jack in Room would break hearts as the vulnerable runaway.

Frederick – Finn Wolfhard, the young Canadian actor who plays Mike Wheeler on the show Stranger Things could handle the character arc of the arrogant Eton student.

James – Tom Holland, the British actor who plays my favorite Spider Man ever would be an amazing older brother for Thomas.

Bagger – Jerome Flynn, the British actor who played Bennet Drake in Ripper Street (one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows) and Bronn on Game of Thrones would nail the tough, but loveable crew leader.

Mole – Paul Anderson, the British actor who plays Arthur Shelby Jr. in Peaky Blinders, the show that inspired my research into the WW1 tunnellers, would slay as the crew’s kicker.

Boomer – Naveen Andrews, the British actor who played Jafar on the show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland would be amazing as the crew’s explosion expert and Thomas’s mentor.

Bats –Raphael Corkhill, the British actor who narrated the audiobook for Secret Soldiers and plays Kaiser Wilhelm II in the upcoming film The German King would be fantastic in the role of the crew’s listener.

For a composer, I’d love John Williams, Alan Silvestri, or Hans Zimmer. I listened to all three composers’ work while writing Secret Soldiers and love the emotional impact their scores bring to films.
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

The Page 69 Test: Secret Soldiers.

Writers Read: Keely Hutton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2019

J. Todd Scott's "This Side of Night"

J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.

His debut novel, The Far Empty, was published in 2016.

Here Scott dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, This Side of Night:
This is a more interesting question now that I’ve been more actively involved in the “Hollywood side” of things on several projects, including the adaptation and development of my own books. Throughout the process, I’ve met both actors and directors, and I find the whole book-to-script-to-screen process fascinating…and slow…and frustrating….

That being said, I love the idea of making films, and often visualize how I’d “shoot” my own novel scenes as I write them. I’ve always had a “pocket list” of directors I’d be thrilled to see work on the Big Bend novels (and frankly, This Side of Night is probably the most “cinematic” of the three), but there are some great female directors working now I’d love to see tackle my stuff, particularly since America Reynosa is such a central character. In no particular order: Jennifer Kent, Sarah Polley, and Karyn Kusama.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: High White Sun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Julie McElwain's "Betrayal in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University (Go, Bison!), and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper. Currently, she is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

Her first novel, A Murder In Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list, and was selected as the mystery to read in 2016 by OverDrive Inc., a digital distributor serving more than 34,000 libraries around the world. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads’ readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle’s list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

The series continues Kendra Donovan’s adventures in Regency England with A Twist in Time, Caught in Time, and Betrayal in Time.

When McElwain is not on her laptop, she enjoys traveling, exploring different cultures, spending time with family and meeting friends for Happy Hour. She lives in Long Beach, California.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Betrayal in Time:
When my first book, A Murder in Time, was published, many people asked me who I envisioned as Kendra when I was writing the book. Honestly, I didn’t have anyone in mind when I was writing the novel. Kendra was purely a figment of my imagination. However, since A Murder in Time was optioned for a TV series, I have had a chance to fantasize a bit. I love that there are a lot of action-oriented roles for women in Hollywood these days — where a woman saves the day rather than waiting to be saved. Kendra is a super-smart, slightly awkward, kick-ass woman who saves the day. Based on that, I can see several actresses in the role, but narrowed them down to the following four. Cobie Smulders, who showed off her comedic skills in How I Met Your Mother, and then flexed her muscle (literally) by playing Turner in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back as well as Maria in the Avengers movies. Summer Glau. She was the Terminator in the TV series. Really, does anything more need to be said? Priyanka Chopra, who played an FBI agent in the TV series Quantico, and also has an international reputation as being an action star. And, finally, Sofia Pernas, who is playing an action role on CBS’ summer adventure series, Blood & Treasure.

If I’m fantasy casting, I might as well cast Kendra’s love interest, Alec, with Aidan Turner. The guy has already sent temperatures rising with his role as Ross Poldark in the Masterpiece Theater TV series, Poldark. I think the uber-talented Turner would fill Alec’s Hessian boots quite nicely, thank you very much!
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caught in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Adam Mitzner's "A Matter of Will"

Adam Mitzner is currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP in midtown Manhattan and the author of several acclaimed novels, including Dead Certain, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, The Girl from Home, Dead Certain and Never Goodbye.

Here Mitzner dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, A Matter of Will:
As it turns out, A Matter of Will is already under option for film treatment by Company X and Emily Siegel. We haven’t discussed actors yet, but if they let me cast it (and I know they won’t), I’d go with:

Will Matthews — Ansel Elgort. I loved him in Baby Driver, and he is a graduate of New York City’s high school of performing arts, which both my daughters attended.

Sam Abaddon — The part calls for someone too handsome to be believed, with a definite dark side. Jon Hamm could do it justice, but it might hew too close to his Don Draper character. Idris Elba would also kill it, and a British accent would be great.

Gwen Lipton — I’m a huge fan of Nina Dobrev, and I think she’d be perfect as Will’s love interest who is not only beautiful, but clearly smarter than he is.

Eve Deveraux — Once again, the part calls for beauty and an intelligence the audience recognizes, but the other characters might not. There’s a plethora of great age appropriate actors: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Connelly, Halle Barry, please have your agent call me.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Matter of Will.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 5, 2019

Domenica Ruta's "Last Day"

In Domenica Ruta’s Last Day,
the end of the world comes once a year. Every May 28, humanity gathers to anticipate the planet’s demise—and to celebrate as if the day is truly its last.

On this holiday, three intersecting sets of characters embark on a possibly last-chance quest for redemption. In Boston, bookish wunderkind Sarah is looking for love and maybe a cosmic reversal from the much older Kurt, a tattoo artist she met at last year’s Last Day BBQ—but he’s still trying to make amends to the family he destroyed long ago. Dysfunctional Karen keeps getting into trouble, especially when the voices she’s been hearing coax her to abandon everything to search for her long-lost adoptive brother; her friend Rosette has left the Jehovah’s Witnesses to follow a new pastor at the Last Kingdom on Earth, where she brings Karen on this fateful day. Meanwhile, above them all, three astronauts on the International Space Station, Bear, an American; Russian Svec; and billionaire Japanese space tourist Yui, contemplate their lives as well as their precious Earth from afar.
Here Ruta dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
Sarah Moss should be played by Kiernan Shipka, the prodigiously talented actress who played Sally Draper on Mad Men.

Kurt should be played by either Mark Ruffalo or Robert Downey Jr in their early 40s incarnation.

Bear should be played by Ed Harris.

Karen should be played by Rebel Wilson.
Visit Domenica Ruta's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Day.

Writers Read: Domenica Ruta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ashley Dyer's "The Cutting Room"

Ashley Dyer is the pseudonym for prize-winning novelist Margaret Murphy working in consultation with policing and forensics expert, Helen Pepper.

Dyer's new novel is The Cutting Room.

Here Murphy dreamcasts an adaptation of The Cutting Room:
An Oscar-winning Hollywood production company actually did show an interest in the Carver & Lake series even before Splinter in the Blood (book #1) was published. It was heady stuff for a time, and slightly surreal, having transatlantic discussions over the phone, as well as meeting with British film and TV producers. Ultimately, it all came to nought, but it was fun while it lasted. It was only after producers asked if I had a dream cast in mind, that I gave this some thought, because as a rule, although I have a picture of the protagonists in my head, I rarely base them on actors.

In The Cutting Room, Carver and Lake are on the trail of a social media savvy serial killer who calls himself the ‘Ferryman’; a sadistic narcissist with artistic pretensions who makes his victims the centrepiece of his art works.

Emily Blunt would be perfect as Ruth Lake. Ruth is reserved, though far from shy, and has a phenomenal inner strength and integrity. She’s serious, and can be tough, but has a sense of humour, and she’s compassionate. Although she isn’t always honest with Carver or her colleagues, she is honest with herself—and she is harbouring a dreadful secret—at least some of which is revealed in this novel, when a man comes back into her life who was very special to her in her teens and early twenties. Emily Blunt is superb in every movie I’ve ever seen her in, from the kick-ass action heroine in Edge of Tomorrow, to a vulnerable-but-stoic FBI agent in Sicario; and she conveyed such raw emotion in A Quiet Place—much of it without dialogue—that I know she could bring all of Ruth’s many-layered complexities to life onscreen.

Greg Carver, meanwhile, is slowly regaining his strength after an attack that nearly ended him and he can’t seem to shake the hallucinations and bewildering auras which are a legacy of his injuries. He is grateful to Ruth who covers for him at work, but terrified that the after-effects of his head trauma, together with the PTSD flashbacks he’s suffering, will finish his career, so he’s pushing himself too hard, too fast, and is in deep denial—sometimes even building barriers against Ruth. But the auras—blurs of coloured light which ‘halo’ people he interacts with—seem to correspond to their mood, and Carver begins to regard his infirmity as a strength. Jake Gyllenhaal has a tremendous range and seems completely fearless in the roles he takes on. I’d love for him to play Carver, knowing that he would convey Carver’s intensity and vulnerability, his terror and bewilderment, and also the courage and determination that make him a great cop.

As for the director ... I toyed with the Christopher Nolan (and there aren’t many who can say that!), because he creates such strong visual experiences and dizzying disorientation in his films, notably Memento, and Inception. But in the end, I think Martin Scorsese would be the director for me: Shutter Island, adapted from Dennis Lehane’s novel, was highly inventive, creating truly startling images in the hallucinatory sequences and conveying the weirdness and dark gothic tone of the book brilliantly. I’d love to see what he’d do with Greg Carver’s flashbacks, visions and auras, as well as the seriously twisted ‘artworks’ the murderer creates.
Visit Ashley Dyer's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Ashley Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutting Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Richard Zimler's "The Warsaw Anagrams"

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Here Zimler dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, The Warsaw Anagrams:
The Warsaw Anagrams is a noir mystery set inside Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto. The narrator, Erik Cohen, is an elderly psychiatrist, except that the reader discovers right away that he is already dead. Erik is an ibbur – a ghost – who has failed to pass over to the Other Side. Why? He theorizes that it is because he still has a duty to fulfill in our world. Except that he doesn’t know what it is. He tells the story of his last year in the Warsaw ghetto in the hopes of discovering what it is.

A little context… In the autumn of 1940, the Nazis sealed 400,000 Jews inside a small area of the Polish capital, creating an urban island cut off from the outside world. Erik is forced to move into a tiny apartment there with his niece and his beloved nine-year-old nephew, Adam.

One bitterly cold winter day, Adam goes missing. The next morning, his body is discovered in the barbed wire surrounding this Jewish ghetto. For what possible reason has his body been murdered?

Erik fights off his crushing rage and despair by vowing to find his nephew’s killer – and take revenge. His childhood friend Izzy – whose quick courage and wicked sense of humor keeps Erik from losing his nerve – joins him in the desperate and dangerous search.

A Portuguese producer is currently trying to secure funding for the film, but I don’t know where the projects stands (the author is always the last to know!). The role of Erik would have to be played by a very charismatic and talented actor. Erik isn’t a demonstrative man, so the actor would have to be able to capture the viewer’s attention through small and telling gestures – and through modulations in his voice. One actor that the producer and I have discussed is Jeremy Irons. Another possibility would be Mandy Patinkin. I think both of them could do a great job (and get an Oscar nomination!). For Izzy, the other main role, I would like Mark Rylance. I saw him in Bridge of Spies and was very impressed. I think that he and Jeremy Irons or Mandy Patinkin would make an incredible duo.
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Catherine Chung's "The Tenth Muse"

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticał times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Here Chung dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Tenth Muse:
When I was growing up, my white friends would sometimes ask each other who they'd want to play them in the movie of their lives. As a child, I was always at a loss: there were no Asian American child actresses I knew by name. I don't know when the first time I saw one was, but to be honest, it's not something I likely would have wanted to commemorate: the Asian American onscreen characters of my childhood were the foreign exchange students in the goofy clothes who spoke with accents, or the nerds everyone else made fun of and picked on, who carried calculators and protractors, whose noses were buried in giant books. It's not that these depictions didn't reflect my experience: they did, in the most painful ways. I wanted nothing to do with them.

When my first book came out, people would ask me who I wanted to play the Korean American family in my novel. "When was the last time you saw a movie about an Asian American family?" I deflected--refusing to play along. "How many Asian American actors and actresses can you even name?" The Joy Luck Club had come out when I was in middle school, and almost two decades had passed by that point. I had loved that movie: had loved seeing beautiful, complicated Asian American women living a range of different lives whose stories were treated with compassion and love and whose mothers' backstories, also lovingly told, were equal parts glamorous and tragic. That whole movie was filled with a tortured longing I understood: the yearning of the second generation to immerse itself fully in the New World in tension with the desire to hold on to history, to culture, to family, to love.

And then, for a long time, there was nothing that even compared. I loved Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh and Margaret Cho, but I wanted more for them, and more for myself. I wanted them in leading roles, I wanted them surrounded by other Asian faces, for the focus to be on the full range of their experiences as Asian American women--something I hadn't seen enough of, something I was hungry for.

The last two years in Asian American cinema and television have been a revelation, to say the least. When I think of Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I Loved Before, and Always Be My Maybe I am filled with devoted, celebratory, gleeful pride, as if someone in my family had made them. For the first time, this question of who would play the lead role of my protagonist Katherine in the movie of my book feels like a joyous one to answer. And since I'm new at this, since it's my first time really allowing myself to ask this question, I find that I am greedy. I want everyone. Setting aside practicalities of age, etc, I want the first Asian American actress I ever fell in love with, the one whose face I've missed for so many years--Ming-Na Wen with her soulful eyes and quiet depth, I want Lucy Liu and her radiant energy and sparkling charm, Sandra Oh with her charisma, range, and humanity. I want Gemma Chan for her angelic beauty, and even more for the way her thoughts telegraph across her face and the intelligence that shines through everything she does (she could also play the young version of Katherine's mother with heartbreaking clarity)--and Olivia Munn with her sharp, forceful, unapologetic and charmingly eccentric personality, and who is also the only actress on this list who's biracial, as Katherine is. Any of these phenomenally talented actresses could inhabit Katherine--a math genius struggling to find a place for herself in the male dominated world of higher mathematics and simultaneously trying to come to an understanding of her family's history and her own identity--in different and beautiful ways, and I love daydreaming about the different ways they'd play her. And I love, too, daydreaming about the actresses whose work I don't know yet, the actresses I know are coming for us, ready to finally embody the stories we've been waiting with such hunger to see, and the stories we have yet to tell.
Visit Catherine Chung's website.

Writers Read: Catherine Chung.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 24, 2019

Season Butler's "Cygnet"

Cygnet is Season Butler's debut novel.

About the book:
As rising sea levels advance toward The Kid’s cliff-front home, her old-age-separatist neighbours grow less patient with her presence and her parents are nowhere to be found. Cygnet‘s teenage protagonist confronts the dilemmas of coming-of-age in a time of personal and global uncertainty; leaving her island home means risking losing her parents forever, but staying becomes less possible with each passing day. It’s a story about identity, loyalty and survival in a historical moment when our dependable structures are being undone, vanishing and evolving faster than we can reckon with the old world’s loss. And sometimes it’s funny…
Here Butler dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
Amandla Stenberg is The Kid. No question. I’m a great admirer of Stenberg as a thinker and activist as well as a performer, so she would be the ideal embodiment of an intersectional protagonist.

Cygnet’s flashback scenes would be irresistible with Donald Glover and Lupita Nyong'o as The Kid’s parents, and Nichelle Nichols (the original Star Trek’s Commander Uhura) as Lolly.

Oprah Winfrey would bring wise-woman realness to the role of Rose. This might be controversial, but I can see Mrs Tyburn played by Dolly Parton in conservative drag. If she’s not available, Madonna could bring a similar power and glamour to the part. And there would be a poetic eeriness to casting Betty White as The Duchess.

Bette Midler has the perfect presence to play Suzie-Q (remember her 1979 take on Janice Joplin?), with Rutger Hauer, or maybe an aged-up Forest Whitaker, as her Johnny-Come-Lately. The truth-telling Earl – who saw it all coming decades ago – would be a great cameo for Sidney Poitier or Morgan Freeman.

I’d ask Timothée Chalamet to take a stab at Jason.

Swan Island itself would be played by its real-life inspiration, Star Island, with its stunning, peaceful landscape (and sublime seascape), plus landmarks like the Oceanic Hotel and Gosport Chapel, which I borrowed for my book.

But the final say in all of this would go to the film’s director, Barry Jenkins.
Visit Season Butler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Binnie Kirshenbaum's "Rabbits for Food"

Binnie Kirshenbaum is a novelist and short story writer. She has twice won the Critic's Choice Award and the Discovery Award. She was one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of Paper magazine's Beautiful People. Her books have been selected as Favorite Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek, Vogue and National Public Radio. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a professor and Fiction Director at Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

Here Kirshenbaum dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Rabbits for Food:
There’s no costume nor any amount of make-up to transform Ricky Gervais into an attractive forty-three year old woman, but he’d be pitch perfect in the role of Bunny. While many fine actresses could be entirely convincingly as a clinically depressed woman—Keira Knightly was amazing as the severely mentally Sabine Spielrein in A Most Dangerous Method —but Bunny is not only deeply depressed. She is acerbic, anti-socially honest, and she has deep compassion for all animals and oppressed people. As Gervais does in his stand-up routines, and when he hosted the Oscars, Bunny wields her wit like a machete. She is wincingly funny. This willingness to speak truth as she sees it coupled with her anguished vulnerability results in comic excruciation; a state of being of which Ricky Gervais is the master. When my husband and I binge-watched The Office we laughed ourselves sick but by the end, I was weeping. I asked my husband, “Why am I crying?”

“How could you not be crying?” he said. “This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Gervais’s character could not conceal his desperation to be loved by everyone; a desperation that thwarted any chance of fulfilling that need. Bunny’s desperation is better concealed, but the bottom line is the same. He wants to be loved. She wants to be special. His attempts to mask his humiliation fail, as do Bunny’s efforts to bury her shame.

For the obvious reasons, Gervais will never be cast as Bunny. In the terrific film Will You Ever Forgive Me, the extraordinarily versatile Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel was hilariously acerbic, anti-socially honest rude, and unbearably lonely. She’d make for a great Bunny, but to risk a comment of the sort Rickey Gervais might make, she’s too plump for the role. I say this only because it matters that Bunny is thin, too thin.

As to the right director, I haven’t a clue, but some years ago I gave a reading in Florida, after which an older woman marched up to me and asked, “Do you know my son?”

Her son was Todd Solondz, and I told her that I loved his films, but no, I didn’t know him.

“I thought you’d know each other,” she said, “because you’re both kooky.”
Learn more about the book and author at Binnie Kirshenbaum's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Scenic Route.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Roselle Lim's "Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune"

Roselle Lim is a Filipino-Chinese writer living on the north shore of Lake Erie.

She loves to write about food and magic.

When she isn't writing, she is sewing, sketching, or pursuing the next craft project.

Here Lim dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune:
If my book were turned into a film, I would love Lulu Wang to direct. As a Chinese filmmaker, director, and writer, I think she would capture the essential essence of the book. Her film, The Farewell, looks beautiful. I can't wait to watch.

For the lead, I’m open to anyone. I feel I haven’t yet found the right fit.

Ming-Na Wen would be ideal as Miranda, Natalie’s mother. (If the film had been made circa The Joy Luck Club, she would have been perfect as the lead. She portrayed the kind of vulnerability Natalie possesses.) I love her range for comedy, action, and drama. Her current stint as Melinda May on Agents of SHIELD is one of my favorite characters. I am confident she can portray Miranda and the complexities of agoraphobia, anxiety, and depression.

Old Wu to me has always been James Hong. I never pictured anyone else in the role. James is an amazing actor and he brings the gravitas and complexity to the hardened, unforgiving restauranteur.

When I was writing the book, I always pictured Daniel Henney as Natalie’s love interest. I can also see Lewis Tan or Simu Liu for the role. Daniel Lee is dreamy, charming, and romantic, qualities all three actors possess.

Celia was written with the late Lydia Shum in mind. A comedienne who exuded the kindness and warmth of the best friend you wish you had.

For Evelyn Yu, the fortuneteller, I’d love to see the legendary Michelle Yeoh. Her versatility is perfect for the mysterious, enigmatic teashop owner. In an ideal world, the part is more of a cameo, so I hope she can squeeze it into her busy schedule.

The Chius are the married couple of the neighborhood. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon (Appa and Umma from Kim’s Convenience) have the type of chemistry I’d love to see. We need to feel the decades together as a couple and the strain and tension from a failing business.
Visit Roselle Lim's website.

The Page 69 Test: Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2019

Robyn Arianrhod's "Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science"

Robyn Arianrhod is Adjunct Research Fellow at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University. Her previous works include Seduced by Logic and Einstein's Heroes.

Here Arianrhod dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science:
The long-lost Elizabethan scientific genius Thomas Harriot lived a dramatic and extraordinary life. Arriving in London as a brilliant young Oxford graduate from the wrong side of the tracks, he was soon swept up in the most glamorous of Elizabethan circles. His first boss – who became a lifelong friend – was the brilliant, impetuous Sir Walter Ralegh, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Harriot is a mysterious character, and I have more to say about him. But first, who better to play the larger-than-life Sir Walter than Ioan Grufudd: tall, dark, handsome, and with the beard he sports in the TV series Harrow, he even sort of looks like Ralegh! And for Elizabeth I, the fabulous Fiona Shaw is terrific at playing powerful, morally ambivalent women – need I say more than Killing Eve? Or the legendary Helen Mirren, who’s already played Elizabeth I (and II) marvelously.

Harriot was Ralegh’s navigational advisor, and sailed to America as part of Ralegh’s First Colony. He also learned the American (Algonquian) language, and enjoyed the indigenous way of life even as he unwittingly helped sow the seeds of its tragic destruction. There’s a host of fascinating minor characters in this part of the story, and I’d love to take the time to cast them if this were not just a fantasy (sigh) – so let me move on.

A few years later, Ralegh incurred the queen’s wrath by secretly marrying the charismatic, fiercely determined Bess Throckmorton. The wonderful Kate Winslett would be a terrific Bess – or, on the theme of Killing Eve and charismatic women, the extraordinary Jodie Comer. Or the remarkable Tilda Swinton…

This clandestine marriage was just the beginning of Ralegh’s troubles – and of Harriot’s, too, although he soon attracted a second patron, the earl of Northumberland. The earl was a wealthy, aristocratic playboy-scholar who recognized Harriot’s genius, and encouraged him to freely explore science and mathematics. Who should play the generous, complex earl? Well, James Norton (Grantchester, War and Peace) is eminently watchable in whatever he does.

Ultimately, Harriot and his benefactors couldn’t take a trick – in the early 1600s first Ralegh and then the earl were locked away in the Tower of London on false charges of treason. Harriot himself ran foul of the authorities. It was a dangerous and tumultuous time – a time of deadly religious wars and dastardly political rivalries, of plague and superstition. Mathematics and science seemed so arcane to most people that its practitioners were often regarded as ungodly astrological and magical conjurors. Speaking of which, the famous Dr Dee was a friend of Harriot – how about the edgy Benedict Cumberbatch for Dee?

Despite all the adventures and dramas in his life, Harriot left behind thousands of unpublished manuscript pages, which lay lost or forgotten for centuries. Today they show him to have been “England’s Galileo”, and the greatest British mathematical scientist before Newton.

Who should play the publicity-shy genius? Ben Whishaw: is there any actor today who can better convey the subtle range of emotions that he does? Perfect for the enigmatic Harriot, who so often had to juggle his passion for science, his evident if understated love of life, and his loyalty to his beleaguered patrons.
Learn more about Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seduced by Logic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Becky Masterman's "We Were Killers Once"

Becky Masterman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.

Here she dreamcast the leads for an adaptation of her new novel, We Were Killers Once:
Despite being purchased last year by a production company, my first book Rage Against the Dying has yet to flicker onto a screen of any size. Since it was published I've fantasized about many an actress to play my aging yet powerful series protagonist, Brigid Quinn. Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Emma Thompson, and Jamie Lee Curtis are all possibilities. But whenever I speak of the actor to play Brigid's husband Carlo DiForenza, I get disbelieving stares. Okay, so Carlo is an ex-Catholic priest who mildly quotes Bonhoeffer. But why not Jeff Goldblum? Goldblum is tall and has those soulful Mediterranean eyes. Sexy without being self-aware. And while no one seems to get this, I know there's an irony underlying everything that Carlo says, even when he appears at his most earnest. That's signature Jeff Goldblum right there.

My fourth book in the series, We Were Killers Once, puts Carlo in mortal danger from a killer no one, especially Truman Capote, ever thought existed.
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Against the Dying.

My Book, The Movie: Fear the Darkness.

My Book, The Movie: A Twist of the Knife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Elizabeth Goldring's "Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist"

Elizabeth Goldring is an honorary associate professor at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist:
Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist tells the story of Nicholas Hilliard, portrayer of Elizabeth I, James I, and their courts. Born into a family of Devon goldsmiths at the tail-end of Henry VIII’s reign, Hilliard lived an exceptionally long and rich life, notable for the wide range of people he met and portrayed, as well as for his own journey to the heart of the English court – and, indeed, to the heart of the French court, where he spent about two and a half years as a court painter (in all probability doing a bit of spying for Elizabeth I on the side).

Hilliard’s fame derives chiefly from his exquisitely detailed portrait miniatures: tiny images painted in watercolour on vellum using a brush made from squirrel hairs set in a bird quill. Most are no bigger than the lid of jam jar, though some are as small as a watch-face. In an era long before the invention of the photograph – much less the instantly communicable imagery of the mobile telephone – portrait miniatures had the great virtue of being easily portable and thus of helping to create intimacy (or the illusion thereof) across long distances. Hilliard was the first native-born English artist to acquire a reputation for excellence both at home, where poets such as John Donne sang his praises, and abroad, where his paintings were admired by the Medici, the Valois, and the Habsburgs. In addition to kings and queens, Hilliard’s sitters included royal favourites the earls of Leicester and Essex; Shakespeare’s patron the earl of Southampton; the explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Ralegh; and members of the aspirational middle class from which Hilliard himself hailed.

My book traces Hilliard’s rise to fame, his personal struggles and quest to become the social equal of his aristocratic sitters, his role as teacher to the next generation of English painters, and his influence on writers such as Donne. In addition, it brings to life the political and religious upheavals of the age. But a film adaptation – rather than trying to recount all seventy-two years of Hilliard’s turbulent life and times – would perhaps be most effective if it focused on the thirty-two-year relationship between Hilliard and Elizabeth I.

Prior to Hilliard’s appearance on the scene, Elizabeth had been highly self-conscious about her image, particularly when exchanging portraits with Mary Queen of Scots, a legendary beauty who had some of the most gifted painters at the French court at her disposal. But Hilliard gave Elizabeth a makeover and, virtually overnight, emerged as her most trusted portraitist. Between 1571, the year in which he first portrayed Elizabeth from the life (a time-consuming business which meant spending three or four days together), and 1603, the year in which she died, Hilliard produced hundreds of portraits of Elizabeth. Hilliard knew how to flatter. All the portraits that he painted of Elizabeth towards the end of her life – by which stage she had lost most of her teeth and hair – depict her as an eternally youthful, wrinkle-free maiden, with glorious golden-red ringlets. Yet in spite of Hilliard’s many years of faithful service, Elizabeth was slow to pay – which, when coupled with Hilliard’s expensive tastes (to say nothing of the fact that he and his wife had seven children), meant that he frequently found himself on the run from creditors or doing business with less-than-salubrious characters.

My dream casting would be Benedict Cumberbatch as Hilliard and Gillian Anderson as Elizabeth I. Both are gifted actors and particularly good in period pieces. There is also, in each case, a strong physical resemblance to the historical figure to be portrayed – something which, though not essential, is always a bonus.
Learn more about Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Jennifer Ryan's "The Spies of Shilling Lane"

Jennifer Ryan grew up in Britain and moved to Washington, DC fifteen years ago. Previously a non-fiction book editor, she now writes novels set in Second World War Britain and inspired by her grandmother’s stories of the war.

Her second novel, The Spies of Shilling Lane, tells the tale of a woman who heads into the London Blitz to see her daughter, only to find her missing.

Here Ryan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel:
The Spies of Shilling Lane is about female spies in Second World War London. It combines a thriller with the devastation of London in the Blitz, with British humor and warmth woven throughout. It’s with this in mind that I create a fantasy cast list.

Mrs. Braithwaite has to be played by Julie Walters (Donna’s friend Rosie in Mamma Mia, the Weasley’s Mom in Harry Potter). I think she could convey the blend of bombastic yet loveable, the bumbling un-self-consciousness of the middle-aged mom.

Betty Braithwaite, the young, fearless spy, would of course be Emma Watson (Hermione in Harry Potter). She has the perfect blend of astuteness and quiet confidence. She could, in fact, be her!

Betty’s landlord, the timid accountant Mr. Norris, should be played by Ralph Fiennes (Monsieur Gustave H. in The Budapest Hotel, Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, Justin Quayle in The Constant Gardener). He would be master of the pensive, stilted turns and deep heart.

Good-looking and raffish, Mr. Baxter would be Matt Smith (Prince Philip in The Crown), for his continual smirk and all that intensity packed inside.

Florrie, the pretty and harebrained roomie of Betty’s, would be played by the striking Lily James (the young Donna in Mamma Mia 2, Lady Rose in Downton Abbey). She combines sweetness and chaos all in one.

For Betty’s other roommate, the beautiful, haughty Cassandra, I see the wonderful Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary in Downton Abbey). Her proud, condescending manner would be perfect for the role.
Visit Jennifer Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Rachel Barenbaum's "A Bend In The Stars"

Rachel Barenbaum is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor, before moving to the New Hampshire woods to write. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an AB in Literature and Philosophy from Harvard College.

Here Barenbaum dreamcasts an adaptation of A Bend in the Stars, her first novel:
A Bend In The Stars is set in 1914 Russia. The novel is focused on the brother and sister duo of Miri and Vanya. The two are snared by the Czar’s army as his forces tighten their grip on the local Jewish community in preparation for war with Germany. While the catalyst for Miri and Vanya’s journey is Vanya’s drive to beat Einstein, to be the first to prove relativity – Miri is the hero. She is one of Russia’s first female surgeons, a trailblazer and her courage is epic. So too is her love for her fiancé… and for a soldier she rescues from a river. This love triangle dominates the plot just as much as science, relativity and history. With that in mind, there are four central characters that my readers love most – four characters that I would want to cast first if Bend was made into a movie.

Miri: One of Russia’s first female surgeons, she is brave and powerful. Obvs - Gal Gadot would be perfect. She’s strong, a force to be reckoned with but also someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, who falls in love but relies on her intellect above all.

Yuri: Miri’s fiancé. He has a dark past and a brilliant mind. He’s madly in love with Miri but also possibly broken by whatever secret he’s holding. Anderson Cooper – if only he were an actor! Or Benedict Cumberbatch.

Sasha: This is the hardest one. He’s a soldier who’s killed and fought to stay alive. He’s penniless and a wanted man. He’s also in love with Miri and not afraid to let her have the spotlight, to admit that she’s smarter than him. Armie Hammer because he was so good in On The Basis of Sex.

Vanya: A brilliant physicist who is also a little absent minded. Jesse Eisenberg. He’s perfect.
Visit Rachel Barenbaum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Robert Blaemire's "Birch Bayh: Making a Difference"

Robert Blaemire began working for Senator Birch Bayh while a freshman in college and remained on his staff for the next 13 years. After Bayh's election defeat in 1980, Blaemire formed a political action committee, the Committee for American Principles, to combat the influence of the New Right in American politics. In 1982, he began a long career providing political computer services for Democratic candidates and progressive organizations. An early participant in the rise of big data, he owned and managed Blaemire Communications for 17 years. Born in Indiana, he lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and has two sons and a daughter-in-law.

Here Blaemire dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new book, Birch Bayh: Making a Difference:
Birch Bayh remains a very distinct image in my mind and I find it difficult to come up with a good idea of who might portray him in a movie. He would be best described as handsome and virile, athletic, with striking blue eyes. An actor like Clive Owen might do the trick, black hair, masculine, he’d have to mask his British accent. On the other hand, George Clooney represents a handsome actor who does an equally good job being serious and being comedic. Birch liked to have fun and was quite playful, though he never told a joke very well. Going back further in time, Cliff Robertson could have played him well and was probably closer to looking and sounding like Birch Bayh than he did when he played JFK in PT 109.
Learn more about Birch Bayh: Making a Difference at the Indiana University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Roxana Robinson's "Dawson's Fall"

In Dawson’s Fall, Roxana Robinson’s new novel based on the lives of her great-grandparents, we see America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.

Here Robinson dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of the novel:
For Frank, Hugh Grant; for Sarah, Kristin Scott-Thomas.
Learn more about Dawson’s Fall, and visit Roxana Robinson’s website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Cost.

My Book, The Movie: Cost.

The Page 69 Test: Sparta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2019

Martine Bailey’s "The Almanack"

Martine Bailey’s third novel, The Almanack, is a historical mystery tale set in rural England in 1752, the year the calendar lost 11 days.

The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate historical mystery in which a young woman determines to avenge her mother's death. Following a desperate summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea - only to discover that Widow Hart has drowned. Determined to discover the truth, Tabitha consults her mother’s almanack and finds a series of cryptic notes describing her mother's terror of someone she names only as 'D'. Teaming up with young writer Nat Starling, Tabitha begins a race against time to unmask 'D' before more deaths follow. But as the summer draws to a close and the snow sets in, Tabitha and Nat are forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. Each chapter is prefaced by one of 50 historical riddles for the reader to solve – with answers at the back.

Bailey lives in Chester, England. Her first novel, An Appetite for Violets, was a Booklist Top Ten Crime Debut and her second, A Taste for Nightshade, was a Sunday Times Best Summer Read.

Here Bailey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Almanack:
My heroine Tabitha was a courtesan in London, and is sharp-witted, light-fingered and bold, a shrewd handler of people, and charming when she wants to be. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of intelligence and physical allure.

Tabitha’s love interest is rakeish poet Nat Starling, a Cambridge University drop-out, obsessed with time. His creativity mixes with bouts of stupidity and drunkenness. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) as the intense, long-haired writer.

Joshua Saxton is Tabitha’s devoted old flame, now a widower and the dogged village constable. Rugged Alex O’Loughlin would be ideal (convict Will Bryant in mini-series Mary Bryant).

Joshua’s daughter Jennet leads the younger generation: still girlish at 15, her pursuit of romance and superstition leads her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.

Youngest of all is Bess Hart, the infant left in the care of murdered Widow Hart. Precocious and beautiful at 3-years old, some claim she has second sight. I picture little Sally Jane Bruce who played Pearl in the 1955 classic, The Night of the Hunter.

The book is located in Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England famed for its distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is scattered around a manor house, where country customs are celebrated, from a blood-stained harvest through autumn bonfires and a snowbound Christmas.

I would love to see a director capture the mix of fairy story meets murder mystery, so someone with the unique talent of The Night of the Hunter’s Charles Laughton springs to mind. I’ll never forget the magical escape of the children along the benighted river with a soundtrack of Pearl’s eerily sung lullaby.

I’m sure Laughton would more than do justice to the stars and moon reflected in the watermeadows, the snowbound castle, and flickering candlelight as Tabitha and Nat study the almanack for the next riddle and revelation.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Clark Thomas Carlton's "The Prophet of the Termite God"

Clark T. Carlton studied English and Film at Boston University and UCLA and have worked as a screen and television writer, a journalist, and as a producer of reality television in addition to a thousand and one other professions.

Here he shares some thoughts on the above the line talent to adapt his novel The Prophet of the Termite God (and its fellow books from the Antasy Series) for the big screen:
Notice for my book when it was an indie came about through its optioning by a pair of successful Hollywood screenwriters working with film producer Lawrence Bender. The studios, especially Sony, were interested but they wanted to know why my book hadn’t been acquired yet by a publisher. Well, as William Goldman told us, nobody knows anything, and that opportunity could come around again now that the Antasy series has been released through Harper Voyager.

The ideal directors for my first book Prophets of the Ghost Ants and its sequel, Prophet of the Termite God are Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. The third sequel should be directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. These are three of our greatest living directors and each of them has made masterpieces. All of them are from Mexico and all would understand my themes about race, religion and caste. Mr. del Toro is as fascinated by insects as I am and Mr. Cuarón made the best of all the Harry Potter movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban which was also the most visual. I’d be thrilled if Peter Jackson was interested in my novels, but I don’t know that he’d want to make another epic trilogy. Since the setting is in a micro-world, all of the acting would take place before a green screen. It would be 12 weeks of shooting actors and then years of digital artists and animators creating the insects and their habitats.

As for casting, my protagonist, Anand, is a brown-skinned outcaste boy when we meet him and he’s still a young man when he leads a defensive war against a powerful enemy. Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt or Esai Morales could have played him when they were in their teens. His eventual ally, Queen Polexima, might have been played by Emma Thompson, Cate Blanchett or Charlize Theron. Commander Tahn might be played by George Clooney if he wished to play the heavy. And as for the Learned Elders of Dranveria, they should be played by the surviving cast members of Star Trek and Star Trek Next Generation.
Visit Clark Thomas Carlton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2019

S. C. Megale's "This is Not a Love Scene"

S. C. Megale is an author and filmmaker. She's been profiled in USA Today, The Washington Post, and New York Newsday, and has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and the CBS Evening News for her philanthropic and literary work. As a humanitarian, she's spoken on the USS Intrepid, at the NASDAQ opening bell, and to universities and doctors nationwide. She enjoys making connections all over the world.

Megale was raised in the long grass of the Civil War, hunting for relics and catching fireflies along the banks of Bull Run. A shark tooth, flutes, and a flask are some of the items that hang from her wheelchair, and she had a fear of elevators until realizing this was extremely inconvenient. She lives with her family which includes her parents, sister and brother, service dog, and definitely-not-service dog.

Here the author shares some thoughts on adapting This is Not a Love Scene, her first published novel, for the big screen:
Of course, if they make my book into a film, I want to work on the set. My wheelchair makes an exceptional coat rack.

Much of This is Not a Love Scene involves filmmaking and the quirks of the industry (read my book to find out what a "stinger" is on a film set), and I studied video for two years at community college. That's why, funnily, I'd focus less on casting the film (for me there'd only be the factor of how well the person portrayed the character, no matter their background) and more on what professionals I know who I'd love to see involved. My #1, naturally, would be Nina Jacobson, producer of The Hunger Games, whom I met and become smitten with on all three of the Hunger Games film sets when I was a recurring guest.

The movie soundtrack of the book would be fun, too. I imagined a super punk line up: Sum 41, Avril Lavinge, Jonas Brothers, etc.
Visit S.C. Megale's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 13, 2019

Meghan Holloway's "Once More Unto the Breach"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.​​

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Here Holloway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Once More Unto the Breach:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page…I gave the subject of starring roles for Once More Unto the Breach some consideration before I came up with my answer.

Rhys is Welsh, and that cultural pride is so integral to his identity that I would suggest an actor like Ioan Gruffudd or Matthew Rhys to portray him for the sake of authenticity. One reviewer has described Rhys as a Homeric character with a poignancy about him. I love that description. He is a sheep farmer and a veteran of the Great War, and he personifies the old adage “still waters run deep.” He is physically and emotionally strong and stalwart, but he has a poet’s soul. With the mental wounds left from WWI and the losses he has faced in life, there is a melancholy about him in addition to the ruggedness, and I think Clive Owen could portray that perfectly.

Charlotte is the perfect partner for Rhys in his journey. In the first scene I ever wrote for Once More Unto the Breach, Rhys is in a tiny apartment in Paris in the days following the city’s liberation. He is unable to sleep, and he is far from home with a worn letter in his pocket. He was attacked on the streets earlier that day and was saved by the woman who lies sleeping in the next room. He is indebted to her, but also wary of her.

Charlotte was there in my head from the beginning. With that first scene, I only knew two things about her: 1) She was American, and 2) she carried a Colt M1911.

I love phenomenal secondary characters in stories, and Charlotte plays a pivotal role in the tale. She is a woman with secrets of her own, and she has her own reasons for offering to aid Rhys in his journey. She is courageous and pragmatic, quick-thinking and unflinching in the midst of danger. Even so, I strove to create a woman authentic to the times. A debutante from Louisiana, she came to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the 30s and remained after the invasion in 1940. When the American Hospital needed people for the Ambulance Field Service, she joined. As she tells Rhys, “I can play the piano, draw, paint, sew, and dance. My mother insisted on those. But my father also insisted on making certain I could shoot, drive, and take an engine apart and put it back together again. I could be of use to you.” Over the course of the story, Charlotte always remained a bit of a mystery to Rhys—and to me.

I cannot think of anyone more perfect for the role than Jessica Chastain. She has the natural, effortless elegance, the strong, fearless femininity, and the emotional range to play the character of Charlotte thoughtfully, grittily, and authentically.

If you’ve read Once More Unto the Breach, tell me what you think of my choices for the leading roles. Who would you pick to portray Rhys and Charlotte?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Istagram.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Susannah Marren's "A Palm Beach Wife"

Susannah Marren is the author of Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife and a pseudonym for Susan Shapiro Barash, who has written more than a dozen nonfiction books including Tripping the Prom Queen and Toxic Friends.

She lives in New York City and teaches gender studies in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College.

Here Barash shares some ideas about the above-the-line talent who might adapt A Palm Beach Wife for the big screen:
Amy Adams would do a splendid job with the lead, a character named Faith Harrison.

I imagine a few other actors being perfect for other roles -- Susan Sarandon, Zoey Deutch, Lily James.

I would like a female director - Nancy Meyers, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Campion.
Visit Susan Shapiro Barash's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Timothy Jay Smith's "The Fourth Courier"

When Timothy Jay Smith quit an intriguing international career to become a full-time writer, he had a host of real life characters, places and events to inspire his stories. His first novel, Cooper’s Promise, in some ways is still the most autobiographical of his novels, though he was never an American deserter adrift in Africa. But he was in The Mining Pan bar and he did meet Lulay and he did stowaway on a barge that landed him in an African jail.

Now, in his third novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland in 1992, Smith looks back at the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, as witnessed through the eyes of an FBI Special Agent on assignment to stop a nuclear smuggling operation out of Russia. Smith’s newest book continues his style of page-turning thrillers steeped with colorful characters. Here are some of his thoughts on a big screen adaptation of The Fourth Courier:
The sense of scene is crucial to my writing. It’s how I think about a story. Before I start new work, I always have the opening and closing scenes in my head, and then I figure out what I need to get from start to finish.

I think it comes from growing up in a house where the television was never turned off. My sisters and I were even allowed to watch TV while doing homework if we kept our grades up. Sometimes I joke that canned laughter was the soundtrack of my childhood. I haven’t owned a television for many years, but growing up with it exposed me to telling stories in scenes, and it’s why my readers often say they can see my stories as they read them.

For me, it’s not difficult to go between prose and screenplays. In fact, I use the process of adapting a novel to the screen as an editing tool. It helps me sharpen the novel’s dialogue and tighten the story.

It’s harder for me to cast my screenplays than to write them. (Thankfully there are casting directors.) Fresh Voices International had this to say about my adaptation of Cooper’s Promise:

“Cooper Chance is a complex character in the vein of classical leading men. If Humphrey Bogart were alive today, he’d be attracted to this role.”

I’m using that as inspiration for suggesting a classic all-star cast for The Fourth Courier:

Cary Grant as FBI Special Agent James (Jay) Porter, an altogether likable guy who’s whipsawed by a nasty custody battle for his two sons back home while fighting bad guys in Poland to avert a nuclear disaster.

Sidney Poitier as his sidekick, Kurt Crawford, a black gay CIA agent who uses both his race and sexuality in key ways to help break the case.

Audrey Hepburn as Lilka, Jay’s new love interest, a sensitive and vulnerable woman struggling to protect her son while surviving the new world order.

Michael York as Jay’s Polish counterpart, Detective Kulski, a devoted family man who’s determined to crack the case before a portable atomic bomb gets into the wrong hands.

Boris Karloff as Dr. Sergej Ustinov, a genius Russian physicist who’s been driven mad by what he was required to sacrifice as part of a genetics engineering project.

Joan Crawford as Basia Husarska, the Director of Poland’s Bureau of Organized Crime, ready to sell anything, including herself, to achieve her dreams.

Humphrey Bogart as General Dravko Mladic, a fervent Serbian nationalist with a mad plan to recreate a country that no longer exists.
Visit Timothy Jay Smith's website.

Writers Read: Timothy Jay Smith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Jack McDevitt's "Octavia Gone"

Jack McDevitt is an American science fiction author. He has won multiple awards including the International UPC Science Fiction award for Ships in the Night, a Nebula for Seeker, a Campbell Award for Omega, and the Robert Heinlein Lifetime Achievement Award. He has over 20 novels available in print, ebook and audio. He resides in Georgia with his lovely wife, Maureen.

Here McDevitt dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of Octavia Gone, the latest Alex Benedict novel:
My favorite lead characters in TV dramas both appeared in the same series, JAG, and I guess that indicates how well the chemistry worked. David James Elliott and Catherine Bell portrayed naval officers working for the Judge Advocates Office where they had to settle legal issues, which often meant unraveling mysteries and complications. I’d have chosen them first to play Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath in Octavia Gone. Or any of the other narratives in the series.

They’d have been electric, especially under the direction of Steven Spielberg.
Learn more about the book and author at Jack McDevitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2019

Daniel Kennefick's "No Shadow of a Doubt"

Daniel Kennefick is associate professor of physics at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is the author of Traveling at the Speed of Thought: Einstein and the Quest for Gravitational Waves and a coauthor of An Einstein Encyclopedia.

Here he shares some thoughts on a big screen adaptation of his new book, No Shadow of a Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity:
It’s not so difficult to imagine how the film world would decide to adapt my book for the screen, because it’s already been done! The story of the 1919 eclipse which confirmed Einstein’s theory of Relativity is of such scientific importance that the television movie Einstein and Eddington was made by the BBC in 2008. It starred David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) as Arthur Stanley Eddington, the most famous of the Astronomers involved in the expedition, and Andy Serkis as Einstein. The movie was not without its flaws. The opening scene shows Eddington completing his preparations on the island of Principe the night before the eclipse with the scene illuminated by an enormous full Moon. Of course an eclipse of the Sun can only take place at the dark of the Moon! But it was quite entertaining with convincing performances. So, why even write my book if the story I’m telling is that well known? Well, the characters I wanted to bring to the fore were almost completely left out of the film. That’s common enough when adapting for the screen, but even written accounts have neglected or slighted these other astronomers, most notably the man who actually led the planning of the expeditions and who oversaw the analysis of the data they took. That man was England’s Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Watson Dyson.

Dyson was in charge of planning for all British eclipse expeditions at this time. He brought Eddington on board in this case because of the latter’s theoretical expertise but minutes of the planning meetings and letters between them show that Dyson was very much the senior man. This was because his own research dealt extensively with the kind of precision astrometry (the measurement of the positions of stars) which was required to test Einstein’s theory. The movie refers to Eddington as the “best measuring man in England,” but in real life, and for this specific task, that man was Dyson. Weirdly, the movie almost completely removes Dyson from the story. Much of his role is absorbed into a composite character, given the name of the English physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, who had nothing to do with the eclipse in actual history. Jim Broadbent, the well-known character actor, does a fine job with this role, and I rather like to think of him playing Dyson in a more fully rounded portrayal of the 1919 expeditions.

I say expeditions because there were two expeditions, one to Principe, off the coast of west Africa, and the other to the Brazilian city of Sobral. The movie has Dyson’s character assisting Eddington on Principe. In reality he was in charge of the other expedition, but did not travel to Brazil, leaving that task to two of his assistants. But it was this expedition which actually obtained the data which overthrew Newton and made Einstein famous. Eddington's data was of limited value because clouds almost completely obscured his view of the Sun. Thus it was Dyson who directed the analysis of the important data and it is his hand writing that is found on the data analysis sheets, written months after the eclipse, making the decisive statement in favor of Einstein. The movie hilariously has the data analysis performed by Eddington in front of an audience of fellow scientists in November 1919. Of course this famous joint meeting of two English learned societies was only arranged by Dyson after the team at his observatory in Greenwich (which did not include Eddington) had finished its painstaking analysis of the data. I hope my book will highlight his central contribution to this most famous of scientific experiments in this centenary year.
Learn more about No Shadow of a Doubt at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2019

Todd Strasser's "Summer of '69"

Todd Strasser is the internationally best-selling author of more than one hundred books for children and teens, including Fallout and The Beast of Cretacea, as well as the classics The Wave and Give a Boy a Gun, which are taught in classrooms around the world.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Summer of '69:
Like most people I love movies and good television, but in the nearly fifty years that I’ve been writing novels, I’ve never thought about what actors might play my characters. So this is sort of new to me.

Looking at contemporary actors for Summer of ’69 with the understanding that they’d be required to spend a fair amount of time acting -- or just plain being -- stoned, I think Ryan Gosling would be a good choice for the main character Lucas.

For his two close friends I’d choose Paul Dano for Milton, and Jonah Hill for Arno.

For his two love interests, I’d want Emma Watson for Robin, and Zooey Deschanel for Tinsley.

For his troubled cousin, Barry, it would have to be Joaquin Phoenix.

And David Oyelowo would make an excellent Charles, his draft counselor.
Visit Todd Strasser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dave Patterson's "Soon the Light Will Be Perfect"

Dave Patterson is an award-winning writer, musician and high school English teacher. He received his MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Soon the Light Will Be Perfect:
Let’s get weird. Imagine you could take the virtuoso skill set of Philip Seymour Hoffman with a dash of John C. Reilly and cram it all inside a twelve year old actor. That would be the dream for the lead role. This would allow for a striking gravitas, a deep humanity, and a disarming sense of humor for the lead. I imagine this movie demanding understated performances. There’s a menacing undercurrent to the life of this family that could be ruined by over-the-top performances. My hybrid Philip Seymour Hoffman/John C. Reilly clone would nail the nuanced darkness creeping in at the edges of the child lead.

For the parents, I’d love, love, love to see thirty-something versions of Frances McDormand and Gary Sinise as the mother and father. It just blew my mind a little to envision their performances in the roles of a sick-with-cancer mother and an out-of-work father. They would bring a fire to this family on the brink of collapse.

The dream director to guide my child prodigy and in-their-primes McDormand and Sinise: Alan Ball of Six Feet Under and American Beauty fame. The humanity he injects into his characters always dazzles. He achieves a tone that at once feels both uplifting and terrifying--like tragedy can strike at any moment, but so can profound beauty. You’re never sure what’s around the corner in an Alan Ball production, but you know it will be something riveting. He’s also great at navigating the murky waters of family dynamics, as evidenced most recently in HBO’s Here and Now. He allows each family member to become their own idiosyncratic human being, then he has these character continually bash into each other in poetic and violent ways.

Okay, now I’m excited. How do we make this happen? It can’t be hard. We just need a cloning kit, a time machine, and a hundred million dollars.
Visit Dave Patterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2019

Suzanne Hinman's "The Grandest Madison Square Garden"

Suzanne Hinman holds a Ph.D. in American art history and has been a curator, gallerist, museum director, professor, and an art model. She owned an art gallery in Santa Fe and then served as director of galleries at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the world's largest art school. Her interest in the artists and architects of the American Gilded Age and the famed Cornish Art Colony in New Hampshire grew while associate director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. The author continues to reside near Cornish as an independent scholar.

Here Hinman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York:
The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York considers in detail the design, planning, and construction of the magnificent 1890 Madison Square Garden, the second to stand on Madison Square. But it is also essentially the story of two men, chronicling the lives and collaboration of arguably America’s grandest architect Stanford White and the equally talented sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who completed two versions of the nude goddess Diana to top what would be the Garden’s and America’s tallest tower. The nature of their intimate relationships, with each other as well as their wives and lovers, are examined as well as their aesthetic achievements.

As to who should play them, my immediate response would be George Clooney and George Clooney! He would portray both the effusive, exuberant, ever-on-the-prowl red-haired Stanford White, with his great mustache, as well as Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the more streetwise, moodier, and obsessively perfectionist sculptor, with his darker-red beard—by which they might conveniently be told apart.

Somewhat more seriously, I might suggest ginger-haired Scottish actor Kevin McKidd for Stanford White, again with mustache, or perhaps another Scotsman, Douglas Henshall; for Saint-Gaudens, Henshall’s partner on the series Shetland, the Brit Marc Bonnar.

But truly, I’ve always imagined that rather than a Hollywood film, that the book would make a wonderful Ken Burns-style documentary series. There are so many larger-than-life characters and themes of consequence for examination, not only for the Gilded Age, but issues that persist into our day. Aside from the obvious complexities of the period, the fabulous wealth and the stark contrast between classes, there lies the threat of urban terrorism; a flood of immigration; continuing political corruption; the emergence of new roles for women, including both artist and nude model; the amazing technological advances, especially electricity (with the Diana the first sculpture to be so illuminated); the fabulous expositions including the Chicago World’s Fair and the White City to which Saint-Gaudens’s first version of Diana was exiled; the beginnings of “contemporary” art and architecture; and the emergence of the nature of homosexuality from the pyscho-medical shadows and the development of a vital gay culture in New York.

In addition, to add to the real-life drama, the book reveals a little-known national scandal regarding Saint-Gaudens and nudity, while also proposing a surprising new theory regarding White’s “murder-of-the century” on the top of Madison Square Garden—both of which are better examined through a documentary lens.
Visit Suzanne Hinman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue