Monday, November 18, 2019

JP Gritton’s "Wyoming"

JP Gritton’s awards include a Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellowship, a DisQuiet fellowship and the Donald Barthelme prize in fiction. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Tin House and elsewhere. His translations of the fiction of Brazilian writer Cidinha da Silva are forthcoming in InTranslation.

Wyoming is his first novel.

Here Gritton reflects on adapting the novel for the big screen:
In high school I gravitated toward nerdy, artistically inclined types, and together we completed a slow orbit of the theater and film programs. Some of us were in set design, and some of us did lighting and sound, and some of us fretted and strutted (in minor roles, of course) upon the stage. Not so long ago, a film I co-wrote and starred in back in high school appeared on the local-access television channel.

It was baffling. Where had they found it, this thing I only half-remembered creating? Why were they running it now? Who had given them the say-so? Even when I made it, I’d had only a vague sense of the film's plot. I can say only that it featured a younger, huskier version of myself with a zip-lock bag of powdered sugar in his hand (its title, I should mention, was Colombian Blizzard). My best friend had recruited a beautiful crush to star opposite me. In one of the only scenes I remember, I wave Jenna into my mom’s house and explain: “Feel free to take your clothes off.” In the next scene I remember with any real clarity, my car gets stalled on some train tracks and then (get this) a train comes! That’s how the movie ends.

I think about this story often: it tells me something of how random, how chaotic artistic expression can truly be. I guess we made that movie in 1997 or ‘98—it was only a few years ago I saw it on local access. You never know who is going to pick up your TV script, or your demo tape, or your chapbook—what are the chances, after all, that I’d turn on local access and see my own pimply face on the screen?

Maybe as a consequence of this optimism, I’ve played the casting game at every stage of the writing process. The main character of my novel is a surly, misanthropic, drug-slinging construction worker named Shelley. My buddy Jon, who read the first complete draft, thought Josh Brolin would make a good leading man. My editor and girlfriend both suggested Joaquin Phoenix for Shelley’s role. I was never any good at the game—without fail, I’d suggest an actor, and my girlfriend would say, “But he’s dead now.” And I’d go, “Oh, yeah.”

Claiming some vague connection to VICE TV, a “Hollywood producer” contacted me a while back. He'd read an early review and thought my book had “narrative promise”—did I mind sending him a galley? So I put one in the mail the very next day. That was three months ago.

For the leading role, I’ve never been able to get the impossible options out of my head. The other Phoenix brother to play Shelley--or, if not him, Heath Ledger, or Lee Van Cleef ca. 1954. Probably I’ve known all along that nobody will be making a movie out of my book—or that, if they do, this film will only run on Channel 8.
Visit JP Gritton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sarah Deming's "Gravity"

Sarah Deming began boxing after graduating from Brown University and was the 2001 New York City Golden Gloves and Empire State Games featherweight champion. She has covered hundreds of amateur and professional fights from ringside, including the Rio Olympics and the 2012 Women’s World Championships in China. She covered the London Olympics as part of the Emmy-winning NBC team and, as an HBO Boxing Insider, covered the first women’s bout broadcast on HBO Championship Boxing. She coaches and tutors youth boxers at NYC Cops and Kids, a free community gym in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Her Deming dreamcasts an adaptation of her YA novel Gravity, which tells the story of a female boxer’s battles on the road to the Rio Games:
I wrote Gravity like it was a movie. It moves around a lot: Brooklyn to Spokane to China to Rio. It has a large cast of diverse characters that I hoped would offer juicy opportunities for actors of color.

My husband, who is a crime fiction buff, tells me that Dashiell Hammett tried to see his novel The Maltese Falcon like it was a movie and write that way. That was inspiring to me.

I've always found screenwriting classes/manuals -- stuff like Story and Save the Cat -- to be far more helpful and practical than fiction writing guides. I think about things like act breaks, subtext, the picture I'm painting on stage. I want every important character to be charismatic and to undergo some kind of change or development throughout the arc of the story.

My book is YA, so the main characters are young and offer the opportunity for fresh new faces. I can see some of the real boxers I know playing the roles they inspired. Chris Colbert, who inspired the male lead D-Minus, is already the star of a Netflix documentary called Counterpunch. Two-time Olympic champion Claressa Shields inspired the character of Sacred Jones, and she would light up the screen. Olympic hopeful and runway model Alexis Chiaparro would be great for Lefty.

The only character I strongly identify with an actor is Carmen Cruz, the beautiful Colombian sportswriter, whom I picture as Rosie Perez. I've met Rosie because she's a fight fan and a wonderful supporter of the New York boxing scene. I feel like she'd connect with Carmen's toughness and vulnerability and with her deep emotional connection to the sport.

There's a character called Fatso who is described as looking like Biggie Smalls "only fatter and more athletic." Fatso was also inspired by Forest Whitaker's character in Ghost Dog, but Whitaker would have to gain a lot of weight to play him!
Visit Sarah Deming's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hank Early's "Echoes of the Fall"

Hank Early lives in central Alabama with his wife and two kids. He writes crime, watches too much basketball, and rarely sleeps. His new book, Echoes of the Fall, is his third Earl Marcus novel.

In a previous life, he published horror as John Mantooth.

Here Early dreamcasts an adaptation of Echoes of the Fall:
Confession: I’ve had the Earl Marcus Netflix series cast for some time. I’m just waiting on some Hollywood type to wake up and see what a goldmine these books are and get to work on the adaptation. Kidding, of course. Kind of. Okay, well, maybe I’m not. Hear me out.

Earl Marcus would be played by David Harbour of Stranger Things fame. My wife gave me the idea when we watched Stranger Things together and she said, “That sheriff is exactly how I pictured Earl Marcus when I read your first book.” Full disclosure: it wasn’t exactly how I pictured him (in my mind, Earl is skinnier and grayer), but close enough.

Earl’s two sidekicks is where it really gets fun. Ronnie is without question Walton Goggins. Goggins has the ability to project the chaos and instability of Ronnie while still displaying his considerable vulnerability and innate goodness. And let’s face it, Goggins would look great tatted up with a guitar slung around his neck while he and the boys kicked out the jams down at the local honky tonk.

Clint Eastwood would make a perfect Rufus. Gritty and resourceful, Rufus has a kind of fallen preacher vibe that Eastwood would own. I can just imagine him wearing the oversized shades and black overalls while standing off in the shadows of the old church where he makes his home.

Finally, I’d cast Erica Tazel as Mary Hawkins. Tazel nailed a similar role in the series Justified and brings just enough toughness and wisdom to work as Earl’s law enforcement contact, and on again off again romantic partner.
Visit Hank Early's website.

The Page 69 Test: Echoes of the Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 8, 2019

James Lovegrove's "Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon"

James Lovegrove is the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Odin. He was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1998 and for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2004, and also reviews fiction for the Financial Times. He is the author of Firefly: Big Damn Hero with Nancy Holder and Firefly: The Magnificent Nine. He lives in south-east England.

Here Lovegrove dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest Sherlock Holmes novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon:
The best screen Holmes is undoubtedly Jeremy Brett, who played the role in the 1980s Granada series and nailed the character completely. Most of the time he was accompanied by Edward Hardwicke, who was likewise excellent as Watson – tolerant and reliable. If these two were still alive and in their prime, I would gladly have them star in a movie of any of my Holmes books. In fact, when writing Holmes’s dialogue, I tend to hear Brett’s voice.

I also think that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, back when they were a comedy duo, would have made a fine Holmes and Watson. Each could have played either role.

Specifically for The Christmas Demon, the other main parts would offer present-day British thespians plenty to get their teeth into. Most of the action takes place at Fellscar Keep, a Yorkshire castle in the depths of a freezing winter, and the large family who live there form the bulk of the supporting cast. Roger Allam would make a convincing Thaddeus Allerthope, the crusty patriarch, and Anton Lesser would be good as his somewhat weaker-willed, more sensitive younger brother Shadrach. Both actors play major roles in the 1960s-set detective series Endeavour.

Our leading lady, Eve Allerthorpe, would be well portrayed by someone like Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones or Maisie Williams, and her tearaway brother by Taron Egerton from Rocketman and the Kingsman movies. Husband and wife Fitzhugh and Kitty Danningbury Boyd – the one louche and lecherous, the other somewhat highly-strung – could be played by Eddie Redmayne (or Andrew Garfield) and perhaps Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

A stylish director such as Sam Mendes or Christopher Nolan would be great – although the latter would probably not be interested in the job, given that the story’s narrative is purely linear, with no time jumps or flashbacks or other tricksy malarkey.
Visit James Lovegrove's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Olivia Hawker's "One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow"

Through unexpected characters and vivid prose, Olivia Hawker explores the varied landscape of the human spirit. Hawker’s interest in genealogy often informs her writing. Her first two novels from Lake Union Publishing, The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow (2019), are based on true stories found within the author’s family tree.

She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State with her husband Paul and several naughty cats.

Here Hawker shares her dream director and screenwriter to adapt One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow for the big screen:
I don’t follow the film world closely enough to have a clear idea of which actors I’d like to see portray the characters from One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. But I can tell you that if it were ever made into a film, I’d love to see Adrian Lyne direct it with Stephen Schiff screenwriting. I absolutely loved their adaptation of Lolita (1997). It’s one of my favorite movies, and I think I love it so much because it was so faithful to the book. It captured the atmosphere of the book and all the subtle nuances of the characters’ emotions brilliantly, in a way Kubrick’s version can’t even touch. I think it’s a crime that Kubrick’s Lolita is so iconic when Lyne and Schiff made a much better work of art with the same source material. I’d welcome such a team tackling Blackbird!
Visit Olivia Hawker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Paula Munier's "Blind Search"

Paula Munier is the author of the bestselling Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, Writing with Quiet Hands, and Fixing Freddie: A True Story of a Boy, a Mom, and a Very, Very Bad Beagle. She was inspired to write A Borrowing of Bones, the first Mercy and Elvis mystery, by the hero working dogs she met through MissionK9Rescue, her own Newfoundland retriever mix rescue Bear, and a lifelong passion for crime fiction.

Munier lives in New England with her family, Bear, and a torbie tabby named Ursula.

Here Munier dreamcasts an adaptation of her new Mercy and Elvis mystery, Blind Search:

If I had a dollar for every time a writer told me their book would make a great movie/TV show/Netflix series/Broadway musical, I’d be writing this from the Hotel George V in Paris. But I’m not, and even if I were, I would have to confess that when it comes to this particular writer’s fantasy, I’m just as delusional as everyone else.

Maybe more so, because in my Emmy-winning crime series, Rose Leslie would play Mercy Carr and one of the Chrises would play Vermont Game Warden Troy Warner, but the real stars of the show would be the dogs.

And we’d use rescue dogs. Maybe even our own rescue dogs: Bear, the Newfoundland-retriever mix who’s the inspiration for Susie Bear, and Bliss, the Great Pyrenees-Australian cattle dog mix who was the inspiration for one of the service dogs who appears in Blind Search.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

Writers Read: Paula Munier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Liska Jacobs's "The Worst Kind of Want"

Liska Jacobs holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and The Hairpin, among other publications.

In her new novel, The Worst Kind of Want:
To cool-headed, fastidious Pricilla Messing, Italy will be an escape, a brief glimpse of freedom from a life that's starting to feel like one long decline.

Rescued from the bedside of her difficult mother, forty-something Cilla finds herself called away to Rome to keep an eye on her wayward teenage niece, Hannah. But after years of caregiving, babysitting is the last thing Cilla wants to do. Instead she throws herself into Hannah's youthful, heedless world—drinking, dancing, smoking—relishing the heady atmosphere of the Italian summer. After years of feeling used up and overlooked, Cilla feels like she's coming back to life. But being so close to Hannah brings up complicated memories, making Cilla restless and increasingly reckless, and a dangerous flirtation with a teenage boy soon threatens to send her into a tailspin.
Here Jacobs dreamcasts an adaptation of The Worst Kind of Want:
When I start a book, I make a mood board and cast all the characters—but I never use actors because I’m so easily influenced by what roles they’ve played. I use models, usually from old Vogues or those cheap hairstyle magazines you can buy at Walgreens. It’s only later that I start to think who could pull off the role.

For Cilla, I think Chloë Sevigny or Maggie Gyllenhaal would be phenomenal.

And Donato, well, it would have to be Timothée Chalamet. He’s just so uncomfortably attractive, which is what you’d want for the part. But really any young actor who has good hair and a full, boyish smile.

As for Hannah, Cilla’s fifteen-year-old niece, maybe Chloe Moretz or Elle Fanning.

And it would have to be filmed on location. That would be an absolute must!
Visit Liska Jacobs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Kelly Simmons's "Where She Went"

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and creative advertising director who started writing fiction over fifteen years ago, while studying creative writing and screenwriting at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her critically acclaimed novels (Standing Still, The Bird House, One More Day, The Fifth of July and Where She Went) she has stuff on a few back burners: developing a TV series, writing a memoir, perfecting her dessert game.

She's a visiting teacher for Drexel University's Storylab and is a member of The Liars Club writing mentorship collective, The Tall Poppy Writers, Womens Fiction Writers Association, and Binders Full of Women Writers.

Here Simmons dreamcasts an adaptation of Where She Went:
With so many great actresses creating great TV and films these days – not to mention producing and directing – well, casting the movie version of my book is like being in a candy store. But I’m not gonna let that sway me. No. Okay, maybe I am. No, I’m not. I’m going to choose the right people, not the most famous ones. Okay, maybe the right people are the most famous ones? Don’t judge me.

Where She Went is written from the twin perspectives of a missing college student and her helicopter mother, who is trying to find her. We get to follow each woman’s path, a few days apart, as the daughter’s decisions go from bad to worse and the mother’s go from unhinged to intelligent. So the question becomes . . . who do I want to see unhinge?

For the daughter, Emma, I can’t help but long for Kaitlyn Dever, who is so amazing in the movie Booksmart. Her emotions radiate across her entire face, and her physical ability to play subtle or broad is admirable, too.

For the mom, Maggie, I’d like to see Leslie Mann stretch herself into a dramatic role. There are just enough funny/tender moments in the story to let her comedic chops shine through, but I’ve always wondered what else she could do. She’s the right age, and totally the right vibe to play a hardscrabble hairdresser from Philadelphia.

So, see? I didn’t go straight up the middle. I didn’t say “Julia Roberts as the mom and her niece Emma Roberts playing her daughter.” Oh wait. That would be cool stunt casting .... hmmmmm....
Visit Kelly Simmons's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Erica Wright's "Famous in Cedarville"

Erica Wright's new crime novel Famous in Cedarville received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She is the author of three previous novels including The Red Chameleon, which was one of O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014. Her poetry collections are Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned.

Here Wright dreamcasts an adaptation of Famous in Cedarville:
Famous in Cedarville opens with the death of retired silver screen actress Barbara Lace, so cinema plays a big role (pun 100% intended) in this book. Each chapter begins with a glimpse of Barbara’s life, so I imagine the movie would have some flashbacks or film clips. And I just really want to cast this character! I imagine the older version played by someone like Glenn Close. I like how Close chooses unexpected, challenging parts. In real life, she seems tough and glamorous. A little fierce. For the younger version, maybe Rachel Brosnahan? I could watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel every night. Brosnahan is so delightful in the role and also has that element of ferocity.

For my slightly awkward lead Samson Delaware, I’d go with David Tennant. Samson has been transformed by his wife’s death from someone effortlessly charming—in love with life—to someone struggling to get out of bed in the morning. But there are glimpses of his former lightness, and Tennant is so good at nuance.

My favorite type of character is the underestimated, so I have two in my book. The first is a woman trying to help Samson. She’s pitied at the beginning of the story, but quickly shows everyone that she can handle herself in a variety of situations, including a fight. Michelle Rodriguez would be great. Then there’s the small-town sheriff, and I know it’s because of True Detective, but I can’t get Woody Harrelson out of my head.
Visit Erica Wright's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Andrew Skinner's "Steel Frame"

Andrew Skinner grew up in South Africa’s coal-mining heartland, amidst orange dust and giant machinery. He now works as an archaeologist and anthropologist, interested in folklore, rain-making arts, and resistance; but the machines aren’t done with him yet.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Steel Frame, his first novel:
Rook is the character through whom you see the events of Steel Frame, and despite the fact that she’d be the lead in a movie adaptation, someone else will have to cast her! I made a conscious decision to leave her anonymous – there are no glances of herself in reflective surfaces, no one else commenting on her appearance – and I’d like to preserve that here. You could probably infer a lot of what she looks like from the parts of her history you encounter in the story, but given how damaging her past is, she’s probably really difficult to look at. Foremost, though, I wanted her capabilities to be separate from her appearance, and to let her actions define who and what she was.

The other major characters are much easier! Hail and Salt are Rook’s squadmates. They’re other jockeys in the story – other frontier operators, piloting these giant machines.

For Hail, I’d cast somewhere between Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron; Blunt for her hard edges as the Angel of Verdun in Edge of Tomorrow (and maybe also because I enjoyed watching Tom Cruise be shot in the head over and over, who knows?), and Theron for that desert-dry harshness as Imperator Furiosa in Fury Road; Hail’s character is worn and calloused, but she’s survived things you can barely imagine. I want someone who’ll dig in heels, grind teeth, stand straight under the weight of monstrous things.

For Salt, I’m pretty set on Djimon Hounsou. The guy’s got immense gravity on screen, and a depth to his voice that’s almost a perfect match for Salt speaking in my head. The character’s quite important to me (and to Rook) so I’d like an actor who can make a show of strength to match, a sense of endless durability.

Director-wise, Ridley Scott pretty much directed the motion picture in my head. There’s a greasy bleakness to that extended Alien/Blade Runner universe that I was trying pretty hard to replicate, and a constant sense of Big Bad just out of sight that I can’t really get enough of. Runner up is Denis Villeneuve, for the grit in Sicario that you can nearly feel between your teeth, the sense of scale and time-depth in Arrival; I’d want Steel Frame, the Movie to leave you feeling covered in machine-oil, lost at sea.
Read more about Steel Frame; follow Andrew Skinner on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's "Holding On To Nothing"

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she worked at The Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others and her short fiction has appeared in The Broad River Review and Barren Magazine. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! When We Knew We Were Feminists, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children.

Shelburne applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Holding On To Nothing, and reported the following:
I have never written with a cast in my head as I work. My characters exist only in my mind. In fact, I often don’t describe their physical traits at all for the first two or three drafts until one of my readers says, “So, um, I have no idea what they look like?” And I realize that I have once again created characters with invisible bodies. So imagining real people who might play those characters has a little of that dissonant effect of seeing a movie made from a book, and thinking “I didn’t imagine them like that!”

Judy: Cherry Jones. It feels wrong to make a Tennessee actress play the one New Englander in this whole book, but Judy, the bartender, has seen it all and doesn’t mind telling people what she thinks. Cherry Jones has the same thin-lipped smile I always imagined on Judy. There is love there, but maybe not so much warmth.

LouEllen: Kathy Bates. LouEllen is a fierce woman: she loves fiercely and fights fiercely too. Lucy often feels like she’s been “waterboarded by love” around her. Bates is such a rock star: I could just see her sitting in the gardening center at Walmart treating it like her own porch.

Jeptha: Although he’s not Southern, I thought Wilson Bethel did a pretty great job as Wade Kinsella on Hart of Dixie, especially the last two seasons when he got to pull back on the clichés and have some more heart. (I’m a little embarrassed to tell y’all I watched this show, but I did and it made me laugh. Judge me how you will.) Or a young, scruffy Paul Newman. Also, Garrett Hedlund would be great. He grew up on a farm and has a face that can be both boyishly cute and full of heartbreaking regret.

Lucy: I know it’s cliché, but damn, Jennifer Lawrence was amazing in Winter’s Bone, and I think she’d pull of Lucy with aplomb. Lucy is both delicate and strong as nails, and her face carries a ton of the action in a scene. Actors are amazing at what they do, so I’m not saying it has to be a Southerner, but I’d love it to be. There’s an emotional connection there, plus a better chance of getting the accent right!

Cody: Danny McBride. One hundred percent. He is hilarious, looks just like I imagine Cody looks, and would carry off the funny lines and being stranded by Jeptha on the side of the road perfectly, while also able to pull off Cody’s real concern and love for Jeptha.
Visit Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Holding On To Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tracey S. Phillips's "Best Kept Secrets"

Tracey S. Phillips is the debut author of Best Kept Secrets, a novel. Playing music and creating art were a way of life while growing up in Indiana. She entered college as a fashion model and musician. But somewhere along the road to fame and fortune, she married her best friend and became the mother of two children, now grown. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two dogs. Before publication, the manuscript for Best Kept Secrets won a Hugh Holton Award. Psychological Thriller is her love and female characters drive her stories.

Here Phillips dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel:
Envisioning Best Kept Secrets as a movie wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, throughout my writing process, I see each scene as it could be on TV or the big screen. I have a very visual imagination. And this might seem strange, but I see my story ideas as a picture first. The feelings—as in how it leaves the reader hanging—come second. Lastly, I write and flesh out the visual characters and scenes and they play out in my mind just like a movie.

Best Kept Secrets is first about Detective Morgan Jewell seeking justice and resolution for the murder of her best friend almost twenty years ago. As she finally begins to remember what happened, we go back in the past with her. Acting as the present-day Morgan, Jennifer Lawrence would be my first choice. She was fabulous as the tormented Katniss Everdeen. Morgan Jewell would come to life with Jennifer playing her role. I’m not in touch with the younger actresses these days. A likely candidate for the younger Morgan Jewell might be Chloe Grace Moretz.

Morgan’s partner and mentor is Donnie James. I see him played by someone like Idris Elba—handsome and middle aged.

Caryn Klein is the other main female character in Best Kept Secrets. Her story weaves around Morgan’s because they are both seeking the same man. Caryn is desperate to find her estranged brother Ekhard, who is also Morgan’s main murder suspect. Dakota Fanning would make a fantastic Caryn because of her work on the Twilight movies—and no Caryn isn’t a vampire—but I loved Dakota’s intensity in those movies. The younger Caryn could easily be played by Dakota’s sister Elle.

Her brother Ekhard is s wiry guy like Jake Gyllenhaal. I wonder what he’d look like with his hair died blond!
Visit Tracey S. Phillips's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Clay McLeod Chapman's "The Remaking"

Clay McLeod Chapman is the creator of the storytelling session “The Pumpkin Pie Show” and the author of rest area, nothing untoward, and the Tribe trilogy.

He is co-author of the middle grade novel Wendell and Wild, with Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick.

In the world of comics, Chapman’s work includes Lazaretto, Iron Fist: Phantom Limb, and Edge of Spiderverse, among others.

He also writes for the screen, including The Boy (SXSW 2015), Henley (Sundance 2012), and Late Bloomer (Sundance 2005).

Here Chapman dreamcasts one of the leads for an adaptation of his new novel, The Remaking:
What’s funny about The Remaking is… well, it’s a book about movies. Among other things, for sure. Lots of things. But film plays a major part of the story. Particularly horror movies.

Which is all to say, when I was writing the novel, I had a lot of different actresses running around the wilderness of my imagination. I kept thinking of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Jamie Lee Curtis in both Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018). Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Their on-set experiences and everything that happened to them afterward, positive, negative, or otherwise, is baked into the very genetic fabric of the novel itself…

I had the good fortune to meet Milly Shapiro, who starred in Hereditary, while I started writing the book… so I feel like her presence was a part of the book as well.

One of the main protagonists of the novel is this character named Amber Pendleton. We come upon her when she’s nine, thirty-something, and fifty-something… So I’m cheating a bit, but I’d have to cast Dakota Fanning (circa 2003), Dakota Fanning (circa now), and Jamie Lee Curtis (circa now) to play Amber at the various stages of her life.
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Marco Rafalà's "How Fires End"

Marco Rafalà is a first-generation Sicilian American novelist, musician, and writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in Fiction from The New School and is a cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About How Fires End, Rafalà's debut novel:
After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.
Here Rafalà dreamcasts an adaptation of How Fires End:
In my dreams for a movie adaptation of How Fires End, I often ask myself what would a modern Italian neorealist film look like? Especially one that encompasses a sweeping narrative from Sicily during the tragedy of the Second World War to the despair of the post-war era all the way to the United States and the Italian American immigrant experience in the 1980s. Who could make such a film?

I can think of only one person: Italian film director and screenwriter Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Baarìa). Tornatore is a master who can hold in his mind both a romantic notion of Sicily—the beauty of the landscape, its complicated people, and ancient culture—and the harsh realities of what life was like there during and after the Second World War. He can balance the modern while bringing the perfect Italian neorealist feel to the material that I tried to capture in the novel.

In terms of casting, I never thought about that beyond believing that the late James Gandolfini would have been a perfect older Rocco for the scenes set in Middletown, Connecticut, during the 1980s, with his son portraying the younger version of that character. And, in a slight nod to Italian neorealist cinema, the roles for the children and secondary older characters, like Raphael and Pasqualino, should be cast with unknowns.
Visit Marco Rafalà's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Nancy Richardson Fischer's "The Speed of Falling Objects"

Nancy Richardson Fischer is a graduate of Cornell University, a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles to her credit, including Star Wars titles for Lucas Film and numerous autobiographies for athletes such as Julie Krone, Bela Karolyi and Monica Seles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Here Fischer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Speed of Falling Objects:
Ahhhh, what author doesn’t imagine their book as a movie? For me, that comes before I write the first chapter! I see every novel I write unfold first as a movie and can even hear the underlying score.

The Speed of Falling Objects is a very cinematic story—A famous TV survivalist named Cougar, his timid 17-year-old daughter, Danny, and Gus, a teen movie idol, fly to the Amazon to film an episode of Cougar’s show. Their plane crashes in the rainforest leaving some dead, others injured. Who lives, lies, loves… dies? It’s a movie, right??? Please say yes!

So who would play the main characters...

Danger Danielle “Danny” Warren: I imagine Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone - one of my favorite movies of all time. Since JL is now too old to play 17 (sigh), my dream Danny would be an unknown actress with JL’s incredible acting ability. She’d have to be unafraid of bugs, deadly spiders, venomous snakes and scorpions as this book is set in the Amazon rainforest!

Cougar Warren: My dream Cougar is Bradley Cooper. His phenomenal acting would create a deeply nuanced man who is driven by ego but still somehow redeemable (at least to me). And his blue eyes match Cougar’s.

Gus Price: Ansel Elgort, Theo James, or a talented unknown who doesn’t mind lots of bugs!

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee, Sofia Coppola, Nancy Meyers or Bradley Cooper.
Visit Nancy Richardson Fischer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Richardson Fischer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 11, 2019

Johanna Stoberock's "Pigs"

Johanna Stoberock is the author of the novels Pigs and City of Ghosts. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Better: Culture & Lit, The Wilson Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Front Porch, and the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology.

Here Stoberock shares her vision for a trailer of an adaptation of Pigs:
Envisioning Pigs as a movie is hard, particularly because, central to the novel, are a herd of giant, magical pigs. How do you put giant pigs on screen without diminishing their fierceness or their magic? I haven’t come up with an answer yet, other than that maybe you just don’t—maybe in a movie the pigs would be a presence that is felt and heard throughout but that is never seen.

Just as I don’t have a clear vision for the pigs, I also don’t have a clear vision for the film as a whole. But I do have an idea for a trailer.

To understand the trailer, you have to know a little bit about the novel’s plot: Pigs follows a group of parentless children who live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s trash. They gather it up and feed it to the enormous, insatiable pigs mentioned above. The children have to worry about not getting too close to these creatures for fear that the pigs, in their hungry frenzy, might snap off something like a finger (or worse). So they are pretty scary. But the thing about the island is that it’s not the pigs that the children have to worry about the most. It’s the island’s other human inhabitants—a group of glamorous, bloodthirsty, cruel adults.

When I was writing the novel, I pictured those adults as perverted versions of the characters in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. They dress like Italian film stars from the early 1960’s (stiletto heels, body-skimming dresses, sharp suits), and, if they were in a film themselves, it wouldn’t seem strange for them to have the soundtrack from La Dolce Vita filling out the background of every single scene they’re in. Part of what’s so scary about these people is the way that the suffering they cause and the suffering they witness doesn’t distract them, even a little bit, from their reckless desire for the good life.

So here’s what I picture for the trailer:

The opening of the book read aloud:
The pigs ate everything. Kitchen scraps. Bitter lettuce from the garden. The stale and sticky contents of lunch boxes kids brought home from school. Toe nail clippings. Hair balls pulled up from the drain. After the pigs were done, there weren’t any teeth left over, not even any metal from cavities filled long ago.
On screen, we see black and white footage from the early 1960’s of film stars dancing, drinking, laughing, glamming it up.

The voiceover ends with:

“Luisa was missing a finger.”

Onscreen, the film-star footage fades and the camera settles on a small child alone on a beach.

It’s just a trailer—a full movie would require a more skilled visual imagination than my own. But that’s the mood I’d want: the ironic juxtaposition of excess and need; the black and white images of desire fulfilled fading into the full color image of a child with nothing.
Visit Johanna Stoberock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Deborah Crombie's "A Bitter Feast"

Deborah Crombie is a New York Times bestselling author and a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She now lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, two cats, and two German shepherds.

Here Crombie dreamcasts an adaptation of A Bitter Feast, her 18th Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel:
What a fun concept this is, but it’s so hard! Because A Bitter Feast is the latest in a long-running series, I have quite definite ideas about how my main characters look, and that makes it challenging to fit an actor into the part—and of course they all must be British. Also, my recurring cast has expanded to four main characters, but the more the merrier.

Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid—Duncan is now in his mid-forties, tall, brown-haired, grey-eyed. He comes from Cheshire, so should have a slightly northern accent. I’d choose Richard Armitage, for the fabulous voice as well as the looks. Or John Simm, because, well, he’s John Simm, and he has the contained quality that I always see in Duncan. I have a soft spot for James McAvoy as well.

Detective Inspector Gemma James—Duncan’s wife, and former partner. I adore Honeysuckle Weeks. She’s a bit older than Gemma is now in the books, but she is so perfect in personality and coloring, and with her wonderful warmth and smile, she would convey Gemma’s essential qualities beautifully. I had dibs on Jodie Whittaker, too, but then she became The Doctor, so I expect she’s tied up for the foreseeable future.

Detective Sergeant Doug Cullen—Duncan’s partner. Ben Whishaw. But blond, with round glasses. He’s wonderfully nerdy and intense, and can play socially awkward.

Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot—Gemma’s partner. Jenna Coleman. She is so perfect for Melody. She’s petite but tough, and could show Melody’s conflicted core.
Visit Deborah Crombie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 7, 2019

Rachel Eve Moulton's "Tinfoil Butterfly"

Rachel Eve Moulton earned her BA at Antioch College and her MFA in fiction from Emerson College. Her work has appeared in The Beacon Street Review, Bellowing Ark, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Bryant Literary Review, among others.

Here Moulton shares some thoughts on an adaptation of Tinfoil Butterfly, her first novel:
Tinfoil Butterfly began in a playwriting class. We were asked by the professor to pick three characters—images torn from magazines—and write a scene in which they meet. I picked Earl, a little boy in a butterfly mask made from tinfoil; Emma, a woman smoking a cigar with dark makeup around her eyes and long dark hair; and finally, George, a man sitting in a lawn chair that was facing away from the camera. In this early version of the novel, Earl is introducing Emma to a comatose George and asking if perhaps she will help him bury the man. The characters leapt into a sort of evil action that gained its own momentum.

The nature of the assignment meant that the piece was driven by dialogue and enhanced by the glossy images I’d been handed. From that moment on it has been easy to imagine the piece making it to the screen. While I am a huge horror movie fan and would love to see Emma make it to the big screen, I am enthralled by the television out there in 2019. I’d love to see Emma and Earl find a new audience through television, hooking viewers over a longer period.

I won’t name favorite actors for the role, but I’d love to see Emma played by an actress who gets the power and vulnerability of a woman. Think Toni Collette in Hereditary.
Follow Rachel Eve Moulton on Twitter.

Learn about her ten "favorite literary thrillers, the ones that will wake up your brain and your heart."

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Sasha Dawn's "Panic"

Sasha Dawn teaches writing at community colleges and offers pro bono writing workshops to local schools. She lives in her native northern Illinois, where she collects tap shoes, fabric swatches, and tales of survival, and she harbors a crush on Thomas Jefferson. Her debut novel, Oblivion, was an Illinois Reads selection and one of the New York Public Library's best books for teens.

Here Dawn dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Panic:
I wrote this book as a tribute to my daughter’s struggles and aspirations. Although the story is wholly fictional, all of the teen characters were inspired by her real-life friends, most of whom are actors themselves. I’ve asked for their input here:

I based the main character off my daughter, Madelaine, and up-and-coming musical theater artist currently studying at one of the most prestigious performing arts high schools in the country. I think this should be Madelaine’s breakout role.

As Lainey’s mom, Ella, I’d love to see Blake Lively. We’d have to age her up, but she proved, in Age of Adeline and A Simple Favor that she has emotional range. Wholly underrated. She can make Ella come alive.

Emma Roberts’ no-nonsense presence would enhance Hayley. Emma’s gorgeous, but doesn’t seem to notice, and that’s another bonus.

I’d love to have a sexy Nana on screen for once, so I choose Renee Russo, who is absolutely beautiful and edgy, just like Nana would be.

I’ve always seen Ted as Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, and my Madelaine agrees. Bohemian. A little hipster. A little off. But very cutting edge. Is Gerard Way interested in acting? Can someone make this happen?

As Jesse (Dad), I’d cast Ryan Reynolds—I’d love to see him and Blake go head-to-head on screen.

Miles Heizer would make a good Brendon—boy-next-door with layers. Great talent in this kid!

Sophia Lillis’ innate beauty and understated power is perfect for McKenna!

Director: Nora Ephron or Lisa Cholodenko.
Visit Sasha Dawn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Marina Budhos's "The Long Ride"

Marina Budhos is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction. Her novels include Watched, a follow-up to Ask Me No Questions, and takes on surveillance in a post 9/11 era. Set in Queens, NYC, Watched tells the story of Naeem—a teenage boy who thinks he can charm his way through life. One day his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer him a dark deal. Watched received an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature YA Honor (APALA) and is an Honor Book for The Walter Award (We Need Diverse Books).

Here Budhos dreamcast one of the lead roles for an adaptation of her newest novel, The Long Ride, which is about three mixed race girls during a 1970s integration struggle:
I could see this as a movie—one of those looking back at the 1970s movies or TV series of kids that are caught in between racially. In a way it’s like the new ABC TV show Mixed-ish (which I’ve seen a clip from, and it’s nice and canny). I’d like mine to have a bit of an edge, because it is a time of tougher racial tension, graffiti on subway cars, triple locks on doors, white flight and more outright muttering and the menace of violence.

As to actors or actresses, the thing is, I’d want the kids to be unknowns anyway; discovered, so they are natural.

As to one of the adult actors, that’s easy: I would love Mahershala Ali to play Jamila’s father. He is one of my absolute favorite actors working today. And he has precisely the stillness and wisdom to play Mr. Clarke—a geologist, an engineer from Barbados; a man who loves his wife, the rest of the world be damned; who moves with elegance and understanding.
Visit Marina Budhos's website.

My Book, The Movie: Watched.

Writers Read: Marina Budhos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Brandi Reeds's "Third Party"

Brandi Reeds is a critically acclaimed author whose novel of psychological suspense, Trespassing, was an Amazon Charts bestseller. She also writes young adult novels under the pseudonym Sasha Dawn, whose Blink garnered an Edgar nomination. Her debut psychological thriller, Oblivion, was chosen as one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens, recommended by the School Library Journal, endorsed by the American Library Association, and selected by the 2016 Illinois Reading Council as a featured book. Reeds earned her BA in history and English from Northern Illinois University, followed by an MA in writing from Seton Hill University. When not working on her next book, she works as a kitchen design consultant and cabinetry specialist. She’s also an avid traveler, reader, and dance enthusiast. A Chicago native, Reeds currently lives in the northern suburbs with her husband, daughters, and puppies.

In Reeds's new novel, Third Party:
The apparent suicide of a beautiful aspiring law student unites two strangers, connected only by their tangled suspicions: that nothing about Margaux Stritch’s tragic end is what it looks like.

Firefighter Jessica Blythe is courageously making her mark in the male-dominated Chicago Fire Department while navigating a complicated relationship with a detective. A first responder to the crime scene, Jessica has a professional duty to Margaux. Then there’s Kirsten Holloway, a wife and mother pulling herself together after an emotional breakdown. But her husband’s infidelity has left her in a place full of mistrust and fear. Her dreaded curiosity about Margaux’s death has become very personal.
Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Third Party:
What an interesting concept! I don’t picture actors in my head when I write, and frankly, this was more difficult than I thought it would be. However…

Kate Beckinsale—a master in innocence and affirmation—would be a perfect for Kirsten. For Kirsten’s husband, Ian, I’d cast Ben Affleck—I would love to see Ben’s The Town meets upper class America. His curt delivery and a hint of over-confidence (think Good Will Hunting: “Retaaaaainer!”) would be an ideal fit for Ian.

As Margaux, I’d love to cast Dakota Fanning—crazy-talented kid with the skill for emotional layers. Enough said.

As Jessica, my female powerhouse, I’d like to see Brie Larson or Scarlett Johansson—we need a little seduction meets superhero here. (Note, I’m told each of these women recently played superheroes. I did not realize that when I cast them…I live under a rock. If it isn’t Deadpool, and it’s a superhero movie, I haven’t seen it.)

I can see Decker as Tom Hardy or Michael B. Jordan. Vastly different guys, but both would bring a don’t-f**k-with-me edge.

Nat Wolff’s clueless meets in charge—of everything—would be a perfect fit for Kirsten’s son, Patrick. Her daughter, Quinn, would be Abigail Breslin, who’s been a star since Nim’s Island. Now, let’s watch her be the voice of reason for an entire generation of her predecessors!

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt.
Visit Brandi Reeds's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sibel Hodge's "Their Last Breath"

Sibel Hodge is the bestselling author of Look Behind You, Untouchable, Duplicity, and Into the Darkness. Her books have sold over a million copies in the UK, USA, Australia, France, Canada and Germany.

Here Hodge dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Their Last Breath:
Whenever I’m writing I always see the scenes play out in my head like a movie, and I think that helps to keep the narration quite visual. Sometimes I see the characters as actors I’m familiar with, sometimes they’re just faceless, but their traits and quirks are what shine through to me.

Their Last Breath has three main points of view. Detective Warren Carter is an experienced cop brought out of retirement to potentially investigate one of his own colleagues. He’s tenacious, driven, and has a strong sense of justice, but at the same time he’s prepared to break the rules to protect the most vulnerable. He’s also got a great British dry sense of humour. Even though Carter’s face was elusive to me when writing, I’d probably have a few choices: Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, or Liam Neeson, who are all incredibly talented.

Detective Becky Harris is the second POV. Mentored by Detective Carter and now working on a different team, she’s similar to him in a lot of ways. She’s feisty, with a good sense of humour, and prepared to take risks. Writing her, I always picture Olivia Colman from the fantastic series Broadchurch. She’d definitely make an amazing Becky but that's probably stereotyping her!

The third POV is a Syrian refugee called Hayat with a heartbreaking story to tell, but I wouldn’t know who to pick! There are amazing Middle Eastern actresses out there but I’m out of the loop with any around the early 20s age.
Visit Sibel Hodge's website.

My Book, The Movie: Untouchable.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2019

Sara Faring's "The Tenth Girl"

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multi-lingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles.

After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. She currently resides in New York City.

About Farang's new novel: The Tenth Girl...
....is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored... and one of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence.
Here Farang dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of the novel:
We’re talking a feast on the screen. Imagine the melancholy, vintage, wood-paneled & long-haired feel of Luca Guadagnino's twisted Suspiria (the Call Me by Your Name director's remake of the art horror film set at a coven's dance academy) crossed with the indigo, blood-stained, midnight magic of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (the brutal fairytale set in Francoist Spain). My grandmother is convinced that brilliant half Argentine actress Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch/Thoroughbreds) could handle Mavi, with her moon eyes.
Visit Sara Faring's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wendy Trimboli & Alicia Zaloga's "The Resurrectionist of Caligo"

Wendy Trimboli has never met a dense 19th century novel she didn't love, is blithely attracted to broken characters with downtrodden histories, and enjoys voluntarily running up mountains.

Alicia Zaloga believes reverse harems are absolutely charming, is completely suckered by impossibly competent protagonists, and fondly feeds an addiction to Korean dramas.

And yet, somehow they write books together ... most recently, The Resurrectionist of Caligo.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of the novel:
This exercise provoked quite the discussion wherein we realized that neither of us had actors in our head when writing, nor did we find it easy to conjure them. Alicia only wished to cast the antagonists; Wendy discussed specific energy and clusters of emotions rather than any particular “look.” Nonetheless, we narrowed in on our cast, primarily focusing on the main players of the first two chapters, and though the actors don’t at all match the actual ages of the characters they’re playing, we’ll rely on the miracles of time-spanning magic.

For Roger, we’d have to go with James McAvoy. He has the intensity and emotional range, and we think he could lend this flawed character the right amount of empathy, too.

For Sibylla, Romola Garai. She’s got that lovely ability to show a warm depth behind her eyes while coming across as sometimes sweet, sometimes neurotic, and can also turn on the theatrics when necessary, which for our princess who wants to do the right thing, is always forcing a smile, and generally hides away her inner world would be a perfect match.

For Harrod, Richard Armitage. Have you seen him in North and South? That is all.

For Ada, aka “GhostofMary”, we’d want a young actor with a lot of weird, dark vibe. The first candidate who comes to mind is the talented dancer Maddie Zeigler known from Sia’s music videos. She channels a certain charming grotesque energy that would certainly “set the boys screaming” (as she says) if they saw her dancing on the tomb of Sir Bentley Morris in Greyanchor Necropolis.
Visit Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Dave Hutchinson's "The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man"

Dave Hutchinson is a science fiction writer who was born in Sheffield in England and read American Studies at the University of Nottingham. He subsequently moved into journalism, writing for The Weekly News and the Dundee Courier for almost 25 years. He is best known for his Fractured Europe series, which has received multiple award nominations, with the third novel, Europe in Winter, winning the BSFA Award for Best Novel.

Here Hutchinson dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new novel, The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man:
This is an interesting one. I've noticed, quite recently, that I tend not to have a very strong image what most of my characters look like, just a general idea of height, hair colour, stuff like that. I guess this makes casting a movie a lot easier.

Having said that, there's an absolutely brilliant Scottish actor named Martin Compston who would be perfect to play Alex, the central character in Exploding Man.

I kind of imagined Ralph, his neighbour, as a sort of grumpy Latino Ernest Borgnine, but beyond that I have no idea.

I know some writers have a very strong picture of their characters in their head as they write, and that's fine - everyone works differently - but to me, unless a description is making some kind of point, it's more important what a character says than how they look. I'll leave that to a (hypothetical) casting director.
Learn more about The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man.

Visit Dave Hutchinson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Lynn Cullen's "The Sisters of Summit Avenue"

Lynn Cullen is the bestselling author of historical novels The Sisters of Summit Avenue, Twain’s End, Mrs. Poe, Reign of Madness, and I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter.

Here the author shares some thoughts on an adaptation of the book:
My dad, Bill Doughty, made a Christmas card every year. Each year he thought of new ways to present his family, proudly celebrating what it was like to be a Doughty (which was just being an ordinary middle-class American, but that did not dim his pride.) His everyday scenes included one of the eleven of us gathered around a birthday cake. Another showed us celebrating the seasons, some of us swinging tennis rackets, others in Halloween costumes, he himself pushing a lawn-mower. He told a story in pictures of his deep appreciation for his riches, which he always measured in family.

It has occurred to me that I'm doing something similar with The Sisters of Summit Avenue. A departure from my previous books because it centers around a fictitious family instead of a historical figure, (although there's plenty of Depression-era history in it,) I call it my It's a Wonderful Life. As in that favorite old film, the sisters in the book stand to lose what they do have because they pine for what they don't have. They have to learn what it means to be truly rich. But Bill Doughty knew this all along.

I didn’t picture actors when I wrote The Sisters of Summit Avenue. I started writing about the real people in my life and then, over the course of the four years that it took me to finish the book, the characters took on lives of their own and began telling their own stories. They were no longer the people I knew, nor were they Hollywood actors that I pictured, but were individuals in their own right. It was as if they were making their own movie. I just had to “film” it for them.
Learn more about the book and author at Lynn Cullen's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sisters of Summit Avenue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Derek Milman's "Swipe Right For Murder"

Derek Milman has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, film school teacher, DJ, and underground humor magazine publisher. A classically trained actor, he has performed on stages across the country and appeared in numerous TV shows, commercials, and films.

Milman currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, where he writes full time.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Swipe Right for Murder, his second novel for young adults:
Someone recently tweeted that if Timothée Chalamet didn't play Aidan, my main character, in a movie adaptation, they would be enraged. Truthfully, Chalamet might be better suited for the slightly older Shiloh (the Eve Kendall to Aidan's Roger Thornhill, to make a North by Northwest comparison here, a film which heavily influenced the book, except I upended the usual classic Hollywood structure and made the novel super queer). The truth is, I don't know of many teenage actors who would be cast in YA adaptations. I'm guessing the world doesn't either, since Hollywood grooms these actors very young now, usually playing the young imperiled kids to an established movie star in an action film. This gives them a profile, and from there they make their first leap into a leading part, often in a YA adaptation. So they are often unknown to the general public (like Jennifer Lawrence was) when this happens. All that said, Jake Gyllenhaal would make a fantastic Scotty, leader of the Swans, an Erik Killmonger type, and I kept picturing Judith Light as Aidan's mom when I was writing (which I don't usually do), though she is too old most likely, so it would have to me someone with a similar energy, maybe Laura Dern, Amy Ryan, or even Kristen Bell.
Visit Derek Milman's website.

Writers Read: Derek Milman.

The Page 69 Test: Swipe Right for Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tyler Hayes's "The Imaginary Corpse"

Tyler Hayes is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Northern California. He writes stories he hopes will show people that not only are they not alone, but we might just make things better.

Here Hayes dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Imaginary Corpse:
Given the mixed-media nature of the world(s) of The Imaginary Corpse, I picture it being, at least in part, an animated film, so I go into any dream-casting thinking about voice more than look. Even if some one of the more photorealistic Friends are played by live actors, prostheses and other special effects wouldn't look out of place in the film.

When I think of Tippy's voice, I think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. A softened, kinder version of the cadences he used in Brick or Looper (well, with way fewer impressions of Bruce Willis) would really capture the spirit of our triceratops detective.

For Spindleman, I hear Matthew Mercer. The children he voices on Critical Role are regularly both heartwarming and heart-rending, and he would lend Spindleman the appropriate pathos.

For Chip Dixon, I'd go with Shameik Moore, Miles Morales himself. He can invest the character with the right feeling of optimism and that little twist of snark.

It'd be hard to convince me Miss Mighty should be anyone but Stephanie Beatriz. Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Rosa Diaz is nearly there already; give her a little of the Brie Larson-acted/Kelly Sue DeConnick-written version of Carol Danvers and you're basically at the finish line.

For Big Business, I hear Clancy Brown, with all that genial Lex Luthor menace.

And finally, for the Man in the Coat, I want Ron Perlman. I hear the Man's few lines dripping with a cocktail of pseudo-nicety and toxic masculinity that I can hear in his portrayals of Slade on Teen Titans or Clay in Sons of Anarchy (okay, maybe Clay isn't all that dignified…).

To direct, if they're willing to make the jump from TV to movies, I'd love to get Kat Morris and Liz Artinian, the directorial pair for most of my favorite episodes of Steven Universe. They know how to write something that's kind with a deep stripe of fear, and they've proven they can handle stories about trauma and mental health with aplomb.
Visit Tyler Hayes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Gilly Macmillan's "The Nanny"

Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew, The Perfect Girl, Odd Child Out, I Know You Know, and The Nanny. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she's worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

Here Macmillan dreamcasts an adaptation of The Nanny:
If they make The Nanny into a film, I would love to see Emma Stone play Jo, the young widow who is at the centre of the story. Emma Stone has that girl next door look but can turn on a haughty look. The actress playing Jo needs to be able to pack a punch in every expression on screen and Emma Stone could most definitely deliver that.

For the nanny character, Hannah, I think either Frances McDormand or Olivia Colman. Hannah is a nuanced character. She needs to very watchable.

For Ruby, the youngest character in the book at just 11 years old. I think a new and undiscovered actress should play her. Somebody who can bring a touch of tomboy, a fierce intelligence and a lot of bravery.

My favourite character in the book is the complex and surprising Lady Virginia Holt. She is Jo’s mother and Ruby’s grandmother and the actress playing her would need to have some real presence and skill. Judy Parfitt the English actress who plays Sister Monica Joan in Call the Midwife would be perfection.

The setting of the book was something I thought about a lot while writing it. I had in mind a medium-sized and very historic English country house like Great Chalfield Manor here in the UK, which is often used in film and tv productions, including standing in for Thomas Cromwell’s childhood home in Wolf Hall. The atmosphere of Great Chalfield Manor is what I tried to conjure up in the book, but the story could just as easily be set in the US in a Great Gatsby-type house and I’d be thrilled to see that. I loved the crazy wildness of Jay Gatsby’s house in Baz Luhrman’s film. A faded version of that would be perfect, but I could also see the book set in a very grand English country house like the one used for Downton Abbey. Most of the book is set in Lake Hall and it’s as central to the story as any of the characters so it would be an incredibly important choice for the director and production team. And it has to have a lake…

Director should be Yorgos Lanthimos or the Coen Brothers.
Visit Gilly Macmillan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Melissa Payne's "The Secrets of Lost Stones"

For as long as she can remember, Melissa Payne has been telling stories in one form or another—from high school newspaper articles to a graduate thesis to blogging about marriage and motherhood. But she first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children. There she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds for the children. The truth in those stories was piercing and painful and written to invoke in the reader a call to action: to give, to help, to make a difference. Payne’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured.

She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear.

Here Payne dreamcasts an adaptation of The Secrets of Lost Stones, her first novel:
As I wrote The Secrets of Lost Stones, the story played like a movie in my head, but when I sat down to answer which actresses would play Jess, Star and Lucy, I drew a blank. Jess is a grief-stricken mother who blames herself for her young son’s death. Star is a fifteen-year-old homeless teen who believes that she is better off alone and living on the streets than with a family. And Lucy is an eccentric elderly woman who has a gift for tying loose ends for people who are hurting. When I wrote these characters I imagined their motives, their deepest fears, a glimpse of their souls, but not necessarily their faces. Until now. So here goes. For spirited and strong Star, I’d choose Rooney Mara from Tanner Hall, but with the hair and edginess she brought to her epic role in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Jess is best portrayed by Hilary Swank as Holly Kennedy in P.S. I Love You because she nailed grief and the emotional hardship of trying to live through the worst kind of loss in that role. And finally, Lucy, spicy and sweet, quirky and insightful, but mostly loveable. Who better to play her than Betty White? Because, you know, Betty White.
Visit Melissa Payne's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Payne & Max.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Madeline Stevens's "Devotion"

In Madeline Stevens's debut novel, Devotion:
Ella is flat broke: wasting away on bodega coffee, barely making rent, seducing the occasional strange man who might buy her dinner. Unexpectedly, an Upper East Side couple named Lonnie and James rescue her from her empty bank account, offering her a job as a nanny and ushering her into their moneyed world. Ella’s days are now spent tending to the baby in their elegant brownstone or on extravagant excursions with the family. Both women are just 26—but unlike Ella, Lonnie has a doting husband and son, unmistakable artistic talent, and old family money.

Ella is mesmerized by Lonnie’s girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage. Convinced there must be a secret behind Lonnie’s seemingly effortless life, Ella begins sifting through her belongings, meticulously cataloguing lipstick tubes and baby teeth and scraps of writing. All the while, Ella’s resentment grows, but so does an inexplicable and dizzying attraction. Soon Ella will be immersed so deeply in her cravings—for Lonnie’s lifestyle, her attention, her lovers—that she may never come up for air.
Here Stevens dreamcasts an adaptation of Devotion:
I wasn’t picturing any specific actresses in Ella or Lonnie’s roles as I wrote. Imagining the movie of my book seemed like counting my chickens before they’d hatched—like I might jinx it! Now that the book is published I can fantasize a bit more. I loved Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch and Thoroughbreds. I also think Joey King is an amazing actress. Both of these women are young, and have mostly played teenage roles, but the characters are only twenty-six, they’d need to look quite baby-faced. More than using anyone I know, though, I love the idea of finding a new face, especially for Ella, because she’s an outsider in the story.

And if this were another time (and the book was being made into an Italian film!) Monica Vitti would be Lonnie. If I could do nothing but stare at Monica Vitti’s face for the rest of my life—well, that would be okay.
Visit Madeline Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Scott Johnston's "Campusland"

Scott Johnston grew up in Manhattan and graduated from college in the 1980s. From there, Wall Street (Salomon Brothers of Liar's Poker fame) and a stint in Hong Kong. On the side, he opened a couple of nightclubs in New York City and wrote popular books on beer drinking and golf betting games. More recently, Johnston shifted gears and co-founded two tech startups. He lives in Westchester with his wife and three children.

Here Johnston dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Campusland:
I know this sounds unlikely, but I really didn't have any actors in mind when I wrote Campusland. There were one or two characters where I had actual, real people in mind, but perhaps it's best to keep that to myself. Also, Campusland is a (biting) satire. I happen to think this is by far the most difficult form of fiction to translate to film. Anyone remember Bonfire of the Vanities, the movie? Maybe the worst movie made from the best book ever. None of the carefully crafted tone of the book was captured by the movie. Tom Wolfe had to distance himself. The fact is, arch humor is tricky to get across. Some of my favorite scenes in Campusland are really difficult for me to imagine on the big screen. One director who I do think could do it would be Whit Stillman (see: Metropolitan).

Okay, casting. My protagonist, Eph Russell, is in his mid-thirties, is boyishly good looking, and a bit naive. I'm thinking Paul Rudd? Maybe Ron Livingston? (He of my second favorite movie ever, Office Space.)

Next up is Lulu Harris. This is a tough one - Lulu is only 19, so I don't think anyone over 25 should play the role. She should be beautiful in a severe, jaded way. She should be able to turn on the charm but have a very hard edge constantly lurking below the surface. Very ambitious and also scheming and cynical. I'm going to nominate Emma Watson. (Guessing, though, given her politics, she would turn down any part that involved leveling a false allegation of sexual assault.)

For Milton Strauss, president of Devon University, I have to go with Paul Giamatti, since he's the son of the great Bart Giamatti, who was president of Yale when I was there.

The other major character is Red Wheeler. He's a stoner cum campus radical. Red dreadlocks. Honestly, I'm at a loss here. I'm imagining Sean Penn circa Fast Times, but I just don't know who the twenty-something actors are right now. Any suggestions?
Learn more about Campusland and follow Scott Johnston on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Campusland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Kassandra Montag's "After the Flood"

Kassandra Montag is a poet and novelist. Her work has appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and Prairie Schooner, among other literary journals. She has won the Plainsongs Award, New Year's Poet Award, and 1877 Award.

Here Montag dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, After the Flood:
I wasn’t thinking about a film or TV adaptation when I wrote After the Flood, so I didn’t have any actors or actresses in mind. But after it was optioned for a television series (with Chernin Entertainment, partnering with LuckyChap Entertainment, Margot Robbie’s production company), it’s been interesting to consider what actors/actresses could fit with different roles.

I’ve thought about directors and overall aesthetic more than acting. I love the work of Guillermo del Toro and I think he’d do an incredible job with the unique visual landscape of After the Flood.

After the Flood is set in a post-apocalyptic 2130. The Earth has flooded, leaving an archipelago of mountaintops surrounded by water. Myra and her young daughter join a large ship searching for safe haven. Her oldest daughter, Row, was kidnapped during the flood. When Myra convinces the crew to head north in an effort to rescue Row, the decision changes everyone’s fate.

Myra – Margot Robbie
Daniel—Richard Madden
Jacob— Domhnall Gleeson
Abran— Oscar Issac
Pearl – non-actor, regular kid
Row – McKenna Grace
Marjan—Sakina Jaffrey
Behir-- Dev Patel
Visit Kassandra Montag's website.

--Marshal Zeringue