Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jess Montgomery's "The Widows"

Jess Montgomery is the author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries. Under her given name, she wears several other literary hats: she is a newspaper columnist, focusing on the literary life, authors and events of her native Dayton, Ohio for the Dayton Daily News; Executive Director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton; and is an adjunct mentor in the Seton Hill University Low-Residency Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program.

Here Montogomery shares some ideas for a big-screen adaptation of her new novel, The Widows:
As I wrote The Widows, I listened—repeatedly—to the soundtrack from the movie, Batman Begins. There are no bats in The Widows. The novel is set in 1920s Appalachia, as two women investigate murder and fight for their community.

But I’ve come to love writing to acoustic music. It helps me focus. And the sweeping, rhythmic score of Batman Begins was empowering to me, giving me courage to write some of the tougher scenes that at first I wanted to shirk from. (But that, of course, would not be fair to readers—or to me as a writer.)

Music also plays a role in the novel, particularly ballads and gospel. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the first thing I think about with “My Book, The Movie” for The Widows is who I’d like to write a theme song. And that is… Roseanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, and singer-songwriter in her own right. I think she’d love and understand the two narrators of The Widows--Lily Ross (inspired by Ohio’s true first female sheriff in 1925) who becomes sheriff after her husband Daniel is killed in the line of duty, and Marvena Whitcomb, widow of a coal miner, a union organizer, and moonshiner. I believe Ms. Cash would find plenty to inspire her in their gritty, challenging yet ultimately hopeful story.

Though Daniel dies early in the novel, he lives in the memories of Lily and Marvena, and in people in the community. He is an important presence, and would need to be portrayed in flashback scenes. I’d love to see the actor Jared Padalecki play Daniel, especially if The Widows became the basis of a limited television series. Of course, Mr. Padalecki plays Sam Winchester on the long-running television show Supernatural, so I’m not sure when he’d find time to fit this project into his schedule! Still, Supernatural is my not-so-guilty television-watching pleasure, and I’ve come to admire Mr. Padalecki’s range in portraying emotions in a subtle way. He also looks similarly to how I see Daniel—tall, a bit larger-than-life, dark-haired.

I’d love to have a woman direct The Widows movie/series. This is, after all, a novel that stars two tough yet tender women. So, why not have Reese Witherspoon direct? Or Geena Davis? I’d certainly be thrilled.

Of course, this leaves the main characters—Lily and Marvena. But the truth is, I’m stumped as to who should play these roles. They’d have to be played by actresses who could carry strong roles, yet not overshadow one another. I’m sure either Ms. Witherspoon or Ms. Davis will find the right actresses!
Visit Jess Montgomery's website.

--Marshal Zeringue