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

Monday, September 2, 2019

Caroline Lea's "The Glass Woman"

Caroline Lea was born and raised in Jersey in the United Kingdom. She lives in Warwick, England.

Here Lea dreamcasts an adaptation of The Glass Woman, her second novel, and reported the following:
My writing process is strongly visual, and this was particularly true for The Glass Woman, where the majestic brutality of the Icelandic landscape was absolutely key to the novel’s suspense and terror. I kept pictures of icy mountains and desolate lava-fields on my laptop, ‘blocking’ each scene as a director before I wrote it, imagining my character’s movements. I taught high school drama for many years and love the way that a gesture or facial expression can betray a character’s motivation, or their struggle to conceal it. This became hugely important for the world of secrets and lies in The Glass Woman.

Ròsa would be played wonderfully by Heida Reed, who so brilliantly narrated the audiobook. She often portrays characters who are simultaneously strong and vulnerable, and would perfectly convey Rósa’s internal conflict of loyalty, rebellion and fear.

I’d choose Bradley Cooper for Jón and can imagine him encapsulating the character’s rugged menace and desire for control, alongside his moments of tortured fear. I loved Cooper’s later moments in A Star is Born, where he so excellently depicts a formidable man’s struggle with his own demons.

My Katrín would be Olivia Coleman, who is wonderful at providing comic relief, while never compromising the emotional power of the role; she’s capable of making viewers laugh and sob, often during the same scene. I loved the complexity that she brought to the UK version of Broadchurch, where she was both abrasive and, at many points, emotionally raw.

I’d cast Elliot Knight as Pétur: I taught Elliot high school drama and am so proud of his growing success. He imbues roles with a wonderful brooding intensity, which would make him perfect for https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=1697167571269160594#postsportraying Pétur’s combination of quick wit and melancholy.

Páll would be played by Tom Hardy; he is excellent at depicting genuinely ‘good’ characters, who, nevertheless, have a dangerous edge. He also often brings humour and lightness to his roles and would be a perfect foil for Jon’s threatening presence.

I’d love Ralph Fiennes to play Egill: he’s brilliant at showing absolute malevolence, while never truly alienating the audience – even when he’s an out-and-out villain. Complex anti-heroes are wonderful and I need Egill to display moments of helplessness, even when he’s at his most malicious.

As a director, I’d either want the wonderful Jane Campion, who creates stunning visuals and great emotional intensity, in her films, as well as in series such as Top of the Lake, or I’d love the team who have directed The Handmaid’s Tale: I adore the slow-burning terror and beautiful cinematography of that series. The combination of agonising, nail-biting domestic suspense – alongside the gorgeous harshness of the Icelandic landscape – is key to the sense of danger that suffuses The Glass Woman.
Learn more about The Glass Woman, and follow Caroline Lea on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Woman.

--Marshal Zeringue