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