Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Peter Colt's "Back Bay Blues"

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys.

Here Colt dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Back Bay Blues:
Back Bay Blues is the second Andy Roark book. Roark is a Vietnam veteran and Private Investigator in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1985. Roark is taking boring cases and having trouble letting the war go. He befriends a Vietnamese restaurant owner and hired by a Vietnamese woman to investigate the murder of her uncle. Roark’s investigation brings him into conflict with a group of former South Vietnamese army officers who want to topple the current government in Vietnam. It seems Roark can’t escape Vietnam.

If Back Bay Blues were made into a film who would I like to play the lead roles? In my mind I picture Adam Driver as Andy Roark, because Driver was in the Marine Corps and his service would lend authenticity to the role that other actors might not. Driver is both a dramatic heavy weight and quite capable of comedy, which would be well suited to playing a character who suffers from PTSD and who views life through an ironic lens.

I would love to see Chris Pine play the character of Chris, an old Army buddy of the protagonists. The character is a physically imposing man, a Green Beret, Vietnam Combat Vet. For as tough and scary as Chris is, he runs with a biker gang in the San Francisco Bay area, the character is someone who on film should convey quiet menace, toughness and genuine tenderness for the protagonist Andy Roark. I was a fan of Chris Pine’s having seen him in the Star Trek movies and A Wrinkle in Time…but his performance in Hell or High Water was truly outstanding. After seeing that, I knew he would be perfect for the part of Chris…or even Andy Roark.

One of the central characters in the book is a Vietnamese refugee and restaurant owner named Nguyen. Nguyen fought in the war and escaped Vietnam with his family to make a new life in America. In my mind the actor who plays Nguyen has to be able to convey the war and the following hardships but also be able to convey being a good family man. In my mind, former child actor Jonathan Ke Quan would be perfect being able to drawn on his own experiences both as child actor and a refugee as well his maturity to portray a father trying to provide for his family.

There are several Vietnamese characters in Back Bay Blues, my dream cast would ideally feature Vietnamese actors to portray them. I strive for authenticity in my books and hope that would carry over into movies. Casting people who have experienced or have had family who have experienced some of the themes in the book would only make a better film.

I have a dream director in mind and that is Ben Affleck. While he is a blockbuster actor, an accomplished screenwriter, he shines as a director. Nowhere was this more evident than in Gone Baby Gone. He is intimately familiar with Boston and the nuances of the area but also with Gone Baby Gone he showed an ability to faithfully and deftly turn a mystery into a really good movie.
Visit Peter Colt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Joe Clifford's "The Lakehouse"

Joe Clifford is the author of several books, including The One That Got Away, Junkie Love, and the Jay Porter Thriller Series, as well as editor of the anthologies Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen; Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, and Hard Sentences, which he co-edited.

Here Clifford dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Lakehouse:
I love this question. I don’t know any author who doesn’t fantasize about their book being optioned for a film. While the truth is, most authors would be happy with any director or actor (Michael Bay, I’m listening!), we also have a wish list!

The Lakehouse is no exception. The story centers around a man (Todd Norman) accused—and acquitted—of murdering his wife, who returns to her small hometown to finish construction on their dream house by the lake. When a body washes up on the shore… So that’s the basic plot, told via three POVs: Tracy Somerset (30-something divorced mom); grizzled Sheriff Dwayne Sobczak; and Dr. Meshulum Bakshir, the town psychiatrist.

And, yes, I’ve thought a lot about who I’d cast! For Tracy, Amy Adams would be perfect. A little older than Tracy, Adams could pull it off. A rather obvious choice, I know. Sheriff Dwayne Sobczak is more of a stretch. The town cop is in his mid-50s. I like Adrien Brody, who is a little younger. And skinnier. Sobczak needs a sturdier, potbelly. So Adrien might have to do some De Niro or Bale weight gaining for the role. Dr. Baskhir? Kal Penn. Though known for mostly comedic roles (before his foray into politics), Penn would have to stretch his acting chops. But I think he’d be perfect. And as the mysterious Todd Norman—Jon Hamm!

Now for director, that’s easy! David Fincher!

Here's hoping we see The Lakehouse on the silver screen soon!
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2020

Annie Lampman's "Sins of the Bees"

Annie Lampman is the author of the novel Sins of the Bees and the limited-edition letterpress poetry chapbook Burning Time. Her short stories, poetry, and narrative essays have been published in sixty-some literary journals and anthologies such as The Normal School, Orion Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and Women Writing the West. She has been awarded the 2020 American Fiction Award in Thriller: Crime, the Dogwood Literary Award in Fiction, the Everybody Writes Award in Poetry, a Best American Essays “Notable,” a Pushcart Prize special mention, a Literature Fellowship special mention by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and a wilderness artist’s residency in the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness through the Bureau of Land Management. Lampman is an Associate Professor of Honors Creative Writing at the Washington State University Honors College. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a bevy of pets (including a tabby named Bonsai and a husky named Tundra) in Moscow, Idaho on the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie in another 1800s farmhouse. She has a pollinator garden full of native flowers, herbs, berries, song birds, squirrels, butterflies, bumble bees, solitary bees, and honeybees.

Lampman applied the Page 69 Test to Sins of the Bees and reported the following:
Sins of the Bees begins with main character Isabelle who is an artist who has disappeared into a religious doomsday cult to complete commissioned paintings of child brides called the Twelve Maidens, and also “to make sense of my past, to understand myself, to make amends for the wreckage of my own life.” Main character Silva is Isabelle’s granddaughter who is trying to find and track Isabelle down in order to remake a family for herself. But both women are asking the same questions of themselves on the path of their separate journeys—trying to understand who they are after suffering trauma and loss. And unbeknownst to them, they are both mourning two specific things: the loss of the same man—Isabelle’s husband and bonsai artist Eamon, who after Isabelle abandoned him, raised Silva by himself; and the trauma of suffering sexual assault that resulted in pregnancy. And tied into both Isabelle and Silva is character Nick Larkins—an outfitter and beekeeper and Silva’s eventual love interest.

My dreamcasting for Sins of the Bees would therefore include four main actors: Nicole Kidman for Isabelle, Scarlett Johansson for Silva, Daniel Day Lewis for Eamon, and Ryan Gosling for Nick.

Since Isabelle and Silva—grandmother and granddaughter—are twin representations of one another, yet also worlds apart, it is a little tricky picking two actresses who both resemble each other’s “wild, red-headed, artist look” as well as act in roles representational to Sins of the Bees. Both Kidman and Johansson have acted in traumatic dramas with power and emotion—particularly Kidman’s role in Rabbit Hole and Johansson’s role in Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Daniel Day Lewis’s role in The Last of the Mohicans demonstrates the heartbreak and devotion needed for Eamon, and Ryan Gosling in his more serious roles like Drive would fit well with Nick Larkins’ persona of power and suffering coupled with a sort of fatal romanticism.

Further, Daniel Day Lewis and Nicole Kidman would make for the great fated-love-story chemistry needed to represent Eamon and Isabelle, and likewise, Ryan Gosling and Scarlett Johansson would also have the kind of complicated chemistry needed to reflect Nick and Silva’s love story.
Visit Annie Lampman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sins of the Bees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 18, 2020

Nathan Makaryk's "Lionhearts"

Nathan Makaryk is the author of Nottingham, and a theater owner, playwright, director and actor, living in southern California. None of these pay very well, so he also has a real job teaching audio systems networking software to people who have no idea he's also a novelist and theater guy. He likes dogs and scotch because of course he does.

Here Makaryk dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Lionhearts (the second installment in the Nottingham series):
I’m in something of a unique position, because most of the characters in my books have already been performed! Lionhearts is a sequel to Nottingham, which I novelized from my stage play, The Legend of Robin Hood. So I was writing with very specific actors in mind, who first brought this story to life in the original theatrical production.

However, I think it would be fun to look at famous Robin Hood movie actors and see who they would be best suited to play in Lionhearts. I’ve jokingly given Lionhearts the nickname of Into the Robin-verse, as there are multiple characters who each take on the mantle of Robin Hood in their own way, which lets me tackle Robin Hood tropes from many different incarnations of the story. These aren’t all perfect comparisons, but a reader wouldn’t be far off if they made the following mental casting choices while reading the book:

Errol Flynn as Lord Robert of Huntingdon: A dashing and charming earl, who some historians argue might have been the source of the actual Robin Hood legend. Flynn’s swordsmanship is perfect for this nobleman who moonlights as a swashbuckling gentleman thief.

Cary Elwes as Alfred Fawkes: Another charismatic showman … although this suave gang leader is something closer to the Dread Pirate Roberts than the leader of the Men in Tights.

Taron Egerton as Will Scarlet: The youngest and brashest of the novel’s Robin Hoods (and not unlike the anarchist Robin we saw in the most recent movie), Egerton also has the acting chops for the manic grief that haunts Scarlet throughout the novel.

Russell Crowe as Sir Robert FitzOdo: We’d need a past-his-prime, bald Russell Crowe, but Crowe’s real-life reputation as short-tempered brawler is pretty accurate for this fallen-from-grace knight who is still trying to prove himself.

(Sorry Kevin Costner, I’m not sure there’s a role that’s right for you.)

There are also a handful of other important characters to cast who weren’t in the previous book or the original play:

Gwendoline Christie as Jacelyn de Lacy: Admittedly, Brienne of Tarth was a natural reference for this stony-faced fighter, who has forced herself into the male-dominated Guard regiment to find her uncle’s murderer.

Iain Glenn as Beneger de Wendenal: Another Game of Thrones recruit, Iain Glenn has the believability of a stern, aged fighter but also an incredible capacity for tenderness. Beneger is a broken man in the novel, who has lost all three of his sons and seeks revenge. But he should not be seen as a wicked antagonist, which is why I’d want an actor who can approach that grief from a place of love, rather than cruelty.

Millie Bobby Brown as Zinn: Stranger Things circa Season One Millie would be perfect for this cocky gang runt who gets in over her head.

And, at the risk of stealing the entire cast and crew of Game of Thrones, I’d want Miguel Sapochnik to direct, who took some of the most challenging episodes I’ve ever seen and turned them into masterpieces.
Visit Nathan Makaryk's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lionhearts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Margaret Mizushima's "Hanging Falls"

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Women Writing the West. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Here Mizushima dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Hanging Falls:
Hanging Falls, the sixth episode in the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, would be great fun to cast. The series is set in a small fictional town surrounded by the Colorado Rocky Mountain wilderness, so the landscapes in the movie would be gorgeous. The opening scene in the book was inspired by an actual setting in Colorado called Hanging Lake, and it would make a beautiful backdrop for the action that occurs in the first few chapters when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo discover a body snagged within a fallen tree floating at the edge of the lake. The action and the investigation move from there down into Timber Creek where another protagonist, veterinarian Cole Walker, becomes involved.

With an eye toward casting, we’ll take a look at Mattie first. Mattie is an attractive (okay…beautiful) woman of about thirty-one years of age, and she’s employed as a deputy in the local sheriff’s department. She’s athletic, was once a cross-country champion on the local high school track team, and when her department acquired Robo, she beat her male colleagues in a cross-country footrace to win the chance to become his handler. She’s also of biracial descent, Caucasian and Latinx. I would cast Monica Raymund to play Mattie. At age twenty-nine, Ms. Raymund is close enough to the right age, and her role as Gabriella Dawson in Chicago Fire has shown her capable of handling the athleticism required of Mattie in an action-oriented film.

Cole Walker is a strong-minded man who works as the sole veterinarian in the Timber Creek region. Though he’s a bit of a workaholic, he’s also a family man learning how to be a single parent to his two daughters after his ex-wife left him. He’s approaching forty, has dark hair, is physically fit, and at this point in the series, he has fallen in love with Mattie. I would choose Chris Pratt to play his role. Pratt’s features match the description of Cole in the books, and he’s able to play cowboy-type roles that require strength and sensitivity. I hope he loves dogs!

And that brings us to Robo, a German shepherd who is primarily black with tan markings. (Color patterns could be adjusted if we can find the right talent.) The real-life police dog that inspired Robo’s character has sadly passed away from old age, so we’d have to audition for the perfect star to play this third protagonist. Any suggestions?
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah.

My Book, The Movie: Burning Ridge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 11, 2020

Brandi Reeds's "The Day I Disappeared"

Brandi Reeds is the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Trespassing and Third Party. Under the pseudonym Sasha Dawn, she writes critically acclaimed young adult novels of psychological suspense, including Panic; Blink, an Edgar Award nominee; and Oblivion, which 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.

Here Reeds dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Day I Disappeared:
Sometimes, I have actors in mind when I'm drafting a novel. In the case of The Day I Disappeared, I definitely envisioned certain artists as particular characters. Others came to me as hybrids of actors. If The Day I Disappeared were to be adapted to film, here's how I'd cast it:

Holly Adryenne Gebhardt is an early-20s carpenter, very capable, independent, but somewhat of a romantic mess and sometimes wandering instead of ambitious. As she started to come to life on the page, I began to see Emma Roberts in this role. She can portray a badass, but has a certain softness to her that will help flesh out Holly. I could also see America Ferrara here.

Kitten Hershey is Holly's best friend. She's been engaged to be married, somewhat spoiled, but she has good intentions. I envisioned Kathryn Newton in this role, probably because I'd just seen Blockers when I started outlining the book. Kitten must be glamorous, but she's also casual, the kind of girl who can easily scarf down a hotdog in jeans and T-shirt.

Matt Hershey is a golden child, a U.S. Soldier, Kitten's older brother, and the boy Holly had a crush on as a child. I'm thinking Armie Hammer would work wonders with this role. He's all-American and hunky.

Cecily Gebhardt is Holly's mother. She was a chief suspect in Holly's kidnapping, and has been in a coma for several weeks. She's a genius with antique restoration, but motherhood does not come naturally to her. I like Eva Longoria Baston meets Scarlett Johansson.

Trevor Gebhardt is Holly's father and boss. He's a tad overprotective, but he always has Holly's best interests at heart. This one is easy: Matt Damon. My friends know that I feel a connection to Mr. Damon, and although we've never met, he often makes appearances in my dreams--but not for the reasons you might think. Sometimes, we meet on mountaintops to philosophize, sometimes he brings plans for a house he wants me to remodel. It's this last scenario that caused me to cast him as Trevor--the owner of TrevCon Homes.

Susan Hershey is Holly's mom away from mom. She's an excellent cook, homemaker, and party planner. Here, I'd cast Jennifer Aniston.

Alan Kohlbrook was convicted of kidnapping Holly 20 years ago. Whomever steps into this role has to have a creepy, but charming air about him. I'm thinking an aged up Shia LaBeouf.

Psychic Yanneth: I'd love to see Salma Hayek in this role, as Yanneth takes us on a roller coaster of emotion--from frantic to zen.

Craig Vellerman is Holly's foreman, who's something of a jerk. I'd like to see Ben Affleck or Paul Rudd in this role.

Eliot is Kitten's fiance: Jude Law all the way.

Derrion Sterling is Holly's on-again/off-again boyfriend. He's consumed with his career: James Franco.
Visit Brandi Reeds's website.

My Book, The Movie: Third Party.

The Page 99 Test: The Day I Disappeared.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Jenny Milchman's "The Second Mother"

Jenny Milchman is the USA Today bestselling Mary Higgins Clark award winning author of five psychological thrillers, including Wicked River and The Second Mother.

Here Milchman shares her choice for the director of an adaptation of The Second Mother:
I’m going to try to set aside the experience I’m having now with my third novel, which is currently in development as a film—all the real world constraints of an industry as nuts as Hollywood—to focus on my fifth novel, which by the time you’re reading this will have just come out. If we’re not weighed down by reality, we can bring someone out of retirement.

If The Second Mother were being made into a movie, I would want Rob Reiner to direct it.

Rob (if I may call him that, and I think I can, because I worship the guy as a creative) has directed two of my all-time favorite movies, both based on works by Stephen King.

The Second Mother needs Rob’s ability to set an ominous scene with slowly mounting tension, an ooze of suspense. It’s about a woman who moves to a tiny island off the coast of Maine to get a fresh start. She accepts a post as teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. The island is quaint, idyllic, washed with sun and salt.

But once Julie gets there, things start to go very, very bad. One of her students is a boy named Peter, who likes to defy adults, climb unstable structures, and lord his rarefied place on the island over all the other children. At the same time, Peter loves to sing and dance, spend time with animals, and show Julie the secrets of island life. He’s a study in contradictions. And—he’s in desperate need of a mother.

Who is this child really, and is there something wrong with him? Or with the people who surround him?

That tension and question last until the final page of The Second Mother. Translating it to film will take a deft eye and hand.

Rob Reiner knows how to take a situation that appears innocent at first—a nurse with a savior complex and an intense love of reading, a group of tween boys out for an adventure on the railroad tracks—and dig beneath its unblemished skin for the creepy, crawly all too human horrors beneath.

In The Second Mother, the horror concerns the bitter legacy of privilege and wealth, and a doyenne, a grandmother. It’s not easy to expose a sweet old lady for the danger she wields.

But Rob Reiner is the director who could do it.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

My Book, The Movie: Ruin Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 4, 2020

Sarah Warburton's "Once Two Sisters"

Sarah Warburton is the oldest of four sisters, raised in Virginia, and an avid reader and knitter. She has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in classics from the University of Georgia and another from Brown. Warburton has worked at independent bookstores--Page One Books in Albuquerque and Books on the Square in Providence--and spent ten years as a writer, which led her to become lead editor for UpClose Magazine. Her short story "Margaret's Magnolia" appeared in Southern Arts Journal, and her Pushcart prize nominated story "Survival English" appeared in Oyster River Page. Now she lives with her family--husband, son, daughter, and hound dog--in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Here Warburton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Once Two Sisters:
I wrote Once Two Sisters with a very clear sense of setting in mind, but the two main characters, older sister Ava and younger sister Zoe, were always standing right behind me, directing my gaze. Because the novel is alternating first person, it’s almost like they are the camera and we experience the story through them. Stepping back to include Ava and Zoe in the frame was a lot of fun.

Ava is cerebral, successful and driven. Although she’s very much in control, once she’s in physical danger, she discovers she can be just as much of a fighter as her younger sister. I think Shailene Woodley would be great in this role. She’s got a great way of playing a character with secrets. She can be reserved, and yet hint at the passion underneath. And Ava is the character who’s literally in a life or death situation, and Shailene Woodley has also nailed action roles. She combines controlled strength with the capacity for great emotion.

Zoe is the rebel, the younger sister who burns her old identity and starts a new life under an assumed name. She’s angry, resentful, impulsive, and yet longs for a loving family. I would love to see Chloë Grace Moretz in this role, delivering a strong, sarcastic performance. Especially interesting would be the moment when Zoe realizes that this isn’t some kind of publicity stunt. I think Moretz could do a great job transitioning from defensive anger to guilt-driven fear for her sister’s life.

For their brilliant, yet cold parents, maybe Laura Linney and John Slattery. I think they would play the “worst family dinner ever” scene brilliantly, yet somehow we’d root for this terrible dysfunctional family to come together.

And thinking about a director who could interweave two different narratives, keep the focus on character and family front and center, while still making what is, after all, a thriller, I kept coming back to Susanne Bier, director of In a Better World and Bird Box. Once Two Sisters would be a film where the family dynamics make the audience squirm just as much as the scenes in the missile silo.
Visit Sarah Warburton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 31, 2020

Celia Rees's "Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook"

Celia Rees is an award-winning YA novelist who is one of Britain's foremost writers for teenagers. Her novel Witch Child has been published in 28 languages and is required reading in secondary schools in the UK. Rees’s books are published in the US by Candlewick and Scholastic. Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook is her first adult novel. A native of the West Midlands of England, she lives with her family in Leamington Spa.

Here Rees dreamcasts an adaptation of Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook:
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is set in 1946. The story moves from an exhausted, bombed out London to the devastation of post war Germany. Main character, Edith Graham, is late thirties, an unmarried teacher who has spent the war looking after her mother and teaching school. Desperate for change and to make a contribution, she volunteers to go to Germany to help with re-construction. While in London, she stays with her friend, the exotic, exciting ex SOE agent Dori. At Dori’s house she meets and is immediately attracted to Latvian Jewish Brigade Officer, Harry Hirsch, who is also going to Germany.

Edith’s cousin, Leo, works for MI6 and recruits Edith to help search for fugitive Nazi War Criminals. One in particular, Dr Kurt von Stavenow, with whom Edith had a passionate affair before the war. Von Stavenow was involved in the Euthanasia Project: the elimination of the mentally unfit and precursor to the Holocaust. What Edith doesn’t know is that her cousin wants to use von Stavenow, not punish him. She is also tasked with finding his wife, Elisabeth von Stavenow.

Adeline Parnell, an American journalist and photographer, tells Edith about Operation Paperclip, run by the American Secret Service to find ‘useful’ Nazi scientists and give them new identities. She knows about this from Tom McHale, ex OSS, now CIA. Dori suspects that the British are doing the same thing and Edith agrees to send back information coded into recipes to escape the attention of censors.

Casting

Edith Graham – Olivia Colman

Very English, not conventionally beautiful but her expressive eyes command attention. She can play surface prim and proper but with the potential to surprise. She has tremendous emotional range from doubt and vulnerability to steely resolve and would be a very good Edith.

Dori – Rachel Weiss

Her dark, exotic good looks would make a great Dori and she bears quite a resemblance to Christine Granville, SOE spy and my inspiration for the character.

Adeline – Reese Witherspoon

American, tiny, blonde, very expressive face and looks good in anything - khakis or evening gown. She also resembles American war correspondent, Dickey Chapelle, one of my models for Adeline. My other choice would be Scarlett Johansson, who looks a bit like American photographer, Lee Miller.

Elisabeth von Stavenow – Cate Blanchett

Has to be blonde and very beautiful. I had Greta Garbo in mind when I was writing but, sadly, she’s not available. If Alexander Skarsgård plays Kurt von Stavenow (see below), then Nicole Kidman should be Elisabeth.

Tom McHale – Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis was on my noticeboard for Tom McHale. I was watching Homeland and re-watched Band of Brothers when I began writing and saw Damian Lewis as Tom McHale.

Harry Hirsch - Ben Wishaw

I always saw British actor, Ben Wishaw as Harry. I had him on my noticeboard from the start. Not just as inspiration, I actually used it to describe Harry. His dark, sensitive good looks were perfect.

Kurt von Stavenow - Michael Fassbinder

He has to be blond, Nordic, so handsome that Edith falls in love at first sight. Michael Fassbinder played excellent Nazi in Inglourious Basterds and bears an uncanny resemblance to real life extremely handsome Nazi war criminal, Joachim Peiper. If Michael is unavailable, then Alexander Skarsgård from Big Little Lies.

Directed by Katherine Bigelow

This isn’t a women’s story, but it is a story about women in a man’s world, so I’d like a woman director. She’s a superb film maker and can handle big, powerful issues with ease but she treats her characters with great understanding and compassion and never loses sight of the human cost of war.
Visit Celia Rees's website.

Q&A with Celia Rees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2020

C.M. McGuire's "Ironspark"

When C.M. McGuire was a child, she drove her family crazy with her nonstop stories. Lucky for them, she eventually learned to write and gave their ears a rest. This love of stories led her to college where she pursued history (semi-nonfictional storytelling), anthropology (where stories come from) and theater (attention-seeking storytelling). When she isn't writing, she's painting, crocheting, gardening, baking, and teaching the next generation to love stories as much as she does.

Here McGuire dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Ironspark:
I think everyone, at some point or another, winds up dreamcasting their novel. It’s fun to look at actors and go “Hm, could you be/fight a creepy fairy?” My problem is that I keep finding new actors that I think, on some level, resemble the characters! So here are the main four characters and the key antagonist.

Bryn: For Bryn, I would definitely cast Arryn Zech or Hailee Steinfeld. Brigette Lundy-Paine was on that list, but since seeing them in the Bill and Ted trailer, I struggle to imagine them as this angsty Welsh girl.

Jasika: My dreamcast of Jasika changed during revisions. I would love to see Lovie Simone or Kiki Layne in this role!

Dom: I would think a younger, more gawky Martin Sensmeier. Like Martin Seinsmeier with Jared Padalecki height and Wyatt Oleff gawkiness.

Gwen: I’d go with Anna Murphy (the Irish actress), Samantha Isler, or Alona Tal.

Mab: Mab would probably be Amy Gumenick, Annie Wersching, or Danneel Ackles

As for directors, I’m a huge fan of everything Jon Favreau does. At the same time, I’d love to imagine it directed by Jonathan Entwistle or April Mullen. I think the best thing for a great show or movie would be to have a good balance between the drama, action, and comedy. After all, they’re still teenagers. Even at our darkest, we all still like to laugh, and I remember that being especially true as a teen.

Of course, the dream with something like this would be to see people you’ve never seen before bringing something new and awesome to the story!
Follow C.M. McGuire on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Ironspark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Alex Landragin's "Crossings"

Alex Landragin is a writer whose fiction explores place, migration and literature's formal potential. He has also worked as a copywriter, travel writer, journalist, librarian, indigenous community worker, wine merchant and musician.

Landragin was born in France and migrated to Australia as a child. He has previously resided in Marseille, Alice Springs, Paris, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington DC. He currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Landragin's debut novel, Crossings, has three narratives:
The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations.
Here Landragin dreamacasts an adaptation of the novel:
Most of the characters in Crossings appear more than once at different stages of their lives, so until they perfect the technology the movie - or better yet the series - probably can't be made.

But a dream cast would go something like this:

Alula - Auli'i Cravalho

Koahu - James Rolleston

Joubert - Willem Dafoe

Roblet - Sam Neill

Feuille - Philip Seymour Hoffman

Jeanne - Thandie Newton

Baudelaire - Steve Buscemi

Edmonde - anyone, as a mask is required

Mehevi - Temuera Morrison

Mathilde - Olivia Colman

Balthazar - Adrien Brody

Artopoulos - Stephen Fry

Madeleine - Maggie Cheung

Walter - Ed Norton

Chanel - Eva Green

Massu - Ben Whishaw
Visit Alex Landragin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Crossings.

Q&A with Alex Landragin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2020

Patty Dann's "The Wright Sister"

Patty Dann's novels include Mermaids, Starfish and Sweet & Crazy. The books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Mermaids was made into a movie starring Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci. Dann is also the author of The Butterfly Hours: Transforming Memories into Memoir, The Goldfish Went on Vacation: A Memoir of Loss, and The Baby Boat: A Memoir of Adoption. Dann's articles have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, O, The Oprah Magazine, and numerous other publications. She teaches writing workshops at the West Side YMCA in New York. Dann is married to journalist Michael Hill and has one son and two stepsons.

Her new book is The Wright Sister, an epistolary novel of historical fiction that imagines the life of Katharine Wright and her relationship with her famous brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Here Dann dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
I have imagined The Wright Sister as a movie.

I think Reese Witherspoon would be a great Katharine.

I also think Laura Linney would be wonderful.

Perhaps Jeff Daniels as her husband, Harry Haskell.

I definitely think a woman director is required.
Visit Patty Dann's website.

Q&A with Patty Dann.

The Page 69 Test: The Wright Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2020

Darin Strauss's "The Queen of Tuesday"

Darin Strauss is the bestselling author of several books. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction writing and numerous other awards, Strauss has seen his work translated into fourteen languages and published in more than twenty countries.

Here he dreamacasts an adaptation of his new book, The Queen of Tuesday:
The Queen of Tuesday would be fun to cast: it's a woman in love, it has celebrity, media, glamor, and it’s set in a period we can't turn from. The glitzy 50s, New York and LA, dream-towns at their dreaming best.

It's half-fiction/half nonfiction. It tells the story of the famous Lucille Ball -- and she's named. It tells the story, too, of my unfamous grandparents -- and they're also named. And it tells the story of the affair between my grandfather and Lucille -- and that's invented. Usually, when I write novels, I have to work out, in my head, what the main characters look like. This time, actual faces of actual people stayed in my head.

So, who would play them now? Well....

Isidore Strauss: I think of him as handsome -- but not in a way you’d notice if you saw him in line at Whole Foods. I'd say there's a range from Chris O’Dowd to Tom Hiddleston. But I think the best bet would be James McAvoy. Like my grandfather., there's something in him that reads as wicked and serious at once. Someone whose charisma you might miss, but -- if you paid attention -- you'd realize he's the sort of man who licks the cream off everything. You may not notice him at first, but if you do, you might fall in love with him.

Lucille Ball: Who could play Lucille Ball when Lucille Ball herself inhabited the role so brilliantly? I think Emma Stone. She contained famous multitudes: Quirky and sexy, hilarious and loving and hard-edged, goofy and serious. Emma Stone has that. Maybe Amy Adams too? But I think Stone--among modern superstar redheads -- contains that rare has-it-allness.

Harriet Strauss: Grandma was a complex person. She had been a social creature—parties, music, laughter--and steeply intelligent. But she spent the last 30 or so years of her life as an alcoholic and--after my grandfather left -- as a hermit. I said in a recent interview that there was scorn in her, a kind of lostness. Olivia Colman could be good: That sadness behind the smile, the sense of discomfort she shows with herself, as if her bones are maybe the wrong size under her skin.

I'd be lucky to get any of these brilliant people, of course.
Follow Darin Strauss on Twitter.

Q&A with Darin Strauss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kylie Schachte's "You're Next"

Kylie Schachte is a graduate from Sarah Lawrence College and an active member of the Pitch Wars online community as both an alum & mentor. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, cat, and giant dog.

Here Schachte dreamcasts an adaptation of You're Next, her first novel:
You’re Next is about sixteen-year-old detective Flora Calhoun. When she was a freshman, Flora went out for a run one morning and found the beaten, mutilated body of a classmate. Ever since, she’s been working as a private investigator for the kids at school--solving every kind of case from stolen laptops to cheating significant others. She’s thrown herself into her work as a way to escape those demons of her past, so when her ex-girlfriend Ava McQueen is murdered, Flora knows she must solve the case. But her obsession spirals out of control, and soon Flora & everyone she loves are in danger of becoming next on the killer’s list.

This story is told from Flora’s perspective, so that actor really has to carry the whole movie. Flora is prickly, clever, obsessive, and paranoid. For a while, I couldn’t imagine anyone pulling it off--and then I watched Season 2 of Stranger Things. When I saw Sadie Sink as Max--the skater girl from California--I knew she was the one. She’s young, but she has a lot of gravitas, and I think she could effortlessly slip into Flora’s specific combination of vulnerability, fury, and frantic kinetic energy. I once told a friend, “Flora looks like Sadie Sink if she hadn’t slept in about two weeks, and was running purely on rage & Diet Dr. Pepper.”

Ava McQueen is Flora’s ex-girlfriend and the girl who is murdered at the start of the story. I could totally see Skai Jackson in that role. Ava is a really complicated character--she’s beautiful, popular, and well-known in school for her passionate activism. But as Flora digs deeper into her investigation, she uncovers a more complicated and mysterious version of the girl she thought she knew so well. Skai Jackson has the bubbly confidence to pull off the first part, and that would make for a really interesting, unsettling contrast once the darker secrets begin to emerge.

Cass, Flora’s best friend, has an effortless cool to her, and I think Madison Hu might fit that bill. Flora is a social outcast, but Cass didn’t have to be. She’s well-liked and a talented musician, but she stood by Flora when everyone else abandoned her because she truly believes in the work they do together. Plus I think Madison can sing and play guitar, which is perfect!

The character I struggled the most to cast is Valentine, an underground streetfighter with a complicated past. He’s way too old for the role now, but a young Timothée Chalamet would be the right direction here. Like many of the characters in the book, Valentine is all about duality and contrasts. He fights for a living, but he has a ... let’s just say nontraditional ... background, and his attitude swings from abrasive bravado to a more fragile tenderness. Chalamet has that feral, hungry look that suits Valentine’s character, but he also has a more vulnerable facet that would fit the quieter moments between Valentine and Flora. Valentine has been a fan favorite so far, so if You’re Next is adapted for film, they’ll have to discover someone really wonderful & brand new for that role.

And finally, Flora’s grandfather. He’s ex-CIA, so he needs to have that kind of seriousness to him. But at the same time, he loves to bake and he’s raising Flora and her sister as best as he can in their mother’s absence, so I’d like to see a wry or playful side to him too. It would be fun to see a real heavyweight in the role--maybe Jeremy Irons or Daniel Day Lewis with an American accent?
Visit Kylie Schachte's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2020

Jennifer Greer's "A Desperate Place"

Jennifer Greer began her writing career as a journalist. She graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in journalism and worked as a crime reporter for the Fresno Bee. Interested in foreign affairs, she traveled to Russia in the late 80s and lived in London studying art and literature. While abroad she traveled into the war regions of Croatia and wrote an award winning article on the women and children refugees. She lives on the Oregon Coast.

Here Greer dreamcasts an adaptation of A Desperate Place, her first novel:
When I wrote A Desperate Place, I pictured each scene in my head as if I were watching a movie. It’s all very visual for me. Not only do I want to see and feel the scene I want my readers to be with me one hundred percent. The experience is what it’s all about. Walking around in someone else’s life for a time. Gaining new understanding of the world and the people in it.

With my lead character, journalist Whit McKenna, I envisioned Julianne Moore playing her part. I think she has a strength of character that suits McKenna, who is also a red head. I could picture Ms. Moore in a war zone and also as a mother. There is a grace about her and yet a hint of playfulness also surfaces when she lets down that hard guard.

My never flinching Medical Examiner Detective, Katie Riggs transferred from the murder squad to the M.E.’s office after experiencing a life-threatening skin cancer. She has a quiet strength and a strong faith in God. A natural beauty in her character that you wouldn’t expect from someone who does autopsies. I picture Emily Ratajkowski as Katie Riggs. Her blond pixie is perfect!

I’d be thrilled to see Keanu Reeves play Jacob Panetta. He’s an ex-navy seal so he’s an adventurer, but also a deep thinker. A man’s man, but a ladies man too. Introspective and a bit brooding. Good looking, but approachable.

As a movie, I think A Desperate Place would be thrilling. It has murder, dark science, gritty secrets and hero’s to champion, so what’s not to love?
Visit Jennifer Greer's website.

Q&A with Jennifer Greer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2020

Iris Martin Cohen's "Last Call on Decatur Street"

Iris Martin Cohen grew up in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and studied Creative Nonfiction at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of The Little Clan (2018).

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Last Call on Decatur Street:
I always think about movies when writing my books, I’m a pretty visual writer so that kind of daydreaming usually follows. My book takes place in the early 2000’s but is totally informed by my time as a young adult in the nineties so I think as a movie it would be a total nostalgia trip.

Last Call on Decatur Street The Movie is definitely directed by Jim Jarmusch, Down by Law meets Mystery Train.

My book follows a sad burlesque dancer named Rosemary over one long night as she moves through the streets and dive bars of New Orleans. Along the way she encounters a whole series of characters – bartenders, strippers, rockabillys, teenage punks – people on the margins, who are wry and funny and kind of sad and who love to hold forth on barstools.

The soundtrack is all Tom Waits songs and rare fifties R&B.

Since I am casting the 90’s indie movie of my dreams, Rosemary, the burlesque dancer hiding her sorrows in booze and men and bad choices, is played by Winona Ryder, trying to be cool but breaking at the seams with desperate vulnerability.

Christopher, the angry, but romantic and lost young punk she befriends is clearly Basketball Diaries–era Leonardo DiCaprio.

Her more straight-living best friend, Gaby, is Gabrielle Union. Steve Buscemi obviously makes an appearance, John Doe, Rosie Perez, Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham, maybe some real bonkers cameo by Johnny Depp.

It is definitely a small budget movie, full of style and great music, a slice of southern life, darkly funny, atmospheric, that slowly leads its way to something unexpected and profound.
Visit Iris Martin Cohen's website.

Q&A with Iris Martin Cohen.

The Page 69 Test: Last Call on Decatur Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kathleen Rooney's "Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey"

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (2018). Her new novel, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, is based on a true story of the Great War.

Here Rooney dreamcasts an adaptation of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey:
As its title suggests, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey has two protagonists. Both based on real-life heroes of World War I, the former, Cher Ami, is a messenger pigeon, and the latter, Major Whittlesey, is an army officer. Their lives intersect unexpectedly during a harrowing friendly fire incident in the Meuse-Argonne Forest when Cher Ami successfully delivers Whit’s message requesting that the barrage cease.

I could see the book being adapted either into a fully animated film—an adult cartoon mixing darkness and humor in the vein of the fabulous BoJack Horseman—or into a live action picture in which the pigeons and other animals were done using special effects. Either way, my ideal casting of the protagonists remains the same.

Back in November of 2019, the writer-actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge did the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” interview and in response to the question, “Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?” she replied, “I wish more people would write from the point of view of tiny, witty animals.” Cher Ami is tiny and witty! I adored Fleabag more than almost any other TV show I’ve ever seen because of the way Waller-Bridge knows how to use comedy to make inherently sad things even sadder. Also, Cher Ami is a British bird and Waller-Bridge has precisely the right accent. Thus, Waller-Bridge would be my absolute dream actor to voice Cher Ami.

As for Charles Whittlesey, the role needs someone with a blend of dignity and awkwardness, as well as a dry and self-deprecating sense of humor; somebody charismatic but not too much of a matinee idol-type movie star. Thus, I’d be thrilled to see Jason Segel in the role.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2020

Julie McElwain's "Shadows in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Born and raised in North Dakota, she graduated from North Dakota State University, and moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for a fashion trade newspaper.

Her first novel, A Murder In Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads’ readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle’s list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017.

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

Here McElwain dreamcasts an adaptation of Shadows in Time:
Except for the Duke of Aldridge, I can’t say that I had any actor in mind when I began writing the In Time novels. And with the Duke, in the back of my mind, I kept visualizing a younger version of the late Wilfrid Hyde-White, the phenomenal British actor who played Colonel Pickering in the 1964 musical My Fair Lady. While Mr. Hyde-White is no longer with us, I’d love someone with that same spirit, who can embody the Duke’s gentle kindness but at the same time is no pushover. Liam Cunningham comes to mind. I thought his character, Davos, in Game Of Thrones, had many of those qualities.

Another Game Of Thrones’ alumna, Kit Harington, would make a fabulous Alec. Or Aiden Turner, who played Ross Poldark in the TV series, Poldark. Both actors have the smoldering good looks and charisma that would brilliantly bring Alec to life on-screen. In the supporting roles of Finn Muldoon, I can see Chris O’Dowd as the Irish reporter. He might be a little too old to play Finn, but I love his sardonic sense of humor. I think Kit Harrington’s real-life wife, Rose Leslie, would make for a fantastic Rebecca. Her character, Gwen, in Downton Abbey certainly shares the same independent, feisty yet feminine qualities that Rebecca has. Sam Kelly is harder for me to cast, simply because in my mind he has a very distinctive look. But if I were to cast him, I’d go with either Robert Carlyle, who played Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon A Time, or John Hannah, who was in The Mummy.

I saved my fantasy casting of Kendra for the last because I think her shoes would be the most difficult to fill. I’d love someone to embody her brilliance, insecurities, determination, humor as well as be able to handle the physical action required. When I’ve been asked this question before, I’ve mentioned Sofia Pernas. And I continue to find myself gravitating toward her. While she might not be as well known as other actresses, I’ve been impressed with her work on CBS’ Blood & Treasure. Pernas plays a swashbuckling art thief, and in that role, displays many of the same characteristics that Kendra has.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

My Book, The Movie: Betrayal in Time.

Q&A with Julie McElwain.

The Page 69 Test: Shadows in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 7, 2020

Fiona Davis's "The Lions of Fifth Avenue"

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater.

After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Fiona's books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.

Here Davis dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenue:
The Lions of Fifth Avenue is about two women, eighty years apart, who are connected by the New York Public Library as well as a series of book thefts that roil the building, in 1913 and 1993. Before I started writing my first draft, I figured out which stars I thought the main characters resembled and posted images of them on my bulletin board. Having an actual face to look at is crucial for staying close to the characters, especially as they grow and change over revision after revision. Here are my picks for The Lions of Fifth Avenue casting:

Laura Lyons: Laura is smart and capable, with a classic beauty, so I would cast Emily Blunt as Laura, the wife of the New York Public Library’s superintendent, who lives in an apartment deep inside the building with her husband and two children when the book opens, in 1913. Emily Blunt has such an intelligence behind her eyes, and I also love her quick wit.

Jack Lyons: Jack is the super of the enormous New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, and I would go with Emily Blunt’s real-life husband, John Krasinski, for the role. They’re a lot of fun to watch together - they tease each other and joke nonstop - so an undeniable chemistry would be already in place. And I love that he’s an inherently likeable guy, as Jack in my story has a complicated reaction to his wife’s desire to explore a career, and I didn’t want him to come off as a jerk.

Sadie Donovan: Sadie is a quirky duck, a curator at the library in 1993 who loves vintage clothes and old books. She’s out of step with her time. For her, I’d love to see the British actress Olivia Colman take on the role. She always seems slightly uncomfortable in her skin, and portrays characters who have heart but not a lot of social grace, which fits Sadie to a tee.
Visit Fiona Davis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Address.

My Book, The Movie: The Masterpiece.

My Book, The Movie: The Chelsea Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Adele Parks's "Lies Lies Lies"

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North East England. She has written twenty novels in twenty years; all hit the bestseller lists. She's been an ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa Book Awards, and is a keen supporter of The National Literary Trust. Parks lived in Italy, Botswana and London and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, son and cat.

Here Parks dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book to hit the US, Lies, Lies, Lies:
Daisy and Simon have been together for nearly twenty years. Many of those years were dominated by their yearning to start a family. We meet them when their longed-for daughter is six years old. She is the centre of their world; everything should be perfect now they are a happy family of three. However, Simon is pushing for a second child and Daisy is strangely resistant to even trying again. Thwarted, Simon is drinking even more than usual. One night at their friends’ party his drinking spirals out of control with brutal consequences. He doesn’t just embarrass himself - which Daisy and her friends Connie and Lucy are getting used to - he causes a devastating accident. Their little family can never be the same again. The fracture that Simon’s atrocious and destructive behaviour crates in their marriage looks set to be filled by Daisy’s old college friend Daryll. But is Daryll the hero she needs or an even bigger and more malevolent threat?

This novel investigates a number of different types of addiction - to alcohol, to people, to the concept of family. It’s also a book about deception and lies. No one is telling the truth. Not to each other or themselves.

Ok, if ever the world delivered all my Christmases at once, and Lies Lies Lies was made into a film, this would be my dream cast.

I’d love to see Emily Blunt play Daisy. Her range is incredible. She can nail fun or fearless, but she is also absolutely knockout when playing dramatic or vulnerable roles, like Girl on a Train or as strong, spirited, resourceful mother in A Quiet Place. Daisy is vulnerable and victimised but has incredible inner strength and resilience. My only caveat is that Blunt is actually far too beautiful to play Daisy, so she’d have to ugly-up a bit in make up!

I’d have Jake Gyllenhaal play alcoholic Simon; the father that puts his family in jeopardy. Whether or not Simon can redeem himself is a huge part of the forward momentum of the novel. Gyllenhaal is utterly brilliant at dark, complex and conflicted characters. Addiction is so beautiful and terrible, powerful and dangerous. He’d be perfect.

I’d like to see Tom Hiddleston play charming, charismatic Daryll who we all want to trust and be seduced by, but should we? He displayed a cold undercurrent to his good guy persona in The Night Manager and on stage in Betrayal.

Besides looking at the power of addiction and the danger of secrets, I also investigate the redemptive force of friendship. I’d cast Stephan James from If Beale Street Could Talk and Race as Leon. Leon is incredibly exposed, but is tough and formidable. Rachal McAdams is super-smiley and I think she’d make a great Connie. The friend who is the peacemaker and refuses to choose sides. I’d cast Lena Headey as Lucy, the stunning but apparently unrelentingly selfish friend. Headey played the steely Cersei in Game of Thrones and Daisy needs to borrow a backbone.
Visit Adele Parks's website.

My Book, The Movie: I Invited Her In.

Q&A with Adele Parks.

The Page 69 Test: Lies, Lies, Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2020

Khurrum Rahman's "East of Hounslow"

Khurrum Rahman is a west London boy who now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two sons.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of East of Hounslow, his first novel and the first in the Jay Qasim series:
East of Hounslow centres around young British Muslim, Jay Qasim. A small-time dope dealer living in West London, who lives at home with his Mum and has just bought his pride and joy – a black BMW. Life seems sweet. What Jay doesn’t realise is that he is being carefully watched by MI5, who feel that he is just the man to infiltrate a terrorist cell, thousands of miles East of Hounslow.

As an author, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but my first love is the movies. If I go longer than a couple of weeks without going to the cinema, I start to get withdrawal symptoms. I simply adore the experience of watching a film over a tub of popcorn. It’s the ultimate escape.

I wrote East of Hounslow just like I would write a movie. I wanted the story to pop and come alive off the page where I could visualise Jay staring down at me from the screen and see the action running through my mind. The tone is based around some of my favourite films, combining the dialogue of Fargo and Reservoir Dogs, with the hard-hitting drama of Boyz ‘n the Hood and American History X.

I’ve always struggled to visualise an actor that could portray the role of Jay, I think he would have the attitude of Beverly Hill Cops’ Eddie Murphy, mixed in with a softness of Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel, and the screen presence of True Romance’s Christian Slater. I don’t think that there is any actor, right now, who has that Jay look, though I do like the idea of an up and coming actor playing the role.

Direction, I would love to see East of Hounslow in the hands of the Coen Brothers to give it that distinctive, slightly off-beat style that they are so great at achieving. So, Ethan, Joel, if you’re reading this, give me a shout.
Follow Khurrum Rahman on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 31, 2020

Rebecca Reid's "The Truth Hurts"

Rebecca Reid is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Perfect Liars.

 Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Truth Hurts:
The Truth Hurts is the story of Poppy - a lost young woman who gets fired while working as a nanny in Ibiza, and Drew - an attractive and wealthy older man who falls for her on the spot. They get married in a whirlwind romance and move back to Drew's English mansion. But of course, if something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Once they get back to the UK, secrets start to surface.

Excitingly enough, The Truth Hurts has actually been optioned. So when I play the dream casting game (which I have been doing on repeat since I first started writing it!) it's not entirely a fantasy. Of course, if it does make it to the screen in real life, then I'll defer to the wisdom of the producers and just be beyond blown-away that something I wrote in my tiny one-bed flat in London could become something so huge. But in the meantime, I love indulging in a game of fantasy casting.

Usually when I start writing, I 'shop' for my characters on the graduation headshot section of the websites for various drama schools. But when I was writing The Truth Hurts I had a picture of Florence Pugh on my desk. This was before she was so famous. I saw her in a little indie film about a fainting epidemic, and thought she was the most astonishing actor I'd ever seen. So she's still who I picture for Poppy. That said, my husband is absolutely insistent that it should be Sophie Turner. All of my picks so far have been British, but I'm very relaxed about the fact that if it does get made, it will probably be set in the US.

My Drew was always Tom Hiddleston. He's got this incredible charm and kindness to him, which I think you need in order to portray an older man who marries a younger woman that quickly. I would hate for Drew to read as creepy.

Gina, Poppy's best friend, was always written to be Nathalie Emmanuel, who played Missandei in Game of Thrones.

My fantasy casting hasn't ever extended into directing before, but I think in a dream world I would love it to be Jane Campion, because every frame she shoots is a painting, or Paul Feig, because I thought that A Simple Favour was the best (and most underrated movie) I've seen in years. Or if we're in the real realms of fantasy, me!
Follow Rebecca Reid on Twitter.

Q&A with Rebecca Reid.

The Page 69 Test: The Truth Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

L. Annette Binder's "The Vanishing Sky"

L. Annette Binder was born in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. as a small child. She holds degrees in classics and law from Harvard, an MA in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MFA from the Program in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. Her short fiction collection Rise received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. She lives in New Hampshire.

Here Binder dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Vanishing Sky:
The Vanishing Sky tells the story of a German mother named Etta Huber who is trying to hold her family together during the closing months of WW2. Etta’s older son Max has come home from the Eastern front suffering from a mental breakdown, and Etta struggles to hide his condition from the authorities because she knows they’ll take him from her if they find out how sick he really is. She can’t rely on her husband Josef for help, since he’s become increasingly forgetful and nationalistic. At the same time, her younger son Georg, who is fifteen years old, runs away from his post in the Hitler Youth and tries to make his way back home to her.

One dream director for the book would have to be Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The Lives of Others is one of my favorite films. In it, Donnersmarck brilliantly shows how ordinary people struggled with doing the right thing when faced with the demands of the brutal East German regime. The regime and ideology are both different in my book, but the themes are largely the same — How do you navigate the expectations of an evil regime when the price of even minor resistance could be your freedom or your life?

Casting is trickier. It took eight years to write a first draft of The Vanishing Sky, and it would have felt odd to imagine the characters with somebody else’s face as I wrote their story. Now that the book is done, I still can’t really imagine actors portraying them, but I can think about them in terms of other performances that I’ve really admired.

Etta is in her early fifties, a devoted wife and mother who is willing to risk her life — and her marriage — to help her son. Her portrayal would require a performance utterly lacking in vanity. Like Reese Witherspoon (who was brilliant in Walk the Line) or Chela Horsdall (who beautifully portrayed Smith’s wife in The Man in the High Castle).

Josef, Etta’s husband, is tormented by his failure to distinguish himself during WW1, and he tries to find relevance now by helping Germany’s last-ditch efforts to push back the incoming Allies. He doesn’t express his anguish, but you can see it in his eyes. I think of Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in No Country for Old Men, Rufus Sewell, who brought great depth to his character in The Man in the High Castle, or the late Ulrich Mühe, who was deeply moving in The Lives of Others.

Georg is tricky to cast because he’s only fifteen and looks even younger. He’s conflicted about his sexuality and knows in his heart that he can’t conform to the expectations of the Reich. I’m reminded of William Jøhnk Nielsen’s vulnerable performance in In a Better World. And Max is a talented and charismatic young man who’s suffered a breakdown on his return from the Eastern front. Asa Butterfield has the depth and the feel of Max as a young man.

It’s strange and wonderful to think all these characters are out in the world now, no longer limited to my own imagination, but (hopefully) alive in the imaginations of those who read the book.
Visit L. Annette Binder's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2020

Jay Stringer's "Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth"

Jay Stringer was born in 1980, and he’s not dead yet. He’s the author of crime fiction, action thrillers, and dark comedies. Stringer’s work has been shortlisted for two Anthonys, the McIlvanney Prize, and a Derringer award. He is dyslexic and learned the sound of storytelling long before he could read the words.

Here Stringer dreamacasts an adaptation of his latest book, Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth:
Note: This article is soundtracked by It’s a Good Day to Save the World by Danger Twins.

In Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth, rogue archaeologist Marah Chase is in a race to find the mythical Fountain before a group of modern Nazis, who want the water to further their eugenics plan.

Talking about my book as a movie is an interesting challenge. Both easy and difficult. Easy because the book -and character- grew out of movies. But at the same time, as a writer I don’t like to give the reader too much description of the main character.

I can tell you Chase is somewhere around 36 or 37 in this book. She grew up on a farm in Washington state, with an American father and Scottish mother. She’s Jewish and gay, and I think that should be reflected in the casting.

For some reason I have less problems talking about supporting cast. On the previous book I played a game with myself as I wrote it, casting supporting spots for all of the actors who’ve played the Doctor in the modern era of Doctor Who. For the new book, I had certain actors in mind as I was figuring some of the characters out. (As a fun little side game, I also wrote one minor character as if he were being played by Beetlejuice, from the Tim Burton movie. I wonder if readers can spot him.)

August Nash, a former CIA agent-turned relic runner (the name for the Indiana Jones-like profession in my fictional universe) used to be Marah Chase’s mentor, but now they’re competitors. The two very best in the field. Legends. He becomes one of the main antagonists in the book, and as I was writing I could picture his dialogue delivered by either Timothy Olyphant or Chris Evans.

The other antagonist is Lauren Stanford, the billionaire heir to a global soda corporation. Her family have always been Nazis. Like, even before there were Nazis. Their brand of hatred dates back to London in the 1800’s, and they’ve been hiding in plain sight ever since, in business suits and political donations. She needs to be played by someone who can control the screen, but be both interesting and scary at the same time. I could see Madelaine Petsch or Samara Weaving in the role.

Chase’s main ally in the book is a trans man, named Hass. He’s from Somalia originally, but spent so long living in America that his accent has changed. He’s described loosely in the book as looking like both Doc Savage and Dwayne Johnson, but those comparisons are really based on his size. He’s a big strong action hero. Just as I think it would be important for Chase to be played by someone of the right ethnicity and sexuality, I think in my dream movie Hass would be played by a trans man, preferably of Somali descent.

As for director, the recent Harley Quinn movie wasn’t a hit, but I thought Cathy Yan was bold and creative with her handling of action. She’d be a great choice to helm the film.
Visit Jay Stringer's website.


--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2020

Jennifer Honeybourn's "The Do-Over"

Jennifer Honeybourn is a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she’d have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives in Stratford, Ontario with her husband, daughter and cat in a house filled with books.

Here Honeybourn dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Do-Over:
When I was writing The Do-Over, I imagined the main character, Emelia, as Madelaine Petsch, the wonderful actress who plays Cheryl Blossom on Riverdale. I even gave Emelia Madelaine’s gorgeous red hair. Emelia is a bit misguided, she’s starry-eyed about popularity and what it would be like to be part of that crowd. She’s been a little bit in love with Ben for years, so when he finally notices her, she is so flattered that she can’t see him for who he really is. This feels like her chance and she’s going to take it, even if it means putting aside her burgeoning (and confusing) feelings for her best friend Alistair.

For Alistair, Emelia’s love interest, I saw him as a Timothée Chalamet-type, a bit of Bender from The Breakfast Club. The outsider who is comfortable with not fitting in and has no interest in being part of the popular crowd — in fact, he’s quite disdainful of the popular kids and what he believes they stand for. He sets himself apart through his clothing — fingerless gloves, movie t-shirts, a beanie — and his refusal to play nice with Ben and the other popular kids. He just can’t understand why Emelia would even want to be friends with these people and he certainly doesn’t understand when she chooses Ben over him.

For directors, I love Nahnatchka Kahn. She directed Always Be My Maybe, one of my favorite movies last year. It’s such a great romantic comedy, full of humor and heart, and I think that would make her the perfect choice to direct The Do-Over if it was ever made into a movie.
Visit Jennifer Honeybourn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Sung J. Woo's "Skin Deep"

Sung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, PEN/Guernica, and Vox. He has written three novels, Skin Deep (2020), Love Love (2015) and Everything Asian (2009), which won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award (Youth category). In 2014, Everything Asian was chosen for Coming Together in Skokie and Niles Township. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Here Woo dreamcasts an adaptation of Skin Deep:
Skin Deep is a traditional mystery novel, starring a private eye in search of a missing girl. Except unlike most mysteries, my detective is a Korean-American transracial adoptee. Siobhan O’Brien’s dad is Irish and her mom Norwegian, so she had quite the interesting childhood.

The book takes place in two distinct locations, Llewellyn College and the Krishna Center for Yoga, both located in upstate New York. As Siobhan works through her case, she encounters a Korean billionaire, his impossibly beautiful wife Cleopatra, plus the president of the college who used to be a runway fashion model. When the book moves to the Krishna Center, Siobhan meets Krishvananda, a guru with stadium-level magnetism and Dharma, a yogic expert. On Siobhan’s side are her bookkeeper Stacy and love-interest/lawyer Craig.

Siobhan should be played by Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina. She’s eight years younger than Siobhan’s 40, but I have no doubt she can play a tad older. She was excellent in The Farewell, really showing her dramatic chops, and for my book, her comedic side would come into play as well.

Im Jin Ah, better known as Nana, would make an excellent Cleopatra. She’s entirely too young to play this part, but that would be the point, because in the book, Cleo is a woman in her fifties who looks like she’s thirty.

Irrfan Khan would’ve made a fabulous Krishvananda. God rest his soul.

Dharma’s real name is Benjamin Roth. He’s a sinewy, athletic older dude with mystical inclinations. Of course it has to be Matthew McConaughey. He was born to play this role!

Stacy has huge frizzy strawberry blonde hair. It’s got Natasha Lyonne written all over it. I can just hear her lovely, gravelly voice speaking her lines.

Craig used to be overweight, but no longer. Seth Rogan, you are him.

And there’s only one actress to play the ex-fashion-model president of Llewellyn – Cate Blanchett. There’s a very thin line between great acting and ham acting, and Blanchett knows when to cross this line better than anyone.

As far as directors go, how about M. Night Shyamalan? As long as he doesn’t write it! He’s such a technically astute filmmaker and I wish he would lend his directorial talent to more projects. Also, Lulu Wang, the director of The Farewell, would be fantastic; a female heading this film actually makes very good sense.
Learn more about the book and author at Sung J. Woo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 20, 2020

Paul Acampora's "Danny Constantino's First (and Maybe Last?) Date"

Paul Acampora writes novels and short stories for teens, middle grade and elementary school readers. He was born and raised in Bristol, Connecticut and now lives in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. He is a full-time development officer during the day and writes fiction early in the morning and late at night. Acampora is a former kindergarten teacher, a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, and enjoys leading writing workshops with students of all ages. He is also a writing instructor for local colleges, high schools and middle schools.

Here Acampora dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Danny Constantino's First (and Maybe Last?) Date:
When 7th grader, Danny Constantino, unwittingly invites his childhood friend-turned-Hollywood-superstar, Natalie Flores Griffin, to the school dance and Halloween parade, she surprises him… by saying yes! Now everyone wants in on Danny’s upcoming date with the hometown hero, and Danny’s wondering if his first date ever might also be his last.

Danny Constantino’s First (and maybe last) Date is very much inspired by romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, Splash, As Good As it Gets, Moonstruck, Shrek, Corpse Bride, and of course, Notting Hill (I’m a huge Richard Curtis fan). In my dreams, it will be produced by either Reese Witherspoon or Amy Poehler and directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, who has directed Mandalorian episodes as well as the documentary, Dads. When you listen to Bryce Dallas Howard talk, you hear somebody who believes in families.

A few key roles:

Danny Constantino – to be played by Oakes Fegley (from The Goldfinch). In addition to being perfect for the role, Oakes Fegley is from Allentown, PA where I live so that would be pretty cool.

Natalie Flores Griffin – I based Natalie Flores Griffin on a young Selena Gomez (loved her in the 2010 movie Ramona & Beezus). Selena is now too old for this role so I’d go with Paulina Chávez (from the Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia) because Paulina Chávez is simply amazing. I also really love Tess Romero (from Diary of a Future President).

Missy Constantino (Danny’s Mom) – to be played by either Reese Witherspoon or Amy Poehler, whichever one is not producing. Either way, they both have to be involved because I love their comedy. Perhaps more important is the way that they really and truly love the characters that they play.

Mrs. C. (Danny’s Grandmother) – to be played by Holly Hunter, who is probably too young, but I don’t care because Holly Hunter can do anything. Danny’s Grandmother is a manic voice of reason who also drives an awesome 1969 Camaro.

Ajay Kalli (Danny’s best friend) – I loved Viveik Kalra in Blinded by the Light, but he’s too old to play Ajay so I’ll go with a Bollywood “newcomer” to be named later.

Asha Kalli (Ajay’s sister) – to be played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (from Never Have I Ever). She’s perfect in every way.

Mrs. Kalli (Ajay & Asha’s Mom) – to be played by Mindy Kaling because I really want to see Mindy Kaling play somebody’s Mom.

Mr. Beamon (School bus driver and possible love interest for Danny’s mom) – to be played by John Corbett. It was always John Corbett. I’ve loved him starting way back in Northern Exposure and loved him again recently in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Zoey Roy – Tess Romero (from Diary of a Future President) unless she’s playing Natalie Flores Griffin in which case we’ll go with a newcomer recruited from the cast of a local school theater program.

Mr. Maggio (School principal) – Adam Sandler. I’ve got an unlimited budget here so why not? Plus, thinking of Adam Sandler as a school principal makes me happy.

Natalie’s Mom – to be played by Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, or Cameron Diaz because having one of these ladies will give the movie an official stamp of rom-com approval!
Visit Paul Acampora's website.

The Page 69 Test: Danny Constantino's First (and Maybe Last?) Date.

Q&A with Paul Acampora.

--Marshal Zeringue