Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Cass Morris's "Give Way to Night"

Cass Morris works as an educator in central Virginia and as a bookseller on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She holds a Master of Letters from Mary Baldwin University and a BA in English with a minor in history from the College of William and Mary. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

Here Morris dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Give Way to Night:
Give Way to Night is the second book of the Aven Cycle, an epic fantasy series set in an alternate ancient Rome where magic has shaped the course of nations every bit as much as law and warfare. Aven is on the brink, attempting to re-establish its ideals after a dictatorship. As if determining the philosophical soul of the nation weren’t enough, they’re also dealing with violent incursions in a province and the resurgence of a banished cult at home!

The Aven Cycle has a large cast of characters. I have strong ideas for actors I’d love to see play some of them and little-to-no idea for others. My biggest overall concern if someone were to cast the series, though, would be diversity. The ancient world was multicultural, and Rome thrived with populations from many nations and of many skin tones. I would want the cast to reflect that above all else.

My two chief protagonists are Latona of the Vitelliae and Sempronius Tarren. Sempronius is an ambitious senator with a divinely-inspired vision: he wants to see Aven the center of a coalition of nations that spans the known world, the beating heart of a vibrant federation. He’ll do whatever necessary to reach that goal -- including breaking the laws of the nation he loves so much. Sempronius is a mage, granted elemental power by the gods, and Aven’s laws bar such men from high office. He thinks the gods know better than the men who write laws, though, and so he keeps his gift a secret while he reaches for the power to shape the world of his dreams.

Latona is also a mage, and her powers have brought her a lot of trouble in life, to the point where she began suppressing them and denying her true strength. In Give Way to Night, however, she’s tired of making herself small for others’ comfort; she’s decided instead to use her gifts to protect and defend Aven. That determination puts her in conflict with a mysterious opponent using dark magic to foment chaos and terror in the already-fragile city.

An actor I’ve long had in my head for Latona is Sarah Gadon. I first saw her in Amma Asante’s Belle, but it was her performance in Alias Grace that convinced me she would be perfect for Latona’s haunted intensity, able to shift between carefully-constructed poise and explosively fierce emotions. She also has the angular beauty I think of when I picture Latona: graceful and even a little vulnerable, but with fire behind the eyes.

Sempronius is harder. He must be absolutely charismatic, but I’d actually prefer an actor who isn’t too good-looking! I describe him in the books as being average-looking; not unattractive, but not swoon-worthy. His personal magnetism is much more important: his way of talking to people, his way with words, his vigor. I concede that a film or tv series would likely lean into the “tall, dark, and handsome” trope, however, so someone like Henry Cavill, Diego Luna, or Emun Elliott, but a bit younger. Sempronius should be early 30s.

Overall, I’d want a film or series to have an immersive feel, making both the world and the magic feel viscerally real. I took a lot of inspiration from HBO’s Rome, so I imagine that kind of art direction and attention to detail.
Visit Cass Morris's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 18, 2020

Layne Fargo's "They Never Learn"

Layne Fargo is the author of the thrillers Temper and They Never Learn. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, Vice President of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Fargo lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of They Never Learn:
I always “cast” every character in my novels before I start writing them, and I have secret Pinterest boards full of pictures of all my inspirations (like, so many pictures it’s creepy).

Here are some of the main actors I pictured while writing my latest novel, the feminist serial killer thriller They Never Learn:

Christina Hendricks as English professor/murderer of bad men Scarlett Clark. Scarlett is a bombshell redhead who will ruin your life, and Christina basically invented that archetype as Joan Holloway on Mad Men.

Morena Baccarin as Scarlett’s love interest, psychology professor Dr. Mina Pierce. I originally pictured a different actress as Mina, but the character didn’t quite come together in my mind until I thought of Morena.

Bill Skarsgård as Scarlett’s creepy-hot graduate assistant Jasper Prior. Bill has inspired characters in several other projects of mine too; you do not want to know how many pictures of him I have saved…

Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alexander Kinnear, Scarlett’s smarmy boss she can’t wait to kill (although a lot of people tell me they pictured Greg Kinnear instead, because of the last name, and that works too).

Amandla Stenberg as Scarlett’s favorite student Mikayla Atwell.

Joel de la Fuente as Scarlett’s friend and fellow English professor Drew Torres.

They Never Learn is currently being developed for television, and I’m so interested to see whether the actual cast will match my mental images!
Visit Layne Fargo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 14, 2020

Tessa Wegert's "The Dead Season"

Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist. She grew up in Quebec near the border of Vermont and now lives with her husband and children in a hundred- year-old house in Coastal Connecticut. Wegert writes mysteries set in Upstate New York while studying martial arts and dance, and is the author of the Shana Merchant series, beginning with Death in the Family.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Dead Season:
I don’t typically pin photos of actors on my wall or picture celebrities while writing, but with The Dead Season, the sequel to Death in the Family, I did have a few in mind.

In The Dead Season, Thousand Islands-based Senior Investigator Shana Merchant returns to her hometown in Vermont upon learning that her estranged uncle has been murdered. Shana’s immediate and extended family both play a major role in her informal investigation of a homicide that hits close to home. When she receives word that a child has been abducted back in Upstate New York, her partner Tim Wellington and local Sheriff Maureen McIntyre factor in as well. Of course there’s also Blake Bram, the serial killer from Shana’s hometown whom she’s been hunting, and who she believes could be involved in both crimes.

That said, here’s the casting scenario that plays out in my mind.

Shana Merchant: Emma Stone. I know she’d portray Shana as the shrewd and plucky investigator that she is.

Tim Wellington: Adam Driver. Driver may be an unconventional choice to play small-town Tim, but I love the unexpectedness of having him depict an Everyman type.

Maureen “Mac” McIntyre: Jane Lynch. As Shana’s friend and mentor, Mac is equal parts cerebral and feisty, and Jane Lynch fits the part.

Blake Bram: Jeremy Renner. I can’t explain it, but he’s been my Bram from the start.

Della Merchant (Shana’s mother): Jodie Foster. What a dream that would be!

Wally Merchant (Shana’s father): John Slattery, if he’d be willing to adopt a British accent.

Doug Merchant (Shana’s brother): Seth Rogen. Something about Seth Rogen as Shana’s older brother just makes me smile.

Brett Skilton (Shana’s uncle): Breckin Meyer, with platinum blond hair.

Felicia “Aunt Fee” Skilton: Helen Hunt. I’ve always thought she and Jodie Foster look like they could be sisters.

Crissy Skilton (Shana’s cousin): Scarlett Johansson. I’d get a kick out of seeing her play a character that’s unkempt and a bit uncouth.

Suzuka “Suze” Weppler (Shana’s childhood friend): Vanessa Hudgens would be great here.

Robbie Copely (Suze’s husband): Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s all about the eyes with Robbie.

Cheryl Copely (Robbie’s mother): Kristin Chenoweth. I’m a huge fan of hers, and her spirit and diminutive stature would make her ideal for this role.
Visit Tessa Wegert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Karen Brooks's "The Lady Brewer of London"

Australian-born Karen Brooks is the author of numerous novels, an academic, a newspaper columnist and social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. Before turning to academia, she was an army officer, and dabbled in acting. She lives in Hobart, Tasmania.

Here Brooks dreamcasts an adaptation of her novel, The Lady Brewer of London:
If The Lady Brewer of London was made into a movie, I know exactly who I’d like to play Anneke Sheldrake. When I first started writing, I imagined a young Ann Margaret. She looks so right for the part with her gorgeous red hair, the shape of her eyes and height. Anneke is eighteen when the book opens, and is immediately put in a situation where she has to shoulder incredible responsibilities for someone so young. Basically, make a living in order to support her younger siblings and family servants and not be evicted from their home. Undaunted (except to those who really know her), she makes what some in that time would have considered an indecent proposal to her landlord to help her family not only survive, but thrive. She pays the price for her chutzpah, but at the same time refuses to be beaten. I could see Ann Margaret filling the role beautifully.

But then I saw Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza in the BBC adaptation of Poldark and knew this was the actor I wanted. Like Anneke, Eleanor/Demelza is tall, and her character is feisty, strong, but also able to project a vulnerability on screen which I believe is needed. You root for her so hard, which is what I want people to do for Anneke.

It would be easy then to cast Demelza’s onscreen husband from Poldark, Aidan Turner as Leander, the male lead in the story and certainly, he ticks many boxes. But, right from the beginning, I saw Goran Visnjic (a Croatian-American actor) as Leander. Dark, brooding, very tall (essential) but with a kind face too, he manages to be both mischievous and mysterious – a wonderful combination and which Leander also exudes.

As for directors, it would be hard to go past either Scott Frank (Queen’s Gambit) or Amy Sherman-Palladino (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). Both these directors not only get their aesthetic perfect, but they have fantastic shades of light and dark in their story-telling and allow the camera to draw out the characters as well, not just dialogue or costuming and setting (though they’re important too). They also tell women’s stories so powerfully but without sacrificing men to the female narrative, but making them an intrinsic part of it while still allowing the women to shine. Anneke shines so bright, she’s dazzling. At least, I hope so.
Visit Karen Brooks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 7, 2020

Linda Keir's "The Three Mrs. Wrights"

Linda Keir is the pen name for the writing team of Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff.

Here the authors of Drowning with Others and The Swing of Things dreamcast an adaptation of their new novel, The Three Mrs. Wrights:
As coauthors writing under the pen name Linda Keir, our entire process—from idea generation to outlining to drafting—is collaborative. When it comes to characters, we divide and conquer, with each one of us tackling different points of view. Whoever is writing a character decides what he or she looks like and then describes them well enough that we can both visualize age, appearance, and identifying characteristics. So far, we’ve operated on the perhaps mistaken belief that our conversations and descriptive abilities leave us picturing our characters in exactly the same way.

With a few notable exceptions (such as Andi Bloom in Drowning with Others, for whom we jointly chose a photo of a representative brunette) we’ve rarely discussed celebrity counterparts for our characters. Because of this, we thought it would be fun to compare our dream casts for our latest novel, The Three Mrs. Wrights, which is the story of three smart, successful women who discover they’ve been taken in by the very same successful entrepreneur and serial womanizer.

Lark Robinson

Biracial Lark is beautiful, bright, and unconventional. In her mid-twenties and every bit the Millennial, she’s determined to succeed with the board game she has designed for budding girl scientists.

Linda: Definitely Zoe Kravitz or Gugu Mbatha-Raw. They are both exceptionally striking and sexy in the same way I picture Lark to be.

Keir: I never had anybody in mind, but I have to say that Vanessa Hudgens comes closest to the person I imagined.

Jessica Meyers

Jessica is a newly minted pediatric oncologist in her early thirties. She is slim and attractive with long brown hair. She defines herself much more by her intelligence than looks.

Linda: From the very start, I pictured her as looking like Emmy Rossum, known for her roles in the TV show Shameless and the film version of Phantom of the Opera.

Keir: I’m picturing Alison Brie, who I think could perfectly portray the necessary blend of wholesome, down-to-earth, spunky, smart, and just a little bit offbeat.

Holly Wright

In her mid-forties, Holly is patrician, blond, classically attractive, and the mother of three children from grade school through high school. She is a pediatrician by profession with a passion for horses and philanthropy.

Linda: I picture Naomi Watts or Michelle Williams.

Keir: Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner—I think Michelle Williams in the present stage of her career would be absolutely perfect!

Jonathan Wright AKA Jack Wright AKA Trip Mitchell

Jonathan Mitchell Wright, MD, physician turned wildly successful med-tech millionaire, is handsome, sexy, and eminently charming. Healthy and fit, with a full head of graying dark hair, he, like his (first) wife, Holly, is in his mid-forties.

Linda: George Clooney is an obvious choice, but I could see Chris Evans or even Patrick Dempsey as Jon.

Keir: Hollywood has any number of handsome, silvering foxes who could play our smooth-talking, sociopathic bad guy, but I’m feeling Ryan Reynolds for this one. That face—charming but potentially hiding secrets . . .

The Verdict

Even though we may have visualized our characters differently, both of us would be more than happy with any of them. We’ll just bookmark this page until the inevitable feature-film sale of The Three Mrs. Wrights. (Well ... fingers crossed!)
Visit the websites of Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Kristy Dallas Alley's "The Ballad of Ami Miles"

Kristy Dallas Alley is a high school librarian in Memphis, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, four kids, three cats, and an indeterminate number of fish. She studied creative writing at Rhodes College in another lifetime and holds a Master of Science in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership from the University of Memphis. In an ideal world, she would do nothing but sit on a beach and read every single day of her life, but in reality she's pretty happy reading on her front porch, neglecting the gardens she enthusiastically plants each spring, and cooking huge meals regardless of the number of people around to eat them.

Here Alley dreamcasts an adaptation of The Ballad of Ami Miles, her debut novel:
I have imagined the opening sequence of The Ballad of Ami Miles so often that it plays in my mind like the memory of a movie I've watched again and again. I can see the POV shot of trees and forest floor as Ami tromps confidently toward home, not knowing her world is about to be turned upside down. I see the stiff forms of her grandparents and the strange man standing in the yard where she isn't expecting to find anything out of the ordinary, surrounded by the desolation of Heavenly Shepard, her family's trailer dealership-turned survival compound where they live in isolation after viral infertility has wiped out the world as we know it. She runs away to a communal settlement that is built in a real place, Lake Point state park near Eufaula, Alabama, and I picture it both as its real self and as the older, shabbier version in my mental movie of this book. But the casting keeps changing, as young actors quickly grow up and new talents constantly appear.

For this "dream casting," I wanted to pick actors who could fit the roles right now.

The main characters:

Ami: Sadie Sink who played Max in Stranger Things fits the physical description of Ami pretty perfectly, and I think she's a good fit overall.

Jessie: There's a young independent film actress named Stella Cole who I think would make a perfect Jessie. For a big-name choice, I can see Auli'i Cravalho fitting the part beautifully.

The family:

Elisabeth Miles, Ami's mom: Reese Witherspoon would be perfect in this role, with the huge benefit of having an authentic southern accent.

Marcus: Luke Forbes gives me real Marcus vibes.

Penny: Storm Reid is perfect to play Penny, and the fact that she played Meg in A Wrinkle in Time seals the deal for me.

Ruth Miles, Ami's grandmother: Lisa Emery, the actress who plays Darlene Snell in Ozark, would give Ruth the flint she needs.

Amber, Ami's aunt: Stealing another Ozark actor, I would love to see Julia Garner play Amber. She's absolutely perfect.

The Lake Point teens ensemble:

Will: Logan Shroyer, who plays the teen version of Kevin in This Is Us really looks like Will and is such a talented young actor.

Melissa: Kyla Matthews who played Ruby Gillis in Anne With an E feels just right for this part.

Hannah: I love the idea of Amber Midthunder as Hannah so if she could freeze herself in time, that would be great.

Ben: Booboo Stewart looks and feels perfect to play Ben

Teenie: Danielle Macdonald, who played Willowdean in Dumplin' just became Teenie in my mind at some point.

Random other role:

Evelyn the librarian: She's a minor character in the book, but this was the only one I really always pictured as a specific actor in my mind, and that was Catherine Keener. Out of all the roles I've listed, this is the one that would really make it feel like the book in my head moved straight to the screen.
Follow Kristy Dallas Alley on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Elinor Lipman's "Rachel to the Rescue"

Elinor Lipman was born in Massachusetts and is the author of more than a dozen novels. Her first one, Then She Found Me, was published in 1990 and was adapted into a film starring Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, and Colin Firth. She won the New England Book Award in 2001, and her novel My Latest Grievance won the Paterson Fiction Prize. She lives in Manhattan, as well as in upstate New York.

Here Lipman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Rachel to the Rescue:
I don’t think about casting a movie while writing a novel because movie dreams are pie in the sky. (Of my 12 novels, many were optioned but only one, Then She Found Me, made it to the screen, thanks to Helen Hunt. ) But if pressed, I would come up with the maybe-surprising choice of Halley Feiffer to play the title role in novel number 13, Rachel to the Rescue.

Why? Because she is funny; because she can play naturally, innocently gee-whiz funny; funny-insecure and funny-appealing. When I saw her in the movie she co-wrote and starred in, He’s Way More Famous Than You, she played a needy, on-the-skids version of herself, yet lovable. I’ll never forget her character bicycling down Broadway in a red sundress, singing “My Vagina,” as if the topic was G-rated, sunny, and fit for a church choir. Rachel of the novel is Jewish; Halley played Sophie Greenberg in The Squid and the Whale, okay? Her Twitter bio includes the description by the New York Times (again, she’s so good at self-mocking and dry wit) “A specialist in unhappiness and delusion.” She is beautiful, but could drab herself down to just the right degree to be a believable Rachel, whose doting lesbian roommates play matchmaker for her with the pleasant wine merchant down the street, Alex. Who’d play Alex? How about the nice Harry Melling who played the good-hearted Harry in The Queen’s Gambit?

And who’d play Shoshana Gottlieb, Ivanka Trump’s (as herself) Hebrew coach? Lady Ga-Ga, please.

And of course Alec Baldwin as Ex-President Donald J. Trump.
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Andrea J. Johnson's "Poetic Justice"

Andrea J. Johnson is the Acquisitions Editor of the RIZE Imprint at Running Wild Press. But when she isn’t helping new authors achieve their dreams, she specializes in writing cozy mysteries that warm the soul and puzzle the mind. She’s also a contributor for the women’s lifestyle website Popsugar and a columnist for the genre fiction magazine LitReactor, but it’s her experiences as a former court reporter that fuel her ability to turn real-life headlines into captivating novels.

Her new series, the Victoria Justice Mysteries, asks the question: What if the trial’s stenographer—not the police, judge, or jury—solves the case and saves the day? Readers will find that the first installment, Poetic Justice, raises the stakes on such a dilemma when Victoria finds herself in the middle of a drug case where a missing bag of cocaine leads to the judge’s murder.

Here, Johnson dreamcasts an adaptation of Poetic Justice:
The original inspiration for this book came from the 2006 reality TV series Who Wants to Be a Superhero? presented by Stan Lee. The show’s premise asked contestants to create characters who could become comic book heroes—and in my mind, what better hero than a court stenographer who seeks to undo a bad verdict through vigilante justice? However, I wasn’t a writer back then, so the idea got shelved until a couple years ago when I found myself bingeing holiday movies. Whereupon, I realized my premise had to have heart and humor in order to succeed—otherwise, I’d simply have someone running around breaking the law and that wouldn’t entertain for long. (See Bruce Willis in the Death Wish remake to unpack the thematic trouble of such an unruly hero.)

So as you peruse this cast list, imagine instead a Hallmark movie with a little edge, a lot of love, and a plucky heroine determined to restore justice at all costs.

Victoria Justice (protagonist) – Yara Shahidi from Grownish. Fans should be mindful that I deliberately made my main character twenty-five so she’d have room to grow over the course of the series. Shahidi is a little younger, but fits the look and the essence of Victoria as a girl figuring out her identity in a world set on squashing her dreams.

Jillian Gailbraith – Annie Potts from Pretty in Pink. Like most Gen Xers, I love this movie! Jillian plays the same best friend comic relief role to Victoria that Potts does for Ringwald’s Andie.

Corporal Ashton North – Eric Dane from Grey’s Anatomy. This character becomes Victoria’s sleuthing partner (and as the series progresses, love interest), so I always picture someone hot but smart.

Judge Frederica Wannamaker – Viola Davis from How to Get Away with Murder. The show’s meme of Davis rolling her eyes as she picks up her briefcase is the distillation of this character. My vision of Frederica is a bit older, but the gravitas Frederica brings into Victoria’s life (until all heck breaks loose) is the foundation of what Davis offers as an actress, so this casting was a no brainer.
Visit Andrea J. Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Catriona McPherson's "The Turning Tide"

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010. She writes the multi-award-winning Dandy Gilver series, set in the old country in the 1930s, as well as a strand of multi-award-winning psychological thrillers. Very different awards. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the humorous Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry look at California life. These are not multi-award-winning, but the first two won the same award in consecutive years, which still isn’t too shabby.

McPherson is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest Dandy Gilver mystery, The Turning Tide:
Except I don’t think of it as a movie; I think of it as what people in America call a mini-series (and what Brits call a series. All our series are mini, since we don’t have the budgets to make them any bigger.)

Anyway, think Sunday night on Masterpiece Theater, just after the river cruise advert...

My series would slot in there nicely. It’s the 1930s, it’s Scotland, there’s a lady detective, a Dalmatian, a snooty butler, a bossy maid, a devoted cook . . . and a murder every week. You’d watch that, wouldn’t you? My dream Dandy Gilver – dark hair, cut glass vowels, kind heart – is Anna Chancellor. You might know her from playing Caroline Bingley in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, or from her role as “Duckface” in Four Weddings and a Funeral. She is absolutely Dandy to me and always has been.

Here’s why.

About fifteen years ago I was at a literary festival and someone asked this question about casting a performance based on the book. I said “Anna Chancellor”. Then, at the signing, a woman came up and said she was Anna’s cousin and she’d like to buy a book to send to her. Which she did.

Then it turned out that my agent lived near Anna in London and knew her. Long story short, we had lunch a couple of times, got on famously – same taste in books, exactly the same age – and schemed quite hard to make it happen. So far, despite being optioned at the BBC and at STV, it hasn’t. Telly makes publishing look easy!

As for Alec, Dandy’s sidekick, I don’t have an actor in mind for him. He is still too much the real person I based his looks on. It was a waiter in a restaurant in Brussels, whom I watched for a good two hours, for reasons I couldn’t explain at the time. Thankfully my husband knew it was book-related and not affair-related. He was quite happy people-watching too, but he watched multiple people, which is a lot more normal. When it comes to scriptwriters, I’ve got a much sturdier view. Heidi Thomas is most famous for Call The Midwife but she also adapted two of my most beloved books – Ballet Shoes and I Capture The Castle and pulled off the well-nigh impossible feat of making films that newcomers warmed to and old fans approved of and adored.

I’d love to see what she would do with my books. And I’d love to see what the rest of the army of experts – casting directors, location scouts, wardrobe mistresses, prop managers – not to mention actors might come up with too. It would be nerve-wracking to sit down on that first Sunday night and watch the titles roll, mind you.
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Andrea Portes's "This Is Not a Ghost Story"

Andrea Portes is a bestselling novelist. Her novels include: Hick, Bury This, Anatomy of a Misfit, The Fall of Butterflies, Liberty, Henry & Eva and the Castle on the Cliff, Henry & Eva and the Famous People Ghosts.

Here Portes shares some thoughts on adpating her latest novel, This is Not a Ghost Story, for the big screen:
This is a fun exercise and one I’ve actually had to do, and continue having to do, if real life. My first novel, Hick, was made into a film starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Eddie Redmayne, Blake Lively and Alec Baldwin. My second novel, Bury This, is currently in development and we are just now in this exact stage… of imagining who would be an inspired choice.

For This is Not a Ghost Story, I have no idea who would play Daffodil. I know, simply, that it should be directed by someone who knows how to create a kind of quiet, eerie tension. Perhaps the director of The Conjuring [ed. note: James Wan]. That is much more in the horror genre… but creating tension is not an easy thing to do. It’s an art. So, I would grab the best director for doing precisely that.
Visit Andrea Portes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wayne Santos's "The Chimera Code"

Over the years, Wayne Santos has written copy for advertising agencies, scripts for television, and articles for magazines. He’s lived in Canada, Thailand and Singapore, traveling to many countries around South East Asia. His first love has always been science fiction and fantasy, and while he regularly engaged with it in novels, comics, anime and video games, it wasn’t until 1996, with his first short story in the Canadian speculative fiction magazine On Spec that he aimed towards becoming a novelist.

He now lives in Canada, in Hamilton, ON with his wife. When he’s not writing, he is likely to be found reading, playing video games, watching anime, or trying to calm his cat down.

Here Santos dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Chimera Code:
The Chimera Code is a cyberpunk science fiction adventure that takes place in a 22nd century Earth where magic returned to an already high tech world, and then was gradually integrated into that environment. By the time Cloke, the main character has her adventure the world has already had several decades of uneasy coexistence with both magic and technology, and that use and abuse of those forces has created a very different world and government structure.

My dream casting would involve a pretty diverse cast, since the characters themselves come from many different countries and lifestyles. For Cloke, the half-Filipino, half-Irish combat mage, I think someone like fellow Canuck and actual Filipino/Irish mx Shay Mitchell would make a fine Cloke.

For the other main character, Zee is a nonbinary hacker that’s been genetically engineered to some very particular “specs,” one of them being the almost sculpted perfection of their features. I think Ruby Rose would probably be a good fit. Her look has always been pretty distinct, and I think after seeing her in stuff like John Wick and Batwoman, she can make it work.

As for the supporting characters, there are two more that round out Cloke’s crew for her “Chimera Unit,” the industry slang for a mixed unit of magic, hacking and conventional combat warfare all working together in a single team.

Marcus is her heavy-lifter, a black combat cyborg hailing from Liverpool who, if he could pull off the accent would probably best represented by Ving Rhames in terms of sheer look, although a bulked up Idris Elba would probably also suffice.

The final member of the Chimera Unit, Darma, an Indonesian hacker hailing from Bali, could be handedly played by someone like Joe Taslim. He’s done some great work in films in recent years, and it would be nice to see more Indonesian representation on screen as well.

If it were directed by the Wachowskis, that would be great as well, since it’s the combination of world building and action in films like The Matrix and Speed Racer that has always impressed me.

Of course, that’s all live action. I think if we’re talking “film,” I would be just as happy seeing The Chimera Code be turned into an animated feature, provided it goes to Japan and is given the anime treatment. Anime has been a pretty big influence for me, so seeing a favorite animation studio, such as Production I.G. which has done great cyberpunk work like Ghost In The Shell and Psycho Pass, would put me over the moon.
Visit Wayne Santos's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Chimera Code.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Kristin Fields's "A Frenzy of Sparks"

Kristin Fields grew up in Queens, which she likes to think of as a small town next to a big city. She studied writing at Hofstra University, where she was awarded the Eugene Schneider Award for Short Fiction. After college, Fields found herself working on a historic farm, as a high school English teacher, designing museum education programs, and is currently leading an initiative to bring gardens to public schools in New York City, where she lives with her husband.

Here Fields dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, A Frenzy of Sparks:
A Frenzy of Sparks is a coming of age story set in 1965, Queens, just as drugs enter a tight-knit community. Gia is thirteen years old. She loves nature and the bay near her house. If she could, she would spend all day in her boat and doesn’t understand why she isn’t allowed to take it out alone like her slightly older brother can. She is beginning to understand that the world has a different set of rules for men than it does for women, and isn’t particularly excited about becoming a young lady.

I am the absolute worst when it comes to remembering the names of actors/actresses and usually describe them to other people as “that guy who was in that show we watched on Netflix (maybe?) when we lived in Brooklyn and used to order pizza from the place on the corner on Wednesday nights,” which wouldn’t serve us very well here.

Since I would be terrible at casting and directing this, here’s the dream team who can:

Forrest Gump’s director, Robert Zemeckis, because he did a beautiful job portraying the historical events of the 60s and 70s in Forrest Gump, many of which also feature in A Frenzy of Sparks.

He also directed Cast Away, which was on my list of movies that I’d want A Frenzy of Sparks to take after, because they both have suspenseful scenes set in nature, where the main character has to navigate the challenges of the natural world all alone.

Requiem for a Dream’s director, Darren Aronofsky, is also invited because Requiem has a grittiness to it that some of the scenes in A Frenzy of Sparks also share.

The Godfather’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, is invited because Frenzy is about an Italian American family, and also, because there are some elements of organized crime in a changing neighborhood.

But ultimately, I would want a female director who really understands what it’s like to grow up and challenge everything that’s holding her back. And I would want the main character, Gia, to be played by a debut actress, because throughout A Frenzy of Sparks, Gia is waiting for her break – her chance to prove she’s worth more than her family thinks, and willing to do whatever she has to to prove it. As her brother, Leo, becomes addicted to drugs and her family unravels, she will do whatever it takes to keep them together.

So, Hollywood, A Frenzy of Sparks is ready when you are.
Visit Kristin Fields's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Soledad Maura's "Madrid Again"

Soledad Fox Maura is a Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Williams College. She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MPhil and PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York.

She is a former Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, and has published three books (two biographies) and many articles on Spanish and French literature, culture and history.

Her research interests include memoir, biography, the Spanish Civil War, exile, and Spanish-American relations.

Here Maura dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Madrid Again:
If my novel were to be turned into a film, my dream screenwriter and director would be Joanna Hogg. Her films resonate deeply. Her most recent, Souvenir, explores the life of a young woman in a poignant, subtle, stylish and haunting way. She is the perfect director for a mother-daughter story, and for people living in liminal spaces.

I would like Spanish actress Adriana Gil to play the mother, Odilia, and Jenny Slate would be perfect for Lola, though I’m not sure if she speaks Spanish. I would be happy to teach her.
Visit Soledad Maura's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Susan Lewis's "My Lies, Your Lies"

Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband James, stepsons Michael and Luke, and mischievous dogs Coco and Lulu.

Here Lewis dreamcasts an adaptation of her novel, My Lies, Your Lies:
The lead characters in My Lies, Your Lies are polar opposites. Freda is a manipulative, domineering and vengeful type in her early seventies. Although younger, I’ve always seen Tilda Swinton in the role. She’s a stunningly talented actor who brings such stark and yet layered sinisterness to performances that they’re utterly compelling. At the same time she can fill us with intrigue and sympathy, and lead us to places inside ourselves where we become shocked by our own responses. Definitely a perfect Freda.

Joely is early forties, mother of one hot-headed teenager, wife to a cheating husband and a successful ghostwriter. She has gentleness and beauty in her character, plenty of courage and humour mixed with a quick intelligence and perhaps too much trust. When confronted with Freda a real battle of wits begins and though frequently wrong-footed, Joely is up to the challenge. I can see Carey Mulligan in this role with her amazingly powerful yet sublimely subtle screen presence, her elegance and fierce commitment to character.

I believe the story itself could be hauntingly and brilliantly adapted by Reese Witherspoon’s company given their tremendous success with Big Little Lies and Little Fires Everywhere. I’m sure they’d have different views about casting, and I’d be intrigued to know who they – or any reader – might see in the roles.
Visit Susan Lewis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Kristin Bair's "Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything"

Kristin Bair is the author of the novel Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything. Under the name Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, she has published two novels, The Art of Floating and Thirsty, as well as numerous essays about China, bears, adoption, off-the-plot expats, and more. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Baltimore Review, The Manifest-Station, Flying: Journal of Writing and Environment, The Christian Science Monitor, Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other publications.

Bair has an MFA from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English and journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything:
I’ve had an absolute blast dreamcasting Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything! Before sitting down to write this post, I hadn’t given any thought to how a movie version would work. But now that I’ve spent time putting together my perfect lineup for the big screen, I actually have an idea for how to structure the movie script. (And I just may write it.)

In the story, Agatha is a fearful author-mom who discovers her husband in flagrante delicto with their town’s most beloved dog walker. The discovery unleashes her greatest fears and sets Agatha on a journey she never anticipated. Reese Witherspoon would make a great producer for Agatha Arch. I adore the projects she chooses—Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, The Thing About Jellyfish. And I’d love to see Olivia Wilde direct it. Her directorial debut, Booksmart, offered big laughs and lots of heart.

Here’s how I’d cast Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything:

Agatha Arch — Elizabeth Moss for the Oscar here! Agatha is a smart, furious, scared, and somewhat antagonistic author mom. On the edge, but funny. Over the top, but poignant. There’s a fine line to straddle here so Agatha doesn’t come off as campy; Elizabeth Moss could pull it off beautifully.

Members of Agatha’s Facebook mom group — I’d love to cast each member of this hilarious troop, but I’ll limit myself to the top two.
Melody Whelan, the Kumbaya Queen (best friend potential) — Melissa McCarthy

Jane Poston, the High Priestess (sharp, snooty, unrelenting) — Kristen Bell
Willow Bean (aka GDOG) — I can totally see Saoirse Ronan strolling up Agatha’s street as the sexy, peace-loving dog walker who captivates Agatha’s husband with her confidence and firm buttocks.

Kerry Sheridan — Ellie Kemper (The Office, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) will play a terrific nosy, mulch-matching neighbor.

Shrinky-Dink — Joan Cusack for the win. Her tone, measured cadence, and droll delivery will rein Agatha in at the right moments.

Dax — Seth Rogen will be the perfect regular-guy husband gone rogue.

Interloper — Ellen Page (Juno) all the way. The Interloper has few words, but her haunting and mysterious presence in town plays a critical role in Agatha’s journey.

Edward Weltz — Eddie has to be played by Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory). He comes along at a moment when Agatha desperately needs a sincere smile and welcoming heart (and good sex).

And, finally, there are two smaller roles I’d love to cast:

Blue — Soni Nicole Bringas will beautifully play the tech-savvy teenager who teaches Agatha how to fly her drone. (My daughter and I love her as Ramona on Fuller House.)

Officer Henry — Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls, This Is Us) fits the bill as the steady, thoughtful, kinda smoldering police officer with a developing and, perhaps, unexpected romantic interest in Agatha.
Visit Kristin Bair's website

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Louise Guy's "A Life Worth Living"

Louise Guy has enjoyed working in marketing, recruitment and film production, all which have helped steer her towards her current, and most loved, role – writer.

Her passion for writing women's fiction is a result of her love of reading, writing and exploring women's emotions and relationships. Women succeeding through hard work, overcoming adversity or just by owning their choices and decisions is something to celebrate, and Guy loves the challenge of incorporating their strengths in these situations into fiction.

Originally from Melbourne, a trip around Australia led Guy and her husband to Queensland's stunning Sunshine Coast where they now live with their two sons, gorgeous fluff ball of a cat and an abundance of visiting wildlife - the kangaroos and wallabies the most welcome, the snakes the least.

Here Guy dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, A Life Worth Living:
What a thrill it must be to have a book turned into a movie! I think most authors can picture their story on the big screen as, for many, the visual images have been playing in their minds for months (years even) as they’ve been immersed in writing the story.

A Life Worth Living follows the very contrasted lives of identical twins, Leah and Eve. When a terrible incident occurs, a spur of the moment decision is made, which directly impacts the future of their loved ones. This decision weighs heavily on one sister, as the past, present, and future all collides.

In going down the fantasy road of dream casting A Life Worth Living, the first thing required is to move the story’s location! Set in Australia, I would move it to a US setting and a Hollywood production company. Keeping some Australian ties, Blossom Films, Nicole Kidman’s production company, would be the perfect fit for this story. They are so good at showcasing strong female leads and I believe would do a fantastic job of recreating the horrific situation Leah and Eve find themselves in and the subsequent fall out as the story takes an unexpected twist.

With two sets of twins, A Life Worth Living is probably a casting agent’s nightmare! For Leah and Eve, I imagine one actress would play both roles. When writing Leah’s storyline, I pictured Scarlett Johansson in the role and thought she’d do an excellent job playing both parts. Sean, Eve’s husband, is an excellent example of a charming, caring, and sensitive male. Paul Rudd would be perfect to play this part while Bradley Cooper would suit the role of Ben, Eve’s lover.
Visit Louise Guy's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bennett R. Coles's "Dark Star Rising"

Bennett R. Coles served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy for fifteen years, where he saw many adventures and also had many boring times to think about writing. As his career shifted to one of international business development he continued to explore all corners of the Earth, but now had thirteen-hour flights across the Pacific where he could churn out chapter after chapter of military space adventures. He is a recipient of the Cygnus Award for military science fiction and the Cygnus Grand Prize for science fiction. He attends SF cons across North America whenever he can, but is far more likely to be spotted at cons closer to his home in Victoria, Canada.

Here Coles dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Dark Star Rising:
Dark Star Rising is the second book in the science fantasy Blackwood and Virtue series, picking up with our heroes after their first successful mission. This success is overshadowed, however, by the discovery that their foes were only a small part of a much bigger threat to the Empire – a shadowy, far-reaching organization led by the mysterious Dark Star. Armed with a letter of marque the crew of HMSS Daring have wide latitude to operate as necessary to accomplish their mission, but the obstacles are growing. Pirate activities are getting bolder, war with an alien species looms, and Daring herself seems to be the target of an attack from within the Imperial court.

This series of books is swashbuckling space adventure aboard a star sailing ship in a dense galactic cluster, so any actor would have to bring a sense of fun to their role. In my opinion, as part of the screen test each actor would have to be able to convincingly shout, “Huzzah!”

For the heroine, Petty Officer Amelia Virtue, I’d love see Emilia Clarke get the nod, having just the right look for our plucky quartermaster. Many of her biggest roles have required her to exude gravitas, so it would be fun to see Ms. Clarke cut loose and show us just how strong and sassy Amelia can be.

Our hero, Subcommander Lord Liam Blackwood, would be well represented by Henry Cavill. Mr. Cavill is actually a bit beefier than I imagine Liam, but I think he would make the role his own. His recent turn as Sherlock in Enola Holmes showed just how well he can play the calm, charismatic, brilliant gentleman that Liam is.

A significant character in the book is Sublieutenant Lady Ava Templegrey, who would be brought to life with panache by Jennifer Lawrence. Not only does Ms. Lawrence bear a striking resemblance to my image of Ava, but she has the chops to deliver the complex performance necessary for this young noblewoman who is far more than she seems.

Who better to play the villain of the piece, Captain Lord Silverhawk, than Matt Smith? Beneath that high lord’s indulgent sneer is a man of surprising menace and Mr. Smith is famous for portraying a particular space and time-travelling oddball who can shift in seconds from a frivolous comment to a declaration of doom. And then deliver on both.

Finally, let’s consider the captain of HMSS Daring, Commander Lady Sophia Riverton. Lady Sophia rules her ship with a quiet but unquestioned charisma and I can think of few actors with more screen presence than Rosario Dawson. Ms. Dawson can command an entire scene with a single raised eyebrow, much as Lady Sophia can inspire her entire crew with barely a word.

Since we’re talking the dream team, it would be ideal for a director like Steven Spielberg to helm the project – someone who can deliver solid action sequences laced with whimsy. Let’s face it, these books are meant to entertain: they’re about star sailing ships hunting down dinosaur pirates in space! Huzzah!
Visit Bennett R. Coles's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Star Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sarah Tolmie's "The Fourth Island"

Sarah Tolmie is a poet, speculative fiction writer, finalist for the Crawford Award and professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Her books of poetry, Trio in 2015 and The Art of Dying in 2018, were shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award and the Griffin Prize, respectively. Her fiction includes the novels The Little Animals (2019) and The Stone Boatmen (2014), the dual novella collection Two Travelers (2016), and the short fiction collection NoFood (2014).

Here Tolmie dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novella, The Fourth Island:
Who would want to make a movie of a quiet sort of book set in an imaginary Aran island in 1840, before the famine? Jim Sheridan, perhaps? But then, what if the story was also a time-travel story? Aha, like Outlander, genre moviemakers might say? Sadly no, there’s not enough sex or violence. Plenty of implied violence. After all, the story features Cromwell. And two priests who escape the Belgian revolution of 1830. But the main gambit of the book is despair. The experience of despair is the ticket that gets people to Inis Caillte, the fourth, lost Aran island. Who wants to make that movie?

My first thought was Anthony Minghella. Let’s face it, he’s about as likely as anybody. He would have done beautifully with it. The man who could make the poet’s book that is The English Patient into a movie —a feat that I seriously doubted was possible — would be the dream director for a book like this. The whole thing is about texture and mental experience, and about coming out the other end of deadly suffering. Into what? A bit more life, perhaps, in a low-key sort of place, a small island with no government and no God. Come to think of it, another director who would have affinity for this story would be Hirokazu Kore-Eda (who is A. alive, and B., a towering genius). His beautiful movie Afterlife has exactly the tone I would want to see for The Fourth Island. On the wild offchance that Neil Gaiman would want to make his directorial debut with this movie, he would also be welcome. I say this on the strength of my admiration for The Graveyard Book. There are some overlaps in ghostliness between the two stories.

Cast. No idea. I assume — and would prefer — that any movie made of this book would be some kind of Canadian-Irish/EU co-production. Therefore the actors would mostly be Irish. There are plenty of them. We would, in justice, have to throw in a few Canadians. Colm Feore could play Old Conor MacIntosh, patriarch of Inis Caillte and friend and protector of the main character, Meg, a camp follower from Cromwell’s army who accidentally ends up there after a battle in 1650. (You may have heard the old line “There are only seven Canadian actors and three of them are X.” I would say Feore now holds the title.) The other main character, Nellie, is deaf. Casting a deaf actress in the role would be one of the most important things that such a movie could do. Nellie, who grows up nearly feral on the outskirts of a village on Inis Mor, is transported to the lost island while dying of a fever in 1828. When she awakes on the shore of Inis Caillte, she can hear. The island endows the people who land on it with the gift of tongues: people from many places and times can speak to each other. This is the form the magic takes for Nellie and she is less than thrilled with it. After a rough transition to the hearing world, she ends up becoming the island’s most famous poet, a job she can occupy partly in a self-imposed silence. As a role it would give a deaf or hearing-impaired performer a lot to do: it’s a lead role, and one in which deafness is treated as more than a disability.

Having written this about these two female leads — there are two central male characters, as well, though now that I consider it in the light of casting, it seems to me that the women are the true leads — it has suddenly popped into my head: Patricia Rozema. Yes! She is the one! Revisionist historical fiction! Female leads! Samuel Beckett! Irish co-productions! Despair. An unassuming sort of survival. Why didn’t I think of her immediately?

Now I have.
Visit Sarah Tolmie's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2020

Anna Ellory's "The Puzzle Women"

Anna Ellory is the author of two novels, The Rabbit Girls (2019) translated into 14 languages and The Puzzle Women (2020).

She has always been an avid reader and after becoming a mum she started writing too. Prior to this she worked as a nurse. In 2018 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. The Puzzle Women was written, in part, on this course.

She lives with her family, including a dog called Seth, and writes in pockets of borrowed time. She is currently working on her third novel.

Here Ellory dreamcasts an adaptation of The Puzzle Women:
If they make my book into a movie (which would be amazing as I see the whole scene before I place a word on the page so I can already see it) here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles.

Lotte – a young actress with Down Syndrome there are so few actresses with Down syndrome, I believe this should change, a younger Sarah Gordy (who is exceptional) – someone who can capture the joy and happiness Lotte exudes even in her darkest moments.

Rune – A 20 something guy, tall and handsome in a quirky way, very insecure. I love Manchester by the Sea (one of my favourite films) and Lucas Hedges would make an incredible Rune.

Mama – Carey Mulligan as I was writing Mama I had Carey Mulligan in mind, that never changed through three years of writing. She has a unique strength in her tone and I watched Suffragette and her role as Maud Watts was powerful and cemented my image of Mama in The Puzzle Women.

To have the power to cast a director … (I love this game) my dream would be Andrea Arnold. She offers images of loneliness, not only what does it look like, but as a viewer you get under the skin of this isolation, it’s uncomfortable because it’s real. Her female characters are strong and flawed and utterly human and she doesn’t shy away from trauma, the power of her work is in the raw truth of facing up to the captivity of our lives. I would love to see what she could do with the landscape of Berlin in The Puzzle Women too.
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Puzzle Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2020

Cathy Marie Buchanan's "Daughter of Black Lake"

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Daughter of Black Lake:
Daughter of Black Lake tells a story and love and survival in the northern misty boglands of pagan Britain.

Black Lake lies far beyond the reach of the Romans invading hundreds of miles to the southeast. Here, life is simple—or so it seems to the tightly knit community. Sow. Reap. Honour Mother Earth, who will provide at harvest time. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she’s tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout’s young daughter, Hobble, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community.

The narration alternates between Devout and Hobble. Devout’s chapters take place during her youth, and as they progress, we learn of a complicated love triangle that has far reaching implications. Hobble’s story unfolds years later as the Roman invaders inch their way westward across Britannia, drawing ever closer to the remote settlement.

Because the story moves back and forth in time, two of the novel’s main characters—Devout and her mate Smith—appear both as youths and as adults, adding an extra layer of challenge to casting the movie. For youthful Devout, I choose Kiernan Shipka, and for her adult counterpart, Emma Stone. I admire both, and think their shared traits of fair skin, wide eyes and broad mouths might make them plausible as the same person at different ages. My reasoning is similar in casting Smith: As his youthful self, Timothée Chalamet; and as his adult self, Kit Harington (who doesn’t love Jon Snow?). As Hobble, I cast Mckenna Grace. She could pass as Emma Stone’s daughter, and a talent like Mckenna could pull off Hobble’s beyond-her-years wisdom and strength. That leaves only Fox uncast. Who best to play the druid priest who arrives at Black Lake hellbent on stirring up rebellion to Roman rule and who becomes Hobble’s chief adversary when she gets in his way? Sam Heughan? In the novel, I describe Fox’s ridged brow, his grooved cheeks—a face made lean by unrelenting effort, by quick accomplishment. Yes, Heughan’s got the chops to play a fanatic, a man incapable of reason, incapable of adopting any view other than his own.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathy Marie Buchanan's website

My Book, The Movie: The Painted Girls..

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Emily Carpenter's "Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters"

Emily Carpenter is the bestselling author of Until the Day I Die, Every Single Secret, The Weight of Lies, and Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. A graduate of Auburn University, Carpenter has worked as an actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant for CBS television. Raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to New York City before returning to the South, where she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her family.

Carpenter's new novel, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters, is about:
a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…
Here Carpenter dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters:
I envisioned Florence Pugh playing both roles of Eve Candler and Dove/Ruth. Several times in the book, people comment about how Eve resembles her grandmother and I love the idea of them being almost identical looking and using it as a connection between the two. As Eve comes to learn more and more about her grandmother Dove, she realizes they are a lot alike - and both have very good reasons for keeping secrets and hiding things from the people they care about.

I think Florence Pugh is one of the most talented actresses out there and, as she did in Little Women, she can play a range of ages so incredibly well.
Visit Emily Carpenter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Christiane M. Andrews's "Spindlefish and Stars"

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on the edges of mountains and woods and fields and sometimes even the sea. A writing and literature instructor, she lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Spindlefish and Stars, her first novel:
Inspired by Greek mythology, Spindlefish and Stars tells the story of a girl named Clothilde who goes in search of her missing father. Taking the ticket of “half-paffage” he left for her, she journeys across the sea and finds herself trapped on small gray island inhabited only by ancient, creaking fisherman, a piggish cat, a moon-cheeked boy named Cary, and an apple-faced old woman who locks Clo away. Though Clo is desperate to escape the island and the old woman—who sits weaving an enormous gray tapestry day after day—she soon begins to realize that the island may be the only place she can truly help her father, as well as all those she left behind.

Many of the characters of Spindlefish and Stars are meant to appear as not exactly human. The islanders, especially, have attributes that suggest they’ve been crafted out of objects: the old woman’s face is “shriveled and shapeless as a dried apple”; others look like “misshapen lumps of clay” or have skin of parchment. Even Clo’s father, who is very much of the “real world,” should not seem realistic, as he has aged in an impossibly rapid way.

The island also has many fantastical elements, in particular the fishing grotto Clo chances upon, as well as the tapestry that she will eventually discover is not, in fact, gray at all. For this reason, I think Spindlefish and Stars would work best as an animated film, perhaps something like one of the stop-motion films by Henry Selick (or, just generally, the Laika studio), or as a film that fully interweaves the real and magical. Guillermo del Toro is remarkably adept at this, and I can see the world and characters of Spindlefish and Stars being developed much like the world and characters of Pan’s Labyrinth. J. A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, though, is another possible model; the watercolor animation used in that film would work well as Clo discovers her father’s past in his notebook, and a similar technique could be employed as she examines the threads in the old woman’s tapestry.

As for actors: this is far more challenging, especially considering how ancient or unrealistic many of the characters are meant to seem! I don’t generally think of actors when I write, so I have no specific individuals in mind, even for the two central child characters, Clo and Cary. However, someone like a young Alex Lawther could play a brilliant gentle Cary (as could perhaps one of the boys from Jojo Rabbit, Roman Griffin Davis or, especially, Archie Yates). Someone like Keisha Castle-Hughes as she appeared in Whale Rider would make an excellent determined Clo; a young Julia Garner, too, could capture Clo’s bravery and (slightly prickly) self-confidence similarly well.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2020

Michael Cannell's "A Brotherhood Betrayed"

Michael Cannell is the author of four non-fiction books, most recently A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind the Rise and Fall of Murder, Inc.. His previous books are Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling, The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit and I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism.

Cannell has worked as a reporter for U.P.I and Time, and as an editor for The New York Times. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and many other publications.

Here Cannell dreamcasts an adaptation of A Brotherhood Betrayed:
A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind the Rise and Fall of Murder, Inc is a preposterously cinematic story, rich with zoot-suited gangsters crashing nightclubs with blinged out chorus girls and bodies dumped from Pontiacs in the dark reaches of the Brooklyn waterfront.

For a decade the heavy-browed, jut-jawed Jewish mobster Abe Reles ran Murder, Inc., an assassination squad charged with eliminating informants. He was short with bulging Popeye arms and a manner so menacing that his presence intimidated everyone in the room. “There was something about Reles’s physical bearing, a look in his eye, that actually made the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” a district attorney said. His role would once have gone to Joe Pesci, but Pesci is too old to play it now. So let’s give it instead to the Irish actor Tom Hardy, provided he can pull off a plausible Brooklyn accent. I bet he can.

For Lucky Luciano, the scar-faced, cobra-eyed mob lord who rarely expressed any emotion, I’d tag the ever steely Daniel Craig. Luciano had a cold regal bearing, and that’s Craig’s stock in trade. I can picture him in a double-breasted suit ruling the mob’s coast-to-coast rackets from his suite in the Waldorf-Astoria and flying to Miami to bet on the horses surrounded by his bodyguards.

The prosecutor Thomas Dewey is a tougher question. With his wide handsome Midwestern face and well-tended dark mustache, Dewey could have been mistaken for a young Ernest Hemingway, though he had none of the author’s brash charisma. He was, in fact, stiff to the point of paralysis, even with family and friends. An aide remembered him as “cold, cold as a February icicle.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, said Dewey was as rigid as the “little man on a wedding cake.” The same qualities that made Dewey unpopular— a prim rectitude and bloodless efficiency — also made him a lethal prosecutor. What actor can convey Dewey’s combination of ambition and awkwardness? Let’s pitch it to Jake Gyllenhaal and see what he can do.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael T. Cannell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Limit.

My Book, The Movie: Incendiary.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2020

David Heska Wanbli Weiden's "Winter Counts"

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel Winter Counts. Winter Counts is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a September main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was an Indie Next Great Reads pick for September.

Here Weiden dreamcasts an adaptation of Winter Counts:
My novel, Winter Counts, would be great fun to cast for film or television, and there’s a chance this might happen in the future, although I would have no say in the casting process, of course. Winter Counts is the story of a Native American hired vigilante, Virgil Wounded Horse, who lives on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Because of an outdated law, Native nations cannot prosecute felony crimes that occur on their own lands, but must instead refer those cases to federal authorities. However, the feds are refusing to prosecute about thirty percent of all cases, which means that the offender is released and can commit more crimes. When this happens, victims’ families often turn to these hired enforcers to get their own justice. My hero Virgil charges one hundred dollars for each bone he breaks and each tooth he knocks out.

Obviously, the role of Virgil would require an actor with a tough persona and presence. One choice would be Jason Momoa, who’s obviously a physically imposing person. But another Native actor that I like quite a bit is Zahn McClarnon, who’s acted in Fargo, Longmire, and Westworld. He has an intensity that I think would suit the role well. Yet another possibility would be the fantastic First Nations actor, Darrell Dennis, who narrated the novel for the audiobook of Winter Counts. His reading of the book demonstrated his acting chops, and I’d love for him to have a role in any production of Winter Counts. If not Virgil, Darrell Dennis would be great for the role of Chef Lack Strongbow, who comes to the reservation and tries to sell his concept of indigenous food, which he calls Indigi-Cultural Decolo-Native cuisine. As for the female lead, Marie Short Bear, there’s a Canadian First Nations actor named Shannon Baker who would be a wonderful fit for that role. I’ve seen a few clips of her work and she is great.

Overall, thinking about actors and directors is great fun, and with any luck, viewers may be able to see Winter Counts on the screen sometime in the future.
Visit David Heska Wanbli Weiden's website.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Counts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2020

Robert Dugoni's "The Last Agent"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 6 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series. He is also the author of several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Here Dugoni dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Last Agent:
This may be closer to a reality as I sold the rights to The Eighth Sister and The Last Agent to Roadside Productions.

I’m optimistic that the story is perfect for this day and age with an African American lead actor. I always thought Denzel Washington would make a perfect Charles Jenkins, but more recently I’ve felt that Idris Elba would also be ideal.

I also thought of Matt Damon as I wrote the role of Matt Lemore. I’m a big fan of his acting and always have been.

For Alex Jenkins, Salma Hayek is a dead ringer.

The really fun casting would be the Russian agents. For Victor Federov, someone like Liev Schreiber would be perfect and Niklolay Valuev would be an ideal Arkady Volkov.

That would be an all-star cast.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

--Marshal Zeringue

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