Saturday, May 30, 2020

Natalie Jenner's "The Jane Austen Society"

Natalie Jenner was born in England and emigrated to Canada as a young child. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College where she was the 1990 Gold Medalist in English Literature, her LL.B. from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, and was Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995. In addition to a brief career as a corporate lawyer, Jenner has worked as a recruiter, career coach, and consultant to leading law firms in Canada for over twenty years.

Most recently she founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

Here Jenner dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Jane Austen Society:
In The Jane Austen Society there are eight main characters who band together at the end of WWII to save Jane Austen’s house, which is a bit of a handful for any producer to both cast and afford. Drawing quick distinctions between all these characters, both physically and temperamentally, became critical early on in the writing. But one thing they almost all had in common: a bona fide British accent. As a result, my dream cast would be a who’s who of leading actors in British film and television.

Because I write without any kind of an outline or idea of what lies ahead, I get to know my characters over time. But with The Jane Austen Society, one particular actor and his performances directly influenced one of my characters right from the start. Benjamin Gray is the widowed village doctor in my story, as well as the keeper of everyone's secrets. When I was writing, I kept imagining this pillar of the town who was so handsome and tall and comforting in tone, but also so inwardly tormented. In that respect the character called to mind the performance by British actor Richard Armitage in the 2004 BBC drama North and South where he played John Thornton, who has always struck me as the ultimate romantic period drama hero. I could see Matthew Goode for the character of the lawyer, Andrew Forrester, who is described as ramrod-straight in both posture and behaviour. For the farmer Adam in my book, I think James Norton from the television series Grantchester and the recent BBC War & Peace would capture the quiet gentleness of that character, and Tom Hughes of the ITV series Victoria would make a perfectly cutting Yardley, the Sotheby’s auctioneer. As for Jack Leonard, the rakish Hollywood producer who is so ostensibly lucky and golden, only Armie Hammer will do.

I thought Hayley Atwell, who always gives such confident and centred performances no matter the role, would make an excellent version of my American actress character Mimi—and she has the perfect bone structure to pull it off. For Evie Stone, the small, suspicious and intellectually precocious servant girl who is secretly cataloguing a potentially invaluable family library in the book, I wish I could shave a few inches of height off of Saoirse Ronan because she would just be perfect in the role. Adeline Grover, the war widow, is one of my favourite characters in the book because she is just so no-holds-barred damaged, and British actress Ruth Wilson always captures that mix of directness and vulnerability so well. As for Frances Knight, the heiress to the estate at risk of dispersal in my book, I think Olivia Colman could really do justice to a woman in her late 40s who has let life pass her by but still has one last spark left.

In terms of location, my book is set in the actual village of Chawton, England, where Jane Austen lived and wrote her books, and where the first real-life Jane Austen Society started up in the 1940s in an effort to preserve Austen’s cottage as a museum. It was a one-week trip that I took to Chawton three years ago that inspired me to write my book in the first place. Any film production company interested in my book should know that not only do all the locations for my book already exist, Chawton House today has welcomed film crews inside to film. Fingers crossed that the actual rooms and grounds that inspired my book could come to life all over again on film in a neat little existential loop.
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nancy Star's "Rules For Moving"

Nancy Star is the author of the bestselling novel Sisters One, Two, Three, a Publishers Weekly top ten print book and Amazon Kindle bestseller of 2016. Her previous novels, which have been translated into several languages, include Carpool Diem, Up Next, Now This, and Buried Lives. Her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Money, and Family Circle. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, Star worked for over a decade as a movie executive at the Samuel Goldwyn Company and the Ladd Company, dividing her time between New York and London.

Here Star dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Rules for Moving:
Often when I’m writing, it feels as if I’m watching a movie in my head. Scenes unspool, stakes rise, characters reveal secrets. The ending can be as much of a surprise when I write it, as it is to the reader who reads it. So dreamcasting my novel is my idea of fun!

A bit about the book: Rules For Moving is the story of online advice columnist Lane Meckler, adored for the wise, witty advice she gives to her readers, but an ill at ease odd duck in her actual life. A social distancer before there was a word for it, Lane is okay with her outsider status until the day her son Henry stops speaking to everyone but her. To help her son, she finally needs to figure out the reason that she’s always felt other than.

The perfect director for this book to screen translation: Lisa Cholodenko. I bet you know her work: she directed the HBO adaptation of the novel Olive Kitteridge and the award-wining limited series Unbelievable. She also directed one of my favorite films, The Kids Are All Right, starring the luminous team of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.

Why Lisa Cholodenko? She’s brilliant at finding the sweet spot between heartbreak and humor, and a genius at revealing what’s true in a character. She’s perfectly suited to portray the tensions in Lane’s life as pressure builds at work and home and she would totally get both Lane’s single-minded devotion to her son, and Lane’s mother’s peculiar strategies for avoiding what’s difficult.

Who are the actors in this dream movie? For Lane Meckler, imagine Amy Adams. I’m thinking particularly of her work in Sharper Things, where her character, like Lane, was great at her job (in her case, a journalist) but had to work hard to keep it together in her private life. Like Lane, that character also has vague haunting memories which she tries hard to ignore. Plus Amy Adams can do anything! But so can Reese Witherspoon, who would also be wonderful in the part! And because there is humor as well as heartbreak in this novel, I’ll hedge my bets by saying either Kristen (Kristen Wiig or Kristen Bell) would be fantastic in bringing a different slant to the material, which has room for them to show their comic brilliance and their dramatic chops.

On to the fun of casting Lane’s mother, Sylvie, a woman who’s lived her life making sacrifices no one understands, and whose solution for what to do when things get tough is to move house. Sylvie has a novel’s worth of depth and secrets and Meryl Streep, the job is yours if you want it! Also, Annette Bening: you would be divine! As for Lane’s father, the gruff but misunderstood Marshall Meckler, Robert De Niro, if you’re free, come aboard!

Last to cast is Lane’s love interest: Nathan. There are a lot of great choices here for actors who are terrific at playing regular guys who are slightly worn around the edges, big-hearted fellows with good souls who aren’t completely perfect. Nathan has his share of secrets too. For Nathan, I see Mark Ruffalo, or Steve Carrell, or Kevin Bacon. But Brad Pitt, if you’re interested, let’s talk!

Now that the movie’s cast, I’m going to go make some popcorn. But books don’t turn into movies overnight, so I recommend you make some popcorn and pick up the book! Did you know eating popcorn goes very well with reading too! Either way, have fun!
Visit Nancy Star's website.

Q&A with Nancy Star.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Florence Gonsalves's "Dear Universe"

Florence Gonsalves is the author of two books of young adult fiction, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants and Dear Universe. In 2015 she graduated from Dartmouth College where she majored in Philosophy, while taking as many poetry classes as she could. Her work experience ranges from publishing in NYC, to farming in Maine, to one really bad holiday shift at UPS. She currently lives in Portland, Maine.

Here Gonsalves dreamcasts an adaptation of Dear Universe:
Seeing my baby on screen would be a dream.

I love Perks of Being a Wallflower, both the book and movie, for how it handles heavy topics alongside the beautiful flings and flirtations that come with being a teen. I'm in awe that the author, Stephen Chbosky, also directed the movie. It’d be my ideal scenario to be involved in every part of the process, from the screenwriting to the casting. As exciting as a movie deal would be though, I know it'd be hard to put my story in the hands of other people, as Dear Universe is very personal for me and my family. If somehow Chloë Sevigny circa 2001 could play Cham, I would lose my mind. Since time travel isn’t yet possible, I’d love to see Adel Farine or Emma Roberts as Cham. For Brendan I vote Corey Fogelmanis; he’d really rock a tutu.
Visit Florence Gonsalves's website.

Q&A with Florence Gonsalves.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Liv Constantine's "The Wife Stalker"

Liv Constantine is the pen name of bestselling authors Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Their debut thriller, The Last Mrs. Parrish, was a Reese Witherspoon book club selection, a People Magazine book of the week, a Target book club selection, and is in development for television.

Their second novel, The Last Time I Saw You, is in development for film.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of their new novel, The Wife Stalker:
Every author has more than likely imagined sitting in a darkened movie theatre and seeing the characters they’ve created walk off the page and onto the screen. To hear them speak and watch them interact would be a thrilling experience, and so it is an amusing game the author plays––the game of choosing the actors who would be perfect for each role. Because our stories are equally plot and character driven, our process involves simultaneously fleshing out our characters and loosely outlining the plot, and so from the very beginning we have fun identifying an actor we feel has the qualities and appearance of that character.

The three main characters in The Wife Stalker are: Piper, a young and beautiful mystery woman who moves to Westport, Connecticut after leaving California and a past she wishes to hide; Joanna, a woman committed to caring for her family, and Leo, a high-powered criminal attorney with whom both women are in love. Piper is young, hip, west coast, into yoga, meditation and all things new age. The actor who seems to fit the bill for her is Margot Robbie. Joanna is little older than Piper, settled, down to earth, and fiercely devoted to Leo and children Evie and Stelli. Maggie Gyllenhaal is our choice for Joanna. Leo is smart, decent and going through a rough patch. He’s a character we have warm feelings for, and so the actor we chose needed to be someone we felt the same way about. As we went down the list of possible candidates, we both smiled and nodded when we got to Robert Downey, Jr. Perfect.

But what if we were making this movie 50 or 60 or even 70 years ago. Who would be the perfect players? And would the era and the stars of old give the story a different bent?

From the 1950s we would have chosen Audrey Hepburn for Piper, Bette Davis for Joanna and Gary Cooper for Leo. Audrey would have brought more innocence to Piper and Bette more fearsomeness to Joanna. Gary would have turned Leo into a more brooding and distant Leo. This film would have been at the top of the melodrama scale.

In the 1960s, Doris Day would have made an interesting Piper, turning her into a sunshiny and warm Pollyanna, one the audience would love and root for. Joanne Woodward would have made a strong and determined Joanna, but one who would seem too invincible for Doris to go up against. The Leo of the 1960s could have gone to one of two actors. Paul Newman (Joanne Woodward’s real life husband), if we wanted the audience to root for Joanna, or Rock Hudson, who obviously would absolutely have to end up with Doris Day, turning the film into a romantic comedy.

For the 1970s production of The Wife Stalker, Joanna would be played by Barbra Streisand, and Leo––yes, you guessed it––Robert Redford. In this case there would be no need for Piper or the film The Way We Were. This film would have been a certified tearjerker.

Lastly, we thought about what the choice of director might mean in how our story would be brought to life. So for example, if Quentin Tarantino directed, Joanna would be played by Uma Thurman, Kill Bill style. The role of Piper would go to assassin Lucy Liu with bad guy David Carradine as Leo, turning the story into “grindhouse cinema”––the term for low-budget, horror and splatter movies.

We think we’ll stick with the 2020 cast.
Visit Liv Constantine's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Nancy Wayson Dinan's "Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here"

Nancy Wayson Dinan is a native Texan who currently lives in San Jose, Costa Rica and teaches at Texas Tech University. Her work has appeared in Arts & Letters, Crab Orchard Review, the Cincinnati Review, and others. She earned her MFA from the Ohio State University in 2013 and is a PhD student in fiction at Texas Tech.

Here Dinan dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here:
This is such an interesting exercise, as I didn’t have a clear choice in mind while I was writing, but it is fascinating to think about this now with the book almost out in the world. In the book, devastating storms have hit the Texas hill country, and Boyd has only a short time to rescue her friend Isaac.

Boyd, the protagonist, is empathetic to the point where she needs to be isolated from society at large, and because of this need for isolation, focuses her attention on the natural world. I picture Boyd as slight, very wary, a bit awkward because she is self-conscious. She is also not concerned about her appearance, and she doesn’t want to call attention to herself. I think that the Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone would make an excellent Boyd, though I do think that Lawrence is physically much prettier than I picture Boyd to be. In much of the book, Boyd is walking across the back country of central Texas, so she is a little dirtier and rougher than she normally would be.

Isaac, Boyd’s on-again off-again boyfriend, is not nearly as self-conscious as Boyd, and he moves through the world with confidence. In the novel, Isaac’s confidence is shaken as he finds himself in a situation where Boyd must rescue him. Is it cheating to cast an actor who is no longer with us? If not, I really imagine Heath Ledger playing this character – Ledger had a similar confidence, and to me, Ledger’s confidence seemed tempered with a certain kindness, which is at the heart of Isaac’s character.
Visit Nancy Wayson Dinan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Demetra Brodsky's "Last Girls"

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning art director and designer turned writer. She has a B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. Dive Smack, her debut YA thriller, is dedicated to the Monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death.

Here Brodsky dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Last Girls:
For every book I write, I create a Pinterest board to go with the plot and characters. I always have a specific actor or image in mind. Sometimes, it's an actor I've seen in a movie or TV show that gives me the vibe I'm looking for, but mostly it's just good luck. Here's how I see the Juniper sisters in Last Girls play out in the movie in my head.

Honey: Diana Silvers

Honey is protective and loyal. I loved Diana Silvers’s performance in Booksmart. She’s has the right mix of confidence, responsibly, and sarcasm to back up Honey’s traits.

Birdie: Emily Rudd

I haven’t seen Emily Rudd in much but she gives me a false ingénue vibe that I think would work well for Birdie if she were able to balance Birdie’s rebellion with her fierce and romantic nature. To me, Birdie would be the hardest to play because she feels everything so viscerally.

Blue: India Eisley

I think India Eisley plays quiet, contemplative characters really well, illustrated by her performances in My Sweet Audrina, I Am The Night, and Underworld Awakening.

Toby: Cole Sprouse

Without ruining too much of the plot for anyone who hasn’t read Last Girls, just trust me when I say Toby gave me serious Jughead Jones vibes while I wrote him. Not the comic book Juggy. I mean, the brooding, smart Riverdale Jughead.

You can visit the Last Girls Pinterest board to see more.
Visit Demetra Brodsky's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Demetra Brodsky & L.B. and Ponyboy Curtis.

Q&A with Demetra Brodsky.

The Page 69 Test: Last Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 7, 2020

John Farrow's "Roar Back"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today," while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

Here Farrow shares some insights about the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of Roar Back, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series:
Having had one feature made from a novel of mine (The Timekeeper), been the story director on another (Uvanga), having had other novels in development, and having had several plays produced, I know that casting and the choice of director is out of the writer’s whimsy. I take the monies and I runs. (I feel a rant coming on but shall nip that in the bud.) Casting my principal detective, Émile Cinq-Mars, is both easy and difficult. He’s younger in Roar Back than in other novels, so it would not be hard to find a tall, dark, handsome, strong individual to fit one part of the physical description, and many a fine actor would love to play a solitary cop who uses his brains yet possesses brawn, and who sticks to his moral code while those around him slide into slime. Secondary aspects are more difficult — I know because we’ve tried in the past. Gargantuan nose. Speaking English with a French accent. Having identifiable French-Canadian facial features with a suggestion of First Nations heritage. Still, if wee Tom Cruise can play six-foot-six Jack Reacher, accommodations can be made.

Martin Scorsese ought not to be the director, it’s best if someone acquainted with the milieu of Montreal did that, but what a wonderful casting agent he’d be. He’d be adept at getting the right faces for the Russian mobsters, the Hells Angels and ageing Mafioso, even local cops and FBI. Also, the juvenile toughs. He’d put the right art people in place to give them all the right look, and that would be critical for this menagerie of hoodlums and innocents, enforcers and those willing to stand against them. Then again, maybe it should be Scorsese.
Visit John Farrow's website and Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Roar Back.

Q&A with John Farrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2020

Isla Morley's "The Last Blue"

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and five tortoises.

Here Morley dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Last Blue:
Picture James Franco and John Krasinksi in the roles of two documentarians on assignment to an Appalachian outpost during the Depression, the former a gifted writer tired of being on the government’s dime and the latter a photographer whose career is flailing. This will be a departure for Krasinksi from the Jack Ryan brand, but does he really want to be typecast as an action hero when there’s so much depth and unmined potential? Stay with me, now. Soon after arriving in Chance, Kentucky, these two friends hear outlandish rumors about a secretive family quarantined in Spooklight Holler, and instead of heeding warnings to steer clear, they head into the wilderness in search of a scoop. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Tulip Fever) is perfect in both appearance and skill to be cast as Jubilee Buford, a woman forced to live in isolation on account of her shocking blue skin, the target of superstition and prejudice her whole life. There isn’t any accent Vikander can’t master, and here she will do a flawless eastern Kentucky drawl in a historical drama based on the real-life case of “The Blue People of Kentucky.”

Never has Jubilee interacted with outsiders, but now she must contend with two Northerners whose purpose she cannot discern, a task increasingly complicated as the men seek to befriend the rest of her family and the family’s sole neighbor, the cantankerous distiller played by Renée Zellweger (think Cold Mountain’s Ruby Thewes aged twenty years). Jubilee’s ally has always been her brother, the only other blue-skinned member of the family, but Levi (Lucas Black) is more volatile than usual, hiding his own illicit activities that threaten to endanger the family’s wellbeing every bit as much as the devious purpose of the two outsiders with their recording device and camera.

As for the director, Greta Gerwig is the only candidate. Okay, now someone have her yell, “Action!”
Learn more about the book and author at Isla Morley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Above.

Writers Read: Isla Morley.

--Marshal Zeringue