Monday, June 29, 2020

Diana Clarke's "Thin Girls"

Diana Clarke is a writer and teacher from New Zealand. She received her MFA in fiction from Purdue University and is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Utah.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Thin Girls:
It’s hard for me to think of this book as a movie. My main fear about putting this work into the world is its potential to do harm. It deals with subjects that can send minds spiralling and it unrelentingly talks of bodies when, sometimes, I think bodies are best left unsaid. These are the concerns I have with the story in book form.

In film, though, those concerns are amplified. I’m so anxious and uncomfortable about the ways in which women’s bodies are generally mediated: as spectacles, disasters, masterpieces, objects of nothing but desire. Thin Girls deals with extreme thinness and fatness and both gaining and losing weight, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen these subjects covered responsibly on a screen to date. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I hope it is!

If I’m not panicking about all of that, though, then I’d cast the Olsen Twins as the leads. Duh. It’s a book about twins and they’re the face of twinship. Mary Kate would play Rose. While I think every woman in the western world has disordered thinking about eating and food, Mary Kate struggled with anorexia, specially, which is what Rose is diagnosed with, so I think she’d understand the character through and through without having to do any scary research or method acting stuff. Ashley would play Lily. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think the Olsen twins are acting much these days. I miss them.

When I talked with my film agents about the book, they thought Dakota and Elle Fanning would suit the characters, and I agree with that casting choice, too. There’s this Nicholas Winding Refn film, Neon Demon, which played an important role in inspiring the book I’m working on now, and Elle Fanning is the star of that story.

The film’s soundtrack is easy. I listened to non-stop bubblegum pop while I wrote this book, and something about the contrast between writing such dark material and listening to these upbeat adolescent tracks (I’m talking "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies and "Wouldn’t It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys) made me realise that the negative space surrounding these sticky sweet songs is super eerie. Once a song finished, the space between that track and the next one felt quieter than silence. It’s like, listen to this clappy, dancey music so you can pretend you’re not sad and scared. I love it.

Colour scheme would also be really important to me in the cinematic version of Thin Girls. I see colours when I write and they play an important part in my revision process. As I draft, I see hints of hues and, when a section is working, the colours stop being murky and become really clear. I know it sounds woo-woo, but I see this book in three distinct parts with three corresponding colour schemes. There’s this clinical white and grey section set at Rose’s recovery facility in the beginning, followed by a grungy neon and too-bright-against-too-dark scheme when Rose is discharged from the facility and as she unravels further into her illness. The last section of the book is nature drenched, lots of greens and blues, as the story finds its hope.
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2020

Meghan Holloway's "Hunting Ground"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Here Holloway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Hunting Ground:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page…I gave the subject of starring roles for Hunting Ground some consideration before I came up with my answer.

I wrote Hector more in the vein of an antihero than a hero. He lived a hard life from the time he was a boy, and he is a cold man driven by obsession. The only gentling influences in his life are Frank, his dog, and Maggie, his wife’s closest friend. Although he is a bit younger than the character, I think Josh Brolin could pull off the stern, weathered, distant character of Hector.

Evelyn is a complex character. Her family background is bittersweet, and she is a taciturn, reserved woman who is proud of the work she does and longing to make connections in her new home. She knows what it is to be prey, and a past encounter with a predator six years ago has left its mark on her. She has a brittleness to her, but also a strength of character and incredible resilience and tenacity. Emily Blunt is such a talented actress. I love the range of characters and emotions she plays, and I think she would make a brilliant Evelyn.

Jeff is a character who strikes everyone as handsome and charming, but Evelyn quickly sees beyond the facade. I could see an actor like Eric Bana playing a role in which a suave exterior hides something far more sinister and twisted.

If you’ve read Hunting Ground, tell me what you think of my choices for these leading roles. Who would you cast to portray Hector, Evelyn, and Jeff?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Jane L. Rosen's "Eliza Starts a Rumor"

Jane L. Rosen is an author, screenwriter, and Huffington Post contributor. She lives in New York City and Fire Island with her husband and three daughters.

Here Rosen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Eliza Starts a Rumor:
As an author I am asked many questions like where do you get your ideas (where don’t I,) and when is your best time to write (first thing in the morning,) and what do you do about writer’s block (write through it). Originally a screenwriter, I tend to write visually and in doing so I picture each character as a person in my head. I don’t picture actual actors though, more like blurry avatars. Which brings me to my favorite question, who do you see cast in the film version of your book?

I’ll start with Eliza.

Eliza Hunt is a stay at home mom, in the most literal sense of the word. She suffers from agoraphobia and has hardly left the house since her twins flew off to college. She is a good person who gets herself into hot water, as the title of the book implies, by starting a rumor. She is funny, in a self-deprecating way, even when dealing with some very serious issues. I believe that Eliza Hunt is the perfect part for Drew Barrymore. Drew has great comic timing and priceless facial expressions and while she hasn’t really displayed her dramatic acting chops since Grey Gardens, I know she would kill it with Eliza.

Next up, Olivia York.

Olivia is outwardly perfect, and inwardly pretty close to perfect as well. She needs an actress who can grow with her as the story unfolds. I choose Emmy Rossum to play Olivia. Maybe you are only familiar with Emmy as Fiona in the Showtime series Shameless, but I ate lunch next to her once at Barneys (may it RIP) and she carried herself with such beauty and class that it was hard to concentrate on my Fred’s Chopped Chicken Salad. I would love to see her play the bookish, graceful new mother, Olivia York.

Alison Le.

My dream casting of Alison Le would be Maggie Q. Like Alison, Maggie Q’s parents met when her father was stationed in Vietnam during the war. Aside from the spot on lineage, I can just see her as the smart lawyer trying to navigate single motherhood without giving up too much of her previous self. Maggie is the perfect fit for the pragmatic and beautiful Alison Le and it would be refreshing to watch her whip a baby bottle out of her bag instead of a 357 Magnum.

Amanda Cole.

For Amanda I choose January Jones. Amanda’s looks have always been her calling card and I think the same could be said of January. Aside from her beauty and talent, I miss Betty Draper and having binged Mad Men four times already, I think it's time that January Jones has a new vehicle to star in. For my sake at least!

Jackie Campbell

There are no shortage of actors to play the big love interest in Eliza Starts A Rumor, but I am going for Sterling K Brown. While his character, a tall, handsome, slightly nerdy father of a teenage girl isn’t a far leap from the character he plays on This is Us, the six foot tall actor is exactly who I picture knocking knees with Maggie Q on a train ride through the Hudson Valley.

Bonus casting: Spencer, the cocky, athletic husband of Olivia—Ethan Peck. I hate to be shallow but just look at him, and also he is Gregory Peck’s grandson. My choice for Eliza’s husband, Luke Hunt, belongs to one of my favorite cinematic heart throbs, Sam Shepard. Since he is sadly no longer with us, I will have to leave that one up to the casting director.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Catherine McKenzie's "You Can't Catch Me"

Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, where she now practices law. Her bestselling novels include Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, Hidden, Smoke, The Good Liar and I'll Never Tell.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, You Can't Catch Me:
I often get asked if my books were made into a film, who would play the lead roles. This is a difficult question for me because, although I do describe my characters, they are not necessarily fully physical humans to me. What I've found is that I often react negatively to certain suggestions -- not her, I've been known to say, but don't have a clear view in mind of who should play what person. That being said, here's a few possibilities:

Jessica Williams (Jessica 1, the main character): Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley

Jessie (Jessica 3): Emma Stone

JJ (Jessica 4): Emma Watson

Liam: Clive Owen, Simon Baker

But honestly, it would just be so cool to have the book become a movie or a TV show that I don't think I would be picky!

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Emily Temple's "The Lightness"

Emily Temple holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

Here Temple dreamcasts an adaptation of her first novel, The Lightness:
The Lightness is a novel about a teenage girl who follows her missing father to a meditation center in the mountains—a place famous for its supposed connection to feats of levitation. She doesn’t find him there, but she does find a mysterious group of girls hell-bent on achieving transcendence (both literal and metaphysical) themselves. It’s a book about desire, obsession, magic, female friendships, bodies, and belief—and it includes a very strange scene involving menstrual blood. So obviously my dream director is Sofia Coppola. I imagine the final product being somewhere between The Virgin Suicides and The Bling Ring, with just a hint of The Beguiled.

As far as casting goes, it’s tougher, because most of the main characters in the book are teenagers, and I admit that I am old and don’t know who the cool teenage actors are. But for Luke, the sexy, lecturing, possibly-enlightened gardener with a man bun, I can’t help but imagine Jared Leto. Luke’s in his early 20s, so Leto is much too old at this point (though who knows with Hollywood magic), but let’s say a Jared Leto type. Or maybe this is just because Jordan Catalano ruined my childhood. Actually, Timothée Chalamet might do the trick if he grew his hair out—and if it wouldn’t hurt too much to see him as a villain.

If we agree to stretch the boundaries of who could play a teenager, Florence Pugh would make an excellent Serena—the ringleader of the group of girls, manipulative, smart, and alternately alluring and terrifying. (My Lady Macbeth, if you will.) Anya Taylor-Joy would be another good choice—both of them are beautifully strange. Maybe they have younger sisters.

Finally, my narrator’s father is this sort of distant, wandering blonde dharma bum—for him, I feel obligated to say Matthew McConaughey. For her mother, a passionate Italian immigrant who takes up all the space in the room, I must choose Monica Bellucci. And as for my narrator herself? I think she’d have to be played by someone brand new.
Visit Emily Temple's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 15, 2020

Lindsay Wong's "My Summer of Love and Misfortune"

Lindsay Wong is the author of the bestselling, award-winning memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. She has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, and she is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

Here Wong dreamcasts an adaptation of My Summer of Love and Misfortune, her first YA novel:
If they made my book into a film, I would love Ali Wong to write and direct it. Ali Wong is hilarious and I believe she would capture the absurd comedy and emotional resonance of My Summer Of Love And Misfortune perfectly. I loved Always Be My Maybe, and I wish I had an ounce of her brilliance.

Lana Condor (To All The Boys I Have Loved Before) would make an excellent Iris Wang. Despite being flawed, selfish, and lost, Iris is generally well-meaning and I think the actress would capture all these multifaceted sides of Iris. For the rest of the movie roles, I wonder about bringing in the cast from Kim’s Convenience. Andrea Bang would make a formidable and funny Ruby, and I think Paul Sun-Hyung Yee who plays Appa would be perfect for Uncle Dai or Iris’ father. When I was writing Iris’ dad’s lines, I kept thinking about how Yee would deliver them with perfect comedic timing.

Actually, can they just bring in the casts of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat to make this film? Joe Zee should be the executive producer and style all the clothes and the outrageous dog grooming outfits!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

David Philip Mullins's "The Brightest Place in the World"

David Philip Mullins is the author of The Brightest Place in the World, a novel, and Greetings from Below, a story collection that won both the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and the International Walter Scott Prize for Short Stories.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of The Brightest Place in the World:
The Brightest Place in the World opens with an explosion at a chemical plant in the Nevada desert, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The novel then traces the lives of four characters who are directly affected by the disaster, and by the death of an employee of the plant: Andrew Huntley. Russell was Andrew’s best friend—an anxiety-afflicted bartender with a marijuana habit. Emma is Russell’s wife, a blackjack dealer who was having an affair with Andrew, unbeknownst to Russell. Simon is another employee of the plant, and could have saved Andrew’s life during the explosion but drove away in fear, leaving Andrew to perish. Lastly, Maddie is Andrew’s daughter, a brainiac teenager who takes off with Russell on a secret road trip through the Nevada desert, during which she develops a penchant for shoplifting that leads to the novel’s climax.

I like the idea of Brad Pitt playing Russell. I’m thinking of the Brad Pitt of True Romance—Floyd, the stoner. For Emma I’m envisioning Andie MacDowell, one of my favorite actresses. Here I’m thinking of the Andie MacDowell of Short Cuts—Ann Finnigan, the grieving mother. I can see someone like Adam Driver playing Simon. His performance as Charlie Barber in Marriage Story comes to mind as an example of his mastery as an actor. And as for Maddie, it has to be Brighton Sharbino, whom I thought of while writing The Brightest Place in the World. An odd choice, perhaps, since I’ve seen her only as Lizzie Samuels in The Walking Dead, but there you have it.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Paul Mosier's "Summer and July"

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011 but has written in some fashion his entire life. He is married and the father to two daughters, one of whom has passed to the next dimension. He lives near his place of birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, and talking nonstop. He has written three critically acclaimed books for middle grade readers: Train I Ride, Echo’s Sister, and Summer and July.

Here Mosier dreamcasts some of the main characters for an adaptation of Summer and July:
If Summer and July were made into a movie, picking the actors to play the leads, Summer and Juillet, is tricky because they are 13, and anyone who looked like them today would age-out by the time the movie was shot.
If Elle Fanning had a little sister she’d make a great Juillet. 
Summer would need to be a prototypical blond surfer girl. 
The one character that really suggests an actor is The Big Kahuna, who could be played by Kris Kristofferson 20 years ago, or Jeff Bridges with his Lebowski look. 
Otis would need to be a black male in his late teens who looks like he can surf, and Juillet’s mom I imagine as a 40 year old with a Tina Fey look. 
My favorite director is Wes Anderson, but someone with an eye not for the built environment but for the camera’s eye, like Sean Baker of The Florida Project, might make the most of the setting.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Wesley King's "Sara and the Search for Normal"

Wesley King is the author of the Edgar Award–winning OCDaniel, which Booklist praised as “complex and satisfying” in a starred review. It was also named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year and received Canada’s Silver Birch Award. King’s first middle grade novel, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!, was called “a well-drafted coming-of-age story” by Publishers Weekly. King is also the author of The Vindico and its sequel, The Feros, which were both Junior Library Guild selections, and Kobe Bryant’s New York Times bestselling Wizenard series.

Here King dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Sara and the Search for Normal:
I always enjoy this game. And, in fact, the companion book OCDaniel is currently being developed for a film by the amazing team at Ley Line Entertainment. That one is still in screenplay production, but I am sure all authors at least think about adaptations at every stage. For myself, I prioritize directors and subsequently the style. Sara and the Search for Normal is very voice-y and sarcastic and relies so much on her singular voice and her changing view of the world. Getting Sara right would be a critical. I don't know a ton of young actresses (Sara is twelve), but definitely someone who can master that droll delivery, but is evocative enough to portray our inner demons in an external way. No small order. Well, enough pretext. Here is my list: 
Director: Taika Watiti (he can balance humor an heart so well) 
Sara: Siena Agudong 
Erin: Whoever is the current teen Emma Stone 
Her troubled father: Tom Hardy (why not?) 
Mother: Rachel McAdams (I needed a Canadian) 
Random extra walking in the background: Me

Q&A with Wesley King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Debra Bokur's "The Fire Thief"

Debra Bokur is an author, journalist, editor, screenwriter, and illustrator. Her work has appeared in a variety of domestic and international media outlets, including National Geographic Traveler, Islands, Spa Magazine, Experience Life Magazine, Natural Home, Yoga Journal, Global Traveler, and Women’s Adventure. She is a recipient of the 2015 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.

Here Bokur dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fire Thief:
My Dark Paradise Mysteries series is set in Hawaii, and The Fire Thief delves into the potential connection between ancient indigenous legends and several violent deaths that begin with the murder of a teenage surfer. Detective Kali Māhoe of the Maui Police Department balances her police training, a degree in anthropology and her knowledge of the islands’ dark lore to connect the dots. Aided by her uncle, Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, she investigates sightings of a faceless, malevolent spirit that appears to be connected to a string of solar panel thefts, all leading back to the bodies collecting on Maui’s sandy beaches.

I was a theater major, and practically everything I write begins in my head as a screenplay, so casting a film version of The Fire Thief happened early in the story process. My descent into make-believe even included an imaginary lunch with director Ron Howard, during which he offered to give me his dessert if I’d agree to let him direct the movie. Not only did I say yes, but in the spirit of fostering a good working relationship, I let him keep half his slice of pineapple upside-down cake.

When I write the character of Kali Māhoe, it’s an image of actress Keisha Castle-Hughes that wanders around my writing room. You might know her from Whale Rider, a film role that earned her a 2004 Academy Award nomination when she was only 13 years old. More recently, this New Zealand actress of Maori descent played Obara Sand in Game of Thrones (Season 5), and I believe she’s got the chops to play Kali.

Also from New Zealand, veteran actor Jay Laga’aia would bring out both the fun and toughness of Walter Alaka’i. Plus, Laga’aia has already played a captain—Captain Typho in two of the Star Wars films, to be exact—so I’m pretty sure he’s already got all the training he needs (plus some) to be a gravity-bound Hawaiian cop.

For policeman David Hara, it’s got to be John Cho. As I explained to Ron Howard during our (okay, my) fantasy lunch, this pick is non-negotiable.

I know that actress Lyrica Okano already has a job in the Hulu series Runaways. Still—she’d be perfect to stretch into the complicated role of Makena Shirai, a confused meth addict who’s an important part of the world portrayed in the Dark Paradise Mysteries.

When I’m working on scenes featuring store proprietor George Tsui, also a regular in the series, it’s the smiling face of Hawaiian actor Dennis Chun that always pops up. Chun’s creds include both Magnum, P.I. and Hawaii Five-O, so he’d be a natural.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue