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