Saturday, May 29, 2021

Patrick Chiles's "Frontier"

Patrick Chiles has been fascinated by aircraft, rockets, and spaceflight ever since he was a child transfixed by the Apollo missions. How he ended up as an English major in college is still a mystery, though he managed to overcome this self-inflicted handicap to pursue a career in aviation operations and safety management.

He is a graduate of The Citadel, a Marine Corps veteran and a private pilot. In addition to his novels, he has written for magazines such as Smithsonian’s Air & Space. He currently resides in Tennessee with his wife and two lethargic dachshunds.

Here Chiles dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Frontier:
Frontier is the story of Marshall Hunter, a newly commissioned Space Force officer, and his adventures aboard the first orbital patrol ship, the U.S.S. Borman. He only wants to fly and is disappointed when what seems like a plum assignment ends up being what he calls “garbage duty.” They spend a lot of time taking care of dead satellites and clearing debris in orbit (which in the real space economy is going to be hugely important). He’s anxious to explore and not just fly in circles around the Earth, and he’ll get his chance when a civilian deep-space mission goes missing and the Borman is sent to find them. In the meantime, they find out that all of these wayward satellites are part of someone else’s plan to create chaos in the new orbital economy, and it may have something to do with the missing civilians they’re after.

Though I didn’t really have anyone in mind when I wrote the book, I think Tom Holland would be good as Marshall. His take on Spider Man in the Marvel movies was really appealing—the nerdy teenager who can hardly believe the awesome stuff he’s gotten involved in. Marshall’s a few years older than that, but he has the same sense of wonder and excitement and is a little scared because he knows just how dangerous all this can be.

Borman’s commander, Simon Poole, is a character from my first two novels (Perigee and Farside). He’s a former submarine commander who became an astronaut and is humorously hard-nosed, which is how I remember the best leaders from my own military service. It’s deadly serious work that cannot be done half-assed, but if you don’t keep your sense of humor then even the most exciting jobs become drudgery. I’ve always seen J. K. Simmons as him, which is another Spider Man connection that I promise is completely unintentional!

Another character, Roberta McCall, is a drone pilot and friend of Marshall’s. She’s a gum-popping tomboy, full of joy for what she’s doing and very confident in herself. She was fun to write. I couldn’t quite place an actress for her until I saw Olivia Cooke in Ready Player One. I remember her from the Bates Motel series and can’t really explain it but I see her in my head when I’m reading Roberta’s dialogue.

Besides just getting a movie deal in the first place, my home-run fantasy would be for someone like John McTiernan to direct it. He’s known for movies which are maybe more pure action than what I write, though he did a terrific job with The Hunt for Red October. I keep going back to that one but it was kind of a benchmark novel for me, a pioneering technothriller and the style I try to adapt to science fiction. Hopefully others see Frontier in that mold as well. As spaceflight becomes more routine, the kinds of stories we think of as sci-fi will just become science-based thrillers.
Visit Patrick Chiles's website.

The Page 69 Test: Frozen Orbit.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrick Chiles & Frankie and Beanie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 24, 2021

Kathryn Erskine's "Lily’s Promise"

Kathryn Erskine is the author of several acclaimed books for young adults and children, including the National Book Award–winning middle grade novel Mockingbird.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Lily's Promise:
Like many writers, I see my stories unfold in my mind like a movie. Sometimes, I even have a particular actor in mind. Lily is a shy 11-year-old who must attend school for the first time after years of being homeschooled by her dad, who recently died. Her “promise” was to her dad—that she would learn to speak up. As it turns out, she also uses her voice to help others.

Here’s the cast of main characters: I would love to throw them together and see what they come up with!

Lily: Isla Johnston could play a shy Lily very well, as well as the Lily who, on occasion, loses her cool and, in the end, learns to speak up, fulfilling her promise to her dad.

Hobart, Lily’s quirky best friend: Iain Armitage has played a different kind of quirky character in Young Sheldon, but I have no doubt he could play the exuberant, naïve Hobart with great skill. I suspect he could even do a Manitoba Tuck, Hobart’s favorite move in his beloved sport, curling.

Dunya, recently immigrated from Iraq: Maryam Kanj (in the film, The Present). Kanj is not a trained actress, but obviously a natural. Dunya is a key character because, in addition to being a role model for Lily, she’s also the reason Lily feels the need to speak up—to support Dunya and her family against the slurs of the bullies, both children and adult.

Skylar, a shy boy whose family is undergoing severe economic hardship: Cameron or Nicholas Crovetti, accomplished actors who could play the depth of emotion and suffering Skylar is going through. Skylar is befriended by Lily, Hobart and Dunya, with Dunya, in particular, recognizing his plight and helping him out.

Zoe, a take charge girl who coordinates the friends’ student council campaign: Saniyya Sidney. Zoe has such spunk, and Sidney springs to mind, always bringing a smile to my face, the way Zoe does.

Ryan, the main bully: Brady Noon. He has a good “tough” look.

Brady, conflicted character who’d like to shed his bully persona: Oakes Fegley. He just screams “Brady” to me.

Mr. Hammer, cafeteria volunteer who bolsters the misfit kids: Anthony Anderson would be the perfect Mr. Hammer, a big personality who commands respect from the bullies and engenders devotion from Lily and the self-proclaimed group of “not popular” friends which, as Mr. Hammer says, makes them like 95 percent of the kids around them.

Mrs. Flippin (Lily’s mom) and immigrant lawyer: Mandy Moore. She’s loving and kind but also firm. She has high expectations for Lily, and everyone, which has the effect of giving others confidence that they can achieve those expectations.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Hannah Mary McKinnon's "You Will Remember Me"

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons.

Here McKinnon dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, You Will Remember Me:
A few years ago, a man from Toronto vanished from a ski hill in Lake Placid while there on vacation and he showed up six days later in Sacramento. He was still wearing his ski gear, had amnesia and couldn’t remember much, including the cross-country trip he’d made as he’d hitchhiked across the US. Everything worked out for the man in the end, and he found his way home, but it made me wonder—what could have gone wrong? That was the genesis for You Will Remember Me.

My fifth novel is amnesia-driven psychological thriller about a man who wakes up on a beach with no recollection of who or where he is, a woman named Lily who’s searching for her boyfriend, Jack, who went missing after a swim, and Maya, who’s looking for her estranged stepbrother, Ash, who disappeared two years prior, leaving everyone and everything behind. But is the man from the beach Jack, Ash, neither…or both?

As part of my plotting process, I cast my characters and build a photo gallery, but unlike other authors I know, I use hairstyle models, not celebrities. If I cast celebrities before I write the novel, I worry I’ll be influenced by the actors and their body of work, borrowing perhaps too much from the artists themselves or the well-known characters they’ve played. Using hairstyle models means I can fully concentrate on the people I’m creating and develop a their backgrounds and history from scratch.

Now the book is done though, of course I’ve thought about who I might love to see as my three protagonists as I’ve often dreamt of the elusive, “Can we option your book for the screen?” question. Specifically, for You Will Remember Me, Joe Dempsie who plays Gendry in Game of Thrones, or Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter would make such interesting choices for “the man from the beach.” I imagine Brie Larson or Elizabeth Olsen as a brilliant Lily, and as for Maya, I see Anya Taylor-Joy playing that role to perfection.

It would be both exhilarating and fascinating to see my book on the screen because—like audiobooks—at that point my work belongs to director, cast, and crew. What a treat to see their interpretation! Wishes can come true, after all, so I’ll keep focusing for this one.
Visit Hannah Mary McKinnon's website.

Q&A with Hannah Mary McKinnon.

The Page 69 Test: Sister Dear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Erik Hoel's "The Revelations"

Erik Hoel received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Madison-Wisconsin. He is a research assistant professor at Tufts University and was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in the NeuroTechnology Lab, and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Hoel is a 2018 Forbes “30 under 30” for his neuroscientific research on consciousness and a Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow.

Here he shares some thoughts about adapting The Revelations, his debut novel, for the screen:
Whenever thinking about an adaption of a book, it’s worth thinking about how films and novels are different. Novels are the closest medium to consciousness, and the ability to see through someone’s eyes, to root around the cabinet of their thoughts, is impossible to truly mimic with a movie. At the same time, films have their own special abilities. Everything from the beauty of acting to visual effects to establishing atmosphere through cinematography, all are things that novels can’t do. So I’d want an adaptation of my own book that uses the medium of film to emphasize the aspects of the story that a film does better than a novel, since otherwise, what’s the point?

By definition then I wouldn’t want a perfect adaption. The Revelations takes place in New York City, and follows a group of young neuroscientists who are trying to unravel the scientific mystery of consciousness. When one dies under mysterious circumstances, the others form an amateur investigation into the death. Eventually the mystery of the murder begins to entwine with the mystery of consciousness itself.

There are aspects of the book that wouldn’t work on screen. Each chapter is a subsequent day, for instance, and I don’t think it’d be a good idea to blindly mimic that. But other things do translate. In the novel New York City is treated like its own character, almost with its own consciousness. I think one could get this sort of panpsychism across with a camera; it’d be difficult, but not impossible.

Given this ultimate concern, I really only have a choice of director: Alex Garland. He’s actually himself a novelist, writing books like The Beach and The Coma (and The Coma involves neuroscience, so I’m sure he’d geek out about the many details of the world of science in the book). His adaptation of Annihilation is a masterpiece of making appropriate changes—for example, the lighthouse scene doesn’t happen in the book where Natalie Portman is mimicked by a strange silverly dancer, like it is a cuckoo of her personality. But it’s one of the most unnerving scenes in cinema.

Finally, his recent mini-series Devs is one of the most powerful, subtle, and literary shows made since the early Golden Age shows like The Wire and Mad Men. Devs is truly a “show of ideas” and I highly recommend it. So as you can tell, I’m a fan. But that’s because I’d trust him to pick out those parts of the story that are best expressed in images rather than words, somehow renewing the narrative in a way I’d never have thought of but seems right and simple and obvious afterward. Like flipping over your pillow and finding it refreshingly cool.
Visit Erik Hoel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 10, 2021

Erika Montgomery's "A Summer to Remember"

A card-carrying cinephile and native New Englander, novelist Erika Montgomery lives with her family in the Mid-Atlantic where she teaches creative writing and watches an unspeakable amount of old movies.

Here Montgomery dreamcasts an adaptation of A Summer to Remember, her debut novel:
There’s always something fun—and usually irresistible—in casting our characters as we write them, but since A Summer to Remember features the lasting impact of a Hollywood golden couple who move to Cape Cod and the enduring movie festival that starts there as a result, this challenge takes on a particularly significant meaning for me.

The story begins in present day Hollywood with thirty-year-old Frankie who owns a movie memorabilia shop opened with her late mother, Maeve, and whose world is thrown upside down when she discovers a pair of sealed letters to the husband and son of one of the most famous actresses of the seventies, Glory Cartwright—letters that may also finally lead Frankie to the identity of her father.

Amanda Seyfried would be a wonderful casting choice for eternal optimist Frankie, capturing Frankie’s emotional vulnerability and her determination to find the answers to the mystery she’s come across the country to solve, employing that same infectious energy and optimism that Seyfried did in Mamma Mia.

For Gabe, the estranged boatbuilding son of Hollywood royalty, and Frankie’s love interest, I originally had Josh Hartnett in mind. Besides having the tall, rangy build and scruffy/sexy good looks, Hartnett would bring Gabe’s crucial blend of brooding smolder and quiet warmth.

For Glory, the late actress who begrudgingly left Hollywood at the prime of her career to follow her husband, Mitch, back to his Cape Cod hometown, I think Amy Adams would capture both Glory’s larger-than-life glamour as well as her emotional fragility.

Mitch has classic Hollywood good looks. He’s ruggedly handsome and quick to flash a melting smile, but having grown up as a fisherman’s son on Cape Cod, he has a down-to-earth quality that adds to his every-man appeal. For Mitch, I had cast Kyle Chandler from the start. Like Chandler, Mitch has those classic handsome Hollywood leading man looks and obvious charm, but there’s a rawness to him, an emotional availability, that is always dangerously close to the surface that I think Kyle Chandler could play effortlessly, as he did so perfectly in Bloodlines and, of course, always as Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights.

Russ, the town doctor and Mitch’s childhood best friend is in his seventies in the present storyline and his forties in the back story but both portrayals require someone with quiet strength and calm. In Mitch’s younger years, I’d cast Jude Law or Matt Damon. For an older Russ, David Strathairn would be a perfect choice, since the actor excels at bringing that quiet strength and compassion to his roles, such as he did in Passion Fish and The River Wild.

For Louise, a doctor’s wife who becomes Glory’s dearest friend when the actress moves to small-town Cape Cod, and who we also meet in two time periods, I’d cast real-life mother and daughter Gwyneth Paltrow and Blythe Danner. In comparison to Glory’s larger-than-life personality, Louise possesses a no-nonsense practicality and formality, and a quiet elegance, that I think both actresses would bring to the role.

And finally, for Maeve, Frankie’s late mother, I would cast Elizabeth Olsen to bring Maeve’s earthiness and warmth, as well as her vivacious energy, to the big screen.
Visit Erika Montgomery's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Nick Pirog's "Jungle Up"

Nick Pirog is the bestselling author of the Thomas Prescott series, the 3:00 a.m. series, and The Speed of Souls. A Colorado native, he now lives in South Lake Tahoe with his two pups, Potter and Penny.

Here Pirog dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Jungle Up:
Casting my book as a movie is one of the first steps in my writing process. I do it before I write a single word. Finding the perfect actor for each character in Jungle Up was more laborsome than my previous books simply because with two intersecting storylines, there were an abundance of roles to fill. In one storyline, retired homicide detective Thomas Prescott journeys to the middle of the Bolivian Amazon to rescue Gina Brady, a World Health Organization doctor (and ex-girlfriend) who was abducted from her village. In the other storyline, a documentary expedition (who Thomas hitched a ride down to South America with) is headed into the Bolivian jungle in search of the lost city of the Incas.

This is the fifth book featuring Thomas Prescott and I think Ryan Reynolds is just the guy to play the handsome, sarcastic, and slightly obnoxious detective extraordinaire. Readers have also mentioned they would like to see Paul Rudd, Gerard Butler, Stephen Amell, or Jensen Ackles.

When I first introduced Dr. Gina Brady in The Afrikaans, I cast Jennifer Connelly in the role. But now, a decade later, I see Scarlett Johansson playing the stunning, independent, and strong-willed doctor.

Vern—yes, just Vern—is a guide/fixer who Thomas meets up with in Bolivia. I always envisioned him as Philip Seymour Hoffman, with an unkempt beard, heavyset, and smoking a cigar. I know Seymour is no longer with us (R.I.P.), but I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

Andy Depree is my favorite new character. He is the lead anthropologist for the documentary expedition and ironically enough, an anxiety-ridden hypochondriac (AKA, a weenie). I always envisioned him as Michael Cera. (I see Cera playing Andy in a similar fashion as he did George Michael in Arrested Development.)

Jonathan Roth is the big-time director of the documentary. He could be played by just about any guy in a Cialis commercial, but I think Andy Garcia could really capture his arrogance and douchebaggery.

Farah Karim is an Egyptian archeologist. I based her on a real Egyptian archeologist named Nora Shawki. Shawki is young, smart, and beautiful and hopefully we can convince her to star as herself.

I think Clive Owen would be a great Mark Holland, the ex-British Special Forces soldier who oversees the expedition’s safety while in the jungle.

The two bad guys, Patrick Sewall and Bill Wyeth, who abduct Dr. Gina Brady, could be played by Shawn Doyle (The Expanse) and Kevin Dunn (Veep) respectively.

And finally, there’s Camila. She is the most beloved character in the book and would be played perfectly by just about any baby sloth.
Visit Nick Pirog's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Martine Bailey’s "The Prophet"

The Prophet, Martine Bailey’s fourth novel, is a historical crime novel in which Tabitha Hart investigates a cold-blooded murder and a utopian sect in an ancient forest.

The novel follows on from events in The Almanack and also reads as a standalone mystery.

Cheshire. May Day, 1753. Tabitha De Vallory's perfect life is shaken when a girl is slaughtered beneath the Mondrem Oak on her family's forest estate. Nearby, enigmatic Baptist Gunn is convinced that a second messiah will be born, amid blood and strife, close to the oak on Midsummer's Day. Could the murder be linked to Gunn's cryptic prophecy?

As Midsummer's Day draws closer, Tabitha soon learns the destiny that threatens her and those she holds most dear...

Bailey lives in a village near Chester, England and her first novel, An Appetite for Violets, was a Booklist Top Ten Crime Debut.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Prophet:
My heroine Tabitha is a former London courtesan who reluctantly returned to her home village. Recently married and expecting her first child, she is a clever risk-taker. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of sharp wits, charm and physical allure.

Tabitha is married to Nat De Vallory, a former hack writer and the unexpected heir to Bold Hall. Hiding his connection to the victim, he struggles with his new position. Fascinated by the local prophet he makes an ill-judged test of Gunn’s powers to foresee the future. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) again.

Baptist Gunn is a travelling preacher – or maybe something less wholesome. Camping out in the forest, he prophecies the birth of a new messiah to take to America. Charismatic and slippery, I picture Sam Riley (Control, Maleficent) in the spellbinding role.

Tabitha’s naïve friend Jennet Saxton leads the younger generation. Only sixteen, her search for romance and fascination with Baptist Gunn lead her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.

Sukey Adams is Tabitha’s wet nurse, also expecting a child. Straight-laced and brimming with superstitious advice, she offers solace to her mistress. Kerrie Hayes is my choice, after playing another servant in creepy folklore series, The Living and the Dead.

The location is Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England with distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is a rural idyll around a manor house, where country customs mark the year, from the woodland revels of May-time to the candlelit revelations of All Hallows Eve.

Prophecies were once widely read and discussed – as indeed the appeal of astrologers and psychics has apparently returned in our own tumultuous times. Baptist Gunn is not based on a single person, though the 18th century witnessed many religious groups who practised spirit possession and visions. Most famously the Shakers eventually left their native England to take their ‘ecstatic’ beliefs (and minimalist furniture) to America in 1774,

In my dreamcast I’d love Ang Lee to direct. I’m thinking of the way the changing English landscape was backdrop to the emotional turmoil of Sense and Sensibility. And I’m sure the creator of The Life of Pi would do justice to the firelit sleeping prophecies, the mystical stones and barrows of the forest, and the phantom apparition that appears in Bold Hall’s ancient chapel.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

My Book, The Movie: The Almanack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 2, 2021

James L. Cambias's "The Godel Operation"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Godel Operation:
The Godel Operation is a tricky book to cast, in part because at least two of the main characters are faceless machines or cyborgs, and thus would rely heavily on voice actors. Still, recent superhero spectaculars have shown that there's almost no limit left to what can be filmed. So here are my thoughts on casting The Godel Operation.

Zee Sadaran is my "leading man" character: young, athletic, very good-natured, and smarter than most people who meet him realize. He's on a journey across the Solar System to find his lost love, which is an almost hopeless quest since there are literally a billion worlds circling the Sun at the end of the Tenth Millennium. If we stick to contemporary actors, Channing Tatum or Adam Beach would be good candidates. If I can pluck anyone from time and space I think I'd cast the late Brandon Lee.

Daslakh, the narrator, is a spider-shaped machine controlled by a smart aleck digital intelligence. It is helping Zee on his quest but has a secret agenda of its own. It constantly describes itself as "old and cunning" so I'd choose a voice actor with a good deadpan comedy delivery. Alan Tudyk is the obvious choice, with Robert Downey Jr. as a good second.

Kusti Sendoa, Zee's "imaginary girlfriend" who draws him into the search for the legendary superweapon called the Godel Trigger, has to be an actress who can convey to the audience that she is a chameleon, always playing a role herself. Florence Pugh would be good for the part, or Charlize Theron a couple of decades ago.

Adya Elso is Kusti's rival for Zee's affection and the Godel Trigger. She's a shy but brilliant young woman from a wealthy family, and is a literal chameleon with skin that changes color to fit her mood. Anya Taylor-Joy with an animated skin seems like the best casting, or perhaps pluck Audrey Hepburn out of 1953 for the role.

Pelagia is a spaceship with the brain of a killer whale uplifted to human-level intelligence. She should have a voice which can be both comic and threatening — possibly Scarlett Johansson or Kathleen Turner.

Summanus is an artificial intelligence thousands of times smarter than a human, who rules a huge space station in the shadow of Jupiter and is more than a little bit paranoid. It's not quite a villain but it's certainly an antagonist for Daslakh. Tom Baker would be a wonderful voice for Summanus, or Christopher Lee in his prime. Or go farther back in time and cast Orson Welles. He's played a planet before, so it should be no stretch.

Muro, one of the villains, is a fat orange cat with human-level intelligence and some illegal high-tech gear. She should probably be voiced by someone like Judi Dench. (I understand she's got some experience in feline roles.) Or go back in time and hire the incomparable June Foray.

Ketto and Chi are a murderous duo also after the Godel Trigger. They need to be both funny and scary. Tom Holland could be Chi, and Tom Hiddleston could be Ketto.

Varas Lupur is the self-proclaimed Greatest Thief in History. I'd cast Gary Oldman and disable all his safety features.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

--Marshal Zeringue