Monday, June 28, 2021

Heather Levy's "Walking Through Needles"

Heather Levy is a born and bred Oklahoman and graduate of Oklahoma City University's Red Earth MFA program for creative writing. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including NAILED Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and Dragon Poet Review. She authored a nonfiction series on human sexuality, including “Welcome to the Dungeon: BDSM in the Bible Belt,” for Literati Press.

Here Levy dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Walking Through Needles:
When I was writing Walking Through Needles, I wasn’t thinking of any particular actors but rather a blending of several faces, so it I had a lot of fun coming up my dream cast. First, a little book background:

Walking Through Needles centers around Sam Mayfair and her stepbrother Eric Walker, who become inseparable as teens until Sam, a budding masochist, suffers abuse by someone close to her and a traumatic event causes them to spin-off on different paths. Fifteen years later, both Sam and Eric learn that Sam’s abuser was murdered and Eric is the prime suspect. Both want to keep horrifying secrets of their past hidden from investigators as Sam tries to exonerate Eric.

Sam Mayfair was by far the hardest character to cast since she’s strong yet vulnerable, closed off, stubborn, and unapologetic about her sexuality. After seeing Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People, I knew she was my perfect Sam. The actor also easily transitioned from playing a teen to an adult, which is handy since the timeline switches from 1994 to 2009.

With Eric Walker, I knew right away that Nick Robinson of The Teacher would be excellent. Long before Eric meets Sam, he’s experienced traumas he carries with him into adulthood. Although he’s haunted by these horrible experiences, he’s still open and vulnerable with his heart in a way Sam isn’t at the beginning of the novel.

Isaac Walker, Eric’s volatile yet charming father, was trickier to cast. Although I haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy, I’ve seen enough of Charlie Hunnam from clips to know he could easily pull off Isaac’s complicated character.

Grandma Haylin is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written because I didn’t really grow up with a close relationship to my own grandparents, so I wrote the one I would’ve wanted. She’s fiercely protective of her family, a straight talker, and will give you extra homemade cookies in your lunchbox. I’ve always loved Jean Smart, and she killed as the lead’s mother in Mare of Easttown, so I knew she was my Grandma Haylin.

For Sam’s mother and Grandma Haylin’s daughter, Jeri Anne, I needed someone who could pull off a woman who’s been hurt before in love and might rush into a relationship with the first man who shows her attention. She also has to be someone who would prefer to look the other way if it meant getting hurt again, and Laura Linney fit the bill.

Vickie Lang is a mess of a person who places her only daughter in horrific situations, but she’s also manipulative and smart when it comes to getting what she wants. I could see Jamie Pressly doing a great job with the role.

After seeing her in Sex Education, I knew Emma Mackey could play Meredith Lang, daughter of Vickie and someone who was once close to Eric when they were younger and thrown into a bad situation together. Like Sam, Meredith has tried to move past her own traumas the best that she can, but the murder investigation pulls her in against her will.

Lastly, I see Bill Pullman of The Sinner as my quick-eyed Detective Eastman, the lead investigator of the murder and the bane of Eric’s existence.
Follow Heather Levy on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Julia Buckley's "Death on the Night of Lost Lizards"

Julia Buckley has loved reading and writing since childhood. She is still a sucker for a great story, and, like any bibliophile, she loves libraries, Scholastic Book Fairs, the smell of ink, pads and pens, typewriters, and books you can't put down. She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband Jeff; she has two grown sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law.

Here Buckley dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Death on the Night of Lost Lizards:
Death on the Night of Lost Lizards is the third book in my Hungarian Tea House series; it debuted at the beginning of this month. The series follows the life of Hana Keller, a Hungarian-American woman who helps to run Maggie’s Tea House, named for her mother Magdalena, her colleague along with her grandmother, Juliana. The tea house has become the setting for a great deal of conflict and drama over three books, starting with a murder during a tea party. This dire event brought Detective Erik Wolf into the tea house. Himself the son of an immigrant, Wolf is fascinated from the start by the three tea house ladies and their unusual insight. The series blends Hungarian folklore and culture, art of all kinds, and a touch of the psychic in a traditionally cozy setting.

Casting roles for a movie version of the book would be a daunting task. I see my characters in my head, but only in a rather amorphous way, and to give them detailed features would be like committing to a permanent relationship. However, for the fun of the assignment, I have plucked some faces out of the vast array of talented people who could play my characters (although I’ve traveled in time to hire some of them).

Hana is known for her lovely red-brown hair, an autumnal and striking shade. The absolute perfect casting for her would be a young Mariska Hargitay. A half-Hungarian herself, Mariska in her twenties had the perfect look to be Hana. She has the glamour of Jayne Mansfield (her actual mother) and the traditionally Hungarian look of many of my own relatives. An understory for the role might be the young Joanna Garcia, who came to fame on Reba as a blonde woman, but later appeared in roles with red hair. I always admired her sweetness and sense of humor.

For the role of Detective Erik Wolf, who must blend a sense of integrity, shrewdness, introversion, and a real devotion to both his career and Hana herself, I would cast Joel Kinnaman. His performances in both The Killing and Hanna convinced me of his talent, and as a man from the Nordic region (Sweden, not Norway), he has the proper look for Wolf.

Hana’s best friend Katie, cheerful and ebullient, would be played by Annie Murphy, the delightfully wacky Alexis on Schitt’s Creek. I would darken her hair slightly to match the chocolate tones of Katie’s hair.

Hana’s protective brother Domonkos would look like a young Tony Curtis (another half-Hungarian), and his girlfriend Margie, who is said to look like Grace Kelly, would of course be played by Grace Kelly.

I am drawing a blank for Hana’s mother and grandmother; I think that I would want to draw from a cast of Hungarian actors to get the look right, at least for her mother and grandmother, who are both Hungarian natives.

Maggie’s dad, another quietly devoted man, would be played by a young John Mahoney, whose face always had a gentleness that I admired. He is on the small list of my brushes with fame, as I ran into him once in an Illinois Jewel.
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Buckley's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Big Chili.

My Book, The Movie: A Dark and Twisting Path.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

D.W. Buffa's "The Privilege"

D.W. Buffa was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. After graduation from Michigan State University, he studied under Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey and Hans J. Morgenthau at the University of Chicago where he earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science. He received his J.D. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Buffa was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years and his Joseph Antonelli novels reflect that experience.

The New York Times called The Defense "an accomplished first novel" which "leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read it over again." The Judgment was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel of the year. The latest Joseph Antonelli novel is The Privilege.

D.W. Buffa lives in Northern California.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of The Privilege:
When my first novel, The Defense, was published in l997, the first question almost everyone who knew me asked was, “Is it going to be made into a movie?” The second question, almost always, was, “Who do you think should play the lead?”

I was surprised. I should not have been. What we see on film has become, for many of us, the measure, not just of a novel’s success, but of its importance. It is, for that reason, often assumed that the author must have had a particular actor or actress in mind when he created at least some of the characters who fill the pages of his work. And, let me confess, when I first started writing I would sometimes wonder who might be able to show on the screen what I was trying to describe with my pen. I knew that Leopold Rifkin, the judge in The Defense, could have been played perfectly by Ben Kingsley. I could see him doing it. Horace Woolner, the district attorney, could only have been played by James Earl Jones. The defense lawyer, the same Joseph Antonelli who is the defense lawyer in The Privilege, - well, he was always a problem. John Garfield could have done it, but Garfield had been dead for nearly half a century.

Now, more than twenty years later, trying to cast The Privilege, I wish that instead of 2021, it was 1950. It would have been easy then. Antonelli, the lawyer who never loses, would be played by Glenn Ford, and Tangerine, the woman he lives with, a woman so good looking that even other, beautiful, women are not jealous, by Ava Gardner. Charles Laughton would have been unforgettable as the professor of philosophy who raises questions no one had heard in a courtroom before, and only Orson Welles could have played the enigmatic James Michael Redfield. Now, today, the choices are not as easy, but if choices have to be made, George Clooney would play Antonelli and Sean Penn would play Redfield.

My first choice to direct The Privilege would be Francis Ford Coppola. He has been known to do interesting things with stories about Sicilians, and what better Sicilian to portray than Joseph Antonelli who, like every good Sicilian, has his own understanding of what justice means. A second choice would be a director whose name I do not know, the director of the Italian motion picture, Open Doors, the best courtroom drama ever put on film.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Q&A with D.W. Buffa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Gilles Legardinier's "The Paris Labyrinth"

Gilles Legardinier writes genre-hopping best sellers in French with more than 2 million copies sold and translations in 20 languages. A novelist, screenwriter, producer, and director, his film industry experience in Los Angeles, London, and Paris ranges from scale model maker and pyrotechnician to marketing/distribution for Warner and Twentieth Century Fox.

Here Legardinier dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Paris Labyrinth:
If I imagine the dream cast for a film version of The Paris Labyrinth, I’d choose Ben Affleck for the role of Vincent, because there’s such a density—real substance—to him.

Casey Affleck would be perfect to play Pierre, his brother.

I see Rachel McAdams in the role of Gabrielle, for her unique mix of fragility and strength.

And I’d pick John Malkovich to play Charles, because of his amazing combination of intelligence and sensibility.

My ideal director would be Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War, In Time), because he has a talent for never losing the emotion in the action.
Visit Gilles Legardinier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Debra Bokur's "The Bone Field"

Debra Bokur is the author of The Fire Thief and The Bone Field (Dark Paradise Mysteries, Kensington). She’s traveled the world as a writer, journalist and staff editor for various national media outlets, with more than 2,000 print pieces carrying her byline to date. Her work has garnered multiple awards, including a 2015 Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism. For more than a decade, she served as the poetry editor at a national literary journal, and her poetry and short fiction have been widely published. Among her favorite writing credits are a series of original literary essays commissioned by the Celestial Seasonings tea company that appeared on the artfully illustrated boxes of ten separate tea flavors. She continues to travel in her capacity as the Global Researcher and Writer for the Association for Safe International Road Travel, and as a monthly columnist for Global Traveler Magazine.

Here Bokur dreamcasts an adaptation of The Bone Field:
When I ran into rough spots while working on The Bone Field—the second book in my Dark Paradise Mysteries series—I played a game with myself that involved a hard deadline built upon a promise to director Ron Howard that he’d have a draft at least one month before my publisher did. I figured he could use the extra time scouting locations and securing the list of actors I planned to provide. This mind-play actually helped me finish the book an exact month before the manuscript was due. Mr. Howard’s name, alas, has yet to show up on my phone screen.

He needs to call so we can discuss whether it’s Chris Hemsworth or Finnish actor Ville Seivo who should be cast in the recurring role of Elvar Ellinsdóttir. I’m on the fence. Hemsworth is a good physical fit and would bring his trademark subtle humor to the part; but Elvar is Icelandic, and Ville Seivo has a Nordic melancholy that would provide a nice level of depth to Elvar’s character.

Actress Keisha Castle-Hughes has long been my dream choice for Detective Kali Māhoe. Castle-Hughes is known for her role in Whale Rider, and for the character of Obara Sand in Game of Thrones (Season 5). Lately, however, I’ve started to picture actress Sara Tomko as Kali. Tomko was unknown to me until I became obsessed with the new Syfy series Resident Alien, on which she plays Asta Twelvetrees. Not only does she look the way I picture and write Kali, she has the same instinct for sarcasm, and looks like she could more than handle Kali’s active lifestyle of yoga, surfing, swimming, running, and chasing criminals.

I remain convinced that veteran New Zealand actor Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho in two Star Wars films) is a great match for Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, and that John Cho would be ideal as Officer David Hara. In The Bone Field, there’s another officer helping out with the case—Officer Tomas Alva, the only full-time cop on Lanaʻi Island, where several bodies have been discovered in an abandoned pineapple field. For Alva, I’m casting Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa.

The character of actor-turned-podcaster Chad Caesar has been huge fun to contemplate. His role in the series isn’t large, but it’s important, so I’ve finally decided the role should be offered to Justin Timberlake. It begs for an actor who can be funny without being silly, a skill Timberlake definitely possesses.

I enjoyed contemplating who might best convey the book’s more sinister characters. For Bill Bragden, I won’t settle for anyone other than Sam Elliott. And for Abraham Waters, who’s tied to an old cult, I’m torn between Viggo Mortensen—highly adept at complicated roles—and British actor Marc Warren. While both could deliver the elements of charisma and intensity that Abraham embodies, Warren might have a slight edge because of his track record with mysteries. In addition to his lead in the Masterpiece crime drama Van Der Valk, he’s had roles in numerous television dramas including Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Marple, The Vice, Wycliffe, A Touch of Frost, and Prime Suspect: Scent of Darkness. I’m willing to let Ron Howard figure this one out. But he still needs to call me.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

Writers Read: Debra Bokur.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 7, 2021

Connie Berry's "The Art of Betrayal"

Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Berry was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare's College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Berry won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Berry loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.

Here Berry dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest Kate Hamilton Mystery series—The Art of Betrayal:
Doesn’t every author dream of seeing her story and her characters, on the big screen? I do.

My writing process might be called cinematic. I visualize the scenes in my head as I write, noticing the background and light source, the physical movements of the characters, and their changing expressions as they interact. I hope my readers can picture the scenes, too.

The Art of Betrayal is a traditional mystery set in Suffolk, England. The main character is Kate Hamilton, an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. She’s helped in her investigations by Detective Inspector Tom Mallory of the Suffolk Constabulary. The book opens with Kate, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. She’s thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair pageant. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. This is Kate’s most puzzling case yet, pitting her against spring floods, a creepy mansion in the Suffolk countryside, the misty depths of Anglo-Saxon history, and a clever killer with an old secret.

So which director and which actors would bring my book to life?

My fantasy director is Simon Langton who directed the 1995 BBC miniseries Pride & Prejudice. What I admire about that production is its utter faithfulness, not only to Austen’s text but also to the tone of the novel. Langton, who was recently interviewed about the production, said its phenomenal success was due in part to the fact that the movie was filmed entirely on location rather than in a studio. I was lucky enough to see the house chosen for Longbourn—Luckington Court, a Grade 2 listed house of creamy Cotswold stone in Wiltshire. All the Longbourn scenes were filmed in the house and grounds, including my favorite scene in the book and perhaps in all of literature—the confrontation between Eliza Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the “prettyish kind of little wilderness.” Luckington Court actually has one.

Langton also praised the casting, with Jennifer Ehle as an intelligent and smiling Lizzie and a brooding Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. As much as I love these actors, my choices for the leading roles in The Art of Betrayal would be different.

For Kate, my fantasy actress is Carey Mulligan, although I’d have to dye her hair brown and give her blue contact lenses. Carey is a versatile actress, known for costume dramas. I think she’d capture Kate’s energy, wit, and vulnerability. That’s the quality I love most about both Carey and Kate—their vulnerable exteriors paired with inner cores of steel. I loved Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty in The Dig and as Daisy in The Great Gatsby. She does a brilliant American accent, too.

For DI Tom Mallory, my fantasy choice is a younger Ralph Fiennes (pronounced Raif Fines, by the way). Like Mulligan, Fiennes can play everything from the hilarious concierge in The Grand Hotel Budapest (2014) to Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films to his brilliant portrayal of Amon Goeth, the SS villain in Schindler’s List. Fiennes has the right look for Tom, too—spare, almost ascetic, with a hint of passion beneath the surface. The best part? He was born in Suffolk.

Now, the only thing left now is to convince a film studio to make the movie.
Visit Connie Berry's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Betrayal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Caroline Lea's "The Metal Heart"

Caroline Lea was born and raised in Jersey in the United Kingdom. She lives in Warwick, England.

Here Lea dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Metal Heart, and reported the following:
I love the idea of writers imagining movie versions of their books and the gorgeous real-life inspiration and beautiful landscape behind The Metal Heart mean that it translates really easily into something richly cinematic. Set on the remote Scottish Orkney Islands during World War Two, the novel is inspired by the true story of Italian prisoners of war who were imprisoned on the islands and built the most stunning chapel out of scrap and war debris. A love story, the novel’s central female characters are twins who are outcasts from Orcadian society and find themselves entranced by the beauty and romance of the chapel that the prisoners create. I’d love the team behind The Crown to direct an adaptation – they’re so brilliant at capturing sweeping landscapes and framing beautiful shots, which would give viewers a wonderful insight into the breathtaking Orcadian landscape.

While Dorothy and Constance are physically identical, their characters are very different. I would love to see Eleanor Tomlinson bringing out Con’s impetuousness and vulnerability, while showing the compelling romance between Dot and the Italian prisoner, Cesare. Eleanor is incredibly beautiful and I loved the complexity and vulnerability she brought to the character of Demelza in Poldark.

Although he is a soldier, Cesare is also an artist caught up in the machinery of war and I think the Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy would be a brilliant choice. In Marco Polo, he effortlessly embodies a testosterone-driven hero, but I think he would be excellent at bringing strength and sensitivity to Cesare’s artistic character and romantic love story.

For Major Bates, the prison camp’s commander, who is torn between the brutal requirements of duty and his desire to be merciful, I’d choose Tobias Menzies. I love the way that he brings a sense of tightly controlled repression to so many of his roles: his portrayal of the no-nonsense yet secretly sensitive Prince Philip in The Crown would translate wonderfully into the camp commander, who is slightly uncomfortable with his public position of authority and is able to be authoritarian and also very compassionate.

David Tennant would be a dream choice for John O’Farrell, Mayor of Orkney, who approaches so many of the fraught decisions with humour, while remaining unfailingly kind to Dot and Con. He’s able to be abrasively sarcastic – and very funny – while also always seeming intensely caring.

Lastly for the role of Angus MacLeod, the controlling guard who is infatuated with Con, I’d choose Jamie Dornan. The creepy intensity which he brought to The Fall would make him the ideal candidate to portray the sinister and obsessed MacLeod. This would add the perfect momentum and tension as the stakes grow and so many of the characters risk losing everything.
Follow Caroline Lea on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Woman.

--Marshal Zeringue