Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Leslie Hooton's "After Everyone Else"

Leslie Hooton is the author of three novels. Her debut novel, Before Anyone Else, garnered a Zibby nomination. Her second novel, The Secret of Rainy Days, was a book club favorite. Her newly released third novel, After Everyone Else, is the sequel to Before Everyone Else.

Here Hooton dreamcasts an adaptation of After Everyone Else:
Thumbnail take on After Everyone Else: "Family Dynamic with a murder mystery mashup."

Bailey Edgeworth, a famed restaurant designer, is arrested for the murder of her ex-husband. If the murder accusation isn't enough she is trying to balance her husband, her "junior terriorist teenager" and her skyrocketing career.

I don't have particular actors in mind when I am writing however once the book is submitted my imagination runs free. Every time I watch a movie or TV show I think "Oh, he would be a good Griffin." or " She would be a good Bailey." In After Everyone Else, for Bailey I see Daisy Edgar Jones because there is something mysterious about both women, and I always pictured Bailey as a brunette. They are both strong, determined and I love their sense of style.

Griffin always struck me as lanky and scruffy. I see Anders Holm (Workaholic and The Mindy Project), but I wouldn't mind Andrew Garfield.

Julia Garner is having a moment. I love her spunk and confidence so I would love to see her as Charlie.

I have always thought of Henry as too good looking for his own good. James Mardsen with his beautiful eyes and hair is my Henry pick.
Visit Leslie Hooton's website.

The Page 69 Test: After Everyone Else.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 30, 2022

John Vercher's "After the Lights Go Out"

John Vercher lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and two sons. He has a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Mountainview Master of Fine Arts program. He is a contributing writer for WBUR Boston’s Cognoscenti, and NPR features his essays on race, identity, and parenting. His debut novel, Three-Fifths, was named one of the best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune, CrimeReads, and Booklist. It was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Magazine Critics’ Awards for Best First Novel.

Here Vercher dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, After the Lights Go Out:
As a film and television fanatic, I tend to think cinematically when writing a book. For me that means envisioning the actors who I think could embody my main characters on the screen. This was especially true for the After the Lights Go Out. Who’s here I would love to see in the main roles.

Jesse Williams as Xavier “Scarecrow” Wallace – Williams would bring both the physicality and nuance to Xavier’s challenges of his deteriorating mind and body.

Brian Tyree Henry as Shemar “Shot” Tracy – I’m a huge fan of the show Atlanta and my love for it almost all centered on Henry’s portrayal of Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles. He is equal parts subtle and explosive, and I can’t picture anyone else playing Shot, the cousin Xavier loves and fears in nearly equal measure.

Viola Davis as Evelyn Wallace – I’m not sure this needs any explanation. Davis is a powerhouse, and she would bring an incredible amount of gravitas to the role of Evelyn, a woman unfairly and incorrectly maligned by her son, Xavier.

Bryan Cranston as Sam Wallace – Breaking Bad demonstrated Cranston’s ability to shift gears from complicatedly endearing to volatile and loathsome—the same qualities present in Xavier’s father, Sam, as he loses his faculties (and his filters) to end-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Visit John Vercher's website.

Q&A with John Vercher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 27, 2022

William Martin's "December ’41"

William Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, an award-winning PBS documentary, book reviews, magazine articles, and a cult-classic horror movie, too.

In novels like Back Bay, City of Dreams, The Lost Constitution, The Lincoln Letter, and Bound for Gold, he has told stories of the great and the anonymous of American history, and he’s taken readers from the deck of the Mayflower to 9/11. His work has earned him many accolades and honors, including the 2005 New England Book Award, the 2015 Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the 2019 Robert B. Parker Award.

Here Martin dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, December ’41:
I started in Los Angeles as a struggling screenwriter. I wrote three spec scripts and a play before I turned to novels. And only once did I imagine modern actors in any of them, in a screenplay that would eventually become my eleventh novel, Bound for Gold. I imagined Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson as the staid Bostonian and the rebellious Irishman who partner in the Gold Rush and James Stewart as the old miner who befriends them. Considering that Redford and Nicholson were mega-stars in 1976 and Stewart was a legend, my hopes were a little unrealistic.

But the truth is that anyone starting out as a screenwriter or novelist must operate with hopes that are unrealistic. It's the only way to keep going, and if you're lucky enough and relentless enough, you might keep going for 40-plus years, as I have through twelve novels.

And for the first time, I've written a novel that I 'cast' even as I was writing it. However, I didn't imagine modern actors. I cast December '41 with actors who've all gone to that big studio in the sky, because a novel set in the 1940s should have 1940s stars, especially since the novel itself uses the tropes and motifs of a '40s movie, right down to the black-and-white book jacket.

On the day after Pearl Harbor, a German assassin evades an FBI dragnet and begins preparations for a trip. He's going to Washington to shoot Franklin Roosevelt on Christmas Eve, as the president lights the National Christmas Tree. A failed actress travels with him, playing his faithful wife and - unbeknownst to her - covering for him. A disappointed Hollywood screenwriter crosses paths with him and comes under suspicion himself. A dogged FBI agent pursues him. Meanwhile, a wisecracking female private detective teams up with the FBI agent.

So who did I imagine in the roles? Well, since the book opens in Los Angeles, where everyone uses the movies as reference points, I'm not the only one who imagines these characters as movie actors in the book. A lot of the other characters do, too.

The German assassin, Martin Browning, should have a strong presence but a slight and unthreatening appearance. Some of his Nazi friends call him "Ash" because they think he looks like the actor who plays Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. Before long, the FBI is looking for a guy who resembles Leslie Howard. So call Leslie Howard's agent.

The failed actress, Vivian Hopewell, has been told that she looks like a young Marlene Dietrich. So that's easy, even though one of the characters tells her that she reminds him more of Jean Arthur.

The screenwriter, Kevin Cusack, is the guy who does "coverage" on the source material for Casablanca, which arrives at Warner Brothers on December 8. He's a Boston guy gone to Hollywood. Like the city he comes from, he has a cultured surface, but he's good with his fists. At one point he says that people think he looks like Tyrone Power. I think so, too, especially since he's the protagonist.

Frank Carter, the dogged FBI agent needs to be someone who has a heroic look and a relentless drive but isn't above manipulating his friends. Think of Fred MacMurray. No, not the Absent-Minded Professor... the much darker MacMurray who played the role of Howard Neff in Double Indemnity.

The female detective, named Stella Madden, must be an actress who can play the tough-girl role, the gun moll who's both sidekick and love interest. Ida Lupino, fresh off her role as Bogie's girl in High Sierra, is my choice.

I filled out the rest of the cast, too: Dorothy Malone as the screenwriter's girlfriend: she played a bookstore proprietor with lust on her mind in The Big Sleep. Sidney Greenstreet as a jolly but dangerous German who runs an LA shop. Judith Anderson and Walter Slezak as a husband-and-wife murder team who help Martin Browning. Scatman Crothers, starting his career a few years early, as a Pullman Porter who plays an important part.

And of course, in a novel set in old Hollywood, there are cameos by Hollywood stars. We meet Humphrey Bogart and his wife, Mayo Methot, who are having an argument in famed Hollywood watering hole, Musso & Frank's. They weren't called the "Battling Bogarts" for nothing. John Wayne makes an appearance at Musso's later. He's having a post-coital lunch with the real Marlene Dietrich (Yes, they were an item.) We also meet producers Jack L. Warner and Hal Wallis, directors John Huston and Raoul Walsh.

OF course, the director who is the most important influence on the book isn't in it. But we feel him in the dark streets of LA, in cross-country train sequences, and in the suspense-filled final act, set around the national monuments of Washignton DC: Alfred Hitchcock. He's the Master of Suspense and I've been learning from him since before I went to Hollywood and started writing.
Visit William Martin's website.

Q&A with William Martin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Alex Jennings's "The Ballad of Perilous Graves"

Alex Jennings is a writer/editor/teacher/poet living in New Orleans. He was born in Wiesbaden (Germany) and raised in Gaborone (Botswana), Tunis (Tunisia), Paramaribo (Surinam) and the United States. He constantly devours pop culture and writes mostly jokes on Twitter. He loves music, film, comix, and even some TV. He has two of the best roommates on earth (one of whom is a beautiful beautiful dog named Karate Valentino).

Here Jennings dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Ballad of Perilous Graves:
Dream casting is such a strange process because I’ve been working on this book for so long that the project has grown beyond its original bounds to take over every aspect of my imagination. I only just admitted to myself last week how much I would love to see Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins, or Regina King direct an adaptation of The Ballad of Perilous Graves. The director would need to understand this story as one that features children and whimsy, but is not aimed at kids. The book was conceived as something of a musical—a blaxploitation Pippi Longstocking adventure for adults set in an alternate New Orleans where music is a kind of magic. It’s full of living graffiti tags, jazz and blues songs come to life, talking animals, and there’s even a carefully curated Spotify playlist to go along with it, which you can find here.

Ideas of the supporting characters are the ones that come to me first. I imagine Clark Peters playing Daddy Deke, the patriarch with a secret he keeps even from himself. Regina King herself would make an excellent Mama Lisa. I imagine Brian Michael Smith playing both Casey Ravel and Casey Bridgewater. I first noticed him in Queen Sugar, and I would love to see Casey portrayed by a trans actor. I’ve imagined several actors in the role of Stagger Lee—Kofi Siriboe, Bokeem Woodbine, John Boyega…! Bryan Tyree Henry would make an excellent Jaylon Bridgewater, and Jon Batiste would be perfect for Dr. Professor. I have two options for Lafcadio Hearn, which are very different from each other, but I think they would both be amazing: Jason Mantzoukas, the comic actor/improv master, and Paul F. Tompkins, comic genius. Both of them have an air of distinction and intelligence coupled with the sense that they could do… anything.

I’d love to see Daniel Kyrie from Chicago Fire as Bee Sharp, and Charles Baker (Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad) as his arch nemesis, Tha Hanging Judge. I’d love to see Danny Boyd, Jr. from Bruised as Perry himself.
Visit Alex Jennings's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2022

Mary Anna Evans's "The Physicists’ Daughter"

Mary Anna Evans is an award-winning author, a writing professor, and she holds degrees in physics and engineering, a background that, as it turns out, is ideal for writing her new book, The Physicists’ Daughter. Set in WWII-era New Orleans, the book introduces Justine Byrne, whom Evans describes as “a little bit Rosie-the-Riveter and a little bit Bletchley Park codebreaker.” When Justine, the daughter of two physicists who taught her things girls weren’t expected to know in 1944, realizes that her boss isn’t telling her the truth about the work she does in her factory job, she draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country, and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home.

Here Evans dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
Justine Byrne

Either Saoirse Ronan or Anya Taylor-Joy would bring the right mix of intellect and individualism. Like Justine, they are beautiful, but in their own striking way that doesn’t depend on wearing trendy makeup and the “right” clothes. They look like themselves.

Georgette Broussard

I think Florence Pugh would have a lot of fun with Georgette’s Cajun accent and her bold physicality.

Charles

Jonathan Groff has Charles’s brainy-but-slightly-dangerous vibe.

Martin

Sebastian Stan has Martin’s magnetism and, not to put a fine point on it, his notable brawn.

Jerry

I have spent a lot of time on the internet trying to answer the question of who should play Jerry. The difficulty I’ve had in finding the right actor just emphasizes the importance of casting him well. Jerry is a polio survivor with limited mobility in his legs, but full mobility in his upper body. He uses a wheelchair and drives a car with hand controls that he designed and built himself, because he is a mechanical genius. To do his job as a factory maintenance chief, he has designed his workshop to accommodate his needs. It is important to me that Jerry be portrayed by someone who uses a wheelchair. I know that there are actors out there who are perfect for this role, but I couldn't find quite the right person. A casting director with access to information on a wide variety of actors could surely do better than I could. I really hope the movie gets made, because Jerry would be such a good role for the right actor.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

My Book, The Movie: Strangers.

Q&A with Mary Anna Evans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 17, 2022

Elissa Grossell Dickey's "Iris in the Dark"

Elissa Grossell Dickey is a mother, multiple sclerosis warrior, and author of The Speed of Light and Iris in the Dark.

Here she dreamcasts an adaption of her new release, Iris in the Dark:
Iris in the Dark is suspenseful women’s fiction about a single mother who must face her worst fear—the past—when she hears a chilling cry for help in the night while house-sitting at a South Dakota lodge. This book is a mix of creepy suspense and emotional love story, so I think it would make an incredible film! If it ever happens, here’s who I imagine playing the lead roles:

Iris Jenkins: The main character, Iris, is anxious but resilient, and stronger than she knows. The most important thing to her is keeping her son safe. For this role, I would cast Emily Blunt. She’s an amazing actress in any role, and she was especially outstanding as the mother in both A Quiet Place movies, so I think she’d be perfect for Iris as well.

Sawyer Jones: The role of Iris’s love interest, Sawyer, would be played by Bradley Cooper. He’s a great actor, and he has just the right mix of rugged and sweet to play the swoony lodge caretaker that sweeps Iris off her feet.

Natalie Jones: Maybe it’s because I’m obsessed with Stranger Things right now and really like Max as a character, but I think Sadie Sink would be perfect for the snarky-but-sweet character of Natalie, Sawyer’s daughter.

Cole Jones: For Sawyer’s younger brother, the charming but questionable Cole, I think Charlie Hunnam would be a good fit. He could bring an air of dangerous mystery to this character, whose intentions aren’t clear to readers during the story.

Now that my fancast for Iris in the Dark is complete, I’ll sit back and cross my fingers that someday we’ll be able to see my book as a film, either streaming or in theaters!
Visit Elissa Grossell Dickey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Light.

Q&A with Elissa Grossell Dickey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Lauren Belfer's "Ashton Hall"

Lauren Belfer is the New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; A Fierce Radiance, a Washington Post and NPR Best Mystery of the Year; and City of Light, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal best book, a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and an international bestseller. Belfer attended Swarthmore College and has an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

Here Belfer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Ashton Hall:
When I’m in the midst of writing a novel, I often imagine the book as a movie, and I write from what I see on the screen in my mind.

A film of Ashton Hall would require a combination of English and American actors. The story begins when Hannah Larson, an American woman, and her nine-year-old son, Nicky, arrive at an historic English manor house outside Cambridge to care for an ill relative who rents an apartment there. Within a few days, Nicky has thoroughly explored the house on his own, and he’s stumbled upon a secret from the past. As Hannah and Nicky begin investigating this secret, they create new lives for themselves in England.

Hannah is about forty, and although she keeps up a strong, happy façade for the sake of her son, she’s struggling on the inside. She has to be portrayed in such a way that her inner vulnerability and sensitivity are always clear. I can think of many wonderful actresses working today who would play the role of Hannah beautifully, and I don’t want to name just one. As I think of actresses of the past, however, my mind keeps going to Ingrid Bergman. She wasn’t American, of course, and she was blonde, not dark-haired like Hannah, but she always brought a touching and riveting vulnerability to her roles.

While Hannah is living in England, she becomes close friends with Martha Tinsley, a research librarian at Ashton Hall. For this role, my dream choice would be Michelle Dockery, who is famous for her fantastic work on Downton Abbey. Recently I saw her in the TV series Anatomy of a Scandal. Because of the fierce focus and drive (within the constraints of being English) that Michelle Dockery brings to her portrayal of a barrister on that show, I immediately thought she’d be perfect in the role of Martha in Ashton Hall.

For Matthew Varet, Hannah’s friend and romantic interest in England, I’d cast Matthew Goode. Yes, he’s played similar roles and so might be a too-obvious choice, but the fact remains that he’s handsome, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent – he would be perfect as Matthew Varet!

For some of the other characters … Judi Dench would be ideal as the estate administrator, Mrs. Felicity Gardner, and I’d cast Luke Kirby to play Hannah’s estranged husband, Kevin Donovan.

On a lighter note, one of the main characters in the book is a Golden Retriever named Duncan. Duncan is based on my own magnificent, noble, and absurdly cheerful Jasper, who died some years ago. Jasper is still a vital presence in my memory. Whenever I see a Goldie on the streets of my Greenwich Village neighborhood, I ask myself: Could that Goldie play Duncan in a movie of Ashton Hall? So far, I’m sorry to say, I haven't found the ideal Duncan … but he might be waiting for me around the next corner.
Visit Lauren Belfer's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Fierce Radiance.

My Book, The Movie: And After the Fire.

Q&A with Lauren Belfer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 10, 2022

Peter Colt's "Death at Fort Devens"

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys.

Here Colt dreamcasts an adaptation of his new Andy Roark mystery, Death at Fort Devens:
Death at Fort Devens is set in Boston and at Fort Devens (an Army base in Massachusetts) in the summer of 1985. Boston PI and former Green Beret/Vietnam vet Andy Roark is asked for help by an old Army buddy of his, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Billings. Dave saved Andy’s life in Vietnam and is newly stationed at Fort Devens. Dave has a teenaged daughter who has run away from home. Dave tries to hire Andy to find her, but Andy takes the case for free because of his obligation to Dave. Andy’s search leads him into Boston’s notorious Combat Zone, five square acres of sex, strippers, prostitution, and drugs. The search also leads Andy to a very dark, violent place within himself and forces him to consider how far he will go to save a young woman from a life of drug addiction and prostitution.

The characters I would like to see cast are: Andy Roark, Dave Billings, Sue Teller and Sailor.

Every writer since the invention of film has contemplated who they want to play their lead character if the book was made into a film. I am no different. Since I wrote the first book, I have gone around and around in my mind about it. Ideally, I want someone who seems credible playing a veteran, not just a veteran but someone who had been an elite soldier and who still carries his war with him every day. While I kept thinking about this over the months and years two or three names came to the top of the list and for very different reasons.

The first was Adam Driver. Driver, a former Marine, and extremely talented actor has the dramatic chops to play the part. Not only that but his service also gives him a great deal of insight into what makes my character tick. Driver is a versatile actor who can easily transition from dramatic to comedic and back. Driver could easily capture Andy’s sense of humor.

For years Adam Driver was the only actor that made sense to me. Then I saw Narcos Mexico, and I was looking at an actor who looked like I thought my character looked like. That’s Scoot McNairy. McNairy didn’t seem like an actor playing a DEA agent taking on the cartels, he was Walt Breslin. McNairy managed to seem dedicated, tough, driven, and sympathetic all at once. All the things that I want Andy Roark to seem on screen. As a bonus he is also in Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt, in which he plays a criminal in Boston. McNairy accent may not be perfect, but it sounds perfectly like what I picture Andy’s to be like.

Dave Billings is a war hero and seems to lead a charmed life. He is tough and has the type of class that comes with being born into money. The actor who plays him has to have the military bearing of someone who is in command and whose men would follow him to hell and back. He also has to convey the sensitivity of a distraught father whose daughter has run away. For me the actor who stands out above the rest is Alexander Skarsgård. After watching him in Generation Kill it is easy to see him as a combat veteran and elite soldier. He has the range to do that and to make the audience want to go out looking for his missing daughter.

Sue Teller is Andy’s ex-girlfriend who runs an outreach program in the Combat Zone where she tries to get prostitutes out of the life. Sue is tough and dedicated. She is more than a match for Andy and is not just the usual female lead or romantic window dressing. This role demands an actor who can believably have had a relationship with, and left, Andy as well as hold her own when arguing with him. To me that is Zoey Deutch. She is equally adept at drama or comedy. In my mind she can bring Sue to life on the screen while holding her own with any of the other actors I have mentioned.

Sailor: Sailor is a violent street criminal. He is a drug dealer and is involved in the sex trade. He is a violent, captivating character who is also quite humorous. He has to go from insulting, to fighting, to being vulnerable and requires a pretty versatile actor. One who can also convey sleaziness. For me this was the easiest actor to imaginarily cast: James Ransone. His work in Generation Kill, The Wire and Bosch are all captivating performances in which he runs through the gamut of emotions, humor and ability to be violent. He is the perfect Sailor.
Visit Peter Colt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Back Bay Blues.

Q&A with Peter Colt.

The Page 69 Test: Death at Fort Devens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Katie Tallo's "Poison Lilies"

Katie Tallo has been an award-winning screenwriter and director for more than two decades. In 2012, she was inspired to begin writing novels. Dark August is her debut novel. Tallo has a daughter and lives with her husband in Ottawa, Ontario.

Here Tallo dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of her new novel, Poison Lilies:
I spent my early career making films and writing screenplays so as I transitioned to novel writing, the visual focus in storytelling always stayed with me. When I’m writing I often imagine the lights, the sounds, locations and sets, the actors, and I hear the dialogue (often saying it out loud).

If Poison Lilies was made into a film, I’ve love to see either Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) or Sophia Lillis (It, Uncle Frank) cast as the lead, Augusta Monet. I think both these actors can play tough, sassy, fearless, independent and vulnerable characters—like Gus. It also doesn’t hurt that they're both redheads like Gus!
Visit Katie Tallo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark August.

Q&A with Katie Tallo.

The Page 69 Test: Poison Lilies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Wendy Church's "Murder on the Spanish Seas"

Wendy Church has been a bartender, tennis instructor, semiconductor engineer, group facilitator, nonprofit CEO, teacher, PhD researcher, and dive bar cleaner. Her first suspense novel, Murder on the Spanish Seas, is set on a luxury cruise in the Iberian peninsula, and introduces amateur
sleuth Jesse O’Hara, whose adventures are partly informed by Church’s expertise and international travels.

Here Church dreamcasts an adaptation of Murder on the Spanish Seas:
The main protagonist in Murder on the Spanish Seas is Jesse O’Hara, a profane, introverted, hard drinking, 30-year-old woman. She’s smart, impatient, and fiercely loyal to her few close friends. She’s also really smart/witty, which helps her unravel mysteries, and solve crimes. When I think about casting her in a movie, I imagine Angie Harmon in her role as Rizzoli, or Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games, if they remade it with an ongoing internal dialogue from Katniss that was snarky and funny.

Jesse’s best friend and sidekick, Sam, I envision being played by Eva Mendes, thinking about her role in The Other Guys as Will Ferrell’s wife.

I’d love to have Mel Brooks direct a movie based on my book, as he can carry on a suspenseful/interesting story that maintains a baseline of funny the whole time. He’d probably add in a bunch of stuff that would make the movie way funnier than the book, which would be great. I’d also want him to do a cameo, maybe playing the role of the bumbling ship security officer.
Visit Wendy Church's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

Q&A with Wendy Church.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Marty Ambrose's "Forever Past"

Marty Ambrose is the award-winning author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire's Last Secret, A Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century Italy. Her fiction has earned starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, as well as a gold medal for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association's Literary Palm Awards.

Here Ambrose shares her vision for an adaptation of Forever Past:
I would love to see a one-woman tour de force film of my novel, Forever Past, the final installment in the Claire Clairmont mystery trilogy. This book is really the story of Claire’s search for her lost daughter, Allegra, conceived out of wedlock with English poet, Lord Byron, and it is told in her words. For so long, Claire was the missing voice in the Byron/Shelley circle, eclipsed by the more famous members of this glittering literary group, and it would be fitting to see her take the center of a cinematic interpretation--alone.

I’ve always been fascinated by films with a single actor who is the lynchpin for making a movie captivating and intense, much like the vintage Vincent Price movie, An Evening with Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve seen this film many times, and it never grows old as he evokes the sinister world of Gothic horror. In his role, Price narrates four of Poe’s short stories and, with his bravura performance, he is mesmerizing during the entire film. No other actors are needed. No complex setting is required. No musical score is necessary.

In that vein, Helena Bonham-Carter would be my choice for Claire. She has played historical characters (think Room with a View) with the same passionate, impetuous nature and, now as an older actor, she also possesses the wistful wisdom that comes with age. I think she would not only embody the spirit of Claire but, also, be able to carry the film singlehandedly with her charismatic presence.

The movie would begin with Bonham-Carter as Claire at the end of the book, when she is in a garden outside Livorno, about to learn whether her daughter is still alive. She then begins to tell the story of Forever Past, speaking directly to the camera as she creates the atmospheric tale of what transpired to bring her to this point. As she relates the details of her quest that took her to Ravenna, the Convent of Bagnacavallo and, eventually, Livorno, she explores how each exotic locale revealed betrayals by people whom she loved and trusted. Her dearest friend Trelawny, had hid his role in Allegra’s life, the abbess at the Bagnacavallo convent lied to her about her role in Allegra’s disappearance, and her stalwart police ally hid important details about Allegra’s fate from her. Still, Claire prevailed and, in her dialog, Bonham-Carter would reveal a woman of resolve, deep feeling, and vulnerability.

In the course of Bonham-Carter’s monologue, I would also have her read aloud the part of Forever Past which contains the fictional letters of Pietro Gamba—the brother of Lord Byron’s last mistress—who bore witness to Byron’s final days in Greece when he died in the cause of Greek independence. As she recites passages based on Byron’s actual words, I would shift to a male actor’s voiceover, played by classical actor, Ciaran Hinds, to convey the world of men at war, from which Claire was excluded. Hinds would not be visible—only audible.

At the end of the film, Bonham-Carter will turn to a shadowy, unfocused figure who emerges from a small villa, as she utters Claire’s final word at the end of the book: Allegra?

Has Claire’s journey led to a satisfying conclusion? I can’t reveal that...
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Jacinda Townsend's "Mother Country"

Jacinda Townsend is the author of Saint Monkey, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Here Townsend dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Mother Country:
The hardest question, for me, is casting. When I think of my protagonist Shannon Cavanagh, whose muted sauciness informs so much of the plot, I think of Kerry Washington. My co-protagonist, Souria Maouloud, does not speak the same language as her captors and neighbors for so much of the novel: Thandiwe Newton is an actress whose range would allow her to commit all the on-screen physicality that Souria's role would require. Shannon's husband, Vladimir Grenfell, is such an unmitigated dork, and in some way nonetheless to blame for everything that goes wrong in this novel. LaKeith Stanfield would be a perfect Vlad.

My favorite films are the Star Wars episodes, and when I finally traveled to North Africa, I deeply understood why it had been the real-world backdrop for so much of the Star Wars universe. After having been there one can see, in Obi-Wan Kenobi's costume, an echo of the robes that men wear in the Sahara; the swoop bikes that make for such prevalent Star Wars transportation very much recall the mopeds that clot the medinas of North Africa. To watch even ten minutes of Tunisian-set Star Wars is to sense the magnitude and force of rock formations in the Sahara: it's an ancient, powerful place that's impervious to change even as it is ever-evolving.

I'd love, then, for the North African half of Mother Country to be filmed on location--as much as the cities of Marrakech and Essaouira are a backdrop for much of the plot, the Sahara Desert is what truly shapes each of these characters, even the American ones. Souria, of course, has an iron that's been forged in the Sahara's hot, hot cultural fire. But Shannon and Vlad don't understand how they are butting up against a desert-shaped culture that leaves a child wholly free at the same time she is utterly, lovingly attended to, and this is their great failing in the novel.

I'm also someone who's incredibly picky about music--not only did I assemble a six-piece ensemble to play at my wedding, but I arranged all the world music. The soundtrack of Mother Country would ideally be played by Tinariwen, a well-known band from the Saharan region of northern Mali. Besides being deeply involved in the region's politics, some of which are front and center of Mother Country, Tinariwen are expert at creating the mood I can describe only as "heightened trance." To see them in concert is a magical experience, but to hear them in-studio is to salve the soul. Having the texture of their work behind these characters would be a dream.
Visit Jacinda Townsend's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Brian Klingborg's "Wild Prey"

Brian Klingborg has both a B.A. (University of California, Davis) and an M.A. (Harvard) in East Asian Studies and spent years living and working in Asia. He currently works in early childhood educational publishing and lives in New York City. Klingborg is the author of two non-fiction books on Shaolin kung fu; Kill Devil Falls; and the Lu Fei China mystery series (Thief of Souls and Wild Prey.)

Here Klingborg dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of Wild Prey:
This one might seem hard – but actually, it’s easy. I have in mind the perfect actor to play Inspector Lu Fei.

First, a bit of background. Lu Fei lives in northern China, just outside the city of Harbin. His native language is Mandarin, of course, although he has spent some time in the US and speaks passable English. He has an extensive background in the martial arts. He is handsome but not too handsome. He has a slightly caustic sense of humor. His tough exterior masks a kind heart. And while the plot of Wild Prey has him going undercover to infiltrate the hidden compound of a Burmese warlord, he is very much an anti-James Bond: faithful to the woman he loves, has no license to kill, and he prefers cold beer and small-town life to martinis and jet-set travel.

Assuming we are casting for an American-made film intended for a Western audience, we’ll need an actor who is Chinese, but speaks English fluently (and it would be great if he spoke Chinese as well); who can make an audience laugh, but also play a bad-ass; and, if we’re being completely honest and practical, is bankable.

There is one such guy who embodies all these qualities – and wouldn’t you know it, he’s actually from Harbin! I’m talking about the star of the recent blockbuster Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Simu Liu.

So, Simu, if you’re reading this, hit a brother up!
Visit Brian Klingborg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2022

Natalie Jenner's "Bloomsbury Girls"

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller, and has been sold for translation in twenty countries.

Here Jenner dreamcasts an adaptation of Bloomsbury Girls:
Ironically, it was an early pandemic rewatch of the 1987 movie 84 Charing Cross Road, based on the wonderful book by Helene Hanff, that lit the creative spark for my new novel Bloomsbury Girls, which is about a trio of women working in a 1950s London bookshop who are engaged in a battle of the sexes with their male department heads and decide to stage a coup. Although the movie focuses on the epistolary relationship between Hanff and the manager of a 1950s bookshop at—you guessed it—84 Charing Cross Road, its wonderful set design for the shop brought to humming life all manner of staff. As I watched, I thought to myself, there’s a whole other book in here, and immediately half a dozen characters came to mind. Here’s how I would cast the main ones:

Lord Baskin, the elegant, sympathetic earl who owns the one-hundred-year-old bookshop at the heart of Bloomsbury Girls, has to be played by Richard Armitage, who narrated the audiobook for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society, the actual writing of which he also inspired. What can I say—I’m a huge fan.

Evie Stone, the former servant girl turned literary sleuth and Cambridge graduate, is also connected to my first book, and for years now I have envisioned a shorter Saoirse Ronan in this role, given the serious, fiercely ambitious Jo March vibes from her performance in Little Women.

For Vivien, the insolent ringleader of the discontented female staff, I can only see Charlotte Spencer, the amazing actress currently playing Lady Esther Babbington in Masterpiece Theatre’s Sanditon. She has all of Vivien’s sass, impatience and ultra-cool demeanour.

Alec McDonough, the lean, blond, handsome head of fiction and competitive foil (and maybe something more) to Vivien, would ideally be played by Tom Hiddleston. As I wrote, I could actually picture Hiddleston sliding along on the rolling bookshop ladder, blond angelic head and all.

And finally, Elizabeth McGovern played Ellen Doubleday once already, in the BBC2 television drama Daphne, and I have always pictured her as the late publishing magnate’s wife and friend to Daphne du Maurier (who, with all her grand historic mystique, could only be played by herself).
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

My Book, The Movie: The Jane Austen Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Bonnar Spring's "Disappeared"

Bonnar Spring writes eclectic and stylish mystery-suspense novels with an international flavor. A nomad at heart, she hitchhiked across Europe at sixteen and joined the Peace Corps after college. Bonnar taught ESL—English as a Second Language—at a community college for many years. She currently divides her time between tiny houses on a New Hampshire salt marsh and by the Sea of Abaco.

Here Spring dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Disappeared:
If I have any say in the matter, when Disappeared becomes a film, the #1 thing I’d insist on is filming in Morocco. The novel begins in Ouarzazate, a small city which happens to be just down the road from Atlas Studios, one of the world’s largest film studios. If you’ve seen Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel, The Mummy (1999 version), Star Wars, Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, or Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator, you’ve seen the area.

Also near the studio is Ait Benhaddou, a United Nations World Heritage site where the first scene in Disappeared takes place. This part of Morocco is on an arid plain at the edge of the Sahara Desert, where the sisters really begin to get into trouble. Throughout the novel, the setting—stony desert, blowing sand dunes, Roman ruins, ancient petroglyphs—is integral to the action, and all of those locations are within a day’s drive of Atlas Studios.

Sisters Fay Ohana and Julie Welch are the two main characters.

Julie, the older sister, is short with wispy dark hair. Her only concession to femininity is wearing bright red lipstick. She has the angular features of a young Audrey Hepburn. These days, either Lily Collins or Rooney Mara would be excellent in the role.

Where Julie is a boyish brunette, Fay is blond and voluptuous—a dead ringer for Katherine Heigl in her Grey’s Anatomy days.

I always imagined Yasmin, Fay’s mother-in-law, as having the angular cheekbones—and elegant stoicism—of Vanessa Redgrave.

Yasmin’s daughter, Nadia, is the character who has the greatest physical change during the course of the book. If a production company could persuade Salma Hayek to look unkempt and gaunt for the first half of the film, she would be my first choice.

And her gutsy son, Hamid, should be played by Pierce Gagnon—when he was five, playing Cid in Looper.

It’s not just hair and body type, though. As Lady Gaga will tell you, repeatedly, in different and ever-more theatrical ways, acting is “not an imitation, it’s a becoming.” All these actors (again, with the caveat that a director could get Salma to look emaciated) have the personality and talent to become my characters.
Visit Bonnar Spring's website.

Q&A with Bonnar Spring.

The Page 69 Test: Disappeared.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Karen Winn's "Our Little World"

Karen Winn received her MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She also holds a doctoral degree in nursing. Born and raised in New Jersey, she now lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Here Winn dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Our Little World:
Set in the 1980s in a small and idyllic New Jersey town, Our Little World is a lyrical coming of age novel with a looming mystery about two sisters with a relationship equal parts love and envy, whose lives are suddenly and irrevocably changed by a neighborhood girl’s disappearance.

When Max and his little sister Sally move in across the street, soon-to-be seventh grader Bee and her sister Audrina are excited that their circle of local friends has expanded. But what begins as a usual fun-filled summer—playing kickball in their cul-de-sac and swimming at the local haunts—quickly goes awry when Sally goes missing at the town lake. In the aftermath, Bee and Audrina’s little world cracks, both inside the home, as secrets, guilt, and jealousy come between them, and outside of it, as the illusion of stability in their close-knit community is shattered.

This novel is full of 80s nostalgia and has a dark underbelly. It’s about complex sibling and family relationships, and small-town dynamics. The tone of the movie would be in the vein of Stand by Me, or the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown.

Here’s my dream cast of actors (from various stages in their careers):

Twelve-year-old Bee would be played by a young Christina Ricci (from the eras of The Addams Family or The Ice Storm).

The adult version of Bee would be played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Audrina, Bee’s eleven-year-old sister, would be played by a young Emma Roberts, from Unfabulous era.

Little Sally Baker, the four-year-old who goes missing at the lake, would be played by a young Drew Barrymore, from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Max Baker—Sally’s brother and Bee’s crush—would be played by a young Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy Taylor on Home Improvement).

Bee and Audrina’s mother would be played by Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire era), and their father would be played by Dan Lauria (Jack Arnold from The Wonder Years).

Mrs. Baker would be played by Kathy Bates (Misery era), and Dr. Baker by Hugh Laurie (from House).

Diane would be played by a young Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday era), and Courtney by a young Hilary Duff (from Lizzie McGuire).

The Wiley brothers (Patrick and Andrew) would be played, respectively, by a young Kiernan Culkin from the era of Cider House Rules and his real-life brother, a young Rory Culkin from the movie Lymelife.
Visit Karen Winn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Our Little World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Aaron Angello's "The Fact of Memory"

Aaron Angello is a poet, playwright, and essayist from the Rocky Mountains who lives and feels remarkably out of place in the charming, but very Eastern, town of Frederick, Maryland. He received his MFA and PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder, and he currently teaches writing and theater at Hood College.

Here Angello dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Fact of Memory: 114 Ruminations and Fabrications:
If someone had unlimited financial resources and wanted to make The Fact of Memory: 144 Ruminations and Fabrications into a film, they would 1) find it nearly impossible and 2) end up making either the best or worst film ever. The book is a series of 114 brief lyric essays, prose poems, and flash fictions, each a response to one word from Shakespeare’s 29th sonnet. I can imagine a film that consists of 114 very short, unique films, and that does seem cool – kind of like a much more frenetic version of Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould. On the other hand, the individual pieces that make up the book, when taken together, do form a kind of long lyric essay or lyric autobiography. The way the pieces work together to create a kind of cohesive (though certainly nonlinear) narrative surprised even me. It is, as someone much smarter than me has said of it, “a Gen X coming of age of sorts.”

So, the challenge in making this film would be in casting the “I” (which is, very clearly, me) at different points in his life. Though one might be inclined to look for similar characteristics in each of the actors who play “I” at different ages, I would encourage the director and his casting staff to look for characteristics that embody “I” at those different times, even if they’re inconsistent.

“I” age 3, running up on the stage at the Elks Club where his father is playing 50s rock and roll (page 92): Jeff Cohen, the kid who played Chunk in The Goonies, but we would need to cast him as a child. I’m not sure how we do that.

“I” age 6, sifting through the rubble of a burned-down grocery store in the small mountain town of Cripple Creek (page 99): One of the twins from The Shining. They need to wear the blue dress as well.

“I” age 8, riding in a car through the mountains, collecting a pet cloud (page 21): Haley Joel Osment at the time he made The Sixth Sense. Again, we need to cast him as a child.

“I” age 19, in college, becoming aware of his doppelganger (page 41): Finn Wolfhard, because he’s made a career playing the kid in nostalgic films set in the 90s, and I think if he was attached to the project, we’d be able to secure funding.

“I” age 23, smoking Parliaments and drinking cheap Chianti on a rooftop in the East Village with his (pseudo)bohemian, artist friends, discussing how important they are (page 101): Ethan Hawke when he played Jesse in Before Sunrise. In fact, I can’t think of a more accurate representation of “I” at this point in his life than Hawke in this film. Anytime I think of “I” at this point in his life, I picture Ethan Hawke sitting on the grass drinking wine and talking with Julie Delpy. In my memory, I have turned “I” and Ethan Hawke into one.

“I” age 28, lonely, angry, living with a friend (who would be played by a young Al Pacino) in Santa Fe, drinking at cowboy bars and wandering through graveyards at night (page 94): Toshirô Mifune, when he did Rashomon, but dressed in ripped jeans and a motorcycle jacket.

“I” at 33, living with his first wife in an apartment above a garage in Venice Beach, listening to couples having sex across the alleyway (page 84): Florence Pugh. She’s a little young for the role, but I think we could age her up. She can perfectly express a sense of youthful wonder and possibility while also allowing the audience some brief glimpses of the emotional chaos that was lurking just around the proverbial corner.

“I” age 38, at his twentieth high school reunion (page 102): Andrew Scott, just because he’s one of our greatest living actors, and he’d really class up this picture.

“I” at the time of writing the book: Paul Giamatti. I don’t know why. I just really relate to that guy.
Visit Aaron Angello's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fact of Memory.

Writers Read: Aaron Angello.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 22, 2022

Taylor Brown's "Wingwalkers"

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include In the Season of Blood and Gold (2014), Fallen Land (2016), The River of Kings (2017), Gods of Howl Mountain (2018), Pride of Eden (2020), and Wingwalkers (2022). You can find his work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Garden & Gun, the North Carolina Literary Review, and many other publications. He is a recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction and the founder of BikeBound.com. He lives in Savannah, GA.

Here Brown dreamcasts an adaptation of Wingwalkers:
I tend to have what seems like a cinematic imagination, in that I often "watch" my stories unfold as I write them, as if I'm watching a film. In my opinion, Wingwalkers would make a great movie. It follows the story of a husband-wife barnstorming duo, wingwalker Della the Daring and her former WWI ace husband, Zeno Marigold, as they attempt to coax their aging biplane across America during the Great Depression, living quite literally on a wing and a prayer. Their story alternates with that of none other than William Faulkner, following the legendary novelist and thwarted fighter pilot as he comes up in the world, both in terms of his work and flying pursuits.

I think actor Tom Hardy would make a perfect Zeno. He's burly and swarthy, like Zeno, and he can exude a physical menace that speaks to the violence and trauma that hovers beneath the surface of Zeno's charismatic exterior. Also, Lawless showed us that Hardy can do a Southern-ish accent. As for Della, I think Jessica Chastain would be a dead ringer. Not only does she have red hair and a statuesque look like Della, but she plays tough female characters so well -- and she can do a Southern accent, too, as we learned in The Help!

Now, who would play Faulkner? Oh, that's a much tougher question. Of course, there would have to be multiple actors, as the book starts when Faulkner is just 10-11 years old, and ends when he's not quite 40, but let's focus on him as an adult. There remains a boyishness to Faulkner, which I think Ryan Gosling could play well, but to me, getting Faulkner's voice right would be important, and I don't think Canada-born Gosling could handle that big, soft, long-drawled Mississippi accent. Texas-born Tye Sheridan comes to mind -- I loved him in Mud, and he's getting old enough now to play this role. But neither seem ideal. Honestly, I'd need to keep thinking on this one...

For directors, my top three dream directors would be Jeff Nichols (Mud, Shotgun Stories, Midnight Special), the Coen Brothers, or another one of my very favorites, Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven). It's funny to think how different each film would turn out!
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The River of Kings.

My Book, The Movie: Pride of Eden.

Q&A with Taylor Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 18, 2022

Philip Gray's "Two Storm Wood"

Philip Gray studied modern history at Cambridge University, and went on to work as a journalist in Madrid, Rome and Lisbon. He has tutored in crime writing at City University in London and serves as a director at an award-winning documentary film company, specialising in science and history.

Gray's grandfather was a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought through the First World War from start to finish, losing his closest friends along the way. Years after his death, Gray came across a cache of trench maps and military documents that his grandfather had kept, and in which he had recorded the events that befell his unit. Gray was inspired to write his thriller Two Storm Wood when the pull of his grandfather's legacy felt too strong to ignore.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
Two Storm Wood is a period thriller largely set on the dangerous and desolate wastelands of the Western Front, just a few months after the end of World War 1. A young Englishwoman, Amy Vanneck, defying her family and social convention, sets off from England to discover the fate of her fiancé, Edward Haslam, who vanished at the front during the final summer of the war. Amy’s search leads her to Captain James Mackenzie, who commands one of the many volunteer labour companies tasked with searching the old battlefields for the missing dead – who number in the hundreds of thousands. Mackenzie’s men have discovered the aftermath of an atrocity in a dugout below the old German lines, a matter now under investigation by the War Office in the shape of a disfigured military policeman, Major John Westbrook. Both Amy and Mackenzie find themselves drawn into the hunt for a psychopath, one for whom the horror at Two Storm Wood is not an end, but a beginning.

Amy Vanneck (pronounced Van Eck) is a rebel child from a privileged, but suffocating family. A woman traumatised by guilt and loss, she exhibits extraordinary courage and determination in the face of almost universal disapproval, atrocious conditions and increasing danger – all in the name of love. For this role, my ideal choice would be Daisy Ridley, most recently of Star Wars fame.

Amy’s beloved is Captain Edward Haslam. Edward, a choir master with pacifist principles, goes to war rather than split Amy from her family. There he discovers a disquieting talent for close-quarter combat (with the aid of the narcotics, upon which he becomes increasingly dependent). It is a skill which he employs on trench raids at terrible psychological cost. The actor for this role must be convincing both as an idealistic lover and a pitiless man of action. A good choice might be Joe Alwyn, who recently played the nasty husband in The Last Letter from Your Lover.

In France, Amy’s main ally is Capt James Mackenzie, another prisoner of the battlefields, desperate to do right by the dead. For this role, my ideal would be one of Scotland’s finest, Jack Lowden.

One of Mackenzie’s sergeants is an old comrade of Edward Haslam’s, a boyish but quietly fanatical soldier who begins to take an unhealthy interest in Amy’s search. For this I would pick the versatile Bill Milner.

Last, but not least, is the all-important role of Major Westbrook. Disfigured and psychologically imploding, he still manages to exude competence, authority and no small degree of charisma. His are the deepest, darkest secrets in the story, and nobody could manage this hugely demanding role better than our very own Benedict Cumberbatch. BC quite recently donned WW1 khaki for Sam Mendes’s 1917, in which he played a small, but significant role. But this would be a greater challenge altogether.

As for a director, I would go for Andrew Haigh, who recently directed the intense and gripping period drama The North Water. In that series he used an extreme environment to great effect, which would come in very useful in any adaptation of Two Storm Wood.
Visit Philip Gray's website.

Q&A with Philip Gray.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Erica Ferencik's "Girl in Ice"

Erica Ferencik is the award-winning author of the acclaimed thrillers The River at Night, Into the Jungle, and Girl in Ice, which The New York Times Book Review declared “hauntingly beautiful.”

Here Ferencik dreamcasts an adaptation of Girl in Ice:
If they make my book into a film, here's who I'd like to play the lead role(s).

Director: Joe Carnahan who directed Liam Neesen in The Grey.

In Girl in Ice, Val Chesterfield, a 41-year-old American linguist, is tasked to go to a remote climate research center on an island off the coast of Greenland, where a young girl has thawed from a glacier – alive – speaking a language no one understands. Eight months before the story begins, Val’s twin brother, Andy, a climate researcher stationed at the remote outpost, walked out into a 50 degree below zero polar night, freezing to death. Andy was troubled, but Val has her doubts that he took his own life, and suspects foul play.

The story begins when Wyatt, the head researcher at this remote station, sends Val an email begging her to come to Greenland to try to interpret the girl’s speech. Val, who’s battling her own issues, including a severe anxiety disorder that confines her to only a few “safe” locations, is ready to dismiss the email, but instead, plays a clip of the girl’s speech Wyatt has included in his message. Val doesn’t understand a word the girl says, but she hears trauma and terror in her voice, so Val decides to voyage to Greenland to try to help this child, as well as attempt to solve the mystery of her brother’s death.

Characters:

Val Chesterfield: American linguist, 41, has a severe anxiety disorder, tasked to go to Greenland to try to communicate with a young girl who has thawed from a glacier alive speaking a language no one understands — Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman.

Wyatt Speeks: lead climate researcher at the Greenland station, 61, determined to find out the girl’s secret to thawing out alive, no matter the cost — Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Liam Neesen, Willem Dafoe, Christoph Waltz, Tim Roth.

Andy Chesterfield, Val’s twin brother, charismatic but disturbed, climate researcher — Edward Norton, Cillian Murphy.

Jeanne: mechanic and cook at the research station, late 50’s, tortured by her past as well as her present obsessions — Kate Winslet.

Nora, marine researcher, 30’s, married to Raj — Marion Cotillard.

Raj, marine researcher, 30’s, married to Nora — Naveen Andrews, Aziz Ansari.

Dr. Chesterfield, Val’s father, 91, in a nursing home, getting weaker but determined to find out what happened to his son — Anthony Hopkins.

Sigrid: the 7/8-year old-girl who has thawed from the glacier: unfortunately, I don't know any child actors.
Visit Erica Ferencik's website.

Q&A with Erica Ferencik.

The Page 69 Test: Girl in Ice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 11, 2022

Diana Abu-Jaber's "Fencing with the King"

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crescent and The Language of Baklava.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Fencing With the King:
Of all my books, I think Fencing With the King might be the most “cinematic,” in the sense that there’s a lot of action, adventure, and a dramatic, even flamboyant, reliance on the Middle Eastern settings.

The story follows Amani, an American writer, as she accompanies her father, Gabe, to a duel with the King of Jordan. Amani has a secret letter from a grandmother she never knew and she is on a mission to learn what’s kept her father away from his homeland for 35 years.

I think Gabe needs to be someone who seems kind, easy-going and down to earth, and yet maybe a little bit exhausted by life. He should also give off a hint of romance and excitement – like Antonio Banderas or George Clooney—and preferably an Arab-American: Tony Shalhoub would be perfection.

I’d also love to see an Arab-American in the role of Amani – someone striking, graceful, yet smart and vulnerable. Since we’re dreaming let’s give that role to Shakira! Or Selena Gomez for a multi-culti spin.
Learn more about the writer and her work at Diana Abu-Jaber's website.

The Page 99 Test: Origin.

The Page 69 Test: Fencing with the King.

Q&A with Diana Abu-Jaber.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Beth Morrey's "Delphine Jones Takes a Chance"

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. She lives in London with her family and Polly the dog.

Morrey's debut novel is The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Delphine Jones Takes a Chance:
I never write with the idea that my novel might be made into a movie or TV show. For me, the ultimate aim is to see the spine of my book on a shelf, and if I achieve that then I’m happy. Once it’s done though, it’s hard not to imagine it on screen, put yourself in the casting director’s role and go crazy. But with my second book, Delphine Jones Takes a Chance, I think the job would be a hard one. It tells the story of a struggling single mother who tries to build a better life for herself and her daughter Em. The book also unpicks the mystery of why Delphine’s life went wrong in the first place.

Truthfully, no one springs to mind to play Delphine. She’s a tough nut to crack – guarded, elusive, a little mysterious. I must admit I’m stumped, and after mulling on it a while, I decided I would like an amalgamation of two actresses to play her. This is a fantasy, right, so why not?! I’d have Michelle Pfeiffer reprising her role in Frankie and Johnny – she plays a ground-down waitress, which is what Delphine is at the beginning of the book. And I’d add Thandiwe Newton, who I think has the reserved yet keenly intelligent quality I’d be looking for in my Delphine.

The character of Letty is easier. The redoubtable and outrageous old lady who Delphine befriends could be played by a national treasure like the magnificent Maggie Smith. I also picture Jeanne Moreau, because of the French connection. Although Letty is not French, she is a Francophile, and her gleeful insouciance was inspired in part by Moreau playing Lili in a long-ago drama called The Clothes in the Wardrobe. So, Maggie with a dash of Moreau would be perfect.

Delphine’s daughter Em would be another casting headache. I conceived her as a kind of modern-day Matilda, but slightly ruthless and manipulative, using her intelligence as a weapon. With no one in mind, I think I’d prefer to audition exhaustively and cast a complete unknown who we could turn into a star. That would be an exciting process.

And Dylan, Delphine’s jazz pianist love interest… ideally, I’d like him to be played by Luke Kirby, who plays Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Except with a Welsh accent. If he can’t do Welsh then I’d have to have Michael Sheen, but younger. And he’d have to be able to play the piano. This is all getting out of hand now.

Oh, what the hell: I want Greta Gerwig to adapt it and direct it. Greta, if you’re reading, give me a call.
Visit Beth Morrey's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & Polly.

My Book, The Movie: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Q&A with Beth Morrey.

The Page 69 Test: Delphine Jones Takes a Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 1, 2022

Sara A. Mueller's "The Bone Orchard"

A seamstress and horsewoman, Sara A. Mueller writes speculative fiction in the green and rainy Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her family, numerous recipe books, and a forest of fountain pens.

In a nomadic youth, she trod the earth of every state but Alaska and lived in six of them.

She’s an amateur historical costumer, gamer, and cook.

Here Mueller dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Bone Orchard:
I never cast the characters of The Bone Orchard as I was writing it, which was a departure for me, so this exercise turned out to be really, really difficult!

As Charm, I would love Florence Pugh. She's not tall, does dark subjects well, and has the chops to carry the five other roles she'd be playing - Pain, Pride, Shame, and Desire at minimum. For Justice they might need to get someone to play a child. Another actress for Charm might be Holliday Granger, who does impish, charming, and troublemaking with just delightful balance.

Jennifer Lawrence would be a good choice for Hyacinth Barker, though it would be a real shame to put her in a supporting role (if she were shorter, I'd happily see her as Charm, because wow has she got chops!).

Toby Stevens has the right intensity to play the Emperor, though it would be a shame he had only one scene!

Tom Hardy would play an excellent Phelan. I'd hate to see him play that character, but he'd be absolutely terrifying at it.

Kobi Smit-McPhee would do a great job as Strephon. I'm sure he'd be terrifying.

Mia Wasikowska would be so good as the Empress Ylsbeth. She does fragility well, but she's also played intelligence beautifully!

Countess Seabrough, though she doesn't have much screentime, is such a plum of a role for any actress who takes delight in playing cuttingly upper crust scorn. I don't have any particular idea for her, but I'd have loved seeing Maggie Smith in her middle career do this character's sneer!

For directing, I'd love Lilly and Lana Wachoski. They handle womens' roles well, and they do body horror, mind control, and rebellions well. Or, because of course, Guillermo del Toro. He'd do a marvelous job of balancing all the characters, and when he does creepy, it's so brilliant.

For the all important costume design, Kate Hawley would, I think, do a terrific job of digging into gothic, Victorian costuming. She certainly did so in Crimson Peak, even if there are more bustles in The Bone Orchard!
Visit Sara A. Mueller's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bone Orchard.

Q&A with Sara A. Mueller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 28, 2022

Samantha Greene Woodruff's "The Lobotomist's Wife"

Samantha Greene Woodruff has a BA in history from Wesleyan University and an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business. She spent most of her career telling stories to executives at MTV Networks as the senior vice president of strategy and business development and, subsequently, audience research for the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Group. After leaving corporate life, she pursued her varied passions, teaching yoga, cooking, and taking classes at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. It was here that she combined her multifaceted background with her wild imagination and passion for history, reading, and writing.

Here Woodruff dreamcasts an adaptation of The Lobotomist’s Wife, her first historical fiction novel:
My protagonist, Ruth Emeraldine, is a woman before her time – a strong, independent female who happens to be beautiful but, for whom, looks are irrelevant. Ruth runs a mental hospital in the 1930s and has devoted her life to her patients. As I wrote her character, my inspiration was Katharine Hepburn. Like Ruth, Hepburn had a powerful presence that wasn’t overshadowed by her pin-up girl looks. She was the kind of woman who would be the first to wear pants when others were still in dresses, because they were simply more practical. I think the closest actress we have to Hepburn today is Cate Blanchett. Blanchett has a natural gravitas that balances with her beauty, elegance and intellect. I am not alone in seeing the parallel, Blanchett played Hepburn in the 2004 movie The Aviator, and I think she would be a perfect Ruth.

For Robert Apter, the lobotomist and Ruth’s husband, I would cast Edward Norton. Robert is a man who is not classically handsome but has an undeniable charisma. While he is intensely cerebral and passionate about his work, he is also a natural showman who added horrifying flourishes to his surgeries to make them more entertaining to audiences. He was arrogant but magnetic. It isn’t easy to walk that line between charm and demonism, but I think Norton could do it brilliantly.

For my secondary protagonist, the all-American 1950s housewife Margaret, I love the idea of Taylor Swift. On the surface, Margaret, a former-homecoming queen married to her high school sweetheart, seems like just another sweet and pretty face. She has three children and a lovely home in the suburbs – an idyllic life -- but she harbors secret darkness and pain. She is intelligent, but also so eager to please that she second guesses herself, and is willing to go to great lengths to fit in. Taylor Swift has that combination of innocence and depth that I think would really bring Margaret to life.

Finally, I’d love to see Alexander Skarsgård play Edward, Robert’s neurosurgical partner. Edward is dashingly handsome but unassuming. He is likable, quietly brilliant, and deferential to Robert even though he is the one with the surgical training. Edward is gentle and kind, with a midwestern sensibility and values, but also a stoic strength that, ultimately, enables him to stand up to his partner and mentor. Can’t you see Skarsgård doing that?
Visit Samantha Greene Woodruff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue