Friday, November 11, 2022

D. M. Rowell's "Never Name the Dead"

Like her protagonist Mud, D.M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah) comes from a long line of Kiowa Storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley startups and corporations with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter writing mysteries that share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas.

Here the author shares some insights on an adaptation of her new novel, Never Name the Dead:
As I wrote Never Name the Dead, I did think of the book becoming a movie one day. But since I never imagined my book would be published, I thought it would be me producing the feature film and submitting it to film festivals. I’ve produced independent documentaries in the past, and had always wanted to create a feature film. My book seemed the perfect vehicle.

My novel is a brisk mystery, all taking place in less than twenty-four hours. I like the fast pace of the book and would want that energy in the movie.The adventure starts with Silicon Valley professional Mae Sawpole receiving a call for help from her traditional Kiowa grandfather. The call sends Mae on an unexpected spiritual quest as she returns to her childhood home in the former Kiowa, Comanche, Apache Reservation area of Oklahoma. There she’s called Mud, a childhood nickname that stuck. Upon Mud’s arrival, she finds her grandfather missing, a precious Kiowa artifact stolen, illegal fracking and a body. Mud faces angry tribal members, old enemies, wildcat frackers and a charging buffalo in her hunt for a murderer.

While I envisioned Never Name the Dead as a movie, I never put a face or name to the ideal actors to play the different characters. I always saw Mud as a Kiowa or other Native actor, not the faces I typically saw on screen. If I produced the movie, I planned to reach out to locals in the Oklahoma area to find the right Mud and Denny.

While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind, I knew the spirit I wanted for Mud. The type of actress I want to see play Mud would be similar to Zendaya’s portrayal of MJ in the Spiderman movies. MJ is an independent and strong multiracial woman. She projects quiet strength and confidence. These are characteristics I want to come across in the portrayal of Mud, while also showing the character as a bit of a klutz that can easily laugh at herself. Mud can do amazing things one moment and fall over her tangled feet the next.
Visit D. M. Rowell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Emily J. Edwards's "Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man"

Emily Edwards earned her degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and took the long road to becoming an author, working for over a decade as a wine and spirits journalist, radio producer, and creator of the podcast, F*ckbois of Literature. She currently resides in Connecticut with her husband, and several quadrupeds.

Here Edwards dreamcasts her new novel, Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man:
The best part about writing a detective story during the 1950s is getting to immerse your main characters into one of the most interesting and tumultuous times of American media. Daydreaming about my characters on the silver screen was as natural as having those same characters talk about Humphrey Bogart taking a turn in The Maltese Falcon.

Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man is a mid-century, Private Investigator murder mystery. Viviana is the Girl Friday to New York City’s best P.I., Tommy Fortuna. One day, they gain a new client, the industrialist Tallmadge Blackstone, who has asked Tommy to trail his young daughter, Tallulah. The next day, a body shows up in Tommy’s office, and Tommy is M.I.A. Viviana takes on the cases in an effort to keep the police from pinning the murder on her boss.

When I was writing, it was most important for me to imagine not who was going to play my leading lady, Viviana Valentine, but who was going to play the supporting cast. While Viv was very hard to #DreamCast for a film version (but you’ll see who I chose eventually!), the supporting characters were not.

First and foremost, I knew that the character of Tommy Fortuna, Viv’s boss, best friend, and private investigator, had to have that effortless cool and a rugged masculinity, but more than anything, he believes in Viviana and her capabilities. I needed someone who had his own identity and sure looked good in a suit, but would watch Viviana work with a smile on his face and awe in my heart– but also be able to deliver a one-liner without flinching. In my mind, Dustin Milligan, better known as Ted from Schitt's Creek, made an excellent Tommy Fortuna.

Secondly, I had to cast one of Tommy’s clients, a mean sonofab**** who has oodles of money and looked like he was up to no good. His name is Tallmadge Blackstone and at one point in the novel, he looks very large and menacing. Now, most actors are not that large (I lived in LA for 15 years and at 5’10”, I towered over most celebrities I saw on the street!), but without a doubt the perfect casting is Joe Manganiello, best known from True Blood. That’s a man who is built like a brick wall and could command a room!

Tallmadge Blackstone’s daughter, Tallulah, plays an essential role in the story, and there’s no one who could be her better than Barbie Ferreira from Euphoria. Tally is a fresh 18 years old, spoiled rotten, but knows exactly how people view her and what people want from her. She’s a curvaceous beauty who is frequently trapped by gossip magazine photographers and would be eaten alive by the public if she wasn’t such a force of nature by inclination.

And now, we get to the main character, Viviana Valentine. Viv is defined by her sense of humor, her ability to let things roll off her like water on a duck’s back. She gets internally frustrated but always has a comeback ready on her lips. She’s not a glamorous girl, like Tallulah, but charms the socks off people without thinking twice. I love her so much, and I cannot imagine anyone playing her but: Kaitlyn Dever, the breakout comedian from Booksmart.

Collectively, I feel like this casting best captures the essence of Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man. The book is a comedy in its head and detective story in its heart. I hope this helps readers better visualize the action of the novel!
Visit Emily J. Edwards's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Debra Bokur's "The Lava Witch"

Debra Bokur is the author of The Dark Paradise Mysteries series from 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 Lava Witch, the third Dark Paradise mystery:
The Lava Witch has a slightly larger cast of characters than the first two books in the Dark Paradise Mystery series, and it wasn’t easy to narrow down some of my imaginary casting choices.

That said, I’d love to see the character of Charlie Holmes played by young actor Jace Norman, who appeared in Nickelodeon’s popular show Henry Danger; or possibly by Tanner Buchanan, who showed range and potential in the political thriller Designated Survivor.

For Maya Holmes, actress Isabella Gomez (of the Netflix series One Day at a Time) would be my choice. And Don Cheadle is hands-down my pick for Dr. Davos O’Connor. Cheadle has performed in more films than there’s room here to list, and I’ve admired every one of his performances. And, since this venue allows my dreamcasting to be as fabulous as I’d like, I’m going to pretend that he’s read The Lava Witch and we’ve already had lunch so he could tell me in person his take on the role.

For scientist Byron Coolidge, actor Jason Ralph—who starred in the series The Magicians and who also had a recurring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—would be excellent. Robert Sheehan (Umbrella Academy, Misfits) is a natural for the part of Vance Sousa, while either actress Liana Liberato or Maisie Williams would no doubt do a great job as Gloria Marsh.

Jody Phillips could be played by Jaime Ray Newman (Veronica Mars, Bones, Eureka, The Time Traveler’s Wife) or by Lauren Lapkus (Big Bang Theory, Orange Is the New Black). I’d round out my casting with Maggie Q (The Divergent Series) as Officer Jennifer Kama, and either Charlie Plummer or Lucas Hedges as Trey Carter.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Briana Una McGuckin's "On Good Authority"

Briana Una McGuckin lives in a charmingly strange old house in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University and an MLS from Long Island University. Among other places, her work appears in the Bram Stoker Award–nominated horror anthology Not All Monsters, the modern Gothic horror anthology In Somnio, and The Lost Librarian’s Grave anthology. McGuckin has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, a perhaps concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and a fascination with all things Victorian.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, On Good Authority:
On Good Authority is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense story in which a lady’s maid called Marian Osley must teach a terrible master the difference between servitude and surrender—and confront her dark desire for the footman, Valentine Hobbs, along the way.

I don’t generally cast people in my head as I’m writing, but when the book was done I did happen to see an image on my Google home screen of Timothée Chalamet attending some event in connection with Little Women. He was in a dark vest and white shirt, and I had to do a double-take. I may have said, out loud to no one, “Valentine Hobbs?”

Since, in conversation about who would play the leads in my dreams, I said I would put Anya Taylor-Joy in the role of Marian. When I added that Chalamet would make a good Valentine, the person I was speaking with said I was describing a “sort of Tim Burton Gothic.” And that’s exactly right, I think. I would want it to be darkly beautiful like that, and rich, in the vein of Sweeney Todd.

I could also see it handled as a dark fairytale by Guillermo del Toro. I loved The Shape of Water, and I think there are similarities in the themes, the misunderstood love story and the way that what is truly evil hides behind the guise of normalcy, what we’ve been trained to see as right and virtuous.

There’s Mr. and Mrs. Bornholdt, master and mistress of the manor house, to cast as well—both of them running hot and cold, but never at the same time or for the same reasons. I think Emily Blunt would be a fantastic Mrs. Bornholdt, because she has the range, going from severe and strict but also to a place of secret warmth, sometimes.

As for the master and villain, Mr. Bornholdt, I’d be really excited to see Dacre Montgomery’s take on it because, well: Mr. Bornholdt may be a monster, but he is an attractive one, and he knows it. He leverages his conventional beauty to his advantage, to ensnare people. I think that’s important to the story, to that way in which real danger can hide behind what’s pretty, as I was saying about The Shape of Water. Montgomery really brought a magnetism to Billy in Stranger Things which would be good for the villain here, too.
Visit Briana Una McGuckin's website.

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Roger A. Canaff's "City Dark"

Roger A. Canaff is a former special victims prosecutor and author of crime thrillers including Bleed Through, second in the ADA Alex Greco series and the 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin silver award winner for Mystery and Thriller.

Here Canaff dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, City Dark:
City Dark is a legal and psychological thriller set in 2017 New York City, but also tracks the night of the NYC blackout in July of 1977. The protagonist, Joe DeSantos, was abandoned by his mother on that night, leaving him and his older brother Robbie to navigate the city to safety. 40 years later as the story begins, Joe is a brilliant and hard-charging prosecutor but with a terrible drinking problem. He finds himself accused of two brutal murders (including his disappeared mother) and due to alcoholic blackouts has no memory of the nights of the murders. The book tracks both the mystery of Joe’s current situation and the terrible night from his childhood that may be reaching back for him in the present day.

I have envisioned George Clooney to play Joe DeSantos, mostly because Clooney brilliantly played an attorney in a desperate situation in Michael Clayton. Clooney is about the right age, has a similar gestalt, and has a deep, confident voice I imagine would be perfect for Joe. More than any contemporary actor I can think of, Clooney seems to possess the streetwise, city-hardened, but still boyish and charming aura that I think would be perfect for an on-screen adaptation of my protagonist.

Another important character is Aideen Bradigan, a former colleague of Joe’s who takes his case as a defense attorney and struggles to unravel the mysteries of both past and present along with him. For this role I would love to see Kate Winslet. Winslet’s performance in HBO’s Mare of Eastown, where Winslet, a British actor, nevertheless melted perfectly into a Philly-area detective right down to the flawless accent, was genius. Bradigan’s character is Irish-American, she is a cop’s widow, and she is tough, smart and stoic. I think Winslet would nail the character and bring out the best of her onscreen.

Finally, I’d love to see Ben Mendelsohn as Robbie DeSantos, Joe’s haunted, destructive and tragic older brother. Mendelsohn’s brilliant performance in the Netflix series Bloodline as the troubled, black sheep bother Danny Rayburn is primarily why, but I have seen Mendelsohn in several other roles and he is always incredibly natural and compelling.
Visit Roger A. Canaff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Danielle Binks's "The Year the Maps Changed"

Danielle Binks is an author and literary agent from Melbourne, Australia. The Year the Maps Changed was her debut novel and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book. She has since written her first young adult novel, The Monster of Her Age, and has edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing, which won an Australian Book Industry Award.

Here Binks dreamcasts an adaptation of The Year the Maps Changed:
Since my book is Middle Grade and there's a lot of kid-characters, I'd love to do an open-casting call and find some new talent. It still boggles that they did that for To Kill a Mockingbird and found *the* Scout in Mary Badham! As for Luca, Fred's father - I have this idea that he is very much Eric Bana. Hands down. I think the fact that Eric Bana's father is Croatian means he'd also have a lot of background knowledge about the unrest in Eastern Europe during the 80s and 90s, and the Kosovo War conflict borne out of the dissolving of the former Yugoslavia. That background I think would really open the role up for him, even as he's playing the local police officer of the small Australian town where Kosovar Albanian refugees arrive - I think he'd bring some critical empathy underlying to the character.

And as for directors? I could go a very Hollywood hype model and say I'd love the Duffer Brothers to bring some Stranger Things magic to the big-screen, but I'd much prefer to keep an Australian perspective, so my dream would be Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland (she did the Black Widow movie, and one of my favourite indie films in Somersault - so I think she'd tow a good line between cinematic and thoughtful, and I think she'd be a wonderful creator for young actors to work with especially.) I would trust that Shortland would bring dynamism to the weighty female roles within especially; young Fred learning that the world stretches beyond her back door, Anika her almost-stepmother who is not at all trope-fueled but rather complex and dealing with her own grief, and Nora - the Kosovar Albanian refugee, who is a pregnant mother when her homeland is thrown into turmoil and she's sent far away.
Visit Danielle Binks's website.

Q&A with Danielle Binks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Jason Mosberg's "My Dirty California"

Jason Mosberg lives in Los Angeles where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and TV creator.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, My Dirty California:
I've definitely thought about the prospect of My Dirty California getting turned into a movie or a TV show. I actually wrote the pilot script before I wrote the novel. I work in Los Angeles as a screenwriter and TV creator. I decided to turn My Dirty California into a novel when the pandemic started.

I'd love to see My Dirty California get made as a limited series. It would be too difficult to make it as a movie. I've thought about actors and even have some actors reading the book as we speak! I can't say who my first choices are because this will live on the web forever and I don't want actors who eventually play the parts to read this and feel like they were my second choice.

So to make it interesting, I'll pick actors who are older or dead. I think River Phoenix would have made a great Marty, a twentysomething drifter who gets killed but lives on through the book via hundreds of video log entries he left behind. I think a young Robert Redford would make a great Jody, the character who's looking into his brother Marty's death. The character of Penelope is a thirtysomething woman who is looking for proof we're living in a simulation. I love casting comedic actors in dramatic roles. (Vince Gilligan is the master at this.) I think Mary Tyler Moore in her 30s would have been a fantastic Pen. The character of Tiph has been described as a young, pulpy, Black, female version of Indiana Jones. I think a young Pam Grier would be excellent.

Hopefully one day soon, you'll see who my dream cast is!
Visit Jason Mosberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Marcie R. Rendon's "Sinister Graves"

Marcie Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, a Pinckley Prize-winning author, playwright, poet, freelance writer, and a community arts activist. Rendon was awarded the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award for 2020. She is a speaker on Native issues, leadership, and writing. The second novel in her Cash Blackbear mystery series, Girl Gone Missing, was nominated for the Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Rendon was recognized as a 50 over 50 Change-maker by Minneapolis AARP and Pollen in 2018.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Sinister Graves, the third Cash Blackbear mystery:
Cash Blackbear is a vulnerable, yet tough-as-nails, resilient 19-year-old Ojibwe woman who has aged out of foster care in northern Minnesota. She lives on her own, works as a farm-laborer driving tractor and beet trucks while attending college; thanks to a push from her friend and mentor, Sheriff Wheaton. When not working, or shooting pool, or going to school, she helps Wheaton solve crimes that occur all to frequently in the isolation of rural farm and reservation country.

Readers love Cash and the number one comment I get, after being told she needs to quit drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, is that Cash needs her own TV series or movie. I can imagine Paulina Alexis, of Willie Jack fame from the hit Hulu series Reservation Dogs, being cast as Cash. If Julia Garner of Ozark fame were Native, she would also make a great Cash Blackbear. Gary Farmer, also seen in Reservation Dogs, would make a believable Sheriff Wheaton. However, if Dallas Goldtooth would agree to a serious character depiction he might be more age appropriate to play Wheaton.

Cash Blackbear appeared over my right shoulder as I was working on what I thought was goig to be a chicklit novel. Cash, young Ojibwe woman with long dark hair past her waist, shook her head, said, ‘no, no, no’ and proceeded to tell stories through me that have become the Cash Blackbear series. Just as I visualize her, her story begs to put on screen.
Visit Marcie R. Rendon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sinister Graves.

Q&A with Marcie R. Rendon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Tasha Alexander's "Secrets of the Nile"

Tasha Alexander is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lady Emily mystery series.

The daughter of two philosophy professors, she studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, live on a ranch in southeastern Wyoming.

Here Alexander dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Secrets of the Nile, the 16th Lady Emily mystery:
When I’m writing—or reading, for that matter—I rarely picture actors as characters in the book. I suppose it’s because I’m more verbal than visual, which isn’t to say that I don’t have images of them in my head. It’s just that they’re truly imagined rather than based on actual people, and I often leave the descriptions of them vague, so that readers can come up with their own ideas of what they look like.

Even so, it’s deliciously fun to think about casting actors as my characters. If Secrets of the Nile became a movie, Jennifer Lawrence would make a fantastic Emily. Readers have told me for years they’d love to see Henry Cavill play Colin. Kenneth Branagh would be the perfect Lord Deeley and Thomasin McKenzie a great Kat. For Colin’s mother, I picture Judi Dench.
Visit Tasha Alexander's website.

Q&A with Tasha Alexander.

Writers Read: Tasha Alexander.

The Page 69 Test: Secrets of the Nile.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Karen Odden's "Under a Veiled Moon"

Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery.

Here Odden dreamcasts an adaption of her new novel, Under a Veiled Moon, her second Inspector Corravan Mystery:
Inspector Michael Corravan is 31 years old, nearly six feet tall and fourteen stone, with dark hair and Irish blue eyes. A former thief, bare-knuckles boxer, and dockworker from seedy Whitechapel, he’s quick with his fists and his knife, and he came out of Whitechapel understanding that being strong, decisive, and a rescuer kept him alive. These are all excellent traits for a Scotland Yard Inspector. But as Corravan’s love interest Belinda Gale explains, a little empathy and vulnerability, a memory of what it was like to be powerless and furious in the face of unyielding and abusive power such as he experienced on the London docks, will make Corravan a better policeman. For Michael Corravan, I’d love a young Hugh Jackman, with a mix of self-reliance and passion for fair play that he creates for the role of Drover in Baz Luhrman’s Australia.

My heroine, Belinda Gale, is a playwright and novelist, who once made a promise to her father, on his deathbed, that she would thoroughly vet anyone before she married. She is poised (most definitely not “spunky”), intelligent, well-mannered and well-connected, with a house in Belgravia where she holds weekly soirées. She provides the EQ to Corravan’s street smarts, and she is not afraid to tell him when he is steering into dark waters. I’d love Emma Watson for this part, or perhaps a younger Jennifer Connelly. (I’m thinking of her performance in A Beautiful Mind, which was spot on.)

Corravan’s superior, Sir Howard C. E. Vincent, the new director of Scotland Yard, is (like Corravan) in his early 30s, the second son of a baronet, a former newspaperman, well-heeled and well-educated. In the aftermath of a scandal involving four Yard inspectors who were convicted of taking bribes from con men, Vincent was brought in to sweep the Yard clean of corruption, which he did, despite never having served in uniform or solved a case. (Needless to say, his appointment initially didn’t go over so well with the Yard men who’d come up through the tough uniformed divisions like Lambeth.) Fair-haired Vincent can appear a bit stiff and proper, with his emotions tucked away, but he is deeply ethical and truly wants to make the Yard the best it can be. Dan Stevens (Matthew, Downton Abbey) might be a good fit for him.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

Q&A with Karen Odden.

My Book, The Movie: Down a Dark River..

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Christine Wells's "One Woman’s War"

Christine Wells writes historical fiction featuring strong, fascinating women. From early childhood, she drank in her father’s tales about the real kings and queens behind popular nursery rhymes and she has been a keen student of history ever since. She began her first novel while working as a corporate lawyer, and has gone on to write about periods ranging from Georgian England to post World War II France. Wells is passionate about helping other writers learn the craft and business of writing fiction and enjoys mentoring and teaching workshops whenever her schedule permits. She loves dogs, running, the beach and fossicking for antiques and lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia.

Here Wells dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, One Woman’s War:
One Woman’s War is about a young woman called Paddy Bennett, who inspired the character of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond novels, and her involvement in a World War II intelligence operation known as “Operation Mincemeat”.

For the main character, Paddy Bennett, I envisage someone like Jenna Coleman, who gave a stellar performance in The Cry, although she is better known for her role in Victoria.

For the part of Ian Fleming, I thought Johnny Flynn was perfect in that role in the movie Operation Mincemeat. I am not sure I could do better.

For Friedl Gärtner, the Austrian double agent who puts Operation Mincemeat in jeopardy, I would choose someone blonde, glamorous, intelligent and sexy. Maybe Birgitte Hjort Sørensen or Nicole Kidman.
Visit Christine Wells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Alli Frank & Asha Youmans's "Never Meant to Meet You"

Alli Frank and Asha Youmans met working on an admissions team together at a private school in Seattle, Washington. Between the two of them they have over forty years of experience in schools and more fodder for novels than they will ever have time to write. Their first book, Tiny Imperfections was optioned by Regina King’s production company and Netflix, but then, well, Covid.

Their second novel, Never Meant to Meet You, out October 1, 2022, is currently in the hands of their fabulous agents at APA, hoping to find a team and a home that will want to adapt the book to screen.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of the new novel:
When we are supposed to be writing but are brain dead, we often indulge our Hollywood fantasies and cast our imaginary friends and families from our books. With a big deadline due to our editor for our third book coming out in 2023, we happily set aside our laptops to finalize how we would cast Never Meant to Meet You for My Book, The Movie blog. Maybe, someday, a real casting agent (not just the one in our dreams) will take our input to heart!

Marjette Lewis – Regina Hall. We just have a feeling Regina Hall can do nosy neighbor with a heaping side of loveable right.

Darius Lewis – Jaden Michael. Perfect mix of a teenager who looks like he would be true to his mama but start pushing boundaries to assert his own independence.

Booker Lewis – Jamie Foxx. Sexy Ex, who, try as you might, you just can’t hate. That would be Jamie Foxx.

Noa Abrams – Leslie Mann. We need a funny, emotionally raw WASPY looking female actor who, if you squint, could maybe look Jewish, maybe.

Max Kopelman – Andy Samberg. Hot Jewish baker? Say no more. Andy was our easiest person to cast.

Judy Oliphant – Alfre Woodard. We have not seen a lot of Alfre recently, but we know she does a strong, opinionated Black woman like none other. We would like to see her again. In our screen adaptation!

Rachel Ellis – Christina Applegate. Have you seen Christina in Dead to Me? No question that she is the one to play the rich, bitch single mom. The true definition of a cougar on the prowl in her daughter’s kindergarten class.
Learn more about Alli Frank and Asha Youmans at the Alli + Asha website and on IG/FB/Twitter: @alliandasha.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Kathleen George's "Mirth"

Kathleen George lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches theatre and writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Her new novel, Mirth, is her 15th book. It’s the third of her 20th century histories in which she tries to capture a whole lifetime.

Mirth should appeal to a general audience but will be of special interest to writers, constant readers, and those who are widowed.

George is also the author of the acclaimed novels Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (nominated for an Edgar® award for best novel by the Mystery Writers of America), Hideout, Simple, and A Measure of Blood. All seven of these titles are part of her procedural thrillers set in Pittsburgh.

Here George dreamcasts an adaptation of Mirth:
One reason I would love to see a movie of Mirth is that I could fall in love with ... yes, three actors who play the role. Could it be two? Possibly. But there is a sixty year timeline and three phases of life--youth, middle age, old age. Alas, the timeline will get in the way of the movie's actually being made. But wouldn't it be lovely? I can't cast the whole thing because even though I study actors all the time, I don't have an immediate name for the current Albert Finney type as middle aged man or Peter O'Toole as a gorgeous older man. But I can say James Norton (from the early Grantchester episodes) could be a great young Harrison. All three of the actors I've named have a laugh behind the eyes and a playful wicked charm.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (September 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Mirth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Christopher Swann's "Never Go Home"

Christopher Swann is a novelist and high school English teacher. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, he earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He has been a Townsend Prize finalist, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize, and a winner of the Georgia Author of the Year award. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

Here Swann dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Never Go Home:
Never Go Home is the story of Susannah “Suzie” Faulkner, the survivor of a home invasion that leaves her orphaned when she is ten and her brother Ethan is thirteen. Ethan grows up a bit closed off in his personal life, protective of his privacy and his history, but otherwise he seems to have a good life—he has a house, a dog, and a job he loves as a teacher. Suzie, by contrast, is angry and vengeful, and as a teenager decides she is going to hunt down and kill the man who shot her parents. In my first Faulkner family thriller, Suzie finally confronts that man. That situation resolved, Suzie now has to figure out what to do with the rest of her life, with a skill set that includes skip tracing, firearms, and martial arts. At the start of Never Go Home, she is working to find a missing teenage girl, but when her brother reaches out to her, she flies home to Atlanta to find her uncle in the hospital and a dangerous figure from her father’s past lurking in the shadows, threatening what family she has left.

I tend to write scenes you can visualize fairly easily, so I love the idea of Never Go Home as a movie. Or a miniseries on a streaming service. I’m not picky.

Suzie is a glorious hot mess of a character who struggles with her mental stability and reacts quickly and violently to any perceived injustice or cruelty. She is extremely smart but impulsive, fierce and flawed. She is also sexually fluid, attracted to both men and women. Any actor would need to capture all those traits along with her general quirkiness and occasional active ignorance of social norms. Florence Pugh with dark hair would be a fantastic Suzie. Hailee Steinfeld would be a close second, although Pugh seems like she could more easily pull off Suzie’s darker side.

Suzie’s Uncle Gavin, an Atlanta underworld figure, is from Ireland, and he looms large in Suzie’s life as her guardian after the deaths of her parents. Colin Farrell is a bit young but has the range to play Gavin’s cold and tender sides. Brendan Gleeson might be perfect, though—he has that cantankerous look down pat, and while he can be warm, he can easily summon up flashes of menace.

Suzie’s friend Caesar? Avery Brooks forty years ago. Mike Colter could pull it off—in his newest film, I’m Charlie Walker, with his shaved head he looks like Caesar.

Finn, the antagonist? Walton Goggins is as cool and cold as they come as a villain.

Ethan, Suzie’s brother? He’s a ginger, but Timothée Chalamet would be great.

And a director? I’d love someone who can direct an action movie while also doing the characters justice—both are equally important. Right now, Taylor Sheridan might be that director, especially if he could do what he did in Wind River. Denis Villeneuve would be fantastic as well. (Hey, dream big.)
Visit Christopher Swann's website.

The Page 69 Test: Never Go Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Martha Anne Toll's "Three Muses"

Martha Anne Toll writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Her debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll has recently joined the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Three Muses:
What a concept. I am in the book writing business, not the film business so while I love this prompt, it’s hard for me to answer. But I’m happy to try!

I’d be thrilled if Three Muses were made into a movie. Given that many of the pivotal scenes take place in a ballet studio and on the stage, I think it is especially cinematic.

My biggest request would be for the protagonist to be played by a real, professional ballerina, so that she, not a stunt double, can do the dancing. My first choice would be Isabella Boylston, who is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Boylston is a dancer of extraordinary grace and precision – two skills that do not often go together. She is a joy to watch on stage, and I’d be thrilled for her art to reach a wider audience.

As for John, the male protagonist, my first choice would be a young Mark Rylance (John doesn’t appear past his early thirties in this book). John arrives as a refugee in New York at age fifteen, having lost his entire family—immediate and extended—to extermination by the Nazis. John survives the Holocaust by singing for the kommandant of a concentration camp. In other words, John is deeply traumatized, at a level from which is not possible to recover fully. Rylance has an uncanny ability to express deep emotion while both speaking and through body language, which would be perfect for this role. And yes, I would definitely settle for Gregory Peck if he were around and willing!

As for the role of Boris Yanakov, Katya’s abusive and too-enthralling choreographer, I think Stanley Tucci would do it really well, so I’d love to ask him.
Visit Martha Anne Toll's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

S.C. Richards's "Where Secrets Live"

Susan Richards is the author of the Jessica Kallan mystery series and stand-alone novels of suspense. She strives in each story to create characters who are confronted by circumstances that push them to their limits, test their strength, and challenge their beliefs and integrity—people who would do almost anything to protect the people they love.

Richards’s new novel, Where Secrets Live, was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2018 Daphne du Maurier contest.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she has lived throughout the Midwest and currently resides in Northern Minnesota. She also spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. Every winter she wonders what the hell she was thinking.

Here Richards dreamcasts an adaptation of Where Secrets Live:
So, what do you do when the most important person in your life is gone and you find that your entire life has been one lie after another—that the people you trusted aren’t the people you thought they were? You keep going because, at some point, turning back isn't an option anymore.

Where Secrets Live is a novel of suspense. Elizabeth McCallister, her sister, Meredith, and their cousin, Fred, are the last generation of a wealthy family—old money, deep roots and dysfunctional as hell. Until, Elizabeth finds her sister murdered in her lake home.

As Elizabeth searches to find what had been going on in her sister’s life that got her murdered, she is confronted with all sorts of family secrets, each one uglier than the one before, until she doesn’t know who she can trust anymore.

Elizabeth and Meredith lost both their parents at a young age and were raised by two stepparents. They learned, early on, that they needed to rely on each other, because the grown-ups in their lives were too unreliable.

My belief has always been that it is the characters who drive the story. If a movie were to be made of Where Secrets Live, I would be thrilled and honored to have any of the talented actors listed below to be tied to the movie version of my book.

Elizabeth, the main character, is an intelligent, beautiful alcoholic. And when it’s important—where her family is involved, she can also be driven. The two actresses that I could picture in this role were either Mila Kunis or Molly Ephraim, both exude intelligence and could bring a polished presence to Elizabeth’s tortured self.

Tom Martens, is the investigating agent to the murder and has a past with the McCallister family. In high school and again in college he’d dated Meredith, the murdered sister, and Liz had always had a huge crush on him. The first and only person who came to mind for the role of Tom was Ryan Gosling.

Ruth is the cold, reserved matriarch who does everything with class and no one, in my mind, is classier than Angelica Houston.

David is Liz and Meredith’s stepfather. His role isn’t as prominent as some of the other characters, but it is significant. Again, if I get to choose from some of the best actors in Hollywood, I’d go for Tom Hanks. The character of David is so different from other roles he’s played, but I can’t think of anyone who could do a better job.

Fred McCallister, Liz and Meredith’s cousin is outwardly flashy and irresponsible, but he also brings a solid presence to Liz’s life. He’s a handsome, stereotypical playboy with a deep commitment to the people he loves. Here I could see Liam Hemsworth as Fred.

Maynard Edman, the private investigator Liz hires to help her, was the easiest one of all to cast. I rarely have actors in my head when I’m writing, but for Edman, I kept picturing Muse Watson and the character, Mike Franks, that he played on NCIS. Very similar people. Strong, tough, and reliable.
Visit S.C. Richards's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Amy Fusselman's "The Means"

Amy Fusselman is the author of four nonfiction books: Idiophone; Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die; 8; and The Pharmacist’s Mate. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Atlantic, McSweeney’s, and many other outlets. She lives with her family in New York City where she teaches creative writing at New York University.

Here Fusselman dreamcasts an adaptation of The Means, her first novel:
If they make my book into a film I hope it’s an animated show.

My book, The Means, is a tragicomic (but mostly comic) story about a married, stay-at-home mom with two kids who really wants a beach house in the Hamptons.

I am a little leery of movies, which I know is not a common take. But I do like TV shows, or whatever we are calling them now. In particular, I like what’s happening with animated shows on streaming platforms, and if I could have my book turned into anything on a screen, I would like it to become a 22-minute, animated show. (Or, tbh, a video game. But that's a whole other consideration). For the purposes of this post, then, I will think about casting voice actors rather than actor-actors.

The most important voice to cast would be the one of my narrator, Shelly Means. Shelly seems pretty nonthreatening but she actually has a lot of power. It would be great to underscore that part of her character by having her voiced by James Earl Jones. But because Shelly also has anger management problems and sometimes has a hard time expressing herself, she could also be voiced, at times, by a dolphin. You would just hear the clicks and squeaks as Shelly throws glassware across the room.

There is also a talking dog named Twix in the book, and she is actually the moral center of the story. It would be fun to have her voiced by someone who is kind of evil. Maybe Ted Cruz will be looking for work soon? I would love to hear him say a line like: “Why don’t you start a revolution demanding that men do more domestic work and child-rearing?”
Visit Amy Fusselman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Marty Wingate's "The Orphans of Mersea House"

USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes The First Edition Library series set in Bath, England, about the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. Book one, The Bodies in the Library, concerns murder among an Agatha Christie fan-fiction writing group, and in book two, Murder Is a Must, an exhibition manager is found dead at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Wingate also writes historical fiction: Glamour Girls follows Spitfire pilot Rosalie Wright through both the physical and emotional dangers of the Second World War. Wingate writes two further mystery series: the Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and the Birds of a Feather series follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village.

Wingate prefers on-the-ground research whenever possible, and so she and her husband regularly travel to England and Scotland, where she can be found tracing the steps of her characters, stopping for tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in a café, or enjoying a swift half in a pub.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Orphans of Mersea House:
The Orphans of Mersea House is set in 1957 Southwold, a small town on the Suffolk coast. It’s a story of post-war life in England, where rationing ended only three years earlier, thirty-seven-year-old women were considered spinsters, polio continued to strike fear in the hearts of parents, and the de-criminalization of homosexual practices was still ten years away. We drop into this time and follow the intertwining stories a ragtag group of adults and children at a boardinghouse.

Characters in books are sometimes inspired by (or based on) real people. Occasionally, an actor in a certain role will be the model for how a character looks or acts—I am doing that in my work-in-progress. But while I was writing Orphans, I had no inner vision, and it’s only now that I’ve thought about trying to match character to actor. I’ve found it not that difficult.

First, Olive, because she’s the center. Carey Mulligan will do, and not only because she is, at this moment, the same age as Olive, but also for her acting in The Dig (2021), a movie based on the story of the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground in Suffolk. I appreciate her quiet commitment, which I believe is one of Olive’s strengths.

For Margery, who owns the boarding house and believes she’s in charge, I must reach back in time to the 1989 comedy series The Labours of Erica with Brenda Blethyn. This is not Brenda Blethyn as Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, but rather a smartly dressed woman who can be a bit sharp, but caves easily. She is driven and a loyal friend.

Charlie Salt is Olive’s driving instruction. He’s a bit officious, but kind-hearted, much like some of the characters played by Martin Freeman. Not Freeman’s recent role in the recent series Responder, but instead, Freeman with a touch of Bilbo Baggins.

I’d like to see Dominic West as Hugh, because he does kind, sad, and damaged so well. Orphans doesn’t take up the entire French revolution, but I like to think West would bring a touch of Jean Valjean to Hugh.

What of Miss Binny, the conduit of most of the gossip around town? My husband suggested Imelda Staunton, and now I cannot get her out of my mind. Even though Staunton is a wee bit shorter than I envisioned Binny, I can just see that pheasant tail quivering on her hat.

At first I thought that there was no one who could play Juniper—the eleven-year-old girl who wears calipers from a bout of polio when she was quite young—except Juniper herself. She is the amalgamation of so many children I worked with when I was a speech therapist. But then it hit me who would be perfect: Hayley Mills, fifty years ago. Yes, Pollyanna.
Visit Marty Wingate's website.

Q&A with Marty Wingate.

The Page 69 Test: The Orphans of Mersea House.

Writers Read: Marty Wingate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Randee Dawn's "Tune in Tomorrow"

Randee Dawn writes about entertainment glam by day and fantastical fiction worlds by night. A former Soap Opera Digest editor, she now scribbles about the wacky universe of showbiz for Variety, The Los Angeles Times and The co-author of The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion, Dawn appeared on L&O once! In the courtroom! Her short fiction has been published in multiple anthologies, and in her spare time she’s a trivia writer for BigBrain Games. Based in Brooklyn, New York she lives with a brilliant spouse, a fluffy Westie, many books and never enough mangoes.

Here Dawn dreamcasts an adaptation of her first novel, Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever:
Though I have a movie of every story I write going on in my head as I write it, I don't often fixate on one specific actor to fill any given role. Instead, the characters are an amalgam of several people in most cases, and sometimes are more about the essence of a real-life person than an exact likeness.

Tune in Tomorrow is about a reality TV show run by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures – and starring humans. That made things a little easier for me: Nearly everyone has to be preternaturally handsome or pretty, due to the nature of fae creatures and stars alike. I worked at a soap opera magazine for several years, and was inspired by some of the actors on real-life soaps, but these are not meant to be direct pulls whatsoever.

My protagonist Starr Weatherby – still a struggling actor in her mid-20s, looking for her big break – is the one I've given the most thought to – I imagine she's a bit on the short and curvier side, which makes me think of Bridgerton's and Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan, mixed with Rebel Wilson. They're both very funny ladies who don't look like the traditional Hollywood leading lady – and they both have a twinkle in their eye that says they'd get Starr from moment one.

Glenn Close would be a terrific Fiona, our dangerous and heavily-invested diva, who has been playing her role so long the alter ego in her head speaks to her. Someone who can be haughty and patrician – but also downright cruel when necessary – makes her a favorite for me; plus, she has the chiseled cheekbone face Fiona sports. Her partner-in-crime Nico is described as stunningly beautiful, and of Greek and Desi descent. I picture Rufus Sewell mixed with Hasan Minhaj for him. For his rival, the laconic, laid-back cowboy actor Mav I envision Andrew Lincoln or Jeremy Renner: Someone who carries baggage and has expressive eyes, but projects dignity and self-possession.

Jason Valentine, our faun executive producer, is tougher. He's beautiful like so many of them, but has a puckish sense of humor and joy. Someone suggested Alan Cumming would be a great casting choice; I lean more toward Jon Cryer (in his Pretty in Pink days) mixed with the YouTube Tasting History host Max Miller. (Max's show even gets a bit of a reference in the book; Starr finds a recipe for "parkin" on a "web-based cooking show" and makes it to feed a dragon – that's Max's show, and he did do an episode where he mentioned it.)
Visit Randee Dawn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tune in Tomorrow.

Q&A with Randee Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Liz Parker's "The Family Compound"

Liz Parker is a literary agent at Verve Talent & Literary and the author of All Are Welcome. She has written for the New York Times’s Modern Love column and lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Sarah, and their dogs.

Here Parker dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Family Compound:
While I think a great book must live truly within a reader’s imagination, The Family Compound is ripe for adaptation. Five cousins inherit a property in Vermont with one critical stipulation: they must decide what to do in unison. Whether the property stays in the family or gets put on the market, The Family Compound looks at what it means for family to stick together. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s about growing up when you’re already… grown-up.

Writer/Director-wise, I’d love to see Tom Bezucha take this one. Anyone who claims they don’t rewatch The Family Stone every December is lying to you: Tom wrote and directed a holiday classic, and his ability to weave humor and drama within a family is nearly unmatched.

For Penny and Andrew, two young thirtysomethings finding their way in the world. Julia Garner for Penny, and Zac Efron (with a classic outdoor kid scruff) for Andrew.

For Halsey and Heather, two mid-forty something’s not expecting to fall in love with each other. Rachel McAdams for Halsey (who might be lured to do another film with Tom), and Anne Hathaway for Heather.

For Laurie, a brittle lawyer who must soften to those around her. Dakota Johnson.

For Chris, an urban financier stuck in Vermont to figure out the property. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt

For William, a yogi-hipster all-too-fluent on social media. Chris Hemsworth.
Visit Liz Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2022

Jerome Charyn's "Big Red"

“One of the most important writers in American literature” (Michael Chabon), Jerome Charyn is the award-winning author of more than fifty works, including The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. A renowned scholar of twentieth-century Hollywood, he lives in Manhattan.

Here Charyn dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, Big Red: A Novel Starring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles:
I originally was going to write a novel about Orson Welles. After reading 125 biographies of him I discovered that everything he said was either a total lie, a partial lie or totally irrelevant to the subject; therefore I couldn’t really conceive of writing a novel in his voice. The vanity would have been overwhelming! There wouldn’t have been any space for me.

But the more I read about Rita, the more involved I became with her. She had been violated by her own father, and this would haunt her entire life.

But she was utterly inarticulate, except for her panther-like movements, and so I had to find a narrator who would tell their story. I chose a young lesbian, Rusty Redburn, who worked in Columbia Pictures publicity department. And through the machinations of Columbia president Harry Cohn, she was hired as Rita’s secretary (and Cohn’s spy.) But she loved Rita and admired Orson and never once betrayed them.

We would need to find a young actress to play Rusty, perhaps someone who’s never been in films before. If we want to leap into the past, I would choose a young Jean Arthur; I think she would have been perfect. Of course in my movie, Orson would play himself and we’d have to launch a nationwide search to find the new Rita: a warm, vibrant tigress.
Learn more about the book and author at Jerome Charyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Kathleen M. Willett's "Mother of All Secrets"

Kathleen M. Willett grew up in New Jersey and London. She has a B.A. in English from Holy Cross and a M.A. in English Education from Columbia University. She taught English at the Beacon School in New York City for ten years. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband, two young daughters, and a cat named Mr. Sparkles. She loves running, reading, and watching Office reruns.

Here Willett dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Mother of All Secrets:
In the throes of the newborn phase, first-time mom Jenn has recently joined a new moms group in Manhattan. When one of the mothers in the group suddenly goes missing, Jenn becomes obsessed with her disappearance, eventually coming to realize that the women in the group are more deeply connected than any of them had realized. Though they don't know each other all that well, the moms quickly have to decide how much they're willing to risk to save one of their own, even if it means unearthing secrets that were supposed to stay buried forever.

What a dream come true it would be to see Mother Of All Secrets as a movie! I always pictured it as scenes while I was writing; in particular, the ending was so prevalent in my mind. I could really see them all in that apartment (no spoilers)!

For the lead, Jenn, I could picture Anne Hathaway or Anna Kendrick. They can both be sort of broody and neurotic, which I think would play well with Jenn's overthinking and anxiety about her baby. I could also see both of those actors throwing themselves wholeheartedly into a deep dive of Isabel's disappearance. Plus, Anne Hathaway actually is an Upper West Side mom!

For Jenn's husband, Tim, I pictured John Krasinski. Partly just because I really love John Krasinski, ha! But also because on the one hand, he seems like such a good guy. . . and yet, is there more to him? Tim is also frustratingly hapless when it comes to helping out with the baby. I think John Krasinski could play all of Tim's traits very well.

For Selena, I would love her to be played by Lauren E. Banks. She plays Siobhan on City On A Hill, and just like Selena, her character on that show is a poised, polished lawyer. Selena is confident and knows just who she is, and Lauren E. Banks plays that same self-possession beautifully as Siobhan.

A bookstagrammer called Katscreations614 sent me some casting choices, and I loved all of her picks-- she'd chosen Kate Bosworth for Vanessa, and I thought that was so ideal-- icy blond and simply too perfect, causing everyone else to feel inadequate. ...[read on]
Visit Kathleen M. Willett's website.

Q&A with Kathleen M. Willett.

The Page 69 Test: Mother of All Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Mark Pryor's "Die Around Sundown"

Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter and felony prosecutor, originally from England but now living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of the Hugo Marston mystery series, set in Paris, London, and Barcelona. Pryor is also the author of the psychological thrillers, Hollow Man, and its sequel, Dominic. As a prosecutor, he appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood.

Here Pryor dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Die Around Sundown:
My main character, Henri Lefort, is a smart-aleck, highly intelligent, and has no time for fools (or Nazis). One actor kept popping into my head as I wrote him, because I've seen him exhibit all of those traits in the roles he's played: Jensen Ackles. Sure, he's handsome as heck, but he's also funny and a great actor. I first saw him in the TV series Supernatural, and over the course of 15 seasons I saw him grow as an actor, as his character Dean Winchester grew. I think he could carry Henri's great secret, and reveal it slowly as Henri does, and demonstrate the weight of that secret.

Henri's colleague and housemate, Nicola, is as French as can be, highly intelligent and hard-working, and not one to put up with Henri's nonsense. I see a lot of Lauren Cohan in Nicola, visually and in terms of her character. Nicola is the only one to know Henri's reality, and Lauren Cohen has those big, soulful eyes that hint of secrets and mystery. Having watched her for years in The Walking Dead, she's played everything from mother to warrior and would be amazing as Nicola.

The third major character I would like to cast is Princess Marie Bonaparte, or "Mimi" as Henri and Nicola call her. A strong, independent, incredibly bright woman, she would need to exude curiosity and intelligence. And look French, but without being overly glamorous. For me, Joan Cusack fits the bill, perfectly. It's true that she's played a lot of roles in comedies and romantic shows, but she's received recognition for dramatic roles, too, and has even played a therapist once before.
Visit Mark Pryor's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dominic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Erin Flanagan's "Blackout"

Erin Flanagan’s most recent novel Blackout was a June 2022 Amazon First Reads pick. Her novel Deer Season won the 2022 Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Author and was a finalist for the Midwest Book Awards in Fiction (Literary/Contemporary/Historical). She is also the author of two short story collections–The Usual Mistakes and It’s Not Going to Kill You and Other Stories. She’s held fellowships to Yaddo, MacDowell, The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, UCross, and The Vermont Studio Center. She contributes regular book reviews to Publishers Weekly and other venues.

Flanagan lives in Dayton, Ohio with her husband, daughter, two cats and two dogs. She is an English professor at Wright State University and likes all of her colleagues except one.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Blackout:
Seven hard-won months into her sobriety, sociology professor Maris Heilman begins having mysterious blackouts. She chalks it up to exhaustion, though she fears that her husband and daughter will suspect she’s drinking again. When another blackout lands her in the ER, Maris meets a network of women suffering the same fate, and they have limited time to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it before it’s too late.

While this novel is billed as a thriller, at its center it’s a book about women and how we balance our increasingly complicated lives. After her first blackout, Maris makes the decision not to tell her husband, Noel, what happened and instead explains away her odd forgetful behavior by saying she probably just needs a good night’s sleep. “She worked a demanding job, was hounded by trolls online for her articles on rape culture and masculinity, was raising a teenager, and was in her forties. Of course she needed a good night’s sleep.” But of course, too, she knows it’s more than that and an actress would need to be able to portray a character’s ability to lie to her husband and herself for different reasons.

While Jenny Slate is known mostly for her comedy (I loved her as Mona-Lisa Saperstein in Parks and Recreation), there’s a certain scrappiness to her that I would love to see take on Maris. Slate seems to understand that it’s difficult and exhausting to be a woman right now (and historically), and that it’s not just one job but many. That comedy she’s so good at is a form of bravado, and I think bravado is just what Maris has used to get through the world. By the end of the movie, it would need to be clear what vulnerability lurks underneath it.

Bill Hader would be a great choice for Noel, an empathetic ER doctor. Noel learns firsthand the destruction wrought in a family through secret keeping. He knows he loves Maris but does he trust her? Bill Hader is tall, looks good in scrubs, and can play a range of roles from those embodying distrust and despair (Barry) to unexpected heartthrob (Trainwreck).

And finally there’s Cody, Maris’s thirteen-year-old daughter, who is trying to navigate growing up in a patriarchal society where girls are seen in relation to their sexuality. Add onto this a mother she doubts, a biological father a thousand miles away, and the hormones of puberty, and good luck. Elsie Fisher is probably aging out of this role, but I was so incredibly struck with her performance in Castle Rock, I’d love to see her as Cody. Every time I’d see Fisher on screen, so awkward and teenaged and vulnerable, it would be like looking at a real kid. Not a kid who was acting these things, but that was these things. It was almost uncomfortable, and it took me a few episodes to give her her due and realize this was a part she was playing and not her. That’s both a great compliment to her acting, and just the kind of devaluation girls face day in and day out.

As for Eula, the older neighbor who gave up her academic career in the sciences to support her husband’s, Frances McDormand in ten more years, full stop. I think everything I’ve ever written is for Francis McDormand at some stage in her career. Mostly, I’d be so curious to hear who readers would want to see in these roles and who they envision, so if you have ideas, please let me know!
Visit Erin Flanagan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 1, 2022

Leslie Karst’s "The Fragrance of Death"

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst waited tables and sang in a new wave rock and roll band, before deciding she was ready for ‘real’ job and ending up at Stanford Law. It was during her career as a research and appellate attorney in Santa Cruz County that she discovered a passion for food and cooking, and she once more returned to school – this time to earn a degree in culinary arts. Now retired from the law, she spends her time cooking, singing alto in her local community chorus, gardening, cycling, and of course writing. Karst and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawaii.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fragrance of Death:
Sally Solari is a fourth-generation Italian, part of the community of fishermen who first emigrated to Santa Cruz, California back in the 1890s. Not yet forty, she’s already experiencing erratic hormones and hot flashes. As a result, she can tend towards over-the-top emotions and sarcasm (though cycling and bourbon help). But she’s also smart, stubborn, and resolute, and rarely takes no for an answer. As a result, when Sally sets her mind on tracking down a murderer, you do not want to be the one who gets in her way.

So what actor should play this spunky gal? Why, Jennifer Garner, of course. Not only does she have the correct build for Sally—tall and lanky with shoulder-length dark hair—but she’s got the right personality, as well: tough-as-nails, but with a sweetness and vulnerability at her core. I’m thinking the Jennifer Garner of Alias fame, where she played Sydney Bristow, a fearless secret agent posing as a mild-mannered bank clerk. And I bet Jennifer would have loads of fun learning the skills of a line cook/restaurateur to prepare for the role!

As for Eric Byrne, Sally’s ex-boyfriend and current BFF, with his charming smile and boyish blond locks, this district attorney who’d far rather be surfing waves than prosecuting criminals should most definitely be played by none other than the eternally youthful Brad Pitt. I mean, c’mon—wouldn’t you pay good money to watch Jennifer Garner and Brad Pitt square off in a bout of snarky jokes and quick repartee?

Finally, I would have dearly loved to see the late Robert Forster as Sally’s father, Mario. With his sweetly gruff manner, he would have been perfect to showcase the hurt that the swaggering, can’t-show-my-feelings fisherman feels when his daughter decides to leave their family’s Italian seafood eatery to take over the trendy, French-Polynesian restaurant, Gauguin, left to Sally by her murdered aunt in book one of the series.

Oh, and speaking of sweetness-and-vulnerability-meet-snark-and-quick-repartees, how fun would it be to score Nancy Meyers as director and Aaron Sorkin as screenwriter for The Fragrance of Death?

I can dream, right?
Visit Leslie Karst’s website.

Coffee with a Canine: Leslie Karst & Ziggy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Alison B. Hart's "The Work Wife"

Alison B. Hart’s writing has appeared in Joyland Magazine, Literary Hub, The Missouri Review, and The Millions, among others. She co-founded the long-running reading series at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn and received her MFA from The New School. She grew up in Los Angeles and lives in North Carolina.

Here Hart dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, The Work Wife:
The Work Wife is a novel, set over the course of one day, that’s told from the perspective of three women in the orbit of billionaire movie mogul Ted Stabler—his personal assistant Zanne, his wife Holly, and his ex-business partner Phoebe Lee. Maybe it’s because I wanted to be a screenwriter before I ever wanted to be a novelist, but I’ve always enjoyed dreaming up who would play my characters in the movie. So let’s give my Hollywood novel the Hollywood treatment!

Zanne’s the hardest for me to cast. She’s Joan Jett without the makeup, Snow White if she were a daddy. Zanne Klein’s a tough nut. She grew up in LA as the only child of a single mother, the product of an affair between a professor and his teaching assistant. When she was thirteen, her mother died, and Zanne was shipped off to Boston to live with a father and a step family she never knew. All of the ingredients are there for her to develop a substance abuse problem, and she does. At 18, she gives the finger to her dad (and the free tuition she could get at the college where he teaches) and heads back to LA to work on a film crew. Zanne was striking even as a child, and never knew what to do with all that attention from men, which felt barbed and hostile. But when she finds herself struggling to make ends meet on the peanuts she’s paid as a production assistant, she picks up extra work as a “model,” paid to attend parties and look pretty, and sliding perilously toward dangerous situations. Eventually, she leaves LA, comes out as gay, gets clean, and by the time we meet her on the morning of this one extraordinary day, she’s built up a hard shell around herself. There are a lot of actresses who could play Zanne, but I picture her like Ally Sheedy in High Art, someone who’s battled so many demons they seem impenetrable, but look closer and you realize they’re walking a tightrope toward everything they’ve ever wanted, and one misstep can cost them everything.

Holly Stabler is Hollywood’s golden girl. She grew up modestly in the mountains north of LA, a sweet, popular girl who loves to paint and ride horses. In art school, she doesn’t recognize the trustee and famous director who paid her a studio visit, but Ted Stabler takes a shine to the young artist. Next thing she knows, she’s married with two kids and smiling on the cover of all the tabloids in the nail salon, her art career an afterthought. No one really knows Holly Stabler but everyone loves her—except maybe her husband, who’s so busy he looks right through her. Everyone wants her long, reddish hair that’s straight out of a Pantene commercial. Everyone wants Holly Stabler to be nice, and she is—until she’s not anymore. Picture Connie Britton in White Lotus or Leslie Mann in This Is 40.

Phoebe Lee is a better filmmaker than Ted Stabler, and she knows it. Or she once was—and might still have been—if her career hadn’t been derailed twenty years ago while her creative partner, Ted Stabler, went on to amass a shelf full of trophies, a film and TV empire, and a giant fortune. She’s never kidded herself; she knows success won’t come as easily to her as it did to Ted. She’s a Korean-American woman, the daughter of immigrants, and she’ll have to fight to make it into the same rooms where Ted is welcomed with pats on the back from the rest of the boys club. Now 48, she’ll do whatever it takes to get her film on the silver screen. Chloé Zhao won her Oscar for Nomadland as I was revising The Work Wife, and Crazy Rich Asians’ Gemma Chan’s arrival at the Oscars inspired a key scene in the book, but the actress I’ve always seen when I think of Phoebe is Sandra Oh.
Visit Alison B. Hart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue