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 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.


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