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

Friday, July 22, 2022

Paula Munier's "The Wedding Plot"

Paula Munier is a literary agent and the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Mercy Carr mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones, the first in the series, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and named the Dogwise Book of the Year. The sequel Blind Search, inspired by the real-life rescue of a little boy with autism who got lost in the woods, was followed by The Hiding Place in 2021.

Here Munier dreamcasts an adaptation of The Wedding Plot, the new Mercy Carr mystery:
Dreamcasting The Wedding Plot is a fun exercise because it means finding actors not only for my series heroine, Mercy Carr, but also for her extraordinary family, all of whom are gathering together at a luxe resort in Vermont for her grandmother’s wedding. The ultra-glam extravaganza is thrown off course by missing persons, family feuds, and murder, not necessarily in that order. Everyone is hiding something, and it’s up to Mercy to save the day—and the bride and groom—before it’s too late.

For Mercy, I’d choose Rose Leslie from A Game of Thrones, another strong and passionate redhead who’s not afraid to fight the good fight, no matter the cost. Mercy served in Afghanistan as a soldier and a military policewoman; she’s a warrior, and Rose Leslie knows how to play a warrior.

When I write Grace, Mercy’s chic, perfectionist mother, I always see my own mother, as played by Cate Blanchett. Which means she’d be a brunette, but just as formidable.

Mercy’s beloved grandmother Patience is a veterinarian adored by most all creatures, both two-legged and four-legged. Wise and wonderful, Patience is Mercy’s Obi-Wan, the person she turns to for counsel as well as comfort. She’s everything a woman in her early seventies should be—just like Meryl Streep.

Troy Warner, the game warden trying to win a place in Mercy’s heart forever, is a good guy through and through. Someone like Alan Ritchson from Reacher would be perfect.

Last but not least, while I was writing The Wedding Plot, my father died unexpectedly. The Colonel was an officer and a gentleman, and I grieved terribly for him. But I had a deadline to meet, so I did the only thing I could do and continue on: I wrote him into the book. My dad became Mercy’s great-uncle, and on the screen only an actor like Robert Duvall could do him justice. If only….

PS: If you’re wondering who’d play the dogs, they’re right here in my living room: Blondie, our Malinois rescue, is as fierce and smart and athletic as Elvis; and Bear, the Newfoundland retriever mix who, like Susie Bear in the books, is The Friendliest Dog in the World.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

My Book, The Movie: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

Q&A with Paula Munier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Meghan Holloway's "Killing Field"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department. She now lives on the Atlantic coast with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Here Holloway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Killing Field:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page…I gave the subject of starring roles for Killing Field some consideration before I came up with my answer.

I wrote Hector more in the vein of an antihero than a hero. He lived a hard life from the time he was a boy, and he is a cold, driven man. The only gentling influences in his life are Frank, his dog, and Maggie, his wife’s closest friend. Hector has chased his missing wife’s trail of secrets to the end. He has no answers, no job, and no patience for the girl who has been following him. Her claim to be his lost daughter sets the town ablaze and forges an unexpected alliance with his most bitter enemy, his wife’s family. Although he is a bit younger than the character, I think Josh Brolin could pull off the stern, weathered, distant character of Hector.

Annie Between Lodges knows who murdered her sister and why. She has proof. She also knows that if she comes forward with the evidence she has stolen, she will not survive long enough to tell the truth. She needs an ally, someone unflinching and unafraid, someone who knows how to make enemies and remain unscathed. But one lie catapults her into deeper danger. Annie is such a strong character. The vulnerability of youth still clings to her, but she has immense courage and tenacity. Her lies force Hector to confront the past. Blu Hunt would make an excellent Annie.

As you read Killing Field, tell me what you think of my choices for these leading roles. Who would you cast to portray Hector and Annie and the rest of the key characters in Raven’s Gap?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

My Book, The Movie: Hunting Ground.

My Book, The Movie: Hiding Place.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Liz Alterman's "The Perfect Neighborhood"

Liz Alterman is the author of a young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn't writing, she's reading.

Here Alterman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Perfect Neighborhood:
As The Perfect Neighborhood begins, residents of Oak Hill gossip about their neighbor, actress Allison Langley, who leaves her former rockstar husband in the middle of the night. For a while, her sudden departure becomes the talk of the town. But the gossip comes to an abrupt halt when five-year-old Billy Barnes disappears on his walk home from kindergarten. Is there a predator lurking in the leafy suburb? Or, does the child's abduction have something to do with a longtime rift between his mother and half-brother? Weeks later, three-year-old Amy-Pat Davies vanishes from her backyard. In addition to sharing a zip code, the missing children have another thing in common—their babysitter, Cassidy McLean, who has a secret of her own.

The novel is told from multiple points of view and as I wrote it, I envisioned it unfolding in a similar fashion to series like Big Little Lies or The Undoing or the film adaptation of Little Children—all of which had fantastic casts.

If The Perfect Neighborhood were a film or series, I’d love to see Ginnifer Goodwin star as Rachel Barnes, a real estate agent and the mother of the missing boy, who has made more than a few enemies in town. While I’m dreaming, Bryan Cranston would be perfect as her cold but complicated spouse, Ted, who lost his first wife in a terrible accident. I’d love to cast Timothée Chalamet as Ted’s troubled son, whom Rachel suspects may have something to do with his half-brother’s disappearance.

In the role of Allison Langley, the model and actress who flees her home and husband, I’d love to see Blake Lively. As her husband, Chris, a former rockstar, Lucas Bravo, would bring the requisite charm and the good looks that have won over most of the moms in Oak Hill.

Kiernan Shipka, whom I loved Mad Men, would be wonderful as Cassidy McLean, the honor student and babysitter who shows up late the afternoon Billy goes missing. She's consumed by guilt that's exacerbated by the fact that she can't tell anyone beyond her best friend why she wasn't on time.

After watching Bryce Dallas Howard’s incredible performance in the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” I think she’d be perfect as Sarah Davies, the mother of the second child who disappears. Just outside the “cool mom” circle, Sarah is consumed by wanting to be accepted and liked, much like the character Bryce portrayed in "Nosedive."

Needless to say, it would be a dream come true to see the novel brought to life on screen, and in the hands of these incredibly talented actors, I know it would be amazing.
Visit Liz Alterman's website.

Q&A with Liz Alterman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Tom Mead's "Death and the Conjuror"

Tom Mead is a UK crime fiction author specialising in locked-room mysteries.

He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Authors.

Here Mead dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, Death and the Conjuror:
I think it’s only natural for writers to fantasize about potential movie adaptations of their work. I know that it helps me when I’m writing descriptions to picture the actor I would most like to play a certain character. Sometimes I’ll even refer to photos to make sure I’m getting the details of their physical appearance right.

My novel Death and the Conjuror features a diverse ensemble of eccentric characters in 1930s London. For the main character, Joseph Spector, I initially thought of the great British actor Peter Cushing (perhaps best known in the US for his role as Tarkin in Star Wars). Cushing has the pale blue eyes, the hollow cheek bones and the skeletal, somewhat cadaverous frame. His performances are also marvellously soft-spoken and understated; a wonderfully subtle actor. So when I picture Joseph Spector, I am picturing Peter Cushing. Unfortunately however, Peter Cushing passed away in 1994, so this particular piece of dream casting is not to be.

But one of the most fun aspects of writing about Joseph Spector is that he is an enigma. He doesn’t let on much about his previous life or his background; all we really know is that he is a retired magician with a taste for the macabre and a knack for explaining the inexplicable. His age is anywhere between fifty and eighty, and he plays up to the uncertainty by acting frail when the situation demands it. Yet he remains no less adept at complex sleight-of-hand. As such, there’s great potential for creative casting. He is a chameleon, so I think the only real requirements for a screen portrayal of Spector are that he possess a certain understated charisma and a great speaking voice. Willem Dafoe, Mads Mikkelsen and Viggo Mortensen would be ideal examples, as would the excellent British character actors Lucian Msamati and Anton Lesser.

The other key character in Death and the Conjuror is George Flint, the Scotland Yard Inspector who finds himself out of his depth with this decidedly complex case. I consider Flint to be an “everyman” character, bound by more conventional logic. In that respect, he’s the Watson to Spector’s Sherlock Holmes or- perhaps more accurately- the Inspector Japp to Spector’s Hercule Poirot. With that in mind, from a dream casting perspective I’m leaning towards Rory Kinnear (who narrates the audiobook versions of Anthony Horowitz’s excellent Hawthorne novels) or perhaps Roger Allam, who brings a kind of world-weary affability to his role in the UK mystery series Endeavour.
Visit Tom Mead's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2022

Alan Drew's "The Recruit"

Alan Drew is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Gardens of Water and Shadow Man. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. An associate professor of English at Villanova University, where he directs the creative writing program, he lives near Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Drew applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Recruit, and reported the following:
The Recruit is a character-driven thriller set in 1987 Southern California, when growing white supremacist movement begins using the fledging internet to spread hate across the nation, plan attacks, and recruit young men. In Rancho Santa Elena, a master-planned exurb of Los Angeles, Jacob Clay, a troubled fifteen-year-old kid, is indoctrinated into the terror network and attacks the Vietnamese refugee community. Ben Wade’s got to stop the boy and the network while challenging his own racism and the racism in his community. Also, there’s a snowmobile chase, a plane crash, a big fire, gun shots fired, among other things. Even though the book is set in 1987, it speaks to much that is happening today, including conspiracy theories and the attack on the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

If we could go back in time and make a film out of The Recruit in, say, the mid to late 90’s, I would want Chris Cooper to play Ben Wade. Ben can play the tough guy cop, but he’s carrying around a very painful past which makes him emotionally vulnerable—something he works hard to hide. I think about Cooper’s role in John Sayles’s Lone Star. As an actor, he seems capable of exuding a tough exterior that hides a deep well of emotion and intelligence, which would work perfectly for Ben Wade.

I could see another Cooper work for Ben, too: Bradley Cooper. Ben’s in his late thirties, an aging body surfer who is still pretty cut from riding waves. Like most guys who live in saltwater, he’s a little rough around the edges—sunburned, bleached hair, sea salt on his skin—and Bradley Cooper, thinking about his role in A Star is Born, could pull that off, I think. Also, in Shadow Man, there’s an important moment in the book where Ben’s falling apart, his life unraveling in ways he can’t control, and Bradley Cooper seems capable of conveying that type of anxiety.

For some reason I always come back to Jessica Chastain for forensic medical examiner Natasha Betencourt. I’m thinking of her role in Zero Dark Thirty, that character’s almost obsessive intensity, her deep intelligence, and her willingness to risk her own emotional health to finish the job.

Director? I’m not sure, but I loved Tom McCarthy’s directing of Spotlight, the 2015 film about the Boston diocese child sex abuse scandal in the 1970s. The film was both propulsive and contemplative and it dug deep into the radiating trauma caused by such systematic abuse. That kind of directorial touch would be perfect for both Shadow Man and The Recruit.
Visit Alan Drew's website.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Man.

Q&A with Alan Drew.

The Page 69 Test: The Recruit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Alex Temblador's "Half Outlaw"

Alex Temblador is the award-winning author of Secrets of the Casa Rosada. She has an essay in Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America and a short story in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology.

Here Temblador dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Half Outlaw:
Half Outlaw is a story about a half-Mexican, half white woman named Raqi who was raised by her uncle Dodge after her parents died when she was four. Dodge has a substance abuse problem and runs drugs and guns for his outlaw motorcycle club, the Lawless. The book alternates between Raqi’s childhood and the present setting of 1990 when Raqi is a successful lawyer in Los Angeles. Dodge has just died, and she’s asked by Billy, the Lawless leader, to go on a cross-country motorcycle ride in honor of Dodge and meet people along the route. Raqi only agrees to go, in exchange for the address of her Mexican grandfather, whom she didn’t know existed.

In the novel, Raqi is depicted at many ages in her life from four years old to thirty-one years old, but for this exercise, I’ll just focus on ‘adult Raqi.’ I always pictured her being played by someone like Michelle Rodriguez or even Stephanie Beatriz – tough Latina women who would look comfortable on a Harley motorcycle. Though I also like Alyssa Diaz and Mayra Leal, both of whom are closer in age to Raqi.

This might be a little crazy, but I could see Matthew McConaughey or Norman Reedus taking on the role of Dodge. Most of Dodge’s scenes will be in the past when he’s between the ages of 40 and 60. McConaughey and Reedus fit within these ages and have the range to play a gruff man that had a difficult childhood, fought in the Vietnam War, and deals with substance abuse. The makeup and hair people might have to ‘roughen up’ the two men to make them resemble Dodge, but it can be done. Bryan Cranston wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

I would love to cast Ann Dowd to play Dodge’s girlfriend, Lenora, whom Raqi meets on the ride. She looks exactly as I picture Lenora and her talent would really showcase the kind of woman that Lenora is. Kurt Sutter or Ron Perlman would be good options to play Billy, who is the leader of the Lawless. They both have very imposing presences that would speak to the kind of man that Billy is in the book.

Jackson, Raqi’s ex-boyfriend, and his twin sister, Bethie, who was Raqi’s childhood best friend, are two very important characters. I can picture Alexander Ludwig playing Jackson and Dakota Fanning as Bethie. Although Raqi’s boyfriend Trevor doesn’t play a huge role in the novel, I’ve always thought that Lakeith Stanfield would be a phenomenal casting choice for him.

It would be a dream to see Half Outlaw adapted for film or TV. I may be biased, but I think it’s the kind of story that would have viewers on the edge of their seat, especially with actors like these.
Visit Alex Temblador's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Leslie Hooton's "After Everyone Else"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: After Everyone Else.

--Marshal Zeringue