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 Today.com. 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