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