Thursday, June 1, 2023

Adam Mitzner's "Love Betrayal Murder"

Adam Mitzner is the acclaimed Amazon Charts bestselling author of Dead Certain, Never Goodbye, and The Best Friend in the Broden Legal series as well as the stand-alone thrillers A Matter of Will, A Conflict of Interest, A Case of Redemption, Losing Faith, The Girl from Home, and The Perfect Marriage. A practicing attorney in a Manhattan law firm, he and his family live in New York City.

Here Mitzner dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Love Betrayal Murder:
Love Betrayal Murder is the second of my books in which a very close friend generously allowed me to use his name (The Best Friend being the other). I’m sure that my Matt Brooks would have his own thoughts about the Hollywood A-lister to play his fictional alter ego, but in my mind it’s someone with tremendous charisma, but not traditional leading man looks. I’m thinking Seth Rogan or Paul Dano.

For Vanessa Lyons, I go the other way. Someone truly beautiful, but who uses her intelligence, and not her looks, as her calling card. I’ve been hoping Nina Dobrev would take an interest in my work for a while now, and she would indeed be an excellent Vanessa. But I just saw Riley Keough in Daisy Jones and she’d be great too.

Bradley Lyons is older and as handsome as his wife is beautiful, but with a dark side. Bradley Cooper, Colin Farrell or Jake Gyllenhaal, call your agents.

For the lawyers, Erica Sanders was based on an ex-girlfriend, so I primarily see her, but she’s not an actor (or a lawyer), so I’d cast Jennifer Hudson. I love Jessica Williams in Shrinking, and she would also give Erica the depth she needs. Zoe Kravitz is a little young, but in a few years she’d be perfect, not to mention that it would give the movie a Batman connection, which is very important to me.

Erica’s legal adversary, J.R., is described as resembling a young Larry Hagman, which might be hard for casting agents. If you google -- what actor looks like Larry Hagman -- the internet will tell you that it’s Neal McDonough of Yellowstone. He’s about ten years older than J.R., but if the movie is made soon, he could do it.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

My Book, The Movie: A Case of Redemption.

My Book, The Movie: Losing Faith.

My Book, the Movie: A Matter of Will.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfect Marriage.

Q&A with Adam Mitzner.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 26, 2023

Bryn Turnbull's "The Paris Deception"

Bryn Turnbull is the internationally bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis and The Last Grand Duchess. With a master of letters in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews, a master of professional communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a bachelor's degree in English literature from McGill University, Turnbull focuses on finding stories of women lost within the cracks of the historical record.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Paris Deception:
This is the first novel that I’ve written with fully fictional main characters, and when I started envisioning the novel I struggled with picturing my two main characters, Sophie and Fabienne. In my previous two books, I wrote historical heroines, meaning that I had photographs and newsreels to draw upon when picturing the character in my mind, but with this project I had difficulty envisioning the characters: they wavered on the edge of my mind’s eye, sometimes shifting into focus before blurring, frustratingly, once more.

I have Pedro Pascal to thank, in fact, for helping me solidify my characters. I was listening to an interview where he talked about developing scrapbooks to get himself into his character’s mindset, and I thought it sounded worth trying. In the course of developing my scrapbooks, I gravitated towards images that felt like one character or the other. I found their clothing – for Sophie, worn tweeds and pleated trousers; for Fabienne, rich velvets and flowing silks. Furniture for their apartments – a wrought-iron bed for Sophie, and a bathtub filled with pillows for Fabienne. The tools of their trades: palette knives and paintbrushes, coffee cups and champagne coupes. Finally, with a hundred different aspects of the characters down in the scrapbook I took a stab at their physical appearance.

To me, Sophie is Holliday Grainger, beautiful and strong with a cut-glass accent and victory curls. Having played queer historical heroines in the past, I think she would do wonderfully navigating the many levels on which Sophie has to hide her true self.

Fabienne, meanwhile, would be played to perfection by Aubrey Plaza: changeable and unpredictable, who could embody Fabienne’s empty bravado and grief like no other.

I continued this exercise of scrapbooking – and dream casting – for other characters in my book: Dietrich would be played, ideally, by Joe Alwyn, serious and steady yet dreamy enough for a romantic lead; Sebastien, meanwhile, I envision as Tom Sturridge, who could capture Sebastien’s reticence and hard exterior before unfolding and letting Fabienne, and the reader, glimpse his true nature.

Gerhardt Hausler, Sophie’s confidante and co-conspirator within the Jeu de Paume, I could see played by Torben Leibrecht, a German actor known for his role in Altered Carbon.

The most difficult castings, of course, would be the antagonists. Konrad Richter, Hermann Goering’s right hand man, is the main villain of this story: I see him as Daniel Bruhl, chewing the scenery as he embodies both Richter’s smirking elegance and brutal rage.

I pictured Christoph Waltz as Colonel Bohn, however he’s played plenty of characters in this ilk before; perhaps he’d prefer to take a pass on this project (and it’s terribly obvious casting given his work in Inglorious Basterds, I know) so let’s give the role to someone else: Alexander Skarsgård, who would do a masterful job playing the character’s weakness.

Finally, I would cast Helena Bonham Carter as Rose Valland, the real-life historical heroine who protected the Jeu de Paume, and the treasures within it, for the long years of the German occupation.
Visit Bryn Turnbull's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tanis Rideout's "The Sea Between Two Shores"

Tanis Rideout’s internationally acclaimed first novel, Above All Things, was a national bestseller, named to numerous best books of the year lists, and published in several languages around the world. It was awarded the Premio ITAS del Libro di Montagna and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her new novel is The Sea Between Two Shores. She is also the author of the poetry collection Arguments with the Lake, and, in 2006, she was named the “Poet Laureate for Lake Ontario” by the environmental advocacy group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Born in Belgium, she grew up in Bermuda and in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Los Angeles.

Here Rideout shares some thoughts on what a film adaptation of The Sea Between Two Shores might look like:
The writing of The Sea Between Two Shores was inspired by a brief paragraph I read in a left-behind guidebook while sitting overlooking the Pacific on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.

The story stayed with me throughout the remainder of my trip and beyond and eventually after much reading and research developed into the first draft of a novel about two families, The Stewarts and The Tabés, who come together to reckon with their collective pasts.

I didn’t really dream cast the Stewart family while I was writing. They were much like people I knew, people I might run into at the supermarket or the library. I did however return to a film called Tanna a number of times while I was writing.

My husband and I saw the film while we were in Vanuatu. It is a tragic love story set on the island of Tanna and stars ni-Vanuatu actors, performing in Nauvhal, one of the many languages spoken on the islands.

The performances in the movie are luminous with Marie Wawa and Mangua Dain as star-crossed lovers and Marceline Rofit as Wawa’s younger sister Selin.

It was not so much that I imagined these specific actors playing roles in my novel, but rather the film worked to ground the characters for me, allowing me to hear the rhythm and tone of language and songs from Vanuatu, remember the landscape and the sounds of the islands.

The film, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar, showcases a sliver of the incredible talent in Vanuatu.

In my daydreams, when I do imagine the possibility of The Sea Between Two Shores as a film, it would be a collaboration, as Tanna was, with people – artists, actors and storytellers – from Vanuatu.
Learn more about the book and author at Tanis Rideout's website.

My Book, The Movie: Above All Things.

Writers Read: Tanis Rideout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Verlin Darrow's "Murder for Liar"

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Darrow is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Darrow ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Here Darrow shares some ideas for the above-the-line adaptation of his new novel, Murder for Liar:
I didn't have any specific actors in mind when I wrote Murder For Liar, but I definitely pictured each character in detail, and if I think about which actors match up to those images... Let's see.

I guess the psychotherapist protagonist, Tom, who is a big guy with a rugged, scarred face, could be portrayed by a fortyish Nick Nolte. He'd need to be a bit more bewildered than usual. Zig-zag, the waif-like twenty-year-old daughter of a deceased spiritual leader could be played by a young Natalie Portman. Dizzy is a strong African American character who draws Tom into a conspiracy. Thus, Keke Palmer. The quite crazed therapy client--George Arundel--would need to be a bit spooky-looking, and capable of great acting for reasons I wouldn't want to give away here. Anthony Hopkins? Jack Nicholson? Ian McKellen? I'm not sure about this one.

There's a dog I know who'd be perfect for the one who provides Tom a major clue as he tries to solve a series of murders, but I doubt she can act.

I guess that covers the main characters. I wouldn't want the sort of director who puts a characteristic stamp on his work. People like Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and Guy Ritchie would distract from what I believe is already a compelling story. After all, who gets singled out as a possible angel? Who encounters meaningful coincidences by the dozen? Who has to figure out whether they've lost their mind as outrageous events keep up a breakneck pace?
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Emily J. Edwards's "Viviana Valentine Goes Up the River"

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 an adaptation of her latest novel, Viviana Valentine Goes Up the River:
Before the first book in the Girl Friday mystery series came out, I mused for My Book, The Movie about who I’d love to see play the three main characters of Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man: Viviana Valentine, Tommy Fortuna, and Tally Blackstone. My dream casting for those three characters hasn’t changed, so be sure to click over to that piece to see who I’d love to see in the roles!

All three characters appear again in Viviana Valentine Goes Up the River, but in this “country mansion” mystery novel, there are a new crop of faces that need casting!

Without a doubt, Buster Beacon– the eccentric millionaire hiring Viv and Tommy– would be played by Cameron Britton, most notably of Mindhunter and The Umbrella Academy. He has the incredibly unique combination of height and gentility needed to play the imposing and eccentric scientist.

In my head, while writing, Richard Paloma was played by Eddie Cibrian. Paloma is also a scientist, and in the employ of Buster Beacon, and they have a contentious relationship. But Paloma is a man who is much more accustomed to flirting his way out of trouble than pushing someone around with money and influence. I think Cibrian would fit the bill!

Hazel Olmsted is another house guest, a wealthy woman in her late 30s. She’s a blue-blood society gal with a mind of her own but a pretty hefty secret– and I could see Danielle Panabaker pulling her off with aplomb.

There’s an older, married couple in the book as well, Edward and Evelyn Allen. They have more money than they know what to do with, and government connections. Both in their late 60s/70s, I feel like I’d love to see them played by Karen Allen (Marion Ravenswood in Indiana Jones) and one of my truly favorite actors of all time: John Lithgow.

A neighbor is also stranded at the house, a man by the name of Chester Courtland. He’s aloof and distant, and avoids Viv almost every time she tries to talk to him. She’s intrigued by what he’s hiding, and wants to get to the bottom of why he just, doesn’t, you know, go home. The only thing we know about him is that he was invited to the party by Richard Paloma, and he’s got on a cheap suit. I’d love to see a more enigmatic actor in the space, someone like Dane DeHaan.

Another scientist in the story is Stanley Swansea, who is described in the novel as looking a bit like Kirk Douglas, which is a pretty tall order. It’s someone who has a chin dimple for sure– but I can’t think of who that person is just yet!

And so much of the story hinges on Arnold, Buster’s butler. Talk about a man with a secret! He’s Hungarian by birth, but it’s been years and years since he lived in his home country. He’s eminently capable– for every task. While there are a few actors I think could do the role well, I think the multi-faceted Arnold would be done justice by Victor Garber.

And finally, though she’s mostly Viv’s lifeline over the phone, I have to finally cast Betty, Viv’s housemate. She’s the word “bubbly” personified, but never loses her head. I think Kiernan Shipka could give her a real three-dimensional presence in the story!

Tell me, readers: who would you put into the cast to play our mysterious Stanley Swansea?
Visit Emily J. Edwards's website.

My Book, The Movie: Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man.

Q&A with Emily J. Edwards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 8, 2023

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "The End of The Road"

Andrew Welsh-Huggins is the Shamus, Derringer, and International Thriller Writers-award-nominated author of the Andy Hayes Private Eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator, and editor of Columbus Noir. His stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Magazine, the 2022 anthology Paranoia Blues: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Paul Simon, and other magazines and anthologies. Kirkus calls his new crime novel, The End of the Road, "A crackerjack crime yarn chockablock with miscreants and a supersonic pace.”

Here Welsh-Huggins dreamcasts an adaptation of The End of The Road:
My new Ohio-set crime novel, The End of The Road, tells the story of a young woman, Penny, and her solo journey of vengeance after her boyfriend is shot and left for dead. It’s my eighth novel but my first stand-alone after writing seven books about Columbus-based private eye Andy Hayes. The novel loosely uses the structure of Homer’s Odyssey as it weaves together the stories of three main characters—Penny; Pryor, the villain she pursues after her boyfriend, Myles, is shot; and J.P., a sheriff’s deputy who inadvertently finds himself caught up in the action.

The actor I’d tap to play Penny is Kaitlyn Dever. She’s not a household name—yet—but to my mind, she exhibits the perfect world-weary demeanor and inner strength needed to play Penny, a single mom who’s struggled to make it while Myles was in prison and will now do pretty much anything to eliminate Pryor once and for all. I first saw Dever in the FX series Justified, where she played tough-as-nails teenager Loretta McCready, a girl informally adopted by Kentucky crime boss Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), after Bennett poisoned McCready’s father. Dever has also had roles in the movies Booksmart and Dear Evan Hansen, and a smaller part in Dopesick, the HBO series about the history of the opioid epidemic.

For Pryor, a vicious, one-eyed thug (my nod to the Odyssean cyclops, Polyphemus), I’d love to see Aaron Paul in the role. Most people know him for his work as Jesse Pinkman, the crystal meth dealer and cooker in the AMC series Breaking Bad and that series’ satisfying movie sequel, El Camino, along with cameos in the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul. As Pinkman, Paul exuded a spot-on combination of unhinged behavior, struggle with personal demons, and aptitude for revenge, all qualities needed to play Pryor.

J.P., the sheriff’s deputy who unintentionally unites with Penny in her quest, is a shy, introspective man battling a lack of self-confidence as mourns the death of his father, the former sheriff, whose loss has the division spinning out of control. For this role, I’d opt for Harvey Guillen, probably best known for playing a human familiar to a trio of bumbling vampires on the Hulu comedy What We Do in The Shadows. In that show, Guillen’s character, Guillermo de La Cruz, faces (and rises above) crises of confidence that similarly plague the deputy. Guillen’s character also possesses some of the same qualities—fatalism tempered by a quiet sense of rectitude—that ultimately help J.P. overcome the obstacles in his personal and professional life.
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave.

Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

The Page 69 Test: An Empty Grave.

Writers Read: Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 4, 2023

"Hotel Cuba"

Aaron Hamburger is the author of a story collection titled The View from Stalin’s Head which was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nominated for a Violet Quill Award. He has also written three novels: Faith for Beginners, nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, Nirvana Is Here, winner of a Bronze Medal from the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Book Awards, and Hotel Cuba.

Here Hamburger dreamcasts an adaptation of Hotel Cuba:
I think my novel Hotel Cuba is wonderfully cinematic. It’s the story of two sheltered Russian Jewish sisters, desperate to find refuge in America after the Russian Revolution, who find themselves trapped in the sultry, hedonistic world of 1920s Havana.

Perhaps in a different political climate, the movie could actually be filmed in Havana, to capture the atmosphere of the tropical setting, and the heat and the light, combined with the gorgeous Baroque architecture of Old Town. Since this is a fantasy, I would have the Merchant Ivory team direct and produce the movie, in the style of A Room with a View or Howards End, with their frequent collaborator, the novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala writing an elegant and literary screenplay. I can imagine a lush and lyrical soundtrack, and lovely period costumes to evoke 1922 Cuba, with the American tourists dressed in cream-colored linen suits or pale dusty pink and pistachio green flowing dresses. My heroine, Pearl, is a seamstress and aspiring designer who would have loved being a costume designer for the film!

To play Pearl, I would want a dark-haired actress who projects an inner intelligence and strength, perhaps Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, who like Pearl happens to be Jewish. And then her husband Daniel Craig could play the mercurial Alexander, a dashing, debonair Jewish-American expatriate who may be helping Pearl, or may be wooing her. As Pearl’s impulsive and romantic younger sister Frieda, I could see Florence Pugh from the movie Little Women. For Ben the Oak, another of Pearl’s love interests, I might choose Adam Driver, who can play a strong, silent type who’s also a bit awkward.

Finally, I would have to find a part for Keanu Reeves just because I love Keanu Reeves. He could have a cameo as the American Counsel in Cuba, a glad-handing cynic, though maybe in all honesty, a Gene Hackman might be better suited to the role.
Visit Aaron Hamburger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hotel Cuba.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Daniel M. Ford's "The Warden"

Daniel M. Ford is a native of Baltimore. He has an M.A. in Irish Literature from Boston College, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from George Mason University. He lives in Delaware and teaches at a college prep high school in rural Maryland. His previous work includes The Paladin Trilogy and the Jack Dixon novels.

Here Ford dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Warden:
I try not to dreamcast my own books while I'm writing them. But once I have, once the characters are established and I know who they are, quite often while I'm wa

tching a movie or a show, an actor will leap out to me and my brain will just say, yes, that, that is the character. And as I've been working on The Warden since 2015 I've had plenty of time to think about this.

The Warden is the title of the first book, the job-title of the main character, and the title of the series, and these all point to Aelis Cairistiona de Lenti un Tirraval, the very rich, very privileged, very powerful daughter of a major noble family. She's smart, fearless, competent, charismatic, probably a little too certain of being the smartest person in the room, and extremely enthusiastic about her magical focus of Necromancy. So much in a screen adaptation would depend on the right Aelis, and last winter I saw the perfect actor to play her when I was watching, and loving, the Disney+ series Willow.

Ruby Cruz as Aelis de Lenti. The role she played as Kit Tanthalos was not precisely Aelis, but it was about 90% Aelis, and I'm convinced she'd be perfect for the role. I loved her performance in Willow so much I can't see anyone else portraying Aelis in my mind's eye.

Chaske Spencer as Tun. It would require a lot of special effects to bring a half-orc mountain man (from an orc culture that maps most closely to fantasy vikings) to the screen, whether practical or CGI. But when I saw The English on TV last year, Chaske Spencer's laconic eloquence and confident screen presence blew me away. I think he could bring that to the character and shine through no matter what kind of effects were in use.

Katie McGrath as Maurenia. The half-elf adventuress is a significant secondary character. McGrath as an actor radiates confidence, equipoise, and intelligence, and she'd be great as the deadly, beautiful, brilliant Maurenia.

Timmuk Dobrusz: Tom Hardy. If I'm dream-casting I might as well dream big, and he could play the heck out a gregarious dwarf adventurer who is also ready to cut throats at the drop of a hat. It'd be fun to see him do fantasy.

Rus and Martin, the Innkeepers: Nick Offerman as Rus and Tim Blake Nelson as Martin. Rus is quiet, knows more than he says, has a lot of life experience. Tim Blake Nelson can be vulnerable like Martin seems but also suddenly competent when necessary.

Otto: W Earl Brown. One of my favorite actors would be great as the veteran struggling to raise his niece with his unreliable brother Elmo, for whom I'd cast Timothy Olyphant. Like I said, I'm gonna dream big here.

Dalius: Christopher Lloyd would do a great job as a harmless, doddering old hedge wizard...
Visit Daniel M. Ford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Warden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Jen Williams's "Games for Dead Girls"

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. A fan of pirates and dark folklore from an early age, these days she writes horror-tinged crime thrillers with strong female leads as well as character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of banter and magic. In 2015 she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards.

Here Williams dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Games for Dead Girls:
When Charlie was young, she spent many happy family holidays at Hithechurch, a tiny seaside town on the Kent coast. Always obsessed with scary stories, one of her favourite games was the telling of tall tales, until one fateful summer when one particular scary creation got out of hand… Now, revisiting Hithechurch along with her niece, Charlie is researching a book on local folklore, but it isn’t long before she begins to discover a darker side to the town, one with a history of missing women and criminal families.

Except that isn’t the whole story. Charlie doesn’t want you to know the whole story…


Games for Dead Girls is such a great choice for this particular prompt, as of all my books it is the only one where I have had actors in mind for the lead roles right from the start. For damaged, complicated yet witty Charlie, my dream actress would be Natasha Lyonne. When I first started writing ideas for this book, Russian Doll had just popped up on Netflix and there are few actors as enormously watchable and charming as Lyonne. Yes, she would have to do a Kentish/southeast London accent, but I’ve no doubt she would nail it.

Joseph is the charming handy man at the caravan site where Charlie and her niece are staying, and again I always had an actor in mind for him – in fact, I named him after the chap. Joseph Gilgun is one of those performers who lights up the screen in whatever he is in. He was incredible in This is England, then rocked up in Misfits to do what I thought was impossible at the time: replace Robert Sheehan as the gobby chaotic one. Then he took on what must surely be one of the most beloved roles in comics adaptations – Cassidy in Preacher. If there really was a screen version of Games for Dead Girls, I’d fight tooth and nail for Gilgun to be in it.

Then there’s the characters I can’t talk about too freely for fear of spoilers… Ralph Ineson is an actor forever known as ‘Chris Finch’ in our household thanks to his turn in The Office (UK version) but he’s also the first actor I had in mind for an older Derek; Ineson has the kind of gravelly voice that makes you pay attention. And Christina Ricci’s recent scene-stealing appearance in Yellowjackets makes her my ideal Watkins.

If I got to pick the director of this film version of Games for Dead Girls, I would definitely lean towards someone with a dark-but-quirky body of work. David Fincher would be a dream choice: Seven, Zodiac, Gone Girl, Alien 3, and of course, Mindhunter, which I remain obsessed with. If you’re looking for scary and darkly humorous with an edge of weird, you can’t go wrong with Fincher. My other choice is slightly more left field, but I’ve always been a huge Coen brothers fan, and there is definitely a seam of odd humour through Games for Dead Girls which I think they could exploit brilliantly – it would be more Fargo than The Big Lebowski I guess, but I’d love to see what wild things they could do with my story.
Visit Jen Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sarah Strohmeyer's "We Love to Entertain"

Sarah Strohmeyer is a bestselling and award-winning novelist whose books include The Secrets of Lily Graves, How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, Smart Girls Get What They Want, The Cinderella Pact (which became the Lifetime Original Movie Lying to Be Perfect), The Sleeping Beauty Proposal, The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, Sweet Love, and the Bubbles mystery series. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Boston Globe. She lives with her family outside Montpelier, Vermont.

Here Strohmeyer dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, We Love to Entertain:
Because We Love to Entertain was inspired by the already fictional world of HGTV property rehab, that medium was lurking in the background as I wrote about a privileged, white, well-educated couple legally “stealing” a prime piece of real estate - a Vermont mountaintop retreat - for which they pay the consequences when the former owner exacts his revenge.

Or does he?

Anyway, I love Southerner Parker Posey, so she would be by prime choice to play Haylee aka Holly Barron, a Florida girl who’s remade herself into the glamorous co-owner of this estate, along with her new husband, Robert Barron, aka The Robber Barron, who fancies himself the genius of snatching real-estate bargains. There’s a guy who lives near me on whom I modeled this character due to his appearance and behavior. That said, the closest actor would be Joe Manganiello. I realize Parker’s nearly ten years older than Joe, but let’s go with it.

Erika, their aspiring assistant who just…wants…to…get….out…of…this…goddamn hick town, has to be Maya Hawke from Stranger Things. She’s simultaneously vulnerable and edgy. And since Erika gets herself in life-threatening danger, I can see Maya conveying the fear and resilience Erika experiences as she desperately tries to stay alife.

Her mother Kim, the Town Clerk who’s got her own secrets but doesn’t take no guff from no one, has to be Jean Smart. (Now that I think of it, Hannah Einbinder who plays her assistant on Hacks wouldn’t be bad as Erika, either.)

Hannah would also be great as Doreen, the brash Assistant Town Clerk, though she might be a little young. This is a book with quirky, strong and equally vulnerable women. It’d be so exciting to see them interacting on the screen.

Since We Love to Entertain revolves around these women and has lots of humor, I bet Paul Feig would do a great job directing. Bridesmaids is my go-to stress buster and I hope We Love to Entertain serves the same purpose for its readers!
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Is My Brain on Boys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

E.J. Copperman’s "Ukulele of Death"

E.J. Copperman’s new novel is Ukulele of Death, first in the Fran and Ken Stein Mystery series. Copperman also writes the Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series, currently represented by And Justice For Mall and soon to be joined by My Cousin Skinny. When not otherwise occupied, Copperman lives in New Jersey.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Ukulele of Death:
If they were to make Ukulele of Death into a movie, who would I want to see in the lead roles? I confess I haven’t given it much thought because the possibility seems pretty remote, but it’s a fun fantasy game to play.

First, we’d have to identify who “they” might be. Film and television are such quirky businesses, and these days the brand of the distributor/studio/network/streaming service is so central to the project that it’s hard to know what the parameters of such an endeavor might be. But let’s decide for the sake of our argument that there’s an unlimited budget and we can choose from anybody living or dead.

Ukulele of Death, the first in the Fran and Ken Stein (I’ll give you a second) Mystery series, is meant to be intriguing, engaging, maybe a little touching but also definitely funny. If you’re not amused I didn’t do my job well enough.

So we’d need a director and actors with a certain flair for the comedic. Mel Brooks, at 96, might not be taking on new projects, and maybe his style isn’t exactly right for this novel (although he did make Young Frankenstein, perhaps the best comedy ever filmed).

Rian Johnson, of the Knives Out films and Peacock’s Poker Face series, would seem to be the best fit, but he has a penchant for the Agatha Christie I-suppose-you’re-wondering-why-I-called-you-all-here-tonight style of mystery, which this is mostly not. And while Judd Apatow seems like a very nice guy, his comedies have never really done much for me. Comedy is the most subjective of art forms. What I find hilarious you might consider sophomoric or antiquated. And both of us would be right.

So let’s consider actors. The two leads are – as one might expect – Fran Stein and her brother Ken, two people who weren’t so much born as created, if you get what I mean. They have a few quirks to them, like having to plug themselves into a wall outlet every few days to maintain their energy. They’re both larger than life in a literal and metaphorical sense.

So we need leads who can look like they’d be imposing, and who are believable in action sequences. People like Dwayne Johnson for Ken and Gal Gadot for Fran might be the most obvious choices, but The Rock is a bit older than Ken (as, to be fair, is Gal for Fran), so maybe Jason Momoa for Ken and, my own personal choice, Natasha Lyonne for Fran. She’s not tall enough and I don’t care; she fits the part. She’s snarky and a little offbeat and that would suit a woman who is always aware that she’s seen as different.

But hey, if some crazy producer reads Ukulele of Death and wants to make a film of it starring intelligent flamingos, I’m all for it as soon as the check clears.
Visit E. J. Copperman's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Thrill of the Haunt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Emily Franklin's "The Lioness of Boston"

Emily Franklin is the author of more than twenty novels and a poetry collection, Tell Me How You Got Here. Her award-winning work has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Guernica, JAMA, and numerous literary magazines as well as long-listed for the London Sunday Times Short Story Award, featured and read aloud on NPR and named notable by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Here Franklin dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Lioness of Boston:
The Lioness of Boston is based on the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner, a daring visionary who triumphed over personal tragedy and created an inimitable legacy in American art and transformed the city of Boston itself. The novel takes place between 1861 when Isabella is 21 years old and up to her death 1924. This is a Gilded Age historical with a feminist slant. This is based on a real person's life so there are real artists and writers,

So... Greta Gerwig, who directed the latest version of Little Women, would be amazing for this. She's sharp, detail-oriented, modern, and would really get to the heart of this woman who was famous before celebrity, misunderstood and outspoken in elite Boston society, and who ultimately surprises everyone's expectations. Plus, Greta Gerwig has terrific choices for actors.

But - there's also a version of this with Julian Fellowes directing - sort of Downton Abbey but in historic Boston. Either way, this novel has so many big name artists and writers for fun cameos - Henry James, Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent, and a whole long scene at the first Impressionist Exhibit in Paris (before they were even called the impressionists), including Renoir, Monet, Manet, Pisarro and Berthe Morisot, the only woman in that show. Who doesn't want to play Henry James? In my version, I think Jane Lynch would be great or Hugh Grant.

The Lioness of Boston dream casting likely involves multiple actresses playing the same role since the story spans Isabella's lifetime. For Isabella Stewart Gardner casting I would love to see some sort of mix of the brilliant Olivia Colman who would embody Isabella's wit, boldness, and hidden vulnerability. And Kate Winslet would be great, too. Saoirse Ronan would be a wonderful new-to-Boston Isabella. And of course I'd be a fool not to fantasy cast Meryl Streep as Isabella looking back on her life.

The cameos would be: Jessica Williams, who is hilarious with the best comedic timing and joyfulness, Matthew Rhys because come on, he could play anyone, Uzo Aduba who is an incredible actor with such a range, Zoe Chao who would make an amazing Julia, Isabella's BFF/Sister-in-Law. Let's take George Clooney as a surprise artist - John Singer Sargent - who paints Isabella's portrait and causes a scandal. And let's have Julia Roberts as one of Boston's grande dames. Neil Patrick Harris, are you listening? If so, please take on the role of Oscar Wilde and - if we're lucky - burst into song in the dinner party scene. Ben Whishaw would stun us all as Mr. Valentine, as head of the Boston Public Gardens and kindly bon vivant.

And, oh, look, here's Taylor Swift who has seen the script, been inspired by this tale of a woman who defied expectations and whose vision of art will outlive us all and she's agreed to partner with Sufjan Stevens and Phoebe Bridgers for the Greta Gerwig version soundtrack. The only question is who plays the person with whom Isabella has an affair? Paul Rudd? Matt Damon because it's a Boston movie? Gary Oldman?
Visit Emily Franklin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lioness of Boston.

Q&A with Emily Franklin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 10, 2023

Sam Wiebe's "Sunset and Jericho"

Sam Wiebe is the award-winning author of the Wakeland novels, one of the most authentic and acclaimed detective series in Canada, including Invisible Dead (“the definitive Vancouver crime novel”), Cut You Down (“successfully brings Raymond Chandler into the 21st century”), Hell and Gone ("the best crime writer in Canada"), and Sunset and Jericho ("Terminal City’s grittiest, most intelligent, most sensitively observed contemporary detective series").

Wiebe’s other books include Never Going Back, Last of the Independents, and the Vancouver Noir anthology, which he edited.

Wiebe’s work has won the Crime Writers of Canada award and the Kobo Emerging Writers prize, and been shortlisted for the Edgar, Hammett, Shamus, and City of Vancouver book prizes.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Sunset and Jericho:
Since I’ve done My Book the Movie before, I’m going to apply this to my new Wakeland novel, Sunset and Jericho, using only people from my favorite film decade, the 1970s.

Dave Wakeland is a private detective and a perpetual underdog. In Sunset and Jericho, he’s after a mysterious group targeting the city’s wealthy. I’d cast Roy Scheider as Wakeland. Scheider can play a consummate professional, as in Marathon Man and The French Connection. Someone cool, tough, and unable to be rattled. He can also play someone genuinely out of their depth, as in the underrated suspense film Sorcerer.

But what makes Scheider special is he can play both at the same time. To be heroic and human, someone with great talent who’s also out of his depth, as in Jaws and All That Jazz.

Wakeland’s younger sister Kay is an important character in the book. As his protege in the PI business, Kay is someone Wakeland relies on, and also someone who offers a younger, different perspective. Kay has a fierce determination all her own, as well as a few secrets. Sissy Spacek is so compelling in Robert Altman’s Three Women, showing a different side to every character. Calculating, intelligent, and explosive: Spacek would bring a lot to the role.

As for director, the 1970s were a banner decade for filmmakers, with up-and-comers like Scorsese and Coppola, Spielberg and May, as well as older masters like Aldrich and Peckinpah.

My choice for director is Don Siegel. The director of Dirty Harry and Charley Varrick could bring to life the action scenes of Sunset and Jericho, which include a melee in a parking garage, a rooftop chase, and a mansion set on fire.

But Siegel is also great at conspiracy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), procedure (Escape from Alcatraz), scenes involving groups with conflicting agendas (The Beguiled), and tension (Riot in Cell Block 11). Plus, Siegel’s usual crew includes cinematographer Bruce Surtees and composer Lalo Schifrin, masters in their own right.

Sunset and Jericho: A Don Siegel detective film starring Roy Scheider and Sissy Spacek? That would shoot to the top of my watch list.
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

Q&A with Sam Wiebe.

My Book, The Movie: Hell and Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Alisa Lynn Valdés's "Hollow Beasts"

Alisa Lynn Valdés is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist and a former staff writer for both the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. With more than one million books in print in eleven languages, she was included on Time’s list of the twenty-five most influential Hispanics and was a Latina woman of the year as well as an Entertainment Weekly breakout literary star. She is the author of many novels, including Playing with Boys and The Husband Habit.

Here Valdés dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of her new novel, Hollow Beasts:
My novel Hollow Beasts is the first book in a suspense/crime series centered around Jodi Luna, a middle aged Latina game warden in northern New Mexico. (For a simple shorthand, she’s my Walt Longmire or Joe Pickett.)

Jodi comes to the job of game warden at age 45, as the oldest rookie conservation officer ever hired by the New Mexico Fish & Wildlife Department, after a long career as a nature poet and poetry professor.

Jodi is in love with the wilderness and all the things that live out there, and heartbroken by the way humanity has exploited and disregarded nature. In the era of climate change, she decided nature needs more than poetry; it needs warriors.

That said, Jodi is not the usual environmental activist stereotype. She’s a proud hunter. She loves fly fishing. She is a genuine conservationist who despises nothing more than animal poaching and trophy hunting. She does not fit the stereotype of an American outdoorsman or conservationist, either, in that she is a woman of color.

Jodi is complicated and nuanced, intelligent, furious and layered. She’s the hero I feel we all need now, and the only kind of cop we need more of. Game wardens are the only law enforcement officers whose job is to protect wildlife from human beings. Sometimes, the corrupt system leads her to resort to violent vigilantism. Jodi’s achilles heel is her strong emotions, most of all her rage. She also drinks too much. She’s imperfect, if well intentioned.

The perfect person to play Jodi on the screen would be Gina Torres. Gina is the same age as Jodi, and has a gift for playing characters who are deeply intelligent, powerful, and kickass. She’s beautiful, with great range. As a black Latina she also has the potential to appeal to a wide audience in playing a New Mexico Hispana with a family tree whose five centuries in the region are as complex and rich as the history of this part of the world. Fingers crossed! I’m a fan, and hope to find a way to work with her on this.
Visit Alisa Lynn Valdés's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Laurie Buchanan's "Impervious"

A cross between Dr. Dolittle, Nanny McPhee, and a type-A Buddhist, Laurie Buchanan is an active listener, observer of details, payer of attention, reader and writer of books, kindness enthusiast, and red licorice aficionado. Her books have won multiple awards, including the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner, the International Book Award Gold Winner, the National Indie Excellence Awards Winner, the Crime Fiction/Suspense Eric Hoffer Awards Finalist, and the PenCraft Award for literary excellence; they’ve also been a finalist for the CLUE Suspense/Thriller Book Awards.

Here Buchanan dreamcasts an adaptation of Impervious, her newest Sean McPherson novel:
The bride, the groom, the toast, the explosion... What should be a joyous occasion turns lethal.

In the village of Fairhaven—nestled between Washington State’s Bellingham Bay and the Cascade Mountains, home to writers’ retreat Pines & Quill, friends and family have gathered for the union of Sean McPherson and Emma Benton.

Sean, ex-cop turned PI, works with the FBI and local police to help solve crimes, particularly murders bearing the mark of crime boss Georgio “The Bull” Gambino. Emma, who has just learned to walk again, has begun to feel at home in Fairhaven and hopes to one day raise a family.

But just as the festivities begin and corks fly, an explosion shatters everything, killing one and injuring others. From Bellingham to San Francisco and New Orleans, the chase is on to discover who's dead set on ensuring the newlyweds don't lie happily ever after.

The Sean McPherson novels have been likened to “Chief Inspector Gamache meets The Last Mrs. Parrish.” So I would love to have Louise Penny’s Gamache series-to-television adaption, Three Pines, directed by the same team of directors: Sam Donovan as the lead, with Mohawk director Tracey Deer and Daniel Grou.

Character Casting:

Sean “Mick” McPherson, private investigator, played by Henry Cavill

Emma Benton, a famous potter, played by Amy Adams

Joe Bingham, homicide detective, played by Alex Carter (of CSI)

Rafferty, FBI special agent, played by Oliver Bjerrehuus (Danish model)
Visit Laurie Buchanan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Impervious.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 31, 2023

Marcia Bradley's "The Home for Wayward Girls"

Marcia Bradley is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. An adjunct professor, she also teaches economically challenged teens and is proud that one of her Yonkers students is now a student at Sarah Lawrence. A former editor of Antioch's Two Hawks magazine, Bradley has been awarded residencies at Ragdale, Community of Writers, and Writers in Paradise. She lives in New York City.

Here Bradley dreamcasts an adapation of her debut novel, The Home for Wayward Girls:
The Home for Wayward Girls takes place in the late 1990’s and the early 21st century. The protagonist, Loretta, has spent the first seventeen years of her life on a ranch where people pay her parents to imprison their daughters and teach them to be good, subservient, God-fearing young women. Yet, I don’t imagine that it’s so different than the lives a lot of people find themselves stuck in. I think that many people, especially women, find that they must flee circumstances that are unbearable, as does Loretta.

In the dictionary the term everywoman is defined as an ordinary woman, representative of all women. Loretta is like many women who feel they have no way out, or that they are being brainwashed by questionable religious teachings, or that they have to repay a debt to those they live with. Whoever plays her in a movie must be an everywoman.

I must say that I’m beyond delighted to offer my picks for the cast of this movie. For Loretta, the big qualifier is that many young women would have to be able to see themselves in the actress. Emma Stone is perfect because she’s fantastic and earthy and seems she could be anyone’s friend. Elle Fanning as Loretta’s best friend Elsie would be awesome. I can just see the two of them breaking free!

There is an incredible group of young actresses who also come to mind like Callie Haverda from the new That 90’s Show as sweet resident, Crystal. Also, Jenna Ortega from Wednesday as tough resident Tanya. For Loretta’s parents, I wonder if Margo Martindale and Nick Nolte would be available—they’d be so despicably great.

And last, who should be Clarke, Loretta’s kind, nonjudgmental, and helpful husband? I’ve given this a lot of thought and decided (as if this is reality) that the role goes to Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings. He’s got the right demeanor and deserves a break to spend time with Loretta in the wonderful world that is The Big Apple. I think Loretta would approve.
Visit Marcia Bradley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Josh Weiss's "Sunset Empire"

Josh Weiss is a first-time author from South Jersey. Raised in a proud Jewish home, he was instilled with an appreciation for his cultural heritage from a very young age. Today, Weiss is utterly fascinated with the convergence of Judaism and popular culture in film, television, comics, literature, and other media. After college, he became a freelance entertainment journalist, writing stories for SYFY WIRE, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, and Marvel Entertainment.

Here Weiss dreamcasts an adaptation of Sunset Empire, the thrilling alternate history sequel to Beat the Devils:
My personal fan-casting still stands from last time: Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Morgan Spector (The Plot Against America), or Oscar Isaac (Operation Finale) are all free to play the role of Morris Baker if they ever find themselves interested. For now, though, I’ll continue to sit by the phone, eagerly waiting for Hollywood to call and scoop up the screen rights to Beat the Devils, Sunset Empire, and any subsequent novels that may come out of my head.

While I don’t have any strong casting thoughts on Book 2 beyond the character of Baker, I think its general atmosphere would be really cool to see on screen — perhaps in the hands of horror maestro Guillermo del Toro? Guillermo, bubeleh, give me a buzz when you get a chance. Let’s talk turkey! All joking aside, I’d love to see del Toro’s penchant for exploring deep themes by way of a fraught historical period by way of this novel.

Sunset Empire takes place against the backdrop of a dreary, almost gothic cold spell gripping the city of Los Angeles in late 1959. Instead of the blazing sunshine and choking smog the town is known for, you have have icy rain, swirling mist, and an all-consuming, San Francisco-y fog. The visual of palm trees, that ultimate signifier of warm weather, obscured by a constant downpour of frigid precipitation just seemed really cool and ominous.

In fact, I have to give all the props to my returning cover illustrator Philip Pascuzzo, who perfectly nailed the vibe with the artwork for Sunset Empire.
Visit Josh Weiss's website.

My Book, The Movie: Beat the Devils.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Amulya Malladi's "A Death in Denmark"

Amulya Malladi is the bestselling author of eight novels, including The Copenhagen Affair, A House for Happy Mothers, and The Mango Season. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil.
She won a screenwriting award for her work on Ø (Island), a Danish series that aired on Amazon Prime Global and Studio Canal+. Currently living in California, she is a Danish citizen who was born and raised in India.

Here Malladi dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of her new novel, A Death in Denmark:
In A Death in Denmark, there is a tricky element to my protagonist Gabriel Præst. He shaves his head. While I wrote the book, I didn’t have an actor in mind, I never do, my characters are their own people—but once the book is done and people say, “this will make a great movie”—as a writer, you started to go through your mental rolodex of actors to see who would fit.

So, let’s talk about Gabriel. He’s an ex-Copenhagen cop turned Private Investigator. He loves good food and wine. Dresses well. Has an excellent sense of humor. And he plays the blues and jazz. He shaves his head and loves a good fedora. Is a snappy dresser—designer all the way. Lives in the famous Kartoffelrækkerne, the historical “potato” townhouses in the center of Copenhagen—a house that he was constantly renovating. Is not an alcoholic or a drug addict or tortured soul as so many Nordic Noir male protagonists are. He is a good father and close to his daughter. He is single and has lovers. He has authentic relationships with friends. And most importantly, he knows himself.

My first choice would be Danish actor Dar Salim, who received a Bodil Award nomination in the category Best Actor for the film Go With Peace, Jamil in 2008 and you can see him in the recent Danish Netflix crime drama, Loving Adults. He’s a fantastic actor (and he makes bald look sexy).

Now, if we could look past the “bald” thing, one of my favorite Danish actors is Pilou Asbæk known for playing the troubled spin doctor Kasper Juul in the Danish television political drama Borgen and Euron Greyjoy in the television series Game of Thrones. I think he’d bring a lot of gravitas to Gabriel.

If Pilou is busy, Nikolaj Lie Kaas who plays the tortured detective Carl Mørck in the Department Q novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen would make a perfect Gabriel. I love Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, famous for playing Jaime Lannister, again from Game of Thrones—he can play any role he likes; actually, I’ll even write a new role for him if he’d ever considers being part of A Death in Denmark, if it ever hits the small or big screen.
Visit Amulya Malladi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 20, 2023

Asale Angel-Ajani's "A Country You Can Leave"

Asale Angel-Ajani is a writer and Professor at The City College of New York. She's the author of the nonfiction books Strange Trade: The Story of Two Women Who Risked Everything in the International Drug Trade and Intimate: Essays on Racial Terror. She has held residencies at Millay, Djerassi, and Playa, and is an alum of VONA and Tin House.

Here Angel-Ajani dreamcasts an adaptation of A Country You Can Leave, her first novel:
A Country You Can Leave tells the story of Lara, a biracial Afro-Cuban-Russian girl, and her Russian mother, Yevgenia. It opens with their arrival at the Oasis Mobil Estates, a somewhat ne’re-do-well community located in the California Desert. As a mother and daughter duo trying to figure out their place in America, the novel is part love story and part a story of coming of age under difficult circumstances. But it’s also a novel of dark humor and outrageous characters that, I hope, stay with you for a long while.

As my novel is set in the desert, I imagine one of those films that have to convey the heat and the stretch of open blue skies in a way that was both artful and realistic. The actresses that I think would be great at playing the central mother and daughter characters would be Charlize Theron, playing the complex and fierce Russian mother, Yevgenia, and the British actress, Nathalie Emmanuel playing Lara. There is a small part of me that would love to see Zendaya opposite Charlize Theron but I may be overthinking this. But they’d all be great. Of course, Brad Pitt would play himself (just kidding). In my book, my characters do call the cute neighbor, Steve, “Brad Pitt” but that would be a bit too meta.
Visit Asale Angel-Ajani's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Elizabeth Wein's "Stateless"

Elizabeth Wein is the holder of a private pilot’s license and the owner of about a thousand maps. She is best known for her historical fiction about young women flying in World War II, including the New York Times bestselling Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Wein is also the author of Cobalt Squadron, a middle grade novel set in the Star Wars universe and connected to the 2017 release The Last Jedi. She lives in Scotland and holds both British and American citizenship.

Here Wein shares some ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Stateless:
Stateless is a thriller and a mystery, set in a young people’s air race around Europe in 1937. Tensions are high anyway, with the Spanish Civil War in full swing and Hitler’s Nazi government in power in Germany. Our narrator is seventeen-year-old Stella North, the only girl out of twelve racing contestants all from different European nations, and on the very first day of the race she witnesses one pilot forcing another to his death over the English Channel. All the race contestants are hiding secrets, and so is Stella – and will there be another attack?

I have a very cinematic brain, and a lot of the scenes in this book are very visual. I can picture it as a film so easily, I have clear images in my head of what each character looks like, and yet I struggle to come up with actors to play them because they’re are all so young – everyone in the race is under 21.

But here’s my wish for Stateless, the movie. I don’t care who the actors are. What I care about is the aeroplanes.

In my 1937 air race, we’ve more than a dozen vintage aircraft flitting about. In my dream film scenario, I don’t want CGI. I want real planes! Hear me out –

One of my top ten favorite movies is The Rocketeer, a live-action film released in 1991 from Disney and Touchstone (with fabulous music by James Horner!), about a young barnstormer pilot in 1938 who gets hold of a jet pack. More than 25 vintage aircraft were used in the film. It was a box office flop but it’s an exquisite period piece, giving a true taste of the Golden Age of Flight, and the flight sequences just make the whole thing feel so much more real and less cartoony than CGI.

And if we can’t come up with enough vintage aircraft – I still don’t want CGI and would like to make an argument for model aircraft. One of my other well-loved aviation media triumphs is a 1979 television series called Flambards, made by the UK’s ITV. One of the characters is an aviation nut in the very, very early days of flight before the First World War. The planes in this show were all model aircraft and were utterly convincing.

So – without being too much of a plane nerd, when Stateless’s Stella is flying her open-cockpit Avro Cadet over the English Channel and sees two distant aircraft collide, how much fun would those model aircraft association folks have if they got to engineer a plane wreck on film? Or how cool would it be to get a couple of stunt pilots to stage a terrifying mock dogfight over the Alps, such as Stella find herself involved in? What about the glorious opening scene of a bi-plane flying loops over Stonehenge in the long golden light of an August afternoon?

Ah, I long to see it on the silver screen!
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl Thief.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Wein (January 2019).

The Page 99 Test: A Thousand Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 13, 2023

Alma Katsu's "Red London"

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of eight novels, most recently Red London, Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a thirty-five-year career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies, including the CIA and NSA, as well as RAND, the global policy think tank. Katsu is a graduate of the masters writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelors degree from Brandeis University. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband, where she is a consultant to government and private industry on future trends and analytic methods.

Here Katsu shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Red London:
Casting ideas for Red London has actually been front of mind because--and I can't give details yet--there's been a lot of Hollywood interest. The book is about a British aristocrat married to a Russian oligarch who has made London his home. Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced the UK government to deal with the Russian population, many of them billionaires who had dug into the British economy, Emily thinks her husband is feeling the pressure. In Red London, there's a new Russian president. Putin literally disappeared in the night and the new man says all the right things about making peace, but CIA and MI6 aren't so sure. They want to get Emily Rotenberg to find out where her husband has stashed his billions before the new Russian president can get to it, and they send in CIA officer Lyndsey Duncan to recruit Emily.

Red London is modeled after one of my favorite le Carré books, The Night Manager. It's about sending someone to live in a nest of thieves in order to pull off an operation. My book is part spy novel, part domestic suspense, a little "Real Wives" where you get a peek into the world of the Russian oligarchs.

The main character is Lyndsey Duncan, and I'm still looking for the perfect actress. Jessica Chastain is the type of actress I'd like to see but she's probably afraid of being typecast in spy shows!

There are lots of candidates for the second main character, Emily Rotenberg. Lily James' combination of innocent beauty and vulnerability would be a good match.

I've had an actor in mind for Davis Ranford, MI6 officer who once broke Lyndsey's heart and is now running the task force that's seconded her, since I wrote the first book: Matthew Goode! I don't care who they ultimately cast, Goode will always be Davis in my mind.

I would love to see Janelle Monae or someone like her play Dani Childs, the former CIA officer who is now working in private intelligence and is competing with Lyndsey for Emily's confidence.

Mikhail Rotenberg, a really nasty piece of work, and Pasha Lychnikoff would be a good candidate. He's got the mix of manicured good looks with evil bubbling under the surface.
Visit Alma Katsu's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

Q&A with Alma Katsu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Frank Sennett's "Shadow State"

Frank Sennett has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He has taught creative writing at UCLA Extension and has published nine books. He has served as a senior leader at multiple media outlets, including Time Out Chicago and MTV.com. He also spent one lucky season in the Wrigley Field press box covering the Chicago Cubs.

Here Sennett dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Shadow State:
If Shadow State scores a film adaptation--which would be a natural progression, given the propulsive, cinematic nature of the story--I'd be thrilled to see Michael B. Jordan cast as Rafe Hendrix.

I was blown away by Jordan's acting in the tragic Fruitvale Station (2013), and was then delighted to see him expand into a range of different film roles, including his excellent Creed franchise. There's a mix of toughness and humanity in Jordan's performances that would aid his portrayal of Rafe. Hendrix is white in the book, but Jordan could easily inhabit the character and make him his own.

One reason Jordan is well suited for the role is that he has already done a credible job portraying a Special Forces veteran pulled into a conspiracy that threatens his family in 2021's Without Remorse, based on the Tom Clancy novel.

Jordan's age and physicality also line up nicely with Hendrix. And I like the fact that he's a fellow Aquarian. Maybe we'd become best friends on set.
Follow Frank Sennett on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Shadow State.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Sarah Lyu's "I Will Find You Again"

Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She loves a good hike and can often be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cup of milky tea in the other. Lyu is the author of The Best Lies and I Will Find You Again.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of I Will Find You Again:
I Will Find You Again, my upcoming YA thriller, sees driven overachiever Chase Ohara devastated when her ex-girlfriend Lia disappears. As she tries to piece together what happened to Lia, Chase’s life turns into a kaleidoscope of heartbreak and disaster: sleepless nights, pink pills in an Altoids tin, a cheating ring at school. She misses her best friend, her soulmate, and the happiness they once shared, and if she can’t work through the past, she may not get a future.

The cast:

Chase Ohara: Elizabeth Yu. It can be a little tricky when dreamcasting young actors of Asian descent given the limited roles available, so I based this choice on Yu’s role on the upcoming live-action adaption of Avatar the Last Airbender where she’ll be playing Azula. Known as one of the villains of the series, Azula is a fierce and calculating opponent, but she has a vulnerable side too, and Chase’s character treads that line carefully. Plus, both aspire to power and have control issues.

Lia: Lana Condor. There’s such an exuberance to Condor’s Lara Jean on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and I’d love to see her capture the full range of Lia’s personality and experiences—her carefree zest for life and also the moments of sadness and doubt.

Hunter: Elle Fanning. An amazing comedic actor, her portrayal of Catherine on The Great had me in stitches, but it’s Fanning’s ability to capture both the depths of despair and the ferociousness it takes to execute a coup against the Tsar that would make the perfect Hunter, a character whose dark schemes are carefully hidden until the very end.

Chase’s father: Sung Kang. Known for his appearances in the Fast and Furious franchise, he got his start with Justin Lin in Better Luck Tomorrow, a film that partly inspired the cheating ring in I Will Find You Again. Kang is the master of wearing an outward mask of rage that hides deeper motivations and emotions. Chase’s father uses anger as a tool to control his family, but that anger is only a coverup for childhood trauma he never dealt with as an adult.

Chase’s mother: Grace Park. Though she’s best known for her role in the recent Hawaii Five-0 reboot, I fell in love with Park’s acting on Battlestar Galactica, where one of her character’s journey through betrayal really captures the essence of Chase’s mother, who’s dealing with grief over having spent years compromising what she wanted for someone else.
Visit Sarah Lyu's website.

Q&A with Sarah Lyu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Julie McElwain's "Ripples in Time"

Julie McElwain is a national award-winning journalist. Her first novel, A Murder in Time, was one of the top 10 picks by the National Librarian Association for its April 2016 book list, and was selected as the mystery to read in 2016 by OverDrive Inc., a digital distributor serving more than 34,000 libraries around the world. The novel was also a finalist for the 2016 Goodreads' readers choice awards in the Sci-fi category, and made Bustle's list of 9 Most Addictive Mystery series for 2017. Town & Country magazine recently selected A Murder in Time as one of 35 best time travel books.

A Murder in Time has been optioned for television/movie development.

A Twist in Time and Caught in Time — the second and third installments of the In Time series — were released in April 2017 and July 2018, respectively. Both novels were selected by The National Librarian Association for their Must-Read lists. Betrayal in Time earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Ripples in Time is the new novel in the In Time series.

Here McElwain reveals the on-screen talent that (maybe) inspired the protagonist of the series:
A Murder in Time—the first book in the series—was released to my latest installment, Ripples in Time, I have been asked who I might have been inspired by when creating Kendra. While I have often denied having anyone in mind for Kendra when I sat down to write the books, I have since realized that the subconscious is a funny thing and I may have had someone in the back of my mind, after all.

When I was a child, I used to watch late night reruns of The Avengers with John Steed and Emma Peel. The latter, played fabulously by Diana Rigg, was a great influencer. As the only girl in a family of boys, I have always loved strong female characters in books and film. Mrs. Peel was not only strong—indeed, she tended to be the karate-chopping action heroine next to the sophisticated John Steed—but she was also brilliant, beautiful, and always maintained her cool composure under enormous pressure. When Dame Diana Rigg died in 2020 and the tributes poured in, it occurred to me that I may have subconsciously channeled Mrs. Peel when I began building the character that would become Kendra. Of course, there are differences—Kendra might be a bit more hotheaded, a bit more damaged than the classy Mrs. Peel—but the spirit of Diane Rigg’s most famous alter ego is very much echoed and encapsulated in my protagonist.
Visit Julie McElwain's website.

My Book, The Movie: Betrayal in Time.

Q&A with Julie McElwain.

My Book, The Movie: Shadows in Time.

Writers Read: Julie McElwain.

The Page 69 Test: Ripples in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue