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