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