Sunday, June 18, 2023

Kate Robards's "The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard"

Kate Robards holds a degree in journalism and works in communications at a nonprofit organization. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and children.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard, her first novel:
Before I wrote The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard, I sketched out the characters in great depth. Some of my notes made it into the novel, while others were simply for me to create multi-dimensional characters. As part of my process, I located a photo depicting my vision of each character. While not a celebrity, looking back at the photos guides me in dreamcasting my novel.

My debut thriller follows Sawyer Stannard, who’s grappling with the unexpected death of her sister, Willa. To understand Willa’s last days, she begins to retrace her footsteps, diving deep into a mysterious cold case of a missing toddler that Willa, an investigative journalist, was writing about.

The novel alternates between Sawyer’s perspective in the present day and Willa’s point of view in the past, so I consider them both leading ladies. Despite sharing their childhoods, these sisters have very different personalities.

Sawyer is extraverted, enthusiastic, and bubbly. A spin instructor in her late twenties, she’s bounced from job to job. Though she intends to find out what happened to her sister, she’s not a detective; she’s a grieving sister battling her own demons. I’d cast Lili Reinhart, best known for her role in the TV series Riverdale, in this role. I think she could capture Sawyer’s scattered-yet-naïve and bright, passionate personality. Sawyer has a lot of heart, and I’d love to see her played by an actress who is emotive and endearing.

Willa, on the other hand, is a high achiever who cares more about being right than kind. She’s a blunt perfectionist. At the time of her death, she was in her early thirties. I think Evan Rachel Wood would play Willa well, depicting a serious, sharp, yet troubled, woman. Evan Rachel Wood has played a wide range of independent and mainstream film and television roles, at times depicting a woman struggling with pressure.

Together, Lili Reinhart and Evan Rachel Wood are my dreamcasting for Sawyer and Willa Stannard, as I think both would bring complexity and depth to these characters.
Visit Kate Robards's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Christina Lynch's "Sally Brady's Italian Adventure"

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone, and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias. The Italian Party is her debut novel.

Here Lynch dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure:
Castles! Villas! Luxury Hotels! But also air raid shelters, prison cells, and POW camps. And hats! Lots of hats! These are the first things that come to mind when I think of Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure: The Movie.

I love books and movies with a fast pace, gorgeous settings, a mix of dark comedy, romance, drama, reframed history, and characters forced into excruciating choices--so of course I made those the central ingredients of Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure. And I have a background in TV writing, so the novel is intentionally very cinematic. It moves from humor to drama and back again as Sally, an intrepid and irreverent young American orphan-turned-gossip columnist, gets stuck behind enemy lines when Italy slides into World War II. I was thinking of 1930s screwball comedies like My Man Godfrey when I wrote it, but also of course Casablanca. I was fascinated by the idea of how life in all its complexity carries on in wartime—not to mention the echoes for our own era. No one tone was enough to tell Sally’s story—and in fact the real life WWII diaries of women like Iris Origo and Hermione Ranfurly weren’t soppy or tearstained; they were resourceful, funny, pragmatic, and able to manipulate the male ego as needed. Enter Sally, stage left…

Coming of age stories are demanding, but Jenna Ortega (Wednesday) has the smarts and range for Sally, and Elle Fanning (The Great) would be Sally’s pal Lila. Sally is a tricky role—we follow her from being a homeless redheaded 11-year-old urchin on the streets of Los Angeles in 1931 to a glamorous platinum blonde undercover gossip columnist in Rome in her late teens, and then a plucky POW turned resistance agent behind enemy lines in Italy in her early 20s. Sally’s got some great scenes—mocking the aristocracy at parties while blending in, bantering for her life with Fascist officials, and finding love in a destroyed wine cellar hideout.

Michelle Yeoh would be perfect as Sally’s adopted mom Patsy, an Anna Mae Wong-inspired actress who escapes to Europe to avoid typecasting and has an affair with the legendary partygiver Elsa Maxwell, who would be played (of course) by Margo Martindale.

Rufus Sewell, who was so convincing as Italian detective Zen, would be Lapo, the Italian writer selling his soul to keep his family and friends safe. Timothée Chalamet would be suitably heartbreaking as Alessandro, a teenage anti-Fascist who finds himself posted to Prague and who eventually intersects with Sally when they are both on the run.

If Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) were still alive, he’d probably be my first choice to direct the movie, because I think he could capture the glamourous ironic fizz of costume balls as well as the terror of an air raid in a topiary garden, but even better would be Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag). I think she’d nail Sally’s satirical gaze—plus she could cast herself in the role of Alba, a narcissistic princess who resorts to cannibalism (dark times). Maggie Smith would be a perfect Clio, the 92-year-old resistance fighter who enlists Sally, and Corey Mylchreest (Queen Charlotte) would steal the show as Favagrossa, the reluctant Fascist officer with a crush on Sally.

And of course, Jungle Red for the lipstick!
Visit Christina Lynch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Italian Party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Jane L. Rosen's "On Fire Island"

Jane L. Rosen is an author, screenwriter, and Huffington Post contributor. She lives in New York City and Fire Island with her husband and three daughters.

Here Rosen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, On Fire Island:
On Fire Island is a project I have been working on for many years, and I am thrilled to finally be sharing it with the world. The story mostly takes place over one summer on Fire Island and, just like life, toes the line between comedy and tragedy. I first wrote this story as a screenplay, so I have cast and recast it in my head, many times.

But today, for this exercise, may I present my dream cast.

Ben Morse—the novel’s brooding widowed protagonist would be perfectly played by Ryan Reynolds. For his wife, Julia, who narrates the story from the afterlife, and would only appear in flashbacks, I choose a lesser known beauty, Emilia Clarke. And since this is a dream cast, for Ben’s foil, a cantankerous old man named Shep, who lives for their weekend softball games, I think that Robert Redford would be “The Natural” choice.

Then we have Matty, a sixteen-year-old boy, and his best friend Dylan who wants to lose her virginity before going off to college. I would cast Timothée Chalamet as Matty, because to me he can play young and do no wrong. For Dylan I would choose Mia Rose Frampton. She is everything I picture for Matty’s mermaid-like love interest. For Matty’s mom Renee, I would choose Jennifer Aniston and for the hot drummer she takes up with—Nick Robinson.

There are a lot more characters to cast in this novel, especially the ball players. For them, I would love to mix in some of the actual ball players who I based my characters off of. I picture placing a bunch of these real guys, including my husband, scattered across the outfield of our town’s very own Field of Dreams.
Follow Jane L. Rosen on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Eliza Starts a Rumor.

My Book, The Movie: Eliza Starts a Rumor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Mary Anna Evans's "The Traitor Beside Her"

Mary Anna Evans is an award-winning author, a writing professor, and she holds degrees in physics and engineering, a background that, as it turns out, is ideal for writing her new series, the Justine Byrne series. Set in WWII-era New Orleans, the first book, The Physicists’ Daughter, introduces Justine Byrne, whom Mary Anna describes as “a little bit Rosie-the-Riveter and a little bit Bletchley Park codebreaker.” When Justine, the daughter of two physicists who taught her things girls weren’t expected to know in 1944, realizes that her boss isn’t telling her the truth about the work she does in her factory job, she draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country, and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home.

Here Evans dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Traitor Beside Her, the second title in the Justine Byrne series:
Three of the four primary characters in The Traitor Beside Her are fairly straightforward to cast. The protagonist, Justine Byrne, is very young, only twenty-one, and the key characteristic that would drive a casting agent looking for the perfect Justine is her fierce intelligence. I describe her as small and thin with bright red hair, but the plot depends on none of these things. In fact, early in the book, she is directed by her boss to bleach her hair to a platinum blond. Justine is an undercover agent, so the most important thing about her appearance is that she be able to change it. I think that Hailee Steinfeld would do an excellent job with both Justine’s intelligence and the rather charming social awkwardness that can come from being blindingly intelligent.

Justine’s best friend Georgette Broussard, also twenty-one, comes from a rural background where education was hard to get, and she is only beginning to learn to let her natural intellect shine. She has a brash boldness that I think Florence Pugh would capture well.

Justine’s love interest, the mysterious and mononymous Paul, is a tall, dark, and handsome man whose secrets have secrets. Ethan Peck exudes that quality in his role as the young Mr. Spock in the Star Trek prequel Strange New Worlds, and I have a lifelong passion for his grandfather Gregory Peck that only a time machine could solve, so he would make an excellent Paul.

Jerry Jenkins is more difficult to cast than he should be. Jerry is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair and works as a mechanic, and I feel strongly that the actor who plays him should be someone who uses a wheelchair. I have been keeping my eyes open for the right actor for Jerry, and I haven’t seen him yet. I hope that Hollywood’s casting agents are aware of, and cast frequently, actors who could do the role justice.

The supporting cast for The Traitor Beside Her would be key to any movie made from the book, as the plot revolves around the search for a traitor selling war secrets and the culprit must be among the small circle of people surrounding Justine at her code breaking job. Linda is a young woman with few priorities other than being pretty and attracting men. Hollywood actresses are not known for being ambitionless, but I think Elle Fanning could pull it off. Anya Taylor-Joy would be right for the bitter, icy Thelma. Nicholas Hoult has the dangerous edge that Ike needs, while Josh Hutcherson would do well as Ed, who might be hiding a dangerous edge of his own. Maya Hawke would be convincing as Sally, a brilliant woman with a sunshiny personality capable of hiding a lot. Kate Winslet’s performance as Mare of Easttown showed that she can pull off the middle-aged sullenness of the grieving Nora. And presiding over them all is Karl, an elderly man for whom I would cast John Lithgow. Karl has spent decades earning the trust of the American government, which is willing to ignore the fact that he is German, because he is just so damn good at what he does.

And last, there is the small but key role of Gloria, Justine’s godmother. Gloria came alone to America from Poland in the early twentieth century when she was fifteen, and she bears the psychological scars of that experience. I would love to see Meryl Streep use her Polish accent from Sophie’s Choice again as Gloria passes her hard-earned wisdom down to Justine.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strangers.

Q&A with Mary Anna Evans.

My Book, The Movie: The Physicists' Daughter.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans.

The Page 69 Test: The Traitor Beside Her.

--Marshal Zeringue

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