Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Kim DeRose's "For Girls Who Walk through Fire"

Kim DeRose writes dark, magical stories about strong, magical girls.

She grew up in Santa Barbara, California, where she spent childhood summers reading books and writing stories (which she was convinced her local bookstore would publish). She now lives in New York City, where she spends all seasons reading books and writing stories.

DeRose earned her MFA in film directing from UCLA, and currently works in digital media.

When she’s not reading or writing she can be found listening to podcasts on long walks, drinking endless cups of coffee, and spending time with her family.

Here DeRose dreamcasts an adaptation of For Girls Who Walk Through Fire, her debut novel:
My YA novel, For Girls Who Walk Through Fire, was pitched as The Craft meets Promising Young Woman and has been called “a searing examination of sexual assault centering teen witches who fight back” by Kirkus Reviews and described as a “bold and compassionate debut” by Booklist.

Now, you might think that because two films were used as comparative titles, and because I earned an MFA in film directing, I thought about this book as a movie all along. But while, when writing, I did often visualize the book’s scenes almost as if they were film scenes, I rarely considered how I’d approach the book as an actual film.

Until now! And I have opinions!

First off is our pink-haired, fearless coven leader and protagonist, Elliott. And this one is easy. Hands down, my dreamcasting would be Jenna Ortega. I love her in Wednesday and loved her in The Fallout. And while Elliott is white in the book, I’d love the movie’s casting to be more expansive by making her Latina or bi-racial. Jenna Ortega would absolutely nail this part.

Elliott’s dad is also easy. My dreamcasting? Pedro Pascal. We’ve seen him play the dad figure in The Last of Us and Mandalorian, but I want to see him play an actual dad. Right? Right?!?

For straightlaced Catholic schoolgirl, Madeline, Kiernan Shipka from Sabrina the Teenage Witch would be fantastic. She could really capture Madeline’s outer type-A, prima ballerina persona, as well as her internal fire and fierce strength.

For private-school socialite Chloe, I’d love to see what Ella Jay Bosco from Birds of Prey would do with the part. I really like her comedic instincts. And because she’s such a talented musician, it would be great if that was somehow leveraged in the movie – let’s make Chloe a songwriter!

For quiet Oboe player and track-star, Bea, Storm Reid of A Wrinkle in Time, The Last of Us, and Euphoria would do such a superb job. She brings such nuance and strength to her roles and could really capture Bea’s thoughtfulness as well as the many layers that exist under Bea’s seemingly quiet demeanor.

I think Keiko Agena from Gilmore Girls would be wonderful as Mary, the support group leader. I would definitely buy her as a positive, supportive force in teens’ lives.

And for Prudence, Elliott’s grandma, I would die of joy if she was played by either Kathy Bates or Dianne Wiest.

As far as directors go, I would obviously want a female director. There are four who would be absolute dream directors: Emerald Fennell, who directed Promising Young Woman, Greta Gerwig, who directed Barbie, Sarah Polley, who directed Women Talking, and Oliva Wilde, who directed Don’t Worry, Darling.

Lastly, music is a huge part of the book so I would really want a great soundtrack that makes use of all the 90’s songs Elliott listens to. But there’s one catch: I want all the songs to be performed by women. That obviously means including songs by Tori Amos, Bjork, Fiona Apple, PJ Harvey, and Alanis Morrisette. But I’d love to hear someone like Karen O do a cover of “Give it Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Sharon Van Etten do a cover of “Come as You Are” by Nirvana. And while this song isn’t mentioned in the book, I really want a gender-flipped female performed version of “Used to Love Her” by Guns N’ Roses. (Also, now that I’ve said that I dare you to get that fictional version of the song out of your head.)
Visit Kim DeRose's website.

Q&A with Kim DeRose.

The Page 69 Test: For Girls Who Walk through Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Paula Munier's "Home at Night"

Paula Munier is a literary agent and the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Mercy Carr mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones, the first in the series, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and named the Dogwise Book of the Year. The sequel Blind Search, inspired by the real-life rescue of a little boy with autism who got lost in the woods, was followed by The Hiding Place in 2021 and The Wedding Plot in 2022.

Here Munier dreamcasts an adaptation of her new Mercy Carr mystery, Home at Night:
In my Mercy Carr series, former MP Mercy and her bomb-sniffing dog Elvis team up with game warden Troy Warner and his search-and-rescue dog Susie Bear to solve mysteries in the Vermont wilderness. My heroine Mercy is a smart, fierce redhead; Rose Leslie, who played Ygritte on Game of Thrones, would be perfect. My hero Troy Warner is the stand-up guy you can count on in every emergency, the boy next door who’s more at home in the woods than in town, protector of forest and family alike. Luke Grimes (Yellowstone, American Sniper) has the right look; he’d wear the uniform of a game warden well.

In Home at Night, it’s Halloween and Mercy needs a bigger place to accommodate her growing menagerie of two- and four-legged friends before winter comes. Grackle Tree Farm seems perfect, with its thirty acres of woods and wetlands and a Victorian manor to die for—even when they tell her it’s haunted and Elvis finds a dead body in the library. Setting a book at Halloween allowed me to introduce a lively supporting cast of characters, including lost poets and missing children and Druids and ghost witches. I’d cast as Sir Patrick Stewart as the head Druid, a wise if eccentric leader. The ethereal Anya Taylor-Joy would make the perfect ghost witch, who's an apparition…or is she more?

Lee Child once described my writing as “a compelling mix of hard edges and easy charm” and if that’s true—and I’d like to think that it is—then I think the perfect director for Home at Night would be Patty Jenkins, who’s directed such amazing female-driven films as Wonder Woman and Monster, not to mention the pilot for one of my favorite shows of all time The Killing. She would understand Mercy Carr and make the most of the Ghost Witch of Grackle Tree.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowing of Bones.

My Book, The Movie: Blind Search.

The Page 69 Test: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

The Page 69 Test: The Hiding Place.

Q&A with Paula Munier.

My Book, The Movie: The Wedding Plot.

The Page 69 Test: The Wedding Plot.

Writers Read: Paula Munier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Allison Epstein's "Let the Dead Bury the Dead"

Allison Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. A Michigan native, she now lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor. When not writing, she enjoys good theater, bad puns, and fancy jackets. She is the author of historical novels including A Tip for the Hangman, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and the forthcoming Our Rotten Hearts.

Here Epstein dreamcasts an adaptation of Let the Dead Bury the Dead:
My book Let the Dead Bury the Dead follows four central characters through the streets, palaces, and battles of 19th-century Saint Petersburg. It's an alternate-history, fantasy-adjacent story of unlikely allies drawn together by a popular revolution bubbling against the tsar—and by Sofia, the mysterious woman at the center of it all.

Sofia is the only character I pictured as an actor while writing: Anya Taylor-Joy. She has the perfect mix of ethereal beauty and spooky otherworldliness. Is she an ancient spirit with shape-shifting capabilities? Who's to say. She's gorgeous and I'm afraid of her, which is exactly Sofia's vibe. (I hope Anya Taylor-Joy takes this as the sincere compliment I mean it to be.) I didn't mentally cast my other three central characters, but I'm always game to try!

First, there's Felix, the dissolute grand duke who unexpectedly joins up with a popular revolution. The perfect person to play Felix is Michael Sheen circa 1998, which is an annoying answer but a true one. Felix starts the book as a playboy who thrives on attention, and one of my prime delights in life is watching Michael Sheen chew the scenery in roles like this. But the actor would have to convey the pain of keeping up a bright, sociable facade while everything you care about in life crashes around your ears. Michael could do this gorgeously.

Then, there's Marya, the headstrong co-leader of the revolutionary collective. For her, I'm seeing Stephanie Hsu, who by the way needs to be cast in everything as soon as the actor's strike is over. Marya walks a razor's edge between kind, supportive friend and ruthless, determined warrior, and Stephanie Hsu has this quiet, self-possessed cool that I think would really convey that. Plus Marya and Stephanie both feel approachable in a way that I think would play super interestingly against Anya's forest-spirit vibe.

Finally, there's Sasha, the soldier who has to weigh his devotion to his country against his love for Felix. I'm saying Dev Patel for one of the silliest possible reasons: they have the same face. This wasn't intentional on my part, but I can't unsee it. Besides, Sasha's character is all about the flashes of emotion that dart through the walls he puts up between himself and the world, and I can picture Dev playing with those subtleties to build a character that's both attractive and deeply frustrating. Also I want more period dramas where Dev Patel wears cool coats and broods.
Visit Allison Epstein's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Tip for the Hangman.

The Page 69 Test: A Tip for the Hangman.

Q&A with Allison Epstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2023

Paul Vidich's "Beirut Station: Two Lives of a Spy"

Paul Vidich's new novel is Beirut Station: Two Lives of a Spy. His previous novel, The Mercenary, was selected by CrimeReads as one of the top 10 espionage novels of 2021. His debut novel, An Honorable Man, was selected by Publishers Weekly as a Top 10 Mystery and Thriller in 2016. It was followed by The Good Assassin. His third novel, The Coldest Warrior, was widely praised in England and America, earning strong reviews from The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. It was shortlisted for the UK’s Staunch Prize and chosen as a Notable Selection of 2020 by CrimeReads.

Here Vidich dreamcasts an adaptation of Beirut Station:
Beirut Station is set in Lebanon and evokes the crossroads of that Lebanon has always been – first as a Roman outpost, part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, and then French until it earned its independence. It has always had a mix of Europe and the Middle East and its characters, in any film, need to reflect that.

Analise Assad, the non-official cover CIA case officer, should be played by Zineb Triki, the French Moroccan actress from The Bureau, who played the part of Nadia El Mansour.

Corbin, the journalist in the novel, is a handsome man with an honest face and a duplicitous mind, and I would cast Damian Lewis, who played Kim Philby’s good friend in the TV show, A Spy Among Friends.

Gal, the elderly Mossad agent, should be played by Lee Strasberg, if he were alive, or Eli Wallach.

Bauman, the avenging Mossad agent, should be played by the wonderful Israeli actor, Lior Raz, who always seems wound with anger in his roles.
Visit Paul Vidich's website.

Q&A with Paul Vidich.

My Book, The Movie: The Mercenary.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercenary.

The Page 69 Test: The Matchmaker: A Spy in Berlin.

Writers Read: Paul Vidich.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Gwen Florio's "Best Be Prepared"

Gwen Florio grew up in a farmhouse filled with books and a ban on television. After studying English at the University of Delaware, she began a decades-long career in journalism that has taken her around the country and to more than a dozen other countries, including several conflict zones. Her first novel in the Lola Wicks mystery series, Montana, won the Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction and the High Plains Book Award, and was a finalist for the Shamus Award, an International Thriller Award and a Silver Falchion Award. She has since released four other books in the Lola Wicks series and three standalone novels.

Here Florio dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of her new novel, Best Be Prepared, the fourth book in the Nora Best series:
I didn’t have to think twice when asked who might play the lead in Best Be Prepared, the fourth in my series featuring protagonist Nora Best.

Hands down, it’s Reese Witherspoon.

First – and this is no small thing – she's age-appropriate. (OK, almost. Witherspoon is 47; Nora Best is 50. Close enough.)

When starting this series, I deliberately chose an older woman as a way to highlight the unexpected freedom many women find in middle age. Nora herself is childless, but many women in that age range are empty nesters, relieved of the most time-consuming aspects of parenting. One of the things I enjoy about writing this series is watching Nora discover that freedom and the new agency that comes with it.

Witherspoon also manages the nifty trick of projecting both strength and vulnerability. Again, this works well for Nora, who constantly questions her own reactions and decisions, especially under pressure from others.

Nora’s instincts – in Best Be Prepared, her suspicions that the death of a local environmentalist is far from accidental – are sound. But she’s the only one in their Northwest Pacific coastal community who seems to think so. Some of the strongest pressure for her to drop her inquiries comes from her new boyfriend, who’d prefer she focus on their relationship.

Nora’s torn: her previous marriage was a disaster, and she treasures this seemingly healthy new involvement. But … but …

At this point, I can see Witherspoon’s brow wrinkle.

What’s her next move? Will she bestow a radiant – if a little forced – smile upon the boyfriend?

Or will she square her shoulders and trust herself?

That’s the dilemma driving Best Be Prepared, both for Nora and the larger community as it grapples with the issue of development versus tsunami safety measures.

A final argument for Witherspoon, one seemingly unrelated to the book. But it’s why she’d shoot to the top of my list even if she weren’t so perfect for this part: her championship of books and reading.

Her choices for her book club are whip-smart – an assessment probably based on the fact that her wide-ranging and diverse selections are routinely among my favorites.

So, Reese Witherspoon. Because a writer can dream.
Visit Gwen Florio's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Gwen Florio & Nell.

Q&A with Gwen Florio.

The Page 69 Test: Best Be Prepared.

--Marshal Zeringue