Thursday, November 30, 2023

M. M. DeLuca's "The Night Side"

M. M. (Marjorie) DeLuca spent her childhood in the beautiful cathedral city of Durham in North-Eastern England. She attended the University of London, Goldsmiths College, studied psychology, then became a teacher. She immigrated to Canada and lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two children. There she also studied writing under her mentor, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carol Shields.

She loves writing for all ages and in many genres—suspense, historical, sci-fi for teens. She's also a screenwriter with several pilot projects in progress.

DeLuca enjoys teaching workshops in Creative Writing and the writing process.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Night Side:
Since I’m also a keen screenwriter, I always need to visualize my main characters as if I’m compiling a cast list. Sometimes I’ll even pin pictures of them to a board in my office so I can glance up at them every now and again to remind me of how they look.

My book The Night Side, is focused on a toxic relationship between a mother and daughter, so these two characters would be the leads in a movie adaptation of the book, which is a story about Ruby Carlson, who at eighteen ran away from her home in Stoneybrook, Montana, and vowed she'd never return. Never return to life under the control of her manipulative mother, Ida, a self-styled medium and psychic scammer who made a career out of ruining people's lives. Never return to the small town where enemies lurk at every turn.

But twenty years later, Ruby, now a successful archaeologist, is back. Her mother is missing, presumed dead, and Ruby reluctantly returns to a home filled with chilling memories to settle Ida's affairs. Did she really commit suicide by drowning, or is this another dark scheme? Ruby thought she knew everything about her mother, but finds herself unraveling a web of lies and secrets to reveal a story more twisted than anyone could have imagined.

My dream actress for the character of Ruby would be Ana de Armas. Since I watched her breathtaking portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in the movie, Blonde, I was awestruck by her ability to bring vulnerability and a whole range of emotions to the role. She also has an enigmatic quality to her, which is absolutely necessary to portray Ruby who is traumatized and haunted by her past and the secrets she is forced to hide. Ana de Armas can project that aura of mystery and intrigue.

The character of Ida needs a strong, vivacious actress capable of expressing an entire range of emotions, but also able to project the heartlessness and cunning needed to manipulate her own child as well as her victims. Cate Blanchett would be the perfect person to play the role. Her chilling performance in Nightmare Alley in which she plays Lilith Ritter, a wealthy and ruthless psychiatrist who cold-bloodedly beats up and coming psychic Stanton Carlisle at his own game, is one of her strongest roles. Ida is a chameleon, able to change her persona whenever the mood suits her and whenever it is personally beneficial to her. Cate Blanchett is the best actress for the role.
Visit M.M. DeLuca's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Constance Sayers's "The Star and the Strange Moon"

Constance Sayers is the author of the best-selling novels A Witch in Time and The Ladies of the Secret Circus, the latter receiving both a Publishers Weekly and Library Journal starred reviews. Her work has been translated into six languages. In her spare time, she is the Chief Revenue Officer for a media and information company. She splits her time between Alexandria, Virginia and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Here Sayers dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Star and the Strange Moon:
For me, books are very cinematic and incredibly visual so I “need” to cast my characters. I mean there would be no Luke Varner in A Witch in Time without the actor Callum Keith Rennie (Californication and Battlestar Galactica). I need to cast the characters to write for them.

For The Star and the Strange Moon, the idea was the mystery of film. The old superstitions about could a film steal your soul. While I was excited about this book, I had only the idea of a main character, a down-on-her-luck actress named Gemma Turner. While I was in Paris doing research, I came across a photo of a striking redhaired actress named Françoise Dorléac. I wrote her name down with a plan to come back to her later, but found I was haunted by her photo. She has a rather tragic story: The older sister of Catherine Deneuve, Dorléac was killed in a car accident in 1967 as she rushed to get to the airport in Nice. She was only twenty-five and there is certainly a feeling that had she lived she would have been a major star. On screen the actress is mesmerizing. The muse of François Truffaut, her performance as a flight attendant who gets caught up in an affair with a married man in The Soft Skin elevates the entire film. She also pairs up with her sister (and Gene Kelly) in Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, which is a film a bit thin on plot, but so visually striking it’s like Technicolor eye candy. When I began to think of my main character, I always pictured Françoise Dorléac’s face as though I’d cast her in the role of Gemma Turner. Her relationship with Truffaut was an inspiration for the initial relationship between Gemma and Thierry Valdon.

For Thierry Valdon, there is only one actor that comes to mind, and it is the magnificent actor, Assaad Bouab from Call my Agent and The Pursuit of Love. When he’s onscreen you cannot take your eyes off him. He has the complexity to pull off a complicated character like Thierry Valdon.
Visit Constance Sayers's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Witch in Time.

The Page 69 Test: A Witch in Time.

Q&A with Constance Sayers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Jacquelyn Mitchard's "A Very Inconvenient Scandal"

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the New York Times bestselling author of 23 novels for adults and teenagers, and the recipient of Great Britain’s Talkabout prize, The Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards, and named to the short list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her newest novel, A Very Inconvenient Scandal:
A Very Inconvenient Scandal is the story of powerful people in a powerful seaside family who clash when 60-year-old Mack Attleboro, a famed marine biologist widowed for one year, announces his marriage to his daughter Frankie’s lifelong best friend, Ariel: they’re expecting a baby and Mack couldn’t be happier. But his news fractures the family. Frankie, an acclaimed young underwater photographer, feels undermined not only because she, too, is getting married and expecting a baby, but because no one, not even Frankie’s brother Penn, confided in her. It was easy for the home crowd to keep the secret because Frankie is usually in some far-flung destination required by her work. Grieving for her mother, Beatrice, and feeling alone in the world except for her fiancé, Gil, Frankie is further unsettled when Ariel’s reprobate mother, Carlotta, returns after a ten-year absence, claiming to have turned over a new leaf – a claim everyone except Frankie seems to believe. Things only get worse when Mack and Ariel’s baby is born, the labor deliberately induced on Frankie’s wedding day. Although Frankie and her new husband planned to live near her family on Cape Cod (another surprise that went flat) they instead be estranged from her all of them forever.

If there were a movie version of this novel, I would love for Greta Gerwig (who directed the latest and best version of Little Women in 2019) to direct it. I think Greta Gerwig should direct every movie because she is so intelligent and sensitive to personalities and nuance and doesn’t fear real drama. She would be just the right person for this story about tangled family relationships.

If I could cast the roles, I would choose Saoirse Ronan as Frankie. Frankie … she’s so wonderful and has such natural charm and passion. She was nominated for an Academy Award for the wonderful film Brooklyn and also (no coincidence) played Jo March in Gerwig’s Little Women.

The others might be:

Timothée Chalamet as Frankie’s brother, Penn (clearly I’m obsessed with Gerwig’s Little Women, in which Chalamet played “Laurie” Lawrence)

Amy Madigan (in flashback) as Frankie’s late mother, Beatrice. She’s so stunning and reassuring, a consistently great performer.

Kevin Costner as Mack Attleboro. (You think he’s busy?)

Louisa Jacobson (whose mother is Meryl Streep) and who starred in The Gilded Age, would be Ariel.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Ariel’s mother, Carlotta. It would be so against type, but Carlotta, a woman denied, needs an actor with plenty of fire!

Hugh Dancy as Frankie’s journalist husband, Gil.

Javier Bardem as “Sailor” Madeira, Beatrice’s best friend and the sort of benign godfather of the beach, who has secrets of his own.

I know all these actors are just waiting for the call!
Visit Jacquelyn Mitchard's website.

My Book, the Movie: Two If by Sea.

The Page 69 Test: Two If by Sea.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Son.

Q&A with Jacquelyn Mitchard.

My Book, The Movie: The Good Son.

Writers Read: Jacquelyn Mitchard.

The Page 69 Test: A Very Inconvenient Scandal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Kathleen M. Willett's "Anything for a Friend"

Kathleen Willett has a B.A. in English from Holy Cross and a M.A. in English Education from Columbia University. An English teacher who grew up in New Jersey and London, Kathleen lives in Manhattan with her husband, two daughters, and a cat named Mr. Sparkles.

Here Willett dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Anything for a Friend:
Anything For A Friend features Carrie, a woman who has just moved with her family from New York City to Montauk, hoping for a change of pace and a fresh start. She's shocked when her former college roommate calls her and tells her she's passing through the area-- they haven't seen each other in nearly twenty years. Maya and her teenage daughter are in a difficult position, and Carrie offers to help by having them stay for a few days. But Carrie soon regrets her impulsive offer. There are reasons she and Maya are estranged, and having her in such close proximity is dredging up unsettling memories. Plus, strange things are happening in the house: Carrie's manuscript is deleted, her herb garden is destroyed, and she starts to fear that a piece of the past she'd hoped was buried may soon resurface and throw her world off course.

It would be a dream to see this story play out on screen! It's brimming with quiet, mounting tension and nonverbal communication and I think that would translate really well visually. I think the flashback scenes when Maya and Carrie are in college would also be a great aspect of a screen adaptation!

When I write, I tend to imagine actors as characters, to try to make describing them with detail easier and more consistent. For Carrie, I imagined Naomi Watts. She was in The Watcher, which, while different from Anything For A Friend, does share the trait of being about a situation where strange things are happening inside a house. Naomi Watts has a lot of depth and crevices as an actor and so does Carrie-- she's a fundamentally good person, but with lots of flaws and secrets. I think Naomi Watts also plays "stressed out" very well!

For Maya, I imagined Rachel Bilson. Maya is described as bird-like and quiet, but with a unique, intimidating imperviousness to others' opinions. I think Rachel really captures that kind of quiet confidence as an actor. Also, thinking all the way back to The OC (I loved that show, by the way!) where you couldn't really tell if her character Summer was nice or mean-- with Maya, (my hope is that) the reader can't tell if she's totally innocent or up to something, and I think Rachel Bilson could walk that line perfectly. I could imagine her in the scene after Maya reorganizes Carrie's kitchen (to Carrie's horror), saying ever-so-innocently, "I thought you'd love it."

For Pete, I pictured Aidan from Sex and the City. I'm just realizing maybe that's why I named the main character Carrie-- whoops! Pete is that classic "good guy," and yet, there may be something about him that rubs the reader the wrong way at times. Aidan was always that way to me-- clearly a great guy, in nearly all ways, but sometimes a bit condescending in the way he joked around with his Carrie, in a way that was just a bit grating.

As for Kelsey and Lola, the teenaged girls, I don't know many actors that age, but I will say that Lola's age is described to be a bit shifty-- sometimes she seems younger than she is, sometimes older-- so an actor like Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria), who could play sixteen or thirty, and who could seem at times off-puttingly mature for her age, would be a good choice.
Visit Kathleen M. Willett's website.

Q&A with Kathleen M. Willett.

The Page 69 Test: Mother of All Secrets.

My Book, The Movie: Mother of All Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Diane Barnes's "All We Could Still Have"

Diane Barnes is the author of More Than, Waiting for Ethan, and Mixed Signals. She is also a marketing and corporate communication writer in the health-care industry. When she’s not writing, she’s at the gym, running, or playing tennis, trying to burn off the ridiculous amounts of chocolate and ice cream she eats. She and her husband, Steven, live in New England with Oakley, their handsome golden retriever.

Here Barnes dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, All We Could Still Have:
So many early readers have told me All We Could Still Have would make a must-see Netflix/Apple series because of the characters, twists and turns of the plot, and the setting in a small, mountain town. So Reese, if you’re reading this, please make my dream come true. I’ll even help out by making casting suggestions.

Nikki Sebastian, the protagonist, is a woman having trouble trying to conceive. She believes everyone is judging/talking about her because she has no kids. I’ve seen lots of headlines suggesting your Morning Show co-star Jennifer Aniston could really relate to Nikki. So, I think Jennifer would do her justice. Based on physical appearance, Rose Byrne or Natalie Portman would also make great Nikkis.

Nikki’s husband Kyle is a handsome, hard-working New England guy, just like Massachusetts’ own Chris Evans. Chris would make an outstanding Kyle.

Dana DeMarco is Nikki’s younger sister. She’s a free spirit and maybe a little irresponsible from time to time. Kate Hudson would do a wonderful job with her.

Aunt Izzie is a hearty New Englander living by herself in the mountains of New Hampshire. She’s tough but down deep soft-hearted. Allison Janney would make a fabulous Aunt Izzie.

Uncle Hank is a former tough guy NHL hockey star now handsome restauranterer. Nikki doesn’t like him because she thinks he broke his promise to keep her parents’ restaurant running and he also put her job in jeopardy. I can definitely see Christopher Meloni killing it as Hank.

There’s a golden retriever in the story, and I always pictured my dog, Oakley (AKA Golden Boy), in those scenes.

Sharon is Nikki’s best friend. She’s a mom of two young boys who dreams of opening her own bakery. Reese, that’s your part. Let’s get it done.
Visit Diane Barnes's website.

Q&A with Diane Barnes.

The Page 69 Test: All We Could Still Have.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Elizabeth Topp's "City People"

Elizabeth Topp’s debut novel, Perfectly Impossible, was a number one Amazon bestseller in literary fiction. Topp penned her first short story as a second grader at the Dalton School and continued studying creative writing at Harvard College and Columbia’s School of the Arts, where she earned a master of fine arts in nonfiction writing. Topp coauthored her first book, Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual, with her gynecologist mother while she worked as a private assistant, a job she still holds. Topp lives in the same Manhattan apartment where she grew up with her partner, Matthew; daughter, Anna; and their cat, Stripes.

Here Topp dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, City People:
I always cast the television show or film of my novel as I’m writing it, which is especially helpful when I am inspired by my lived experience but the book itself is completely fictitious. It’s also great to have a cast of three-dimensional actual humans for reference when you’re working, as I was, in multiple points of view. City People brings us inside the lives of six Manhattan Moms grappling with the unexpected loss of one of their own in the midst of private school admissions season.

In my fantasy network television adaptation, the central character, Vic, would be played by Alicia Silverstone: well-meaning but a little bit ditsy, pretty without trying, alternating between sincere empathy and self-involvement. Mindy Kaling would bring a lighter energy and depth to Bhavna, the intense, ambitious, social climber. Sandra Oh was my pick for Amy, the singularly focused Chinese private equity tycoon, who moved thousands of miles from her country of origin to conceal her own deeply held secret. Chandice, the corporate lawyer turned stay-at-home mom who trains her skeptical eye on the woke posturing of the uber prestigious Kent School while battling cancer, would be played by the regal Rutina Wesley. Anne Hathaway would naturally fit the role of Penelope, a generationally wealthy New York native who can’t seem to escape the society box assigned to her, no matter how hard she tries. And finally, Maggie Gyllenhaal would bring the mild crazy-eye necessary for Kara, the outsider posturing and pretending to fit into the posh Kent crowd, hiding just how much the stress of it all--plus Susan’s untimely, violent death--is unraveling her. The otherwise enviable Susan, who is already dead by suicide at the novel’s open would be played by Kate Upton, reinforcing the idea that the outside of a person tells us nothing about what’s going on inside.
Visit Elizabeth Topp's website.

The Page 69 Test: City People.

--Marshal Zeringue