Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Sami Ellis's "Dead Girls Walking"

Sami Ellis is a queer horror writer who’s inspired by the horrific nature of Black fears and the culture’s relation to the supernatural. When she’s not acting as the single auntie with a good job, she spends her time not writing.

Check out her words in the Black horror anthology, All These Sunken Souls.

Here Ellis shares some insight for her idea of the actor for a screen portrayal of the protagonist of Dead Girls Walking, her debut novel:
It's not easy to cast a YA book because actors can often be - frankly, old. It's so common that it's a meme at this point, thirty-somethings playing high schoolers. So, unfortunately, I don't have a real actor in mind.

However, while I was revising Dead Girls Walking, I did hold one particular performance close to my heart. Gabrielle Union's performance in Deliver Us from Eva is funny, vulnerable, and scathing all at once. She's the angry girl with a soft core, gorgeous smile, and unshakable principles that is somehow both effortlessly likeable and mean as a snake. Watching the film, you can see exactly why everybody hates her - but I didn't.

Temple's spirit came from that very performance. I wanted to get that voice right, someone who's vengeful and quippy all at once, full of one-liners and mirth...but will cut you if you piss her off.

If you read Dead Girls Walking, you will absolutely see the similarities between the two women. They're both fiercely family-driven, but act out because of the things they've been through. And once they realize that there are people out there that care for them, they realize who they were before had hurt others. And then, after learning, they correct themselves.

Gabrielle Union played those turns in Eva's personality perfectly and winningly. That's why - if this was 30 years ago - I would want nothing more than for her to play Temple Baker. As it stands, though, I'm satisfied with it just being in my imagination.
Visit Sami Ellis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Joanna Goodman's "The Inheritance"

Joanna Goodman's novels include the #1 national bestseller, The Home for Unwanted Girls, which was on The Globe & Mail’s Fiction bestseller list for more than six months, as well as The Forgotten Daughter and The Finishing School, both national bestsellers. Her stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, B & A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review, as well as excerpted in Elisabeth Harvor’s fiction anthology A Room at the Heart of Things.

Originally from Montreal, Goodman now lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Inheritance:
If When they make The Inheritance into a film, I would love to see Brie Larson in the lead role of Arden. I always envisioned Arden as being beautiful in an understated, unfussy way, and yet with the quality of not knowing how beautiful she is. Brie Larson as an actress brings that same sense of humility and vulnerability. She is certainly beautiful, but she’s also comes across as “real." In other words, her beauty is muted and restrained, without any pretension whatsoever. Having seen Brie in Room, I know she can play a mother. She brought so much strength to her character in that role, and given how much Arden has suffered - a traumatic upbringing, the loss of her husband - I’m confident Brie Larson would bring that fierce protectiveness to the character in an authentic way. There’s a certain fragility about Arden at face value, and yet beneath the surface, she is courageous and full of grit. By the end of the novel, Arden becomes empowered and independent, and we know Brie Larson has the star power to play a superhero. I think that best encapsulates why I see Brie Larson in the lead role; it’s the combination of vulnerability, intensity, and authenticity that she brings to her characters, which is exactly how I’ve always seen Arden.

In the role of the male protagonist, Joshua, there is only one choice: Henry Golding. Having just watched Henry in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, all I kept thinking was, This is my Joshua. As a writer, I’ve always got “the movie” of my latest book on my mind, and so there’s a part of my brain that is quite literally always casting when I’m watching a show or a movie. For this book, The Inheritance, my mind has already cast Henry Golding! Aside from the obvious - the man is gorgeous, sexy and charismatic - Henry Golding is also oozes quiet intelligence with just an edge of cockiness. That is exactly Joshua: a smart, slightly arrogant lawyer with a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove. As an added bonus, I happen to think Brie Larson and Henry Golding would have amazing chemistry.

The Inheritance tells the story of a mother and daughter, cutting back and forth between both their stories, and so I also have to cast the other lead character of Virginia, Arden’s 65-year-old mother. I have always seen Alison Janney in the role of love-and-sex-addict Virginia. Suffice to say, Alison Janney can play an addict (Mom); but Virginia is so much more than her addiction. At times hysterical, insecure, overtly sexual, brave, hilarious, humble and humiliated, Virginia’s character goes on a raw and uncomfortable journey over the course of the novel. In Alison Janney’s masterful acting, Virginia would come alive.
Visit Joanna Goodman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Inheritance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Rachel Lyon's "Fruit of the Dead"

Rachel Lyon is author of the novels Self-Portrait with Boy—a finalist for the Center for Fiction's 2018 First Novel Prize—and Fruit of the Dead. Lyon's short work has appeared in One Story, The Rumpus, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and elsewhere. She has taught creative writing at various institutions, most recently Bennington College, and lives with her husband and two young children in Western Massachusetts.

About Fruit of the Dead, from the publisher:
Camp counselor Cory Ansel, eighteen and aimless, afraid to face her high-strung single mother in New York, is no longer sure where home is when the father of one of her campers offers an alternative. The CEO of a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, Rolo Picazo is middle-aged, divorced, magnetic. He is also intoxicated by Cory. When Rolo proffers a childcare job (and an NDA), Cory quiets an internal warning and allows herself to be ferried to his private island. Plied with luxury and opiates manufactured by his company, she continues to tell herself she’s in charge. Her mother, Emer, head of a teetering agricultural NGO, senses otherwise. With her daughter seemingly vanished, Emer crosses land and sea to heed a cry for help she alone is convinced she hears.
Here Lyon dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
There are many young actresses who could play a version of Cory really well. She is described as tall and beautiful, but she also sees herself as awkward and gawky, with a big nose. In my opinion, Maya Hawke would be ideal.

And if Maya Hawke were playing Cory—and I had all the power in the world—I'd obviously have to cast Uma Thurman in the role of Emer.

Rolo Picazo would have to be played by an imposing, sinister, yet incredibly charming middle-aged man. Sometimes I imagine Javier Bardem. Sometimes I imagine James Spader.
Visit Rachel Lyon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Self-Portrait with Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Self-Portrait with Boy.

The Page 69 Test: Fruit of the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2024

Laura McNeal's "The Swan's Nest"

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and has worked as a freelance journalist, a crime writer, and a high school English teacher. She is the author of the novels Dark Water, a finalist for the National Book Award, The Practice House, and The Incident on the Bridge. She and her husband, Tom, are the authors of Crooked, Zipped, Crushed, and The Decoding of Lana Morris.

Here McNeal dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Swan's Nest:
My novel, The Swan’s Nest, is about an impossible thing. A 32-year-old man wrote to a 38-year-old invalid he’d never seen and said he loved her. They corresponded for five months. What happened when they met is still being written about in universities around the world and celebrated in Valentine’s Day cards. The London door through which the man’s eloquent letters were pushed was saved from demolition in 1937 and carried across the Atlantic to Wellesley College. It stands in the college library as a monument to faithful, blind love.

The romance happened in the mid-19th century, before photographs of people began to be common. Elizabeth Barrett, the poet, had a sketch of Robert Browning’s face, but Robert had no likeness of Elizabeth at all. He didn’t know her age or the nature of the illness that kept her confined in her room. And yet, when he wrote his first letter to her, he said he loved her verses with all his heart and he loved her, too. This is the kind of thing that a romantic person (or a maniac) might say, and that’s how Elizabeth treated it—as a fictional notion he must dismiss. As time went on and he persisted, she believed that a little light on her “ghastly face” would be enough to discourage him.

For me, the problem of a movie based in fact, especially historical fiction, is the dilemma of how people and places actually looked. If the heroine was plain or short or disfigured or old, and if they lived in small, dingy rooms, the truth of that ought to be visible, or you’re not telling the same story at all. The one inescapable tyranny, I think, is not race or wealth but beauty. We accept attractive people of every race and class; those we do not find beautiful never get the same treatment.

The two actresses who remind me of Elizabeth Barrett are Bel Powley and Sally Hawkins. Powley, with her enormous eyes and pale skin, looks like the idealized portraits of Elizabeth, in which sympathetic artist friends made Elizabeth's face more symmetrical and her eyes larger. Sally Hawkins has what I think of as Elizabeth’s irrepressible charm, and she resembles the Barrett-Browning photographs from later years. Characters that Sally Hawkins plays tend to overcome everything through sheer will and affection—Elizabeth Barrett had that quality, too. She was by all accounts intensely, almost supernaturally radiant.

If I could choose any director, it would be Jane Campion, who made a ravishing movie about another small poet who died of lung disease: Bright Star, which tells the story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I never watch Bright Star (which I watch over and over) without wishing I could go and live inside it.

I doubt that Jeremy Allen White has ever noticed, but he looks a lot like Robert Browning. And wouldn’t it be interesting to see him go from a Chicago sandwich shop to 19th century London?
Visit Laura McNeal's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laura McNeal & Link.

My Book, The Movie: The Incident on the Bridge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Melanie Maure's "Sisters of Belfast"

Melanie Maure holds a Master’s in Counselling Psychology and lives in central British Columbia. She is second generation Irish and spends a great deal of time in Ireland, which is an enduring source of inspiration for her work.

Here Maure dreamcasts an adaptation of Sisters of Belfast, her debut novel:
Sisters of Belfast is set mainly in Northern Ireland and partially in Newfoundland, Canada, and has four main characters—a set of twin sisters and two nuns. While there are several other characters, it is easiest to picture who would be cast as Aelish and Izzy, the twins who lose their parents during the Belfast blitz, and the two foremost nuns, Sister Mike and Sister Edel, responsible for their care in the orphanage.

The tricky part of visualizing who would be cast as the twins is being able to see an actor who could portray the girls’ vastly different personalities. Saoirse Ronan is who I had in my mind as I wrote, not only because she is an Irish actor but because she gives such range and depth to her characters. She would be able to fully embody the twins and their turmoil.

Sister Mike is a steady character, but not without her flaws. She represents the ability to have faith while questioning it again and again. She can bend without breaking and see most sides of a situation, yet she is not without blind spots. In my mind, this has always been my favourite actor Olivia Colman. She can portray a character that is easy to love despite their flaws.

Sister Edel is the epitome of dogmatic self-righteousness. She is unbending, and eventually, this rigidity of mind and heart takes hold in her body, leaving her bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis. Like all the other characters, she has a tragedy in her history that is the genesis of her callousness. Emma Thompson could capture the stoicism that hides a deep fear of losing control that lives in Sister Edel.

The one other character who was easy to picture was Leena. I cannot give away her story here, but suffice it to say she epitomizes love, eclipsing the skeptical darkness of Sister Edel. In my mind’s eye, it is clear to see Frances McDormand embodying this most pure character.
Visit Melanie Maure's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sisters of Belfast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Claire Coughlan's "Where They Lie"

Claire Coughlan has worked as a journalist for many years, most recently for publications such as BookBrunch and the Sunday Independent. She was a recipient of the Words Ireland National Mentoring program, funded by Kildare Arts Service and the Arts Council. Coughlan has an MFA in creative writing from University College Dublin, and she lives in County Kildare with her husband and daughter.

Here Coughlan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Where They Lie:
Where They Lie, my debut novel, is set in Dublin in 1968, with some parts set in 1943. Ambitious and conflicted young reporter Nicoletta Sarto happens to answer the telephone just before Christmas to the information that human remains have been found in a seaside garden. These bones have already been confirmed as belonging to a missing actress Julia Bridges, who vanished twenty-five years earlier. Julia’s remains have been identified by an engraved wedding ring.

My novel has been described as “atmospheric” and the setting of Dublin is an important part of evoking this atmosphere. Although the 1960s was an exciting time of change across the Irish Sea in London, they weren’t quite swinging in Ireland, due to economic hardship, mass emigration and an ostensibly deeply conservative society. However, scratch beneath the surface, and people weren’t that conservative at all. Irish people have never liked being told what to do! To retain authenticity, I’d ideally cast an Irish actor in the main role of Nicoletta, the eager junior reporter who is trying to escape the confines of her old life. Saoirse Ronan would be fantastic in the lead. She is a chameleon as an actor, and I think has just the right mix of toughness and vulnerability to bring Nicoletta alive.

I would love to see Helena Bonham-Carter as the “infamous” Gloria Fitzpatrick, the backstreet abortionist of the novel. She would no doubt give a convincingly wild vitality to the part of Gloria and her idiosyncrasies.

Sarah Greene, who played Connell’s mother in Normal People, would bring a quiet precision to Nicoletta’s frustrated-by-her-lot-in-life mother, Daniela.

Aidan Turner, of the BBC’s Poldark fame, would make a dashing Barney King, Nicoletta’s colleague in the Irish Sentinel newsroom and on/off love interest.

I think Brendan Gleeson would make a wonderful O’Malley, the kindly, eccentric pathologist.

For Charles Creighton, the owner of Seaview House, where Julia Bridges’ remains are found, I’d love to go against type and cast Friends star David Schwimmer. He’s a brilliant dramatic actor, as he proved in American Crime Story and Band of Brothers; I think he would bring real depth and humanity to the part.

For the two policemen - or Gardaí as we say in Ireland - I see Matt Damon as Garda O’Connor, Nicoletta’s right-thinking, voice of reason within all this mess. Damon has spent time filming in Dublin in recent years shooting The Last Duel, so perhaps he wouldn’t be averse to a return trip! And I’d cast Scrubs star John C McGinley as Inspector Morris. He’d be perfect at playing just the right mix of cynical and misguided.
Follow Claire Coughlan on Instagram.

The Page 69 Test: Where They Lie.

Q&A with Claire Coughlan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Wendy Church's "Knife Skills"

Wendy Church is the author of the Jesse O’Hara and Shadows of Chicago Mysteries series. The first book in the Jesse O’Hara series, Murder on the Spanish Seas, was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut Mystery/Thriller novels of 2023, and received a starred review.

Church's newest books are Murder Beyond the Pale, the second Jesse O’Hara mystery, and Knife Skills, the first Shadows of Chicago mystery.

Here Church dreamcasts an adaptation of Knife Skills:
The main protagonist in Knife Skills is Sagarine Pfister, a chef who finds herself at the beginning of the book in a restaurant walk-in freezer, looking at the body of her dead boss, head chef Louis Ferrar. Sagarine is a driven, exceedingly talented woman in her late twenties who’s underemployed because of her family. I imagine her being played in a movie by Rose Leslie, although she’d have to drop her beautiful accent as Sagarine is from Chicago. Another actress who could play her would be Jennifer Lawrence. I know I named JL as being cast as the lead in my previous book with a completely different protagonist, but she’s so skilled at changing her look. Both of these women have a little bit of an edge that I’d want to see in Sagarine.

Sagarine’s best friend and roommate, Maude, I envision being played by Kristen Stewart, as I think she could pull off the smart, nerd/goth look and personality of Maude.

Whoever directed this would need experience with suspense and humor, as well as be comfortable filming in a kitchen, and dealing with food, as that’s a central piece of the book. Maybe Christopher Storer, who directs The Bear, as this book has been compared to the show, partnered with Kathryn Bigelow who did Point Break, to bring in the suspense and action elements.
Visit Wendy Church's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

Q&A with Wendy Church.

My Book, The Movie: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Beyond the Pale.

The Page 69 Test: Knife Skills.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Angela Crook's "Hurt Mountain"

Angela Crook is a novelist and mother, from Cleveland, Ohio, who loves writing dark thrillers that often involve the exploration of the inner workings of family relationships.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Hurt Mountain:
Young girls are disappearing, taken by a sinister figure who lives in the Colorado mountains. A divorced couple who is still dealing with their own tragic loss, rescue a brutalized child from the side of the road and decide to step in to help her find her heal and find her family, no matter the risks to themselves.

If my book was made into a movie, Nicole Ari Parker, would make an excellent lead actress for the main character Olivia.

Zendaya would make for a perfect Olivia.

Chad Michael Murray would be a great Brandon Hall.

Forest Whitaker would be an amazing choice for Farmer Hurt. He would also be a fantastic choice for director. I love what he did with Waiting to Exhale, and I think his more sinister role as Bumpy Johnson in Godfather of Harlem is a great reference for my bad guy and the darkness of the story.
Follow Angela Crook on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

--Marshal Zeringue