Sunday, April 28, 2024

Amy Shearn's "Dear Edna Sloane"

Amy Shearn is the award-winning author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here. She has worked as an editor at Medium, JSTOR, Conde Nast, and other organizations, and has taught creative writing at NYU, Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Gotham Writers Workshops, Catapult, Story Studio Chicago, The Resort LIC, and the Yale Writers' Workshop. Shearn's work has appeared in many publications including the New York Times Modern Love column, Slate, Poets & Writers, Literary Hub, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Coastal Living. She has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and lives in Brooklyn with her two children.

Here Shearn dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Dear Edna Sloane:
I hadn’t thought about this until you asked me this question and then my brain immediately screamed Olivia Colman, duh. Olivia Colman would be great as Edna Sloane – the way she can be so funny and also have such depth of emotion, how she’s at once totally unafraid of looking or seeming any particular way, and at the same time is so sexy. A slightly unhinged Colman, playing deep smoldering rage frosted with brilliance and wit, that’s what we’re wanting here.

For Seth, we’re going to need Josh O’Connor, from The Durrells in Corfu and apparently some other more famous things as well. In that show, though, he plays a Lawrence Durrell who is at once totally charming and totally obnoxious, which I would think would be just right for dear old Seth. And he has the slightly bird-like look I imagine Seth has.

It’s a small role, but I’m going to need Anna Baryshnikov to be Kim, Seth’s would-be love interest. Because that character could easily seem a little, I don’t know, #basic, but that actress would imbue her with a zany hotness I think she needs.

This is going to be a great film, wow.
Visit Amy Shearn's website.

The Page 99 Test: How Far Is the Ocean from Here.

Q&A with Amy Shearn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Seraphina Nova Glass's "The Vacancy in Room 10"

Seraphina Nova Glass is an Edgar Award-nominated author. Her fifth and latest book is The Vacancy in Room 10.

Named a New York Times Book Review Summer Read and an Amazon Editor’s Pick in Mystery & Thrillers, her last book, On A Quiet Street, earned her #1 bestselling status in the Thriller category on Amazon. It was also hailed by Bustle as one of “10 Must-Read Books” and one of “10 Top Thrillers To Read On Your Summer Vacation” in the Boston Globe.

Publishers Weekly has named her “a writer to watch” and Emmy-nominated producer Michael Terence quoted her writing as “page-turning and cinematic.”

Glass is currently working on her sixth novel, The Oleanders, and is also an Assistant professor and Playwright-In-Residence at the University of Texas, Arlington.

Here she shares some ideas for casting the leads in an adaptation of The Vacancy in Room 10:
Anna receives a call one evening to hear her husband in a panic admitting that he killed someone which is followed by a bang and the call dropping. Later, his body is found on the banks of the Rio Grande and is considered a suicide. It doesn't make sense, so Anna moves into the Sycamore apartments where he kept his art studio and decides to investigate herself.

Cass has found herself left with nothing after a messy breakup. She is living in this same rundown apartment complex. Desperate for money, she starts a little scheme, blackmailing men for bits of money to get by. One day, however, she blackmails the wrong person and all hell breaks loose as Anna and Cass’s stories crash into one another.

So, for this book, I have been already tasked to think about who would play the lead characters in a movie because one of my previous books, On A Quiet Street, was offered a movie deal and this book is being shopped around for one as well. My husband jokes that he sees Kristen Wiig playing the protagonist in all my books, and I like that. I’m a big fan and her obvious comedic prowess, but that talent combined with her ability to pull off serious roles make her my top pick to play Cass, and I would put Melissa McCarthy the exact same category as a gifted comedic and dramatic actress and this book has that mix of dark humor and drama, so she would be my choice to play Anna.
Visit Seraphina Nova Glass's website.

Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Caroline Leavitt's "Days of Wonder"

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Days of Wonder, With or Without You, Cruel Beautiful World, Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Girls In Trouble, Coming Back To Me, Living Other Lives, Into Thin Air, Family, Jealousies, Lifelines, and Meeting Rozzy Halfway. Many of her titles were optioned for film, translated into different languages, and condensed in magazines. Many of her titles were Best Books of the Year and Indie Next Picks. A New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow, she was also shortlisted for the Maine Readers Prize, and was a Goldenberg Fiction Prize winner. She recently won an award from the MidAtlantic Arts for portions of her next novel, The Inseparables.

Here Leavitt shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Days of Wonder:
Days of Wonder is about two fifteen-year-old kids, Jude and Ella, who fall passionately in love, and when the boy’s father threatens to separate them, they fantasize about killing him. Until it’s no longer fantasy. But both are exhausted and sleep deprived, and using drugs to stay awake, and on the night of an attempted murder of the dad, neither one can remember what really happened. Ella goes to jail, gives up a baby, and is let out early, but Jude vanishes. As Ella struggles to create a new identity, she is desperate to learn what happened that night? What is the truth?

One of my favorite movies is Rust and Bone, a French film about a woman who used to train Orcas, who loses her legs in an accident with them and falls for a very tough, very wounded guy. Directed by Jacques Audiard, it has a gritty kind of feel, and it is really wise about knowing the cost of loving—and being brave enough to go ahead and love anyway.

That said, I really, really, really would love unknowns in the Jude and Ella roles, because they’d still have that passion, they wouldn’t be stars yet and/or jaded.

And Michael Shannon for Jude’s dad, because there is nothing that Shannon is in that isn’t absolutely brilliant. Mila Kunis for Helen!

And, of course, I have to have a cameo, as a rude waitress—my dream part.
Learn more about the book and author at Caroline Leavitt's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Pictures of You.

My Book, the Movie: Pictures of You.

The Page 69 Test: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Is This Tomorrow.

My Book, The Movie: Cruel Beautiful World.

The Page 69 Test: Cruel Beautiful World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

"The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth"

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Darrow is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Darrow ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Here Darrow dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth:
The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth’s protagonist leaves her life as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka when her mother has a major stroke back in California. When her mother and stepfather are murdered, she plays amateur detective to solve the case.

An actor in a movie based on my book would need to able to portray Ivy as someone who has made a great deal of progress spiritually and emotionally, yet finds her inner strength tested as she sorts through the elements of a mystery. I can think of several skilled candidates. These are actors who embody a degree of natural gravitas and, paradoxically, vulnerability. If I were a casting director, I’d have each of them read as if they were a committed Buddhist and then switch to the role of a frightened amateur detective.

Here’s my list (with no attention to age): Uma Thurman (daughter of a prominent Buddhist scholar), Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix), Tilda Swinton, and Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter.) As I write this, I’m trying to narrow down my list to one, but I’m not having success. I fall back on my audition process—that would settle it.

For the all over the place bi-polar sister: Juliette Lewis or Selma Blair. Ivy struggles to remain compassionate in the face of her sister’s abuse.

For the fourteen going on forty niece: an unknown who can display wunderkind abilities.

For the cop who’s drawn to Ivy: Morris Chestnut. I’m a bit concerned that he might be too good-looking for the role, but I couldn’t find anyone well-known who fit the bill better.

For the Bulgarian gangster: one of those villains in the John Wick series acting as charming as he can manage.

For the uncle: Pierce Brosnan. Despite his age, this guy has to still be a successful ladies man.

For the uncle’s fiance: Lupita Nyong’o. She needs to be authentically African.

For the problematic nurse: Louise Fletcher as she played her part in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

I’m sure a professional would do better than I have at matching characters to actors, but there you have it. I wish there was a major dog character so I could name a wonderful one I know to play the part.
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow (May 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Robert Dugoni's "A Killing on the Hill"

Robert Dugoni is a critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author, reaching over 9 million readers worldwide. He is best known for his Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle. He is also the author of the Charles Jenkins espionage series, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, The World Played Chess, and Her Deadly Game. His novel The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell received Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, and Dugoni’s narration won an AudioFile Earphones Award. The Washington Post named his nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary a Best Book of the Year.

Here Dugoni dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new thriller, A Killing on the Hill:
When I wrote A Killing on the Hill, I thought of a young Matt Damon to play the lead role of William Shoemacher, 19-year-old, naïve reporter who comes to Seattle during The Great Depression and finds himself embroiled in the murder Trial of the Century, a showcase of the wealthy and the poor. Shoemacher soon realizes nothing about the trial is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

While I’m a bit out of touch with today’s up and coming actors, I recently saw Wonka and believe Timothée Chalamet would be fantastic in the role.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Agent.

Q&A with Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: In Her Tracks.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: A Killing on the Hill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Henriette Lazaridis's "Last Days in Plaka"

Henriette Lazaridis is the author of The Clover House (a Boston Globe bestseller), Terra Nova (which the New York Times called "ingenious"), and Last Days in Plaka (2024). She earned degrees in English literature from Middlebury College, Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania. Having taught English at Harvard, she now teaches at GrubStreet in Boston. She was the founding editor of The Drum Literary Magazine and runs the Krouna Writing Workshop in northern Greece. An avid athlete, Lazaridis trains on the Charles River as a competitive rower, and skis, trail runs, or cycles whenever she can. She writes about athletic and creative challenges at The Entropy Hotel on Substack.

Here Lazaridis dreamcasts an adaptation of Last Days in Plaka:
My new novel Last Days in Plaka takes place in contemporary Athens, and follows the unlikely friendship between Irini, an elderly Greek widow and Anna, a young Greek-American. Irini is a Proust-reading, once-well-to-do woman now living on the charity of her local priest who has given her an apartment in Plaka, the ancient (and touristy) heart of Athens. Anna has come to her parents’ native Greece from Astoria, NY, where she grew up, and works in an art gallery while she attempts to make art of her own. Each woman is searching for meaning in her life–Irini, to reconcile what’s past, and Anna, to deepen what’s to come. When their priest introduces them, they connect–despite Irini’s initial resistance. They are soon spending time together, attending a French film series and chatting in cafes as Irini regales Anna with tales of her long-ago elegant life. As Anna drifts away from her peers and further into fascination with Irini, the entanglement of the two women’s lives comes at a larger and larger cost.

Of course the woman I have in mind to play Irini is the late Olympia Dukakis. She would have been perfect in this role. Being Greek-American, she would have had a sense for the posture, the gestures, the facial expressions, that form a huge part of Irini’s character. Irini stands up straight at 82, she still wears heels, she doesn’t tolerate silliness, and she has a quiet elegance despite her diminished financial circumstances. Anna could be played by Zoe Kazan, another actor of Greek descent. Though Kazan is 40 to Anna’s 26, she has a look of wide-eyed innocence that can convey Anna’s naivete. At the same time, Kazan has a set to her jaw that she often uses to express determination, which is one of Anna’s traits as she makes plans for an art project or drives her motorbike through Athens traffic.

Other important characters are Father Emmanouil and Oumer and Tamrat, two Ethiopian transplants who are part of the church’s tiny congregation. Father Emmanouil is a “hip” priest who plays pick-up soccer and stays in shape. I see him as a slightly less handsome Jamie Dornan. In fact, let’s go with Dornan, and, to the thick beard he sports in The Tourist, we’ll add a priest’s center-parted long hair in a bun, which he can wear in a pony-tail when he’s playing soccer. He’s skilled at conveying a sort of quiet worry–which is a large element in Father Emmanouil’s character.

Oumer is a parkour free-runner who works at a cafe, with plans to open a cafe serving Ethiopian coffee in Ethiopian style. He is generally friendly and tolerant of Anna’s enthusiasms and her eagerness to show him she is liberal. Because of the ready smile and good nature he portrayed as Sam Obisanya on Ted Lasso, I’d pick Toheeb Jimoh (who is not Ethiopian), for Oumer. Tamrat is Oumer’s more cynical compatriot. A journalist who has left Ethiopia for political reasons and who works in Athens as a freelancer, Tamrat is reserved and guarded, more circumspect about people’s behavior, and far less optimistic than Oumer. Chiwetel Ejiofor (also not Ethiopian) would be perfect to convey Tamrat’s wisdom and seriousness of purpose.

The Athens of the novel is a city of tumble-down buildings covered with graffiti, a rooftop cinema with a view of the Parthenon, design-forward restaurants, neo-classical apartment buildings, and the incense-dim interior of a small church. The music is new, international, the pop of the moment, and the strains of Miles Davis and Mozart and the ballads of Charles Aznavour. All of it should come together to create the feel of a small group of people striving to make meaningful lives in the chaos of a shifting city.
Visit Henriette Lazaridis's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Henriette Lazaridis Power & Finn.

The Page 69 Test: The Clover House.

Q&A with Henriette Lazaridis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Mark Cecil's "Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny"

Mark Cecil is an author, journalist and host of The Thoughtful Bro show, for which he conducts author interviews with an eclectic roster of award winning and bestselling writers. He has written for LitHub, Writer’s Digest, Cognoscenti, The Millions, Reuters, and Embark Literary Journal, among other publications. He is Head of Strategy for A Mighty Blaze and he has taught writing at Grub Street and The Writers Loft.

Here Cecil dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny:
The two lead roles in my book are the white lumberjack Paul Bunyan and the Black steel drivin’ man John Henry. In my book they are friends upon a grand quest through a mythic America of yore. Both of these figures have been represented a great deal in our literature, song, arts, political drawings, and even Disney cartoons, but not so often in film with real actors.

To play my Paul Bunyan, I’d cast Adam Driver. So first, I’m not sure if Adam can grow a beard, so that may be a deal breaker. But if he can, we’re good. The thing about Adam is that he has this particular mix which is necessary for my portrayal of Paul Bunyan—he can be (1) assertively masculine, (2) earnest, vulnerable and passionate (3) over the top funny. Bunyan has the earnestness of Kevin Costner on the spiritual quest of Field Of Dreams. Yet he also has the goofiness of Chris Hemsworth in Thor. I think Adam Driver’s one of the few actors who has both the physical and emotional range to play the part.

My John Henry has a different set of qualities. He’s also a big man, but he’s wary, he’s cautious, he’s on the run from the law. He has a quiet force, a sly intelligence, and an iron will. To me, that’s perfect for Mahershala Ali. Whenever I watch Mahershala, I can always see the range of feelings moving behind his eyes. It’s like he has a world of feeling within him, but he’s always shrewdly choosing just which feelings he can reveal.

That’s the John Henry I’ve written, to a tee.

And best of all? Mahershala and Adam are, according to the internet, both 6’ 2”! So they’d be perfect together—big guys, who are friends and equals.

As for the director, I would love to combine two directors. The book is grand, beautiful and scenic. It’s a fantasy about a mythic America. I’ve never seen the American landscape filmed so beautifully as it was in The Revenant by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. So that’s one. But my film is also a satire of capitalism run amok—the main antagonist is a Yankee swindler named El Boffo—and for that I’d love to get the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. I think any of them could make a brilliant film, but a combination of their sensibilities would deliver the pathos, the grandeur and the humor.
Visit Mark Cecil's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2024

Elizabeth Byrne's "Book, Beast, and Crow"

Elizabeth Byrne grew up in New Jersey and holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of two novels for young adults, The Grave Keepers, and Book, Beast and Crow. She has tasted a glacier in Iceland, worked on the seventeenth floor of the Flatiron Building, and hiked among sheep in the Faroe Islands, but her favorite thing to do is grow flowers in her backyard. Byrne lives with her husband and son in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Book, Beast and Crow:
My YA novel, Book, Beast, and Crow, is an adventure story along the lines of The Goonies or Stranger Things, but set in suburban New Jersey on the faultline of a mysterious Otherworld. There is a large cast of characters, both human and not, but the main figures of the story are a group of high school seniors who've grown up together, including a brother and sister. The action involves the group members' interaction as much as their encounters with mythical creatures, so the group chemistry needs to be there!

The narrator, Anna, starts out the quiet observer, but when her best friend Olivia disappears into the Great Swamp, home to a legendary beast that's plagued the town for centuries, Anna taps into hidden reserves of steel to go in after her. I think Bella Ramsey would be ideal--small in stature, but able to project intellect and bravery far beyond their years.

Olivia is the more outgoing one--a risk-taker in almost every way, from her style to her weekend plans. She has an easy confidence that Momona Tamada shares and I'd love to see her in the role.

Dallas Liu is perfect for Olivia's twin brother, Alex. He's brooding and salty, but only because it hides the biggest, softest, marshmallow center of almost all the kids in the book.

Alex's best friend, Lou, is really the heart of the group. Ian O'Reilly would bring the right amount of sincerity and self-deprecating humor to the mix.
Visit Elizabeth Byrne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue