Thursday, June 27, 2024

Maggie Nye's "The Curators"

Maggie Nye is the author of The Curators. She is a writer and teacher whose work has been supported by MacDowell, Tin House, and the St. Albans Writer in Residence program.

Here Nye dreamcasts an adaptation of The Curators:
It’s every author’s secret dream to have their novel turned into a feature film, and I’m no exception. And, OK, maybe I’m biased, but there are some really cinematic moments with shadow puppets, turn-of-the century home video, and a golem. You’d go see that movie, wouldn’t you, reader??

Here’s a very simplified rundown of the novel: A group of just-fourteen-year-old Jewish girls in 1915 Atlanta becomes obsessed with the murder of a factory girl their age and the subsequent trial and lynching of her Jewish boss, Leo Frank (real historical events in 1913-1915 Georgia). In an attempt to keep the story alive, they bring a golem to life using dirt from group leader Ana Wullf’s garden. And they build it in the likeness of Leo Frank. Predictably, once magic is involved, things go terribly awry. The Curators is a tale of obsession, devotion, and the pursuit of truth--at any cost.

I think Jennifer Kente would be my ideal director for the film adaptation. She’s Australian, so she might need a southern co-director, but the dark, highly-stylized atmospheres she conjures in films like The Nightingale (2018) and The Babadook (2014)--women-focused lyrical and compassionate descents into mania--would make her an excellent candidate, in my mind, to direct The Curators film.

As for casting, this is tough because I’m not super familiar with child/early teen actors. My ideal Ana Wulff would be someone in the spirit of Kate Winslet’s Juliet Hume in Peter Jackson’s early and excellent 1994 film, Heavenly Creatures. A tenacious, fierce smart-aleck. Yellowjacket’s young Misty, played by the half-rabid goody-two-shoes Samantha Lynn Hanratty might make an excellent Franny, too, though she’d need to soften up a bit to be the sympathetic heart of the friend group.

Finally, I think Dominic Gerard Francis Eagleton West, of The Wire fame, would make a very compelling and disturbing Fiddler. Wiry, ferocious, exhausted, and scrappy. I can see him fiddling away, drinking, and rousing striking cotton mill workers. In short, making very big, very real trouble.
Visit Maggie Nye's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Kathleen Bryant's "Over the Edge"

Kathleen Bryant inherited a love of travel from her parents, who bundled her up for her first road trip when she was only six months old. Originally a Midwestern farm girl, she’s spent the past decades thawing out in the West, hiking its deserts and mountains, bouncing along backcountry roads, and sometimes lending a hand at archaeological sites. After writing numerous travel guides and magazine articles about Sedona, Grand Canyon, and the Four Corners, she’s returned to her first love, writing novels. Today, Bryant lives with her musician husband in California, where she continues to seek out new adventures, finding them on hiking trails, at farmers markets, and in the pages of a good book.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Over the Edge:
As I wrote Over the Edge, a mystery-thriller set in Sedona’s red rock canyons, I definitely pictured the book as a movie. Not because I dared hope my story would end up on screen (though wouldn’t that be cool?) but because Sedona is already a cinematic icon. Dozens of movies were filmed here, most of them during the heyday of Hollywood Westerns.

Besides, imagining a book on film is a useful tool for writers. Visualizing scenes with the eye of a location scout or cinematographer helps add local color and authenticity. The right setting can create mood—the unsettling isolation of a narrow canyon, the menace of an approaching storm. Setting can even become character—the Navajoland of Tony Hillerman’s books, for example. Most important, movies (like book editors!) are all about showing versus telling.

Here's a surprising fact: Though many Westerns were filmed in Sedona, the town was usually a stand-in for somewhere else. In my dream movie, Sedona gets the star treatment. I’d choose Robert Redford as executive producer with Graham Roland heading up the production. I’m a huge fan of their work on Dark Winds, the electrifying television series based on Hillerman’s Leaphorn/Chee mysteries. The show weaves setting, character, and story into a tapestry as bold and beautiful as a Two Grey Hills rug.

The events in Over the Edge unfold through the eyes of Del Cooper, a Jeep guide struggling with PTSD. During a tour, she discovers a body in a remote canyon. Suspecting the murder has something to do with a proposed forest service land trade, she starts digging for the truth. When her witnesses disappear, she realizes the killer is watching her every move.

Thinking about casting, Glen Powell (Hit Man, 2024) has the edgy charm of forest service cop Ryan Driscoll. For Jeep guide Del Cooper—broken but driven to find the truth—I’d choose Rebecca Ferguson (Dune, 2021), who’s brilliant at blending fragility with strength. I think Teejay—the poster boy for Blue Sky Expeditions in his faded jeans and braided hair—needs to be the Sedona local who’s hanging around a coffee shop right now, ready to be discovered by Hollywood.

The biggest star, of course, is Sedona’s otherworldly landscape, where anything can happen.
Visit Kathleen Bryant's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Yoon Ha Lee's "Moonstorm"

A Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon Ha Lee finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas. Lee’s novel Ninefox Gambit won the Locus Award for best first novel, and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke awards; its sequels, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun, were also Hugo finalists. His middle grade space opera Dragon Pearl won the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature and the Locus Award for best YA novel, and was a New York Times bestseller. Lee’s short fiction has appeared in publications such as, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Audubon Magazine, as well as several year’s best anthologies.

Lee’s hobbies include composing music, art, and destroying the reader. He lives in Louisiana with his husband and an extremely lazy catten.

Here Lee dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Moonstorm:
Moonstorm follows a teenage girl, Hwa Young, in her dream to become a mecha pilot, except she’s hiding the fact that she’s an orphan from the other side. Obviously, this is an excellent life choice and there’s no way it can blow up in her face.

My film agent has explained to me that for live-action, teen characters can get tricky simply because actors and their characters get out of sync in terms of age. (Less of an issue for animation and voice actors.) I would expect to have to age things up a bit for the screen. The most prominent mecha pilots in Moonstorm are in their teens and early twenties because, contrary to Imperial propaganda, the Empire of New Joseon is losing.

I’m very intrigued by actress Susan Elle, who I saw in Nimic. It’s a very short film (twelve minutes) but her performance is incredibly evocative in a very short space, and in a film that brief, there’s no room for wasted motion or expression.

If I may, the film composers I think of for this are Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica reboot, Agents of SHIELD), Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel), and Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim, Game of Thrones). I’ve only listed a few of their better-known works, but they’re all fantastic!
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

The Page 69 Test: Fox Snare.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Ellery Lloyd's "The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby"

Ellery Lloyd is the pseudonym for the London-based husband and wife team of Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos whose last novel, instant New York Times bestseller The Club, a “smart, stylish, and savage” (People Magazine), was a Reese’s Book Club pick. The former deputy editor of Grazia Middle East, content director of Elle (UK), and editorial director at Soho House, Lyons studied History of Art at Trinity College, Cambridge, and has worked in Sydney, Dubai, and London. She has written for the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Sunday Times. Vlitos is the author of two previous novels, Welcome to the Working Week and Every Day Is Like Sunday. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.They are also the authors of People Like Her.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of their new novel, The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby:
Vlitos: The Final Act of Juliette Willoughy is a mystery set over the course of one hundred years, and centers around a runaway aristocratic painter – Juliette – and her great lost masterpiece, which was believed destroyed in the studio fire which killed her and her older married lover, Oskar, in 1938. In 1990s Cambridge, Patrick and Caroline, two art history students become obsessed with this story, and uncover something which they believe proves that the fire was no accident and there was something sinister at play. Fast forward to now, and Patrick, an art dealer in Dubai, is accused of murdering his oldest friend - and the only surviving member of the Willoughby dynasty – after selling Juliette’s newly-rediscovered painting for a fortune.

Lyons: Now I have to be honest, I don’t think we usually have actors or actresses in mind when we write our novels - I know some writers actually have photos up on their walls of real people who they imagine in their books - but I have to admit that Eddie Redmayne did pop into my head as Patrick occasionally, as I studied History of Art with him at Cambridge, and he was pretty much the only man on the course in our year! For Caroline, the dream casting would be Florence Pugh because she is always brilliant in everything and Caroline has her feisty, headstrong energy. For her best friend Athena, I think Marisa Abela. And for Juliette, Sophie Turner would do an incredible job. Now all we need is someone to make it…
Visit Ellery Lloyd's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Maggie Auffarth's "Burn It All"

Maggie Auffarth is a lifelong book obsessive and crime fiction enthusiast. She holds a degree in creative writing from Wheaton College and she was a finalist for the Helen Sheehan Book Prize in 2018. When she isn't plotting fictional crimes, she enjoys baking, running, and binge-watching Lifetime movies. She lives in Atlanta.

Here Auffarth dreamcasts an adaptation of Burn It All, her debut novel:
Burn It All centers on a trio of main characters. There’s steely and ambitious Marley, whose fixation with improving her social standing in her small hometown has cost her everything, her best friend, introspective and cautious Thea, who has spent most of her life pushing her own dreams aside to care for her family, and Thea’s charming stepbrother Austen, whose fate is intertwined with both women.

When a string of vicious house fires rips through town one summer, culminating in Thea’s death, Marley and Austen must piece together the sparse evidence to figure out what, exactly, happened to the woman they thought they knew. What they discover is a viper’s nest of secrets that could destroy them both. Burn It All is told from both Marley and Thea’s perspectives across multiple timelines.

For Marley, I think Elle Fanning would absolutely nail the balance of the character’s often-callous exterior with her more sympathetic underbelly.

Auli'i Cravalho would make a fantastic Thea, capturing both her quiet yearning for a different life, and the hyper-independent shell she’s built to keep others from ever seeing who she truly is.

For Austen – a character who is charismatic but unpredictable – I see either Kyle Allen or Jacob Elordi.

And my dream director? Definitely Emerald Fennell. Promising Young Woman was a big inspiration to me as I was drafting Burn It All. Fennell has such an incredible talent for creating an atmosphere that’s equal parts claustrophobic and alluring, and she wouldn’t shy away from exploring the darkness at the heart of each character.
Visit Maggie Auffarth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue