Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Molly MacRae's "Come Shell or High Water"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she recently retired from connecting children with books at the public library.

Here MacRae dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Come Shell or High Water:
Professional storyteller and mollusk biologist Maureen Nash sees narrative cues woven through her life. Like the series of letters addressed to her late husband from a stranger—the owner of The Moon Shell, a shop on Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. The store is famous among shell collectors, but it’s the cryptic letters from shop owner Allen Withrow that convince Maureen to travel to the small island at the tail end of a hurricane.

In Maureen’s first hours on Ocracoke, she averts several life-threatening accidents, stumbles over a body, and meets the ghost of an eighteenth-century Welsh pirate, Emrys Lloyd. To the untrained eye, these unusual occurrences would seem to be random misfortunes, but Maureen senses there may be something connecting these stories. With Emrys’s supernatural assistance, and the support of a few new friends, Maureen sets out to unravel the truth, find a killer, and hopefully give the tale a satisfying ending . . . while also rewriting her own.

Winona Ryder will make a fine Maureen Nash. Maureen, in her early fifties, has an adventurous streak, a love for jokes and puns, and a healthy fear of unhealthy situations like being in a sinking boat surrounded by sharks. While practical, she’s also prone to flights of fancy. Ryder has a wide range of talents and proved, in Beetlejuice, that she can hold her own with a ghost.

There are other actors who might play Emrys Lloyd, the ghost, but I can’t think of anyone better than Adam Driver. Emrys died in 1750 at age thirty-seven. He claims he didn’t mean to be a pirate, only did it once, and it didn’t end well. He has a beautiful tenor and a bit of an ego. Can’t you picture Driver in a tricorn hat, full-skirted knee-length coat, waistcoat, knee breeches, stockings, and buckles shoes? If he can do a Welsh accent, he’s got the part.

British actor Miriam Margolyes (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, several Harry Potter movies, etc.) and the late Wilford Brimley will play siblings Glady and Burt Weaver. Glady and Burt spend a lot of time arguing with each other, correcting each other, and confusing Maureen by answering her direct questions with somewhat adjacent answers. But they like Maureen and decide to help her solve the murder, even though they don’t seem to trust her (and vice versa).

Frances McDormand is National Park Ranger Patricia Crowley. Patricia always looks unruffled and in control when she’s in uniform. On her days off, in civies, she admits she becomes “a mass of Sturm und Drang.” In the book, Patricia is in her early 50s, and National Park Rangers are required by law to retire at fifty-seven, but who cares. McDormand will be fabulous.

Dr. Irving Allred, the island physician, believes he sees “tokens of death” before people die. He’d also dearly love to see – or catch – a ghost. At best he’s a snoop and a quack. If Wayne Knight is available, he’ll be the perfect Allred.

To bring this movie to life, I’ll approach Nigel Cole who directed Saving Grace (2000, Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson), Calendar Girls (2003, Helen Mirren, Judy Walters), and many episodes of the British TV series Doc Martin. Cole is great at bringing out the subtle humor in situations and he knows how to film a setting so that it becomes a character too. Mr. Cole, if you’d like a new project, may we talk over lunch?
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Scones and Scoundrels.

My Book, The Movie: Scones and Scoundrels.

The Page 69 Test: Crewel and Unusual.

The Page 69 Test: Heather and Homicide.

Q&A with Molly MacRae.

Writers Read: Molly MacRae.

The Page 69 Test: Come Shell or High Water.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Derek Milman's "A Darker Mischief"

Derek Milman is the author of Scream All Night and Swipe Right for Murder. A graduate of Yale Drama School, Milman has performed on stages across the country, and appeared in numerous TV shows and films, working with two Academy Award-winning film directors. He lives in Brooklyn.

Here Milman shares some ideas for an on-screen adaptation of his new novel, A Darker Mischief:
Well, A Darker Mischief is YA, and it features teenagers, and while sometimes I do occasionally think of actors, I haven't much in this case, as I'm not familiar with too many teenage actors, and the ones I've seen I can't quite see in this world.

In terms of directors, I think that's the easier route for me. I can see Italian film director Luca Guadagnino returning to his queer roots and taking a shot at this, if he can nail the atmosphere and not chop up the narrative. Within that same theme, I feel similarly to Gus Van Sant, going back to his Private Idaho days. Sofia Coppola would dream up a gloriously stylized world, which an adaptation would need, but I haven't seen her take on queer characters. What might be interesting is to blow up the staid world of the boarding school a little bit and bring in Harmony Korine who did Spring Breakers as I think that would lend a gust of neon-saturated punk to an adaptation which could work very well, since this is a fairly edgy book.

The actors from Euphoria are probably getting a bit old, but if they could play American actors, casting directors could source actors from three popular teen shows that are also queer-centered within the teenage zeitgeist: Heartstopper, Elite, and Young Royals.
Visit Derek Milman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Scream All Night.

The Page 69 Test: Swipe Right for Murder.

My Book, The Movie: Swipe Right for Murder.

Q&A with Derek Milman.

The Page 69 Test: A Darker Mischief.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

Friday, May 31, 2024

Andrew L. Erdman's "Beautiful"

Andrew L. Erdman is a writer living and working in the New York City area. He is the author of Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay and has also written comedy for the stage, TV, and online platforms. He has a doctorate in theatre studies from the City University of New York, a master's in social work from Yeshiva University, and psychoanalytic training from the Contemporary Freudian Society.

Here Erdman dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Beautiful: The Story of Julian Eltinge, America's Greatest Female Impersonator:
Julian Eltinge, né William Dalton, was born near Boston in 1881. His dad dragged him and his mom around the Americas in a frontier fantasy, in search of fabled goldmine riches that would never materialize. But with his mom’s encouragement, young Billy began perfecting his remarkable female-impersonating skills. This was a time when many men, from stage luminaries to fraternity bros to business men in Elks’ chapters to military units, had no problem with dragging-up for a good musical comedy or show. It was celebrated. By 1901, Billy Dalton was Julian Eltinge, wowing Boston’s elite in transvestic musicals and on his way to vaudeville, Broadway, and silent screen fame. He would become one of the highest paid, cisgender male actors in the world and virtually define the hugely popular art of precise, nuanced, female impersonation. As his fortunes and health declined in the 1930s, and as fearful, reactionary voices clamped down on sexual and gender nonconformity amid a global economic upheaval and the rise of fascism—sound familiar?—Julian Eltinge and his artistry receded into history. But his story and its era are so lively and relevant that I felt a foolish-joyful drive to write about it all.

Who could play young Billy Dalton as he transitioned into the star named Julian Eltinge? How about Timothée Chalamet?

Who could play his bitter, inebriated father? Joaquin Phoenix seems about right.

His loving, supportive mom? I see Amy Adams.

A. H. Woods, the real father-figure in Eltinge’s life? With the right costuming and makeup, none other than David Cross.

Directed by? Baz Luhrmann seems like a no-brainer, though Sofia Coppola, since she has done interesting stuff with historical content. And whoever designs her productions.
Visit Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

My Book, The Movie: Queen of Vaudeville.

The Page 99 Test: Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Chris Harding Thornton's "Little Underworld"

Chris Harding Thornton, a seventh-generation Nebraskan, holds an MFA from the University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Nebraska. Her first novel, Pickard County Atlas, was chosen by author Tana French (In the Woods, The Searcher) as a PBS Masterpiece Best Mystery of 2021. The book was also featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere.

Here Harding Thornton dreamcasts an adaptation of her recently released second novel, Little Underworld:
Little Underworld is a novel set in Omaha during Prohibition—specifically, during the spring of 1930. Jim Beely, a private investigator, kills the man who sexually assaulted his daughter. While disposing of the body, he runs across a dirty cop, Frank Tvrdik, who helps cover up the crime for a trade. Jim agrees to take down a candidate for city commission by bungling an investigation. When that plan goes awry, Jim and Frank try to figure out what happened. The answers lie in the twisting, turning, and brazenly ridiculous machinations of the city’s corrupt politics.

For better or worse, I write books to be read in one sitting (because that’s how I read them). To me, books are films inside a reader’s head, so I keep the intermissions to a minimum. What kept this book rolling for me, what made it a good time, was the dark humor and the absurdity of the plot. So, ideal directors of an adaptation would be someone like Paul Thomas Anderson or Joel and Ethan Coen, people who can balance intensity and hilarity on the head of a pin. There are only two movies I’ve re-started immediately after first watching them: Phantom Thread and No Country for Old Men. During the initial viewing of both, I was too tense, too sucked in, to fully appreciate how funny they were, so the second watch was solely for laughs.

As for casting, I’d pluck the leads from the historic silver screen. I based Jim Beely on one of my great-grandfather’s uncles (who really was a PI who ran afoul of politicians). He was a huge guy, and while Edward G. Robinson was not, with some tricky camera angles, Robinson would fit the bill. He could capture Jim’s cranky cynicism, his unwillingness to crack a grin, while delivering on the rat-a-tat hardboiled dialogue.

Pulling from the same period, James Cagney would’ve made a great Frank Tvrdik. They’re both lit fuses—unpredictable and seemingly capable of anything. Cagney’s background in dance would fit Frank’s sure and bouncy stride. His mischievous (but somehow cherubic) face would be a dead ringer for the character, and Cagney could capture the terrifying intensity Frank’s prone to.
Visit Chris Harding Thornton's website.

Q&A with Chris Harding Thornton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Kate Feiffer's "Morning Pages"

Kate Feiffer, a former television news producer, is an illustrator, and author of eleven highly acclaimed books for children, including Henry the Dog with No Tail and My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life. Morning Pages is her first novel for adults. Feiffer currently divides her time between Martha’s Vineyard, where she raised her daughter Maddy, and New York City, where she grew up.

Here Feiffer shares some ideas for an adaptation of Morning Pages:
This extraordinary Morning Pages dream cast will be announced by a scowling dream anchorman (George Stephanopoulos), who would prefer to be interviewing politicians rather than announcing dream casts on a dream morning show:

Morning Pages is Elise Hellman’s story. Elise (Jennifer Aniston) is a 48-year-old playwright. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s clumsy. She's been divorced for two years, but still has feelings for her ex (Jason Bateman). She’s dating, unsuccessfully (Jarvier Bardem, Edward Norton). She’s the mother of an 18 year old (Gaten Matarazzo), who she acknowledges had more words at 18 months than he does at 18 years. Her glamorous mother (Marlo Thomas) has a potty mouth and is in the early stages of dementia. And she is having an on-going flirtation with a handsome stranger (George Clooney) in the elevator of her mother’s building.

The other leading lady is Laurie Herman (Amy Schumer), who is the main character in Elise’s play. Laurie is a single forty-year-old, professionally successful woman, who made a pact with her best friend from college (Lin-Maunel Miranda) that they’d get married if they were both still single at 40. Her divorced parents, Grace (Brooke Adams) and Larry (Tony Shalhoub) have recently moved in with her.
Visit Kate Feiffer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Morning Pages.

Q&A with Kate Feiffer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2024

Ash Clifton's "Twice the Trouble"

Ash Clifton grew up in Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida, where his father was a deputy sheriff and, later, the chief of police. He graduated from UF with a degree in English, then got an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. He lives in Gainesville, with his wife and son. He writes mystery, thriller, and science fiction novels.

Here Clifton dreamcast an adaptation of his new novel, Twice the Trouble:
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about this topic. A lot. Like practically everybody else these days, I'm a movie buff, and in my mind I'm a great film director. Specifically, I’m a big fan of Michael Mann's films, to the point that I believe the tone and pacing of movies like Thief, Heat, and Collateral were an influence on my book. Mann would be at the top of my dream list to direct any adaptation of Twice the Trouble. My second choice would be Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed a brilliant little noir thriller called Drive. That movie, also, had a strong influence on me.

(Heck, I believe that Steven Spielberg would be a great choice as director. No, I’m serious. People think he only directs fantasies, but he has a real dark side. Hello? Jaws? Munich? Schindler’s List?)

Regarding casting, my main character, Noland Twice, is a former star athlete who has become a private investigator. Whoever plays him would need to be relatively young (30-ish) and athletic. Also, Noland is smart, funny, and resourceful. He's a bit of a trickster. To top it all off, he's Southern, so whoever plays him should either be Southern or able to pull off a credible Southern accent. Caleb Landry Jones would be perfect because he’s Southern (from Texas; close enough), and he’s a brilliant actor with a dark edge. Another cool choice for the Noland role would be Austin Butler, who isn’t Southern but is such a good actor that he could pull it off.

The bad guy that Noland is trying to find is a shady businessman named Valkenburg. He's in his forties and very sly. And tough. Bradley Cooper would be a great choice, as would Oscar Isaac. That is, someone who is obviously smart and has an edge. Noland’s best friend and sidekick, Kiril, is a big, scary, Russian dude who is also a former athlete. Jason Momoa would have been ideal, but he’s too old now. Someone with that same kind of imposing physical presence, though, would be terrific.

Finally, like many good, hard-boiled mystery novels, Twice the Trouble has a mysterious female suspect. Yes, an honest-to-God femme fatale. Her name is Cassandra Raines, and she's a bit older than Noland (forty-ish), but he falls in love with her nonetheless. I think an actress with some depth and strength— Charlize Theron, perhaps—would be fabulous in the role.

A further consideration for my dream film would be the shooting location. Twice the Trouble is set in Orlando, which is one of the strangest and most idiosyncratic cities in America. I would hope that it could be shot there and not in some “stand-in” locale (i.e. Southern California). Anyone who has spent time in Central Florida knows that the landscape—both natural and urban—has its own special character that just can’t be captured anywhere else.

So, that's it. That’s my dream production. Anyone interested can contact me! (Actually, contact my publisher, Crooked Lane Books.)
Visit Ash Clifton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Marion McNabb's "Some Doubt About It"

Marion McNabb is a novelist and screenwriter who studied film at the Tisch School at NYU and graduated from Arizona State with a degree in Theater. She lived for many years in Los Angeles but the siren call pulled her back to Cape Cod where she lives with her family looking for mermaids and working on her next novel.

Here McNabb dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Some Doubt About It:

I worked for several years as a screenwriter on a children’s animated preschool program and had an absolute ball. It was amazing to see WRITTEN BY with my name underneath scrolling across my television. My phone’s camera roll will prove just how exciting that felt. Which is to say I have some experience in Hollywood. I spent years toiling away on the craft and in that time wrote three feature films, one was optioned at one point, and several pilots and pitched to, and was working on producing material with, studios all over Los Angeles. Universal, Disney, Apple, Nickelodeon, etc. to name a few. Having honed my skills as a screenwriter I unconsciously perhaps trained myself to write with particular actors in mind.

Writing narrative fiction is a little bit of a different process. I don’t think I fully realize until I’m well into the story exactly who the actor is but once it clicks I see them in my mind’s eye as I continue on and all through edits. This isn’t necessarily the case for all of the characters, sometimes it’s more pronounced for one initially and then a mixture of other actors for the other characters which was the case for my latest.

This novel, Some Doubt About It straddles the Hollywood line in and of itself. Caroline, a self- billed “Success at Life” guru to the stars has a couple of very bad days and must leave the glitz and glamour of LA for stodgy old Cape Cod and in so doing she learns what true success, and love, are really about.

Caroline, our protagonist, is a small town girl who decided she would be rich and famous and she achieved that goal but she felt empty. I think as I wrote she morphed and change from what was in my head to what ended up in the edited final. She is a bit more of an amalgamation of several actors - Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and maybe a dash of Sandra Bullock and a spritz of Amy Adams. Eclectic, yes. Both the mix and the character.

Once I saw Kathy Bates as my antagonist, the imposing character of Devorah van Buren it was difficult to visualize anyone else. Devorah is a tell-it-like-it-is grand dame who suffers no fools. She is salty, mouthy, a tad unkempt (though I don’t think she fully realizes that because she doesn’t really care) but she is a very nuanced figure. Outwardly she is cantankerous while privately she has moments of great vulnerability. While writing her I knew what a special woman she was. Complicated and lovable and the epitome of an actress of Kathy Bates’s intelligence and skill who could bring her to life. I truly cannot wait to see that manifestation.

Writing for me is always a visual experience. I can see the words line up and the scene laid out, the setting, the characters. I don’t delve too deeply into it however, I like to keep the magic rolling. And, always there’s a sprinkling of me in every character. Even Devorah’s little dog Mary Magdalene. Being able to free my mind of all constraints and delve into the world of the story is so difficult at times as well as rewarding. I daresay casting will be a whole lot easier.
Visit Marion McNabb's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Elise Juska's "Reunion"

Elise Juska’s new novel, Reunion, was named one of People Magazine’s “Best Books to Read in May 2024.” Her previous novels include The Blessings, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and If We Had Known. Juska’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri ReviewPloughshares, The Hudson Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize from Ploughshares, and her short fiction has been cited by The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Here Juska dreamcasts an adaptation of Reunion:
The main characters in Reunion are three college friends—Polly, Adam, and Hope—who are emerging from the pandemic and returning to their twenty-fifth reunion. They’re bringing with them not only mixed feelings about their college years but concern about their children, particularly Polly’s teenage son Jonah, who’s traveling with her to Maine.

When working on my previous novels I never had actors in mind, but strangely enough, for this one, from the beginning I pictured Polly as Catherine Keener. I am a huge fan of her performances as witty, slightly acerbic, vulnerable women in indie films like Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking and Please Give.

Adam is youthful-looking and young at heart—naturally my mind goes to Paul Rudd. Not only is Rudd seemingly age-defying, but I’ve been watching him since the nineties, in classics like Clueless, in which he looked how Adam might have in the novel’s flashbacks to his college years.

For Hope, upbeat and popular, the actor of my dreams is Reese Witherspoon. She’s so good at portraying women who are sunny on the surface and then gradually revealing their complicated, sometimes melancholic depths.

And for Jonah—sensitive, smart, pissed off at the state of the world—I’d fantasy-cast Dominic Sessa. He gave such an amazing, spiky, sympathetic performance as a high school student in the movie The Holdovers—another story in a campus setting, which is one of my favorite kinds.
Visit Elise Juska's website.

The Page 69 Test: Reunion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Marjorie McCown's "Star Struck"

Marjorie McCown spent 27 years in Hollywood working on the costumes for movies such as Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Her film career provides the inspiration for her Hollywood Mystery series of books that are set behind the scenes in the world of moviemaking and feature key costumer Joey Jessop as the main character. Her cozy murder mystery, Final Cut (2023) was chosen as an Amazon Editors' Pick in the best Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense category. Deadly Pleasures Magazine named Final Cut as one of the best cozy mysteries of 2023. Her new novel, Star Struck, is Book #2 in her Hollywood Mystery series. McCown is a member of Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Authors of America.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Star Struck.
Movie costumer Joey Jessop is working on a film with two of the biggest box office stars in the world. The leading man, Andrew DeRossi, is not only a serious actor but also a philanthropist and climate change warrior -- while his costar, Gillian Best, is an aging beauty who pours most of her time and energy into becoming the next celebrity entrepreneur with her start-up lifestyle brand.

When a fatal traffic accident happens within sight of the movie's shooting location in downtown Los Angeles, Joey realizes the car involved belongs to Gillian, and she starts to wonder if the star is hiding something. Gillian's strange behavior in the wake of the tragedy only deepens Joey's suspicions. When the authorities show no interest in further investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident, Joey is faced with a choice: she can either maintain her professional detachment from the swirling orbits of the movie stars she works with and turn a blind eye to Gillian's scheming -- or she must launch her own search for the truth.

I have lots of ideas for casting the movie version of my book! Since I spent most of my career working as a costume designer and costumer for feature films, it's almost second nature for me to think about casting the characters.

I think Jennifer Lawrence would be perfect to play Joey. She projects an understated aura of personal confidence and competence that feels authentic on screen. And she has an easy intelligence about her along with a sense of humor that she just naturally brings to all her characters.

For Gillian Best, I think Gillian Anderson would be a wonderful choice, though I didn't select my character's name with her in mind when I began to write. But Ms. Anderson is the right age and she's still a great beauty. She's also a gifted actress with a grace and elegance about her that would allow her to portray the kind of entitled hauteur that is part of Gillian Best's persona without having it come across as caricature.

For Dan Lomax, Gillian Best's shrewd, attractive, and ambitious personal manager, I'd love to cast Ben Mendelsohn, who can play anything. He's a brilliant actor whose performances are always layered and nuanced; his characters are complete people.

For Andrew DeRossi, though the part is small, it is still pivotal to the success of the story. I think Ryan Gosling would be superb. He has a mischievous charm that he brings to every role, and he's also got that "it" quality -- he looks like a movie star.
Visit Marjorie McCown's website.

Q&A with Marjorie McCown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Nolan Chase's "A Lonesome Place for Dying"

Nolan Chase lives and works in the Pacific Northwest.

A Lonesome Place for Dying is his first book featuring Ethan Brand.

Here Chase shares some ideas for the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of the novel:
Clint Eastwood is my favorite director—no other American filmmaker better embodies what Keats called ‘negative capability;’ in films like Bird, Mystic River, Honkytonk Man, The Bridges of Madison Country, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Unforgiven of course, he’s able to tell stories about complex personalities without putting his hand on the scale. He’d direct the hell out of A Lonesome Place for Dying.

As for Ethan Brand, the small-town chief of police and former Marine, a younger Clint might be great—or Scott Eastwood, who was very good in a film called The Outpost—but Jon Bernthal would be my pick. He brings depth to his roles, yet there’s part of him at remove from the world, watching it. Ethan is heroic at times, vulnerable at others, and something of a damaged romantic. I think Bernthal can portray the same qualities.

For Brenda Lee Page, the department’s senior officer and Ethan’s very literal-minded rival for the top job, Vera Farmiga or Indira Varma would be great.
Visit Nolan Chase's website.

Writers Read: Nolan Chase.

The Page 69 Test: A Lonesome Place for Dying.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2024

Peter Colt's "The Judge"

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England city and the married father of two boys.

Here Colt dreamcasts an adaptation of his new Andy Roark mystery, The Judge:
In the winter of 1986 Boston based Private Eye, Andy Roark is hired by Judge Ambrose Messer because he is being blackmailed by people who want him to throw case in which industrial waste has poisoned a community. The Judge is paying for a romantic indiscretion and hires Roark to handle it. Roark’s case brings him into contact with Messer’s beautiful and loyal clerk, Angela Estrella, Detective Sergeant Billy Devaney, and Criminal Defense Attorney Johny O’Day.

The Andy Roark that I envision is a guy with life experience, and a weathered look. He’s tough, he’s got skills, but he’s not built like something out of the MCU. I think that Scoot McNairy (Narcos Mexico, Speak No Evil, Killing Them Softly) embodies all of that. McNairy has delivered solid performances and brings an honesty to his roles that allow them to transcend the tropes of their respective genres.

Ambrose Messer, who is the pivotal character in the book, is in his sixties, well to do, and a man with a secret. I would want an actor who can portray the turmoil created by trying to do the noble thing and also realize that his indiscretion can potentially harm the people who are counting on him. I see Ed Harris as being the perfect actor to convey the emotional range of a fundamentally decent man, who is grappling with the fact that his choices might harm the very people he is sworn to defend or at the very least will destroy him.

Angella Estrella is Messer’s fiercely loyal and protective clerk. She is the go between for the Judge and Andy Roark. She is also Roark’s romantic interest in the novel. Angella has a similar upbringing and blue-collar background to Roark and is almost as tough. I would love to see the criminally under-utilized America Ferrera play the part of Angella. She has the acting chops to portray Angella’s toughness, brains and of course beauty.

Detective Sergeant Billy Devaney is a frenemy of Andy’s from the “old neighborhood” South Boston, “Southie”. Billy is objectionable and bigoted, but he is loyal to Andy in his own, crass way. Bill Burr is the only actor who could pull off both sides of the character and still seem likeable.

Johnny O’Day is a criminal defense attorney and not a very good one at that. But he hustles and scrapes and someone ends up in the middle of things. If he can’t make it on brains or looks then he’ll bend a few rules to get buy. I would love to see James Franco play the part. Franco’s range and likeability could best convey the part of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out.
Visit Peter Colt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Back Bay Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Back Bay Blues.

Q&A with Peter Colt.

The Page 69 Test: Death at Fort Devens.

My Book, The Movie: Death at Fort Devens.

My Book, The Movie: The Ambassador.

The Page 69 Test: The Ambassador.

The Page 69 Test: The Judge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Jeff Zentner's "Colton Gentry's Third Act"

Jeff Zentner is the author of New York Times Notable Books The Serpent King and In the Wild Light, as well as Goodbye Days and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. Among other honors, he has won the ALA’s William C. Morris Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award twice, the Muriel Becker Award, and the International Literacy Association Award, been long-listed twice for the Carnegie Medal, and been a two-time Southern Book Prize finalist. Before becoming a writer, he was a musician who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. He lives in Nashville.

Here Zentner dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Colton Gentry's Third Act:
Colton Gentry’s Third Act is the story of Colton Gentry, a country musician approaching middle age and for whom some things are going very well. He has a hit song climbing the country music charts and he’s married to Maisy Martin, one of country’s hottest acts who’s preparing to make the jump to pop music. But other things are not so good in his life. He recently lost his best friend in a mass shooting at a country music festival. His wife has been in the tabloids with rumors of infidelity. And he’s always sought comfort from heartache in the bottle. So one night, he takes the stage, drunk, before an arena ground, and offers up his opinion on guns. And it goes over...poorly. His career and marriage implode and he moves back home to his small town in Kentucky, where he begins his third act in life, part of which involves taking on a new vocation and reconnecting with a high school flame.

I love book to movie adaptations and the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People was one of the inspirations for Colton Gentry’s Third Act. So, if I were able to pick a director to adapt it, I’d want Lennie Abrahamson and Hettie MacDonald, who did that adaptation. I’d also be a big fan of Ray McKinnon, who did Rectify, which was another one of the inspirations for Colton.

As for who to play the leads? I’d love to see Rachel Brosnahan playing older Luann (the story has two timelines⏤high school and present day). I think she’d bring steel, wit, and intelligence to the part. I could see her giving orders in the kitchen (she runs a restaurant). As for older Colton? I’d love to see Brandon Sklenar, whom I saw and loved in 1923. He has this soulful intensity that I really enjoy and a great, charismatic, onscreen presence. I could see him playing a haunted country music star trying to rebuild his life. He doesn’t play much humor on 1923, but I could see him nailing Colton’s sense of humor. And I think he’d play great opposite Brosnahan. My second choice for Colton would be Garrett Hedlund, who’s already done a fantastic job playing country musicians in the past.

As for young Colton and young Luann? I’m afraid I don’t know young actors well. But I know this: I love to see some unknown absolutely crush it in a first big role. I still remember picking my jaw up off the floor after seeing Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. So my official vote is to get talented unknown young actors who look vaguely like Rachel Brosnahan and Brandon Sklenar and turn them into stars. Ditto Luann’s eight-year-old twin girls.

As for Colton’s best friend, Derrick Giles? He’s way too big for a supporting role like this, but Michael B. Jordan would be excellent. And Zöe Kravitz would be phenomenal as his wife, Gabrielle. Again, for teenage Derrick, get some talented unknown.

I think Laura Dern would be really fun as Colton’s mom.

Finally, for Colton’s friend Duane, what we really need is Owen Wilson. But Owen is about twenty years too old for the part, so we need someone with Owen Wilson’s look and, more importantly, his energy. Far easier said than done, I know.

But you know what, Hollywood? I just want to see Colton Gentry’s Third Act onscreen. So I’m open to negotiation on all of this.
Visit Jeff Zentner's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Serpent King.

The Page 69 Test: The Serpent King.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

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.
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--Marshal Zeringue