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

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Sami Ellis's "Dead Girls Walking"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Joanna Goodman's "The Inheritance"

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: The Inheritance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Rachel Lyon's "Fruit of the Dead"

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Self-Portrait with Boy.

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

The Page 69 Test: Fruit of the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2024

Laura McNeal's "The Swan's Nest"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee with a Canine: Laura McNeal & Link.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Melanie Maure's "Sisters of Belfast"

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Sisters of Belfast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Claire Coughlan's "Where They Lie"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Where They Lie.

Q&A with Claire Coughlan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Wendy Church's "Knife Skills"

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

Q&A with Wendy Church.

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

The Page 69 Test: Murder Beyond the Pale.

The Page 69 Test: Knife Skills.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Angela Crook's "Hurt Mountain"

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

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

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

Zendaya would make for a perfect Olivia.

Chad Michael Murray would be a great Brandon Hall.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tammy Greenwood's "The Still Point"

Tammy Greenwood is the acclaimed author of fifteen novels and a four-time winner of the San Diego Book Award. Six of her novels have been Indie Next Picks, including her most recent, The Still Point, an “intimate journey into the exclusive world of ballet” (Mary Kubica) inspired by her own experiences as the mother of a professional dancer. Revolving around the cutthroat hothouse of a California dance school, it is both a love letter to the world of ballet and a challenge to its toxic hierarchies, intense competition, and dark drive towards perfection that pushes girls – and their families – to their physical and emotional extremes. Greenwood and her family split their time between Vermont and San Diego, where she teaches creative writing for The Writer's Center and San Diego Writers, Ink.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Still Point:
The Still Point, of all my novels, feels the best-suited to a TV series. It follows the lives of three pre-professional ballet dancers and their ambitious mothers over the course of a Nutcracker season, when a visiting instructor, a ballet bad-boy from Paris, comes to direct the production and select one student to return to Paris with him for a scholarship to his company’s academy.

Ever: Carey Mulligan

Mulligan is a little young to play Ever, who is in her forties, but after watching her performance in Maestro, I absolutely believe she could rise to the challenge. Ever is a California native who was raised by hippie parents and now lives in an inherited run-down bungalow on the beach. She is a writer and a grieving mother whose daughter, Bea, is in desperate need of the scholarship.

Lindsay: Amy Adams

I adore Amy Adams, and I love envisioning her tackling the role of Lindsay. Besides having the requisite red hair, I feel like her bubbliness and sense of humor would bring Lindsay to life. Lindsay is a woman whose marriage is crumbling, whose dreams for her daughter are slipping away, and who is on the precipice of both the next decade of her life and major changes. But she’s aso funny and a fiercely loyal friend to Ever. Of course, if Amy Adams is tied up, I think that Melanie Lynskey would also be wonderful.

Josie: Margot Robbie

From everyone’s favorite, Barbie, to a vicious, ambitious, backstabbing stage mom! I think Robbie would delight as Josie, a woman who unapologetically uses men to get what she wants while remaining fiercely independent. Mother to Savvy, she will not stop at anything to get what she believes she and her daughter deserve.

Etienne: Paul Mescal

This is a hard one, but I love Paul Mescal and feel like he’s a brilliant enough actor to tackle the role of the mis-behaving French ballet master who toys with both the girls and their mothers. If he’s too busy, let’s try Jeremy Allen White?

Vivienne: Kristin Scott Thomas

I think Thomas would be perfect to play the matriarch of the ballet conservatory’s family - elegant with an edge.

The Dancers:

There are three main dancers in this story: Bea, Olive, and Savvy. And while there are actresses who could certainly play these girls, I love the idea of using actual dancers to play these parts. There is no shortage of gifted dancers who can also act.
Visit T. Greenwood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rust and Stardust.

The Page 69 Test: Rust and Stardust.

The Page 69 Test: Keeping Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Keeping Lucy.

Q&A with T. Greenwood.

The Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2024

Valerie Martin's "Mrs. Gulliver"

Valerie Martin is the author of twelve novels, including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property, four collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Her novel Mary Reilly was awarded the Kafka prize, shortlisted for the Prix Femina (France), and made into a motion picture directed by Stephen Frears and starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovitch. Property won Britain's Orange Prize (now called the Women's Prize) in 2003.

Here Martin dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Mrs. Gulliver:
My novel, Mrs. Gulliver takes place largely in a brothel on a tropical island. The characters are lively, and the plot is a bit wacky. It’s a reworking of Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet as a beautiful, blind prostitute. Unlike the original, it has a happy ending.

For the director of the major motion picture, I’d want someone who would be a bit playful with my novel. I’ve long been a fan of Todd Haynes (I’m gratified that everyone is crazy about him this year). My novel takes place in the 50’s, and I know he has a strong sense of this period. He would explore the irony of my heroine’s plight and pay attention to the dark undertones of the tropical island’s un-paradisical political arrangements, such as the thriving drug trade, murders, and routine exploitation of women. The world of his film would be morally complex and a little sad.

But when I imagine a film that has the goofy wit and fast paced, occasionally nonsensical plot of my novel, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice that comes to mind. He would play Mrs. Gulliver for laughs, cool and relentless. No judgements required.

As I write this, I realize how different these two directors are, and how the films they made based on my novel would hardly resemble each other. So, I conclude, the best thing would be for each to make a film at the same time and release them as a package. Mrs. Gulliver and Mrs. Gulliver. Simultaneous screenings coming soon to a theater near you.
Visit Valerie Martin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Gulliver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Suzanne Berne's "The Blue Window"

Suzanne Berne is the author of the novels The Dogs of Littlefield, The Ghost at the Table, A Perfect Arrangement, and A Crime in the Neighborhood, winner of Great Britain’s Orange Prize.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Blue Window:
What’s most cinematic in The Blue Window is the physical setting: the contrast between a small shadowy cabin, inhabited by a reclusive, emotionally inaccessible old woman, and the wide open, shining expanse of Lake Champlain right outside her windows. So much darkness inside, all that marvelous possibility outside. How to get from one to the other? In many ways, that view tells the whole story.

Judi Dench would be my choice to play Marika, the elderly woman. She’s an actress who knows how to give an impassive stare (Queen Victoria!), and at the same time communicate turbulence behind that stare. Very closed people can seem intimidating, and Dench is wonderful at portraying “toughness,” while hinting at great loneliness.

I’d love to see Laura Linney play Marika’s daughter, Lorna, the therapist who comes to visit for a few days. Linney is remarkably good at conveying awkwardness and insecurity, but a determination to try to behave well, even when behaving well seems next to impossible. For much of the novel, Lorna tries every way she can think of to reach her implacable mother and her unhappy son, who join forces against her, and mostly she’s thwarted. It’s crushing. What kind of therapist can’t get her own mother and son to tell her what’s wrong with them? But Lorna’s frustration and growing resentment is balanced by her dogged sense of sympathy with these two difficult people, who happen to be all the family she has in the world.

As for Adam, the 19-year-old, who has decided to quit using the first person to erase himself after something he did at college, I’d want Dominic Sessa. He was terrific in The Holdovers as a character who is outrageously stricken, angry, and full of self-loathing, but who maintains a funny kind of nobility. That’s how I see Adam. He’s his own worst enemy, but he’s also very smart, and sensitive; he sees other people with surprising clarity. And in his own problematic way, he’s trying to be honorable. He disgraced himself and he wants to atone for it. Unfortunately, he winds up making everyone else atone along with him.

Those are the novel’s main characters, but there’s one more I’d love to cast: Marika’s shy, ungainly, survivalist neighbor, Dennis, who comes over to her cabin for what may be the world’s worst dinner party. Chris Cooper would be the perfect actor to portray Dennis’s painful discomfort with himself and just about everyone else, and yet also his kindness.
Visit Suzanne Berne's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blue Window.

Q&A with Suzanne Berne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 19, 2024

Lisa Black's "The Deepest Kill"

Lisa Black is the New York Times bestselling author of the Gardiner and Renner Novels and the Locard Institute Thrillers featuring Dr. Ellie Carr and Dr. Rachael Davies. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and certified crime analyst for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the International Association for Identification, and the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and has testified in court as an expert witness over 65 times. Her books have been translated into six languages and she was named finalist for the prestigious Sue Grafton Memorial Award for Perish.

Here Black dreamcasts the latest Locard Institute thriller, The Deepest Kill:
This story is, basically, the Laci Petersen murder if Laci Petersen’s dad was Bill Gates. Software pioneer Martin Post, the third richest man in America, has summoned expert forensic analysts Ellie Carr and Rachael Davies of the renowned Locard Institute. He believes his daughter's recent death was no accident. Was it a kidnapping gone wrong? Could their new defense initiative for the US military have played a part in her death? Martin believes his charmer son-in-law Greg is behind the murder, drawing Ellie and Rachael into the Posts’ increasingly dangerous family dynamic.

My casting of the main characters has not changed since the previous What Harms You.

Former pathologist Dr. Rachael Davies is thirty-eight, divorced, and raising her late sister’s toddler son. She’s given ten years of her life to build the Locard into what it is loves what it has become. My choice for her part would be Gabrielle Union—older than the role but looks too young for it, and way more beautiful than one would expect a scientist to be. But I think she’d be perfect for the intriguing and brilliant Rachael.

Ellie Carr, also a doctor (of forensics), left the FBI to follow her passion for CSI work. This is her first ‘private client’ case with the Locard and she wants to make good—plus, they’re in Naples, Florida where she lived for a while. Casting her is a tough choice…smart and beautiful, but emotionally a bit clueless, lighthearted without being fluffy. I would love Tatiana Maslany.

As for my FBI agents, Michael Tyler would ideally be filled by the man I’ve pictured every time I’ve turned him into a character for the past thirty years: Michael Ironside. We’d have to turn the clock back thirty years to make him right for the role, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. And as long as I’m reaching for the stars, I’d love John Leguizamo for agent Luis Alvarez. He has the right combination of strength and humor needed to balance Michael’s seriousness.

Martin Post is a bit nerdy, a bit strange, and a bit scary. Maybe Michael Imperioli, now that he’s gray. But Michael Shannon would fit the bill. He’s always a little intense and scary.

His quiet but stunning wife Dani needs a cool blond along the lines of Rosamund Pike, but Rosamund Pike would never bother with such a small role. Ditto Christina Applegate.

Greg could be played by any terribly handsome young man, but I picture someone like Ian Somerhalder, with that impish face…his smile could be cute and mischievous or callous and terrifying, and you’d never be quite sure which.

In The Deepest Kill, the over-the-top wealth of the Post family would combine with the setting on the banks of the Gulf of Mexico and make one non-stop thrill ride of tension.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

My Book, The Movie: Unpunished.

My Book, The Movie: Perish.

My Book, The Movie: What Harms You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2024

Eric Schlich's "Eli Harpo's Adventure to the Afterlife"

Eric Schlich is the author of the story collection Quantum Convention, winner of the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize and the 2020 GLCA New Writers Award.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Eli Harpo's Adventure to the Afterlife, his debut novel:
For Young Eli, I’d cast Jack Gore, who played Timmy Cleary in the ABC sitcom The Kids Are Alright, about an Irish Catholic family with eight sons. Eli’s a freckly redhead, so Gore fits the part. He’d have to play Eli a bit more subdued though. Timmy’s a more mischievous character than the shy, introspective Eli. Gore might also be slightly too old to play Eli, who is 13 going on 14 for most of the book (Gore is 18 or older now). A time machine might have to be involved.

For College Eli, I’d cast Lucas Hedges (age 27). I like the way this would connect the movie to the film adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased, about surviving gay conversion therapy. Hedges played a fictionalized version of Conley. Kit Connor, who plays Nick Nelson in Netflix’s Heartstopper, would also be a good choice, if he can do a Southern American accent.

For Middle-Aged Eli, I’d cast Jesse Tyler Ferguson (age 48), best known for his role as Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family. Ferguson might also be a bit too old, but we could age up the middle-aged Eli from mid-thirties to early forties.

I will throw out the caveat that Eli has weight issues in the book (especially as a teenager), so these actors might all be too skinny and have to put on a few pounds.

For Simon Harpo, Eli’s father, I’d be tempted to cast Greg Kinnear. Almost as a joke. Because I love him as the father in Little Miss Sunshine, my favorite family road trip movie of all time. But also because he plays the father in the adaptation of Heaven is for Real, the most famous example of a Heaven tourism book—the Christian genre the novel mocks. Then again, at 60, Kinnear is also likely too old to play Simon, who’s in his 40s.

For Debbie Harpo, Eli’s mother, it’d be fun to cast Christina Hendricks (48), of Mad Men fame, who is about the right age, body type, and hair color, but she’d definitely have to be glammed down. She’d also have to shave her head, since Debbie has cancer for most of the book and is bald from chemo.

For Jake, Eli’s younger brother, I’d cast Iain Armitage, the star of Young Sheldon. Jake is only 6 and Iain is 15, but we’d make it work.

For Abe, Eli’s older brother, I’d cast Montana Jordan (20), the older brother Georgie Cooper on Young Sheldon.

I’m obsessed with the Fellow Travelers miniseries right now, so for the last two main roles I’ll cast Matt Bomer as Charlie Gideon, the famous televangelist who recruits the Harpo family into a scheme to open a Heaven attraction at his Biblical theme park, and Jonathan Bailey as Eli’s future husband, Will. I think Bomer would get a kick out of playing the homophobic televangelist cowboy villain, but he’d have to nail the Texan accent.

Then again, these are all famous to semi-famous actors, so maybe it’d be better to cast a bunch of nobodies or rising stars, so they can really inhabit the characters without the baggage of their past roles.
Visit Eric Schlich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Eli Harpo's Adventure to the Afterlife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2024

M. A. McLaughlin's "The Lost Dresses of Italy"

M.A. McLaughlin is the award-winning author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire's Last Secret, A Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century Italy. Her novels have been published by Severn House (U.K. and U.S.) and Thomas Schluck (Germany), earning starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, as well as a gold medal for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association's Literary Palm Award. Her work has been featured internationally in blogs, journals, and websites.

Here McLaughlin dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Lost Dresses of Italy:
The theme of my novel, The Lost Dresses of Italy, is the “hidden woman,” which I think would translate well to a contemporary film; however, there are dual narrators, which can be challenging for a screen adaptation. The two women who harbor secrets are separated by a century, each one with her own compelling story: grieving widow, Marianne Baxter, who has traveled to post-WWII Verona, Italy, to assist with an exhibit of long-lost dresses; and Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti, who owned the garments and left them behind in a sealed-up trunk after an ill-fated love affair. Two women. Two losses. But how to portray them both on the big screen?

Begin with Verona.

The “Painted City” of Romeo and Juliet combines both beauty and tragedy, light and shadow, hope and despair. It is the setting of both narratives, but framing the film with Marianne’s story in 1947, as Italy is recovering from the devastation of war sets the tone and mood of the central mystery of my novel. The re-building is moving forward, but lingering effects of families being torn apart by their wartime allegiances are just under the surface—in the manner of a Visconti film, the great Italian director who created sweeping cinematic portraits around Italy’s complex role in WWII. Marianne’s quest to find out what happened to Rossetti will create the main plotline and, as she examines each of the three dresses, a flashback will occur, exploring exactly what happened to Rossetti when she wore that particular garment on her trip to Italy. Each garment contains a clue that draws Marianne deeper and deeper into a century-old conspiracy, triggering a string of violent events. Eventually, both narratives will come together at a cliffside sanctuary, resolving the murder and betrayal from the past in a satisfying, though bittersweet ending.

Since Marianne would be the protagonist in the film, this character requires an actor with the kind of depth and power that Natalie Portman has displayed in her many films, especially The Black Swan and Jackie. Most notably, in the latter film, she portrays an actual historical figure, Jackie Kennedy, at a pivotal point in her life, days after her husband, President John Kennedy, was assassinated. Sad, grieving, and fearful of the future. Portman conveys all of these emotions in every gesture and facial expression, often with only internal dialogue. Similarly, Marianne is a widow who still misses her husband and is doubtful that she will ever be able to love again. Portman is delicate in appearance, but possesses an inner strength and resilience—both qualities that would make her a perfect choice Marianne.

To complement Portman’s Marianne, I projected Italian actor, Luca Argentero, for Alessandro, her love interest. Handsome yet slightly weathered, Argentero took on the role of Andrea Fanti in a very popular television series in Italy, Doc - Nelle tue mani, which aired during the country’s traumatic Covid lockdown. His character in the program embodies the spirit of sacrifice and compassion, a man who is both strong and empathetic—just like Alessandro who is the moral center of my novel. Still emotionally wounded from the war, Alessandro often appears abrupt outwardly but, inwardly, he is fiercely loyal to his younger brother. Like Fanti’s character of Doc, he is businesslike in his professional life but warm and caring in his personal devotion to those he loves, including Marianne. Argentero embodies this dichotomy in his many acting roles.

Lastly, I wanted to propose another Italian actor, Matilda De Angelis, to portray the poet, Christina Rossetti who, though born in England, was the daughter of an Italian revolutionary. De Angelis has a nineteenth-century sort of look with long, wavy hair and a heart-shaped face; in addition, her performance in Robbing Mussolini, shows the kind of range to inhabit this role. She depicts a woman who is passionate and artistic (she is a singer) but also caught up in larger historical events beyond her control, much like Rossetti. De Angelis would make Rossetti come alive in the flashback scenes.

With such amazing actors, my movie version of The Lost Dresses of Italy would be a sure hit!
Visit M. A. McLaughlin - Marty Ambrose's website.

My Book, The Movie: Forever Past.

The Page 69 Test: Forever Past.

Q&A with Marty Ambrose.

Writers Read: M. A. McLaughlin.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Dresses of Italy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Chris Cander's "The Young of Other Animals"

Chris Cander is the USA Today bestselling author of A Gracious Neighbor, The Weight of a Piano, which was named an Indie Next Great Read in both hardcover and paperback and which the New York Times called, “immense, intense and imaginative,” Whisper Hollow, also named an Indie Next Great Read, and 11 Stories, named by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2013 and winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards for fiction. She also wrote the children’s picture book The Word Burglar, and the Audible Originals “Eddies” and “Grieving Conversations.” Cander’s fiction has been published in twelve languages. She lives in her native Houston with her husband and two children.

Here Cander dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Young of Other Animals:
Writing The Young of Other Animals was a visceral experience, beyond just recreating the memory of a physical attack; it was as though I was sitting at Mayree’s kitchen table, observing her and the other characters from a ghostly vantage. I could smell her unfiltered Camel cigarettes and hear the low cheer of The Price Is Right audience coming from the TV in the other room. If I’d stood up, I might’ve slipped on the King Ranch casserole she smashed on her tile floor or seen Paula sneaking in through the back door.

There are plenty of directors who could bring this story to life, but as a fan of Todd Haynes’s movies, I think he’d be my top choice. First, he does period pieces well. I’m thinking of the dual eras (1927 and 1977) in Wonderstruck and the 1950s setting in Carol. He tackles domestic disharmony (Safe) and restrictive societal norms (Far from Heaven) with both flair and understated elegance. I’d love to see his take on Mayree, and whether he’d agree with me that the actress Evangeline Lilly could embody Mayree’s tough-as-Texas forbearance and Sadie Sink, a Lone Star native, could portray Paula.
Visit Chris Cander's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Weight of a Piano.

The Page 69 Test: The Young of Other Animals.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 4, 2024

David Menconi's "Oh, Didn't They Ramble"

A recovering newspaper writer, David Menconi spent more than three decades covering the music industry. His first book was a novel, 2000’s Off The Record, a lurid roman a clef about a fictional one-hit wonder undone by wickedness, greed and drugs. But his most recent book tells a gentler tale from the record-business trenches, Oh, Didn’t They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music, tracing the history of the venerable folk/bluegrass label.

Here Menconi dreamcasts an adaptation of the new book:
You might not think the history of an independent folk and bluegrass label is the stuff of compelling big-screen drama. But the Rounder Records story in Oh, Didn’t They Ramble, is the rare exception.

Rounder founders Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin met in college in the 1960s, when they’d march in anti-war protests, hop freight trains and hitchhike to folk festivals. Their adventurous idealism carried over to the label they started in 1970 as an “anti-profit collective” dedicated to preserving American folk music.

That sense of mission served Rounder well as it grew into an operation distributing hundreds of other like-minded labels while releasing literally thousands of albums on the Rounder imprint. But it also created tension after the unexpected commercial success of George Thorogood, which inspired the employees to unionize -- a move the founders contested despite their philosophical leanings.

Rounder has had other improbable successes, most notably Alison Krauss’ multi-platinum superstardom. And yet the label’s bread, butter, heart and soul remains smaller-scale Rounder records by journeyman folk singers or banjo players whose albums might sell a few thousand or even a few hundred copies, primarily at festival merch tables.

While Rounder has always been about the music, its story’s main cast is the three founders, who turned out to have perfectly complementary skills for running a record company in the late 20th century. That, plus good ears and some lucky breaks, is why Rounder has prospered for so long.

So, who to cast?

Marian Leighton Levy – Sophisticated and well-read despite an impoverished upbringing in rural Maine, she had the title of “president” at Rounder because there weren’t any female record-company presidents in the 1970s. During the founders’ 40-year era, before Rounder's sale to Concord Music Group, Leighton Levy was the label’s spokesperson and public face – “the conscience of Rounder,” in Irwin’s estimation.

One could picture Emma Stone conveying her passionate enthusiasm for learning. But I would go with Florence Pugh, whose star shines brightly in a filmography including Oppenheimer and A Good Person. Among young actresses, her ability to disappear into a role is unmatched.

Ken Irwin – Irwin was Rounder’s industrious worker bee, the founder who put the most time and energy into A&R (“Artists & Repertoire,” basically talent-scouting). He was the one who noticed the needle of Alison Krauss’ voice in a haystack of cassette demo tapes, signing her at age 14 and launching an odyssey that includes 27 Grammy Awards in addition to millions of records sold. Amazingly, a decade after selling Rounder to Concord, the original founders launched a new label, Down The Road Records. At age 80, Irwin is the driving force in making it go.

A younger Paul Giamatti would be perfect for evoking his obsessive questing. But a better choice might be Barry Keoghan, an Irish actor whose 2022 roles ranged from the villainous Joker in The Batman to the doomed romantic sidekick Dominic in The Banshees of Inisherin.

Bill Nowlin – As detailed in his 2021 memoir Vinyl Ventures, much of Nowlin’s work came behind the scenes. With his knack for facts, figures and business, Nowlin was the one who made the trains run on time and got the bills paid, even while traveling the globe and visiting more than 100 countries. Nowlin’s travels led to discoveries of various types of world music, and it was inevitable that Rounder would broaden into international styles through imprints like Heartbeat Records.

Nowlin is also a lifelong baseball fanatic. In his later years, he published more than 100 baseball books, and you’ll usually find him at Fenway Park when the Boston Red Sox are playing. I can imagine Ryan Gosling, who swings both serious and silly in everything from Barbie to Blade Runner 2049, capturing Nowlin’s soft-spoken, droll manner.
Visit the author’s blog.

My Book, The Movie: Ryan Adams: Losering.

The Page 99 Test: Oh, Didn't They Ramble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Jill Fordyce's "Belonging"

Jill Fordyce was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. She received a degree in English from the University of Southern California and a law degree from Santa Clara University. While practicing law, she continued to study writing through the Stanford Continuing Education creative writing program.

Here Fordyce dreamcasts an adaptation of Belonging, her debut novel:
I write in scenes and I love movies, so I have always imagined Belonging as a film. A little about the novel: Jenny Hayes is raised in a dreary, faithless home, so she paints her room the color of a tangerine, collects prayer cards, and surrounds herself with music. She has a self-reliance that both protects her and keeps her from the love and closeness she desires. As an adult, Jenny returns home to confront the wounds of her childhood: the mother who abused her in subtle ways; the father who allowed it; the boy she once loved; the landscape that is beautiful, barren, and stifling; the secrets kept for generations. Spanning three decades, Belonging is about first love and heartbreak, friendship and secrets, family and forgiveness, hometowns and coming of age, and memory and music. The heart of the story is Jenny’s struggle to undo the binds of a childhood that have deeply affected her life, the painful path to love endured by children raised in alcoholic families, and the grim reality of believing you must hide a part of yourself in order to belong.

My dream director for the film adaptation of Belonging would be Sofia Coppola. I loved her most recent film, Priscilla, for several reasons—all of which would be important to a film version of Belonging: a strong female perspective, a commitment to authentic depiction of the time period, a soft retro color palette, and an evocative and original soundtrack. Music is an integral part of Belonging, spanning years and genres, a way to bring the reader to a specific time and place, a nod to the Bakersfield Sound, and also, a window into Jenny’s lonely bedroom, where music insulates her from the chaos of her home. I listened to a lot of music while writing Belonging and created my own soundtrack along the way (Belonging: Soundtrack to the Novel is available on Spotify). I also feel like Sofia Coppola would also uniquely understand the material, having grown up in an Italian family in a part of rural California.

My dream cast would be Camila Morrone as Jenny, Timothée Chalamet as Henry, Hero Fiennes Tiffin as Billy, and Mark Ruffalo as Uncle Gino. Camila Morrone has a lovely understated, earthy, and earnest appeal, while also conveying a quiet strength, which I think would be perfect for Jenny. I have always seen Timothée Chalamet as Henry. Physically, he has the same beautiful eyes and tall, thin build. Emotionally, I think he would be able to bring out Henry’s whimsy and fun, and also his vulnerability—the depth of his pain and his secrets. Seeing Hero Fiennes Tiffin in First Love, I was reminded of Billy. He is strong and sweet, part teenage boy, part grown man. I have loved Mark Ruffalo since 13 Going on 30. He conveys such a gentleness, care, and warmth, which is the hallmark of Uncle Gino.
Visit Jill Fordyce's website.

The Page 69 Test: Belonging.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Sarahlyn Bruck's "Light of the Fire"

Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary, book club fiction and is the award-winning author of three novels: Light of the Fire (2024), Daytime Drama (2021), and Designer You (2018). When she’s not writing, Bruck moonlights as a full-time writing and literature professor at a local community college. She’s also a co-host of the pop culture podcast, Pretty Much Pop. From Northern California, she now lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Here Bruck dreamcasts an adaptation of Light of the Fire:
If they make Light of the Fire into a film, here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles of Beth, Ally, and Jordan.

Beth is a professional soccer player—a goal keeper. I envision her as tall and lanky, with far reaching arms, and long, light brown hair that’s almost always pulled into a ponytail. Originally, I envisioned actual soccer players for the two leads as I wrote the first draft. But the actress who could capture her athleticism, competitiveness, and independence would be someone like Mackenzie Davis. She’s tall, the right age, and she has something about her that could inhabit the character of Beth.

Ally used to play soccer, too. She’s smaller than Beth and has a classic soccer build with muscular legs and lean torso. In high school she wore her hair short and she’s never let it get too long. She had her daughters in her early twenties, dropped out of college and soccer, divorced her first husband, and now finds herself unexpectedly pregnant in her late 30s with her newish boyfriend, Noah. Over the years, Ally has worked her butt off and founded an all-girls soccer league in her hometown—something she’d wished she and Beth had been able to benefit from as kids but now can give to her own girls. She’s got a lot of literal and proverbial balls in the air, so someone I think can capture Ally’s energy is Anna Kendrick.

So Jordan. He’s a journalist, which means he’s curious and intelligent. And for the first time, he’s seeing his father in a new light—as someone who was possibly blamed and punished for something he didn’t do. Subsequently, Jordan, his mom, and sister suffered, too. In his mind, the least he could do now that his father’s health is on the decline is to try to clear his name and make up for not being the son his dad needed him in the last 20 years. The actor I could see in this role is Jesse Williams. Most people know him from Grey’s Anatomy, but I enjoyed his performance in the latest season of Only Murders in the Building. Williams brings both an academic intelligence as well as an emotional intelligence that I think serve Jordan really well as an investigative reporter and genuinely caring guy, who wants to do the right thing.
Visit Sarahlyn Bruck's website.

--Marshal Zeringue