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