Monday, February 28, 2011

Craig McDonald's "One True Sentence"

Craig McDonald is the Edgar®/Anthony nominated author of Head Games, Toros & Torsos, and Print the Legend.

Here he shares some ideas for cast, director, and music composer for an adaptation of his latest Hector Lassiter novel, One True Sentence:
There will come a time when George Lucas will deliver on his alleged promise (threat?) to cast movies using digitally resurrected, long dead actors. When that moment arrives, it would finally be feasible to cast the movie I see in my head when I think about One True Sentence, the fourth Hector Lassiter historical literary thriller — one peopled by pop culture titans who have left indelible images of themselves in readers’ heads.

The novel is set in 1924 Paris, but the characters who cross my pages left myriad photos — and even some grainy film footage — of themselves to posterity. We all know how Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and other City of Lights luminaries looked back then.

My series character, crime novelist and screenwriter Hector Lassiter, has always been personified by the actor William Holden for me. In fact, in several books, his resemblance to Holden is remarked on (in a still-to-be-published Lassiter novel, a key plot point revolves around a seventy-something Lassiter actually posing as Holden). So, in that George Lucas virtual world, Lassiter would be played by a young Holden. His love interest, the darkly enticing mystery writer, Brinke Devlin, would be portrayed by the silent-screen siren who largely inspired her, Louise Brooks.

But, for now (and to the possible chagrin of Mr. Lucas), we have to content ourselves to casting living actors. That being the case, for Texas-born Hector Lassiter I envision Texas-born actor Jensen Ackles, who has come into his own as the charming, charismatic and very gray character Dean Winchester on the cult-favorite television series Supernatural. Hector, too, is a charming, capable guy who can stray into some very dark behavior yet remain winning. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but Ackles can do it with aplomb.

For Hector’s sidekick, a still largely unknown Ernest Hemingway, I envision actor Timothy Olyphant. He’s got a the bearing, the attitude and intensity to bring off the young Hemingway, a man whom even those who despised him in the 1920s agreed had the kind of rare charisma that robbed rooms of oxygen when he entered them.

Hector’s first great love, Brinke Devlin is a bit trickier to pin down. As Louise Brooks is no longer available, I lean toward another actress who was nearly as often in my mind’s-eye as I wrote the novel, fellow Columbus, Ohio native Alana De La Garza, probably best known for her work on Law & Order. Brinke, a smalltown Ohio girl who is a couple of years older than Hector, worldlier and a longtime expatriate amidst the capitals of Europe, requires the kind of American yet exotic presence Ms. De La Garza embodies.

In a prior piece for this site regarding my third Lassiter novel, Print the Legend, I mentioned my love for the films of Alan Rudolph, particularly his movies Trouble in Mind and The Moderns. The latter is set in 1925 Paris and features many of the same historical figures who appear in One True Sentence. The Moderns left a profound mark on me as a moviegoer and certainly affected my own sense of 1920s Paris. (I even crept a few mentions of characters from The Moderns into Lassiter #2, the surrealist-art focused thriller Toros & Torsos).

If I was in the position to “Zanuck” this sucker, I’d have Alan Rudolph directing — pushing these gifted actors through the labyrinthine dark of the One True Sentence plot, all of it set against a soundtrack composed by Mark Isham.
Learn more about the author and his work at Craig McDonald's website and blog.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: One True Sentence, by Craig McDonald" at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: One True Sentence.

Writers Read: Craig McDonald.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thelma Adams's "Playdate"

Thelma Adams has been Us Weekly’s film critic since 2000, after six years reviewing at the New York Post. She has written for Marie Claire, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Self.

Here she shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Playdate:
Inspired by the upcoming Academy Awards, I’m casting my book from current Oscar nominees. Playdate began with a simple movie pitch: Shampoo meets Mr. Mom. Clearly, Warren Beatty and Michael Keaton have aged out of playing my stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) protagonist. And the book has grown well beyond its one-sentence premise, so that each character, male and female, child and adult, became their own ornery being.

Cast Lance, the SAHD, and the rest of the book falls into place. This modern, easy-going dad loves his daughter Belle, is trying to father another child with his distracted wife Darlene, and has Tantric sex with Wren, the wife of Darlene’s business partner Alec. See Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right as the charming sperm donor trying to wiggle his way in to his biological children’s nuclear family after a lifetime of casual sex, and there are the seeds of Lance.

What about Lance’s Tantric sex partner? At the New York Film Critics Circle Awards last month, I heard Michelle Williams tell a story on her friend Ruffalo, as she was presenting him with his best supporting actor award. She described going to visit him with her daughter Matilda, and how he scooped up child’s vomit from the backseat of a car – and it wasn’t even his child! I knew I found my Wren. There’s a glowy beauty to Williams, a passive quality, and a maturity born of being a mother and weathering tragedy. I’d love to see how she and Ruffalo fit together.

Lance’s wife Darlene is tougher. She was the toughest character in the book to write. I had to convey to readers why Lance might cheat, and still make him sympathetic. In so doing, Darlene suffered. She was too brittle at first; I hard to warm her back up. That took at least two revisions. If you see Amy Adams in the brilliant indie sisterhood movie Sunshine Cleaning, opposite Emily Blunt, you’d see Darlene, a mother and entrepreneur that’s hooked on a better future who only in the end understands the great gifts she has in the present.

Alec, the yuppie businessman, was always based on Alec Baldwin: “He was a tall, broad-shouldered Baby Boomer originally from Massapequa, Long Island, who knew how to fill a booth, the eldest brother in an Irish Catholic, Kennedy-worshipping family of boys and thus more used to leading than to being held accountable.” But Baldwin has done this role before; he got a Golden Globe but isn’t in the Oscar race. I believe Colin Firth could take this part and make him irresistibly smarmy, playing against Firth’s recent type as the nice guy, the wounded romantic lead.

To finish up, Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone could play the tattooed, trouble-making babysitter Julia, who catches Wren and Lance together and makes her own play for the SAHD. As for eleven-year-old Belle, the beauty at the center of the book, trying to make sense of the uneasy undercurrents in her home, it’s too early to cast her. Child actors age out so swiftly – at one time it could have been Anna Paquin, or Keisha Castle-Hughes. And, although True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld would have worked even three years ago, at 15, she’s already over the hill for this part.

One thing’s for sure: Playdate is ready for its close-up.
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kelli Stanley's "The Curse-Maker"

Kelli Stanley is the author of last year's acclaimed City of Dragons.

Her debut book, Nox Dormienda (2008), was a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award, and was a Macavity Award finalist.

Here she plays casting director for an adaptation of her new novel, The Curse-Maker, the sequel to Nox Dormienda:
I’d love to see my books made into film … what author (except maybe J.D. Salinger) wouldn’t?

For The Curse-Maker, I’d stick to the idea that Romans are voiced by Americans and native Britons by, of course, the British. This turns the mid-Atlantic accent tradition on its head, but is eminently more suitable for the voice of Roman noir.

Now then … who to play Arcturus?

If this were the Golden Age of Hollywood, no problem—I’d try to get William Holden at 35. He’s the epitome of tall, dark and classically handsome, but also sensitive and sarcastic—some of Arcturus’ prime characteristics.

We’re not in the Golden Age of Hollywood, however … and the only actors who can fit the bill—to my mind—aren’t American. If we follow the Holden prototype, Hugh Jackman would work. And I could be very happy with a blond Arcturus were Daniel Craig to step into his toga. Russell Crowe could play anything at any age and make me happy.

As for Gwyna … well, again, we’re looking at a cross between Grace Kelly and Lana Turner. She’s younger than Arcturus, smart, brave, and headstrong. Scarlett Johansson would bring good things to the role, but I’d prefer Naomi Watts about ten years ago. Intelligence and a kind of royal deportment are two of Gwyna’s strongest traits, and a younger Naomi could have captured both brilliantly.

Of the secondary characters, I’d cast Jennifer Connelly or Nicole Kidman as Sulpicia, Kevin Durand as Draco, George Clooney as Philo, Kathy Bates as Materna, and Mark Strong as Papirius … with Robert Downey, Jr. as Faro the Great.

It’s a fantasy, after all—so why not an all-star cast?
Read an excerpt from The Curse-Maker, and learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Nox Dormienda.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: The Curse-Maker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ellen Byerrum's "Shot Through Velvet"

Ellen Byerrum writes the Crime of Fashion mysteries, which are set in Washington DC, The City Fashion Forgot, and feature reporter Lacey Smithsonian. Shot Through Velvet, the just-published seventh book in the series, takes Lacey on assignment to a velvet factory in southern Virginia on its last day of operation.

Here Byerrum shares her experience with casting adaptations of the Crime of Fashion mysteries:
The dream cast for the movie? Ahhh. Contemplating the possibility of having our books made for the silver screen is something writers love to indulge in, if only in our daydreams. But I don’t think about movies much these days because first, I’m in the middle of writing my next mystery, and second, two of my Crime of Fashion Mysteries were already made into films, which aired during the summer of 2009 on the Lifetime Movie Network. Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover were also tossed into the schedule once last year, but I had no advance notice to alert people.

A dream cast? I had a great cast for the TV movies, including Maggie Lawson as my Washington DC reporter Lacey Smithsonian; and Victor Webster, who played her love interest Vic Donovan. Some people claimed he was too handsome to play Vic, which is preposterous. How could anyone be too handsome?

However, when I write, I don’t usually think about actors playing my characters. I have a pretty clear idea of who they are, what they look like, and how they respond. I don’t want to be limited by writing with a specific actor in mind. It’s too easy to get stuck on a particular actor’s range and personality—and limitations. I want my characters to be free to keep surprising me, and they do.

With one exception: Harlan Wiedemeyer, the “death & dismemberment beat” reporter in my books. Harlan features in my latest book Shot Through Velvet (just released!), when he and Lacey discover a dead body together. Harlan is short and chubby and adores doughnuts, and his grisly reporting beat, full of bizarre and deadly news stories. I would love to see him played by Wally Shawn, the actor and playwright. You might remember him as the teacher in Clueless, and he was a standout in such films as The Princess Bride and My Dinner With Andre. As Harlan Wiedemeyer, chubby crusader for truth and justice (and all the doughnuts he can eat), Wally Shawn would be comic perfection.
Visit Ellen Byerrum's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ellen Byerrum.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 19, 2011

T. J. Forrester's "Miracles, Inc."

T. J. Forrester has been a fisherman, a subsistence farmer, a bouncer, a window washer, and a miner. He is one of the few hikers in the world to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. He has written fiction since 2001, and his stories have appeared in numerous literary journals. Forrester also edits Five Star Literary Stories, an online site that brings the best fiction published on the web to a new audience for both reading and review.

Here he shares his choices for principal cast and director of an adaptation of his new novel, Miracles, Inc.:
I suspect Miracles, Inc. is too controversial for Hollywood, but if a director shows interest I hope it's Francis Ford Coppola. He is the founder of, the writing workshop where I honed the craft, and I'd like to meet him and personally thank him for his philanthropy. Hopefully he'll bring along some of his wine. The Coppola Claret is one of my favorites.

Jake Gyllenhaal, a terrific actor who doesn't shy from difficult roles, will make an excellent Vernon Oliver. Mr. Gyllenhaal brings sensitivity to the big screen, and I'd love to see how he couples that strength with the commanding presence required to pull off the main character. Plus, I think Mr. Gyllenhall will enjoy riding a Harley.

Of Juno fame, Ellen Page is one of my favorite movie stars. Rickie, Vernon's lover, has a tortured existence and is the perfect role to challenge this maturing actress. I have no doubt she is up to the task.

A powerful business woman who is haunted by a past indiscretion, elegant Miriam MacKenzie might be just the right character for Jodie Foster. I so enjoy her work.

Lastly, we need someone to play Alton Pierce, the character who lives on a secret island in the Everglades. When I think of Alton, Robert Duvall comes to mind. There's a western feel to Alton, a weathered personality that fits Mr. Duvall. (I loved Lonesome Dove, and I'd like to see this actor one more time with a cowboy hat on his head.)
Read Chapter 1 of Miracles, Inc., and learn more about the book and author at T.J. Forrester's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Miracles, Inc.

Writers Read: T.J. Forrester.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rachel Brady's "Dead Lift"

Rachel Brady is the author of the Emily Locke mysteries, Final Approach and Dead Lift.

Here she shares some ideas for casting a cinematic adaptation of Dead Lift:
If Dead Lift were developed into a film, I’d cast Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost) as the main character, Emily Locke. When I picture Emily in my mind, she’s a lot like Mitchell. Kim Catrell would be a shoe-in for Emily’s best friend, Jeannie. The role of Richard Cole, Emily’s private investigator boss, would go to Tom Selleck. He has the perfect look and all the right mannerisms. Her boyfriend Vince, would have to be played by a tall, dark, and sexy country music singer, but this is the actor I’ve been stumped on for days. Maybe your readers can help me out with that one. Sharon Stone would be a perfect Claire Gaston, the sexy fifty-something who is accused of murder in the book. And Claire’s nemesis, Diana King, would be Susan Sarandon, with a chip on her shoulder.
Learn more about the book and author at Rachel Brady's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Lift.

Writers Read: Rachel Brady.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 14, 2011

Matt Haig's "The Radleys"

Matt Haig is the author of The Labrador Pact, a UK bestseller narrated by a Labrador; The Dead Fathers Club, a widely acclaimed update of Hamlet featuring an eleven-year-old boy; and The Possession of Mr. Cave, a horror story about an overprotective father

Here he shares some thoughts on casting the big screen adaptation of his new novel, The Radleys:
This is interesting because I have actually written a screenplay of The Radleys, which is now in the hands of Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) who has acquired the rights. So, inevitably, I have thought and talked a little about how it could look on the big screen.

When I was writing it I kept on having images as to who should play the devilish, bloodthirsty uncle Will. I had the picture of a young Oliver Reed or even the Jack Nicholson of the early seventies (both impossible, of course). As to today's actors, I don't know... Robert Downey Jr? He'd be good at it. Someone with that gleam in their eye...

As to the others, well Rowan and Clara Radley would work best as unknown teen faces and their repressed mum could be played by anyone from Gwyneth to Julianne Moore. Never pictured who should play the Dad, Peter. American Beauty-era Kevin Spacey would have worked I suppose...
Read an excerpt, watch a video trailer, and learn more about the novel at the official The Radleys website. Visit Matt Haig at his official website.

The Page 69 Test: The Radleys.

Writers Read: Matt Haig.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 11, 2011

Trent Jamieson's "Death Most Definite"

Trent Jamieson lives in Brisbane, Australia. A multiple Aurealis Award winner for short fiction, he has taught short story writing at the Queensland University of Technology, and Clarion South Writer's Workshop. Death Most Definite, Book One of the Death Works Series, was published by Orbit Books in September 2010. Book Two, Managing Death, was released in January 2011, and Book Three, The Business of Death, is due for publication in September 2011. He has just sold a two book series of Steampunkish novels to Angry Robot Books, the first of which, Roil, is due for publication in September 2011.

Here he shares his preference for the director of an adaptation of Death Most Definite, as well as ideas for actors in some of the supporting roles:
It's so hard to cast Death Most Definite. I've been asked this question before, and even as a fantasy I have an awful lot of trouble imagining it.

But, when I try, I can't help but be parochial. The Australian accent is so hard to get right, it either gets played too broadly, or ends up sounding like a South African accent. I know, most people wouldn't notice, but it would bother me! And, anyway, there are so many great Australian actors and actresses.

For the principles - Steven de Selby and Lissa Jones, there are a good dozen or so people that could play them. And, maybe, I find it too hard to settle on just one.However, away from the leads it gets much easier. For Tim, Steven's cousin, I've always imagined a mate of mine, Lucas Stibbard, a Brisbane based stage actor with tremendous range.

Morrigan and Mr D are quite a bit older than the rest. I could imagine someone like Bryan Brown playing Morrigan. And Geoffrey Rush would make a very sinister Mr D: a character who is very theatrical.

As far as the director goes Duncan Jones would get me very excited. I loved Moon, and I think he could pull off the pace, and humour, as well as the dark longing that is at the heart of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Trent Jamieson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Managing Death.

Writers Read: Trent Jamieson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sofie Kelly's "Curiosity Thrilled the Cat"

Sofie Kelly is an author and mixed-media artist who lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores.

Here she explains her choice of actors for a television movie adaptation of her new novel, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat:
When I start a book, I do have an idea of what the characters look like, but not specific faces. I tend to think in terms of hair like the woman at the bagel place, or a tattoo like my dentist’s, as I imagine the characters.

But it is fun to “cast” a book with help from a couple of my friends, particularly J, who has probably seen every movie ever made. We’ve decided Curiosity Thrilled the Cat should be a TV movie, which leads to a TV series, because one of us grew up wanting to be a TV director. (Okay, that would be me.) So, with a little help from my friends, here’s the cast of Curiosity Thrilled the Cat.

Maura Tierney as Kathleen. Choosing Kathleen was the hardest pick. Tierney doesn’t physically match my vision of the character, but I think she could play Kathleen’s humor, as well as showcase her kindness and her intelligence.

Alex O’Loughlin as Marcus. It was suggested by someone who will remain un-named, that O’Loughlin is a tad…stiff as an actor. Since Marcus is a tad stiff as a character, I think it’s a good match. It has nothing whatsoever to do with how O’Loughlin looks without his shirt. We also like Skeet Ulrich, but he’s a bit older than I envision the character. (Sorry, Skeet.)

Judy Greer as Susan. She was the first person I thought of for the part and I think she’d be terrific.

Katee Sackoff as Maggie. Except for the hair, she’s physically close to Maggie and I think she could do the character justice.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out Rebecca, Kathleen’s backyard neighbor, and in the end we decided on Fionnula Flanagan. She looks a lot like my image of the character. And I think she’d play well opposite my choice for Everett Henderson, Rebecca’s old friend. Everett is the only character I did picture as a specific person—Sean Connery.

The character of vet, Roma Davidson, was another difficult person to cast and in the end we settled on Annette Bening. She looks nothing like my mental picture of Roma—for one thing I always saw the character as shorter—but I think she’d play Roma’s kindness and toughness well.

I have no particular preference for a director, but I would have one requirement for the producers before I’d sign anything: I want Matt Lauer to do a small cameo. In the book Maggie has a thing for Matt Lauer, who is a celebrity participant on Gotta Dance, a show very similar to Dancing With the Stars. I really want at least one scene where Matt is dancing on TV in the background. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a little crush on Matt Lauer.

Read an excerpt from Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, and learn more about the book and author at Sofie Kelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kevin Fenton's "Merit Badges"

Kevin Fenton lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota and works as an advertising writer and creative director. His fiction has appeared in the Northwest Review, the Laurel Review, and the Emprise Review. His writing on graphic design has been anthologized in Looking Closer 2 and Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue.

He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Here he shares his thinking on adapting his new novel Merit Badges for the big screen:
A screen writer has already started thinking about what the movie might look like, so I don’t want to prejudice his work. But I can say what movie inspired the book, even though the structure wound up spanning many more years: Barry Levinson’s Diner. That sense of showing a world formed by friendships, that oddly vital nostalgia, those great lines, the characters who were part boy, part man. My friends and I quote it over and over again. I wanted to make readers feel about Quint, Slow, Chimes and Barb the way I feel about Fenwick, Boogie, Shrevie, and Beth.
Learn more about the book and author at the Merit Badges website and Kevin Fenton's blog.

The Page 69 Test: Merit Badges.

Writers Read: Kevin Fenton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sharon Potts's "Someone’s Watching"

Sharon Potts worked as a CPA, business executive, and entrepreneur before turning to a career of murder and becoming a crime fiction writer. Potts’s Miami-based thrillers are about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Her debut novel, In Their Blood, won top honors in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Awards. Her latest thriller, Someone's Watching was called "shiver-rich" by Publishers Weekly, and “stunningly well-handled” by Booklist.

Following the success of In Their Blood, here is Potts’s unusual take on the casting of Someone’s Watching:
Alfred Hitchcock Returns

I: Mr. Hitchcock, we’re so pleased to have you back. It’s the scuttlebutt around town that you’re casting for your latest project, Sharon Potts’s thriller, Someone’s Watching.

AH: Good evening. Excuse my deadpan expression, but there are days I feel as though I’m returning from the dead.

I: Under the circumstances, you look remarkably well, Mr. Hitchcock.

AH: Thank you. And the rumors are indeed true. Someone’s Watching is an irresistible follow-up to my last success with Potts’s psychological suspense thriller, In Their Blood.

I: Is Someone Watching a sequel to In Their Blood?

AH: Not in the traditional sense. Both stories are set in a bi-polar Miami that’s both paradise and hell, and involve ordinary people trying to make sense of catastrophic events in their lives. Many of the characters are the same, including youthful hero Jeremy Stroeb, but this time his love interest, Robbie Ivy, a businesswoman-turned-bartender, takes center stage. When Robbie learns that her high-school-age half-sister has descended into the bowels of the decadent South Beach scene, Robbie is at first reluctant to get involved with this girl whose existence she hadn’t even known about. Then her sister’s friend is found dead and Robbie is drawn into searching for a cold-blooded killer in the hottest South Beach hotspots.

I: Is there something in particular that attracted you to Someone’s Watching?

AH: Indeed. Even in the far reaches of the cosmos where I reside, I keep myself informed. Publishers Weekly called Someone’s Watching “shiver-rich,” certainly a term I like to associate with my films. And Booklist wrote of Potts excelling in camouflaging plots twists. If that doesn’t bode well for a Hitchcock movie, then bury me.

I: Whom are you considering for the key roles in the film?

AH: Robbie is smart, determined and independent, but at the same time, wounded. Her eighteen-year-old half-sister Kate, who looks a lot like Robbie, is sweet and naïve, until she’s swept into the underworld of prostitution and becomes known as Angel. I’m considering Natalie Portman for both roles. Natalie is an extremely versatile actress who can pull on her youthful naivety from Where the Heart Is, then ratchet up the intensity, as she does so well in The Black Swan.

I: Any other names you can share with us?

AH: Coming from the hereafter (and before) as I do affords certain casting advantages. I am considering Tippi Hedren as she was in The Birds, for the role of Gina Fieldstone, the remote, scarred politician’s wife who befriends Robbie. And I can see Anthony Perkins, showing the complexity and ambiguity he displayed in Psycho, in the role of Puck, the lonely guy who frequents the bar where Robbie works.

I: Final words, Mr. Hitchcock?

AH: Nothing’s final where I come from. But I’m negotiating with The Devil to film several of the South Beach sequences down in his neck of the universe. The scenes, particularly those set in the club ‘Burn,’ get pretty hot.
Learn more about the book and author at Sharon Potts' website.

My Book, The Movie: In Their Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue