Friday, April 29, 2011

Steve Hockensmith's "Dreadfully Ever After"

Steve Hockensmith is the author of Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the best-selling prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He also writes the “Holmes on the Range” mystery series. He lives in Alameda, Calif., with a grown-up person, two non-grown-up people and a semi-grown-up dog.

Here he explains the prospects for a big-screen adaptation of his latest novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, and his choices for the cast:
Does anyone ask a kernel of corn if it wants to be ground up for tortillas, canned as a Niblet or puffed and powdered and dumped in a Count Chocula box? No. Because everyone knows the kernel of corn has no say in the matter.

Oh, and corn can’t talk. There’s that, as well. If you’ve been asking yourself why your popcorn’s so stand-offish every time you try to start a conversation, now you know why.

I think most people get this about authors, too. Not that we can’t talk! Good god, can we talk. Ever hang out in the bar at a writer’s conference? What a bunch of Chatty Cathys and/or Carls. Finally, we’re in the company of people who find writer’s block, e-book pricing and ourselves as fascinating as we do -- and the booze is tax deductible! The result: schmoozapalooza.

But back to the point at hand. (Yes, there is one.) Most people understand that writers have no say in what becomes of their creations once Hollywood takes them upstairs to show them its etchings. So talking about the cast or director or best boy that you, The Author, would prefer...? It’s not just pie in the sky, it’s usually pie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto.

My sky-pie is just a wee tad closer to Earth than usual, however, for this reason: I’ve written the sequel to a novel that might (or might not) be turned into a film very, very soon (or 35 years from now). I’m waffling on the timeline because the adaptation in question hasn’t had a smooth road to the screen. The road, in fact, seems to be mined. Here’s the deal.

My new book is Dreadfully Ever After. It’s the sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which has been in development as a feature film since shortly after the invention of celluloid. I think the first director attached to the project was Buster Keaton. Eventually, Flirting with Disaster/Three Kings auteur David O. Russell was brought in to write and direct, and Natalie Portman was set to produce and star. But then Russell left, and Portman left, and a replacement for Russell (Year of the Dog writer/director Mike White) came and went so quickly it felt like a weird dream afterward. (“And then a pony was driving a fire engine, and a giant dog ate the tires, and my mom got mad at the dog and chased it with a newspaper, and Mike White was hired to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the dog sat on a...hey, wait. Didn’t that Mike White thing really happen?”)

As I write this, word on the street has it that Craig Gillespie (director of Lars and the Real Girl and the upcoming Fright Night remake) is taking over the project. Could be. Sometimes the word on the street is something one really should pay heed to. Like when it’s STOP, for instance. The rest of the time one should just treat it like NO DUMPING. DRAINS TO BAY. (You ignore that one, too, don’t you? Please tell me it’s not just me. I mean, what else am I supposed to do with all the toxic sludge that’s left over after I’ve brewed up a batch of homemade anti-freeze?)

Any day now (meaning any day between today and the moment our sun goes supernova), it’ll be announced who’s going to play Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and Disemboweled Ball Guest #4 and so on in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie. And that’ll determine what actors I get when my novel’s brought to the screen three-ish years later. Assuming the first film’s a hit, of course. If it’s not, when/if my book gets filmed it’ll star refugees from WB dramas of the early ’00s and will premiere on Netflix Instant View.

So, to recap: My novel is actually closer to having a real, live cast than most books, even though “closer” means half a step forward on the high road to China. With that in mind (“that” being the utter futility of this whole thought experiment), I herewith offer my casting picks for Dreadfully Ever After: The Motion Picture.

Elizabeth Bennet: Betty White

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Samuel L. Jackson

Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Lady Gaga

Anne de Bourgh: Adam Lambert (Really. I think he’d nail it. And wouldn’t this whole thing be better as a musical anyway?)

The Dreadfuls: The Kardashians

Disemboweled Ball Guest #4: Me
Visit Steve Hockensmith's website.

Writers Read: Steve Hockensmith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Russel D. McLean's "The Lost Sister"

Russel D McLean writes for Crime Spree Magazine, The Big Thrill, At Central Booking and Crime Scene Scotland. His short fiction has been published in crime magazines in both the US and the UK.

His debut novel The Good Son was released in the UK in 2008 and the US a year later. His latest novel The Lost Sister is now out in the US.

Here he shares some ideas for casting adaptations of the novels:
Considering that both The Good Son and The Lost Sister have a recurring cast of characters, I've often thought more of a series of TV movies for the books, or maybe an adapted series. I'd love to keep things Scottish in location and cast, although this might present a few logistical problems for my ideal cast. Mostly that of convincing accents (let us not speak of Mel Gibson in Braveheart…)


J McNee - The “hero” of the books is a tough one to cast. I've always said I'd like to go unknown. But I would consider someone like Robert Carlyle, although ten or fifteen years ago. Some people have suggested both David Tennant and James McAvoy, but both seem too fresh faced for the part. Although perhaps this is to do with the roles I have seen them in. McNee is young, but I always feel he looks lived in. Which is why I would go out on a limb and consider someone like Paddy Considine. But on one condition: he'd have to be able to do a convincing Scottish accent.

David Burns - is a recurring thorn in the side for McNee. A former thug turned “businessman”, he's got interests in all the city's criminal activity. He's a Godfather figure, worked his way up from poor beginnings to where he is now. He's a conflicted character, and I love that about him. Although physically I don't describe him as such, I've always thought of Dundee's own Brian Cox in the part. I just feel there's something he could bring to the role that would own it. Watch his turn in Manhunter again and the way he plays Lector as a horrifically intelligent thug. Take away the extreme psychopathy, add thirty-odd years and I think we have the ideal David Burns.

Susan Bright - Susan's a tough part to cast. She's tough and yet provides emotional balance. She could run the risk of becoming a “love interest” when she's much more than that. She's a damn fine police officer. A decent human being with a strong sense of justice drummed into her through an upbringing in a family of coppers. Kelly McDonald has been on my mind lately when thinking about the part - she could tear up the screen as Officer Susan.

Ernie Bright - Really only appears in The Lost Sister and yet he's vital in so many ways. Susan's father is a DCI in the force, and he was McNee's mentor before our hero left the force. I have considered two actors I think would work well in the role. The safe bet is Bill Paterson, who I think could really nail the character, particularly his professional side. But my wild casting card is Robbie Coltrane, who I think might be able to bring a physicality and even a darker edge to the role. Having just rewatched Cracker, I think Coltrane could really do something special with Ernie's arc.
Learn more about The Lost Sister at Russel McLean's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Son.

Writers Read: Russel D. McLean.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mark Russinovich's "Zero Day"

Mark Russinovich works at Microsoft in the Windows Azure product team as a Technical Fellow, Microsoft’s senior-most technical position. He earned a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and he joined Microsoft when it acquired Winternals Software, which he co-founded in 1996. He is also author of the popular Sysinternals Windows administration and diagnostic tools. He is coauthor of the Microsoft Press Windows Internals book series, a contributing editor for TechNet Magazine, and a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro Magazine.

Here he shares some ideas for casting the leads in an adaptation of his new novel, Zero Day:
Most of my friends and family members who’ve read drafts of Zero Day told me they thought that it reads like a movie, so I’ve been involved in constant debates and discussions about who would play the leading roles. Based on the passionate arguments, you’d think that the cases made for various nominees were serving as actual input for casting decisions. I know that the chances of having a book made into a movie make the chances of having a book published in the first place seem like a sure thing, but it’s fun to pretend.

There are several main characters, but just deciding who would be good fits for the protagonists has generated more than enough controversy that conversations have never gotten to picks for the secondary characters. Both leads, Jeff Aiken and Daryl Haugen, are intelligent, have cerebral jobs and are in their late 30’s or early 40’s. Jeff works as an independent security consultant and Daryl is assistant director of the Computer Infrastructure Security Unit at the Department of Homeland Security. Jeff is pretty straight-laced with a blazer, button down and khaki pants serving as his work uniform, while Daryl is feistier, an above average height blond and very attractive.

The selection of well-known actors that are in the right age bracket and that can play roles that are a mix of thought and action seems somewhat limited. James Franco was one of my favorites for Jeff and Natalie Portman my candidate for Daryl for a long time, but more recent brainstorming with my family, spurred by this question, has changed my thinking. Eric Dane, the actor that plays “McSteamy” in Grey’s Anatomy is my current choice for Jeff. He’s got an action edge to him, but has a smoldering seriousness that’s appropriate for someone that can sit at a computer for hours on end matching wits with viruses. Mila Kunis, who played Lily in The Black Swan, has the stunning looks and seriousness of Daryl. She’s a little young for Daryl, but I think she could act a part that’s a little older than her age. I can only hope that Zero Day makes it to movie form and the director cares about my opinion!
Read an excerpt from the novel, and learn more about the book and author at the Zero Day website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Zero Day.

Writers Read: Mark Russinovich.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Scott Mariani's "The Mozart Conspiracy"

Scott Mariani grew up in St. Andrews, Scotland. He studied Modern Languages at Oxford and went on to work as a translator, a professional musician, a pistol shooting instructor and a freelance journalist before becoming a full-time writer. After spending several years in Italy and France, Mariani discovered his secluded writer's haven in the wilds of west Wales, an 1830s country house complete with rambling woodland and a secret passage. When he isn't writing, Mariani enjoys jazz, movies, classic motorcycles and astronomy.

Here he shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of his new novel, The Mozart Conspiracy;
Especially now that my Ben Hope series has been optioned for film, lots of readers ask me who I see playing the lead role and come up with their own suggestions, ranging from Clive Owen to Jason Statham. I don’t have any particular actor in mind while writing Ben, although I can think of a few with the right qualities – it would have to be someone with the depth to bring out Ben’s more vulnerable and sensitive side, while maintaining his toughness and strength. Paul Bettany could do it very well, so could Ewan McGregor. Among the US talent, Leo DiCaprio would make an excellent Ben Hope, and I also like the idea of Timothy Olyphant in the role.

As for the character of Leigh Llewellyn, international opera star and Ben’s first true love, my vision of her has always been clear: she’s beautiful, she’s a singer, she’s Welsh... she’s Catherine Zeta-Jones.

If I was casting freely for the parts of the other characters in the book, I’d pick Jude Law for the part of Ben’s deceased buddy, Leigh’s brother, Oliver Llewellyn. The rest of my dream cast would include:

The gruff, wily former East German detective Markus Kinski: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Kinski’s young daughter, Clara: Dakota Fanning, as she appeared in War of the Worlds

Arch-villain Werner Kroll: Patrick Stewart

The scatty but brilliant Professor Arno: Max Von Sydow

Kroll’s entrapped mistress, the mysterious femme fatale Eve: Radha Mitchell

Kroll’s vicious, sadistic henchman: top choice would be a muscly version of Gary Busey, as he appeared in Under Siege – you can’t beat that wicked, sick leer he does!
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Mozart Conspiracy website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mozart Conspiracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesse Bullington's "The Enterprise of Death"

Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor's degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. His novel The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart was one of Amazon's top ten Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2009.

Here he shares some ideas for cast, director, and soundtrack for an adaptation of his latest novel, The Enterprise of Death:
Awa would possibly be the toughest to cast, as the novel follows her from adolescence to adulthood. I think either Naomie Harris or Meagan Good would be awesome as adult Awa, but it might be tough since the book opens with her as a young teenager. I think Keke Palmer or Camille Winbush would make a good younger Awa, but then there’s the opposite problem of their maybe not being old enough for the later sequences. Perhaps the solution would be to make it an animated film, and then she could be voiced, young and old, by Angela Bassett or N’Bushe Wright.

At first I was thinking Niklaus Manuel could be played by Sam Rockwell or Tom Hardy, so long as whoever it was had an appropriate wig and a little paunch, but the more I mull on it the more obvious a choice Matt Berry seems—this could be his break-out starring role. Julie T. Wallace fifteen or twenty years ago would be an ideal Monique, but she’s a little old for the part now—maybe Noomi Rapace, if they used camera trickery to make her seem a lot bigger and rougher. No, wait, you know would be awesome if they hulked her out, made her less pretty? Alia Shawkat (Maeby from Arrested Development)—she’d own that part, no question. Either Paul Giamatti or Ricky Gervais would make a suitably bombastic Paracelsus, I think, since Jeffrey Jones is a little old for the role. Perhaps Brad Dourif or Keith David as the necromancer, John Goodman or Rip Torn as Albrecht von Stein, Jeffrey Combs as Inquisitor Kahlert, and the Egyptian actress Zeina as Omorose—well, her or Raven-Symoné.

In terms of direction, I think it would benefit from someone fresh, like J.T. Petty (The Burrowers) or Antti-Jussi Annila (Sauna)—I think the vitality a comparatively newer director could bring to it would be great. In terms of those with a few more titles under their belts, there’s Guillermo del Toro, who knows his way around the emotional stuff as well as action sequences and fantastical elements. Along similar lines, I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson from early on in his career, and if he wanted to get down and dirty again I suppose I might deign to give him a crack at it. Then again, the semi-masochistic temptation of seeing what someone like Werner Herzog might do with it is also strong. In any event, soundtrack by Kronos Quartet, The Tiger Lillies, Cradle of Filth, and A Hawk and a Hacksaw.
Read an excerpt from The Enterprise of Death, and learn more about the book and author at Jesse Bullington's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.

The Page 69 Test: The Enterprise of Death.

Writers Read: Jesse Bullington.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lou Manfredo's "Rizzo's Fire"

Lou Manfredo worked in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Brooklyn Noir.

Here he shares his preferences for the star and director of adaptations of his novels Rizzo's War and  Rizzo's Fire:
My first Joe Rizzo novel, Rizzo's War, was published both in hard cover and audiobook. Emmy Award winning actor, Bobby Cannavale, performed as reader, and when first I heard his Rizzo rendition I was shocked: It was exactly the voice I’d been hearing in my ear as I wrote the book. His performance was chillingly picture perfect.

I’ve recently watched Mr. Cannavale in his recurring role on the CBS crime drama Blue Bloods, and I am thoroughly convinced. If ever there is a Joe Rizzo movie, Mr. Cannavale would be perfect.

In writing Rizzo's War, I had merely a blurry, faceless image of Rizzo in my mind’s eye. But with Rizzo's Fire, Bobby Cannavale was in sharp focus and has so remained as I work on Book III. He may need a little makeup since he’s younger than Joe Rizzo, but other than that, he’s a natural for the role.

Now, if we could get Martin Scorsese on board to direct, we just might have something.
Read more about Rizzo's Fire and Rizzo's War.

The Page 69 Test: Rizzo's War.

Writers Read: Lou Manfredo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trilby Kent's "Stones for my Father"

Trilby Kent studied History at Oxford University and Social Anthropology at the LSE. She has written for the Canadian and British national press and in 2010 was shortlisted in the Guardian's International Development Journalism Competition. She is the author of two novels for children (published in Canada and the U.S.) and one for adults (published in the U.K.) and is working on a PhD. She lives in London, England.

Her Stones for my Father follows 12-year-old Coraline Roux through the darkest days of the Anglo-Boer War: from the sacking of her family’s farm, to a trek across the battle-scarred Transvaal, to internment in a British concentration camp. Scattered throughout are moments of quiet beauty, including a figure of hope who emerges in the form of a Canadian soldier.

Here Kent shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of Stones for my Father:
I think it would have to be an unknown actor to play Corlie Roux. A native Afrikaner, preferably (because the accent is so tricky to get right), with a realistic ‘look’ and a spark of raw talent. Ditto Corlie’s younger brother, Gert – perhaps someone like little Guy Witcher in The Power of One? – and her best friend, Sipho.

You’d need a really formidable actress to play Corlie’s mother. She’s a deeply flawed, cruel woman, but it would be pointless simply to depict her as an ogre. Tilda Swinton would be excellent – terrifying and fragile at the same time.

James McAvoy seems a natural fit for Corporal Byrne. And as he’s ‘done’ an American accent before, I’m sure a Canadian one wouldn’t be beyond him!
Read more about Stones for My Father at the publisher's website, and visit Trilby Kent's Red Room Writer Profile.

The Page 69 Test: Stones for My Father.

Writers Read: Trilby Kent.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rosalind Brackenbury's "Becoming George Sand"

Rosalind Brackenbury is the author of twelve novels, a collection of short stories, and five books of poetry.

Here she shares some ideas for casrting the main roles in an adaptation of her new novel, Becoming George Sand:
Well, I'd choose Juliette Binoche to play George Sand and Naomi Watts to play Maria; possibly Ryan Gosling for Chopin? I would need a younger version of Liam Neeson for Sean - any ideas?
Learn more about the book and author at Rosalind Brackenbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming George Sand.

Writers Read: Rosalind Brackenbury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barbara Fradkin’s "Beautiful Lie the Dead"

Barbara Fradkin is a Canadian psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. Her gritty, psychological detective series features the quixotic, impetuous Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green. Fifth Son and Honour Among Men won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian crime novel. Her latest, Beautiful Lie the Dead (2010) explores the deadly complications of love; a young bride-to-be disappears in the middle of a blizzard and an old family secret may be to blame.

Here she shares some preferences for director and actors to bring Beautiful Lie the Dead to a screen, large or small, near you:
Since there are eight novels in the series, I picture it more as a TV series than as a single movie. However, each book does stand on its own, so I’ll take whatever film deal I can get. I do visualize my scenes as I write them, including the look, sound and feel of that snowstorm, and I do have a clear image of the main characters, but they are not based on any real people.

But what author has not secretly dreamed of that phone call from Hollywood? Which of us has not pictured one of the cinematic greats in the lead role? Who can resist the thought of Paul Newman repeating your lines and staring down the killer in your story? Never mind that my Inspector Green is a long way from handsome and has hazel eyes. Paul Newman is perfect, right?

But even dreams have limits - the laws of physical nature among them. So I will confine my wishlist to the possible. I have divided loyalties here. If the movie was being made by Hollywood, I used to picture Kevin Spacey in the lead role because of his power as a character actor and his range of controlled emotion. However, he is probably now too old for the part of Green, who s in his mid-forties with a young family. Now I am leaning towards John Cusack. Green is not a handsome, flinty or macho cop. He’s cerebral, compassionate and intuitive. Both those actors could play him well, as could Scottish actor John Hannah if he could manage a Canadian accent with faint Jewish undertones.

If it were a Canadian production, however, the absolute obvious choice to play Green would be Michael Riley, a Toronto actor with an amazing ability to play zany, hyper, driven characters with soul and depth.

Directors? Alfred Hitchcock. Who knows how to explore the psychology of fear and desperation and build up suspense with breathless subtlety better than Hitchcock? Oh right, those pesky laws of physical nature again. How about Tom Hooper, who was the master of capturing psychological conflict in The King’s Speech. So shall I sit by the phone and wait?
Read an excerpt from Beautiful Lie the Dead, and learn more about the book and author at Barbara Fradkin’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 11, 2011

Larry D. Sweazy's "The Badger’s Revenge"

Larry D. Sweazy's first western, The Rattlesnake Season, a Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger novel, was released by Berkley Books in 2009. Book #2 in the Josiah Wolfe series, The Scorpion Trail, followed in 2010. Book #3, The Badger's Revenge, was released on April 05, 2011, and Book #4, The Cougar's Prey, will be released in October, 2011.

Here he shares some ideas for casting the principal roles in an adaptation of the new novel:
The Badger’s Revenge is third novel in the Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger series. The book finds Josiah captured by two Comanche bounty hunters, far from home, and he must escape if he is ever to see his young son, again. Through luck, and fortitude, he does escape, and makes his way home, back to Austin, where he has to confront not only his past, but matters of the heart; whether he can allow himself to ever love again. Pearl Fikes is a widow, and a woman of privilege, while Josiah sees himself as a common man, with enough tragedy in his past to keep from ever risking love again. They two of them are worlds apart, but drawn passionately to each other. When Josiah makes his decision, it sets off a series of events that leaves him face to face with a scorned suitor, Pete Feders. Feders is the captain of Josiah’s Ranger company, and holds Josiah’s fate, and ultimately his life, in his hands.

Long before he was the host of the Academy Awards, and cut off his arm in 127 Hours, I thought that James Franco would be the best modern male actor to play Josiah Wolfe. Franco is shorter than I originally imagined Josiah, and his hair color and complexion is all wrong, but what is right, I think, is Franco’s ability to express internal emotions without saying a word. Josiah is a Civil War veteran, and has suffered the unimaginable loss of his three daughters and his wife, all the while, left to care for an infant son in 1874 Texas. Josiah’s struggle to find some sense of a normal life as he moves forward, being a Texas Ranger as well as a single father, is an emotional challenge, as well as a physical one that demands an actor who can grasp the entirety of Josiah’s life, and the deep core of his character. Franco offers an edgy style that would present Josiah to the world as far more than a cardboard Western hero.

Josiah’s sidekick, Robert Earl “Scrap” Elliot, is a polar opposite of him. Scrap is young, impetuous, a hothead, who is also an excellent horseman, and one of the finest marksman of his day. The challenge for any casting agent for this role would be to find an actor, who like Franco, has an emotional depth, but one that doesn’t mirror his partner , playing off of him instead. Zac Efron  comes to mind. I think the role of Scrap Elliot would be a really good challenge for him.

Rachel McAdams, of Sherlock Holmes and The Time Traveler’s Wife, would be perfect for the role of Pearl Fikes. Strong, independent, with a deep well of passion and emotion at her disposal, are all talents that would be required to be paired with Josiah, as well as maintaining her own struggle to choose the right path in life for herself (as opposed to the path, and suitor, her mother wants her to choose).

I’ve always seen the Josiah Wolfe series more as a mini-series than a movie, but I would love to see these actors take the words and scenes from my imagination, and bring them to life on any screen.
Watch the trailer for The Badger’s Revenge, and learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger’s Revenge.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Larry D. Sweazy and Brodi and Sunny.

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ben Kane's The Forgotten Legion trilogy

Ben Kane is the author of The Forgotten Legion and The Silver Eagle. He lives in North Somerset, England.

His latest novel is The Road to Rome, the final book in The Forgotten Legion trilogy.

Here he shares some suggestions for director and cast of a big screen adaptation of his story:
I have to confess that I very much wrote The Forgotten Legion with a movie in mind. With a backdrop of the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar to power, and with a panoramic sweep from Rome to the Middle East and Afghanistan, it provides the perfect settings for a wonderful blockbuster 'sword and sandal' epic in the style of Spartacus or the more recent Gladiator. The book is full of scenes in gladiator schools, and vicious fights in the arena. It moves on to Parthia (modern day Iran), and one of the greatest defeats ever suffered by Rome - at Carrhae, where the general Crassus lost 20,000 men killed in one day. 10,000 legionaries were taken prisoner and marched to modern day Afghanistan, where they were lost to history. A great setting for a movie, in my opinion. Crassus was killed at the end of the battle, but with a movie in mind, I gave him the brutal end suffered by a Roman governor in the area some years previously: having molten gold poured down his throat. Argh!

My ideal director would without doubt be Ridley Scott - he directed the amazing Gladiator, and his style of action movie appeals greatly to me. Fast-paced, full of action and with great stories, they are almost all movies to watch again and again. The cast list is more problematic - as my main hero starts the book as a 13 year old boy (his sister and twin is the same age). While Russell Crowe would do a fantastic job later on in the stories, he's too old to start from the beginning. After much thought, I then decided that the approach Peter Jackson took with The Lord of the Rings trilogy would be the best one - to mostly cast unknowns as the heroes. By doing this, it allows the viewer to identify each actor first and foremost with the first film they saw them in - namely, The Forgotten Legion!
Learn more about the book and author at Ben Kane's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ben Kane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

John Vorhaus's "The Albuquerque Turkey"

John Vorhaus is the author of The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even if You’re Not. An avid poker player, he has written several books on that subject, including the bestselling Killer Poker series and the poker-world novel Under the Gun. A veteran creative consultant, he has taught writing in twenty-four countries on four continents, most recently running the writing staff of the Russian version of Married ... with Children.

Here he shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of his new novel, The Albuquerque Turkey:
People who read my novels frequently say, “Man, that reads like a screenplay.” This is not surprising, since I come to novels from a long history in writing for television and film, not to mention 20 years of worldwide travel, teaching and training writers to do these things. That said, I have to confess that I never see actors in my characters as I write. Part of this is selfishness on my part: my characters are my characters; they’re not Brad Pitt and they’re not Amy Adams. Part of it is also a function of how I write. I listen carefully to my characters and try to capture their voices, rather than impose my own. So when I’m writing Radar Hoverlander (the con artist protagonist of The Albuquerque Turkey and The California Roll) it’s rather important that I hear his voice, not Brad Pitt’s (and certainly not Amy Adams’).

But okay, the novels are done now, and my agent is shopping the film rights, so why shouldn’t I indulge in a little happy fantasy about who might bring these characters to life on the screen? With that in mind, here’s my dream cast, with a little character description to illuminate each choice.

Radar Hoverlander. He’s a world-class con artist, and he deserves to be played by someone who’s that smart, that clever, that glib. Edward Norton would nail it.

Allie Quinn. Radar’s con artist antagonist/girlfriend, she’s every bit the top scammer that he is – but deeply scarred by her own troubled past. She needs to be played by someone who can capture tough, tender, scared, sexy and confident all at once. I nominate Ellen Page.

Vic Mirplo is Radar’s hapless, half-wit sidekick, a wannabe con artist with delusions of competence and a malapropistic bent. Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory) will capture this sad sack perfectly.

Woody Hoverlander is Radar’s father, mentor and tempter. There’s no cracking his cool, even though the years have started to take their toll. The role is perfect for Donald Sutherland ten years ago or Kiefer Sutherland five years from now.

Honey Moon is a experienced black grifter and I want Ted Lange (of TV’s Love Boat) for the part, because Ted is a poker buddy of mine and I promised it to him.

But you know what? This is all absolutely pie-in-the-sky. The parts will get cast according to who’s hot, who’s available, studio sweethearts, director’s choices, and a hundred other variables that the writer can’t control. When they ask my opinion (if they bother) I’ll validate any choice of a sensitive, self-aware actor who can dig deep into the material and find the truth of the character within. And I’ll hope that they can work together with the director to shed filmic light on my printed-word tale. Movies are collaborative, after all, and the writer’s hopes, dreams and best efforts all fall away once the cameras start to roll.

When Rob Reiner was directing Stand by Me (written by Bruce Evans and Ray Gideon, based on a story by Stephen King), he told the writers, “The script had better be perfect when it gets to me, because it’s only going to get worse from here.” This was a joke, of course, but it spoke to the writer’s ultimate challenge: the challenge to let go. The movie will be what the movie is, and the actors will be who the actors are. All I can do is write the book as best I can.

And dream of Amy Adams on my own.
Learn more about the book and author at John Vorhaus's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Albuquerque Turkey.

Writers Read: John Vorhaus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brad Parks's "Eyes of the Innocent"

Brad Parks’s debut, Faces of the Gone, became the first book ever to win the Nero Award and Shamus Award, two of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His second book, Eyes of the Innocent, is now out from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut.”

Parks shared some thoughts on the actors to portray his main characters on the big screen:
Ah, yes. The question readers love to ask, the question authors struggle to answer: If my book becomes a film, who should play the lead roles?

Without a doubt, Tom Hanks should play the male lead and Julia Roberts should play the female lead. Why? Because they’re the biggest box office draws in the world right now, and if everyone saw the movie then they’d rush out to buy the book and…

Oh, what, you mean who should play them realistically?

Well, that’s a different question. And since I’m going to assume Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are also unavailable – too many darn kids to chase – I’m going to go with:

Talented nobodies.

Yes, I want someone you’ve never heard of to play my main characters. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m all for giving the un-famous a shot to make it. I mean, really, haven’t we all learned from the danger of recycling Charlie Sheen for another sitcom? Can’t we give someone else a try? (Perhaps, as an un-famous person myself, I’m biased in that regard).

But I’m also egotistical enough to believe I’ve created original characters, and I want those characters to be discovered by audiences with fresh eyes and without preconceived notions of who they are.

Example: Carter Ross, my protagonist, is an investigative newspaper reporter. He’s a tall, thin, thirty-something white guy with dark hair and a certain goofy charm to him. Actor Zach Braff is also a tall, thin, thirty-something white guy with dark hair and goofy charm. And – bonus! – he grew up in South Orange, N.J., which is maybe ten minutes away from Carter Ross’s boyhood home of Millburn, N.J. Zach would be a natural, right?

Well, no. Because the whole time, the audience would not be seeing Carter Ross up on screen; it would be sitting there, thinking, “Hey, gee, it’s the guy from Scrubs pretending to be a newspaper reporter even though we all really know he’s Dr. John Dorian!”

Same goes for Tina Thompson, Carter’s on-and-off girlfriend and the paper’s city editor. She’s 38, a slender brunette, and in great shape – the prototype hot older woman. Marisa Tomei is also a hot older woman, also a slender brunette. But the whole time she was on screen, people would be thinking of their favorite lines from My Cousin Vinny.

I’d much rather follow the model set when they made Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter series into a TV show. Had you heard of Michael C. Hall before he landed the lead role? Maybe, if you watched Six Feet Under pretty carefully. But once he took over the role of Dexter, he really became that character. And if I saw Michael C. Hall walking toward me on the street right now, I’d pray to God I hadn’t done anything wrong lately, because I really don’t want to wake up in some abandoned house covered in Saran Wrap. He’s that convincing.

Somewhere out there, I’d like to think there’s an actor who could do the same thing for Carter Ross.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Brad Parks website and Facebook presence.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: Eyes of the Innocent, by Brad Parks" at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Faces of the Gone.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes of the Innocent.

Writers Read: Brad Parks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 1, 2011

Saundra Mitchell's "The Vespertine"

A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director’s Chair short film series. Now an executive producer and head writer for the programs, she mentors young screenwriters from first page to production.

Her short story “Ready to Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, won The Society of Midland Authors Book Award for Children’s Fiction, was a 2010 Edgar® Award Nominee, a VOYA Summer Reading selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick in 2009.

Here she shares some thoughts on the cast for a big-screen adaptation of her new novel, The Vespertine:
Even though I'm a screenwriter, when I write books, I rarely have a real-life cast in mind. The characters are themselves in my mind. They do what they want, they look how they look, and fantasy casting is an act of "Well, she's close enough, I think!"

This wasn't the case with my latest novel, The Vespertine.

Though I had the idea (a girl who can see the future only at sunset) for a while, it was just a concept. One line; there was no story or setting, or even actual characters to be had.

While watching a recent adaptation of Wuthering Heights, I found myself fascinated by Burn Gorman's performance as Hindley. People don't tend to remember Hindley- after all, it's Wuthering Heights. It's all about Catherine and Heathcliff, and their conjoined disaster of a relationship.

But Burn Gorman's Hindley, drunken, dissolute and still angry, really excited me. It was a trembling, furious performance and during one scene (I think, just after he loses the family manse to Heathcliff,) I thought, "Man, that's a guy who would lock his sister in the attic and leave her there to die."

Which is exactly how The Vespertine begins- August van den Broek locking his seemingly mad sister in the attic. So plainly, in my head, August is played by Burn Gorman.

His sister, the protagonist, sprang up fully-formed as played by Malese Jow, late of The Vampire Diaries. I loved how Ms. Jow could alternately play innocent and worldly, how I really believed her when she was both proud and insecure.

She comes across as a performer as incredibly genuine. That's what I wanted when I wrote Amelia van den Broek: a character not quite comfortable with what she wants, but still willing to take a leap toward it anyway.

Since I'd started with actors, I've since cast much of the rest of the book, just for novelty's sake. Ed Westwick would be my ideal Nathaniel Witherspoon. He has a wry, questionable charm that's perfect for the character, and a sensual kind of charisma that Amelia could find both charming and a little frightening.

When I imagine Amelia's best friend Zora, I see Kristen Stewart, and her sweetheart Thomas, Zac Efron. I imagine Katerina Graham as Sarah, and Milo Ventimiglia as Caleb, but interestingly enough, I can't come up with a good casting for Mattie, one of the antagonists.

I see her very clearly in my head, but I can't think of a single actor that immediately conjures the kind of disingenuous nasty-sweetness that Mattie has. Sometimes bad is better left to the imagination, I guess!
Visit the official website for The Vespertine, and learn more about the book and author at Saundra Mitchell's website and blog.

Writers Read: Saundra Mitchell.

--Marshal Zeringue