Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alison McQueen's "Under The Jewelled Sky"

Born in the Sixties to an Indian mother and an English jazz musician father, Alison McQueen grew up in London and worked in advertising for twenty-five years before retiring to write full time. Her 7th novel is Under The Jeweled Sky.

McQueen is also the author of a popular series of British comedy novels written under her married name (published by Macmillan 2005-2011) and featured on Channel 4′s Richard & Judy Show.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Under The Jeweled Sky:
Under The Jewelled Sky is a tragic tale of love and loss set in the dying embers of the British Raj. The story unravels the fragile construct of a severely dysfunctional British family and watches its slow disintegration in the wake of World War II and the subsequent partition of India.

There are some great characters in the novel – juicy roles an actor can really get their teeth into. I would be tempted to cast Jude Law as the palace physician Dr Schofield – he’s old enough now to take on the part and I think it would suit him well. For his vexatious wife, I’m thinking Helena Bonham Carter. Richard E. Grant would make the perfect Mr Ripperton, aide to the Maharaja, and the role of his eccentric wife, Fiona Ripperton, would go to Meryl Streep.

For the heroine of the story, Carey Mulligan would make a great Sophie – she brings a real sense of sincerity to every role - and I would put Raza Jaffrey in the role of the hero, Jag. The wonderful Waris Ahluwalia would be brilliant for the part of the Sikh friend, Navinder, and Sophie’s diplomat husband, Lucien, would be played by the superb Damian Lewis.

And the soundtrack would come from Nitin Sawhney. The man is a complete genius.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison McQueen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lucille Lang Day’s "Married at Fourteen"

Lucille Lang Day is a poet, memoirist, and short story writer whose many honors include the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature and a PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Literary Award. She is the author of a memoir, a children’s book, and eight poetry collections.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her award-winning memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story:
I was a juvenile delinquent, adolescent bride, and teen mother in the 1960s. Married at Fourteen tells about running away at 13, marrying at 14, having my first child at 15, divorcing my husband at 16, marrying him again at 17, and leaving him again at 18 because he didn’t want me to go back to school. After we separated the second time, I finished high school in three semesters and two summer sessions and was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, when I was 19.

My thoughts about the movie:

Director: My choice would be  Stephen Frears, who did a wonderful job with Philomena, another movie about a woman who gave birth as a teenager. Philomena deals compassionately with Philomena in both her youth and her old age. Frears understood that a teenager can love her child as deeply as any other mother does. Moreover, he saw humor as well as tragedy in telling Philomena’s story. In my own story, there was humor in my awful relationship with my mother and in my disappointments with my husband, Mark. My mother was so overprotective that she never let me take swimming lessons for fear I would drown, yet she let me get married at 14. This is both horrible and funny. On my 16th birthday, I got all dressed up expecting a surprise party, but my surprise was that I spent the evening watching my husband work on his car. One can laugh and cry about things like this, and I would not want a director who missed the laughter.


Lucy: Abigail Breslin, currently 17 years old, would play me between the ages of 13 and 19. I was spunky, outspoken, rebellious, and precociously sexy. I was also a dreamer and a romantic who believed in the movie version of true love. Ultimately, I was smart enough to figure out that my life was on a fast track to nowhere and change trains. Breslin is a top-notch actress. She has received many awards, and at the age of 10 she became one of the youngest actresses ever nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Little Miss Sunshine. I believe she would be able to handle the multiple aspects of my teenage self.

Mark: Daniel Radcliffe, currently 24 years old, would play my husband Mark between the ages of 16 and 22. Like Mark, Radcliffe has dark brown hair and blue eyes. Radcliffe is Irish and Jewish; Mark was Irish and Cherokee. In looks, they both benefited from their diverse genes. Mark was a rebellious high school dropout who drank too much, but he was also intelligent and funny and had a huge and unusual vocabulary acquired by doing crossword puzzles. Like me, he proved to be able to change. I think Radcliffe, who has succeeded in playing characters as diverse as Harry Potter and Allen Ginsburg, would be perfect as Mark.

Evelyn: Sally Field would play my neurotic, nagging, once-beautiful mother, whose difficult early life put her sufficiently out of touch with the feelings of others to make it impossible for her to understand me. As Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has shown that she can play a woman whose deep sorrow casts a shadow on her life.

Dick: John Goodman would play my childlike, happy-go-lucky father. Like my dad, Goodman is 6’2” tall and overweight. A comedian as well as an actor, Goodman could capture the complexity of my dad: compulsive gambler, overeater, sensitive photographer, doting father, and film buff who remembered the cast and plot of every movie he’d ever seen.
Learn more about the book and author at Lucille Lang Day's website and follow her on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Married at Fourteen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kerry Schafer's "Wakeworld"

Kerry Schafer was born and raised in Canada, moved back and forth across the border several times, and finally settled on a compromise. She now lives in Washington state, but within an hour’s drive of her home and native land. She is the author of the Books of the Between (Between and Wakeworld) and the Dream Wars Series (Dream Runner, Dream Thief, Dream Wars).

Here Schafer dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of Wakeworld:
Directed by Peter Jackson, who sets in play the best of the magical qualities he perfected in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, Wakeworld is a fantasy extravaganza. Stunning CGI effects bring to life the dragons in all of their lethal beauty, from the glory of flight to the individual shimmering rainbow of each individual scale. Incredible cinematography accurately captures the shifting landscapes of the Between, contrasting them with the colder reality of Wakeworld. Poe the penguin is fully realized by an exceptionally well trained bird who plays to the camera with endearing charm.

Movie stars were clamoring for the opportunity to act in this blockbuster, and after extensive consideration the following cast was selected.

Vivian: Emma Watson, though young for this role, handles the complex shifts from Vivian as ER doctor to dreamshifter and finally to dragon, with seamless fluency.

Zee: Jason Momoa perfectly captures Zee as both artist and warrior.

Jared: Shawn Roberts accurately portrays the handsome but dastardly Jared.

Weston Jennings: Billy Bob Thornton embodies the persona of the conflicted outdoorsman trying to flee his destiny.

Aidan: Michelle Pfeiffer is perfect, as always, in this role of the power hungry dragon queen.

It’s a scary thing, even though exciting, to have your book made into a movie, but this masterpiece has exceeded my wildest hopes and dreams.
Visit Kerry Schafer's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Wakeworld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wiley Cash's "This Dark Road to Mercy"

Wiley Cash is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home. A native of North Carolina, he has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He has held residency positions at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Here Cash dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, This Dark Road to Mercy:
This Dark Road to Mercy is about a washed-up minor league baseball player who kidnaps his two daughters from a foster home. Who would I cast in the movie? I'll do better than that; I'll tell you who I'd like to write the screenplay and direct it: Jeff Nichols. I'm a huge fan of his three films. The one I saw most recently was Mud, so, that being said, I'd cast Matthew McConaughey as the father, Wade Chesterfield, and I'd cast Michael Shannon to play Pruitt, the steriod-addled bounty hunter who's on the family's trail. For the oldest daughter I'd build a time machine and cast Tatum O'Neal at the same age she was when she starred in Paper Moon. But the bounty hunter isn't the only person looking for Wade and his three daughters. The girls have a court-appointed guardian named Brady Weller who's doing his best to find them. For that role I'd like to cast Ed Harris, a mercurial actor who seems just as capable of overt kindness as he is intense stoicism.
Learn more about the book and author at Wiley Cash's website.

Writers Read: Wiley Cash (April 2012).

My Book, The Movie: A Land More Kind Than Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Helen Smith's "Beyond Belief"

Helen Smith is a British novelist who lives in London.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Beyond Belief, the new book in her Emily Castles mystery series:
My Emily Castles series would make an entertaining TV series, somewhere between Murder She Wrote and Midsomer Murders. Emily is a twenty-six-year-old amateur sleuth who lives in London. She teams up with her friend and neighbor, the eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel, to investigate the murders that take place in her adventures.

Emily is loosely based on my daughter Lauren—Emily has her sweet nature and her dark hair and dimples. Obvious choices to play her would be Carey Mulligan or Jennifer Lawrence. Because Carey is English, I often mention her when asked who would play Emily.

Dr. Muriel would be played by Miriam Margolyes, a clever, eccentric actress who also looks just right for the part.

One of the main characters in Beyond Belief is a magician called Edmund Zenon. He has offered fifty thousand pounds to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal when the Belief and Beyond conference takes place in Torquay one weekend. I'd like to see him played by Tom Hiddleston.

If you've read the book and you have any thoughts about who should play any of the characters, I'd love to hear from you. Find me at my website, Twitter perch, or on Facebook.
Read more about Beyond Belief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jenny Hubbard's "And We Stay"

Jenny Hubbard is a poet and playwright. Pat Conroy called Paper Covers Rock, her debut novel, “one of the best young-adult books [he's] read in years.”

Here Hubbard dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, And We Stay:
A cast of smart girls and women: that’s what we’re after.

Saiorse Ronan’s vulnerability, and otherworldly sensibility would lend themselves exquisitely to the character of Emily Beam.

Should the director choose to embody the ghostly presence of Emily Dickinson, Mia Wasikowska would be perfect.

Lena Dunham as Amber. Amber is weird and dishonest but lovable, and Lena would nail all of that, and then some. She will need some Avril Lavigne hair, or at least hair that she can sweep over her eyes from time to time.

K.T.: Allison Williams, or an unknown Allison Williams look-alike. (Yes, I’m a fangirl of Girls.)

You can’t go wrong with Patricia Clarkson in any adult female role, and I’d cast her as Dr. Ingold, the headmistress, because she exudes an inner strength that stems from an extra empathy gene.

For the other key adult in the film, the French teacher Madame Colche, let’s go with Kristin Scott Thomas, another A-plus actress with classy subtlety. Plus, she is fluent in French!

For Paul Wagoner, we need a tall, thin boy with floppy hair and a dark side—a cross between Paul Dano and, well, Paul Dano.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Hubbard's website.

My Book, The Movie: Paper Covers Rock.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jenny Hubbard and Oliver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

April Smith's "A Star for Mrs. Blake"

April Smith has traveled to every location she writes about in her books, from the Dominican Republic to Siena, Italy, to Meuse-Argonne, France. She takes pictures and talks to people and just wanders. Back home, she outlines the story on a white board, stepping back to see the whole, and then begins writing chapters, often out of order, according to what presents itself that day. It’s a process of both intuition and will that can take from two to twenty-five years, as was the case in A Star For Mrs. Blake.

Aside from her newest work of historical fiction, Smith is the author of the FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels, a standalone thriller featuring a woman baseball scout, and is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer of dramatic series and movies for television. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California.

Here Smith shares some ideas about adapting A Star For Mrs. Blake for the big screen:
Yes, well, we can wish, but in fact casting a movie is almost never based on ‘who is best for the role’ rather, who is available and how much will it cost? Oh, and who has the right political connections to make it happen? I know this from having written and produced a dozen TV movies as well as episodic series.

As a writer, your original vision of the character is quickly morphed by twenty-five other people – agents, executives, directors, folks passing by in the hallways – into what is expedient and what will appeal to the alleged demographic in that time slot. In television that means a TV star –not a film star -- unless you’re working with one of the classier cable nets or have a strong producer who will insist on the right match.

I’ve been fantastically lucky in that regard. Kirk Douglas, William H. Macy, Jackie McKenzie, Richard Thomas, Greta Scacchi, Patty Duke Astin, Mandy Patinkin, Claire Bloom, Mia Sara, Edward Asner, Ed Harris, Mary Stuart Masterson, Christine Lahti, Sam Waterston, Jeff Goldblum are among the fine actors with whom I have had the privilege of working. When TNT cast Catherine Bell as FBI Special Agent Ana Grey in the 2011 TV adaptation of my novel, Good Morning, Killer, which I wrote and exec produced, I was in heaven. For years people told me the role was not castable because Ana Grey is biracial – half white, half Hispanic – and the wisdom was “there are no Hispanic actresses who can play the lead” – but it ended up being played by a woman of Persian decent, and she was perfect!

As William Goldman famously said, “Nobody knows anything.”

If A Star For Mrs. Blake were adapted as a feature film it would need an experienced director with sensitivity as well as being a strong, muscular storyteller. It’s a period piece that takes place in 1931 with an ensemble cast of five American women who travel to France to visit the graves of their sons who were killed in WWI. The locations are lush – the coast of Maine, New York City, Paris, Verdun and the French countryside as well as the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery -- so you’d want a visual artist – as well as someone who can direct a scene that makes you laugh and makes you cry. Several names come to mind, not in any particular order: Jane Campion, Joe Wright, Paul Greengrass, John Madden, Mike Newell, David Fincher.

As for who should play the role of Cora Blake – I wouldn’t speculate. Just my luck we’d offer it to an actress who’d read this blog, didn’t see her name here, got all huffy -- and Pasadena.
Visit April Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ethan N. Elkind's "Railtown"

Ethan Elkind is an attorney who researches and writes on environmental law for the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He also has an appointment at the UCLA School of Law Environmental Law Center and Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. His areas of focus include land use, transportation, electric vehicles, energy storage, and renewable energy.

Here Elkind dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of his new book, Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City:
Railtown presents a history of the modern urban rail system in Los Angeles, so it features many current and recent leaders in the entertainment capital. The early story focuses on Tom Bradley, the grandson of former slaves who was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1973 -- one of the first African American mayors of a major city. Bradley was a determined and passionate leader, but politically he was cautious and sometimes taciturn, earning the nickname “The Sphinx.” Terrence Howard might capture Bradley’s dignity, affability, and calculating nature well.

Current U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman figures in the story as someone who tries to stop rail in Los Angeles at the last minute, for less-than-admirable reasons. He ultimately relents but not until doing serious damage to the system’s effectiveness. Paul Giamatti could play Waxman as a plotting opponent of the system who still believes in the righteousness of his position.

Other local leaders include Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, a folksy, pat-on-the-back, old-time politician representing a largely African American district. Hahn helped get the rail system launched in Los Angeles on a shoestring campaign in 1980, and then he cajoled and pressured his colleagues to approve the first rail line in his district. Matthew McConaughey could have fun with this role, as someone who ultimately gets his way through convivial but shrewd arm-twisting.

Opposing Hahn and Bradley was arch-conservative supervisor Pete Schabarum, a former 49ers football player who once unrepentantly bowled over a grandmother in a home plate collision during a softball game, sending her to the hospital. Schabarum was ultimately ineffective at stopping the system, employing sometimes ridiculous strategies that backfired on him. He could be played by Josh Brolin, who could draw on his George W. Bush role in W.

Former news anchorman-turned-politician Baxter Ward, known for his ideological attachment to rail from his boyhood days with toy trains, was an early rail booster who nonetheless clashed with his fellow rail proponents due to his unwillingness to compromise. He could be a good role for Fred Willard, perhaps in a nod to Willard’s Anchorman role.

Anti-rail, pro-bus socialist Eric Mann slowed the rail system through a lawsuit that he hoped would convict rail leaders of racist crimes for ignoring low-income, minority bus riders in favor of middle class, white rail commuters. He could be played by Tim Robbins, while Michael Peña could play Mann’s colleague and fellow activist Manuel Criollo.

Not many women figure in the story, but Kathy Bates could fit the part of local anti-rail neighborhood activist Diana Plotkin, who vigorously opposes rail and other development in her neighborhood, often at the expense of the regional good. Nora Dunn could play rail commissioner Jackie Bacharach, a seemingly “goodie two-shoes” political leader who ultimately proved quite savvy at getting her favored policies implemented.

Ultimately, any movie made about this history would have to involve an ensemble cast, as decision-making in Los Angeles is as decentralized as the the city is sprawling. With so many people in charge, it almost seems like no one is.
Learn more about the book and author at Ethan N. Elkind's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lamar Giles's "Fake ID"

Debut author Lamar Giles takes readers on a wild and dark ride in this contemporary Witness Protection thriller. Fake ID is a compelling story full of twists and turns—sure to appeal to fans of James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and John Grisham.

Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight. In fact, his name isn't really Nick Pearson. He shouldn't tell you his real name, his real hometown, or why his family just moved to Stepton, Virginia. And he definitely shouldn't tell you about his friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy Eli was uncovering when he died. About how Nick had to choose between solving Eli's murder with his hot sister, Reya, and "staying low-key" like the Program said to do.

But he's going to tell you—unless he gets caught first....

Here Giles dreamcasts an adaptation of the book:
It’s a little difficult for me to think of the perfect Fake ID cast for a couple of reasons. One, because my book is populated by teen leads, I’m not as familiar with age appropriate actors. Two, because my hero and heroine are teens of color, I’m afraid there’s a limited pool of known names. That being said, I’ll play a game of “What If.” What if I could cast the actor that immediately comes to mind and make him/her age appropriate for the role where needed (denoted by an asterisk)? Well, when you think of it that way:

Nick Pearson – Michael B. Jordan*
Reya Cruz – Francia Raisa*
Eli Cruz – Adam Irigoyen
Zach Lynch – Alex Pettyfer*
Dustin Burke – Liam Hemsworth*
Pilar – Victoria Justice
James Pearson/Dad – Jamie Foxx
Mrs. Pearson/Mom – Kerry Washington
Mayor Burke – Bruce Willis
Deputy Marshal Bertram – Jason Patric
Sheriff Hill – Woody Harrelson
Principal Hardwick – Michael Jai White

That’s the list that represents the clearest pictures of these characters in my mind, but I’d love to know who readers see when they meet these characters for the first time. I imagine there would be some pleasant surprises.
Learn more about the book and author at Lamar Giles's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beverle Graves Myers's "Whispers of Vivaldi"

Beverle Graves Myers is the author of Whispers of Vivaldi and five previous mystery novels featuring Tito Amato, the 18th-century sleuth with a stellar talent for sleuthing. A former psychiatrist, Myers divides her time between Louisville, Kentucky and southwest Florida.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of the series:
Tito Amato is a castrato soprano, a star of the 18th-century opera stage, who sings and sleuths in the last days of the Venetian Republic. The brutal surgery forced on him as a young boy could have easily made him a bitter man, but in Tito’s case, the physical violation led to empathy for anyone wronged by the decadent, repressive society around him. A carnival dwarf, the Jews of the Venetian ghetto, a wise woman of the Old Religion, a murdered servant whose master would like to simply to forget her—Tito seeks justice for all.

What actor would I cast as Tito? Who would be brave enough to accept the role?

There’s always been only one. Johnny Depp. He was my pick when I started the series and he still is. Depp can do any role with sensitivity, charm, and style. I would trust him to study the castrato phenomenon until he could do a pitch perfect rendition of this character who would be utterly foreign to most people of the 21st century. Depp could breathe life into Tito.

But what about the music? Tito’s story couldn’t be filmed without a display of his magnificent singing.

I’ve got that covered. Depp can sing—he proved it in the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He’s not particularly good, and certainly not a soprano, but he’s obviously a competent enough singer to act as if he is. For the actual sound, the filmmaker could use a technique employed in Farinelli, the story of another castrato, a real historical figure who is acknowledged as the greatest singer of the baroque era. To recreate the range and timbre of Farinelli’s stupendous voice, the performances of a female soprano, Ewa Malas-Godlewska, and a male counter-tenor, Derek Lee Ragin, were digitally merged. The result is a seamlessly perfect castrato voice—much like Tito’s.
Visit Beverle Graves Myers' website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Beverle Graves Myers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kim Fu's "For Today I Am a Boy"

Kim Fu is the author of the novel For Today I Am a Boy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. She has written for NPR, Maisonneuve, The Rumpus, Ms., The Tyee, The Stranger, Prairie Fire, Grain, Room, and Best Canadian Essays, among others. She is the news columns editor for This, a magazine of progressive politics now in its 47th year, and writes the advice column ASK FU! for the blog. Fu lives in Seattle with her husband and their many computers.

Here Fu dreamcasts an adaptation of For Today I Am a Boy:
If I’m dreaming big, Wong Kar-wai would direct the movie version of my book. Several of his films have a similar relationship to time as For Today I Am a Boy: episodic, lots of small scenes and details that add up to a life. An avalanching effect.

While I was writing, I actually pictured a young Maggie Cheung for the eldest sister, Adele. She has the wounded elegance, the breezy big-sister authority, and the crushing, heart-stopping beauty.

The rest of the characters are harder for me to imagine. The scarcity of Asian actors in Hollywood is a limiting factor. Maybe Tony Leung Chui-Wai for the father—he’s great with characters who express big sentiments with small, brutal gestures. Brenda Song would make an interesting Bonnie, the youngest sister. She has the right kind of energy, sassy and fun and a little bit dangerous. I can see Emily Kuroda as the mother. Kuroda could play both phases of her life—the intense, silent force in the background and then the strong, loud-mouthed woman who comes into her own. Linda Park would suit Helen, the shrewd, smart, wary middle sister.

As for Peter, I would want someone fresh, someone new to the screen. Young and vulnerable and daring. And after their debut, everyone says, “Wow. Who was that?”
Visit Kim Fu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Michele Zackheim's "Last Train to Paris"

Michele Zackheim is the author of four books. Born in Reno, Nevada she grew up in Compton, California. For many years she worked in the visual arts as a fresco muralist, an installation artist, print-maker, and a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; The Albuquerque Museum; The Grey Art Gallery of New York University; The New York Public Library; The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, and The Carlsbad Museum of Art. She has been the recipient of two NEA awards, and teaches Creative Writing from a Visual Perspective at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Of her transition from visual artist to author she writes: “Over time, random words began to appear on my canvases…then poems…then elaborate fragments of narratives. I began to think more about writing and less about the visual world. Finally, I simply wrote myself off the canvas and onto the lavender quadrille pages of a bright orange notebook. This first book, Violette’s Embrace, was published by Riverhead Books.” That book is a fictional biography of the French writer Violette Leduc. Her second book, the acclaimed Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl (Penguin Putnam, 1999), is a non-fiction account of the mystery of the lost illegitimate daughter of Mileva and Albert Einstein. Broken Colors (Europa Editions, 2007) is the story of an artist, whose life takes her to a place where life and art intersect. Her fourth novel, Last Train to Paris, was published in January 2014. Zackheim lives in New York City.

Here the author shares some ideas on casting an adaptation of the new novel:
When I begin to write a book, I look for photographs of my characters on the Internet and in photograph archives. It takes a long time to do this research. I’m particular about finding the right faces to fire my imagination for the years that it takes to write a book. Once I’ve settled on the faces, I print the images. Since I’ll be looking at them for a long time, I keep them behind glass in pretty frames and arrange them on my desk.

If a movie were to be made of my latest book, Last Train to Paris, I would want obscure actors—actors whom the viewers think they recognize, but can’t identify. I find that when I go to the movies, I can never get away from the real person—Brad Pitt is always Brad Pitt; Helen Mirren is always Helen Mirren. Sorry. Although they may be good actors, that’s just the way it is. For my movie, I want the viewer to travel back in time to Paris and Berlin just before the Second World War, knowing no one, having no preconceived ideas. New faces. New ideas. New understanding?
Visit Michele Zackheim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 13, 2014

Alex Bledsoe's "He Drank, and Saw the Spider"

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Here Bledsoe dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider:
In the past, I’ve mentioned that the ideal casting for Eddie LaCrosse, hero of He Drank, and Saw the Spider (and four preceding novels), would be Alien-era Tom Skerritt. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible. Over the years people have suggested many actors, from the obvious (Sean Bean, who doesn’t really seem to have the sense of humor for it) to the inexplicable (Keanu Reeves? Really?).

But as luck would have it, I recently stumbled across the perfect contemporary actor in an absolutely terrible movie.

I’d seen Jeffrey Dean Morgan before, most notably as The Comedian in Watchmen. But while watching the 2012 horror movie The Possession, I realized he would be perfect for Eddie. He looks to be about the right age, he’s got an easy-going manner, and most importantly he comes across as a grown man. So many actors today, even the ones in their 30s and 40s, seem to be mere boys. And there’s an innate intelligence to Morgan that shines through even when he’s mired in drek like The Possession.

But who to play his girlfriend, the level-headed and acid-tongued Liz Dumont? In this novel in particular, their banter is a big part of the fun. I’ve always depicted her as Eddie’s contemporary, which rules out any of the interchangeable “actresses” under 30 who currently dominate screens. It would need to be someone with great comic timing, mature yet sexy, and who could play straight through a fair bit of absurdity. In a perfect world, then, I’d cast Julie Bowen, Claire on the sitcom Modern Family.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lisa Morton's "Netherworld"

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert. Her work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening”, and Famous Monsters called her "one of the best writers in dark fiction today". Her novels include The Castle of Los Angeles and Malediction. A multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner, she lives in North Hollywood, California.

Here Morton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Netherworld:
Netherworld first came about when I was working on a short story that involved the character Van Helsing from Dracula, and I started to imagine how much fun a globe-trotting nineteenth-century female version of Van Helsing would be. I immediately thought, Aha – this character would be like a cross between Abraham Van Helsing and Emma Peel from The Avengers. For those of you who may either be too young to know or don’t remember, The Avengers was the 1960s British spy series that starred Diana Rigg (before knighthood) as a witty karate-chopping genius in one-piece jumpsuits, and she’s probably my all-time favorite fictitious character. Given that, I have to say that my vision of Diana Furnaval, my protagonist in Netherworld, will always involve ‘60s-era Diana Rigg.

In Netherworld, Lady Furnaval acquires a traveling companion who is a young Chinese sailor named Yi-kin. I’m a big fan of Asian cinema – I speak some Cantonese, and my first book was a study of the work of the influential Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark – and Yi-kin is really an homage to one of my favorite actors, superstar Cheng Yi-kin (also known as Ekin Cheng). Although Cheng is now in his forties (Yi-kin is less than half his age), he starred in his big breakout movie Young and Dangerous when he was young, and he usually portrays strong characters who are very devoted to their friends and loved ones.

The third major character in Netherworld is an enigmatic scholar and bookseller named Stephen Chappell. Diana, who is still mourning her late husband William, is nonetheless instantly attracted to Stephen, so he needs to be a charismatic performer who can suggest an ethereal quality. I’ve liked Ewan McGregor since Trainspotting (wherein he was, I’ll grant you, anything but ethereal!), so I think he’d make a fine Chappell.

The last character I’ll mention is Mina, Diana’s other dedicated companion…and a cat. Mina was absolutely based on my cat Roxie, who thought she was my protector (seriously, she growled whenever she heard strange noises outside, and I’d just look at her and say, “What do you think you’re going to do? You weigh nine pounds!”). Unfortunately Roxie passed away from a rare disease last October, but she would have been too impatient and imperious to endure a film set anyways.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Morton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 10, 2014

John Katzenbach's "Red 1-2-3"

Three of John Katzenbach's novels have been made into feature films: In the Heat of the Summer (adapted for the screen as The Mean Season), Hart's War starring Bruce Willis, and Just Cause starring Sean Connery. His other books include the New York Times bestseller The Traveler; Day of Reckoning and The Shadow Man. Katzenbach was a criminal court reporter for The Miami Herald and Miami News and a featured writer for the Herald’s Tropic magazine.

Here the author shares some thoughts on a big screen adaptation of his new novel, Red 1-2-3:

See, I’ve already had four of my books filmed and… well, let’s just say the results were, ah…. mixed. The trouble is, oftentimes one learns that this or that screenwriter has been hired and this or that actor is all set to play the lead role and it just seems totally dandy, great, fantastic, astonishingly prescient by the producers to pick out the absolute perfect team, who are completely devoted to both the plot of the book and the personality and the physical presence of the main character as I originally conceived him or her. Then, author excitement steadily building, hopes flourishing, Hollywood box office success dreams firing off like firecrackers on the Glorious 4th, the director shouts “Action!” cameras roll and…


You know what occurs next:

Wait a second! Hey, what the hell? Where’s my book? Who are these odd people saying these strange things that have little or nothing to do with what I had in mind?

What just happened?


Here’s the deal with books into movies: Somewhere between optioning the material, investing in a screenwriter, hiring a director, cinematographer and a bevy of talented performers, and spending a whole lot of money – all the solid reasons for thinking the book would make a good movie get lost in the proverbial shuffle. In the process of dealing with all these disparate entities and personalities (all movies are a well-known series of compromises) the essence of the book gets, well, compromised. And there’s the rub.

Bippity-bobbity-boo. Put it together and what have you got?

With apologies to Cinderella, it’s usually not a magic coach drawn by white horses, but a rancid pumpkin. Maybe, if one is fortunate, a stew – but a steaming often over-cooked stew, with some pretty tough to chew slices of mystery meat.

But – enough of this childish whining – because there are cinematic moments where one sees their creation transformed into images and it’s simply wondrous. Even if these moments seem more or less accidental, they’re still memorable, and thrilling not just for me, but I suspect for any author.

The trick is not to let it go to one’s head. As a writer, you are totally responsible for those words on the pages of your novel – and little else. And even if the whole damn world prefers to remember the cinematic representation of these things (no matter how close or how distant it is from what you first intended) what you have to keep in mind is what you did and how you did it. That’s where the true satisfaction lies.

Sort of.

I might be lying.

Or maybe stretching the truth some.

Regardless: So endeth the lesson for today.

And, deep in my dark, blackened, psychopathic heart, I love the movies. I like movies where things blow up. I like movies where people talk and talk. I like movies about the road and about home fires. I like love stories and war stories and even animal stories.

And, if I had the choice for the main character in Red 1-2-3

Kevin Spacey.

Damn, he’s a fine actor. Filled with subtlety, nuance and a definite style. Who could forget Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects and when that limp disappears? He’d be A-OK in my eyes.

And probably it would be someone else completely who would utterly screw everything all up.
Learn more about the book and author at John Katzenbach's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Larry Witham's "Piero's Light"

Larry Alan Witham is a veteran journalist and author in the Washington D.C. area who has covered current events, history, religion and society, science, philosophy, and the visual arts. After twenty-one years in a newsroom, he now writes and edits books full time. He is the author of over one dozen books.

Here Witham dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Piero's Light: In Search of Piero della Francesca: A Renaissance Painter and the Revolution in Art, Science, and Religion:
Historians who pursue the life of the Italian Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca have a visual dilemma, and the same would go for a Hollywood screen writer and casting agent. Piero scholars have no valid description of what he looked like. What they have is folklore. Piero’s supposed self-portrait in a fresco shows a square-jawed man with dark curly hair, for example. A fanciful woodcut of Piero from the sixteenth century presents him wide-eyed. During the 1990s, rumor had it that archeologists found his burial site, and the skeleton was tall.

Measured against the Hollywood blockbusters done on Michelangelo and Van Gogh, a treatment of Piero della Francesca, a relatively cerebral artisan for his time, would face cinematic challenges. Charleton Heston as the volcanic Michelangelo, and Kirk Douglas’s Van Gogh in Lust for Life, are hard acts to follow (not to mention the demonstrative Ed Harris in Pollock). Short of using the entire cast of the Sopranos as a pool for characters—since Piero’s story is distinctly Italian—a “Piero: The Movie” must select widely.

Casting Piero’s historical environment will be important. This would be the outsized autocrats whose colorful Renaissance courts Piero had painted for. For the humanist Pope Pius II we could imagine Anthony Hopkins. For the two warlord princes, Federico Montefeltro of Urbino and Sigismundo Malatesta of Rimini, we could draft, respectively, Javier Bardem and Robert De Niro. At the dramatic center, this leaves Piero and the humanist architect Leon Battista Alberti to personify. I would cast Geoffrey Rush (or Antonio Banderas) as the erudite Alberti and Christian Bale (or Alfred Molina) as Piero—physically strong but introverted, a man of few words, dogged determination, and consummate visual and mathematical talent. What producer could afford to pay for all these superstars is anyone’s guess.

We know almost nothing about Piero’s personal life. So a plot would have to be invented. It could simplify his biography by adding an invented twist or crescendo to a life that, otherwise, lasted eighty years. Fictionally, we might put him in rivalry with Alberti or the dominant Florentine painters: Piero as outsider. I would also draw on the unrequited love theme found in the Italian writers Dante and Petrarch. Have Piero lose his early love interest to plague (or a forced marriage to another), thus setting Piero on his self-reliant path. By the necessities of a broken heart, Piero’s art, adventures, and geometry become his mistress. Who will be Piero’s lost Beatrice (a la Dante) or Petrarch’s Laura? Why not the comely, yet demure, Nicoletta Braschi (Life is Beautiful).

No spaghetti Western here. Picture the kind of backdrop seen in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, or in recent films that harp on the Renaissance splendors of Venice. The Piero movie can be shot in Tuscany, Rome, and cities where he worked, and where architecture of that period still stands. The Hollywood title? Piero’s Light of course.
Learn more about the book and author at Larry Witham's website.

The Page 99 Test: Piero's Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Artis Henderson's "Unremarried Widow"

Artis Henderson is an award-winning journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Florida Weekly, and the online literary journal Common Ties. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

On November 6, 2006, the Apache helicopter carrying her husband Miles crashed in Iraq, leaving twenty-six-year-old Artis—in official military terms—an “unremarried widow.”

“In her memoir Artis recounts not only the unlikely love story she shared with Miles and her unfathomable recovery in the wake of his death— from the dark hours following the military notification to the first fumbling attempts at new love—but also reveals how Miles’s death mirrored her father’s death in a plane crash, which Artis survived when she was five years old and which left her own mother a young widow.”

Here Henderson deamcasts an adaptation of Unremarried Widow:
Being asked to cast a memoir is a tricky proposition—it's like one of those man-on-the-street interviews they used to do where they'd ask random people what celebrities they resembled. Then they'd plaster the random person's photo on the screen next to the celebrity and everyone at home would get a good chuckle because of course they looked nothing alike.

But this is my fantasy, so I might as well cast the movie however I damn well please.

To play me, I'd pick Jennifer Lawrence. Not only is she a fantastic actress, but she's the right age, the right build, and I think we both have these round cheeks. Also, the woman at the nail salon I go to when I'm visiting my mom's house in Florida said that Jennifer Lawrence's grandparents live down the street. So, we're practically the same person.

For Miles, I'd cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They're both handsome in a boyish, charming way. I also get this vibe from Gordon-Levitt of an essential goodness in his nature. Miles had it, too. It's something that can't be faked.
Learn more about the book and author at Artis Henderson's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Unremarried Widow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Irene Radford's "The Broken Dragon"

Irene Radford is the author of the Dragon Nimbus (The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician, The Wizard's Treasure) and the Dragon Nimbus History (The Dragon's Touchstone, The Last Battlemage, The Renegade Dragon) series. She is the author of the Stargods and Merlin's Descendants series as well, and is also one of the founders of the Book View Cafe.

Here Radford dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Broken Dragon:
If I had to cast The Broken Dragon, Children of the Dragon Nimbus #2 today, I’d have to look both forward and backward in time as this is the middle book of a trilogy and the twelfth book in the world of The Glass Dragon.

This volume of the epic series belongs to Lily, daughter of master magicians Jaylor and Brevelan. Lily is the broken dragon, the only person in a family of formidable magicians who has no magical talent. However, Lily’s twin Valeria has been frail and sickly all her life. The two are inseparable, so no one notices that Val throws all of the magic for both of them at the University of Magicians. Lily gives her the strength to do so. Now that they are teens, approaching full adulthood, they must learn to live separately and find solutions to problems separately. Val must devise spells that conserve her strength. Lily must look for answers that don’t require magic.

So I have chosen Molly Quinn, who plays Alexis on the TV series Castle to take on the roles of both twins. She has the right delicate strawberry hair and fair coloring. I’ve seen her portray strong, organized, and nurturing as well as fragile almost to the breaking point. I don’t know if Ms Quinn can sing or not. If she can’t provide a strong and clear soprano, then we need Carrie Underwood—with the command of music she exhibited in recent The Sound of Music, Live—for the voice over.

Skeller the bard and Lily’s love interest could be played by almost any 24ish actor in Hollywood as long as Josh Groban sings his songs. No compromise there. Gotta be Josh.
As for Jaylor their father and the anchor character in most of these books, Nathan Fillion, as he is now in the series Castle, would suit admirably. The Nathan of the Firefly years, skinny and arrogant, can play his son Lukan.

There are other characters who help move this story along, all of them broken in some way. The strong actors who change every year or two in Hollywood will have to convince me they are right for the parts. Except I want Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Rejiia. A delicious villainess.
Visit Irene Radford's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

M. A. Lawson's "Rosarito Beach"

M. A. Lawson is the author of nine novels in the Joe DeMarco thriller series (writing as Mike Lawson) and the newly released Rosarito Beach.

Here Lawson dreamcasts an adaptation of Rosarito Beach:
Who would I pick to play Kay Hamilton, the tough, sexy, somewhat abrasive protagonist in Rosarito Beach? I didn’t have a specific actress in mind when I was writing the book and choosing one isn’t easy because in this case, age and looks matter. To match the character in the book, the actress has to be about thirty years old – that’s really important – tall and blond. She has to look good in the scenes when she’s taking on the bad guys, but in one particular scene, she has to be an absolute knockout when she’s all dressed up. And she has to project attitude. Jennifer Lawrence would be ideal in that she’s tall and blond like Kay Hamilton, but Jennifer is only twenty-three. Amy Adams might work. She thirty-nine – just a bit too old (no offense Amy) – but the bigger problem is she comes across as too sweet (again, no offense Amy). Katherine Heigl could do it – has the looks – is about the right age - but she’d have to “toughen-up” for the role as she’s too associated with comedies. In other words, she’d have to be edgier than when she played Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money. I think I’m going to have to leave the final decision on who plays Kay Hamilton to Hollywood.
Learn more about the author and his work at Mike Lawson's website.

Writers Read: M. A. Lawson.

The Page 69 Test: Rosarito Beach.

--Marshal Zeringue