Saturday, May 31, 2014

Serhii Plokhy's "The Last Empire"

Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University. A three-time recipient of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies prize and author of Yalta: The Price of Peace, Plokhy lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union:
The Last Empire is about the event that Vladimir Putin called the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century and that many of his opponents consider its brightest moment—the fall of the Soviet Union. Although my book is not fiction by any stretch of the imagination, it is hard to think of the downward spiral of the USSR in the last five months of 1991 (the chronological scope of my narrative) as anything but the closing act of a drama.

The main actors in the drama were President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, President George H. W. Bush of the United States, and the leaders of two Soviet republics, Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine. I also take a close look at the wives of my first two characters, Raisa Gorbachev and Barbara Bush.

Mikhail Gorbachev takes center stage in the book, as he had the most to gain or lose from the way things turned out. He lost it all—prestige, power, and country. Gorbachev’s personal drama—the story of a leader who dragged his country out of its totalitarian past, opened it to the world, introduced democratic procedures, and initiated economic reform, changing his homeland and the world around him so drastically that there was no place left for him—is the hinge of my narrative. I am not sure who would be better at playing Gorbachev, Kevin Spacey or Tom Hanks, but I have the perfect candidate for the role of his wife—the opinionated, outspoken, and controlling Raisa. That role should go to Vera Farmiga.

James Cromwell would be perfect as George H. W. Bush, the cautious and often humble leader of the Western world, whose backing of Gorbachev and insistence on the security of nuclear arsenals prolonged the existence of the Soviet empire but also ensured its peaceful demise. Cromwell did an excellent job of portraying Bush Sr. in W. and could do even better in a reprise. I have no doubt that Helen Mirren would shine as Barbara Bush, if only she would agree to the “demotion” of playing a US president’s wife after her spectacular portrayal of the queen of England.

Either Antonio Banderas or Russell Crowe would do a great job as Boris Yeltsin, the boorish and rebellious leader of Russia, who almost single-handedly defeated the military coup of August 1991 and then refused to take the route of the Serbian president, Slobodan Milošević, by attempting to save the crumbling empire or revise existing Russian borders. Finally, Leonid Kravchuk, the shrewd leader of Ukraine, whose insistence on his country’s independence doomed the Union, would be well portrayed by George Clooney, who would have to add a bit more gray hair. That should not be a problem, as he will probably have a year or two before shooting begins on a docudrama based on my book.
Learn more about The Last Empire at the Basic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jonathan Rose's "The Literary Churchill"

Jonathan Rose is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History, Drew University. He was founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing and is co-editor of the journal Book History.

Here Rose dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor:
My book The Literary Churchill is a fairly unconventional portrait of Winston. Far from the sonorous, crusty old Tory we're used to, my Churchill was a bohemian artist, a flamboyant public performer. He admired and (to some extent) modeled himself after Oscar Wilde, so we would need an actor with that kind of panache. Charlie Chaplin could have played Churchill as a young man, especially the more thrilling semi-comic episodes of his early life: escaping from a Boer POW camp, or battling anarchists at the Siege of Sidney Street. They met on more than one occasion. They even toyed with the idea of doing a film about the young Napoleon, with Chaplin playing the lead and Churchill writing the screenplay. In 1935 Churchill actually published an appreciation of Chaplin, arguing that, even in the age of talking pictures, a great cinematic artist could continue to work in pantomime. It's difficult to think of any living actor today who might truly capture the creative side of Churchill: perhaps Patrick Stewart, though he'd have to put on a few pounds.
Learn more about The Literary Churchill at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elisabeth Gifford's "The Sea House"

Elisabeth Gifford studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has published poems in Cinnamon Press and The Oxford Magazine, and a story in Riptide. She has written articles for The Times and The Independent. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the course led by Sir Andrew Motion at Royal Holloway College.

Here Gifford dreamcasts an adaptation of The Sea House, her debut novel:
Like many novelists I did have a flurry of excitement when a couple of production companies were considering making The Sea House into a film. As yet no offers but it did make me daydream about who might play the lead roles. For Alexander, Ben Whishaw who played Q in Skyfall. He has just the right mix of vulnerability and intensity to play a newly ordained Victorian minister, struggling to live up to his ideals and fighting against the idea of grace- or undeserved love.

Katriona, daughter of the castle, I have always seen as Carrie Mulligan, with her impish youth and spark. Combine her in scenes with Ben Whishaw as the young Alexander, alone on the island, and I think something is going to melt.

That is until the maid to the church manse comes in, with her tatty dress, red hair and ardent love for Alexander. Always setting the cat among the pigeons, I think Moira would look like Rose Leslie, Ygritte in Game of Thrones. But really it would have to be a local actress from the Hebrides who is able to speak Gaelic fluently and who also who has a natural Gaelic accent when speaking English.

The horrible Lord Marston who turns the crofters out of their houses and douses the hearth fires that have never gone out with the milk put aside to feed the children – I’m seeing Charles Dance perhaps.

In the modern section I can see Ruth played by Jessica Brown Findlay who has the right Celtic eyes and dark hair for someone returning to the Hebrides to find her family roots. We see a slow burn, laconic streak in Ruth until she decides to get her act together. Jessica could also suggest someone who is capable of doing something really bad, which is a question that hangs over Ruth and how she behaves towards Michael her husband. Toby Maguire with a UK accent would be ideal for Michael who has a sweet constancy to his character and often believes in Ruth more than she does.

As for the location, it just has to be where the story is set – Harris in the Hebrides [photo left -- click to enlarge]. It seriously is the most beautiful place in the world. See my Pinterest page or website for pictures. The beaches are white and turquoise, only with the odd ragged sheep on them instead of people in bikinis. Portraying and evoking the islands was one of the great pleasures of writing The Sea House.

The book was based on real letter to the Times in 1809 reporting a mermaid sighting by a Scots schoolmaster. The Hebridean mermaid funeral in the book was also a real event in 1830. The book explores the sea people legends and is in the form of a mystery story, but all the places and historical details are as accurate as possible. I’d love to see a historical recreation of the island as it was 200 years ago, or 50 years ago. And the music would, of course, have to be Gaelic songs sung by Julie Fowlis whose island was the site of the mermaid funeral and on her new album Julie sings a song written by one of the seal people descendants, John MacOdrum.
Visit Elisabeth Gifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sea House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 26, 2014

Anna Godbersen's "The Blonde"

Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe and Bright Young Things. She grew up in Berkeley, California, graduated from Barnard College, and lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

Here Godbersen dreamcasts an adaptation of The Blonde:
One of the challenges of writing The Blonde was that I knew I was going to have to write love scenes between two of the most charismatic people of all recorded history. But they are also, to us, such ciphers, such pure images, and one of the pleasures of the book (I hope! Certainly one of the pleasures of writing it) is that it goes deep into the desperate inner lives of people who we are accustomed to viewing as shiny objects. Movies aren't as deft as novels at getting into consciousness, and we already know how Marilyn and JFK look, how they move, how they sound, how they flirt. So that would be a real handicap in making a movie out of my book -- in the hands of a literal-minded director it would be a disaster! But I actually thought about Inglourious Basterds a lot when I was writing this, about the loony latitude that Tarantino allows himself with history and storytelling, and I think if someone adapted The Blonde with that kind of wild, gonzo spirit, it would be crazy cinematic and awesome! It's already so much about the movies, about imagination, about what sleight of hand movieland storytelling (all storytelling, really) relies upon.

And who to play the leads? It's such a fun question, but again, tough to cast, even in the imagination, because those are such famous faces, and anything short of the real thing risks coming across as camp. Michelle Williams was of course incredible in My Week with Marilyn -- she obviously went to the crossroads in order to portray the Monrovian essence. But that performance emphasized Marilyn's sensitivity, her artistry, her pain; and the Marilyn I was imagining is canny, hungry, furious. In pain, for sure, but also illuminated by a life force that has allowed her to survive abandonment and negation and abuse that would have crushed many souls. I was more interested in the power that has us all talking about her half a century after her death. I picture an actress who has played fierce creatures already -- like Charlize Theron, who is believable as a killer, or Jessica Chastain, who can flash from vulnerable to fierce in an instant. I could picture Michael Fassbender as JFK -- he doesn't really look like him, but he could do the rapacious entitlement, that sun-kissed ease. Plus, he's such a babe. And Garrett Hedlund is exactly how I pictured Walls, the FBI agent who is listening in on Marilyn's phone, because he manages to be boyish and predatory at the same time. Why not ask for the stars? as Marilyn might have said.

© 2014 Anna Godbersen, author of The Blonde
Visit Anna Godbersen's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Anna Godbersen.

The Page 69 Test: The Blonde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Linda Rodriguez's "Every Hidden Fear"

Linda Rodriguez’s new book is Every Hidden Fear, third Skeet Bannion novel. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and is currently a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, which won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick and a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” which appeared in Kansas City Noir (Akashic Books), has been optioned for film. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration, Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, Thorpe Menn Award, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, and Macondo and Ragdale Fellowships. She is immediate past president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers.

Here Rodriguez dreamcasts an adaptation of Every Hidden Fear:
Readers of my Skeet Bannion series of mysteries—Every Last Secret, Every Broken Trust, and Every Hidden Fear—often ask me when a movie or television series will be made from them. I point out to them that, though one of my short stories has been optioned for film, it usually takes much longer for a series to be considered, seven or eight books, at least. Still, because of these questions, I have given thought to who would play my characters.

The major character in the books is Skeet Bannion, the Cherokee campus police chief who is the first-person narrator. Skeet is a woman who’s earned success in the man’s world of law enforcement. She’s smart, tough, used to having to stand up to men who don’t want her around, and a consummate professional who believes in the rules and plays by them unless compelling reasons force her into circumventing or breaking them. Because at bottom, Skeet is a protector, and protecting the innocent and vulnerable will always take precedence over everything for her. Another character says of her in Every Hidden Fear, “Skeet, you are the person they invented the word honor for. If you’d lived back in the middle ages, you’d have to have found some way to be a knight, even as a woman. You’re that kind of honorable.”

If Every Hidden Fear were turned into a movie, I could see the director choosing someone like Hilary Swank because s/he would want someone who looks strong and athletic and can play smart and tough yet emotionally vulnerable and because s/he would want a star who can draw attendance and attention to the movie. Hollywood has a long history of casting white actors as Native American characters.

Since I strongly believe in using Native American actors to play Native roles, though, I would want Julia Jones, who’s Choctaw and Chickasaw and has acted on ER and in the Twilight movies, to play Skeet. She has exactly the right look and the acting chops to pull it off. I think she’d really bring Skeet alive on the screen.

For Skeet’s adopted teenaged son, Brian, I’d cast Randy Shelly, who’s been in TV and film since he was a little kid and played the lead in Kid Racer. Looking at photos of teenaged actors, his leaped out at me because, now that he’s older, he looks so much the way Brian has always looked in my mind as I write him.

For Joe Louzon, the local police chief who has been Skeet’s valued friend but is now trying to date her, I’d cast Val Kilmer. Joe’s not a sexy hunk like Skeet’s ex-husband but older and heavier and much more settled down as a single father of an twelve-year-old girl. He seems easy-going, but as Skeet discovers in Every Broken Trust and Every Hidden Fear, he can be jealous and possessive.

For Terry Heldrich, former Special Forces who’s now a mercenary working for a wealthy businessman Skeet thinks is a major criminal, I must confess I’ve always seen him as Johnny Depp, although Depp is really too old to play him now. I guess I see him as Depp in the days of Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Don Juan DeMarco, and The Rum Diary. Dangerous and serious trouble for a woman, especially Skeet (who has no intention of getting close to this guy), and at the same time, ambiguously a good guy. He operates not from principle but from his personal attachment to individuals, and Skeet can’t trust someone like that.

It’s been fun imagining who would play these characters I’ve created and lived with for so long. I may now have to waste a lot of time on the internet dreamcasting all the other characters, even the minor ones, instead of writing.
Find Linda Rodriguez on Twitter, on Facebook, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang, Writers Who Kill, and her own blog.

The Page 69 Test: Every Hidden Fear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Alan Beechey's "This Private Plot"

Alan Beechey was born in England and grew up in London. He moved to Manhattan in his twenties and now lives with his three sons and his rescue mutt, Leila, in Rye, New York.

Here Beechey dreamcasts an adaptation of This Private Plot – the third title featuring children’s book author and amateur sleuth Oliver Swithin and his girlfriend, Scotland Yard detective Effie Strongitharm:
My mystery series features a trio of crime-solvers: Oliver Swithin, an author of children’s books; his girlfriend Effie Strongitharm, a detective sergeant at Scotland Yard; and his uncle, Tim Mallard, who’s a detective superintendent and also Effie’s boss.

Oliver’s appearance is partly based on a real actor, Robert Longden, as he looked in a 1980 TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?—blond floppy hair, not the firmest features, and (a quote from This Private Plot) “looking as if he had just removed his glasses, even while he was still wearing them.” A more recent choice? See the way James Spader was groomed in 1994’s Stargate.

Effie is the hardest to cast. She looks like a much-loved girlfriend from my teenage years, especially her amazing display of naturally curly hair. Nancy Allen in 1980’s Dressed to Kill has an uncanny resemblance. Keri Russell with her Felicity locks gets close. So does Frieda from the Peanuts cartoons. But if we want to cast an English actress, I think Julie Sawalha (Saffron in Absolutely Fabulous) would have nailed it.

But that’s the trouble with characters in their early twenties – at the risk of sounding ungallant, everyone I can think of is a little too mature for the roles, and I don’t know the new generation of English actors, unless they’ve played wizards. (Sorry, Emma, but no.) Fortunately, Superintendent Mallard is easier. He’s a man close to sixty, with white hair and a rakish moustache, also based on someone I knew. I want Gary Oldman. He can do Commissioner Gordon, but using his own London accent.

Oliver is also part of another group – he’s one of four co-habitants of a townhouse in London’s Holland Park, who met at University. And this leads us to the issue of directorship.

I heard a BBC radio program just last week celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Either writer Richard Curtis or director Mike Newell (can’t remember which) said the movie was not about love or marriage or death; it was primarily a celebration of the enduring friendship among the disparate group of characters who lurched from wedding to wedding. That’s exactly the feel I was going for in An Embarrassment of Corpses – that enviable mix of teasing, rudeness, frankness, camaraderie, humor, and sheer love that builds among a bunch of devoted friends and makes readers want to enter the story just to be one of them. So Mike, you can have the directing job. (Richard is welcome to tweak the screenplay, but I want first crack at writing it.)

I was very pleased when one generous review of my book mentioned a Four Weddings ambiance. (Embarrassment was completed long before I saw the movie, even though it wasn’t published until after the movie’s release.) However, in creating the chaotic home life of Oliver and his friends, I admit to being slightly influenced by another film, a poorly received 1961 British comedy called Raising the Wind (Roommates in the U.S.). Only later did I discover that this was the only original screenplay written by the film composer Bruce Montgomery.

Oh, Bruce Montgomery is the real name of the author Edmund Crispin, who wrote the classic Gervase Fen mystery novels. With its combination of bewilderment and humor, the Fen series was one of my biggest inspirations when I started the Swithin saga.
Visit Alan Beechey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: This Private Plot.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Alan Beechey & Leila.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hannah Dennison's "Murder at Honeychurch Hall"

Hannah Dennison began her writing career in 1977 as a trainee reporter for a small West Country newspaper in Devon, England. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Willamette Writers, British Crime Writers’ Association and Toastmasters International. Dennison's books include the Vicky Hill mysteries.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Murder at Honeychurch Hall:
What a treat to be able to share my dream cast for Murder at Honeychurch Hall. Since the book is set in England, the characters would ideally be British actors. I come from a screenwriting background so yes I too, have an actor in mind when I begin creating my character. Or at the very least, it’s someone I know.

Here are mine:

My protagonist is Kat Stanford, age 39. She’s just quit hosting an antique roadshow called Fakes & Treasures to start her own business. Kat’s got a great sense of humor. She’s self-deprecating and has a reputation for being clumsy. Tamsin Greig (as Beverly Lincoln in HBO's Episodes) would be perfect.

Iris Stanford, Kat’s 70-yeard old mother, harbors a slew of secrets, one being the reason she moved to Honeychurch Hall in the first place, and the second—Iris secretly writes steamy bodice-rippers under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. Gemma Jones (as Bridget Jones’s mother in Bridget Jones’s Diary) has a secretive, selfish and rebellious streak and I think she’d be great.

Lady Edith Honeychurch, mid-eighties, is extremely class-conscious and yet has a scandalous past. Lady Edith still rides sidesaddle to hounds and is a true believer in the British “stiff upper lip.” Who else could play her other than Geraldine McEwan from Agatha Christie’s Marple?

William, mid-fifties, is the current stable manager at Honeychurch Hall. He was the “strongest-man-in-the-world” when he was part of a traveling boxing emporium in the 1960s. William still hangs onto his good looks, biceps and charm only he isn’t quite who he seems. Julian Sands has to play William! It’s been a long time since Mr. Sands played George Emerson in A Room with a View but I like everything he’s in. He has a hint of danger about him that is important to the story.

D.I. Shawn Cropper—early thirties, slightly crumpled in a Lieutenant Columbo sort of way. As a single parent of five-year old twins (his wife died of cancer), Shawn is always scattered but he’s a very good policeman. He’s not remotely Kat’s sophisticated type—but there is something between them that hints at future possibilities. I’d have to borrow Stephan Mangan as Sean Lincoln from Episodes again. Since the chemistry on-screen between Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln sparkles it would be great to pair them up again.

And finally, darling little Harry Honeychurch, age 6. As a boy with a vivid imagination and one who is so obsessed with the fictional fighter pilot, Biggles that he strides around the country estate in goggles, helmet and white scarf, Jonathan Lipnicki would have been ideal. Unfortunately, he’s now all grown up. But as Ray Boyd in the Tom Cruise movie, Jerry McGuire Jonathan is exactly how I imagine Harry would be with his cute horn-rimmed glasses and insatiable curiosity. My Harry would also know the weight of a human head.

I could go on, but would just add that Eric Pugsley, who also lives on the estate and gives Kat and Iris Stanford so much grief, sports the most astonishing eyebrows. After much research I have found my ideal actor—Bogdan Wolynetz from Breaking Bad. Iris was right when she made the comment about Eric’s “beetle-brows” being so alive she expects them to “crawl off his face.”

Thank you for this opportunity to fantasize about “My Book, The Movie.” I used to fantasize about being published, so who knows, anything is possible … apart from Jonathan Lipnicki of course—unless he has a much younger brother.
Visit Hannah Dennison's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Honeychurch Hall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jennifer Buhl's "Shooting Stars"

Jennifer Buhl was a top-earning paparazza in Los Angeles for three years where she photographed hundreds of A-list celebrities. Her work appeared frequently in People magazine, TMZ, The Guardian, E! News and many others. A former field producer at CNN, she currently resides in Boulder, Colorado, where she runs a successful family photography business.

Here she shares some ideas about an adaptation of her new memoir, Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous:
It’s 2014. Movies—what are those? Television is where it’s at this decade, and HBO’s Shooting Stars is (errr, could be) poised to be the next big thing. The hip new TV show would be adapted from Shooting Stars, the book, in a similar way that Sex in the City was taken from Candice Bushnell’s stories. It is about characters—the main ones being paparazzi—and their pursuit of celebrities and the shot. As characters develop, the show delves into the paparazzi’s personal lives behind the camera, which sometimes overlap into celebrities’ lives. Shooting Stars models Entourage, a show about movie stars’ lives behind the camera and like Entourage, for “movie stars appearances” uses pretend movie stars, D-listers, reality show stars, and the occasional celebrity cameo.

Shooting Stars’ main character, la paparazza Jennifer Buhl, is played by Hollywood’s newest tough girl, Jennifer Lawrence. (Kristen Stewart, equally badass, is second choice.) The other significant characters—Lawrence’s best “pap” friends—are played by British actors with strong regional accents, attractive but rough around the edges. The pap boss is played by Bill Nighy, the hilarious and often inappropriate Englishman. Shooting Stars is not a reality show; rather it is “scripted based on real life,” similar to Doug Ellin’s adaptation of Mark Wahlberg’s life into Entourage, and I’m sure Ellin could do another brilliant job with the recreation of Jennifer Buhl’s life in Shooting Stars.

With two dozen celebrity anecdotes and detailed interactions to set the stage for the first couple of seasons (double that if you include scenes which never made the book), screenwriters have plenty to roll with. However, when written for screen, there is no need to use the same celebrities or even the same scenarios. Like the Sex in the City adaptation, Shooting Stars gives Hollywood writers momentum: it explains in detail how the business works and who the players are, and endless scenes and storylines are possible within that structure. The pursuit of celebrities, making money, and (with one celebrity obsessed character) star-spotting are the initial goals of the characters, but transform as the characters gain depth. For example, Jennifer Lawrence develops a romantic relationship with one of her colleagues, as well as a movie star (played by himself, Adrian Grenier of Entourage, Buhl’s real life celebrity crush.)

The pilot: It starts with Lawrence and another pap she “fancies” [British: likes], Aaron, “doorstepping” [staking out] Cameron Diaz by waiting outside her house (“door”) for her to leave. Throughout the morning, their “Nextels” [walkie-talkies] “chirp” on an off with colleagues checking in, each on his or her doorstep or “trolling” the city attempting to “pick off” celebs in cars or on the street. There are 3-4 subplots within every episode. At Cameron’s house, Lawrence and Aaron eventually get bored, leave and go trolling. As luck would have it, they end up spotting Cameron’s Prius at her West Hollywood gym and shoot her happy, smiling face exiting while “giving it up.” Then they follow her to an underground parking lot in Beverly Hills where Lawrence follows Cam into the elevator. Which is not OK. (Lawrence is a novice pap at this point. She has no idea of pap protocol. Cam on the other hand is not a novice celebrity and she knows that getting in elevators with celebrities is definitely not protocol.) An awkward scene ensues inside the elevator culminating with Cameron scolding Lawrence, getting off, then waiting for Lawrence to do the same. A humiliated Lawrence eventually runs back to her car. Meanwhile, the other paps are “working” other celebs in the city: sneaking on movie sets, traipsing down Malibu beaches looking for bikini clad celebs, and getting in losing battles with the LAPD. Or they’ve given up for the day and are already at Figaro, “the local”, where everyone meets up for beers at end of the day.
Visit Jennifer Buhl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bethany Crandell's "Summer on the Short Bus"

Bethany Crandell writes young adult novels because the feelings that come with life's "first" times are too good not to relive again and again. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two daughters.

Here Crandell dreamcasts an adaptation of Summer on the Short Bus, her debut novel:
I’m a visual writer, so it’s imperative that I have an image of a character in my head as I’m writing otherwise the details of that character will never fully develop. Here’s how I would cast some of the roles in Summer on the Short Bus.

Cricket: The word-vomiting, bitchy m/c.
AnnaSophia Robb (The Carrie Diaries) is my dream actress for this role. She can do snarky, cute, endearing and frustrating all at the same time--which is what we need to pull off a complicated, unlikeable character like Cricket.

Quinn: The love interest & Zac Efron lookalike.
This kid is Efron’s doppelgänger, so of course Mr. Efron is the obvious choice. (The clock is ticking, though. Too much longer and ole Zac won’t be able to pass for a teenager. This scares me.)

Rainbow: The happy-go-lucky camp director.
I’m hoping to persuade Julianne Moore and Carrot Top to conceive a child specifically for this role.

Claire: One of the campers.
Jaime Brewer. (American Horror Story.) Though it’s a supporting role, Claire is such an endearing character that you can’t skimp on the talent. Jaime is a rock star at sentiment.

Aidan: A drop-in camper.
James Maslow (Big Time Rush) We’d have to use a little peroxide for the needed blond effect, but this guy has the ease and smile to pull off the cocky, wheel-chair bound character of Aidan.
Visit Bethany Crandell's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer on the Short Bus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kate Racculia's "Bellweather Rhapsody"

Kate Racculia grew up in Syracuse, New York, where she played bassoon in her high school band. She received her MFA from Emerson and is the author of This Must Be the Place and the new novel, Bellweather Rhapsody.

Here Racculia dreamcasts an adaptation of Bellweather Rhapsody:
I love movies. They’re a part of how I learned to see the world and to tell stories. I gravitate toward vivid visual and auditory elements in my writing, and I always thought of Bellweather Rhapsody in cinematic terms. It’s a murder mystery-musical in novel form, about music and musicians, and there are orchestral performances, dance numbers and solos.

And characters that I think actors—male and female, old and young—would have a blast bringing to life, starting with the crumbling, possibly haunted Hotel Bellweather itself, which is The Shining’s Overlook by way of the Catskills (think of the set design!). Teenage twins Alice and Bert “Rabbit” Hatmaker come to the Bellweather for Statewide, a weekend conference for student musicians. Alice, a singer, is a diva in her own mind, and Rabbit, who plays bassoon, is painfully shy. I’d cast unknowns with genuine musical talent, like the kids in School of Rock. Their chaperone is their small town band director, Natalie Wink Wilson: a woman with a past, a self-destructive streak, and a .38 in her luggage. She’s a redhead with a dark wit—think Winona Ryder in Heathers with a dash of Dana Scully—and I imagined someone playing against type in the role, an Alyson Hannigan or Emma Stone (in about ten years), or heck, Gillian Anderson herself. The Clyde to Natalie’s Bonnie is Fisher Brodie, a wiry Scot and former piano prodigy turned conductor who can be a right bastard. I wrote the character with David Tennant in mind, though I would, of course, be happy to cast any number of intense British actors in the role (see: Cumberbatch, Benedict; Evans, Shaun). Viola Fabian—acting head of Statewide, who has a tangled past with both Natalie and Fisher—is the main antagonist of the novel: she’s ice-cold and arresting, the kind of woman Rhoda Penmark would grow up to become. I’d love to see what Julianne Moore, hair bleached white, could do with Viola; she’d tear the part to bits, be absolutely terrifying and then turn on a dime and find a tiny hint of confused humanity in her. Harold Hastings is the Bellweather’s steadfast concierge. He’s dignified to the point of stuffiness, proudly attached to his decaying hotel; he fancies himself a Michael Caine-type (and has the glasses to prove it), but I see him as Kevin Kline. For the last two main characters—Minnie Graves, who witnessed the murder-suicide that starts the novel and returns, fifteen years later, to face her fears; and Jill Faccelli, the Statewide prodigy whose disappearance kicks off the weekend—I’d also cast unknowns, or little-knowns. Jill should be another talented young musician. Minnie is a big girl, tall and heavy; she starts out timid and afraid, but never because of her size—her size is always her strength. She’s not the typical female body you see in the movies, and I know there are actresses out there who could play her to the hilt. Imagine if you crossed a younger Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth with Melissa McCarthy as Sookie St. James. She would be unstoppable.
Visit Kate Racculia's website.

Writers Read: Kate Racculia.

The Page 69 Test: Bellweather Rhapsody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chuck Black’s "Cloak of the Light"

Chuck Black, a former F-16 fighter pilot and tactical combat communications engineer, is the author of fourteen novels, including The Kingdom Series, The Knights of Arrethtrae series, and the Wars of the Realm series. He and his wife love traveling and spending time with their six children. They currently live in North Dakota.

Here Black dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Cloak of the Light:
Much of my creative inspiration for Cloak of the Light came from some of my favorite movies: The Bourne Identity, Spiderman, The Matrix, The Adjustment Bureau, and Gladiator. I can’t help but think of Cloak of the Light in terms of the characters and the artistic genius I saw in each of those films.

Selecting an actor for the main character, Drew Carter is oddly enough the most difficult. Drew is quiet, confident, and a prisoner of his innate sense of justice. The ideal actor for Drew would be a young Matt Damon, but I would love to see how Doug Liman, director and producer of The Bourne Trilogy, would cast his films today. Whoever he picks would be the man. Perhaps Drew Roy from Falling Skies could pull of this quiet, subtly charming hero.

Hands down, AnnaSophia Robb is the perfect choice for Sydney Carlyle, the elusive heroine that keeps Carter mesmerized and surprised throughout the book. Robb is a great actress that could effortlessly capture the essence of Sydney’s uncompromising but mysterious character.

Benjamin Berg is a quirky genius with limited social skills who trusts no one. I think that Josh Hutcherson would bring Ben’s character to life in such a way that he might even steal the movie. Hutcherson did a phenomenal job with the difficult role of Peeta in The Hunger Games, and it would take such skill to pull off a great Benjamin Berg. After having already selected each of these actors, I realized that both Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb have already worked together in Bridge to Terabithia…a natural fit.

Ironically, today I got a text message from the Producer who purchased the option for my first series of books, The Kingdom Series. He was listening to the audio drama of Cloak of the Light and said, “This [book] will make an awesome movie.” Let’s go!
Learn more about the book and author at Chuck Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jeremy Robinson's "Xom-B"

Jeremy Robinson is the bestselling author of more than forty novels including Island 731, SecondWorld, the Jack Sigler thriller series, and Project Nemesis, the highest selling original (non-licensed) kaiju novel of all time. Robinson is also known as the #1 horror writer, Jeremy Bishop, author of The Sentinel and the controversial novel, Torment. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and three children.

Here Robinson dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Xom-B:
In my new sci-fi thriller, Xom-B, my character of Freeman is a genius with an uncommon mixture of memory, intelligence and creativity. He lives in a worldwide utopia, but Freeman’s people once lived as slaves to another race referred to simply as “Master.” A revolution led to freedom from the Masters, but now the world is threatened by a virus, spread through bites, sweeping through the population. Those infected are propelled to violence, driven to disperse the virus. Uniquely suited to respond to this new threat, Freeman searches for a cure, but instead he finds the source—the Masters, intent on reclaiming the world.

Throughout writing, I pictured Jude Law as Freeman. Law has shown a wide range of emotion from the determination in Enemy at the Gates to the gentle quiet of the father in Hugo. I think he’d be perfect for the growth arc Freeman experiences in Xom-B, as he progresses from wide-eyed wonder at the world to a determined freedom-fighter.

For Freeman’s companion and bodyguard, Heap, who we don’t really see because of his armor, I’d like to see Karl Urban. He’s capable of far more than the role would allow him, but he’s definitely demonstrated how well he can exude menace when we could see so little of him, in the vastly underrated Dredd film from 2012.

I think J. J. Abrams would be my director of choice. He’s shown he can do sci-fi and action, but can also capture youthful exuberance, as in Super 8. I’d want to write the screenplay myself, of course, but if not me then maybe Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker, who wrote Moon from 2009, another excellent and underrated film. They managed to layer on the tension toward the end of the movie, and even though it didn’t have the big budget action scenes, I think they’d do Xom-B justice as far as tone goes.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeremy Robinson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Xom-B.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tania Unsworth's "The One Safe Place"

Tania Unsworth is a British writer living in Boston. She is the author of two books for adults published in the UK.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The One Safe Place, her first book for children:
I wrote The One Safe Place almost as if it was a movie running in my head. That’s not something I normally do, but the technique worked for this particular story and so I went with it. I didn’t have specific actors in mind, but I had a very clear idea of the setting. So it’s no surprise that I think it would make a terrific movie! My main character – the boy Devin – has a condition called synesthesia which causes his senses to overlap. Colors have sounds for example and noises bring physical sensations. This creates a surreal - and sometimes nightmarish - aspect to the story which could be wonderful translated to the screen.

In terms of actors, Tilda Swinton would be perfect as the icy, pitiless Administrator and I could see Bill Nighy making a sinister appearance as Gabriel Penn. He has just the right amount of sorrow behind his eyes. As for the children, one of my hopes would be that the actors were the same age as the characters they played (am I the only person who thought the main characters in the movie of The Hunger Games looked far older than their counterparts in the book?).

Performances from child actors that I’ve loved include Alexander Nathan Etel in The Water Horse, River Phoenix in Stand By Me, Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine and Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, among many others. All prove that even quite young kids can be devastatingly good actors. I’d be really excited to see what talent might be discovered if The One Safe Place really was made into a move.

Of course the book also has animals, some of whom play pivotal roles in the story. There’s a performing pig and a downtrodden parrot to name just two. If working with children or animals is something to be avoided, working with both might be a recipe for disaster.

Or it could be a lot of fun!
Visit Tania Unsworth's website.

The Page 69 Test: The One Safe Place.

Writers Read: Tania Unsworth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Evie Wyld's "All the Birds, Singing"

Evie Wyld grew up in Australia and London, where she currently resides. She has won the John Llewellyn-Rhys prize and a Betty Trask Award, and she has been short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the Costa Novel Award.

Here Wyld dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, All the Birds, Singing:
I’d love Elizabeth Moss to be Jake - she’s got such a great face - she looks like she’s had a life, and even though she’s tiny, she still looks like she could punch someone out. I think her performance in Top of The Lake was exactly the kind of buttoned down toughness that I’d want for Jake. Toni Collette as well - she’d be fantastic. I’d love it if Oliver Reed could be brought back to play Lloyd. I don’t like it when actors look like they’ve spent their whole lives acting. I like a face that reflects a past.
Follow Evie Wyld on Twitter and visit her website.

Learn about Wyld's five notable books about farmers.

The Page 69 Test: After the Fire, a Still Small Voice.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Evie Wyld & Juno and Hebe.

Writers Read: Evie Wyld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Michelle Gable's "A Paris Apartment"

Michelle Gable graduated from The College of William & Mary. When not dreaming up fiction on the sly, she currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters.

Here Gable dreamcasts an adaptation of The Paris Apartment, her first novel:
As some point, every writer imagines his or her book on film, right? Not me. I guess that’s what happens when you merge a spreadsheet-loving finance dork and a writer in the same body. I am way too practical for that level of fantasy.

But that’s absolutely no fun at all. So since you asked, I’ll let myself dream…

A Paris Apartment takes place in the City of Lights during two times periods: the present day and the Belle Epoque. The modern-day protagonist, April Vogt, is a smart and no-nonsense kind of gal, both in mannerisms and appearance. She sees herself as tight and structured:

“And that, April thought, was more or less how she was thrown together. Straight, dark, and tailored, made entirely of clean lines.”

Because of this I immediately picture Jennifer Garner. Though she is more beautiful than April imagines herself, Garner would make an excellent Sotheby’s continental furniture expert. She is capable of serious as well as funny and has played many smart but unsure and bumbling characters. April is often awkward, especially in the company of handsome French attorneys!

April’s husband needs to be coiffed and slick, not to mention chiseled. Jennifer’s real-life spouse Ben Affleck might make a perfect Troy Edward Vogt III, even if his coloring is slightly off. After all: “April liked her men one way: big, sandy-haired, and American.” Or so she tells herself. Nathan Fillion also comes to mind.

I’m not too familiar with French actors but in my head Luc Thébault, the salty Parisian attorney April must contend with, resembles Ed Weeks, also known as Dr. Jeremy Reed from the hilarious comedy The Mindy Project. I wonder if Weeks can do a French accent? Also, how can I get Mindy Kaling involved?

Courtesan Marthe de Florian, our Gilded Age narrator, would be brilliantly portrayed by Marion Cotillard. Helena Bonham Carter could also bring the woman to life.

The late, great portraitist Giovanni Boldini is a prickly sort (“that pig Boldini” as described by several). The actor must be able to pull off surly, disheveled, and attractive all at the same time. Robert Downey, Jr. and Guy Pearce both have strong Boldini potential.

I don’t know what director might best serve A Paris Apartment but mostly I see the book as a compelling HBO, AMC, or Netflix-type series or mini-series, where April and Marthe’s stories can be told over several episodes or seasons.

I guess I’m not so practical after all – my mind is already working on the supporting cast. So, should I write the script or do you all have someone for that?
Visit Michelle Gable's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Paris Apartment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dandi Daley Mackall's "My Boyfriends' Dogs"

Dandi Daley Mackall has written many books for children and adults. She has held a humorist column and served as freelance editor, has hosted over 200 radio phone-in programs, and has made dozens of appearances on TV.

Here she shares some thoughts on the coming adaptation of her book for teens, My Boyfriends' Dogs:
Funny thing is, this book is in the process of becoming a Hallmark movie right now! I’ve made a living writing books for 30 years, and this is the first time one has become a movie (if you don’t count one animated series and a few Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear episodes). I was able to see part of the filming last month, and watching my characters walk around as real people, saying dialogue that once was only in my head—that was surreal. And wonderful. Plus, everyone was so nice to me. I learned that movies film scenes out of order, which would drive me crazy if I were an actress (and nobody invited me to act). So the first day on the set, I got to watch the filming of the climactic wedding scene, and the next day we moved outside to a little village and shot the scene where Bailey and Eric first met. The shoot was scheduled from 7 to 7, and the crew must have set up hours earlier.

Honestly, when I write, I don’t picture celebrities. If I’m not picturing myself (usually at a younger age…), I’m imagining people I’ve known, or glimpsed somewhere. In My Boyfriends' Dogs, Erika Christensen (of Parenthood, Traffic, etc.) stars as Bailey Daley, and she’s perfect—cute, funny, smart. I loved her boyfriends, too. And don’t even get me started on the dogs (Adam the Golden, Eve the Dalmatian, and Shirley the Shih-Tzu)—I fell in love with them. The movie airs on the Hallmark Channel 9 o’clock Saturday night, July 19.

My newest novel is The Secrets of Tree Taylor, out this month from Knopf/Random House, and I confess I pictured myself as young Tree (Theresa), growing up in the sixties in the small town of Hamilton, Missouri, which happens to be where I grew up too. So, in case anyone out there would like to make a movie of this novel, I’ll happily take acting lessons.
Visit Dandi Daley Mackall's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Dandi Daley Mackall & Moxie and Munch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Catherine McKenzie's "Hidden"

Catherine McKenzie is an internationally bestselling author of four novels, most recently Hidden. She is a full-time attorney and regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Here McKenzie dreamcasts an adaptation of Hidden:
There are three central characters in Hidden - Jeff, Tish and Claire. I could see Ben Affleck or George Clooney playing Jeff - a charming guy who lacks a bit of self-confidence and has always felt upstaged by his older brother. I think either one could bring that mix of charm and vulnerability to the role.

Claire is Jeff’s wife. She used to be full of confidence, but she’s been broken down by life a bit. I could see Catherine Keener playing her. She has the right level of upfront smarts with this ability to be broken underneath.

Tish is the potential “other woman”. She’s always been a bit of a dreamer, and her dreams haven’t really come true. Sandra Bullock might be good in the role. Tish has a humorous side to her - it’s one of the things that draws Jeff in.

Two other important roles in the book are the children - Jeff and Claire’s son, Seth, and Tish’s daughter, Zoey. They’re twelve and eleven years old, respectively, a tough age. I saw a child actor in the movie Algonquin recently, who’d make a great Seth. As for Zoey, no one in particular comes to mind, but it would be a great role for an unknown.

And there you have it. If Hidden was cast by me, today.
Visit Catherine McKenzie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hidden.

Writers Read: Catherine McKenzie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Clea Simon's "Panthers Play for Keeps"

Clea Simon is the award-winning author of three feline-centric mystery series, the Theda Krakow mysteries, Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries, and Pru Marlowe pet noirs, the last two of which are ongoing. (She is also the author of three nonfiction books, including The Feline Mystique: On the Mysteries Connection Between Women and Cats [St. Martin's]). Simon's latest books are Grey Howl, the eighth Dulcie mystery (for Severn House), and Panthers Play for Keeps, the fourth Pru Marlowe, which was just released by Poisoned Pen Press.

Here Simon dreamcasts an adaptation of Panthers Play for Keeps:
Pru Marlowe, the protagonist of my new Panthers Play for Keeps, is such a strong woman. Dark, sexy, a bit of a bad girl… plus she loves cats. While I can imagine several actresses vying for the chance to play her, I can really only see one star in the role: Gina Gershon.

That generous, provocative mouth, always ready to give her opinion? That raised eyebrow, skeptical of everyone – every human – she meets, particularly the men? No question. All she would have to fake – maybe – would be Pru’s special gift, her ability to hear the thoughts of the animals around her. It’s that special sensitivity that gets Pru into so much trouble, and also what urges her to work so hard for the animals she meets.

Gershon – the sexy star of Bound and many other movies – may be more like Pru than we think. For example, the actress has already proven her willingness to go out on a limb for the feline in her life. In her 2012 book, In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Love My Mind, the actress relates the extent she was willing to go to reunite with a lost pet. Playing Pru in a film version of Panthers, she’d have Wallis, her curmudgeonly tabby, right by her side. But she could use that wit and persistence in the hunt for the rare Eastern panther – or mountain lion – that appears to be bringing death and destruction on a western Massachusetts town. I have no doubt that Gina would relate as much to the beautiful wild beast as she would to the townspeople. And that, after all, would be the point.
Visit Clea Simon's website.

Writers Read: Clea Simon.

The Page 69 Test: Panthers Play for Keeps.

--Marshal Zeringue