Monday, January 15, 2018

Jennifer Fronc's "Monitoring the Movies"

Jennifer Fronc is an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. She is the author of New York Undercover: Private Surveillance in the Progressive Era.

Here Fronc dreamcasts an adaptation of her recent book, Monitoring the Movies: The Fight over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth Century Urban America:
Monitoring the Movies: The Fight over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth Century Urban America doesn’t sound like it would make the most exciting movie. But after sitting with the idea for while, I am now convinced that it could work—given a huge budget and the directorial talents of Oliver Stone. Monitoring the Movies would be a period political drama, set in the early 1920s, and the main characters would be the women hired to travel the southern United States, speaking to audiences about the danger that government censorship of motion pictures posed to democracy.

In 1915, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Ohio censorship law; because motion pictures were not considered part of the nation’s press, they were not entitled to First Amendment protections. Following that decision, dozens of state legislatures introduced motion picture censorship legislation, which was largely supported by women, who had recently won the right to vote. In response, a group of activists and organizers in New York City—the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures—set out to fight censorship of movies. W.D. McGuire headed the National Board, and he was passionate about “free speech for the movies.” Liam Neeson will star as McGuire, who was often impatient with the people he was trying to win over. For example, he once asked an audience, “Are we going to say to D.W. Griffith because little Mrs. Smith hasn’t any brains and doesn’t know how to bring up her children, you must present only fairy tales?” Thus, the National Board hired women to speak to audiences of women’s clubs, religious leaders, and local Chambers of Commerce about the wisdom of local, voluntary motion picture regulation. Mary Mason Speed was one of those organizers. She was a native Virginian and the great-great granddaughter of George Mason; she often described her work to protect motion pictures from censorship as part of her lineage. Reese Witherspoon should play Speed, who was steadfast in her belief that her cause was righteous. Frances McDormand would be ideal as Louise Connolly, educator, suffragist, and librarian, whom the NB hired to travel through North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in 1921. While she was well respected in the urban Northeast, Louise had a harder time winning converts in the South. “There is nothing wrong with the Southern mind,” she wrote. “The trouble is that they are thinking of something else when they look at you with their sympathetic manner.” In addition to the drama of political campaigns, this movie will also bring lost silent films back to life. Theda Bara, who is on the cover of my book, was a star during this period, often appearing in dark revenge fantasies. Christina Ricci has Theda Bara eyes, and could bring that sensuality to life. Oscar Micheaux was an accomplished African American director and producer who was routinely scrutinized by the Virginia censors. I would cast Jordan Peele as Micheaux, who can also bring dark humor to the frustration of Micheaux’s situation.

The dramatic climax in Monitoring the Movies comes when New York, Virginia, and Florida all adopt state censorship boards within months of each other, in many ways, indicating that Mary, Louise, and McGuire had failed in their efforts—but of course, it’s not as simple as that! If your curiosity is piqued, you don’t have to wait for Oliver Stone to option this project. The book is available now.
Learn more about Monitoring the Movies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 12, 2018

Mark Pryor's "Dominic"

Mark Pryor grew up in Hertfordshire, England, and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three young children.

Over the years, he has been many things: ski instructor, journalist, personal trainer, and bra folder (he lasted one day: fired for giggling at the ridiculousness of the job. If it's any excuse, he was just nineteen years old.)

His first real career was as a newspaper reporter in Colchester, Essex. There, he covered the police and crime beat for almost two years. He also wrote stories on foreign assignments, including accounts from Northern Ireland while with the British Army, and from Romania where he covered the first-anniversary celebrations of that country's revolution.

Pryor moved to America in 1994, mostly for the weather. He attended journalism school at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, and then law school at Duke University, graduating with honors and a lot of debt.

He is currently an Assistant District Attorney with the Travis County DA's office.

Here Pryor dreamcasts an adaptation of Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel:
The title character, Dominic, is a special kind of man. Handsome, charming, a lawyer and musician... but he's also a psychopath. He's not your aggressive, murderous, stabby kind, though, he'd much prefer to spin his web of deceit and destruction with no one noticing. After all, he's smart enough to know that normal people will have nothing to do with him if they know who he truly is, so he tries to live his life as an "empath," mimicking feelings and emotions. But when he really needs to, when his life and freedom is threatened, he's more than willing to let his inner psychopath out to play....

I think it takes a special kind of actor to be able to pull of the likeable (or at least vaguely sympathetic) psychopath, don't you? I didn't really have anyone in mind but, ironically, it was after seeing James Norton play the crime solving vicar in the BBC's Grantchester that I decided he was perfect for the role of Dominic. That's because I'd also seen him in Happy Valley where he plays the bad guy, and so clearly he has the charm, charisma, and range to play a guitar-wielding psychopath. And even having kept my eye out for other options, I have never seen anyone who I think would do a better job. Now we just need to let Mr. Norton know, eh?!

As you might expect of a novel like Dominic, since he's the main narrator he doesn't allow much room for other characters to grow too large. But one who does is the beautiful girl in the green dress, the one character who resists Dominic and sees him for who he is. Saoirse Ronan would be my pick for that role, because she's beautiful but also has the perfect mix of intelligence and mystery about her.
Visit Mark Pryor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jillian Medoff's "This Could Hurt"

Jillian Medoff is the acclaimed author of I Couldn’t Love You More, Hunger Point (both national bestsellers) and Good Girls Gone Bad. Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, This Could Hurt:
I love movies. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting in a darkened theater and losing myself in a story. And yet, although all my novels have been optioned by Hollywood at one point or another, I rarely, if ever, consider potential screen adaptations while I’m writing. As a novelist, my goal for each book is to create a unique self-contained universe, one that’s separate from real life, so thinking about current events and celebrities throws me off.

Once I’m finished, however, it’s a whole different story. I love to speculate. My first novel, Hunger Point, was optioned for a feature film and then eventually adapted into an original cable film in 2002 (Hunger Point, starring Barbara Hershey and Christina Hendricks); to see the book acted out by living, breathing human beings was a truly gratifying experience. But again, the movie came long after the book was finished. Plus, I didn’t have any say in the casting, though the director, Joan Micklin Silver, did a great job of pairing up actors with their book counterparts.

Full disclosure: This Could Hurt is currently under consideration with a prestigious production company, so I’m hoping it gets the same wonderful treatment as Hunger Point. Casting This Could Hurt is even more fun because the characters are so diverse. The book examines the relationships among several employees in an HR department, so there’s a wide range of ages, genders/sexual orientation, marital status and other demographics. Unlike large financial companies in New York where the staff skews white, male and young, Ellery Research takes pride in their diverse hires. To this end, Rosa Guerrero, the Chief of HR is a Latina woman in her mid-sixties who’s facing the end of her career, and she’s determined to make sure Ellery’s staff reflects the larger world. So here’s who I envision in the lead roles:

Rosa Guerrero, HR Chief, mid-sixties: Rosie Perez, Elizabeth Peña, or Mercedes Ruehl

Peter Dreyfus, VP Operations, early sixties, bachelor, silver fox type: Ted Danson

Lucy Bender, VP Communications, late thirties, funny and high strung: Elizabeth Banks, Amy Adams or Isla Fisher

Leo Smalls, VP Benefits, mid-forties, Rosa’s right-hand man, chubby and lonely: Bobby Cannavale

Rob Hirsch, VP Training, mid-forties, burned out Gen-X: Greg Kinnear or John Cusack

Kenny Verville, Director of Compensation, early thirties, cocky, self-assured: Donald Glover

Katie Reynolds, Rosa’s assistant, mid-twenties, caring and compassionate: Dakota Fanning
Visit Jillian Medoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 8, 2018

Laura Creedle's "The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily"

Laura Creedle writes about her experiences as an ADHD writer at her website and blog. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Here Creedle dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily:
When you start to write a YA book with actors in mind they will age out of your role before you finish. I always imagined Lily as Emma Stone at her absolute House Bunny goofiest.

Selena Gomez as her best friend Rosalind.

Dylan Minette would be perfect for Abelard and he’s actually the right age.

J.K. Simmons would make a great Coach Neuwirth.

In the book I compare Dr. Brainguy to Claude Rains in Now Voyager, but in my mind I always saw him as John Cassevetes. Still, I could imagine any of a dozen actors currently around playing Dr. Brainguy, sharp eyes to the world, figuring out the dynamics of everybody and everything.

Scott Eastwood as Dr. Golden.
Visit Laura Creedle's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 5, 2018

Randall Silvis's "Only the Rain"

Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of over a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. Also a prize-winning playwright, a produced screenwriter, and a prolific essayist, he has been published and produced in virtually every field and genre of creative writing.

Here Silvis dreamcasts an adaptation of his new psychological suspense novel, Only the Rain:
For the film version of Only the Rain, I would cast Ryan Gosling in the lead. I suspect that Gosling is an intelligent individual, but that deadpan, pensive look of his could also convey confusion, uncertainty, and regret—qualities in full flower in the novel’s protagonist, Russell, a man who, while suffering from PTSD, struggles to do what’s best for his family, even if it means breaking the law.

Two other males play pivotal roles in the novel: Pops, who is Russell’s grandfather and mentor, and Phil McClaine, the antagonist. When I envision Pops, a veteran of bloody Hamburger Hill, I see someone like Ed Harris, a man with great affability but who is also tough and tenacious when the chips are down—someone who, despite his age, would still be a match for bad guy Phil.

Ralph Fiennes and Mark Strong are both capable of projecting the necessary aura of malice that surrounds meth cook Phil McClaine, but Gary Oldman would be my pick thanks to the easy, ominous smirk he pairs with those chilling blue eyes. Oldman is famous for his “big” acting style, but imagine him with every move and every word restrained, every subtle gesture rife with sinister subtext. Neither Oldman nor McClaine is a big man, but both possess an intimidating presence.

As an Amazon First Reads pick for December 2017, the digital version of Only the Rain has already been downloaded over 100,000 times. Here’s hoping that one of those copies finds its way onto a Hollywood producer’s e-reader.
Learn more about the book and author at Randall Silvis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Boy Who Shoots Crows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Barry Wolverton's "The Sea of the Dead"

Barry Wolverton has been writing for children for over 20 years, helping create books, documentary television, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books, among others.

His debut novel, Neversink, was named the Children’s Book of Choice by Literacy Mid-South for their Read Across America program in 2014.

Wolverton's latest novel in The Chronicles of the Black Tulip is The Sea of the Dead.

Here the author shares some thoughts about an adaptation of the series:
When I think about The Chronicles of the Black Tulip being brought to the big screen, I actually fantasize about a single animated movie condensing all three books, made by the legendary Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke; My Friend Totoro; Spirited Away). That may seem odd — perhaps more commercially plausible would be something akin to Steven Spielberg’s Tintin movie. But when I think about what my series is really about, and all the passages involving Asian folklore and mythology, I can’t help but think of the haunting, sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous, dark-fable qualities I love in those Miyazaki movies. There is a classic, timeless storytelling to his work, along with a singular artistic vision, that would elevate the Chronicles beyond typical adventure-fantasy fare, which is what I tried to do with the books themselves.
Visit Barry Wolverton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Susan Furlong's "Splintered Silence"

Susan Furlong is the author of the Georgia Peach Mystery series. She also contributes to the New York Times bestselling Novel Idea Mysteries under the pen name Lucy Arlington. She has worked as a freelance writer, academic writer, ghost writer, translator, high-school language arts teacher, and martial arts instructor. Raised in North Dakota, Furlong graduated from Montana State University with a double major in French and Spanish. She and her family live in central Illinois.

Here Furlong dreamcasts an adaptation of her new suspense novel, Splintered Silence, the first in the Bone Gap Travellers series:
Splintered Silence is set in deep Appalachia and portrays a secretive subsect of American culture, the Irish Travellers. I like to think of it as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding meets The Fall meets The Outsiders, with a dark and twisted tone.

When I think dark and twisted, I think of Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, played by actress Maisie Williams. Fast forward Arya about ten years and you have Brynn, an Irish Traveller and the protagonist of Splintered Silence. Brynn is damaged, but strong and carries a deep sense of justice. She loves her family, and especially her dog and K9 partner, Wilco. An ex-marine, Brynn is a warrior, powerful, aggressive, and willing to fight and die for a cause. As Arya Stark, Maisie Williams epitomizes this type of woman. She’d be a perfect Brynn.

In my mind, Sheriff Frank Pusser, Brynn’s nemesis and later mentor, is a thirty-year police veteran, life-weary, straight forward and a bit of a smart ass. In my mind, he looks and acts a lot like Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini—just trade the Italian Mob mentality for a good ol’ boy attitude, and you’ve got the ideal actor.

Rounding off Splintered Silence’s cast would be an actor for Wilco, Brynn’s K9 partner and best friend. Wilco is a military-trained HRD (Human Remains Detection) canine. As a Marine, he served alongside Brynn for three tours, the final tour ending when they were both struck by an IED. Like Brynn, Wilco is injured, damaged, suffering from PTSD and, some might say, beyond usefulness. But despite being deaf and missing a rear leg, Wilco still strives to serve. His spirit is truly indomitable. He’s both loyal and fierce. There’s only one dog actor who could play Wilco—Bear, the Dutch Shepherd from the CBS drama, Person of Interest. Bear, a Belgian Malinois whose real name is Graubaer’s Boker, displays enough intelligence, stamina and strength to pull off Wilco’s role.
Visit Susan Furlong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 29, 2017

Karen L. Cox's "Goat Castle"

Karen L. Cox's books include Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture and Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture.

Here Cox dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South:
There really haven’t been any dramatic interpretations of this story, but it begs for one. From the time I learned about Goat Castle and the real-life characters that inhabited it, I could see it as a film. Every person I’ve ever talked to about this book has said, without fail, “This needs to be a movie.” The principals make for very rich characters and the setting—Goat Castle—is both shocking and surreal. There’s also the terribly sad saga of Emily Burns, caught in an unfortunate situation, who is dealt a terrible injustice because of her race and sent to one of the South’s most notorious prisons—Parchman.

So who would I want to play the principals? Most of them are in their 60s, so it’s a great opportunity for older actors, although Emily Burns was just 37 when she was convicted. The sheriff is also just 41. So, here is my dream cast:

I’d choose Sally Field to play Jennie Merrill, the woman who was murdered. Jennie was petite, but feisty. Tommy Lee Jones would be good in the role of Duncan Minor, Jennie’s cousin who finds her and has loved her his whole life.

Octavia Dockery, the “Goat Woman,” was a cunning individual and I’d love to see her played by Jessica Lange. Lange’s role in Grey Gardens, not to mention American Horror Story, suggests she’s got a knack for Southern Gothic.

Dick Dana, the “Wild Man,” was tall and lanky and not in his right mind. And while I know we haven’t heard from John Malkovich in awhile, I think he’d be perfect.

George Pearls a.k.a. Lawrence “Pink” Williams, the likely trigger man who killed Merrill in a botched robbery could be played by either Don Cheadle or Denzel Washington. Williams took off for Chicago as a young man, so by the time he returned to Natchez he was a street savvy guy.

I’ve always seen Octavia Spencer as the person to play Emily Burns, the woman sent to prison for this crime. They are about the same height and build, and I think she could really bring Emily to life and draw us into the story of racial injustice.

Sheriff Clarence “Book” Roberts is also an important figure in this case, though I’m not sure who should portray him. Tom Hanks might be a good fit.

There are lots of bit parts here, so it would really depend on which characters the filmmakers want to highlight.

Fingers crossed that Goat Castle will one-day come with the tagline “coming to a theater near you!”
Visit Karen L. Cox's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Helen Dickson's "Carrying the Gentleman's Secret"

Helen Dickson lives in South Yorkshire with her retired farm manager husband. On leaving school she entered the nursing profession, which she left to bring up a young family. Having moved out of the chaotic farmhouse, she has more time to indulge in her favorite pastimes. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling, reading and music. An incurable romantic, she writes for pleasure. It was a love of history that drove her to writing historical romantic fiction.

Here Dickson dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Carrying the Gentleman's Secret:
Carrying the Gentleman’s Secret is about a working woman in early Victorian London, who takes control of her own life before the emancipation of women – although calls for change were gathering pace in the last decade of the nineteenth century.

Whenever anyone asks me if I would like any of my books made into a movie, I always say what a wonderful idea. And of course it is, but one has to carry on writing and see what happens. I have a terrible memory for names and found it difficult casting the perfect actors for my characters.

The characters I have created out of my imagination have faces that I am familiar with, so who on earth could take on those roles? Who would I cast to play my heroes and heroines – if it happened and I had any say in the matter, which I doubt for I imagine that would be left to the casting directors and I would have to hope they would get it right. Actors have the ability to take on the characters, but to take on a physical resemblance is not so easy because I cannot say I’ve seen any actors who look like them. But I will have a go.

For Alex Golding I would choose Rufus Sewell or Colin Firth for the role – unfortunately they are now too old for the part. I can see Richard Madden of Game of Thrones – Robb Stark - and Lady Chatterley’s Lover – Oliver Mellors -fame playing Alex. His physique is lean and athletic. He’s not quite as tall as Alex but it’s often difficult to judge the height of actors on screen – take Daniel Craig and Sean Bean for instance. They both come across as being of reasonable height but they’re quite short. James Norton would be perfect. He has the height and the looks and he’s a wonderful actor – he was brilliant as Andrei Bolkonsky in the television adaptation of War and Peace playing opposite Lily James as Natasha Rostova.

For Lydia Brook, who is an ambitious, hardworking, practical type, which is no surprise given that she’s poor, I think Lily James, who played Lady Rose Clare in Downton Abbey and Natasha in War and Peace would do nicely. I can also see Holliday Grainger – of Lady Chatterley fame, as Lydia. In fact what a pairing that would be if she were to play Lydia and Richard Madden as Alex. On second thoughts, perhaps not.
Visit Helen Dickson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 22, 2017

Casey Doran's "The Art of Murder"

Casey Doran's second Jericho Sands book is The Art of Murder. Here the author shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of the novel:
When I first conceptualized the character of Jericho Sands, I didn’t begin with any set image in mind as a model. I knew some of his basic traits and background but he mostly developed through dialogue. I quickly realized that Jericho’s defining characteristic is that he’s an unapologetic smartass who tends to let his mouth get him in trouble. This meant removing a lot of filters that I usually set up for myself while I write. Which was a lot of fun. I was on my latest round of trying to quit smoking at the time, so naturally I made Jericho a dedicated chain smoker. Having my antagonist constantly lighting up turned out to be a great way to vicariously enjoy the habit I was trying to kick. When I write, I still don’t see any one particular person. Since it would have to be someone capable of delivering a sarcastic quip every thirty seconds, the obvious choice would be someone like Ryan Reynolds. But I think it would be really cool to see someone less prolific and well known take the role.

Morena Baccarin would be a great Alyssa Jagger and Jon Huertas from Castle would be perfect for Eddie Torrez.

As for Katrina Masters, I’d love to see Lzzy Hale from Halestorm.
Learn more about The Art of Murder.

Follow Casey Doran on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue