Saturday, September 29, 2012

Andrew L. Erdman's "Queen of Vaudeville"

Andrew L. Erdman is the author of Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Morals, and the Mass Marketing of Entertainment, 1895–1915.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay:
In 1952, Twentieth Century-Fox released The I Don’t Care Girl, a movie putatively about the life of Eva Tanguay. Alas (as you can read in my book Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay) they didn’t get it much right. It had Mitzi Gaynor and Oscar Levant and lots of flashy sets and Bob Fosse-style choreography. But it ended up really being about a bunch of movie producers on the Fox lot trying to cobble together Eva Tanguay’s history. It was their story, not hers.

If I could have some say in a film about the actual life of the Twentieth Century’s first true lady megastar, it’d be different. Who would I cast? Here are some thoughts…

As Eva Tanguay, I could see Renée Zellweger, her shiny blonde mane all curled up and her demeanor nothing but up-and-down wild, crazy, lovely, and sad. There is also the comic Maria Bamford, who I adore. Not sure if she can sing, dance, or act—but then, Eva Tanguay considered that she herself could in fact do none of those things.

Eva never got along very well with men. But the women in her life—her sister and nieces, and her lady vaudevillians—formed her closest-knit sorority of intimates. As the corpulent comedienne Trixie Friganza, I could see Roseanne Barr or maybe Leah Remini (if she packed on a few more pounds).

As Eva’s matronly, husband-chasing sister, Blanche, how about Carrie Fisher?

Her niece, Lillian, could be played by Robin Weigert, and her other niece, Ruth, Emma Stone.

Eva negotiated hard with vaudeville’s biggest impresarios, B. F. Keith and E. F. Albee. David Cross could play Keith and Edward Norton, Albee.

Of course, the most famous impresario was legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld, played by Ricky Gervais.

Eva liked her men, too—in some ways. She had an illicit but well-publicized affair with journalist C. F. Zittel, who could be played by Tony Shaloub.

From 1913 to 1917, Eva was quite unhappily married to the drunken clog-dancer Johnny Ford, who could be played by Hugh Jackman. Later, in the 1920s, Eva was briefly married to her piano accompanist Al Parado, who could be played by brilliant BBC funnyman David Mitchell.

She allegedly had an affair with African-American comedian George Walker, but race relations then were not so liberal as they are now. Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.) could play Walker.

Edward Darling, to be played by Giovanni Ribisi, loved Eva and took good care of her as her manager and sometime fiancé, but she dumped him.

The only man Eva truly loved, it is rumored, was composer Melville Collins, to be played by Michael Bublé. But he married her niece, Lillian.

Speaking of nieces, Eva had one more, Florence. Of course, Florence was really, in all likelihood, Eva’s illegitimate daughter. Ellen Page could do the honors.

There were a few other characters in her life, including a “Wanderer” with whom she had a disastrous affair. He was probably named Albert Donald Walk—Eva never revealed his identity. How about John Hawkes? She had an equally disastrous coupling with vaudevillian Roscoe Ails, whom Robert Pattinson could play.

Eva’s French-Canadian mother, who died when the actress was just eleven, could be played by Mélanie Laurent.

As for Eva’s father, he was a distant figure in her life. He died when Eva was six and left the family penniless. Maybe Adrien Brody?
Learn more about Queen of Vaudeville at Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stephanie Chong's "The Demoness of Waking Dreams"

Stephanie Chong worked as a lawyer at a top-tier Canadian firm and completed five university degrees before landing her dream job: romance novelist. Her degrees include a J.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Creative Writing from Oxford University.

Here she shares some ideas about the cast and film location of an adaptation of her latest novel, The Demoness of Waking Dreams:
Luciana Rossetti, Rogue demoness, is the novel’s heroine. The noble daughter of an 18th century silk merchant, she’s as headstrong as she is beautiful. For centuries, she has survived on her wits and her skill as an accomplished seductress. Luciana will stop at nothing to get whatever – and whoever – she wants. At the beginning of the novel, she returns to her home city of Venice to embark on her annual hunt for a human sacrifice.

As Luciana: A young Monica Belluci would be perfect. Megan Fox has the right look. Keira Knightly with an Italian accent would be fun – she can pull anything off.

Guardian angel Brandon Clarkson arrives in Venice to track down Luciana. An ex-cop with a tough-guy exterior, Brandon is also highly intelligent and an expert at his job: safeguarding humankind from the most dangerous demons on the planet. His rain-grey eyes and tattoo-covered, rock-hard body fascinate Luciana, even though he’s her sworn enemy.

As Brandon: Channing Tatum at his most intense and brooding. Wentworth Miller during his Prison Break days.

When Luciana and Brandon meet, fireworks ignite. In the lavish and labyrinthine city of Venice, a forbidden desire sparks between them. It is a passion that changes each of them profoundly, but threatens to destroy them both.

Just as important as casting the movie is the cinematic vision of Venice. Here are a few of my favorite movies set here: Death in Venice (1971); Italian for Beginners (2000); and The Italian Job (2003).
Learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Chong's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Where Demon’s Fear To Tread.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

David Rich's "Caravan of Thieves"

David Rich has sold screenplays to most of the major studios, and to production companies in the U.S. and Europe. He wrote the feature film, Renegades, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Philips, as well as episodes of MacGyver and other shows. He wrote three plays: The Interview, The Rescue, and W.A.R. (Women's Armed Resistance). Forsaking Los Angeles for small town Connecticut, Rich turned his attention to fiction. Caravan of Thieves, his new novel, is the result. Raised in Chicago, he received his B.A. from Tulane, spent one rainy, Withnail-esque year in Wales, and earned his M.A. in English from University of Colorado.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Caravan of Thieves...and suggests a few directors for the job:
My wife claims that when I used to tell her the stories I was working on or thinking about working on I always said Jeff Bridges would be perfect for the lead. I don’t remember it that way, though, looking back, I can’t think of one role he wouldn’t have been great in. I know I thought of lots of actors at various times and thought I was writing a role that would be just perfect for so and so. Then I got to know some actors and took some acting classes myself and I found out that if I wrote a good part lots of actors could play it. Many of them are astoundingly good at their jobs. I stopped thinking of specific actors while I write; it’s too limiting.

Tommy Lee Jones would be great as Dan in Caravan of Thieves. So would Jack Nicholson. Same for Woody Harrelson. Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford: you bet. And, yes, Jeff Bridges. The list could go on and on. Dan is a charmer and these guys are all experts at turning that on. If any one of them wouldn’t be great as a conniving, charming con artist, he would have been forgotten long ago.

Rollie is tougher to cast. Colin Farrell and Ryan Gosling are both like boxers: reading their adversaries, waiting, feinting. They keep a hint of humor behind their eyes. That’s Rollie. Are there other young stars out there with a hint of Robert Mitchum or Kirk Douglas or Lee Marvin? Someone who can turn a quiet “I’m fine,” into a threat or a promise? That’s what it’s going to take: a young Jeff Bridges.

A few directors consistently deliver interesting movies. Stephen Frears can do no wrong (look it up; he’s batting close to 1000). Caravan of Thieves would be a change for him but he can handle it. Joe Wright is a master. Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell and Ed Zwick – each one would bring something special. And then there is the fantasy choice: Clint Eastwood.
Learn more about the book and author at David Rich's website.

Writers Read: David Rich.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 24, 2012

Andrew Porter's "In Between Days"

Andrew Porter is the author of the story collection The Theory of Light and Matter. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received a Pushcart Prize, a James Michener/Copernicus Fellowship, and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. His work has appeared in One Story, The Threepenny Review, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Currently, Porter lives in San Antonio, where he is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Trinity University.

Here he shares some ideas for the main characters and director of an adaptation of his new novel, In Between Days:
In Between Days is about a family torn apart by divorce and is told through the alternating perspectives of each of the four family members: Elson (the father), Cadence (the mother), Richard (the son) and Chloe (the daughter.)

Since this is purely an exercise in fantasy, I’m going to go straight to the top of the “A-list” and say that George Clooney would make a perfect Elson, especially after seeing his amazing performance in The Descendents. And while we’re sticking with the A-list, I’d also love to see Julianne Moore as the mother, Cadence. Her ability to play characters that appear composed on the surface, while falling apart just beneath would make her an excellent fit for this role. For Richard, the son, I could imagine someone like Hunter Parrish, who plays Mary-Louise Parker’s eldest son on Weeds. Richard is a character with a very firm moral compass, though he doesn’t always follow it, very much like Parrish’s character on Weeds. And finally, for Chloe, maybe a newcomer like Mia Wasikowska, who did a great job in The Kids Are All Right—someone who could evoke both innocence and strength.

In terms of a dream director, I’d have to go with Sofia Coppola, who is probably my favorite contemporary filmmaker. No one captures the feeling of being listless and lost better than her!
Learn more about the book and author at Andrew Porter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kim Fay's "The Map of Lost Memories"

Born in Seattle and raised throughout Washington State, Kim Fay lived in Vietnam for four years and still travels to Southeast Asia frequently. A former independent bookseller, she is the author of the historical novel The Map of Lost Memories and Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, winner of the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards’ Best Asian Cuisine Book in the United States.

Here Fay dreamcasts an adaptation of The Map of Lost Memories:
When I started writing my novel, I was twenty-nine years old, the same age as my main character, Irene Blum. When I finished, fourteen years later, I was … well, you can do the math. The same goes for Cate Blanchett, the actress I had envisioned playing Irene. The problem with the latter, at least when it comes to The Map of Lost Memories making its way to the big screen, is that Irene will forever be twenty-nine, just as her partner-in-crime/rival Simone will always be in her early twenties, and her love interest Marc Rafferty in his early thirties. This knocks my supporting role original choices of Emily Mortimer and Clive Owen out of the picture, as well.

So my first round of casting isn’t feasible, just as the director of my dreams is no longer an option. When I heard the news that Anthony Minghella had died, I mourned not only for his family and friends, but also for the film version of my novel. The sense of place he created in The English Patient and the suspense he built in The Talented Mr. Ripley anchored him in the center of my fantasies about my book being made into a movie.

Granted, I didn’t have this fantasy often while I was writing the novel, but it did pass occasionally through my mind. I have it more now that the book is published and movie rights are an actual possibility. I really do think it would make a terrific film, my story about a young American woman on the hunt for a lost Cambodian treasure. The action takes place in 1920s Shanghai, Saigon and the Cambodian jungles, and each of the characters has contradictory motives and a secret past. With her Scandinavian coolness and hard-won resistance to emotion and vulnerability, Irene offers much for an actress. Naomi Watts would be great in this role. But there I go again. I can’t seem to let go of my own generation in my hunt for my leading lady. And so it continues to be for the rest of the cast, as I latch onto Daniel Craig for the hardened but still hopeful Marc and Marion Cotillard for the mercurial Frenchwoman Simone.

The only consolation is that some of my favorite actors have aged into suitability for two of my most memorable characters. Sigourney Weaver would be brilliant as Anne, a scholar in her sixties who left her husband and moved to Shanghai. And Anthony Hopkins, with his gravitas and ability to cast doubt with just a glance, would be ideal as Mr. Simms, the Machiavellian father figure who sets the entire story in motion.

As for the others, I will leave them to the casting experts in the hope that one day I will walk into a movie theater to watch my story and characters—larger than life—and find myself pleasantly surprised.
Learn more about the book and author at Kim Fay's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Map of Lost Memories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ellen Booraem's "Small Persons with Wings"

Teen fantasy writer Ellen Booraem lives in coastal Maine with artist Robert Shillady, in a house they built with their own hands. She was an editor for weekly newspapers before quitting her job to write The Unnameables, her first fantasy for young teens.

Here Booraem shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her latest book, Small Persons with Wings:
My second middle-grade fantasy, Small Persons with Wings, features a snarky, smart, and weighty girl named Mellie, who discovers that her family has a thousand-year-old relationship with the equally snarky Small Persons with Wings (who hate being called “fairies”). The perfect Mellie would be Ariel Winter, who plays the younger sister in Modern Family—she’s nailed the snark factor, although she’d have to put on a few pounds. Her partner in crime, the scrawny and freckled Timmo, could be Dawson Dunbar, a kid I found online who’s done a bunch of short films.

Mellie’s best friends among the Small Persons are Fidius and Durindana, who also require attitude. James McAvoy would be a perfect Fidius, and Christina Ricci could pull off Durindana without even breathing hard.

As to the older generation: I’d see Charlize Theron as Gigi Kramer, the evil and spike-heeled real estate agent/plumbing inspector. Robert Duvall would be amazing as Grand-père (again with the snark factor), as would Melissa McCarthy (of the television show Mike & Molly) as Mellie’s magnificent mother, Nick. Mellie’s father, Roly, is the only one of the characters whom I visualized in real life as I was writing: John Hodgman, from the get-go.
Booraem's next book will be Texting the Afterlife, due out in August, 2013. Find out more at Ellen Booraem's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flynn Meaney's "The Boy Recession"

Flynn Meaney is an alumna of the University of Notre Dame; she also earned a M.F.A. in the Creative Writing program at Hunter College.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Boy Recession:
My second YA novel, The Boy Recession, is narrated by two different characters. Hunter is a laid-back slacker who’s smart and musically talented, but lazy. When writing Hunter, I pictured him with long, shaggy blonde hair and a low-key vibe. I saw a few episodes of the American version of Skins, and Stanley, played by Daniel Flaherty, reminded me of Hunter. But I didn’t realize just how perfect Daniel would be for the role of Hunter until I did some online research…his MTV biography says Daniel “spends his free time skateboarding, playing guitar and singing in his band,” which is exactly like Hunter! Apparently Daniel even sang on an episode of Skins, so he could definitely play Hunter in a Boy Recession movie—no skateboarding stunt doubles or lip-synching needed!

The female narrator, Kelly, is down-to-earth, sarcastic, and the voice of reason for her crazy friends. Someone like Emma Stone would be great as Kelly, and I think a Boy Recession movie would have a similar tone to Emma’s movie Easy A, which I really loved. I could also see Ariel Winter from Modern Family as Kelly; in her TV role, she is overshadowed by an older sister, and Kelly is overshadowed by her friends.

And of course the actors playing Hunter and Kelly would have to screen test together to make sure they have chemistry, because they spend a lot of The Boy Recession flirting and falling for each other!
Learn more about the book and author at Flynn Meaney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Enid Shomer's "The Twelve Rooms of the Nile"

A widely published fiction writer and poetry, Enid Shomer is the author of seven books. Her work has been collected in more than fifty anthologies and textbooks, including POETRY: A HarperCollins Pocket Anthology, Best American Poetry, and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best.

Here Shomer shares some suggestions for the lead actors and director of an adaptation of her new novel, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile:
Since the protagonists of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile —Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert—are well-known historical figures, I’m sure every reader will have his or her own idea about which actors could ideally tackle these roles. But in my mind, Emily Blunt would make a perfect Nightingale. She has the right kind of face and coloring and, more importantly, a great gift for intensity as well as comedy. Nightingale had a killer wit, a mischievous streak that surfaced regularly as part of her rebelliousness. She was also incredibly passionate and probably the best-educated Englishwoman of her day. Blunt has the glamour and the grit for this role.

It is more difficult to imagine who might portray Gustave Flaubert. My current fantasy is that the role should go to a sexy unknown with a great deal of animal magnetism. Since there are only two photographs of Flaubert (he detested having his picture taken), the public doesn’t have a preconceived notion of what he looked like. One of the extant photos of him was taken by his traveling companion, the journalist Maxime Du Camp, on the trip through Egypt described in my novel. Flaubert is wearing native garb and his face is covered by a hood with pom-poms. Whoever the actor is, he should be slightly fleshy and sensuous-looking, with a mobile face to convey the alternately sensitive and lewd thoughts Flaubert was entertaining at any given time. A young Marlon Brando is the sort of man I have in mind.

As for directors: a novel set in the ancient monuments of Egypt and on the Nile calls out for a team like Merchant and Ivory, who are, alas, no longer with us or making films. If I could pick anyone in the world, it would probably be Jane Campion, whose films have the visual beauty that this story cries out for. Egypt should be as much of a character in the movie as it is in the novel. I’d also love to see what Werner Herzog could do with this story. He has the intensity and genius to match the characters’.
Learn more about the book and author at Enid Shomer's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Twelve Rooms of the Nile.

Writers Read: Enid Shomer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Michelle Gagnon's "Don't Turn Around"

Michelle Gagnon has been a modern dancer, a dog walker, a bartender, a freelance journalist, a personal trainer, and a model. Her bestselling thrillers for adults have been published in numerous countries and include The Tunnels, Boneyard, The Gatekeeper, and Kidnap & Ransom.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Don't Turn Around, her first novel for young adults:
I actually had photos of each of my main characters posted alongside their descriptions in Scrivener, which helped dramatically with framing the plot. But some of those were of actors who would be too old to play the part now, and others are better known for modeling than acting.

So when it comes to actual casting, I have other people in mind... I really love Dylan Minnette, the actor who played the son in the (sadly) short-lived series Awake. He didn’t have much of a chance to display humor in that role, but he’s such a talented actor that I believe he’d be a perfect Peter.

Then there’s Amanda Berns, Peter’s erstwhile girlfriend who never met a cause she didn’t love: Amanda Seyfried would be fantastic. I’ve loved her work ever since I first saw her in Big Love, and she definitely has the chops to make self-righteous Amanda likeable.

Noa is a tricky one. Christian Serratos has the right look, but I’m not sure if she has the edge. I’d really love a slightly younger Rooney Mara.

For Cody, who so far has been the fan favorite, I’d love to see Michael B. Jordan in the role. He pretty much broke my heart as Wallace in The Wire, and I think he’d be perfect in this role.
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Turn Around.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 14, 2012

Joanne Dobson & Beverle Graves Myers's "Face of the Enemy"

Joanne Dobson is a former English professor, having taught for many years at Fordham University, also at Amherst College and at Tufts University. Beverle Graves Myers made a mid-life career switch from psychiatry to full-time writing. A graduate of the University of Louisville with a BA in History and an MD, she worked at a public mental health clinic before her first Tito Amato novel was published in 2004.

Here they dreamcast an adaptation of Face of the Enemy, their first novel in the New York in Wartime mystery series:
Face of the Enemy opens just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor that changed America forever. In New York City, neighborhood boys lined up for blocks at recruitment centers, Times Square and the famous skyline were dimmed out, U-boats skulked just off Long Island, cabbages grew in Victory gardens outside Rockefeller Center. As World War II dragged on, black-and-white images from the movies kept New Yorkers spirits up. Since our characters walk Manhattan’s mean 1940’s streets, it only seems right to cast our film with stars from the period.

For those who don’t relish old movies the way we do, we surveyed the actors working today and added a Modern Clone (MC).

Louise Hunter: a nurse who vows to help her patient’s Japanese wife fight charges of espionage and murder. Louise has sworn off men for the war’s duration, but that doesn’t keep them from trying. She’s tall and slender with an elegant pompadour of honey-colored hair. Only one actress fits the bill: Lauren Bacall. MC: Charlize Theron.

Cabby Ward: Louise’s roommate, an ambitious, Bronx-born reporter who defines the word moxie. Cabby can be annoying, but she always comes through for her friends. Physically, she’s shorter than Louise, gamine—a word she hates—with a cap of untamable dark curls. Our choice: Judy Garland. MC: Mila Kunis.

Lt. Michael McKenna: a middle-aged homicide detective. Until the world went mad, he was looking forward to retirement and spending his days fishing on Shinnecock Bay. He’s not happy to see the younger guys joining up. He’s furious that he has to fight the Feds who are muscling into his cases. But “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.” This one’s easy. Bev had this actor in mind when she wrote his first scene: Spencer Tracy. MC, going out on a limb here: Edward Norton.

Masako Fumi Oakley: a brilliant Japanese artist raised in Paris and married to a Columbia University professor. Unfortunately, the cultural atmosphere of the early 1940s prevented many Asian actresses from working in Hollywood. The stereotypes of “the dragon lady” and “the china doll” were still in force, usually played by a Caucasian actress wearing Oriental make-up. Fast forwarding to today’s crop of talented Asians actresses, we like: Jamie Chung.

Robert Oakley: Masako’s husband, a middle-aged professor of Asian History who spends most of the book seriously ill with pneumonia. The grumbling professor is not an easy patient for Louise and tries to direct Masako’s defense from his bed. Only one choice for him, too: Monty Woolley. MC: Christopher Walken.

Arthur Shelton: a 57th Street art dealer and the murder victim. He’s discovered in his gallery with his head bashed in, posed beneath Masako’s signature canvas, “Lion After the Kill.” Arthur is very much a part of New York’s artsy, underground gay scene—underground because 1940s New York amounted to one big closet. We had to think about this one. Leslie Howard looks the part, but by 1941 was too old to play the young tyro Arthur. Our final choice, if he could tone down the boy next door vibe: Van Johnson. MC: Tom Felton.
Learn more about Face of the Enemy at Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers's websites.

The Page 69 Test: Face of the Enemy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

J.A. London's "Darkness Before Dawn"

J. A. London is the mother-son writing team of Rachel Hawthorne and her son, Alex London. Rachel has written many novels for teens, including the popular Dark Guardian series. Alex, a recent graduate with a degree in Historical Studies, enjoys combining history and fiction to create unique worlds. The Darkness Before Dawn series is their first joint project.

Here they share some suggestions for adapting the series for the big screen:
As we wrote Darkness Before Dawn, we didn’t have a specific actor in mind for any of the characters. However, we did have a specific look for each character: haggard, tired, worn-down. Dawn takes place in a dystopian future, where humanity has been ravaged by a war against vampires, and now must live their lives in quarantined cities. Food isn’t abundant or nutritious, and neither is makeup or shampoo. Everyone gets by, but only just.

Dawn would be hard to cast, but we’d want an “unknown” to play her. We wouldn’t want any pre-conceived notions of the actress to filter into Dawn’s personality. But most importantly, we’d want the actress to read the entire series of books, to know where Dawn is heading, and to play the part of a girl torn between two worlds.

For Michael, we’d like to see an unknown actor as well. He’s a bodyguard-in-training, but we don’t want a fashion model playing him. We want someone who’s intimidating and serious, until he flashes that smile just for Dawn. We also want him to have that “every-man” look, we want him to look like your friend at school, that guy who waits tables, your next door neighbor.

And Victor … ah, yes, Victor. Talk about a challenge to cast. He needs to have an Old School style, with the etiquette of the 19th century, but a modern cutting edge hidden just underneath the surface. We almost need two actors! So much of his dialogue depends on the delivery; it’s all about confidence. Everything he says and does should feel intentional. For Victor, we’d look toward the stage. We think actors who have experience in plays could carry themselves well in this role, and give them a chance to get their feet wet in Hollywood.

As for the director, we’ve got only one choice: Alfonso Cuarón. He directed the third Harry Potter film (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and brought a dark edge to the series that really matured it. We’ve also been impressed with his work in Children of Men; some of the shots and long sequences are so beautiful they could be played in an art gallery.

Overall, if Darkness Before Dawn were greenlit and made into a movie, we’d have one final piece of advice for everyone involved: Make it your own. We’d completely trust the actors, actresses, and director. We’d hand them the keys to the kingdom, and then step back. We live in the world of novels, and they live in the world of film. The only way to have a good adaptation is to have faith in your team’s ability to deliver. In Darkness Before Dawn we may have set the stage, but everyone else has to make it come alive.
Visit J.A. London's website, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mischa Hiller's "Shake Off"

Mischa Hiller is a winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in the Best First Book Category for South Asia & Europe. Raised in London, Beirut, and Dar El Salaam, Hiller lives in Cambridge, England.

Hiller's acclaimed, first thriller Shake Off has been called "deadly, poignant, and powerful" (The Economist),"Smart and tense and real enough to be scary" (David Morrell), and "A spy thriller of the highest class" (Charles Cumming).

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
When I was writing the book I had an actor from The Battle of Algiers in my head as the protagonist Michel but since that was made in 1966 he seems an unlikely candidate. However, I did come across a Lebanese-American actor called Haaz Sleiman, who was in a UK TV series about Israel-Palestine called The Promise and who I've also seen in the US series Nurse Jackie. My wife is insistent that she meet him should he be cast.

For Helen, Michel's love interest, I had Helena Bonham Carter in mind when writing, in terms of the characters she plays, but she is too old to play Helen, and doesn't look like her. However, after reading Shake Off someone pointed out that Rebecca Hall (The Awakening, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) would make an ideal Helen. Having watched her a few times I have to agree, she has that certain English quality that I envisaged when writing.

Abu Leila, Michel's mentor, could quite easily be played by Israeli-Iraqi actor Yigal Naor, who excelled as Saddam Hussein in House of Saddam and was also in Rendition and Green Zone. He has enough gravitas and sensitivity to play him, but could steal the show.
Learn more about the book and author at Mischa Hiller's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shake Off.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Steve Hockensmith’s "Cadaver in Chief"

In 2010, Steve Hockensmith clawed his way onto the New York Times bestseller list with a prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. He completed the PPZ trilogy the following year with Dreadfully Ever After while also continuing his Edgar-nominated “Holmes on the Range” mystery series.

Hockensmith’s latest effort, the horror/mystery/satire Cadaver in Chief, combines the genres he’s known for: Hockensmith describes it as “State of Play with zombies.” He says he knows exactly who should turn it into a film.
To: Bobcat Goldthwait
From: Steve Hockensmith
Re: Call me

You don’t know it, but we have a checkered past, you and I. For a time in the mid-’80s, I was under the impression that you were Tony Rosato. (“Wow,” I remember thinking as I watched Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment with my high school buddies, “that guy wasn’t nearly this animated on Saturday Night Live.”) This misapprehension came to an end in 1988 as a result, alas, of an assignment for my college newspaper: I was sent to review Hot to Trot. (Obviously, I was low man on the film critic totem pole. They sent me to see all the Ernest movies, too, which is why I can definitively state that Ernest Saves Christmas is bad but Ernest Goes to Jail is waterboarding for the soul.)

During the ’90s, we were ships passing in the night. I caught Nirvana’s final concert appearance in Chicago but showed up too late to be antagonized by your opening act. I let Shakes the Clown and Radioland Murders slip in and out of theaters without my ass in one of the many available seats. Capitol Critters and Herman’s Head were cancelled before I (or the rest of the nation) realized they were on. I managed to miss each and every one of your one-man late-night TV riots.

The decade that followed was a blur. (I’d like to blame booze and coke, but the truth is I started having kids. So I got to spend years of my life feeling sleep deprived and jangled without even experiencing the dizzying highs afforded by life-threatening substance abuse. Hi ho. Maybe I’ll get around to that in my fifties.)

And now here we are in 2012, and a surprising thing has happened. A black guy is President! I’ll bet even Michael Winslow didn’t see that one coming!

Oh, and another surprising thing, more to the point: I’ve discovered that there are few people in the business of show whom I respect more than you. You’ve gone from being a known associate of Steve Guttenberg to writing and directing some of the bleakest black comedies being made today. You’ve remained true to your own vision and voice -- recently going from the ultra-grim (but funny) World’s Greatest Dad to the ultra-ultra-ultra-grim (but funny) God Bless America -- when you could have cashed a big, fat studio check and signed on for Wild Hogs 2: Hogs in Hawaii. And coolest and perhaps most surprising of all, you seem to really have your head screwed on right.

Which is why you’re the man to bring my new satirical horror novella Cadaver in Chief to the screen. It’s about a journalist who’s trying to prove that the President of the United States is a zombie. That’s a win-win-win for someone like you. You’d get to make fun of the media and politicians plus...zombies!

You write the script. You do the casting. You direct it however the hell you want. I promise to keep my mouth shut until it’s time for the gala premiere, at which point I’m sure all I’ll have to say is, “Hell’s yeah!”

And that’ll be true even if that “gala premiere” is at an Olive Garden in Pasadena because the movie went straight to video. I don’t need Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I don’t need one of those big, fat studio checks. (Well, actually, I do. But I’ve resigned myself to living without any.) I need the Bobcat!

Oh, and if you’re not interested, could you forward this to Eli Craig?
Learn more about the book and author at Steve Hockensmith’s blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 7, 2012

Maryanne O'Hara's "Cascade"

A graduate of Emerson College's MFA program, Maryanne O'Hara was a longtime associate editor at Ploughshares magazine. Her short stories have been published in Five Points, The North American Review, The Crescent Review, and Redbook, as well as the literary anthologies MicroFiction, Brevity & Echo, The Art of Friction, and Flash Fiction: Youth.

Here she shares some suggestions for the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of her debut novel, Cascade:
I don't usually imagine actors when I’m creating characters but at one point, watching Jake Gyllenhaal during Brokeback Mountain, I thought, “Oh, Jacob, there you are.” At around the same time, my daughter mentioned that she saw Maggie Gyllenhaal as Dez, funny enough.

I didn’t personally picture anyone as Dez until I saw the latest production of Jane Eyre, with Mia Wasikowska inhabiting the role of Jane. Later, I stumbled upon a lovely photo of Mia in period makeup, with her hair set in 1920s waves, and I thought, yes, she could be Dez: placid-looking on the outside, but so much going on within.

Anthony Minghella would have been my idea of an ideal director. I loved his subtle, gorgeous artistry. Although, maybe a movie version of Cascade would be better off not being strictly period; maybe it would benefit from the inventiveness of someone like Sofia Coppola. I did a playlist for Cascade for David Gutowski’s music and literature blog, Largehearted Boy. His Book Notes feature asks authors to list a series of songs that relate, in any way the author likes, to their recent book. The Cascade playlist runs the gamut from Billy Strayhorn to Pink Floyd. Fun stuff.
Visit Maryanne O'Hara's website and Facebook page, and view the Cascade trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Cascade.

Writers Read: Maryanne O'Hara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Moira Crone's "The Not Yet"

Moira Crone is the author of several novels and story collections including What Gets Into Us and A Period of Confinement; her works have appeared in Oxford American, The New Yorker, Image, Mademoiselle, and over forty other journals and twelve anthologies. She has won prizes for her stories and novellas, and in 2009 she was given the Robert Penn Warren Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for the entire body of her work.

Here Crone dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Not Yet:
The year is 2121, the place, just outside the United Authority, on the American Continent--- the Islands of New Orleans.

Throughout the former U.S., the rich, called the Heirs, have found a way to purchase extended life. The rest of the population, still on the old life cycle, called the “Naturals” or “Nats,” are either poor---or destitute.

New Orleans is a great place to make a movie---and the watery world of the The Not Yet is a visual reference to the city’s recent history, its vulnerability—and our nation’s failings. Our great architecture, with Venetian landscape and navigation. The richness of this drowning environment is explored in the recent hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

I’ve described a playground for rich, bored ancients: the French Quarter is full of humans transformed by plastic surgery to appear like pet animals---birds, or borzoi dogs. These companions, called “Altereds” are essentially slaves for the amusement of the Heirs. The system of castes, enclaves, and strata keep most from rising, or earning a decent living.

Artists were inspired by the novel, and the descriptions of the Altereds, the Heirs, and the setting. They helped to set the scene---see an online gallery commissioned by my publisher.

James Franco might be the best actor for the part of Malcolm, the young hero. A former child star, one of the lucky ones, Malcolm has saved the wherewithal get on life extension. As the novel begins, however, funds have disappeared. He is on a quest to discover why. During the course of the novel, Malcolm is shot, given drugs that leave him helpless, captured by a band of rebels who think he’s a demi-god. He begins as a repressed, careful, and vain young man, but becomes outraged, disillusioned, and dangerous. Franco is fully capable of playing someone in physical extremes. He is equally expert at making a psychological transformation convincing.

In his youth, Malcolm is the assistant of Heir Dr. Lydia Greenmore, an experimental psychologist whose patients are near age two hundred. She has begun to conclude that Heirs’ extended lives are destroying natural, previously invisible limits of the psyche and the soul. She embarks upon a devolution in order to explore the mysticism of other times---so that she can map a “way out” for her charges --- to grant them the peace of mind they desperately seek.

Julianne Moore could be the ideal actress for this role. She can look old, and she can look very young---there is a point in the novel when Lydia “unmasks” and we see her true visage and physique under the manufactured dermis layers that swaddle her. She can play a queen, imperious and complex---and the part of the seer. She can also be very cold, and withholding. But perhaps her best quality is her seductive vulnerability that attracts Malcolm, makes it hard for him to separate from her---something he must do, if he is going to live the life he eventually yearns for.

Another main role in this novel is Malcolm’s guardian, Lazarus, a man who has been on life extension himself for over a hundred and fifty years, but has spent his last several decades trying to save those children who are “tossed out,” by parents who have no legal rights to procreate. Lazarus runs an orphanage for these foundlings. His own children consider him a mad liberal.

Ed Harris would be a good fit. He has a way of being “in control,” and yet about ready to lose it. Lazarus begins to question, as do all the main characters, the world of haves and have-nots, of Heirs and Nats, of those that die and those who avoid dying. Malcolm’s voyage reveals to him the very darkest side of Heir’s privilege. Eventually, he must decide if he will join their ranks---if eternal life is worth the cost the soul surely pays.
Learn more about the book and author at Moira Crone's website and the Facebook page for The Not Yet.

Writers Read: Moira Crone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

James R. Benn's "Death's Door"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942. The second, The First Wave, carries on a few months later during the Allied invasion of French Northwest Africa. The third, Blood Alone, continues the story through the Allied invasion of Sicily; and Evil for Evil, the fourth volume, follows Billy Boyle to Northern Ireland where he is sent at the request of the British government to investigate links between the Irish Republican Army and the Germans.

The fifth book in the series, Rag and Bone (2010), deals with the infamous Katyn Massacre of Polish Officers by the Soviets, and how the uncovering of that crime affected the war, especially Polish-Americans and the Poles in exile in England. Book number six, A Mortal Terror (2011), is set in southern Italy and within the Anzio beach head, where Billy tracks down the Red Heart Killer, who is targeting officers of increasingly senior rank.

In Death's Door, the seventh installment of the series, Billy goes undercover in the Vatican.

Here Benn shares some suggestions for casting an adaptation of the series:
When I was writing the first book in the Billy Boyle series—titled Billy Boyle, appropriately enough—the film Good Will Hunting had recently come out. Matt Damon then was not yet a superstar, but I was struck by the intensity of his character and the energy with which he infused the role. The working class Boston accent was perfect as well.

The “How do ya like them apples?” scene sealed the deal for me. From that point on, Matt Damon, circa 1997, became Billy Boyle. Smart, loyal to his friends, and a bit out of step with the rest of the world.

Billy Boyle’s sidekick is Lieutenant Piotr Augustus Kazimierz of the Polish Army in Exile, otherwise known as Kaz. Kaz is an intellectual with an affinity for his Webley service revolver. From the first, I imagined the English actor Leslie Howard in glasses. Slight, lean-faced, with an easy aristocratic air, nonchalance is his middle name. David Niven’s description of Howard fits Kaz perfectly: Howard was "...not what he seemed. He had the kind of distraught air that would make people want to mother him. Actually, he was about as naïve as General Motors. Busy little brain, always going."

The American actor Scott Glenn, known for his role in The Hunt for Red October, is a reliable stand-in for Colonel Sam Harding, Billy’s West Point-educated, non-nonsense boss. Glenn’s voice is deep and rumbly, and he can set his square jaw in a determined line that shows he means business. Some days I imagine George Clooney, day-dreaming that he wanted to produce the movie and support it with a secondary role. The man does look good in a uniform.

Billy’s British lover, Diana Seaton, is an operative for the Special Operations Executive, and is often sent on dangerous assignments. She’s quite beautiful, and I have always seen her as Veronica Lake, the actress who is well-known for her blond tresses. But she looks best for the role of Diana in this still [photo left] from the wartime flick So Proudly We Hail.

Everybody I mentioned has either died or aged out of the role (but not you George, in case you’re interested!). It’s a fun exercise to watch young actors and pick out possibilities for the role. Casting call, anyone?
Learn more about the Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Series at James R. Benn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Wave.

The Page 69 Test: Evil for Evil.

The Page 69 Test: Rag and Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dennis Drabelle's "The Great American Railroad War"

Dennis Drabelle is author of Mile-High Fever. He has written for multiple publications and is currently a contributing editor and a mysteries editor for The Washington Post Book World. In 1996 he won the National Book Critics Circle’s award for excellence in reviewing. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took On the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad:
For Collis Huntington, I would cast Ed Asner, who has the right gruffness quotient. For Frank Norris, it should be Ryan Gosling, who has the good looks and can radiate the innate goodness that everyone who knew Norris raved about; and since Gosling needs to transcend the Marlon Brando clipped-speech imitation he often gives, this would be a good chance for him to play an aristocrat. As for Ambrose Bierce, I think Alec Baldwin could capture the cynicism and eagerness to refute fools.
Learn more about The Great American Railroad War at the St. Martin's Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Great American Railroad War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Linda Grimes's "In a Fix"

Linda Grimes is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband.

Here she shares some ideas for a big screen adaptation of her new novel, In a Fix:
I suppose most writers have imagined—either with excitement or horror—Hollywood zeroing in on one of their books and splashing it onto the screen. I'm no exception. But I vacillate between thinking it would being the coolest thing ever and being totally terrified at the prospect.

Which way I'm leaning depends on the most recent screen adaptions I've seen. If it's something like The Hunger Games or Holes, or even the sadly short-lived Dresden Files TV series, which I think are excellent translations of print to screen—they all capture the atmosphere of the books very well, in my opinion—then, yeah, I get pretty excited thinking about my characters coming to life in a visual way.

If it's something like The Shining (the Jack Nicholson version) or The Great Gatsby (the Robert Redford version from way back), then the trepidations set in, and I start to feel a bit queasy.

As for how I'd cast In a Fix, given the opportunity … well, I have to admit that I couldn't come up with just one actor for any of the main characters. Nobody I've run across looks exactly how I imagine Ciel, Billy, or Mark. The best I could do is come up with "types."

For Ciel, either Hannah Spearritt or Michelle Williams might do, though they're both a bit older than Ciel. Still, they capture the essence of my mc, and I think either of them could rock the role if they had to.

Billy, the charming scoundrel, might be played by Callum Blue (from Dead Like Me, another sadly short-lived series), Matt Bomer (of White Collar fame), or even Ian Somerhalder (the bad-boy vamp from The Vampire Diaries). Though I suspect they're all a bit too busy to consider it.

I've always seen Mark, the badass CIA agent Ciel has been crushing on for years, as a young Steve McQueen type. Or, if being alive is essential, I suppose Charlie Hunnam (from Sons of Anarchy) could handle the role. If he doesn't mind keeping a short haircut, that is.

But if I'm ever lucky enough to have my book optioned for film or TV, I'm sure a casting director will have his or her own ideas, so I'm trying not to worry over-much about it. I'll just jump off that bridge when I get to it.
Learn more about the book and author at Linda Grimes's website.

Writers Read: Linda Grimes.

--Marshal Zeringue