Monday, February 19, 2018


Admission, I've fantasized about turning my stories into movies. I don't let myself get too bogged down in the daydreams, yet it is so fun to imagine. Plus, at times, it helps me see my story from different angles, allowing me to create depth or add a little magic. Truthfully, it's just a kick to picture something of your own on the big screen. Or little screen, I'm not fancy.

I don't think I'm alone in these thoughts. So, for fun, I've reached out to my friends who happen to be talented writers and put them to task. Some of these answers are going to surprise you so get ready.

Angel Luis Colón * Jennifer Hillier * S.W. Lauden * Rob Pierce * Tom Pitts * Will Viharo

If you could have one of your books turned into a movie which one would you choose? Who would direct? Who would star?

Angel Luis Colón
If I could have any of my books turned into a movie, it'd probably be the upcoming PULL & PRAY (Summer 2018). It's the sequel to NO HAPPY ENDINGS but can stand on its own and feels a little friendlier to film in my mind.

As for lead Fantine Park, I'd say Jamie Chung (THE GIFTED) fits the mold. In a dream world, a guy like Shane Black would tackle the script and we'd get a solid all-around pulp director like Renny Harling to grind that bad boy out.

Jennifer Hillier
Ooh, I love this question, because I spend at least an hour every day (literally) fantasizing about things just like this! I would choose JAR OF HEARTS. And not just because it's my newest book, but because an editor that read it called it a cross between THE NIGHT OF and SERIAL with a dash of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.

I'd like to believe JAR OF HEARTS is cinematic, but I can actually picture it working well on the small screen, maybe on HBO or Showtime or a channel that doesn't censor. The story unfolds in a way that I think would suit an eight-part limited series format, as it moves back and forth between the past (being in high school in the 90s) and the present (being a successful executive who gets sent to prison).

I used to imagine Meghan Markle playing the lead, but then she had to go and get engaged to a prince, so I'm guessing she's unavailable now. But it should be a woman of color playing the lead role of Georgina, absolutely. So maybe Olivia Munn. And the director could be Jean-Marc Vallée, who did BIG LITTLE LIES, a novel I liked which turned into a show I loved. Ah, one can dream.

S.W. Lauden
Thanks for having me back, Marietta! If I had to pick one book to turn into a film, it would have to be Bad Citizen Corporation. Not only does that book introduce my punk rock P.I., Greg Salem, but it sets up the seedy Southern California universe for the trilogy (including Grizzly Season and Hang Time).

Given the punk rock backdrop, and since this is all theoretical anyway, I would probably pick Penelope Spheeris to direct. "The Decline of Western Civilization" and "Surburbia" are important films about the early LA/OC hardcore scene. Whoever directed it would need first hand knowledge of LA beach culture and the amazing music it produces. I never really gave casting much thought because I mostly modeled Greg Salem on musicians, but maybe somebody in the vein of Charlie Hunnam would work. I would demand to curate the soundtrack.

Rob Pierce
Since my books other than the short story collection are sequential, the first movie would have to be Uncle Dust, for the sake of the sequels if nothing else.

Preferred lead actor, any era, would be Robert Mitchum. Although I'm sure Tom Hardy could play it. I love both those motherfuckers.

I watch almost no current movies, although I loved what Michael Roskam did with Dennis Lehane's The Drop (and yeah, that starred Tom Hardy: so shoot me). But my first choice would probably be Ernest Dickerson: he directed several episodes of The Wire and Treme, plus Do The Right Thing, plus he was cinematographer on Do The Right Thing and Brother from Another Planet, among others. The guy just knows how to make shit look right.

Tom Pitts
You know … funny you should ask. For the past year I’ve been wrestling Hustle into a screenplay and—over beers with the man who intends to direct—there’s always a lot of talk about casting. It’s a strange thing for me to even entertain because when I write, I don’t think about a specific actor. I have the character sketched out in my head—and it’s usually an ugly amalgamation of terrible people I’ve known, not pretty ones I’ve watched on the silver screen. In fact, when I think of a certain actor filling the role, I find that a bit limiting. I certainly don’t like it when authors take the shortcut of using an actor to describe a character either: the old fisherman walked in and he looked just like Bob Newhart in galoshes—that kind of thing.

Back to your question (and setting aside the blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve poured into the Hustle project) I think I’d like to see my next novel, 101, get made. Why? (Besides making this question an impromptu promo spot.) Because it’s the funniest and has, I think, the most colorful characters—guys like Vlad the Inhaler, Meth Master Mike, Doughboy, and Ripper.

For a Director? Picking a director is tough. There’s a lot of talent out there. I loved The Night Of, but what I enjoy isn’t necessarily the best for what I write. Hmmn, I get my choice huh? The guy who did Killing Them Softly did a great job, but I’m not sure what else he’s done. Well, if I gotta choose, what the hell, I may as well shoot high and pick Shane Black. From Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to The Nice Guys, he’s proven he’s got a got eye for comic timing and he gets pacing. As for casting? I don’t know. I’d hope Mr. Black would have better minds on it than me. I’m definitely someone who says shit like, “You know that guy, from that movie with the thing, the guy with the hair, you know the guy I mean?”

Will Viharo
This question resonates with my actual experience, since one of my novels, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, was under option by Christian Slater for well over a decade and almost reached fruition - with me in collaboration on the screenplay - before it was suddenly put back on ice, indefinitely. I’ve told this story way too many times, so I won’t recount it here. Just thought I had to at least mention it, since it’s relevant to the topic.

Instead of lamenting my close call with real world success, and since we’re just fantasizing here, I’ll pick another of my books, and in fact my personal favorite, A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge.

This particular novel marked my return to writing fiction after a twelve year, self-imposed hiatus, during which time I was a full time film programmer, which actually paid bills, and developed my public persona of “Will the Thrill,” my lounge lizard doppelganger, via a live cult movie cabaret I produced and hosted with my wife Monica the “Tiki Goddess”, called Thrillville, which became my brand name, such as it is.

Ironically, I was asked to create this show at the behest of the theater’s owners, who had actually published the first edition of Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me via their own brief publishing venture, Wild Card Press, in 1995. They thought I could use this public platform to promote the book. Instead, Thrillville took off as its own unique entity, establishing my professional reputation, but in effect sidelining my true passion, writing. Christian Slater’s option checks continued annually during this period, which kept my dreams of eventual literary success alive, even if I wasn’t actively pursuing it.

Anyway, the theater suddenly folded in 2009, taking my backup career with it. Desperate, I turned back to writing fiction, picking up a type-written manuscript I began in 1997, just before my Thrillville detour launched, called A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge. (Before my show was dubbed Thillville, I called it the Midnight Lounge, since it took place Saturdays at midnight before moving to prime time and being rechristened and recalibrated.)

After years of presenting obscure, vintage grindhouse/drive-in/exploitation movies with live burlesque acts and retro bands to Bay Area audiences, my brain was naturally saturated with lurid imagery. I always gravitated toward sleazy cinema anyway, since my personal life was likewise low budget.

So I dug up the 35 or so pages I’d written back in 1997. I’d started writing a fairly standard crime noir, but since my sensibilities had evolved (or devolved) significantly in the interim, I suddenly took the narrative on a series of sharp left turns, adding in monsters, zombies, explicit sex, graphic violence, and Elvis mythos. It was intentionally cinematic, but surrealistic and stylized, pulpy and poetic, and in fact more of a mediation on loneliness and alienation than sheer sensationalism.

My beloved cat Bubba had just been diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer, and this tragic fact, coupled with my economic dread as a middle-aged man with no formal education, fueled the fast-moving but hard-twisting tale of two lovers, Nick and Dolores, caught up in a whirlwind of nightmarish circumstances across multiple parallel planes of fragile, fragmented existence.

I’ve often publicly acknowledged that my biggest inspiration for my work is filmmaker David Lynch, but I distinguish “inspiration” from “influence,” since his movies don’t consciously inform my creative decisions as an author. It’s more like I’m spiritually in sync with his idiosyncratic vision, which blends dreamy romanticism with erotic horror and macabre mysticism, and that is exactly what Mermaid was organically attempting, My work springs mainly from my own life, but filtered through an admittedly warped imagination.

Therefore, even while writing it, I could image Lynch directing it. Because many of its themes and its ambiguous ambience unintentionally or subconsciously echoed films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, I figured this material would be right up his artistic alley. Plus music plays a crucial part in the creation of Lynch’s world, and since I listen to music when I write in order to maintain a specific mood, I often directly reference these tunes in the work, in effect creating a soundtrack for the reader. A friend of mine, whose musician moniker is Actual Rafiq, actually composed four original instrumentals for a CD collection called Music for a Drowning Mermaid. The rest of the internal “soundtrack” included lots of jazz, lounge and exotica numbers, spotlighting songs by Nina Simone, Sinatra, Bowie, etc., along with several variations of “I Put a Spell On You.”

While working on the book, an old friend of mine, Jim, asked for my address, because he wanted to send me a surprise package. It turned out to be an autographed copy of David Lynch’s hugely impactful book Catching the Big Fish, which I’d already read, along with a signed photograph. Jim, who had attended a few of my Thrillville shows, was engaged to Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer. They are now happily married.

I took this as cosmic affirmation and an omen to persevere and finish the book, which I self-published in 2010, bypassing the system that I’d tried to break through for many years prior to my stint as a film programmer. I’m still very proud of it, and of all my books, it’s the most comprehensive expression of my many strange sensibilities.

The recent revival of Twin Peaks (which I consider to be his ultimate masterpiece) further cemented my belief Lynch would be the ideal and in fact only director suitable for Mermaid, though given its XXX content, I doubt he could get it funded. I’d rather he just do his own thing, anyway, which is one reason I relate to him so much as an artist.

As for casting, I’d leave that up to him. While contemporary, Mermaid is filled with 1950s underground pop ethos. So any modern actors embodying those old school traits, but unafraid to engage in outrageous acts of horror and sensuality, would fit the bill.

This will never happen. Lynch is too old and my work is too obscure and anti-mainstream. Love Stories was probably my best shot at success, since it’s relatively accessible material. But in today’s corporate, calculated, commercialized culture where comic book heroes reign supreme, even that has hit one too many roadblocks on the road to realization.

One last point of irony: the first movie I ever hosted in the Midnight Lounge was Blue Velvet.

 Let's all go to the movies.

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