Thursday, May 14, 2015

Karin Salvalaggio--The Casting Couch

  DEBORAH CROMBIE: My cross-cultural pal Karin Salvalaggio (born in the U.S., lives in London, writes brilliant novels set in Montana) was a willing (and very helpful) victim in my expeditions this spring searching for the perfect London pub for a scene in the upcoming Kincaid/James novel. So when she asks for casting couch input on her new Macy Greeley mystery, BURNT RIVER, I'm all in! (Especially if it involves a glass or two of wine...) What could be more fun than dreaming up a fantasy cast for your fictional characters? And what a cast!

I always get a little anxious when people ask if my novels will ever be made into films. Given it’s highly unlikely a movie executive will ever call me out of the blue, I tend to see it as an unhelpful distraction. It’s difficult enough getting published these days. I don’t need the added pressure of chasing film deals. But, that doesn’t stop me from pretending to be a casting agent once in awhile. It’s fun to imagine your book on the big screen and I think most writers indulge now and again! It usually involves a glass or two of wine, a few close friends and a healthy dose of optimism. It is in this spirit that I write my fantasy cast list for

the film version of BURNT RIVER, the latest novel in the Macy Greeley mystery series. By the way if Hollywood is listening they should know that this is my dream team. In return for a green light, I could be persuaded to let them tinker with the list as they see fit. Pouring the first glass of wine as I type…

In order of appearance

Detective Macy Greeley – Kate Mara (House of Cards) would be perfect for the role of my leading detective. Macy balances whip-smart investigative instincts with a somewhat chaotic personal life. Kate Mara is an actress with an intriguing combination of beauty, intelligence and inner strength. Plus she’s a little edgy. You can just tell there’s a lot going on under that tough exterior.

Dylan Reed – Robert Pattinson (Maps to the Stars, Rover) I’ve gone back and forth on this one. Dylan is a wounded war vet who suffers from PTSD. Inner demons follow him wherever he goes. It would be a difficult role to get right but Pattinson has proven himself to be an

actor who can rise to any challenge.

Tyler Lock – Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Inception) Tyler Lock has survived five tours of duty in some of the most dangerous places on the planet. He’s been hardened by his combat experiences but shows incredible tenderness when looking after his friend Dylan. Tom Hardy has delivered many nuanced performances. If anyone could get to the bottom of such a complex character it is Tom. Plus he’s a local boy. He was born just down the road from where I live in West London!

Police Chief Aiden Marsh – Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd, Rust and Bone) I thought I had this role all wrapped up and then I went to see Far from the Madding Crowd. I don’t care if his American accent isn’t perfect at the moment. Surely Matthias can
learn! By the way, I’d be happy to tutor him … privately.

Jeremy Dalton – Tommy Lee Jones (No Country for Old Men, Men in Black) Jeremy is the patriarch of a Montana ranching family that dates back several generations. As his family unravels around him, he struggles to keep his legendary temper in check. Tommy Lee Jones could do this with his eyes shut, but I’m hoping he keeps them open. He has lovely eyes!

Wade Larkin – Sam Shepherd
(The Right Stuff, Black Hawk Down) is an actor I’ve long admired. Wade Larkin’s character needs someone of his caliber. He’s lost so much in his life but you’d never know it by how he carries himself. Think gravitas, quiet dignity and a whiff of danger. Plus he’s a ranch foreman in Montana. Doesn’t Sam Shepherd live there? Surely, it’s meant to be.

Jessie Dalton – Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) instantly came to mind when I was writing this character. Rooney has that rare combination of fragility and strength that would suit Jessie, a woman who is only beginning to get her life back on track after years of drug and alcohol abuse. Plus she gets to work with her equally talented sister Kate. It’s a win-win.

Lana Clark – This character was modeled on the songstress Lana del Rey. A femme fatale, she has more depth than people realize. I need suggestions on this one. Can Lana del Rey act?

Ray Davidson – Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, W.) Ray Davidson is Macy Greeley’s boss but there relationship doesn’t stop there. They have a child together and although he’s returned to his wife, he’s claiming they’re separating again. Ray is ruthless, powerful and sexy as hell. Josh Brolin would be perfect.

Sarah Reed – Robin Wright (House of Cards, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Sarah is a beautiful woman who has fallen for the wrong man. Once full of life, she’s been reduced to living off emotional scraps. I wrote the character with Helen Reddy’s hit song “Delta Dawn” playing in my head. We’re used to seeing Robin Wright play strong female characters. This would be against type, which makes it all the more interesting.

Ethan Green – John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) Ethan is the leader of a private militia movement in Montana. Once a local hero, he’s fallen on hard times. He’s been sidelined, which makes him dangerous. John Hawkes pulled off an amazing performance as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone. I’d love to see him on screen again.

DEBS: Here's what the Richmond Times Dispatch has to say about BURNT RIVER:

'Salvalaggio, whose "Bone Dust White" debut novel won high acclaim last year, tops even that effort in "Burnt River," which combines spare but gripping prose, well-conceived and well-executed characters and a dark storyline that delivers multiple shocks.'

This is a novel that begs for the big screen, and I can see every one of the characters just the way Karin has cast them. I do have one caveat--I want Tom Hardy! Maybe not as Duncan--he's too bulky--for a character somewhere. He's so fabulous! (And you know I'm a sucker for a West London accent...)

REDS, do you cast your own books? And readers, When you read, do you picture characters as familiar actors?

 When Detective Macy Greeley is called to Wilmington Creek, a sleepy ranching community in northern Montana, she expects an open-and-shut, if high-profile, murder case. What greets her is anything but. John Dalton, a soldier returned home from serving in Afghanistan, has been shot dead in an alleyway outside a local bar. Macy can't see any obvious motive for the attack, but John's closest friends and his twin sister, Jessie, have been keeping secrets.

With a series of wildfires pushing the area's resources to the limit and Darby Lake's water level dropping to a record low, Jessie is becoming increasingly anxious about what may be uncovered if the rains don't return to the valley soon. Haunted by what's hidden beneath the still waters, she doesn't know whether to help or hinder Macy's investigation. And Macy herself is increasingly uneasy about what she discovers as she navigates the politics of a small town and the Dalton family clan, as well as her own complicated relationship with the father of her young son.

KARIN SALVALAGGIO was born in West Virginia in the 1960s. Her father was career military and her mother was a homemaker. Karin has fond memories of her nomadic childhood - the hours spent on the road, the anticipation of a new life, the unpacking of the old one. She’s lived in places as climatically diverse as Alaska and Florida and as culturally distinct as California and Iran. Karin attended the University of California Santa Cruz, graduating in 1989, but aside from two years in Italy, she has lived in London, England since 1994. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London.


  1. It's fun to see who gets selected as the "perfect" actor or actress to portray the characters in a book but I've never done this when I read.

  2. I'd like to ask Karin a question if I may? I love Macy! In Bone Dust White she really owned the pages and is so nuanced. She does seem to be on an interesting personal projectoy - can we expect more twists and turns in her own life as the series progresses. My copy of Burnt River arrives today- so excited!

  3. I'd like to ask Karin a question if I may? I love Macy! In Bone Dust White she really owned the pages and is so nuanced. She does seem to be on an interesting personal projectoy - can we expect more twists and turns in her own life as the series progresses. My copy of Burnt River arrives today- so excited!

  4. I'm so thrilled to see you here today, Karin. I became a fan with Bone Dust White, and I started Burnt River tonight. I knew without opening it that Burnt River would be another outstanding read. I've only just begun the first few pages, as I finished one book and always want to crack open the next before I go to sleep, but I can't wait to start back on it tomorrow, or, uh later today. I'm up much later than I intended to be, but I had to type a quick note here when I saw you were the guest. As we discussed, I'll have the interview questions ready for my blog as soon as I finish the book, which should be immediately.

    Oh, on the casting. I'll post more on that tomorrow, but I have to disagree about Josh Brolin as Ray. I'll think on that and have a choice when I post again later. So happy you're on Jungle Reds, where I first met you.

  5. Your characters are so strong--they need to be, with the brutal world you put them in, Karin. I love this lineup, in particular Kate Mara as Macy Greeley. I have a couple of actors picked out for my own book but have a lot more fun casting other friends' books. I tend to put Tom Hardy into a lot of roles, so I'm glad you cast him already!

  6. Joan, that's a fair comment. I don't imagine actors playing the roles of various characters as I read books but as a writer I draw on many different influences from my personal life, film and literature when I'm developing characters. My only rule is that I always avoid basing a character too closely on a real person or existing character as it can be limiting.

  7. Fiona, thanks for asking about Macy. I love writing her character. I believe many readers are drawn to her because they recognise themselves in her character. She faces challenges that are well known to anyone who is trying balance careers, family obligations and romantic relationships. She sometimes gets it wrong and her love life is chaotic at times, but I’d expect nothing less from a character who is never going to settle down for the sake of it. She’ll always be a great cop and a wonderful mother but I imagine there will be many more twists and turns in her personal life. It’s what makes her interesting!

  8. Kathy, I forgot that we met here! I'm so pleased you're reading BURNT RIVER! It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on Ray. My other choice was Aaron Eckhart.

  9. This sounds like a book I need to read. Welcome, Karin! I love it, a pub crawl with a literary goal.

    And yes, I do cast my own books. Often while I'm writing them. Night Night, Sleep Tight takes place in the'60s and '80s so I "cast" it with actors from the period (with Debra Winger as she was in Terms of Endearment in the role of Deirdre; Ann Margaret as she was in Bye Bye Birdie in the role of Joelen...)

  10. Hallie,

    Debs is great fun on pub crawl! She even introduced me to my new favourite drink - straight gin on ice with lime. There are so many new distilleries in London that you need never drink the same gin twice :)

    I love that you cast your books with actors from a specific time period. I had thought of putting Peggy Lipton down to play the role of Annie Dalton but wasn't sure if she was still acting. I loved her in Twin Peaks and the Mod Squad but wasn't sure if she was still working. Not that it matters. This is pure fantasy.

  11. I'll be listening to the audio of this book soon, so I'm happy to see Karin here today.

    Will be interesting to see if the audio book narration sways my opinion as to actors in any way.

  12. Martha, you got me there. I am pretty mean to my characters. The entire cast will have to be pretty resilient if they're going to make through to the closing credits. I think someone like Tom Hardy could hack it though. He is rather exceptional. I can't wait to see him as Mad Max.

  13. Hi Karin, This was great fun. Lots of drool-worthy actors in those roles!

  14. Terry, do you ever imagine who would play Samuel Kraddock if your books were made into a film?

  15. Karin, I had a little trouble with Josh Brolin, too. I think I'd like Aaron Eckhart better. This is fantasy casting, after all! And I wondered who you would cast as Annie. I can see Peggy Lipton.

    Hallie, I LOVE your casting for Night Night!! Perfect! But who would have played them in the 80s? (No aging make-up allowed:-))

    And Terry, I want to know about Samuel, too.

  16. What a stellar cast. I hope this is the start of film energy....

  17. Debs,

    Given Annie is suffering from early onset dementia and has been allowed to go slightly feral up at the ranch house, she is a pretty tough character to play. If it's not done well it could quickly descend into farce.

    On another note nobody has given any suggestions for Lana Clark. Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame comes to mind.

  18. WHooo! I want to see that movie!

    So great to see you here..and I agree about the movie thing. SOmeone always asks, right? And I love that they can envision our books as movies. But you know--if TRUTH BE TOLD were about to be a movie (and it would be a good one...) I'd probably make that the lede of my speech. You know?

    (I always saw Rene Russo as Charlotte McNAlly. ANd Tea Leoni as Jane Ryland. What think?)

  19. I don't tend to picture actors when I'm reading. And when I am involved in discussions on who should be cast as a character, I always draw a blank.

  20. Daniela SalvalaggioMay 14, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    How about Margot Robbie with dark hair for Lana?

  21. Dani, Margot Robbie is an inspired choice! I looked up a photo. She looks fabulous with dark hair.

  22. I don't have much time, as my afternoon is full, but I wanted to get back to the casting of Ray. Karin, I like your second choice of Aaron Eckhart better. Another one I came up with is Chris O'Donnell, very good looking, but not as pretty boy type as Eckhart. O'Donnell could do the emotional depths and struggles of Ray superbly, and he looks like Montana could be his home. I meant to say earlier that I do like your choice for Macy. Oh, and I like Peggy Lipton for Annie, Debs.

    Hank, noooo to Tea Leoni as Jane! Sorry, she's just a little too hard edged for me, not that Jane isn't a really strong woman, but I see Jane with less sharp edges. I'll have to think on that now and come up with an actress.

    Hallie, I like Debra Winger for Deirdre and Ann Margaret as Joelen.

    Karin and Debs, you two must have had a blast on your pub crawl, I mean literary research. I would love to see a list and ratings of the pubs for future reference.

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  25. Like Debs, I want Tom Hardy. And I think Hank's suggestion of Rene Russo is great. Macy is such a rich character that every young actress will be beating the doors down. Am looking forward to Burnt River and more poetry in prose.

  26. Kathy, sorry but I'm not seeing Chris O'Donnell in the role. I picture Ray as being in his mid to late 40s so Chris seems a little young. I agree that he's good looking though... we'll have to find another role for him :)

  27. Diana, you're so sweet! I hope you get your poetry-prose crossover fix when you read Burnt River. I also hope that someday in the future actresses are begging to be cast as Macy. It's a lovely thought. Meanwhile, I have to get back to finishing the third book!

  28. Hank, your books would make wonderful movies!

    I think we're all very aware of just how unlikely it is for our novels to make it to the big screen but it's fun to fantasise on occasion!

    Anyway, if it happens the list of people I'll have to thank will be a long one. Jungle Red Writers will definitely be in there!

    Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today!

  29. Welcome, Karin! Would you and Debs pretty please take me on your next pub crawl???

  30. Susan, you're very welcome to come on our next pub crawl! The more the merrier. After living in London for twenty years, I've become a bit of an expert at pub crawling. It's all about pace!

  31. Karin is the pub crawl expert, Susan! (I mean that in the nicest of ways:-)) We ruled four or five pubs off my "possibles" list in one night, and yes, we were still standing. Very moderate girls, we are.

    I did find the perfect pub for my scene the next week, out walking on my own, but I didn't actually go in the place. So next time. Karin, did you get that???

  32. Oh, yes, yes, I want to come, too! Karen and the Reds take London! Yay.

    And KAthy Reel, I cannot wait to hear who you come up with!

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  34. Debs and Karin–– So much fun!

    Love the choice of Sam Shepard! I worked with him years ago in a theater in Boston. I'd never seen a man wearing a plaid flannel shirt in Boston before. He scared me. And I annoyed him. But I was a teenager , so I annoyed everybody.

  35. Karin SalvalaggioMay 15, 2015 at 2:59 AM

    Good morning from London. Sorry I missed your late comments but according to Greenwich Mean Time it was time to get to sleep.

    Debs and Hank, I'd love to join the Reds for a pub crawl. I'm sure we can check you the new pub Debs found somewhere along the route!

    Reine, that's a fun story about Sam Shephard. What an amazing memory to have!

  36. I went to see Mad Max last week, so Tom Hardy is fresh in my mind: a PERFECT fit :) I occasionally have a little wander around the ideal cast for my novel, but have such a bad memory that I can never remember anyone! My middle daughter is going to be an actress, though. Maybe I should leave it until she's ready to go ;)