I Hear Voices
When sharing the cut scene from The Alchemist’s Notebook, I mentioned the character of Clyde had been written with Larry Finkelstein from television’s Dharma & Greg in mind, though Clyde only had a passing resemblance to the character. It was Alan Rachins’ voice, more than anything, that I heard while writing Clyde’s dialogue.
I do this. A lot. I do it when I’m reading, and I do it when I’m writing. I start to hear celebrities (mostly actors and actresses, but not always) speaking the dialogue. So, I thought I’d share which other celebrities popped up when I was writing.
Unlike the game of dream-casting actors in roles for future (but inevitable!) film versions of a novel, I’m not actually suggesting any of these people are right for the roles they play in my head. For one thing, they might not look the part at all. For another, sometimes (as you’ll see) their ages are vastly different from the characters’.
To start, Malcolm Ward, as the narrator, is the most important voice in the novel. Some would say it’s my voice, but I’ve heard from those who have read my book that they don’t hear me in it at all (although my voice is heard a bit in his more sarcastic remarks).
Truth told, when I first started writing Malcolm, I pictured Scott Patterson as Luke Danes from The Gilmore Girls. Luke, with his trademark green jacket, is a grumpy restaurant owner who tries to run a business but also wants to be left alone. It’s an interesting balance, and I often heard his exasperated sighs when a new customer walked into The Village Alchemist.
Trivia: I sent a picture of Patterson as Luke to my book designer to give her an idea of the kind of green jacket I wanted Malcolm to wear on the cover.
For Malcolm’s assistant, Nick, I was often reminded of Josh Holloway, although I had to give him a Cajun accent. Something about the way his character Sawyer on Lost could charm someone one second and be tough as nails the next made him the perfect voice for Nick. He had to be smart, but also conciliatory. Of course, Josh Holloway is too old to play Nick, who needs to be in his early 20s.
For Malcolm’s best friend and Utah’s leading meteorologist Gust Hansen, I heard a voice that was both friendly and authoritative. He had to be a poker buddy and the guy who’d back up Malcolm when things got tough. As a television personality, he needed to be larger than life, too. So when I heard his voice, I heard a big man, a gentle giant. I heard John Goodman.
Though he doesn’t look the part these days, in his younger years he would have been perfect. Check out his hair in this 1981 Foot Locker commercial:
Marci came to me in pieces. Sometimes she was a waif of a woman, thin and delicate. Other times she was full of fire and strong as steel. In her voice, I heard an accent, but I couldn’t quite place it. She seemed well-spoken, but also capable of some weird colloquialism that didn’t make sense to anyone but her. At last I realized her voice had the slightest hint of a Southern accent, but as if she hadn’t lived in the south for a very long time. That’s when I realized the voice I had heard was Reese Witherspoon, specifically a combination of her roles in Sweet Home Alabama and Walk the Line. For the record, I think Witherspoon would be perfect to play Marci in a film version.
I didn’t hear Viktor’s voice until I was in my last round of revisions. Early on, I heard the mage as menacing, almost gravelly voiced. Think of a vampire or a demon, with a bit of laryngitis. As I rewrote his intro scene, I realized he wasn’t really a bad guy. He was often at odds with Malcolm, but it was just business. Not in the way Michael Corleone says it to Sonny in The Godfather, but professional, in the way Roger Sterling would talk to Don Draper in Mad Men. And then I heard it. John Slattery became the voice of Viktor. Calm, cool, and charming. Professional, but also with a hint of “Who gives a fuck?”.
While I have no doubt that The Alchemist’s Notebook will be optioned as a movie or television series someday (are you listening Syfy?), it may be years before it gets off the ground. In that time, new, equally perfect talent may arise to play the part of Malcolm, Marci, or Gust.
Just recently, while watching The Leftovers on HBO, I remarked to Rachel how perfect Justin Theroux would be as Malcolm. Who knows? It might be Theroux’s voice I hear for Malcolm as I write book two.
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