Lights, Camera, Action!

It’s finally sinking in that A Kettle of Fish has been published as an e-book, and I’m thrilled with the reviews it has already had. But with a printed edition also on the way, how better to celebrate than imagine how the story could be brought to life on the screen? Big, small, silver or HD, I thought it would be fun to play director for a day and present my cast of characters with some clues as to who might play them.

Of course in the great Scottish tradition of low budget movies (remember Bill Forsyth?) I would most likely have the younger generation (Ailsa, Faye, Andy, Ian, Danny) played by up and coming ‘unknowns’, but just for today I’m going to flash the cash and go for some big names.

My heroine Ailsa Robertson  has not had the best of starts in life. she’s excluded from the in-crowd and her shady family background has made her the butt of jokes. But when she leaves school, she is determined to get a grip on life in general and boys in particular. Her judgement’s not always good, but her spirit and her sense of humour never fail.

Despite being a bit too tall for how I imagine Ailsa, I think she’s going to have to be played by Dr. Who’s assistant Karen Gillan

Faye is Ailsa’s best mate. A bit older than Ailsa and more confident with men, she can be ballsy when she wants to. But a family tragedy has left her more vulnerable than she looks. Faye is tough with a touch of frailty.

Tricky, but with credits as diverse as Emma and The Hour, I’d at least give Romola Garai an audition!

Lorraine Robertson, Ailsa’s Mum, is an enigma – physically frail but determined to keep her secrets. Her role is hugely influential but her character inherently weak. Who could play her? Who would want to?

I’m in two minds – Tilda Swinton is fantastically versatile, but maybe too strong a personality. It turns out  Shirley Henderson (Four Weddings and Harry Potter) was born in Fife and looks a lot like I imagine Lorraine to be (on one of her good days!).

Ailsa’s dad Tom Roberston found himself on the receiving end of a teenage crush but also ‘pulled’ an older woman. We meet him in later life, but there must still be an attraction.
Plenty of candidates here, and I’m just a bit sad to find out the lovely John Hannah is now old enough for the role – but the perfect choice, I think.

Now for the love interest! It’s hard to cast Ailsa’s first boyfriend Ian Mackay because he’s not the glamorous type.  He’s the boy-next-door who ends up as collateral damage in Ailsa’s quest to find herself. But I like him and you will too. Could James Corden be tempted back from Broadway? If not, I rather like the look of Scottish character actor Lewis McLeod.  If Ailsa had her way, her next boyfriend would be Andy Chalmers, he has the looks and the social graces, his family are well-off, he has prospects. But like everyone else in the book, there’s something he’s not telling. A looker is required, James McAvoy? Gets my vote.

The next man in Ailsa’s path is Shane Reilly. A dodgy art-dealer and obvious womaniser, I think I had in mind the old Lovejoy star Ian McShane, but I’m going to have to find a younger version!  Although the looks are not the same, I rather fancy Ian Glenn as a good-looking baddy.

Well I didn’t realise there were so many characters in A Kettle of Fish until now and I’m painfully aware I’ve missed out some key players. But I’ll allow myself one last indulgence. Jenni (aka Jenny) Carstairs can play the flamboyant artist but at heart she’s a woman feeling her age. Could Celia Imrie avoid stealing the show completely? On second thoughts I think I’ll have  Emma Thompson. She could also help me with the screenplay!

Thanks so much for joining in this fun. It’s a shame we can’t have pictures of all these stars, but in the excerpt you’ll at least find out how find some of these characters sound.

And if you’d like to get more of a feel of the book, pop over to my blog where you can’t watch a film but you can see some of the places in Fife and Edinburgh where the action takes place.

A Kettle of Fish is a rollercoaster family drama set in Scotland and published by Thornberry Publishing

Buy it from Amazon UK (£1.99) or Amazon USA in Kindle format.

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A Kettle of Fish

Excerpt from Chapter 6.

It was after eight on the Saturday night when Faye and I fought our way across the lounge of the East Port Bar. We paused for breath. “There he is,” I said.

My voice tailed off. Ian was in the opposite corner, his hand on a pint. I’d had nearly a month to get used to Ian, but now I saw him through Faye’s eyes: a shopkeeper wearing an opened neck shirt, a guy who could do with losing at least a stone. The confidence that sprang from having a boyfriend, any boyfriend, began to ooze away. It didn’t help that sitting next to him was a guy I didn’t know. The stranger was dark-haired with the shadow of stubble along his jaw. He wore a black jacket over a t-shirt; the kind of style statement Ian wouldn’t even notice, never mind aspire to. Faye and I sat down.

“Do you know Andy?” Ian asked.

I shook my head. Faye’s nails (dark green alternating with purple) didn’t really go with her wispy blue smock, or the turquoise leggings that finished at her knees, but Faye never did care what anybody else thought. She gave Ian a minimal nod of greeting, then looked pointedly around the room as if to confirm her status as a free agent.

Andy flashed a smile. “What can I get you, girls?” His jeans were skinny and his trainers had a recognisable logo. I guessed he wasn’t in the fish business. He took the order and went to the bar.

“Who’s he?” I hissed at Ian. I didn’t like it that he had felt the need for reinforcements, however easy on the eye.

“Andy Chalmers. Comes from Torryburn.”

The people I knew from Torryburn lived in the cramped council houses built for miners. Clearly, the village had a more gentrified side.

Andy arrived back with the round. He was older than us, two or three years, I thought. “You girls from the High School then?” This was his way of indicating he had gone elsewhere. “My brother started at the High,” he said, “but then my folks saw the light.”

He ignored the way his joke fell flat. He asked what plans we had. When Faye said she was going to Napier University, he called it “The Tech”. He said he already had a law degree. Now he was doing Law School.

“In Edinburgh?”

He nodded. “Part-time, though. Get some cash along the way.”

The way he said cash. A shorter a, almost posh.

“All mapped out then,” Faye said, “your brilliant career.”

I didn’t know what was getting to her. Maybe the absent Gavin meant more than she had let on. Ian gave me a look that said “Why did she have to come?”

Soon Faye decided she needed a fag and I went out with her to the patio where smokers jostled and chatted or just stared out into the dark. Faye lit up and stood with one leg resting against the wall behind her. She exhaled with feeling.

“No offence, Ails, but this is shite.”

“Yeah, sorry. I didn’t know he was bringing Andy. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

“Well, I have.” Faye flicked ash on the floor. “He went out with Rachel Green’s sister. He was all over her. They slept together then he gave her the heave-ho. Thinks he’s God’s gift.”

I tried not to be impressed by Faye’s fund of gossip or Andy’s sexual adventures.

“Look,” I said, “just go if you like. I’ll make an excuse.”

“Och, Ails, I feel a traitor. But you don’t really need me here, do you?”

I gave Faye a push. “Just go, yah dirty rat.” Vi was big on old films. Faye responded with a bony hug. “Cheers, Ails,” and squirmed away between the smokers.

Back in the bar I sat down again. Ian and Andy were unfazed by Faye’s disappearing act. Perhaps they’d expected it.

“Sudden illness in the family?” Andy enquired.

“Something like that.”

“And you’re off to uni too then?”

“Yeah, next month.”

His close-cut black hair was flecked with the occasional strand of white. He’d look good as a barrister. His eyes were light grey.

“So what subject are you doing?” I was flattered by his interest but he was less than impressed with my reply. “English? What’ll you do with that then?”

I shrugged. “I might teach. My mum was a teacher. And my dad.” I felt an unusual desire to stick up for the teaching profession.

Andy was underwhelmed. “A family of English teachers? Is there a name for that?”

I could feel myself getting hot. “My mum taught history.”

“And yer father?”

I could have kicked myself for getting into this conversation. “Art.” I tried not to watch Andy too closely, wondering if he knew much about my family history, such as it was.

“Well,” Ian came to my rescue. He might not have been a candidate for Mensa, but he knew when a change of subject was required. “Her dad’s off the scene and good riddance.” He then asked Andy some football related question and they were off. I was happy to keep stumm.

History and art. I could have done history; but art? Never. I hated it, even the smell of the art room with its dried up paint brushes turned me off. I thought of the photo of Dad in the library. Whatever traits I’d inherited, an artistic streak wasn’t one of them. I had hated those lessons, with Jenny Carstairs looking over my shoulder, exuding a musty blend of French perfume and art room dust as I gouged or moulded or slapped some paint around. “Och, that’s a very good effort, Ailsa.”

Jenny had been there for years and by then was head of the department. She would have known Dad, probably been his boss. Her interest in me was another example of the sympathy vote, the consolation prize for being the daughter of Tom Robertson and his skeery wife.

Andy was making a move. “I’ll leave you two lovebirds to it.” He shrugged on his jacket. “See you, Ian. Nice to meet you… Ailsa.” He left a tiny gap before my name, filing me away for future reference. I was gratified, then felt a stab of guilt.

I rounded on Ian. “Why on earth did you ask him along? Faye was really pissed off.”

Ian drew back and lifted his hands in self-defence, as if I were a firework with the touch-paper lit. “Keep the heid! I never asked him to come. I was here early and he bought me a pint. His dad’s a friend of my dad. I don’t really know him that well.”

He went to the bar and brought another drink. When he came back I apologised but he was already laughing. “Bloody hell,” he said, “I can see I’ll have to watch myself with you.”

(Read another excerpt here)


Please leave a comment

  1. Ali B Says:

    Huge thanks to Linn and all the lahe team for supporting my novel. Hoping a few of you will come and share the fun!
    Ali B

  2. Mandy Baggot Says:

    It sounds fabulous!! Hope you have a great day, Ali!

    Mandy x

  3. Janice Horton Says:

    What a fun thing to do – and I loved your ‘cast’, Ali. I loved A Kettle of Fish and if I had to put an actress in the role of Ailsa it would be Kelly McDonald!

    Wishing you great success with this novel. It’s a wonderfully suspenseful mix – it’s a right kettle of fish – an even better, it’s set in Scotland!

    Janice xx

  4. Nicky Wells Says:

    HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY! What a cast, and what a great post! Wishing you a fabulous day and every success, my sweet: rock on!! x

  5. Kit Domino Says:

    Happy “publication” day. What a brilliant post. Love your cast list and here’s wishing the film comes true for you. It’s a great book that deserves to go far.


  6. Chris Longmuir Says:

    I loved the excerpt, really drew me in. Good luck with the book

  7. Sue Fortin Says:

    Congratulations Ali – wishing you every success!

  8. Ali B Says:

    thanks everyone! – Janice, I think you prob ably know more Scottish thespians than I do – I shall have you as my casting director!

    Ali B

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