Terri Jentz on Her “Strange Piece of Paradise”

 
 

The reading proceeded without incident, and Jentz continued her book tour and the accompanying guest spots on television and radio shows. She now says that all too often she was expected to recount the heinous details without getting a chance to focus on what to her is the more important aspect of her tale, the issue of violence against women.

She notes that people are often “obsessed with the crime rather than getting below the surface of why it happened and why are we obsessed and what do we do about it, rather than just a horror story come to life.” Her primary goal: “We need to teach men that it’s unmanly to beat women. We have to shift the paradigm.”

When asked whether it was difficult to relive the past repeatedly on her book tour, Jentz lets out a characteristically hearty laugh and says that “the rough part was those TV appearances, to have to go on with Diane Sawyer live!” She says she wrote the book because she wanted to “plug into the collective,” and she has found the “great connectivity with readers exhilarating. I’ve drawn enormous energy from my readership.”

Jentz, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, plans to adapt her “true crime/memoir” into the screenplay she originally envisioned. Now that she has written the book, “the screenplay is just going to pour out of me,” she says. “I feel like I’ve been nine months pregnant for about ten years while I’ve been finishing this book.”

Donna Deitch, director of Desert Hearts and Jentz’s partner of 13 years, will direct. “Donna is raising money for a film on the Holocaust right now, so she really has her dark material,” Jentz says, adding that Deitch has always been “fascinated” by dark material.

The film will explore certain aspects of the book in greater detail, such as “the relationship between this meticulous, handsome cowboy and the zesty young girlfriend he beats up.” She hopes to convey rich, colorful period details, “when the cowboy culture was giving way to the drug and hippie culture.”

More important, she sees film as a more effective medium for magnifying the visual absurdity of her attacker: “His mannerisms were very exaggerated masculine, macho stuff, almost as though he was just taking on those gestures like a cartoon character.” Perhaps this image will undermine the very concept of machismo.

She laments that the sensitive people she wants to reach are often scared off by the horror angle of her story, including the image of a bloody axe accompanying a recent cover review of the book in The New York Times. And true crime fans, she says, are put off by other reviews that portray her book as politically correct or preachy when she sees it as downright irreverent.

But now that the official book tour has wrapped, Jentz plans to continue on her own. She hopes to eventually book speaking engagements, particularly at universities where she can reach young people and answer all the questions she regrets no one posed to her on her tour.

Get more info at StrangePieceOfParadise.com; get the book at Amazon.com

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