Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Terry Jastrow, screenwriter, playwright, celebrated Emmy Award-winning producer/director who traces his roots back to the Mayflower and an American president and author of The Trial of Prisoner 043.
Norm: Good day Terry and thanks for participating in our interview.
Terry: My pleasure, Norm. Thanks for having me.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your career and what has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Terry: Fortunately, I’ve had a number of notable successes that I hold near and dear to my heart. Among them would be winning the Texas State Junior Championship in golf, getting a job at ABC Sports in New York the day after graduating from college, becoming the youngest producer/director in network television sports history, being a producer/director of six Olympic Games, directing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, being a director of Super Bowl XIX, writing and directing the film The Squeeze, writing and directing the play The Trial of Jane Fonda, which was nominated for Best New Play last summer in London (Off West End), and last but not least, writing my first novel, The Trial of Prisoner 043. Regarding professional challenges, I actually don’t regard a challenge as a problem but rather a fun riddle that has to be solved to get where I want to go.
Norm: How would you compare the writing of a screenplay or play with that of writing your novel, The Trial of Prisoner 043?
Terry: Writing a novel requires much more time, effort, and fortitude than does a screenplay or a play. That said, each presents its own challenges and opportunities, and frankly I enjoy writing all of them about the same. When people ask about writing my first novel, I say, “It’s a literary ascent up Everest, barefoot and without a map.”
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Terry: I love this question because I love the answer to it. I had one of the greatest possible blessings to have had the greatest mother and father anyone could ever want. I could write an entire book of how great they were individually and collectively, but the essence of them is that they made me believe I was great and could do anything I dreamed of. No question, I’ve accomplished whatever I have because of the belief I had in myself, which came directly from Mom and Dad. I so wish others could have this same good fortune and would urge parents to encourage their kids to be as great as their dreams.
Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book and how did you decide you were ready to write the book?
Terry: First, I was a teenager during the Vietnam War and I hated just about everything about that war. We don’t have to review or relive what a terrible war it was, but it never should have happened, and those who caused it to happen should have been held accountable for it. Second, so much about the Iraq War from the beginning made no sense to me, and as it played out, everything that was alleged by our president to be true turned out in fact to be false. The basic theme of The Trial of Prisoner 043 is we fight too many wars at too great a price in human life and national treasury and many of them could be avoided.
Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
Terry: The purpose of my book is to engage the public in the question of whether or not war should be fought. I believe that the only deterrent to war is an informed and engaged citizenry, and if the people do not pay close attention to the behavior of their elected officials, the military, and big business, as it relates to war, then we most assuredly will have more unnecessary wars in the future. Think about it: what ended the Vietnam War? It was the protest of people in the streets, the voice of the people. After all, elected officials are supposed to serve the will of the people and not wage unnecessary wars against countries on the other side of the world that do not represent a clear and present danger to the United States.
Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Terry: I read many books about the formation of the International Criminal Court and the principles of international criminal law as distinct from US law. The best thing I did was take an online course on international law taught by Michael Scharf, dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Finally, many of the principal characters in the novel have written their own books—autobiography or biography—which served as a tremendous resource in finding the specific voice and passion of each character.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Terry: Honestly, I don’t consider writing labor, I consider it art. The difficulty is self-imposed because I want to make it as great as it can be and deserves to be. What I enjoyed most about writing this book was finishing it and having it read.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Terry: I’ve always considered the “novel” to be the definitive form of the writer’s art, and I learned that I could write a good one.
Norm: Did you know the end of your book at the beginning?
Terry: All I knew was that I had to advocate for both sides equally and aggressively so that readers could determine for themselves whether former president Bush was guilty or innocent.
Norm: How can readers find out more about you and your endeavors as well as The Trial of Prisoner 043?
Terry: My WEBSITE , and The Trial of Prisoner 043 can be found wherever books are sold.
Norm: What is next for Terry Jastrow? Is there the possibility of making a screenplay out of your novel?
Terry: I’m working on my second novel, and my biggest dream of the moment is that my first novel gets made into a multiple episode television event—a miniseries—starting in English and then being translated into many other languages.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Terry: The one question that I think needs to be asked in connection with my novel is, Why does the International Criminal Court exist, and what critically important role does international criminal law play in today’s world? Given the reality that it is almost impossible for individual nations to hold accountable their leaders for possible crimes of great magnitude, international criminal law as administered by the International Criminal Court is hugely important to the ongoing well-being of humankind.
Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work.