Photo above: Chicago 1960's by Lani Hall Alpert
Press Kit Includes
- About The Book
- Issues Letter
- Book Graphics and Logo
- Various Photographs of Lani Hall – color & b/w
What People Are Saying
Question & Answers with Lani Hall Alpert
Q How much of a departure is it for you to venture into writing after being identified with music for so long? Do you see writing as your “second act,” or is it simply who you are and who you’ve always been?
I started writing as a teenager. I started singing at two or three years of age. Both are inside of me. They come naturally, as a way to self-expression. I did not have to become a professional to do them. If no one ever reads or hears another word or note from me, you will find me in my room, singing and writing.
Q You’ve always written lyrics. How did that experience affect you in writing these stories?
My lyrics are more abstract than my writing. But there is a lot of romance in my lyrics and I think there is a romance about my writing as well. I have always seen life that way. I think the intimate way I see Chicago is through the eyes of a romantic. I actually see the book as a collection of ten songs. When I write I am very conscious of the rhythm of the words. I hear the music as I write, and it isn’t very different than the way I approach a song.
Q You have said before that you never intended to publish these stories. Do you think that contributed to the intimacy of these stories?
I have always put my finished stories in a drawer and moved on to the next one. One day a friend of mine asked to read one of my stories, and she was so encouraging that I decided to open the drawers and really take a look at what I had done. I have always used creativity to release what I felt was locked inside of me. By singing and writing I find my own truth. The more I grow, the more I find. And when it isn’t totally honest, it isn’t good art. I have nothing to hide from myself, and I’m certain that there are things I need to explore that will reveal more to me about myself. I will discover what they are through music and writing.
Q How important was it to you that the audiobook have a musical score?
As I was writing I could hear the music in my head. So it was a natural expansion of the experience for me to place music inside the stories, like a film. When I was working with the music catalogue, I listened to hundreds of pieces of music and when one resonated with me I could visually see the scene where I wanted it to be.
Q You’ve talked about growing up in a volatile household. How much was Chicago your escape from all of that?
It surprised me that I had so many feelings about Chicago. I wrote a lot about the city and as I would re-read what I wrote it was very clear to me that I felt protected by the city. It had a strength that I could count on and it was always there, no matter the weather, no matter what. I would also escape to my next-door neighbor’s apartment to get away from the intensity of my apartment. She was an adult and I babysat for her son and she understood that I was having a hard time. But I felt embraced by Chicago. I recognized how beautiful it was and noticed the details. Especially the constantly moving light. I was comforted by the city.
Q The descriptions in the collection are very lyrical. What inspired this near-abstract, soulful style of writing?
My father was a poetic person. He was a really good storyteller and had a drama in the way he expressed himself. Although he was a blue-collar worker, he was an artist at heart and I believe he influenced me in the way I interpret life more than I even recognize.
Q These stories cover quite the wide range of subjects from the darker side of adulthood and artistry. What would you say is the overarching narrative that ties them together?
Connecting with your own truth and not being afraid to speak it is a theme throughout my book. So many of these characters are searching to know who they are or what changed them, and knowing that they need to re-find themselves. When I was growing up, I had no idea that there would be so many changes to go through in life. That you could completely change and would need to define those changes to yourself and be true to them in order to be happy with who you are. That if you are in a relationship, those changes could affect or end that connection, and so to not communicate on a daily basis could lead to a personal crisis
Q You were diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus in the mid-‘80s. It can cause crippling long-lasting fatigue, and most people never know that they have been infected. How did you manage to get through that debilitating period of your life and did your writing act as therapy?
I was fortunate to be diagnosed, but at that time in history there wasn’t really anything the medical profession could do, so it was my introduction to the alternative, holistic world. It took five to seven years to begin to remember what physical energy even felt like. I didn’t have the energy to sing. I wrote a lot. And it helped empty myself of the worry and fear that I was experiencing.
Q Is there anything that you didn’t realize until you started writing these stories? What did writing make you conscious of?
I keep fragments of things in my brain. Pieces of interviews that I have seen or scenes from movies. And in order for me to know how these parts played out, I write a story to see what the outcome could be like. I hold on until it’s finished. Writing is a perfect way for me to understand what could have happened in these scenarios, and what could have been learned. I have a lot of curiosity and feel a desire to examine the motivations and psychology of certain situations.
Q With a story like “Curiosity,” the pacing of the narrative is vital to the building of anticipation that one feels when reading the story. What was the process like in choosing the music for specific scenes in the stories to reflect the tone?
“Curiosity” is one of the strangest stories in the book. The music is very particular. In fact, it isn’t always music. Sometimes it’s just sound. Strange and seductive. The beginning music was chosen because it had the cadence of someone walking, and that is what the character is doing. And then the strangeness begins and the music suggests an undercurrent of something that is slightly off. The music is as voyeuristic as the story.
Q In “Come Rain or Come Shine” you not only talk about your neighbor Jackie and how she introduced you to this adult world, but also of some moments of innocence as you sang for her and went to movies together. What do you think the two of you meant to each other?
I was 12 years old when I met Jackie. She lived next door and we shared the same back porch. She was 23, married, and had a son that I babysat for. She was separated from her husband and had a night job at a bar by the lake. She was a beatnik and loved jazz. I watched her life unfold before me for the next 7 years. I needed a safe space and her apartment was that for me, and I think she knew it, and so she took me in. She was lonely, and when I was around I was company for her. So we would go to the movies and order pizza and play jazz and I would sing for her. She was the only person that I would sing for. I learned so many songs from her extensive jazz collection. I truly feel that the experiences I had from being involved in her life influenced me to never take hard drugs, and by witnessing her love affair I learned that love was stronger than anything.
Q In this book you discuss your own unhealthy reliance on a therapist amidst doubts of self-worth. How was the story “Standing Appointment” and the character of Dr. Portugese inspired by your own struggle?
I have had a lot of experience with psychotherapy. Some therapists were really good and some were really out of line. I wanted to write a story about bad therapy and how dangerous it can be. I have always had sleep issues, and after a dream that I had in which I died, I woke up and wrote down the dream. When I came to the end of the dream I kept writing, as if I were talking to a therapist. That’s how I was able to approach the topic of bad therapy. When you are in therapy, you don’t really know who you are giving your trust to. Or if they are actually worthy of your trust. In the story I also show the reader who the therapist, Dr. Portugese is. It is a disturbing story and plays out like an Alfred Hitchcock film. But to me, it shows the tightrope that you are balancing on, and how easy and devastating it can be to fall the wrong way.
Q In the story “Inland,” you talk about how literally unhealthy it was to not be yourself. When did you come to this realization in life, and when did you find yourself shaping this collection’s narrative in that direction?
When I finally did “open the drawers” to read what I had been writing about, this theme became very apparent to me. It had already been built into each story. Although I didn’t know it at the time because I had never read all of my stories consecutively. The story “Inland” is a physical manifestation of that theme. How literally unhealthy it is to not be yourself and how it can make you sick.
My father would always quote Shakespeare: “This above all else, to thine own self be true.” At first, I was too young to understand it and too impressionable to even try. I didn’t know who I was, but I always knew when I wasn’t myself. I was in my late thirties when I got sick with Epstein-Barr virus. I was forced to look at what wasn’t working in my life, and I saw that trying to be something that I wasn’t just wasn’t worth it anymore. And so the journey began.
Q Can you talk about the healing elements of writing and how writing “Confrontation” (the piece about what seemed to be your relationship with parents) helped you?
For me, art is a healer. “Confrontation” really happened. But it took my writing about it for me to know what a miracle it was in my life to experience empathy and sympathy towards my mother, with whom I had had such a turbulent and explosive relationship. It was literally as if the clouds had parted for the first time and sun was now shining on both of us, finally creating warmth instead of the dreaded ice. It forever changed me. And I’m not sure I would have fully realized that without having read my own words.
Q Do you think that a writer chooses what to write or that the writing chooses you?
For me, the writing chooses me. It keeps tapping at me and gives me opening sentences until I actually start the process. Then it haunts me until I have a rough draft. Then the fun begins. I really enjoy the editing process, and working from a rough draft lays down the story that I want to tell.
Q What are you working on now? Do you have any stories brewing?
Presently, I have almost a hundred pages of something and two unfinished short stories. I have recently lost my father and am writing about him. The experience I had with my mother, who passed away in 2007, has led to such forgiveness and I am also writing about that. I don’t think the fiction/non-fiction form will be in my next book, but right now everything is up for grabs.
Q Does working and being on the road with your husband, Herb Alpert, ever inspire new stories? Maybe the experiences you have together on the road, or when traveling to different cities?
I get inspiration from feeling and words more than travel. When I sing, I pour myself in to the lyric and live it through the words. And the words come to life as still or moving pictures to me. A gesture, a color, the wind. I never know what will move me.
Lani Hall Alpert & Herb Alpert 2015 concert tour dates
March 10 thru 21 NYC / Café Carlyle (2 shows on Saturdays)
- March 25 – Englewood, NJ / Bergen Performing Arts Center
- March 26 - Morristown, NJ/ MAYO Performing Arts Center
- March 27 - Wilmington, DE/ The Grand Opera House
- March 28 - Rockville, MD/ The Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center
- March 29 - Lancaster, PA/ American Music Theater
- May 7 – Solano Beach, CA (San Diego) / Belly Up Tavern
- May 8 – Ventura, CA/ Ventura Music Festival – Ventura High School Auditorium
- May 9 - Carmel, CA/ Sunset Center
- June 4,5,6 - Costa Mesa, CA/ Segerstrom Center for the Arts/ Pacific Symphony
- April 17,18,19,20 – Tokyo, Japan – Blue Note