Talking to the fans
In 2002 I was doing a question-answer forum for an on-line fan club of Peter Tork's band "The Shoe Suede Blues". As far as I know, the club doesn't exist anymore, but here's what came out of the forum:
Thanks to everyone who participated in this forum! Before we get to the questions and answers, here's a note from Ms Falkenberg:
"Dear Shoopies and Monkees Fans,
I have enjoyed "talking" to all of you through this Forum and I found many of the questions to be very good and thought provoking. Furthermore it has also raised a demand for having my other work translated, so hopefully within a year I'll get a collection of selected short stories translated into English and published. I'll keep you all posted.
Thanks for your interest and support. I wish you all well.
Lise Lyng Falkenberg"
Laura M asks:
What was the best part of working on the book? I really enjoy writing myself.
To me the best part of writing a book is always the research. I love digging into the material and see where it takes me, what conclusions I can draw etc. Keep on writing, it is sooo giving!
Lee B asks:
What made you want to write about The Monkees?
Hi, Lee B,
I didn't get to see the Monkees' TV show until 1987, but then I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to know more about the Monkees. When I found out that they were probably the first manufactured band in the world I got so fascinated with the whole story that I just had to write about it!
Was writing this book different than the others you have written? Who was the easiest person to interview? Who was the most fun?
Yes, writing this book was very different from writing the others. Up until then I had mostly written fiction - novels, short stories and books for children. The only non-fiction book I had written was a book about the Scots writer Sir J. M. Barrie who invented Peter Pan back in 1902. Writing about the Monkees was in a way easier, because they are still alive so you could ask them things you wanted to know, but you also had to protect their privacy much more because they are still alive. Another thing was copyright. In the book about the Monkees I can't quote longer passages of for instance their lyrics, whereas I could quote Sir J. M. Barrie, because his works are more than 50 years old and thereby no longer protected by copyright laws.
The easiest and most fun person to interview in connection with the book was Peter for the simple reason that he was the only one who granted me an interview! I wrote all of the Monkees asking for interviews, but the 3 others never even answered my request. At first I was afraid that it would twist the story if only Peter's views were represented, but then I found so much material from the others from various interviews, autobiographies etc. that their views could come across as well. Furthermore we still miss a biography on Peter, so maybe it is okay that he is the only one interviewed for my book?
Kelly G asks:
Were the shows that the Monkees did really big in Denmark?
Hi Kelly G,
No, the shows that the Monkees did were not big in Denmark because they have never been aired in Denmark! Up until the 1980es most people in Denmark only knew the Monkees as a pop band, so here we weren't aware of the accusation that they couldn't play their own instruments! We didn't view the Monkees as a phony band, because we didn't know that they were actually a TV show! To celebrate the Monkees' 20 years anniversary many German and British TV stations aired the Monkees shows again and due to the invention of dish antennas Danes were now able to see the shows on foreign TV channels. The shows have, however, still not been aired in Danish television, but HEAD has been shown several times by now.
What was it like when you first got published?
When I had my first book accepted by a publishing firm I was only 19 years old. Since I was 6 I knew for sure that I wanted to become a writer, so it was a dream come true to me. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, but it was also a busy period, where I had to find out for the first time all the legal matters regarding having a book published, what to expect from a contract, how to negotiate royalties etc. Furthermore I had a lot of extra work signing books, giving lectures and so on. Quite a stressing schedule for one, who was still in college.
Do you think that you will do a book signing tour? I would love to meet you!
I will not be doing a book signing tour outside of Denmark where I live. I have a busy work schedule and also a small child to take care of, so I just can't leave at the moment. I have been travelling a lot in my younger years, also in the USA, and when my daughter gets a little older I will probably do so again. Who knows, maybe we'll meet some time after all?
I want to be a writer and like to think about how I'd do some things differently. Being a writer, if you could have written for the Monkees TV show, how would you have done it?
That's a difficult question, because the way you write today is not the same way as you could write in the sixties. Today you can get away with a lot more on TV than you could back then. If I could have written for the Monkees TV show I would probably have made is less "cute" and more satiric. As you can see from my book, I'm fond of the way that the Monkees could change into different personalities in split seconds and also that the show never pretended to be real but instead emphasized that this is only TV. I would probably have stressed these things further, but my main alteration would have been to make it more of a tongue in cheek satiric show, still including the peace & love message of the sixties.
Lorenzo Raffa asks:
Where was Mike Nesmith in the episodes where only the other three appeared? Does video exist regarding the post-series appearances (as a threesome - Mike, Davy, & Micky) such as "Johnny Cash", "Laugh-In", "Hollywood Squares", and "Turn On" (an infamous show cancelled after one airing...the Monkees' episode never aired)?
There are two episodes in which Mike Nesmith didn't appear, "Hitting the High Seas" and "Monkees Watch Their Feet". Well, actually Mike Nesmith is in both episodes, however briefly. The reason why he couldn't go through with the filming of "Hitting the High Seas" was (according to the video box set of the TV series from Rhino) that he contracted a real case of seasickness on the first day of filming. About "Monkees Watch Their Feet" I've heard a lot of rumors, mostly ill natured, but I have never been able to get any of them confirmed, so I won't repeat them here.
I have not found any videos regarding the post-series appearances, maybe there are tapes out there in the vaults of the producers or private persons. Who knows?
Ken Lobb asks:
What mountains must be moved in order to get The Monkees into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame? What mountains must be moved to get Mike Nesmith with the band in an active way? Thank you.
If I knew which mountains to be moved in order to get The Monkees into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame I would certainly have tried to move them! As for Mike Nesmith I'm not sure that he wants to get with the band in an active way. Mike Nesmith does his own thing and only he knows if he'll ever join the band again.
Cora P asks:
Why do you think the Monkees are still so popular?
I think the Monkees are still so popular because of the TV series. The series appeal to both children and adults, so it is much easier to pass down your fondness of the Monkees to your children than it would have been without the series. When my 3 year old hears music she can't distinguish between the Monkees and say The Blur, but she adores the TV series although she doesn't understand a word they are saying. That doesn't keep her from laughing at the romps and being madly in love with alternately Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith. As she grows older I'm sure that she is also going to like the music, if for nothing else then for the reason that they made it
I really enjoyed reading your book. It was not the usual fact and trivia books that you find. You did your research and thought it through thoroughly. How long did it take you from start to finish research and assemble all your facts? Was Peter the only Monkee you actually interviewed in person and what did you think of him?
It took me a long time to write the book. The initial idea came back in December 1994. I was to write a piece about the Monkees for a Danish film magazine and when I managed to get in contact with Peter Tork I realized that I wanted to write a book about the whole phenomenon. I started doing research in 1995, but had a long break in the period 1997-2000, where I both started a new job and had my daughter. I took up the work in 2000 and finished the book in the summer of 2001, so when you put it all together it took me about 3½ years to write the book.
Yes, Peter Tork was the only one I actually interviewed in person (over the phone), because the other Monkees never even answered my request of making interviews. I liked Peter Tork a lot, because he was extremely obliging, friendly, altruistic, open-minded, frank and funny. Usually when you do interviews it is just questions and answers, but he took his time to really talk to me and sometimes I found him asking me questions instead of the other way around. This way it felt much more like an ordinary conversation than an actual interview, so the atmosphere was looser and you could chat about almost anything. We laughed a lot and Peter Tork even sang to me over the phone!
Has your opinion of the Monkees changed since you wrote the book? Are you writing another book already? What on?
Yes, my opinion of the Monkees has changed since I wrote the book. By now I admire them even more as entertainers, because now I realize how much work they put in the Monkees back in the sixties and how much they are still working both with and without the Monkees. The book has also changed my opinion of them as persons, of course, because doing the research I got to know so much more about them as individuals than could be seen on TV. Some of them I got to like more and some less, depending of whom of the Monkees shared my views on life.
Yes, I'm currently writing on 2 new books. One is about old Danish broad sheet ballads from the 1880es and their relationship to the contemporary press. This one has to be finished in March 2002. The other one is a novel. I won't go into details here. Both books will probably be published in Danish only.
Robin B asks:
Who was your favorite Monkee? Where can I get some of your other books?
Hi Robin B,
My favorite Monkee has always been Peter Tork, but I also like the others a lot, maybe especially Mike Nesmith. All my other books (mostly fiction) have been published in Danish only, but if you can read Danish they can be purchased at www.net-bog-klubben.dk
Do you think you will do any kind of follow-up to your book? What would you like to do? Do you play any instruments yourself? What kind?
In the past months I've been giving interviews to different magazines as a follow-up to the book. Maybe in some years I'll write a new edition of it, so I can include the latest events. At the moment I'm not playing anything, but as a kid at school I was taught how to play guitar, piano, drums, bass, piccolo and recorder. Furthermore there are many musicians in my family and among my friends.
What kind of music is popular in your country?
In Denmark the popular performers at the moment are Safri Duo (a Danish band), Britney Spears, Gorillaz, Anastasia, Kylie Minouge, O-Town, Ricki Martin, the ever popular Beatles and Bob Dylan and many more. Most people like light pop, but also techno, grunge, speed metal and other directions are popular. I guess that the only kind of music that is not very popular in Denmark is country and then maybe also opera.
Jane Marie asks:
Since the Monkees weren't as popular as other groups, was it hard to find a publishing company who wanted to put out your book?
Hi Jane Marie,
Yes, it was very difficult to find a publishing company that wanted to put out my book. It was impossible to get it out in Danish, so I had to write it in English and only then I managed to find a small company with internet sales mostly that wanted to put it out. I think it helped a lot that the publisher is a Monkees fan himself!
Do you have any up to date information on the guys personally? A lot of the folks have questions mainly about Micky's fiancée Donna. They feel he is keeping info about her too private, we just want the stats. Full name, birthday, how they met. Nothing too personal. Just the basic's! When will the book be available to purchase in bookstores?
Micky Dolenz likes to keep his private life private, so I don't know any more about his fiancée than the rest of you. That is: Her name is Donna Quinter, she's an airline stewardess and lives on lower Manhattan. She is originally from the Philadelphia area and she and Micky Dolenz have been together as a couple for several years. Their marriage is expected to take place this summer.
My book is not going to be available in bookstores unless a demand forces the stores to keep the book on stock. As things are right now you can order it through the Danish publishing company at www.underskoven.dk/Monkees or if you want to pay with credit card at the British music book specialist A. & R. Booksearch at www.musicbookrus.com. People without Internet access can order it directly at: A. & R. Booksearch, High Close, Lanreath, Looe, Cornwall, PL13 2PF, UK, or go to the local bookstore and have them order it from one of the addresses above. Because the book is from Denmark not many US bookstores know of its existence, so only a demand from readers can point their attention that way and get them to stock the book.
Do you think that you might try to someday write Peter's biography, since this book started with an interview with him? What advice would you give to someone wanting to start writing?
It would be interesting writing Peter Tork's biography, but I think that when a person is still living the wish for having ones biography written has to come from the person himself. In other words, if Peter Tork wanted his biography written, he would probably have done something, and if not I won't be the one attempting to do it. Writing a person's biography demands a close collaboration between the biographer and the person in question. It is very different from writing the book about the Monkees because in this book I tried to get behind the myth of the Monkees not the lives of the four individuals. I hope that a Peter Tork biography will surface some day, but an authorized one where he has had the last word about the things written.
If you want a career as a writer you first of all really has to want it badly. It is hard work and lonely work, too, and to most writers it doesn't mean a lot of money. If you're sure you want to become a writer, you then have to decide on what to write, is it to be journalism, fiction or non-fiction books. After that it is a good idea to read a lot of things written in your chosen genre to see how other people do it and also take some classes in writing. There are some fine writing guides out there on the Internet. Furthermore you have to realize that no matter what kind of genre, 90% of the work is research, so you have to know a lot or at least know where you can get the information about your subject. Also here the Internet is a big help. And then finally: write what you really feel like writing, about what really interests you and what you know about. This way it is going to be much better than if you just write stuff that you think people want to read. And then it is just write, write, write until you get good at it. Although it is hard work, it is also a lot of fun, at least I can't imagine a better job than being a writer.
I would like to interview people and write their stories, either for a newspaper or in a book. How do you do it? It's really nice of you to do this. Thank you! What are your days like when you are not writing to us?
If you want to interview people and write their stories you first have to do a lot of research. You have to find out as much about those people as possible to avoid asking them questions where the answers are commonly known. Then you have to find out what to ask them. Why are they interesting to you and to the rest of the world? Write down your questions and make sure to ask them, but also let the interview take on its own life - it sometimes brings you to subjects that you didn't even dream about.
In order to interview people you have to get hold of them. Write to them or their managers, ask for interviews, tell them for what it will be used (a book, an article etc.), and make a straight deal whether they want to approve it or not before it gets printed. When you have written your piece, send it to the publishers, the paper or whatever and see if they want to print it. You can also contact a paper in advance to hear if they are interested in an interview with so and so, but my own experience tells me that it is easier to get a paper to accept an interview when it is already done than when it is only planned, because when it is already written they know what they are buying.
What are my days like, when I'm not writing to you? Well, I get up at 7 a.m. in order to get my daughter to kindergarten at myself to the university where I work. I then work either the whole day at the university (writing on my next Ph.D.-thesis) or only for a few hours before I head home to write on my next book. I pick up my daughter at 4 p.m. and then home to the household chores. After my daughter has been put to bed around 8 I use my evenings reading or writing letters and then it is off to bed around midnight! Pretty boring, huh? Well, I also have to attend a lot of meeting, give talks, review art exhibitions, movies, music, travel in connection with work etc., but that's a whole other story!
Do you hope to someday interview the other Monkees? Would you ever do an interview yourself?
It would be nice to interview the other Monkees some day. Then I could write a revised edition of the book.
Since I had my debut as a writer 20 years ago I've done a lot of interviews for both papers, radio and TV here in Denmark. This question-answer forum is also a kind of interview, don't you think so? Anyway, I like doing interviews, no matter if I'm the one asking the questions or giving the answers.
What was it that made you decide to take the interview with Peter Tork and develop it into a book, instead of what the interview was originally intended for? What was the date that you began and ended the interview for the book with Peter Tork? I'm trying to get a feel for the time frame when he answered your questions.
I guess I missed a book about the Monkees where you could look up all the relevant facts and didn't have to read all the gossip. Also due to my education I wanted to analyze the whole phenomenon - therefore the analyses of series and HEAD. When I got hold of Peter Tork I realized that I actually had a genuine source who could confirm or deny rumors and who was talkative enough to give me some information that I hadn't read anywhere else before. This way I would have enough material for a book, not just an article. At the time the interviews took place I still hoped for interviews with the rest of the Monkees, but as you know it didn't happen. When I realized that these interviews weren't going to happen, the book was well on its way and I had no intentions of stopping it.
I originally interviewed Peter Tork over the phone in December 1994, but I must admit that I have forgotten the exact date. Furthermore I've written to both him and James Lee Stanley later, getting the latest mail from James Lee Stanley sometime last spring. So it has been an ongoing process.
Stephanie Anne Dispoto asks:
In your research and interviews for the book, I was under the impression from sources and David Crosby's book "Long Time Gone" that Reine Stewart was NOT Jimmy Stewart's daughter; can you confirm this? I did not see any quotes from the interview with Peter's son, I. J. Iannoli; this may sound trivial, but I am curious as to if I missed something. I did enjoy your book though, please do know that and I thank you for sharing that with everyone!
Hi Stephanie Anne,
I can't confirm that Reine Stewart is not James Stewart's daughter. On the other hand I can't deny it either, as I didn't ask Peter Tork about it, but took it for granted because all my other sources said so. Furthermore I avoided asking Peter Tork questions about his private life as that was not my business in this connection.
I didn't interview Peter Tork's son; I just talked to him, as he was the one to pick up the phone when I rang Peter Tork. We had a rather funny phone conversation where I. J. managed to get my phone number wrong, so he had Peter Tork ringing Africa or something in order to talk to me. Peter Tork later told me, that the African lady he had been calling had been very surprised and we had a good laugh. Thank you for your kind words.