Photo by Jena Cumbo
There’s a contradiction at the core of Lane Moore’s new memoir, How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t. The book bills itself as a guide to navigating solitude. However, Moore’s heartfelt, intimate writing places you so deeply into her world that you feel profoundly connected to her. Her musings on solitude feel like a conversation you’re having over drinks with a dear friend, which inevitably makes you feel less alone in the world.
We recently talked to Moore about the process of writing the book, how she’s been coping emotionally with some of the heavier subject matter and her plans to write a Will Smith-esque theme song for the inevitable film adaptation.
[To hear the podcast version of this interview, click here.]
When did this start coming together? When did you decide, “I have a book, and this is it”?
You know, always, to be honest. I’ve had a folder on my computer for like most of my life that says “Book.” I knew I was gonna write a book one day. I knew it since I was like five, because I would write my own little “book.” And so, I’ve had a folder where I would write stories and take notes. I wanted to remember everything.
I knew that I was writing so much about relationships and dating and how we connect. And I come from this extreme solitude of raising myself and not ever really having a support system, or the kind of love and support and encouragement that everyone apparently claims to have but me. Which of course is not true, but that’s absolutely how it felt my whole life.
So, I was like, “Oh. I think this is the book.” Even friends of mine who’ve have had those things are still in a lot of pain, and still really alone, so I was like, “Okay, no matter what you got, we all landed at the same crappy place.” So, I can try and take my knowledge – and almost expertise I would say at this point – of being alone for so long, and pass that on in the hopes of offering people help and comfort and also a bunch of really funny stories.
You talk about a lot of sort of traumatic things that you’ve been through, and then you also don’t talk about and sort of just allude to other traumatic things. There’s stuff that’s only implied. What the decision process like to decide what to share, what not to share, how to share it and how to find the right tone?
That was the hardest thing to do because I think when you experience a lot of trauma there’s this feeling that you have to prove it. And you’ve got to list every single thing. I feel that at least. I definitely felt like if I don’t list every single thing that has happened to me, they won’t know and they’ll only know some of the things. Even now when I see someone say, “This is Lane Moore’s story,” I’m like, “Oh darlin’, this is like five pages of like a 20-book novel of what my life has been like and the crazy things that has happened, and how much pain has been there. This is really like introductory sampler platter.”
But, to be honest with you, it was really a lot of just “What can I handle right now? What can I handle talking about?” And a lot of the things that I’ve put in there I still can’t handle. I had someone say that the book was brave and that made me really happy because I kinda brushed it off. I was like, “Whatever. Yeah, okay. Fine.” Then I thought about it and I was like, “Lane, you almost died while making this, like 40 times. So this is brave. If you did something that consistently was making you feel like you couldn’t make it out of this alive, then that is brave.”
So it was just kind of what story was I semi-ready to talk about now to tell the overall story? And to explain why I’ve been alone my whole life because I think it’s a story I haven’t seen told before. So I think I just saw it like, “Okay, I can be brave and I’ll just tell it as best I can with what I have now, I guess.”
There’s such a beauty too to the vulnerability of it and the meta-level of reading moments where you say, “Even now as I’m writing this, I tear up thinking about this moment.” You never really see that kind of acknowledgement of the writing process. Everyone tends to talk about things in the past, but then you give the present tense: “This is how I feel talking about this now,” which is really fascinating. It was really beautiful to feel how you felt remembering these moments.
I’m really touched by hearing that, because so much of the book was that I didn’t want to do it the way I’ve seen other people do it. It is kind of the way I feel I approach all of my art forms. I’m just like, “I don’t care how it’s typically done; this is what feels right to me. This is what rings true. This is what sounds right to me.”
A big part of that was so many books talk about this. Now look, so many books are like someone had a rough childhood, or rough teen years, or a rough their whole life. So I’m gonna check that box. When you read about those stories, the ending is always great; like they got married and now they feel no pain ever again. And we love those stories for some reason. I never loved them. They always made me feel extra alone; like you know you’re reading something and you’re relating to someone and then one thing happened to them. They got a job. Usually it’s that they got married and they’re no longer alone and now all their problems are solved. And that is not my case. And I want to say that isn’t the case for almost everybody. Even if you get married, you still feel lonely. Even if you find your soul mate, they’re not gonna fix you.
So, I just think the times that we see that vulnerability that they’re always looking at it like it was 40 years ago and now they’re healed. And I thought it would be potentially even more healing to read a book by somebody who was like, “No. I’m still lonely a lot and I don’t know if I get to have friends and a relationship in ways I always thought I would, but here’s what I’ve learned.” Because I don’t think you can rely on this idea that like once you get married, or once you find the perfect relationship, or you find the perfect group of friends, that now all of your issues are solved. That’s just not true.
Photo by Ariana Anhalt
Obviously, a lot of the book is about romantic relationships, but the relationships that felt the most touching were when you talked about babysitting and the end of the book where [inconsequential spoiler alert] you don’t get married, you get a dog.
No, totally, I say that. It ends being a story where the “person” who saves me is a rescue dog. And I think that’s so lovely, because I think that’s also true for so many people who have had hard lives. It ends up being animals that we can actually have more of a [deep connection with]. You see that happen so often. I think we are seeing it more and more, and that’s why a lot of veterans have these dogs who save them.
And I felt very much the same way. She saves my life every day. I say it all the time and it’s just beautiful. I do feel like my love story with her is the greatest love story ever told. It’s just so much more beautiful. I never experienced unconditional love before this dog and every day I have it I’m shocked. So, yeah, I think that’s one of the book’s takeaways is just to find that connection however you can.
Dating isn’t working out for you? It’s just disappointing you and you’re not able to get what you want of it? Okay. Your friendships suck and you feel like your friends aren’t giving you as much as you need, or want, or think they should give? Okay. So, what’s left? I think for me, my connection with animals have been really huge. My connection with strangers … I talk about strangers a lot in there. My relationships with children. There’s all these other connections to be formed that we don’t try. I’m glad you brought that up because we really do kind of make it like, “You gotta have a solid friend group and a partner, or else you’re fucked and you’re gonna die.”
That again is something that is cool. Obviously, the book is How to be Alone. Everyone’s initial idea is like, “Oh this is going to be about romance.” And obviously there’s a lot of that, but there are these other connections with humans, and animals, that are possible.
Yeah, and they’re not sad. We do think that way, where it’s like, “Ugh. This person just lives alone with their animal.”
I’m like, “Okay, well maybe the world’s been really hard for them, and maybe humans have not been that great to them. Shut up.”
If somebody connects with an animal and that animal feels like their child, or their best friend, or their family, what is that hurting? They feel loved and the more people we have in the world who feel loved, and love themselves, the better the world’s gonna be.
In the book, you’re talking about people that exist. How did you decide when discussing relationships with another person, what was okay to share and how to share it? How did you approach telling those stories?
I felt it was important to show my touchstone relationships that really shaped me and pushed me more toward solitude. Or, the way I think so many of us, especially if we’ve have tough backgrounds, bounce off people. And how we interact I think is so important and the best way I could think to do that is to be like, “Well, here are some relationships that I had had that were really important and made a difference then.” Were they healthy? No.
There’s also a distance that you needed a lot of times because when you’re in it you can’t see things clearly. With time, you’re able to go, “Oh, now it’s pretty obvious that this didn’t work.”
Exactly. It was definitely, and there were moments in writing it where I was like, “Oh. We weren’t good together.”
There’s even one of those in the book where it’s like –
Yeah, I was gonna say, I think I did that. Yeah, I do at one point. I’m just like, “Oh, I see now. This relationship was bad.”
It just feels super genuine of like, “Oh. Oh right.”
It was. Because it was literally when I was writing it, I was like, “Oh, this wasn’t good. This was never gonna work. Okay I’m there now.”
That’s fascinating part of putting a book together because you’re dealing with a theme and you’re dealing with this through line of your life. That works really well for a narrative. But then you go, “Oh. This is the narrative of my life. These are the through lines.” What was that process like, to be able to see those things in hindsight?
Yeah, I think that that was … No, I’m not gonna tell you that the writing was so healing. Because it’s not. But there were moments where I was like, “Whoa! Okay I put that together.” And so I do feel like I was able to tie some bows on some boxes, and put them on a high shelf. And I was like, “Ah, alright, I figured that out and now knowing what happened there I could finally …” I didn’t have to keep wrestling about what went wrong. It’s like, “I know what went wrong. It’s on page 32.”
Photo by Mindy Tucker
You’re at this interesting point where the book exists and it’s about to come out, but it hasn’t come out yet and you’re doing interviews like this. Emotionally, where are you at at with it now? What does part of the process feel like?
Yeah, it’s weird, and it’s a little overwhelming, because I’m talking about all these things and I knew. This book is so vulnerable, and I’m being so raw and so open and I can only hope and pray that being able to do that and trusting that I did this because I want people to feel less alone. I want people to feel loved, and I want people to feel seen; who’ve been through maybe similar experiences and so I keep remembering. What I keep reminding myself was that while I’m always squeezing my own arm to try to soothe myself while talking about stuff that I don’t really like talking about. So yeah, but hopefully it’s for the greater good.
Do you have any plans for the day it comes out? Have you put any thought to what that’ll be like?
Yeah, I have some book events. I have an event at the Strand that’s gonna be hosted by my friends Scott Rogowsky and we’re gonna talk about the book. And I’ve got another event at QED in Astoria that I’ll talk to Selena Coppock and Katie Compa, two longtime friends of mine, about the book. And then, I’m going to LA the following week. So, there’s gonna be some good book events with that. And I think that’s when it will feel real and when I’ll probably get most excited, because right now I’m just getting all my ducks in a row.I’ve been preparing, and then I think when the day actually happens I’ll be like, “Holy shit. I wrote a book! What? This is crazy.”
I’m still on the point where I can’t really believe it yet. But, when I go to the Strand, or when I go to Book Soup in LA, and I see a bunch of my books on the shelves, and a line of people, then I’m very ready for that. I’m very excited.
Do you have any kind of measure of success? That could be as simple as just seeing the book on the shelf or your loftiest hope for the book.
I would love for it to turn into a TV series, or a movie where I would get to play me. How cool would that be? Who doesn’t think about that with their book, especially a book of their life? I think that’d be so cool.
I would want to do all the things. I would be like, “Can I be the music supervisor? Could I also direct it? Can I be in it? I want to be so involved.” Yeah, that’s me.
You didn’t mention writing the theme song. Is that a given?
Oh, totally. Yeah, yeah. It’s a TV show? Ten out of ten. Yeah, absolutely. Doing it. Exactly. And even if it’s a movie, the movie will have a theme song.
You could be like Will Smith or something. You could go back to that –
Oh my God. Totally. Yeah, exactly, my Men in Black theme. Totally. Yep, same thing. Same exact movie. Men in Black, How to Be Alone. Same thing. Aliens. Childhood trauma. Falls in love with a dog.
There are some crossovers. Set in New York, falls in love with a dog, meets a lot of odd characters. There is more crossover than you’d think.
Photo by Ariana Anhalt
Interviewed by Joel Murphy. You can learn more about Tinder Live, and find show dates, here. Follow Lane Moore on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can order How To Be Alone here or from your local book people.