Micky Dolenz was sitting in his Broadway dressing room recently, preparing for another performance as Zoser in the Elton John-Tim Rice production of Aida, when he realized he'd passed a milestone: his run with Aida had surpassed his tenure with The Monkees, the '60s pop culture phenomenon that started out as a TV show about a band and became a band without a TV show.
Dolenz, 61, is ready to be known for something else. His first picture book, Gakky Two-Feet, illustrated by David Clark, debuts from Putnam. He envisions a whole series of books about on "anthromythology," the fictionalization of key moments in human evolution.
Interviewed from his home in Los Angeles, Dolenz explained that his fascination with the subject had nothing to do with having once been a Monkee himself.
Can you explain how Gakky Two-Feet came about?
Ever since I was a kid, I've had an enormous interest in the sciences—everything from quantum physics to anthropology. When my Scientific American arrives every month, I read it cover to cover.
So the idea for Gakky, about the first quadruped who decided to stand up, came from Scientific American?
It did! I had read an article about hominid evolution and, one night shortly after that, I woke up and the Muse was standing by my bed. She was really cute, and she had a nine-millimeter Glock. She held it at my head and said, 'Write Gakky's story.' Not being one to deny a pretty Muse with a loaded Glock, I got up. And a couple of hours later, I had a first draft.
Wow. Did the Muse call a publisher on your behalf, too?
No, I ran into Nancy Paulsen [Putnam's publisher] and told her about it. She said, 'Send it in,' and they bought it. I'm hoping it's going to be a series of anthromythologies, which is what I'm calling these fictionalized stories about seminal moments in human evolution. Who was the first hominid to pick up a bone and have that epiphany that it could be used as a weapon? Who lit the first fire? Or figured out you could use a rock as a tool? Those moments have always fascinated me.
Are there more books already under contract?
Putnam bought the second one—about the first musical instrument, which is based on the discovery of a flute, made of bone, which was found in a cave in France. It's estimated to be 65,000 years old.
Right. I mean, there were undoubtedly instruments even older than that made of wood and reeds that disintegrated over time, but the ones made of bone, like all fossils, are the ones that have survived. But the story explores who played the first music and why.
Got a title?
Well, the working title is Lalu Toot-Toot but, of course, that could change.
Will David Clark illustrate this one, too?
I hope so. His illustrations are wonderful. Nancy did a great job of finding him because he brings a lot of fun to the manuscript. With all this science stuff, there's a danger of boring kids. It's not meant to be a textbook. It's just to get kids thinking. Like, the third book will be about the discovery of fire. And I'd like to write one about the first tools.
This could keep you busy for a while.
Writing is a great love of mine. The bio that appears at the back of Gakky is absolutely true. I sent my first manuscript to Boys Life when I was 12. It was rejected, and it's taken me this long to get up the nerve to write again.
Either that or that gun-toting Muse. Okay, here's the really important question my editor insisted I ask: Who was your favorite Monkee?
I can't answer that question. Impossible. You have to understand the evolution of those Monkees. We were cast together in a TV show. It wasn't a band in the classic sense. So when the show went off the air, we did stick together to perform, but it was more like the cast of a musical getting back together and recreating their roles. You know, like every few years Yul Brynner would star in The King and I again. Many people have fond memories of the Monkees. I fondly remember it, too. It was huge! A feather in my cap. But it was a very, very brief period in my life. Now, could I have gotten this book published if I hadn't been Micky the drummer from the Monkees? It probably smoothed the path but hopefully the book will stand on its own two legs.
You mean its own two feet?
Exactly! Its own two feet.