Alan Lazar is a musician, composer, screenwriter and now author of the new novel, Roam – a heartwarming story about the travels of Nelson the dog during the eight years he is lost and his journey to get back home. In the book Alan writes from Nelson’s perspective, specifically through his sense of smell. “I just wondered, what is a world where everything is defined by scent?” he says. “What does it mean to experience the world so much through scent rather than through vision as a human being does?”
According to Alan writing a novel was not something he ever intended. He started noticing stories in the news about dogs being reunited with their owners, due to the miracles of microchip technology, often after traveling six years or more. As a dog lover himself he was fascinated with what had happened to those dogs during that period of time and how they had managed to travel such vast distances. Then a few years ago after the death of his father, he went through a lot of soul searching and questioning the meaning of life, like many people do after they lose their parents. He says that made him sit down and write.
“It was really a very, very personal project for me. I never really thought it would get published. I wrote for about a year and I started showing it to some friends and family and was getting very strong reactions, so I thought, ‘Well you know what, let me send it off to some agents,’ and it ended up getting published,” Alan says. “And now I get fan mail from all over the place – people who have been touched by the book. It’s just been such a wonderful and surprising thing to have happened and I feel very lucky.”
Alan believes dogs are members of our families and people who lose dogs suffer a terrible loss – almost like the loss of a family member, but believes our society at large doesn’t really recognize that fact. “So often people suffer that loss in isolation – they don’t have the support of friends and family. I just think there are a lot of people out there who have been touched by the book because of that.”
Knowing that he was a composer, the publisher came up with the idea of having Alan write one song for the book, which ended up expanding into seven different piano pieces. “At first I was a little nervous about it because I didn’t want to take away from the book itself, but the more I got into it, it really felt like something that would be pretty cool for readers just to have this thing that isn’t seen that often with books. And I felt it would be a way to heighten the emotional experience of the book,” he says. Using modern technology to make the book an interactive experience there are QR codes within it taking you to each piece of music. And in the e-book versions you can touch a button on the screen while you’re reading it and the music will play.
Alan’s three miniature poodles – Nelson, Milan and Chicky (Chicky passed away last December) all helped to inspire the character of Nelson in his book. “All of our dogs are so dedicated to our family. They show so much love.” Alan feels like dogs don’t have so many negative emotions as humans can have; they’re filled with love. So he wanted to write Nelson’s character with that in mind – just a very noble character full of love and with only the best intentions.
Every day when Alan goes into his studio to work his dog Nelson scratches on the door relentlessly until Alan lets him in, and then he just sits on the couch and sleeps. “He just wants to sit with me,” he says. “Funny enough I’d say that’s my favorite thing about him. It’s such security for me. When I look at him sleeping on the couch it feels like everything is right in the world.”
When asked what he thinks his dogs like most about him, Alan says it’s probably his ability to love them back. “Conventional wisdom is that dogs only love you because you feed them. And I think any dog lover would disagree with that entirely,” he says. “The relationship with one’s dog is such a powerful relationship and it’s so much about mutual affection. At the end of the day they just love getting love back from you. The more you can give them, the more they’ll take. I don’t think there’s any limit on love for a dog.”
Written by Michelle Macirella | Photo by Robert Ochoa