W. Bruce Cameron
Trident Media Group, LLC
355 Lexington Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10017
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FREQUENLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I receive a lot of emails and letters from students and teachers and dogs and fans of all ages. I really appreciate all the letters I get. I am so happy people love dogs, love animals, and love my books. If I answered each question individually, that’s all I would have time to do, and I want to spend time playing with my dog. So here are some common questions I am often asked. I hope that in the process of answering these, I’ve touched on some topics you were interested in as well!
This is intended to answer questions for students, teachers, readers, dogs, aliens from other planets, etc. It's a compilation of all the questions I've been asked over the years, so if you have a question, chances are you'll find it and the answer here.
1. What’s your favorite Puppy Tale book that you have written?
I think I’m going to have to say that of my younger reader’s books, it is a tie between Ellie’s Story and Max’s Story. Ellie’s Story is a great adventure, but Max’s Story is about a hilarious little dog who thinks he runs the world.
2. How did you conduct your research for these books?
I did what you might expect: I walked around with a tennis ball in my mouth, I dug up my neighbor’s shrubs, I lifted my leg on a fire hydrant. Then I read a lot of books on canine behavior, some of which led me to conclude that the authors had never even met a dog. I mean, you might think that a dog pack is organized like the military, with everyone knowing their rank and saluting their superiors (see lifting leg reference, above) but in my observation, when a new dog shows up, the deck gets completely shuffled. We train our dogs and that, of course, changes everything, but if all you’ve done is adopt a dog and then beg it not to sleep on the couch, it is going to be this happy-go-lucky creature who just does not spend a lot of time stressing over the org chart.
3. What was the first book you wrote?
When I was in fourth grade I wrote a book called “Bad Luck Bruce” which was based on a true story because I had the bad luck of having two sisters.
4. What’s the best part of writing?
When you’re done for the day and can have dinner.
5. How many books or screenplays have you written or co-authored to date, what are they and which are your three favorites?
This question makes me feel like an idiot, because so much of my work has never seen the light of day. I wrote 9 unpublished novels before I sold my 10th book— 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter. I’ve sold 8 screenplays and 2 TV pilots, and written probably twice that many in total. My published books are all listed in the front of each new one I publish, and in 2020 I published seven of them, so I’m up to 25 total. Grab a copy of my new novel, A Dog’s Perfect Christmas, and you’ll see them all in there.
6. When you were a child did you like to read, and if so did reading inspire you to use your voice and become a writer?
I came from a family where everyone had a book going at all times. I didn’t even know there were people who didn’t read until I was maybe in high school. They didn’t seem like happy individuals.
7. Will you ever write A Cat’s Purpose?
Honestly, if I do, I think it will make the cats mad.
8. How long will you keep writing?
I will keep writing as long as people keep reading. And then I’ll just start talking.
9. What is your own personal definition of being a “writer” or “writing” in general?
Long ago I realized that “writer” didn’t mean I’d have an “income.” I’ve always been “one who writes,” so I’ve been a writer, but it has only been in the past two decades that I’ve managed to generate any money from it.
10. For non-writers, the idea of putting thoughts and ideas into words with structure and meaning can seem challenging and overwhelming. Why do you think, looking back on your work, that you’ve been able to do it so successfully and brilliantly when other writers haven’t as much success as yourself? Is writing something that comes naturally to you, like a gift or perhaps a talent, or is it something that you have to continually work on, or is it both combined?
Do I have talent? I am not sure. I remember in a creative writing class in college, we had an assignment. This one guy David wrote half a page of flowing, lyrical prose—really beautiful stuff. I wrote 35 pages with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I remember thinking that David was the talented one and I was the determined one. In the end, I feel it is all about how much work you’re willing to do.
11. When you write or work on a new project how do you put your thoughts together? Is it images in your mind like a massive storyboard or do the words just come to you? What’s it like being in W. Bruce Cameron’s mind?
Being in my mind is like being trapped in a multiplex movie theater that has run out of popcorn. I always have several movies playing at once. I use the words to describe the movies I’m seeing.
12. Where did you find your voice to write A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, and The Dogs of Christmas?
I started with the characters. I build characters by assigning them attributes. With Josh in The Dogs of Christmas, I pictured a man who was gradually becoming a hermit. Alone in a cabin, no friends, no family. Not very emotional. Holding something back, some big tragic event that weighs on him, depressing his thoughts. Then I sprung a dog on him and pictured how he might react to that. What if he’s never been around dogs before, what would that be like? The voice just starts to flow. For a first person POV, as in A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey, I had to start with, “what’s it like to be a dog?”
13. You have an amazingly talented and beautiful wife in Cathryn Michon. Many people are curious about the dynamics of your relationship with Cathryn. Being that she is also a writer and the two of you have co-written screenplays together, do you find it challenging to work with another person such as your wife, or is it a blessing to have their experience and contributions? What are the challenges, if any, and what are the blessings?
She is my partner in every single meaning of the word. We compliment each other’s work perfectly. She directed a movie and I produced it: I’m really good at managing people and processes, and she’s really good at talking to actors, mapping out the scenes, and cutting the movie together. When we write, I’m really good at coming up with the story; she’s very good at the nuances of people’s characters.
14. What is it like having two writers in the same household?
It is like having two buffalo stampede through your living room.
15. What movies do you have coming out?
I have nothing being filmed at the moment. We have screenplays written for A Dog’s Promise and The Dogs of Christmas, and we are in discussions about A Dog’s Perfect Christmas.
16. What, creatively, is the difference between writing a novel and adapting a screenplay?
A screenplay has a clock on it. If you run into overtime, you're dead. At 120 pages, you've overshot and no one will read a word of it. A book, on the other hand, can run thousands of words past the target and no one will care very much. It's easier to write a book, but quicker to write a screenplay.
17. What was the first book you had published?
That was 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, which became a TV show on ABC. That’s why I moved to LA, to work on the show. Three more humor books followed: How to Remodel a Man, 8 Simple Rules for Marrying my Daughter, and A Dad’s Purpose.
18. How did you go from writing comedy to writing about dogs?
While I had eventually developed a reputation as a writer of humor books, I always considered myself at my core to be a storyteller. I had authored several novels which were never published and was eager to return to that artform. A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey have whimsy, fun, comedy, and then, of course, drama and heart. I consider those attributes to be the trademark of a W. Bruce Cameron book.
19. Is there anything you would consider to be a trademark of “the dog story?”
My first wild guess is that there probably should be a dog in it. I think a successful dog story reveals the love that our canine friends feel for us.
20. So are all W. Bruce Cameron novels “dog books?”
Well look, 42.5 million households in this country have dogs living in them, according to the latest surveys, with millions and millions more worldwide. My characters have dogs in their lives because dogs are really special— who doesn’t appreciate coming home to a creature who is absolutely delighted to see you? Maybe your appreciation declines if it turns out your dog has been in the trash can again, but still, doesn’t it just make your day? Why there aren’t more dogs wandering in and out of the pages of novels, I don’t know, but when I write a book, I’ll put a dog in the story because dogs belong with us. That’s their purpose: to be by our sides on our life’s journey.
21. Are the dogs based on dogs you have known?
Well, only sort of. I imagine what the dogs would be like if they could talk, but I sort of make up their characters.
ABOUT THE THREE-BOOK A DOG'S PURPOSE SERIES
22. What inspired you to write the three-book A Dog’s Purpose series?
I was seeking to console a dear friend who had recently lost her dog. In her grief, she told me she could never go through that again, and would never, ever have another dog. I decided to tell her a story about a reincarnating dog who remembers each life, and eventually finds his way back to his original person. I really do believe that we will see our best friends again. If she were going to experience having her beloved dog come back to her, it meant she had to be open to the idea of adopting another canine. It worked: she adopted a dog, and she liked the story so much she married me! She also urged me to put it into a book which eventually became A Dog’s Purpose.
23. What gave you the idea that dogs might reincarnate?
My very first dog was a Labrador named Cammie. Cammie was sweet and docile and ate nearly everything left lying around: T-shirts, balloons, shoes. One time when my father wanted to get rid of a dangerously rusty backyard swing set (over his children’s loud objections) he dismantled it while we were at school and told us “the dog ate it.” None of us questioned the idea that our pet could chew up and swallow a hundred pounds of steel tubing. Anyway, Cammie and I were best friends, a little boy and his dog, exploring and playing and wrestling every single day. So when, years later, I was riding my bicycle in Colorado and I came across a dog behind a fence who barked like Cammie, stared at me with Cammie’s eyes, even wagged her tail with a curious little butt-bounce, I felt as if I was interacting with my childhood buddy, my first dog.
I rode away from that encounter with a couple of questions on my mind: what if dogs never truly die? What if they are reborn, remembering each life, so that they might recognize their people just as Cammie recognized me? And, if that were true, what would it look like from the dog’s perspective?
A Dog’s Journey and A Dog’s Purpose is based on a couple of things we all know to be certain: True love never dies, and our real friends are always there for us if we know where to look.
24. Has the reception to A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, and A Dog’s Promise surprised you?
Frankly, it surprised everyone, though I don’t think my dog was as shocked as I was. These books have camped out on the New York Times bestseller list, they are taught in schools, and all the emails and social media response suggest people are really taken with these stories. I guess it may have something to do with the fact that in the end, you don’t have a sobbing family standing around having a dog funeral. There are goodbyes, of course, but none of my novels is a “dead dog book.” And the A Dog’s Purpose series concerns a real dog—that is, not a dog who understands spoken English, but a real dog who is hoping all the words he’s hearing from a human will eventually wind up with his name and “treat” in the same sentence.
25. Did you think the movie did a good job portraying the book of A Dog’s Purpose?
Honestly, when you make a movie, it simply can’t ever be as dense and detailed as the book, because it is so much shorter. If you took every scene out of, say, Bailey’s Story and put it on the screen, the movie would be like four hours long. So yes, everyone worked hard to make the movie as true to the book as they could, but no, they really didn’t come very close.
26. What gave you the idea to write from the dog’s perspective?
I just couldn’t imagine writing A Dog’s Purpose from any other POV except the dog’s. Besides, I found out the dog was writing a book about me.
27. I love the idea of all the dogs being connected and finding their purpose through reincarnation and their humans. What inspired that idea and do you plan to write more like it?
ABOUT A DOG'S WAY HOME
28. What is A Dog’s Way Home about?
Bella is separated from Lucas for reasons only a human can understand, so she sets out to make things right. Her trek will take her hundreds of miles through dangerous mountain territory, and she will change the lives of many she meets along the way.
29. What was your inspiration in writing A Dog’s Way Home?
My inspiration came from the absolute dedication and devotion that dogs feel toward us, and their instinctive desire to always be with us. The bond between a dog and a person is one of the truest expressions of unconditional love, an amazing gift from God.
30. A Dog’s Way Home: Why did you choose to write about a pit bull, a breed that, as your book describes, often provokes a very negative reaction?
I wanted to show the cruel injustice of laws that will put a dog to death just because it looks like it might be a pit bull. I wanted to show the consequence of these laws, and also to demonstrate that love and compassion will conquer this evil.
31. What kind of research did you do about veterans, especially disabled veterans, to make your portrayal accurate?
I was allowed to tour VA hospitals, I spoke to veterans, and I have a friend who is a paraplegic wit a service dog. We are just beginning to understand how therapeutic an animal can be to the men and women who have served their country and now may need some help.
32. In A Dog’s Way Home, Bella must battle hunger, thirst, predators, and a host of other challenges to make her way across Colorado wilderness. Do you consider A Dog’s Way Home to be an adventure novel?
There’s adventure, yes. I’ve had a lot of people tell me the plot moves so swiftly they get swept up in it. It was fun to write about a dog lost in the Colorado Rockies because I used to live there. I was lost a lot, too, because I refuse to stop and ask people for directions.
ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS BOOKS
33. Explain the difference between The Dogs of Christmas and A Dog’s Perfect Christmas.
I am so glad you asked! The Dogs of Christmas is the story of a man who is both lonely and alone, living in a cabin in Colorado. Then he suddenly winds up with a litter of new puppies and a mother dog, and has to figure out how to deal with all of that. A Dog’s Perfect Christmas, however, is about a family in Michigan who is dealing with normal stresses, trying to prepare for the holidays. When Mom gets sick, the rest of the family has to pull together, which believe me, they are not good at. And then into the mess bounds a little lost puppy, which might just be the final straw—or the key to the family becoming closer.
34. Why are you writing Christmas novels?
I think sometimes the world just could use a fun and ultimately happy story about puppies at Christmas.
ABOUT THE PUPPY TAILS
35. What are the Puppy Tales?
After A Dog’s Purpose came out, I had a lot of parents tell me their children would love the story, but that some of the scenes were too intense. So I decided to write about the dogs in A Dog’s Purpose, starting with Ellie, the police dog. Ellie’s Story won the 2017 Colorado Children’s Book Away, the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award. And was on the Louisiana YR Choice Book Award Master List. I had never won a book award before! So I wrote more novels based on my books—Bailey’s Story, Molly’s Story, etc. We call them the “Puppy Tales.”
36. Are any of the Puppy Tales not based on your “grown-up” books?
Yes! Shelby’s Story is based on the real-life story of Shelby, the rescue dog who is the star of A Dog’s Way Home. Toby’s Story is pretty much nothing like Toby from A Dog’s Journey, though they share the same name. And Lily’s Story is the wonderful story of a dog who is rescued and goes on to live and work in an animal rescue saving baby animals. (See below for more about Lily!)
37. Please give us a synopsis of each Puppy Tale
38. Bella from Bella’s Story is a dog with an unusual relationship with cats. What made you decide to include that?
Bella, like all dogs, has a lot of love to give. Her early relationship with felines leads her to a fateful partnership in the wilderness that ultimately saves her life. Without cats, Bella would not survive to make her way back to Lucas.
39. How can animals be especially important for people who are disabled or traumatized?
The pace of life makes it difficult to devote the time necessary to make people feel loved and cared about, which is one of the most basic needs we humans have. A dog is never distracted from the bond she has formed with her person, a bond to replenish the soul.
40. What is your favorite kind of dog?
My favorite is rescue dog.
41. At what age did you get your first dog, what was his/her name and breed?
I was eight years old, the same age as Ethan in A Dog’s Purpose, when I met Cammie. I’ll never forget my father opening the back yard gate and in runs this little Labrador puppy!
42. What dog inspired you to write your first book and then the sequels that followed?
All dogs. They are the most optimistic creatures on the planet and I am addicted to optimism.
43. What do you like about dogs?
I love their joy, their optimism, their love. They are friendly and happy and just want to please us. I do not like when my dog digs holes in the carpet, but I think he believes it will make me happy.
44. How many dogs have you had? Can you tell me a bit about each of them (If they are not too many), a memory, an episode?
I have lived with a lot of dogs—growing up, my family had three children and three dogs at all times, though eventually the children grew up and moved out. This made my parents happy. On my own I have had two labradors, a malemute, and now a scruffy rescue dog named Tucker. The malemute taught me that not all dogs are labradors, and Tucker has taught me that a dog from a shelter can be just as wonderful as a purebred. I want to get an additional dog but Tucker won’t let me. He wants to be the only dog in my world.
45. People say that dogs choose their masters and not the other way around. Do you agree? If you agree, do you have any proof that this might be true based on your personal experience?
I think sometimes a dog will choose its master. In my novel A Dog’s Journey, the second in the A Dog’s Purpose series, the dog Max picks its person and will not accept anyone else. Tucker did not pick me, he picked my wife. He puts up with me because I know where to find bacon.
46. If you could use only one word to describe the feeling that Tucker and other dogs in your life have meant to you and your family consistently, what would that one word be?
47. How do dog stories connect to people?
Dogs are wonderful. They are friendly and happy and just want to please us. I do not like when my dog digs holes in the carpet, but I think he believes it will make me happy. Brazil has the world’s second largest pet population. Clearly, people are connected to their animals and thus it only makes sense that a dog story can appeal to the hearts and minds of people.
48. The pope once said that some people feel compassion toward animals and remain indifferent to the suffering of other people. What's your opinion about that? In your opinion, is is true that many people have deeper feelings for animals than for humans? What's the reason for that? Should we feel guilty because of it?
49. What books have you written that are intended for adults only?
I’d say my mystery novels series, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man and Repo Madness, are not really books for children. They concern a repo man in northern Michigan who solves crimes. They are… well, they are different, in that the repo man, Ruddy McCann, has a literal voice in his head. A voice with its own personality, one that insists he is not a voice, he is a real person. And, oh yeah, he was murdered…. Oh, and The Dog Master, about life in the paleolithic, is most certainly not for children. It was a brutal time and there’s savage, violent tribal warfare. A young man finds a wolf puppy and names it “dog,” and the way he trains it to help him hunt, the two of them, man and dog, save each other. It’s the story of the world’s very first dog.
50. How about books that are written for just children?
In the first book, Lily to the Rescue, we meet the characters and Lily helps save a crow with a broken wing. In The Not so Stinky Skunk, Lily and Maggie Rose find a skunk who can’t spray a smell, so the poor animal is defenseless. In Dog, Dog, Goose, a bunch of baby geese imprint on Lily—they think Lily is their mother! How are they going to learn to fly from a dog? In Two Little Piggies, a pair of piglets mysteriously show up at a gas station. Where is their mother? Lily helps rescue them, but then what? Can Lily help the piggies find their way home?
The Puppy Tales – Ellie’s Story, Bailey’s Story, Molly’s Story, Max’s Story, Toby’s Story, Bella’s Story, Lily’s Story, Shelby’s Story, and soon Cooper’s Story – are for older children and are also enjoyed by a lot of adults!
PERSONAL QUESTIONS FOR BRUCE
51. Bruce, do you have a dog?
My dog Tucker believes he has people, not the other way around. Our job is to provide soft pillows and delicious treats. Whenever I fail to deliver what he considers the proper amount of chicken snacks, he makes a note in my permanent record.
52. Do you think that somehow the just-right dog finds us instead of the other way around?
I believe that some dogs are fated to be with some humans. When a puppy breaks from her littermates and scampers across the room and into the arms of a single person, she is running to the human she will love her whole life, drawn by the invisible leash of love.
53. Will you send me some free books?
Well, I wouldn’t be a very good businessperson if I gave away all my products. But you can go to the library and check them out for free!
54. Besides the movie based on your novel, what's your favorite pet movie and why?
My favorite movie about animals is Finding Nemo. I thought it a wonderful story about parental love and responsibility. Plus it was simple enough for me to understand.
55. How important is for you to have a female director (Gail Mancuso) for the movie A Dog’s Journey? After all, the story is much more feminine…
My wife Cathryn is a director, so it is very important to me personally that women be given an equal opportunity to direct feature films. Historically this has not been the case, but perhaps that is changing. I hope so. Gail is known as one of the most professional, hard-working, and pleasant directors in the business. She loves dogs and brought that love to every moment of this movie. I was thrilled with the choice of Gail for director—she did a great job!
56. How does telling the story from the perspective of the dog help you connect to the reader?
Our dogs are so important to us, yet what they are thinking is mostly a mystery. By giving voice to a dog’s thoughts, my stories pull the reader into the delightfully joyous and optimistic dog’s point of view. In the end, my goal is to make people happy.
57. Do you believe in reincarnation?
I am really interested in reincarnation except if I’m coming back I’m not re-doing Junior High School. And I want people to come to their own conclusions for what the purpose of the dog was!
58. Did you and Cathryn adopt Tucker after his debut in Muffin Top? Was Muffin Top a one-time role for Tucker?
Tucker has hired an agent who is demanding a 10% increase in chicken treats. We have tried to reason with him, but so far all he does is turn his back on us and nap.
59. What’s your favorite food?
Whatever I can reach when I’m hungry.
60. What is your favorite word, least favorite word and favorite curse word? Explain why.
I have nothing for you here on this one. I can’t imagine having a favorite word, it’s like having a favorite breath of air.
61. Are you rich and famous?
I am rich enough to buy my dog chicken snacks, so he feels we are good, there. I am not famous, though the guy who cuts my hair has stopped calling me “Brice.”
62. Do you have children?
Yes! I have two girls and a boy. None of them want to be writers.
63. Do you think dogs are always going to play an important role in your fiction?
Yes! I am not sure I will always write dog stories, meaning, stories where the dogs are the main characters and even the narrators, but for me a story with heart and humor should have a dog in it. I have a series of mystery novels out right now, and one of the characters in it is Jake, a Bassett hound who does not like to go for walks. Jake is not the central character, but he plays a major role in the book Repo Madness. I guess when I watch a family sitcom, or a movie about people and relationships, I am always wondering where their dogs are.