8 Simple Questions for Finding an Author's Purpose with W. Bruce Cameron

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W Bruce Cameron, with Tucker (photo: Ute Ville

One might say that writer W. Bruce Cameron has gone to the dogs -- and the author probably couldn't be happier. The writer of several best-selling novels such as 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER and A DOG'S PURPOSE has recently released a new touching novel about canines and the people they care about with A DOG'S JOURNEY.

We were fortunate to have a few moments to sit down with Cameron to discuss the titles he writes, the movies that have been made, and even some of the unexpected controversy thrown his way.

1. Looking at your title history, things seem to fall into either of two categories: "Dads" and "Dogs." What's the connection there?

Well, you know, if you're the father to some children, and you're the father to some dogs, there's a very clear emotional connection between the two.

There are, however, other areas where it's not the case. My REPO series is about a repo man who solves murder mysteries. My book THE DOG MASTER has "dog" in the title, but it's really about Paleolithic societies struggling for dominance in an increasingly hostile world as the Ice Age begins.

So I have a lot of dogs on the cover, but I think that's because everybody expects me to write dog books. Even if I'm writing a cookbook, they want a dog on the cover.

2. You're newest book, A DOG'S WAY HOME, tackles the "just bred bad" mythology surrounding pit bulls. What was the spark that ignited this particular story?

My daughter is involved in animal rescue. She runs the animal rescue in Denver, and she has to deal with this issue constantly, where there are dogs that are lovely, wonderful animals that fall into the crosshairs of the animal control system, and she has to re-home them outside of Denver city limits. It's a terribly vexing problem for her, because so many of these dogs are such wonderful, loyal, loving creatures. And the idea that, just based on their looks, they're going to ignore the facts and banish them is preposterous to me.

So I wanted to demonstrate a couple of things. Number one, a dog can be declared a pit bull whether or not it is a classic pit bull. All it takes is for the animal control people to say it is a pit bull, and it's a pit bull. And number two, I wanted to demonstrate that these dogs are so loyal and loving that this dog, Bella, would risk her life for several years making her way through the most dangerous, treacherous territory imaginable for a dog just to be with her person, because she loves her family and love her person so much.

3. You also set much of the book against the setting of the lives of disabled veterans, both in the character of Lucas's mother and the VA hospital where he works where Bella becomes something of an unofficial service animal. How did that find its way into the book?

I first became interested in veterans' issues several years ago when I was invited as part of a charity event to be, basically, sort of a busboy for a luncheon for Wounded Warriors. And just listening to them talk, and realized -- and this has probably always been true -- we have not stood by our veterans and their special needs. But dogs have a huge impact emotionally on people. I knew this because I've been involved with dogs so long. It didn't take any effort at all to determine that, yes indeed, dogs are deployed all the time to help wounded warriors recover, and they also provide physical support and emotional support. So there's a huge bond there. I wanted to address all of these things. A DOG'S WAY HOME is Bella's story in terms of being connected to the veterans.

4. Within the past year, you were victimized by what we're all calling the "fake news" now, when a video hit TMZ that purported to show a dog being abused during the filming of A DOG'S PURPOSE. Walk us through what you were feeling when this story came out and how that changed when it was ultimately proven to have been deceptively edited with malicious intent.

This is where social media has completely changed the lives of people like me, because I'm sure that many years ago something like this would be a story that broke, and then cook along in the media, but you'd have time to formulate your responses.

We had a social media storm. We had people showing up on our fan page. We had 360,000 people on our fan page, and we had attackers instantly. It took us a while to figure out which ones were 'bots' -- pre-programmed people that said exactly the same thing in exactly the same words -- and which ones were absolute maniacs who were just basically looking to stir up trouble and death threats, things like that. So that took us a while to figure out. But we were sort of strapped into the chairs. I say we, my wife is Cathryn Michon who co-wrote the screenplay with me and others. Cathryn was very much on the forefront of responding as best we could.

Our understanding evolved over a matter of hours and days. At first, I reacted like everyone, and was a little disturbed. The editing of the video made a sequence of events look pretty disturbing. When I realized it was edited, and, further, when I studied the dog, I realized that it wasn't a terrified dog, but a dog that was reluctant to go into the water and was being asked to go into the water. That's what my conclusion was when I first saw it.

That helped me respond reasonably to people, even if they were being unreasonable in their attack. And then, as the thing progressed, we went into Amblin and watched footage that was shot that day of not what was just in front of the camera when they called "Action!" The cameras were set up and running when nothing was happening. And it painted an entirely different picture. I came out of that meeting realizing this whole thing had been stitched together to make a certain impression, but was a highly inaccurate portrait of what actually occurred.

There are still people who didn't maybe get the update. You'll still see postings, and this question comes up all the time. It's just unfortunate, because I think the movie's message is that dogs are thinking, loving, caring sentient beings, and they do not deserve to be treated cruelly, and we should love them and take care of them. We have that obligation. And those are messages that are really important for animal welfare that I think come out loud and clear in A DOG'S PURPOSE.

5. I know people are likely aware that the film, A DOG'S PURPOSE, was based on a book, but they may not know that it is a series of books. Was the film adapted from the one novel, or did the other books inform the screenplay?

I'm happy to report that it was ultimately adapted from just the first book!

That means the second book is still open for adaptation.

That is why I'm happy! There's no news yet, but we'd be negligent if we weren't in efforts to try to attract the notion that they should try to make the sequel.

6. Do you ever see yourself going back to newspaper columns, or would the Internet might be a better outlet -- A DOG'S BLOG, perhaps?

I retired from my column after having been awarded Newspaper Columnist of the Year in 2011, and I thought, "I need to go out while I'm on top. I'm probably not going to get a Pulitzer, so this is where I'm going to fold my cards." I would have to say that the newspaper column was a wonderful experience. It made me happy that so many people think I'm funny. I have had a few humor books come out, most recently A DAD'S PURPOSE just came out in June, and it's a humor book. So people like my humor, and I love that, but I don't think, given the life I'm leading right now, I have the discipline any more to sit down once a week and pound out a 700-word column. It seems like too many things are going on.

7. You mentioned one of your other series a little bit back, and I wanted to get some more information on that one. Can you give us a nutshell version of Ruddy McCann and his story?

Ruddy McCann is a former football star, small town hero, big man on campus. His whole life's mapped out for an NFL career. He looks like he's on top of the world. But he makes a mistake and crashes a car, and a woman drowns. For that he's sent to prison.

When he gets out of prison, he's no longer anybody. The only job he can get is a repo man in his home town of Kalkaska, Michigan where he also serves as the bouncer at his sister's bar. And that's his life -- he is kind of fallen.

To make matters worse, one day he hears a voice in his head and the voice just keeps talking and he thinks now he's gone crazy. But the voice says, "You're not crazy, I'm a real person. I've been murdered and I need you to find my killer." And that is the premise of the first book in the series, which is THE MIDNIGHT PLAN OF THE REPO MAN.

8. A DOG'S WAY HOME has just come out, so you ought to be taking a breather, but we're going to ask anyway: What are you doing next, in either the way of books or movies?

I have recently signed a multi-book deal with my publisher, and I'm sure fans will be happy to hear that they're all dog books. So I am in the process right now of outlining and putting together the storyline for the next couple of dog books. That's going to keep me occupied for the next half-decade or so. Hopefully we'll see some movie and TV projects come from all of that, but if we don't I'll just keep plugging away.