Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Interview with W. Bruce Cameron

by Rose A. Valenta

Photo courtesy of W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, and Tucker

I was so pleased when W. Bruce Cameron granted me an interview. I have admired his work for many years, especially after the success of his sitcom 8 Simple Rules in 2001. I met him at the 2006 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop where he gave the keynote address and autographed his book for me. I was impressed with the ease in which he spoke to the entire group for over an hour. I had been struggling with public speaking jitters, so I was focused on his performance. It was flawless, as if he was born with a mic in his fist and an innate talent for effective communication. I asked him about it later, he just shrugged and said, “I Just do it.”

Although Bruce is on top of his game now, the journey to success has not come easy. He worked at a variety of day jobs to support his family while simultaneously submitting manuscripts to literary agents, but he always knew that his true passion was being a writer. He wrote his first short story in the fourth grade and sold his first short story to a publisher when he was only 16 years old, so he knew. In college, he worked on the literary magazine and Westminster student newspaper. However, it wasn’t until 1995 that he managed to get his "Cameron Column" syndicated via the Rocky Mountain News. Then, in 2001 with some help with a book proposal, he published his first blockbuster 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, which was immediately chosen for both a Disney feature film and the popular sitcom. The story was based on Bruce’s real-life family adventure - father of three.

Bruce has also written How to Remodel a Man, 8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter, A Dog’s Purpose, and Emory’s Gift, which is scheduled to be released in September 2011. He won the 2006 Robert Benchley Society Award for Humor and has twice received the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) Award for Best Humor Columnist . He was recently named Best Columnist of the Year by the NSNC. I will be attending the awards dinner at the NSNC “Rebound in Motown” Conference in Detroit, to congratulate him personally on June 24th.

Bruce’s nationally syndicated column is published in more than 50 newspapers. His fiction debut, A Dog’s Purpose, is a New York Times, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times bestseller and is soon to be a major live-action film from DreamWorks Studios. He will be writing the screenplay for DreamWorks with his beautiful new wife, actress Cathryn Michon. Again, the story is based on a real-life interest in animal rescue, thanks to his daughter, 28-year-old Georgia Lee. She is the founder and president of Life is Better Rescue, a non-profit rescue organization. No date is set for the release date of the film.

Following is my interview with Bruce:


How did you get started as a writer?
That’s almost like asking me how I got started as a human. For as long as I can remember, I’ve written stories. For many years, I held down day jobs, including a career with General Motors, but I always wrote.


Other than A Dog’s Purpose what is your favorite project that you have worked on?
I have a book coming out in August - Emory’s Gift. It’s my favorite.


When your book, 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, was selected to be made into a sitcom, how many writers worked on that project for the show?
When it started, it was just the show runner, though he did go out to some other writers for help, which is typical. He and I had lunch and I’d pitch him ideas, some of which made it into the pilot.


How is that type of writing different than writing a book?
Writing a book is a solo effort. Sort of like the movie 127 hours: you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and eventually you have to cut your own arm off. A TV show is more like a high school prom, with everyone terrified and eventually you wind up going to the dance with someone you don’t even like.


Were you surprised at the success of the show?
We had a great cast and the show was about my crazy family. I thought all other networks would simply give up and cease broadcasting.


What was the impetus that made you decide to write A Dog’s Purpose?
The book crawled into my head and kept chewing on my brain. I had to let it out before it wrecked the furniture.


I understand that you and Cathryn are now writing the screenplay for DreamWorks. How did that evolve?
When I sell a property, I make sure I’m attached to write the adaptation. And I wouldn’t think of doing it without my writing partner, who is not only a successful author but has a solid track record in both TV and features.


What is the most challenging/stressful part of your career?
To be a successful author requires lots of luck and lots of marketing effort and skill. The less luck you have, the more marketing you have to do. What’s stressful is trying to write full time and market myself full time.


What is the most rewarding/exciting part of your career?
I love the e-mails and Facebook messages I receive from my fans. It’s truly gratifying.


How have your career goals changed since you started out?
Cathryn and I shot an independent movie a few years ago and I want to do more of that.


Who has been your favorite actor/director/producer/writer that you've worked with?
I’ve only worked with one actor/director/producer/writer, and that’s Cathryn Michon. She’s my favorite.


Are you planning to write a subsequent novel or screenplay?
I am writing a sequel this year. We’ll see if it turns into a screenplay!


What would be your words of wisdom to someone starting out in this industry?
Develop the personal and presentational skills you’ll need to get noticed. With electronic publishing, anyone can be a published author. You need to attract attention in a crowded field.


Do you have a website, Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and other social networking sites where your fans can learn more?
Yes! My author site is www.wbrucecameron.com. For A Dog’s Purpose, I have a website, www.adogspurpose.com, and also there’s the Facebook fan page, where 34,000 fans (and growing) go to talk about their dogs, share stories and pictures, and continue important conversations.

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