"I'm so happy to be here tonight," said W. Bruce Cameron as he took the podium at the Tattered Cover in LoDo last night to address roughly fifty fans, many of whom sipped on plastic cups of complementary wine or nibbled at various cheeses and fruits through his talk. Tattered Cover "is regarded by authors around the country as being the premier bookstore," he noted, "and it's right here in Denver."
Cameron himself no longer is. A former Rocky Mountain News columnist-turned-novelist returned to Denver to promote his fourth novel (and seventh book overall), The Dogs of Christmas. He signed copies for fans and donated $2 from every purchase to Life Is Better Rescue, a nonprofit devoted to saving animals from euthanasia; his daughter is president of the organization.
A man recognized for his talent as a humor writer, Cameron began his talk as if taking the stage for a set of stand-up comedy. "I love how the bicycles here are all beautiful and clean-looking," he said, setting up the punchline. "In L.A., they're all stolen."
The husband and father of three was at his best (and funniest), however, when speaking candidly about life or taking questions from the audience. An elderly woman inquired about one of the regular features of Cameron's old RMN column, asking, "When you wrote about your parent's problems with technology, did that stuff really happen or did you make some of it up?"
Cameron chuckled before telling the audience that his dad may have been the first person ever to own a fax machine: "No one else had one yet, so he'd just sit there in the den and stare at the thing."
He also singled out his mom as a source of endless inspiration. "Whenever I needed an idea for an article, I'd just call mom and let her talk," he said. His mother would frequently claim to have seen famous people in her hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, he remembered: "I said, "Mom, you did not really see Al Pacino at the Traverse City Walmart in the middle of November."
The author went on to discuss his transition from columnist to published author to Oprah Winfrey interviewee. His tongue-in-cheek advice column for young men wanting to date his daughter received such positive feedback that he turned it into his first book, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which later became a TV show on ABC. In 2008, seven years after the publication of that book, Cameron wrote a follow-up titled 8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter.
"No one bought it," he said. "That's when I realized brides and mothers don't want to read about how insane they're acting." With that, Cameron added, his career in humor writing was virtually over. He turned instead to fiction, and in 2010 released A Dog's Purpose, which spent 52 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. DreamWorks Studios later purchased film rights to the book. "They felt it was very important to have the script in just six weeks," said Cameron.
That was two years ago, and little progress has been made since.
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While the author's new dog-centric book was not written from the perspective of a dog -- nor with an eventual film in mind -- its plot revolves around Josh, a middle-aged man who gets stuck with caring for a very pregnant dog that's been abandoned by his neighbor. The Dogs of Christmas was released yesterday in bookstores around the country, just in time for the holiday season.