How did you come up with the idea for your Christmas book?
Several years ago I "made the rounds," as they say, to various television network talk shows (Anderson Cooper, Fox and Friends, etc.) discussing how stressful the holidays can be for people. My remarks were geared toward the idea that we have such high expectations of the experience that nothing ever matches up to our memories once we are beyond early childhood.
It has always stuck with me – this idea that everyone expects the holidays to be "perfect." And it occurred to me that as far as a dog is concerned, Christmas is a perfect day because pretty much every day is a perfect day. Maybe not “bath day” but almost every other one.
So I wrote the story of the Goss family, a typical, if somewhat wacky and dysfunctional, middle-class, middle American family trying to get it right and kind of failing. They are vivid and heartfelt characters who are relatable and in crisis. When things look like they are close to the breaking point, a lost puppy is introduced, and what looks at first like it will be the final straw will prove to be the missing link for the family to get back together.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
Of all the traditions with which I grew up, my favorite was the midmorning fight between my mother and my sister. Inevitably, one of them would stomp out of the house and then return a little while later looking sheepish.
I'm only half kidding. It was something we could all anticipate, even if it really wasn't our "favorite."
Honestly, my favorite Christmas moments occurred when my own children were very young and would come in and see the tree all decked out Christmas morning. To them, it was just magic. Seeing their faces was the best part of the holidays.
I have a new book, A Dog's Courage, coming out in May. I also have another one of my "Puppy Tales" being published around the same time, Cooper's Story. Plus I have four more installments in the Lily to the Rescue series publishing in 2021. Those are for children aged six to around 10. So: busy year. I am pretty excited! We've also got to scripts in development and are hoping that when movie production resumes, they will get going in 2021 for release in 2022.
What’s the best writing tip you’ve learned or been given you’d like to share?
The screenwriter, novelist and memoirist, (plus movie director and, oh, also my wife) Cathryn Michon taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson in storytelling: always know how it is going to end and how you're going to get there. In other words, outline, outline, outline. It's what turns a mediocre writer into a professional.
What do you know now about writing and publishing you wish you had learned sooner?
I think I thought that if I followed the instructions that appeared in books designed for amateur writers and wrote a synopsis and enclosed an SASE, etc. I would wind up being published in no time. Instead, I learned that, as you would expect, finding an agent and a publisher requires personal connections.
Had I understood this, I would have attended writers conferences and worked hard to meet agents and publishers and editors so that I could turn to them when I felt I had something ready to be evaluated and so that the responses would have been instructive instead of dismissive.
Any last words or tips?
About once a week I receive an email that looks something like this: "Hi, I really admire you as a writer and your books look like they are excellent. I have written something in the same genre and am wondering if you would read it and give me advice and perhaps a blurb that I could use to help secure an agent."
I forgive people for not understanding what a huge request this is. I also receive requests from close friends for similar favors, as well as forwards from my agents and managers. This is tantamount to a complete stranger asking if they can sleep on your couch for a month and oh by the way they are lactose intolerant so when you cook them meals please skip the dairy.
Are there any other books that you’d like to tell my readers about?
A Dog's Perfect Christmas is a novel about people, dogs, puppies, and Christmas. I think it is the perfect novel for these times, when so many world events are depressing and stress inducing. It also makes a great gift book. Another novel of mine that is similar in theme is The Dogs of Christmas. The two of them are upbeat, happy novels that I would recommend for these trying times.
If you'd like to learn more about Bruce's books, here are a couple of links to get you started.