Twenty (Or So) Questions

Who are you?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.  For strictly the facts, see my biography

How do you pronounce your weird last name?

The correct pronunciation of Calame is Cal-uh-may.  My wife thought it was a really nice sounding name when she married me until she heard people mangle it with variations such as: Cuh-laym, Cuh-la-mee, and the oh-so-sweet sounding Clam-mee.

Where do you live?

Currently, I live in British Columbia, Canada.  I was born in New York and lived for a time in Los Angeles.

No, where do you live EXACTLY, like a street address so I can send you stuff?

Oh, yeah.  No, I can’t tell you that because I’d rather not have certain people showing up on my doorstep.  Not you, of course, but certain other people.

How tall are you?

The doctor says I’m 5’10” but he’s rounding up.  I’m probably closer to 5’9”?

What do you want for your birthday?

That’s sweet of you to ask.  But I couldn’t accept anything.  I pretty much have everything I need.  If you simply must get me a gift please buy one of my books and donate it to your library. 

How do you get your dog, Scooter, to do all those crazy tricks?

Scooter’s a robot.  I just hook a USB cable up to his butt and then program him to do my bidding.  Actually, he’ll do anything for a piece of stale bread.  Including my laundry, the dishes and taking out the garbage.  Currently I am teaching him how to type so that he can answer all these questions for me.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer (I’ll post some of my early efforts in my Dirty Laundry section) but it took a while for me to be able to do it full time.  Over the years I’ve worked as a paperboy, a bike mechanic, a musical instrument salesman, a cashier at a supermarket, an assistant to a talent agent, and an elementary school teacher.

Why should we read your book?

Wow, these are tough questions.  Okay.  Well.  If you’re a guy, you’ll probably relate to the main characters and if you’re a girl you’ll get some great inside knowledge on what guys are thinking about most of the time (although, you really might not want to know).

Why did you become a writer?

I guess because it feels a bit like I’m playing (except when it doesn’t feel like that).  Also, I’ve always loved reading.  The idea that you can drop into another world just by opening a book, no matter where you are. 

Honestly, though, I thought I was going to be a guitar player for a while there.  Until I realized I’d never be able to make a living at it.  Of course, it’s no easier making a living being a writer but I guess it just comes more naturally. 

Let’s move on to an easier question.

Where do you get your ideas from?

That’s not any easier.  I have no clue.  I suppose I just try to think up a situation that sounds fun or funny and I go with that.  Sometimes I’ll start with something that happened to me and then completely change it so it no longer resembles the real incident any more.  But ideas can come from anywhere.  Your life, the news, a song, an overheard conversation, or just out of your imagination.

What’s the difference between writing screenplays and writing novels?

They’re very different.  As a screenwriter you are sketching out a story that will be filled in later by the director, the actors, the musical composer, the set designer and a million other people.  Movie making is extremely collaborative.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

As a novelist you are all those people.  The writer, the director, the actor, the costume designer, etc.  You are creating the complete work; a complete world.

A screenplay has to be around 110 - 120 pages (or around 110 - 120 minutes of screen time) so you are restricted in how much you can do and show.  A novel can be anywhere from 200 to 2000 pages (or more).  There is much more freedom.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easier.  Sometimes having the restriction of 120 pages can make things easier.  More choice is actually more difficult. 

There are many other differences as well but that’s what comes to mind off the top of my head.

Which do you like better: writing movies or writing novels?

Right now I enjoy writing novels more.  But that might change.  I wrote for film and television for around 15 years and I was getting tired/bored/frustrated with it.  It’s just the nature of the movie industry.  Things get bought, rewritten and never made.  Or things get bought, rewritten and made in a way you don’t like.  Doesn’t mean I won’t ever write movies again.  I’d love to make Swim the Fly into a film.  I think it would be fun.

What are some of your favorite books; who are your favorite authors?

My tastes run the gamut.  Here are just a few in pretty much every category:

I love Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Melvyn Burgess (Doing It), M.T. Anderson (Burger Wuss), C.S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), Richard Russo (The Risk Pool), Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) Stephen King (Pet Sematary), Jon Hassler (Grand Opening), Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys), Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road).

How long does it take you to write a book?

A first draft can take anywhere from four to six months.  Depending on what’s going on in my life at the time.  I try to write every day but that’s not always practical.  But from start to finish, including rewrites, a book can take up to a year or more.

What are your favorite movies of all time?

There are hundreds of movies I love.  Here are just a few:

Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Godfather, Star Wars (the first three Lucas made, or the last three in the series ? it gets so confusing), Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Annie Hall, Rocky, Alien, Chinatown, Ghosbusters, Back to the Future, Tootsie, The Sting.

How about some movies made in this century?

Tough crowd.  Okay, I really liked Sin City, Spider Man 2, The Squid and the Whale, Iron Man, The Aviator, The Dark Knight, Meet the Fockers, Casino Royale, The Forty Year Old Virgin.

Who designed your awesome website?

The amazing people at Hop Studios.  You can visit them at

How much of the stuff in your books really happened?

18 %

Okay, maybe that’s not completely accurate.  I use things that have happened to me in my books (like every author does) and then I greatly exaggerate them.  Real people never appear in my books but I will use some traits of some people and mix them with others to create a brand new character.  You use what you have and what you know and then make the rest up.  If anyone says they recognize themselves in my books they’re lying. 

I was on swim team but not that particular swim team.  My friend and I did try to see a naked lady on a nude beach but under very different circumstances.  I did drink a tomato juice and chocolate milk concoction with terrible consequences.  I’m sure there are other things that I’m not thinking of right now (or at least, not going to admit to).

What are your hobbies?

I love to read, watch hockey, collect hockey memorabilia, listen to music, and mostly, hang out with my wife.

Can I write to you and will you respond?

You can write and I will try to respond as best I can. 

As long as you don’t send my your ideas or your latest novel or short story.  I don’t have enough time as it is to work on my own writing, so I’m sorry to say I can’t respond to yours.

What’s the deal with all that junk on the desk on your homepage?

Most of the stuff on that desk are things that mean something to me.  The Winnie the Pooh toy I’ve had since I was a baby.  The superhero toys I’ve had since I was a kid.  The hockey jersey and cards are from my favorite team growing up: The New York Islanders.  The picture in the frame is me at a young age (I can’t remember how old) with a bad haircut.  The picture of the dog with the sunglasses is Scooter trying to look cool.

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