A New York Times bestseller for his Jericho Quinn series, Cameron was given the winter release for the Clancy series late 2016 after the legendary novelist passed away in 2013. Cameron and his wife, Victoria Otte, who live in Alaska, returned to the United States yesterday after two months in Rarotonga. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell me a bit about your background
I’m retired. I worked in federal law enforcement for about 30 years for the US Marshalls, hunting fugitives, protecting federal judges in the US, stuff like that.
I’d wanted to become a police officer ever since I watched the old Adam West Batman when I was eight.
And I wanted to be Batman so bad. I wanted to wear a utility belt and fight bad guys. And then I learned I could put on a belt with cool things on it and save people.
In terms of writing, I’ve been doing that professionally for about 15 years.
As I got more interesting war stories of my own, and saw a lot of interesting people, that began to inform my writing.
When did you realise you could make a career out of writing?
My first books, shoot-em-up Westerns, they weren’t quite over the top enough.
I got a rejection letter from a major New York publisher, who said that they loved my writing, but that I needed to think bigger, more global, focus on terrorism and all of that, with my background.
I wrote this over the top adventure story about this guy who rides motorcycles and carries a Japanese sword behind his back, thinking that it would just be sort of a one off fun adventure story, kind of escapism.
And people liked it and it sold well, and I’ve just finished the eighth one of the series.
And then that ultimately got me the Tom Clancy job.
Was there doubt about whether you could do the job?
Oh absolutely there was.
We were in Florida, and my agent called, he said that Putnam Publishing wanted me to write the next Clancy.
So there’s this photo that my wife took, she thought someone had died because of the look on my face.
And I was terrified, because those characters are so real to me, and so real to so many people all over the world, it was daunting.
Do you still feel that?
I was telling my editor that I had not felt that way, I probably might have been the wrong person ask. If I thought it would have been easy, I don’t think I would have done a very good book.
I think that terror helped push me along, and want to really strive to stay true to the tiniest detail of the character.
Did you feel that you had to honour his style?
There’s no way I can copy him, and I feel it would come across as counterfeit.
In fact, my editor said to write a Marc Cameron novel in the spirit of Tom Clancy.
What inspires you now that you’re retired?
I’ve met so many interesting people, and over a 30-year period, I’ve come in contact with a lot of bad people.
So I kept notes for that, or for when I’d hear a turn of phrase, or when someone committed an interesting crime.
Travel also keeps me inspired.
After spending time here, I decided that I wanted a co-main character in my next book to be a Cook Islander, Lola Teariki.
My editor loves her and she is probably going to be in subsequent books in the series, and be a major character.
What is it about the Cook Islands that led you to add a major character to your books?
It’s so unknown.
The difference in culture, uniqueness of the island, and the friendliness and openness of the people.
There are very few places in the world where you can walk down the beach and not have someone try and sell you something.
I know that if my wife goes to the beach at night, I don’t have to worry about her.
And when I’ve been writing about Lola, I always make sure to double and triple check things too, and (National Museum and Library Manager) Jean Mason has been an incredible help.
I hope that when I introduce Lola it showcases the culture. She’ll have a strong tie to the ocean, which is almost instinctive thing.
She’s from this beautiful tropical island but is in Anchorage, Alaska, wearing a fur parka and braving the cold, a nice fish out of water (laughs).
Lola is a fitness freak, very fit and trying to learn more about her culture, that side of her family, and she wants to come back home.
How did you discover here?
We always wanted to go somewhere with white sandy beaches.
And we found this place on Trip Advisor, and because of the timing, we arrived late at night.
We got dropped off and we went to our rooms, went over to the pool, and just the smells and the feel of everything, we were already planning our return trip that night.
We’ve been back three times, and we’ve stayed two months twice, and we’re booked to come back next year.
It’s such a great place to write. I write everywhere, but here in particular really speaks to me.
(James Bond author) Ian Fleming wrote many of his books in the Bahamas in a place called Goldeneye, and I’ve always considered this my version of Goldeneye.
I may not get my (Clancy) book finished while I’m here, but I get it really fleshed out.
How do you adjust to the heat coming from Alaska?
I grew up in Texas, so I’m used to humidity.
But now, after 20 years in Alaska I’ve got used to the cold. In 20 degree Fahrenheit (minus seven degrees), I just wear a light jacket. You get used to it.
So coming back here it takes a little while to adjust.
But we spend a lot of time in the water, and drink a lot of fluids. I also try and write outside to just get used to it.
Has there been thought about basing a book here?
The series that will have Lola in it, of which the first one is called ‘Open Carry’, which was finished last year, it comes out in April 2019.
And how I envision it, the second book will end with my main character and Lola Teariki coming this direction. They will be here for at least a portion of the book.
Coming here would add a whole separate layer, and even though none of the first story is set in the Cook Islands, she’ll talk about it.
Will you pick a village of origin for Lola?
Somehow we will try and do it without making anyone angry (laughs).
Any thoughts of you traveling to the outer islands?
Yes, we’d love to go. My wife and I like to sail, and we’ve done heaps of reading of the South Pacific islands.
We love the Pacific, because there are stories and characters here, and meeting these folks around here and the outer islands would populate stories.
Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?
Write every day.
Hemingway said all first drafts are rubbish.
Well he said something a bit harsher than that.
You can’t fix a blank page. You can fix bad writing.
So you have to start, and then you can play around with it.