“It is so different from Alaska (where he lives with his wife Vicky). It delights the senses and is a good place to write.”
Cameron is a former lawman – a Chief Deputy US Marshall to be exact – and he is best known for being the man behind the keyboard of the latest Tom Clancy series of novels.
His task on Rarotonga has been to finish one of his own books and then he will “jump back into the third Clancy”.
“I’ve got the bones of it down and I’ve got two more months to go before deadline so we are on track.”
Cameron has written 20 titles and while he doesn’t know the total numbers of sales he reckons it is well over a million books.
His first books were traditional westerns.
“I actually started as a ghost writer for traditional westerns – for another author who was ill at the time and subsequently passed away. I wrote two of those and then the publisher picked up my own westerns.”
Cameron says he enjoys writing westerns as he grew up “cowboy-like” in Texas.
“I went on to what they called in the mid-2000s ‘Men’s Adventure’ but they are just suspense thrillers.
“And, as I found out later, more than half of my readers are women. In fact, more than half of my readers are women over 50 years of age. That’s really the picture of a reader.
“So I wrote 10 of those thrillers and then the Clancys and all sold 18 of them are out. There are two in the editorial process right now. And I’m working on the third Jack Ryan novel.”
Clancy was one of the giants of techno-thrillers in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s and so we had to ask Cameron just how difficult was it to take on his legacy?
“It’s impossible to step into the great man’s shoes,” he says. “I told the editor that if I had not been terrified then I would not have been the right person for the job.
“I was about 23 when Hunt for Red October came out. I was reading Tom Clancy from the beginning. I really enjoyed the characters and really enjoyed the books.
“So it was daunting.”
Cameron says he had been a ghost writer before “although this is not ghost writing, it is write for hire.
“My name is on the cover of the book, but you are still writing another person’s characters.”
Quick with a laugh he adds: “So there are always going to be people who get angry about it. Like ‘you’ve ruined my life’ angry.
“I can’t stop that … the Clancy estate wants me to keep them going and a lot of readers want me to keep them going … so I enjoy it.
“It is daunting and I try really hard to keep the characters true to the way he envisioned. At the same time, I have to write my own style because I think you would sound counterfeit if you tried to mimic him.
“Plus Tom Clancy was writing in the 80s and 90s and the style he wrote was for then. He was a brilliant, brilliant man and I think he would have morphed the way he wrote had he been alive and started a novel today.
“He was able to take some time to describe a lot of things that were so new to us technologically back then - now you or I could look on Wikipedia and find details within 10 seconds; where he was the Wikipedia of military technology at the time.
“So, consequently, I don’t delve as deeply into things, although I still try to educate. I educate myself when I do the research and pass some of those things on to readers. Plus, the military is so good about sharing things with me with different tours and intelligence communities open up to me because of my background, and then now with these books, it has been very interesting.”
How have the locals been towards you?
“They are wonderful. They are very friendly and we’ve got friends here. This is our fourth trip and we have friends all over the island.
“We look forward to coming back to the island and we look forward to coming back and seeing our friends more.”
While here Cameron gave an evening presentation at the University of the South Pacific. It was very well attended with about 40 people there to listen to him.
“I had a good time,” he said, laughing. “I don’t if everyone else did. I always enjoy talking about writing and we had some really good chats afterwards.
“I just kind of droned on about myself and my experiences. I’m very fortunate to be where I am at with the jobs and contracts I have to write.
“I have been writing a long time so I like to talk about writing itself. We stayed probably an hour afterwards talking to other people about their writing goals and giving them advice.
“It was great fun and great fun for me.
“I was surprised and happy with the turnout. We had a few tourists who were on the island who just came in.”
Do you often tell people about your experiences and how they may be able to write?
“Yes. I’m retired from the US Marshalls and have a little subgroup of writers within the retired deputy marshals and they ask me questions like ‘how did you get past this bench mark? How did you get a publisher?’ And that sort of thing … And even just about the craft of writing.
“I am still learning myself, but it keeps you from having to re-invent the wheel if I, for instance, call someone who has been doing longer than me and ask some questions.
“I have had so many people help me than I am more than happy to mentor other folks.”
Cameron and Vicky leave Rarotonga soon, but they will be back.
“We are already booking for next year.”