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Marc Cameron: On Writing What You Know

New York Times bestselling author Marc Cameron discusses how the pandemic had him writing about places he knows best in his new thriller, Tom Clancy Chain Of Command.

Marc Cameron spent 29 years in law enforcement, serving as a uniformed police officer, mounted (horse patrol) officer, SWAT officer, and detective. In early 1991, he accepted a position with the U.S. Marshals Service where he moved through the ranks to finally retire as Chief of the District of Alaska. Specializing in dignitary protection, his assignments took him from rural Alaska to Manhattan, Canada to Mexico, and points in between.

A second-degree black belt in jujitsu, he often teaches defensive tactics to law enforcement agencies and civilian groups. Cameron is conversant in Japanese and travels extensively researching his New York Times bestselling Jericho Quinn novels, which have been nominated for both the Barry and Thriller Awards. A Texas native, he lives in Anchorage, Alaska. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Marc Cameron: On Writing What You Know

Marc Cameron

In this post, Marc discusses how the pandemic had him writing about places he knows best in his new thriller, Tom Clancy Chain Of Command, his advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Marc Cameron
Literary agent: Robin Rue/Writers House
Book title: Tom Clancy Chain Of Command
Publisher: GB Putnam’s Sons
Expected release date: November 16, 2021
Genre/category: Thriller/Espionage
Previous titles: Bone Rattle (Arliss Cutter mysteries) Jericho Quinn Thrillers, and Tom Clancy Jack Ryan novels, including the most recent, Shadow of the Dragon
Elevator pitch for the book: The billionaire owner of a pharmaceutical company will do anything to stop President Jack Ryan’s proposed agenda, including kidnapping the First Lady.

Marc Cameron: On Writing What You Know

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What prompted you to write this book?

I think all writers spend much of our day playing “what if” games in our heads. I read a book called Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban about generic drugs and the difficulty the FDA has inspecting manufacturing plants overseas. The graft, cover-ups, and extreme sums of money involved made this sound like a good problem for Jack Ryan to face.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I write two books a year, one of my Arliss Cutter mysteries and one Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan. I read a lot of nonfiction, foreign policy journals, etc., and am always mulling ideas for future stories while I’m working on another. I do a lot of free-writing first, fleshing out plot notions and scene ideas.

In normal years, I might travel to places in the book to find out what unknowns might be hiding there, things I didn’t even know to research. In this book I relied on places I’d already been like D.C., Argentina, and Tokyo. This particular story took a little over a year from idea to publication, but about seven months of actual writing.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Not especially. My editor, Tom Colgan, and all the folks at PRH are a pleasure to work with. Tom is there when I need to bounce ideas off him and pretty much leaves me alone in the meantime. This was our fifth Jack Ryan book together, so we have a process that works fairly well, I think.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I spent a good deal of time talking with members of U.S. Special Forces and a had some informative discussions with people at NORAD. Though it’s an international thriller, a good portion of the book is set in Abilene, Texas, showcasing their SWAT officers. The brass at Abilene PD opened their doors and treated me like one of their own. I wouldn’t say it was a surprise, but it was a refreshing affirmation. I learn something interesting from every book I write, but I always find the people behind the institutions to be the most interesting.

Marc Cameron: On Writing What You Know

Robert Frost famously said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” or something close to that. Writing is hard, for me at least. It’s always a struggle to get it like I want on paper. Some of this book is from the point of view of characters who don’t customarily get as much page time—First Lady Cathy Ryan and Campus Operator Adara Sherman.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I wanted to explore the intense bond shared by members of elite military and law enforcement units, along with the realities, good and bad, of belonging to such a unit as a newbie, and older operators approaching their sell-by date. As I said above, I hope I pull back the curtain on the interesting people behind some of the institutions we read about and see on the news every day.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Don’t confuse social media posts for writing. It’s fine to build a brand, but I believe the best way to do that is to write another book. For me, at least, if I toil over a couple of paragraphs to share on social media, I expend a good portion of my writing energy, not to mention tricking my brain into thinking that I’ve had a more productive day writing than I really have.

And don’t read your reviews. Be happy to get them, but don’t read them. No good can come of it. Better to spend that time writing.

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