Cameron, a contributor to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan franchise, launches a thriller series set in Alaska with Open Carry (Kensington, Mar.), featuring Deputy U.S. Marshal Arliss Cutter.

How do you keep all the characters and plots straight in your head when you’re writing?

I tend to cast the characters with faces/personalities of people I have worked with—or arrested. That helps me keep them separated. I do admit that sometimes I call Jack Ryan “Jericho” in a draft manuscript—like I call my kids by the wrong name, but I still know which one I’m talking to.

No special computer programs? Notebooks?

The most useful tool in my writing process is my wife. We talk plot—a lot, often when we’re falling asleep. She calls it pillow plotting. She reads everything I write a couple of times before I submit it, catching holes that I think I’ve covered but obviously have not.

What are your research methods?

I’m like a mollusk, always straining my world for interesting details and phrases. Several years ago, an RV ran me off the road when I was riding my motorcycle in the Yukon Territory. The bike went down and flipped. I slid down the gravel on my back. When the adrenaline finally wore off, all I could think about was how I could use the experience for a scene in a Jericho Quinn novel.

You had a long career in law enforcement. Do you miss it?

There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss the people and the mission of the U.S. Marshals. I still consider them my family. Fortunately, I’m now able to write about Deputy Arliss Cutter. Years ago, I was sent to Prince of Wales Island off the coast of Alaska with the Tactical Tracking Unit to hunt a fugitive who was suspected of killing a man by chopping off his head with a splitting maul. We spent several days talking to locals and tracking through the old-growth forests before we found him. I knew I wanted to set a book there someday. Open Carry is that book.

Do you ever find yourself lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking about your workload and asking the question, What the hell have I got myself into?

Indeed I do. If I think about it too long, it can be crushing. Writing is the only cure.

Now that Eric Van Lustbader is stepping away from the Bourne franchise, do you ever think, “I’ve got some spare time on Thursday afternoons, maybe I’ll give it a shot”?

Ha. Nope. Probably not. Maybe.