Interview with Lainey Cameron

Photography by Omar Zyerra

Lainey Cameron is a digital nomad, former tech executive, avid Instagrammer, and the vivacious debut author of The Exit Strategy. An Amazon bestseller, The Exit Strategy is the engaging, empowering story of a wife and mistress who end up working together. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about crafting strong women characters, sexism in tech and business, the publishing business, and the superpower she’d like.

The Exit Strategy takes place in Silicon Valley and combines the worlds of technology and finance. How much did your professional background come into play in deciding on the story setting, as well as undercurrent of sexism?

I spent twenty years in Silicon Valley, so it was natural to set my book there. At the same time, I wanted Carly—in the story, she heads a biotech company looking for financing—to be doing something that mattered. She’s not just doing it for the money; her startup has developed technology that could revolutionize cardiac diagnosis.

And I’d always had an idea to write a story in which a wife and mistress end up working together.

I didn’t set out to write a #metoo story. But sexism became a backdrop in the book because it was my experience.

Do you see any improvement in the atmosphere of sexism in Silicon Valley?

Because I’m not working there full time now, I’m not the right person to answer. But from the headlines and what I hear from friends, it doesn’t seem to have changed. As long as there’s not equity in terms of how different genders and ethnicities are represented in the boardroom, it probably won’t change.

Can you talk about your experience working with a smaller publisher?

One thing that’s more apparent to me now that I’m published, is how the opening for new debuts to land at a bigger publisher is a lot smaller than I thought. That’s especially true for women’s fiction, but also across all publishing.

There is risk in putting a book in someone else’s hands—finding an agent, who then submits to a larger publisher who hopefully believes in the book, who then would have to advocate to put marketing dollars behind it. Typically, publishers do a marketing push on just a handful of titles. For each new book that gets a publisher’s money and support, another 200 don’t.

And this is an especially crazy year. I was very happy to have chosen the small publisher path and taken the first steps to get my book into the hands of readers.

But in any deal, you have to be realistic and know what you’re getting and what you’re not. It’s important to go in with reasonable expectations. Luckily, there are many paths to success.

 What’s surprised you about authors and publishing?

When I talk to established authors, I find they’ve gone through ups and downs. Often, the book we think is their best is the same one where they lost their agent or publisher contract. Perception is very different from reality.

Can you give us a hint as to what your next book will be about?

I’m about 24,000 words into my first draft, and it’s also inspired by real life. I’ve been a digital nomad for about four years; my hubby and I regularly pick different places to live. Everyone was asking me about writing about that experience of being a digital nomad.

So, my main character is an adventure travel Instagrammer with a secret trauma in her past. She changed her identify to move on with her life but now risks being exposed. So, she has to choose whether she’ll go back to old life or create yet another new life.

What are you reading now?

I just finished After Elias by Eddy Boudel Tan. It’s about a pilot whose partner is killed a week before they’re to be married. It was special and beautiful and inspiring. It reminded me of The Alchemist, with its mystical, magical quality. Although it deals with grief, it’s not a sad book. It’s also a perfect example of a book only he could write, and how the same idea, written by fifty people with different life experiences, will mean fifty different books.

Wind Dancer Films is currently considering The Exit Strategy for a potential film deal. Do you have updates on that? And, any ideas who you’d like to play the main characters?

I don’t have an update yet but I will know more in a few months. I’ve been thinking of creating a competition to come up with casting ideas, because not being a big TV viewer, I don’t know who I’d choose, other than it’s been suggested to me possibly Amy Adams for Ryn, who’s a red-head.

Any desire to go back to Silicon Valley?

I’m happy where I am, but I haven’t said no to going back.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I’d wave a wand and give people the gift of empathy.