Hi, We are Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, two sisters who write together as Ellie Campbell. We were raised first in Scotland then England as the two youngest of four girls. While working in publishing (Lorraine) and raising children (Pam) we each became short story writers selling over 70 stories each to magazines world-wide. When Lorraine settled in Colorado after extensive travels we decided to write a novel together. Our first novel How To Survive Your Sisters was closely followed by When Good Friends Go Bad, both published by Arrow Books in the UK and translated into German, Italian and Serbian. When not writing Lorraine likes to spend time with her 3 horses and Pam has become an avid gardener growing all her own produce in her large allotment.
What inspires you to write?
Lots of things. With How To Survive Your Sisters we wanted to explore the dynamics between four sisters, their similarities and differences, the way they can drive you crazy one minute and be your best friend the next. In When Good Friends Go Bad we were imagining what it would be like to meet your old schoolfriends again and how you would get along, what you’d still have in common – especially if you discovered one of them had betrayed you in a significant way. Our third novel Looking For La La was inspired by a postcard someone sent to Pam’s husband, proclaiming passionate love and signing herself La La. We got a kick out of using it as the first chapter of our novel. We love human interest stories, the dynamics of relationships and we love using humor to get our point across. And also because life is basically funny.
Tell us about your writing process.
Well, it’s different from most because we collaborate. We thrash out the basic outline for a novel. We might spend ages discussing characters or how a chapter or two should go and then we each sit down to write something and at the end of the day send it to the other. Pam’s day begins earlier with the 7 hour time difference so by the time Lorraine wakes up, Pam has already put in most of her writing day. We’ll read what the other has written, edit it, make changes, improvements or cuts and the manuscript travels back and forth between us like that. We spend a lot of time on the phone talking about new ideas, possible changes of direction. Sometimes one of us will see a whole facet to a character that would add some depth to the story. Then they have to persuade the other it’s a good idea. But by the time we’re finished we hardly know who wrote what.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Lorraine: I think we carry them with us. Personally I don’t talk to them but I do hear them having conversations in my head, I see what’s going on in their lives, scenes being acted out. If I’m lucky I can remember it later and write it down. I try to tell myself that if I don’t remember it, it couldn’t have been all that exciting anyway but the truth is I have had ideas for whole short stories that vanish ten minutes later – and they were so clear at the time. If I do talk to them I’m probably cursing them for not doing what I want them to do – characters do have a way of taking on a life of their own.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t get into writing because you think it will make you rich or carries some sort of status. I think most published writers do so because they can’t not write – there are stories, ideas, demanding to make themselves heard and much as we all procrastinate, there’s a real need and if enough days go by without me doing anything, I’ll find myself unaccountably depressed. Write what you’d love to read, what you know about or what fascinates you instead of what you think will be most commercial but on the other hand, realize that unless you’d led a very unusual or dramatic life your thinly disguised biography probably isn’t going to be all that fascinating to strangers. And write every day if you want to take yourself seriously. You can’t always wait for inspiration but it’s amazing how often, if you discipline yourself to sit at your desk, inspiration eventually strikes.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Lorraine: I used to work in publishing so I knew the business or at least the way the business was back then. We were lucky enough to be taken on by our agent, Caroline Hardman – now with her own company, Hardman Swaison – and she got us a two-book contract with Arrow Books. When it came to our third novel, Looking For La La, we saw the state of publishing today, where more and more publishing companies are dropping their mid-range authors to focus on the massive bestsellers and we thought we would have more of a chance with self-publishing and self-promoting it. With our first two novels we were told that if the supermarkets didn’t take them – and they rarely do take new authors – we had no hope of making an impact on the market. But I don’t think that’s true any more.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we’re in a very interesting time and who knows how it will pan out. It is so easy now for people to self-publish which was always looked down on before. Used to be that ‘Vanity publishers’ would charge a fortune to print 200 copies of your books and after you gave away the requisite number to friends the rest would all sit in a box in your home because the bookstores wouldn’t touch them. There was little opportunity for promotion or outside sales. But the internet and sites like Amazon have changed all that. Now authors are creating their own bestsellers and publishers are discovering them after they’ve already built up a fan following and hit the Kindle charts. I know writers who now say they’d never go back to the traditional publishing route because they’d lose control and they can make more money this way. On the other hand it feels great to have an editorial and sales team backing you when everyone’s enthusiastic. One thing I do think – if you’re going to self-publish, you should probably pay to have your work copy-edited and maybe even a story editor too. Just because your book is free or $.99 doesn’t mean the reader should have to wade through typos and bad grammar. The other thing about self-publishing, of course, is that it’s almost too easy. There is no one to winnow out the good from the bad so the trick is to make your work stand out from all the other millions of novels out there – it’s absolutely essential to have the reviews and the blog sites.
What do you use?
Co-writer, Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
chicklit, woman’s fiction
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print