My guest today on Jera’s Jamboree is a little different.
‘Ellie Campbell’ is the pen name of two sisters, Pam and Lorraine who write together.
We are Lorraine Campbell and Pam Burks, two sisters separated by the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t exactly set out to write together. Both of us were already established short story writers before all those long telephone conversations led to Ellie Campbell. We each had over 70 short stories published internationally before we decided to collaborate in writing a novel based on our experiences as the youngest of four sisters. How to Survive Your Sisters, published by Arrow Books, was quickly followed by a second ‘Ellie Campbell’ novel, When Good Friends Go Bad.
We are equally passionate about writing, travel, horses, dogs, the outdoors. Pam now lives in Reigate, not far from London, with a husband, three children and a dog, while Lorraine is living on a small Colorado ranch near wild and wonderful Boulder with husband, three horses, five cats, one dog and four chickens. We both believe in enjoying life to the fullest, be it digging up carrots in the allotment, listening to audiobooks while scooping manure in the corrals or going on a trail ride in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
We still talk on the phone almost daily and regularly send ideas, chapters, and novel drafts to each other over the internet. We have just published our novel, Looking For La La, available from Amazon.
Hello ladies, welcome, please summarise your latest book in 20 words or less.
A surprising love postcard throws a bored housewife into turmoil, with secrets threatening her marriage, friendships and even her life.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
Pam: Well, actually it was the arrival of a lipsticked postcard proclaiming passionate love to my husband. That part of the book was true – all the rest, including the stalker and the possible murderer were figments of our overblown imaginations. Presumably it was a silly joke but it made perfect fodder for a fun novel about marriage, motherhood, female friendships, illicit romance and that difficult stage when all your children have started school and you have yet to find a new direction or a satisfying job.
What inspired you to write?
Lorraine: I was always a total book junkie, devouring several books a day, and loved to write long funny letters. But I’d never have considered the possibility of becoming a novelist if I hadn’t worked for the author, Carol Smith, who was then a literary agent and talked me into completing my first short story. I have to say that what inspired me in those days was my not-so-successful love life. If I got dumped or was humiliated by an awful date, I could use it as grist for a humorous story in which the heroine always came out the winner. It made me feel a lot better and it paid.
Are you pansters or a plotters?
Pam: In the old days I could think up a good opening line and a whole short story would spin itself from there. Now because we write together, we have to be plotters. We talk about what will happen in scenes before one of us writes it, we discuss character traits, often we give them a bio. Usually our books start with a situation. With How To Survive Your Sisters we wanted to write about the dynamics of a family of four girls and coming together for a wedding seemed an obvious place to start. With When Good Friends Go Bad it was imagining meeting up as adults with your best friends from school. But having said that it’s still a very loose outline. Everything changes as the book evolves. We discover a new twist, a backstory element we hadn’t thought of or a villain pops up from nowhere. To be honest, writing Friends we had no idea what had happened to the missing Rowan until about two-thirds through the book. Or which of the two love interests Jen would end up with. But surprises are part of the fun.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
Lorraine: My best energy is definitely the morning. We’re surrounded by farmland and have the most amazing dawns here in Colorado, the whole eastern sky streaked with red behind the silhouette of Haystack Mountain which is shaped exactly as the name implies. I have a few things to do before I can start work – like let out the chickens, feed the horses, the dog, the indoor and barn cats (sometimes even my husband) – but I can already feel the siren call of the computer. Whereas if I put it off till later, the afternoon say, I get too easily distracted or the interruptions start.
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Pam: Getting published – that was probably the most exciting day, when Arrow gave us a two-book contract and we went into their offices to drink champagne and hear everyone rave about our work. The freedom of being able to create your own worlds, explore themes that interest you, be able to work from home. The highs when it’s going good. The fun of working together as a team, always having something to talk about, an excuse to pick up the phone and chat. We had a few press and radio interviews when our first two novels came out, even a book signing and a launch party, but actually we are both quite shy and that was more of an ordeal than a pleasure.
Have you joined any writing groups?
Lorraine: I did go to a writing group at the library once. One of those where they give you a topic and tell you to write for ten minutes starting from…now. I thought naively I’d enjoy it since I’d had some short stories published and it was supposed to be very laid-back, no nasty critiques or negative judgements. Instead I was terrified. Paralyzed. I had total performance anxiety, couldn’t think of a thing to put on paper, sweated bullets imagining I’d have to read my scribbling out loud, knew that everything I did get down was pathetic garbage. Now I know why I write under a pseudonym and have to leave the room if anyone is reading my work. Needless to say I never went back.
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
Pam: I would have to say Lorraine and I are our own support network. Since we’re both writing the same book, it gets a lot less lonely. We get instant feedback, we have someone genuinely interested in what we’re doing, when things aren’t flowing or we’re bored, we can pick up the phone and have endless chats about the plot or characters. Having said that, with the launch of Looking For La La, our first venture into e-publishing, we’ve had amazing support from other writers such as Kirsty Greenwood, Michele Gorman and several others who have been kind enough to give us advice on promotion, finding a jacket designer or including us in their blogs. It feels a lot like a sisterhood of authors – we love it.
Please share with us what are you reading now?
Lorraine: I am reading Love The One You’re With by Emily Giffin. It’s the story of a happily-married woman who meets up with the passionate ex-lover who was her first real heart-break. It sounds like a familiar storyline but the writing is so accurate and poignant that it’s impossible not to be gripped. You can see the heroine struggling to do the right thing and yet getting sucked back into all her old feelings. We’ve all wondered what happened to the one who got away and what he’d think of you if you ever met up again. In fact that was a strong element of the story in When Good Friends Go Bad.
And finally … can you share with us what’s your WIP?
Lorraine: We have actually delivered our fourth novel, Million Dollar Question, to our agent, Caroline Hardman at Hardman Swainson. It’s the story of two women, on different sides of the Atlantic, whose lives are overturned in a single day, one by winning a million pounds on the premium bonds, the other by losing her fabulous career, her wealth and her fiancé in a shocking scandal. It follows their two different journeys until their stories finally intertwine. We’re also refining our new website – chicklitsisters.com, writing blog posts, arranging a book giveaway of Looking For La La, so that’s taking up quite a bit of time. As for our next book, we’re still thrashing that one out – it’s in the early birthing stages. But we enjoyed the characters in Looking For La La so much, especially Cathy, that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she stumbles upon another mystery and we just have to write a sequel.
Thank you for sharing with us today.
Lorraine mentioned a giveaway of Looking for La La, carry on reading to find out how to enter.
Cathy is no exception. Her dull, uneventful days as a stay at home, unappreciated mother of two, are radically transformed however with the arrival of a heavily lipsticked postcard addressed to husband, Declan. Who is the mysterious La La? Could Declan really be having an affair? And is Cathy actually being stalked?
Whatever – it will definitely prove riveting gossip for the Tuesday Twice Monthlies, Cathy’s ‘Mothers Restaurant Research’ group where scandal flows as recklessly as the wine. But what starts as a light-hearted investigation with best friend Raz, soon turns into something much more sinister.
With a possible murderer on the scene, a sexy admirer igniting long-forgotten sparks, and all her friends hiding secrets, it’s not only Cathy’s marriage that’s in jeopardy. Add in the scheming antics of Declan’s new assistant, the stress of organising the school Save The Toilet’s dance and the stage is set for a dangerous showdown and some very unsettling, possibly deadly, revelations.
Enter the giveaway by following the Rafflecopter link below:
Keep in touch with ‘Ellie Campbell’