About author, Ellie Campbell: Who is Ellie Campbell? Actually ‘Ellie’ is two people – sisters and co-authors Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. We are from Scotland, born in Inverness, raised in Edinburgh and then as teens moved with the family to Bognor Regis, the South Coast of England – quite a culture shock since it was two years before people deciphered our accents. Not being overly academic (or realizing that university would be four years of drinking and partying, judging by our dissolute friends) we took our meager high school typing skills and jumped into the workforce. Lorraine started writing short stories while working for literary agent, now bestselling author, Carol Smith, followed by a stint at Woman magazine. Pam returned to England after spending time in San Francisco, Australia and a year-long, round-the-world trip home, got married and raised three children. Travel must be in the blood because not long after Pam settled down, Lorraine took off for South and Central America and never really returned to the UK, except for visits. She lived in France for a few years, volunteered in an orphanage in Guatemala and ended up working as a charter cook on a boat in Honduras where she met her husband. They now live on a small Colorado farm with three horses, four chickens, five cats and a dog, while Pam is in Reigate, a country town in Surrey, working part-time in college, and cracking the whip whenever she feels her big sister and writing partner is slacking off.
What made you two want to write a book together?
Pam: Lorraine and I have always been close, being the youngest of four sisters, sharing a passion for horses, and seeing a lot of each other when we both lived in London. I started selling short stories when Lorraine was traveling and when she settled in Boulder, Colorado, I’d often email her my latest piece of fiction. Since she was writing too, it was natural for us to talk about the things we were working on or, when we were stuck, to ask for input. Turned out we were both planning to write a novel about the ‘sister thing’, wanting to use some of our experiences growing up, especially our eccentric and very funny mother (sadly deceased) and all the joys and pains of being a family of four girls, eternally bickering and making up. It seemed natural somehow to write it together – that way we didn’t look like one was copying the other! “How to Survive Your Sisters” was our first published novel and we were thrilled to be able to share the publishing journey together.
Coffee or tea?
Pam: Tea. Always. If I drink coffee I have to eat biscuits. I always feel tea is better for me, more refreshing. Although I’ll go out for a latte and it’s a bit of a treat.
Lorraine: Depends. At breakfast – especially if we go out for it – definitely coffee. American restaurants can’t make tea. They give you tepid microwaved water and a teabag – ugh! If we have a pot of coffee brewing at home I’ll work my way through that and then switch to tea. I blame my mother for my caffeine addiction. She used to wake us up with a cup of milky tea laden with sugar. Funny thing is I hated coffee until I started my first menial office job and then it became the bright spot in a long boring day.
Walk us through what the writing/editing/publishing process was like:
Lorraine: Well, we squabbled our way through the first novel… no, not really, it was surprisingly easy. We’d agree the basic story, plan out chapters and then each write a scene and send it to the other one – who would then make alterations and edits as they saw fit and send it back. And so on. In a way we were constantly editing and then when it was finished we had a really long book and had to go back and make drastic cuts. When we started sending it to agents, we were lucky enough that a new agent, Caroline Hardman, liked it and agreed to take us on. She confessed we’d be her first ever clients – she’s got hugely successful since – and we confessed Ellie Campbell didn’t really exist. Arrow Books offered us a two-book contract, we got the same in Germany, Italy and Serbia. It was all hugely exciting, especially since Pam and I got to do the publicity stuff – radio interviews and book signings – together. Being somewhat cowardly, it was nice to have the moral support.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Pam: In the case of our new book, Looking for La La, it was a heavily lipsticked postcard that arrived through my door, proclaiming – surprisingly enough – passionate love for my husband. It was exactly as happens to Cathy in the opening chapter. However, unlike Cathy, instead of running frenziedly around town, looking for suspects and alienating all her nearest and dearest (including a murderous and unexpected opponent) I wrote it off as a bad joke. It did however spark the idea of writing a funny book about marriage and motherhood several years down the line after the honeymoon has worn off. And I did get a little extra satisfaction from imagining La La reading it.
Lorraine: I might add that Pam and I are natural storytellers, get us started and we can go on and on…and on and on… We must inherit it from our mother who had a wealth of funny anecdotes and a warped sense of humor. She’d be telling a story about my father falling down a flight of stairs and getting knocked out cold and she’d be incoherent and crying because she was laughing so hard.
If you could be on one reality TV show, what would it be?
Pam: Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a show that anyone of any age or any talent can enter. Last year it was won by a dancing dog. There’s all sorts that enter, group dancers, single dancers, singers, strippers, the lot! I’d bring my dog along – a border terrier. She probably wouldn’t do anything, but I could let her have her moment of fame.
Lorraine: Dancing With The Stars. I’d get super-skinny and incredibly fit, I could indulge in my Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers fantasies, and all the friends who used to laugh at my moves in our disco-dancing days would watch it and marvel.
Tell us one thing that most people don’t know:
Pam: That just like, Jen in When Good Friends Go Bad, I entered a stock car race with absolutely no prior experience, and in less than two laps I had crashed into a post and written off the car.
Lorraine: That I have studied different forms of energy healing and even practiced professionally a tiny bit. My first ever client, a sweet lady in pink twinset and pearls, showed up accompanied by her tall, dark husband who was wearing a flowered dress, lipstick, make-up, and heels. Halfway through our session my client jumped up, ran to the bathroom and vomited profusely, before returning and meekly climbing back on to the massage table. It was an interesting experience, I think, for all concerned and I decided shortly afterwards that I’d better stick to writing.
How long did it take to write the first draft of “Looking for La La”?
Pam: Probably about 6 months from start to finish. It was one of those inspired books that almost seemed to write itself. After that though there were plenty of rewrites and alterations. We made changes to the storyline, beefed up the murder mystery, took out huge chunks to make it move faster.
What was the easiest part about writing the book, and what was the hardest?
Pam: We really enjoyed writing from Cathy’s viewpoint and following a single character. In so many ways, it was simpler than our other two novels in which we were writing in the third person, balancing four characters, all with their own individual stories. Plus Cathy’s world was so familiar and fun.
Lorraine: The hardest part was cutting. We took out at least two of our much-loved characters and a whole subplot that we realized was fun but not essential to the story. It made the book better in the end, but sometimes it’s painful to let go, even though we’ve learned that usually, as far as novel writing is concerned, less is more.
How did you celebrate the publication of “Looking for “La La”?
Pam: I booked a Spa. In the novel Cathy is treated to a Spa day by her friends. It sounded wonderful, so I thought once the book was out that I would go myself with a good friend of mine. We’re going in the next couple of weeks.
Lorraine: I bought myself a Kindle Fire. Between writing, the horse training course I’m taking, volunteering at horse sanctuaries to practice techniques, and taking care of my own animals, the only chance I have to read is in bed. And then my husband wants the light out right away. So now with my Kindle I can actually read books again without it bothering him.
What are you reading right now?
Pam: I hardly have time to read anything, but I’ve just smuggled a book out of my friend’s house, which is “Up the Junction” written by Nell Dunn. It is quite an old book and it was made into a film, but the dialogue is great and you can dip in and dip out of it.
Lorraine: I just finished ‘Love The One You’re With’ by Emily Giffin, managed to read most of it on a plane to Indianapolis and home. I plan to start ‘Yours Truly’ by Kirsty Greenwood. Just as soon as I can find my new Kindle. Which is probably buried under the papers on my desk.
If you had to do it all again, would you, and what advice would you give to yourself knowing what you do now?
Lorraine: Yes, I would do it all again. I think we had a fantastic childhood, some amazing experiences, incredible luck. I loved working in publishing. I loved backpacking. I loved living in LA for two years and also in France. I loved sailing. In many ways my life seems to fall into distinct segments that feel like a dream now. Advice – well, I felt very shy and deeply insecure in my late teens and twenties. I would tell myself to be bolder and not worry about what people thought of me. It took traveling alone to break me out of my shell. But even the bad stuff contributed to the person I am today. And my life is pretty good.
Pam: I have loved the journey so far, especially my writing career. It was amazing travelling around the world when I was younger, seeing all these amazing countries – living out in Australia and America. But I am deeply happy now settled in England with my wonderful family. I have few regrets as everything that happens turns you into the person you are, good and bad. I wish I’d spent more time with my parents, as they both died too young and I wished I’d started my writing career earlier I guess. Advice to myself would probably be not to have worried so much about things that never happen. Celebrate the positive, disregard the negative! Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
Do either of you have an upcoming project, whether it be together or separate?
Pam: We have just finished our fourth novel together, Million Dollar Question: a story of two women, strangers to each other, whose lives are overturned by an outrageous stroke of fortune – good and bad – on the same day. At the moment it is with our agent, Caroline Hardman at Hardman and Swainson. As for the book after that, well, it remains to be seen. There may be a sequel to Looking For La La one day – Cathy is the kind of character you hate to leave behind.
**Additional comments by Ellie Campbell: Lorraine and Pam: Yes, we’d like to thank you, Isabella, for inviting us to be interviewed on Chicklit Goddess. It’s been fun answering your questions and maybe we can come back and do a guest post some day. Also just to say to all your lovely readers out there, to please contact us. We love hearing from everyone out there and we do answer all our messages.
**Buy Looking for La La on Amazon!
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**Other books by Ellie Campbell**
When Good Friends Go Bad
How To Survive Your Sisters