August 2008


his is the pen-name of sister writing duo, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. Pam lives in Surrey while Lorraine is based in Colorado. Like the women in their debut novel How to Survive Your Sisters, they come from a family of four sisters.

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  1. Tell us about How to Survive Your Sisters

    Lorraine: How to Survive Your Sisters is a novel about the relationship and rivalry between sisters in all their good, bad and humorous aspects. Natalie, the third of four, is about to get married and the somewhat estranged sisters all get together for the wedding. Sparks fly, tragedy strikes, all kinds of secrets are revealed and they have to learn the importance of family.

  2. Which MacLeod sister do you each identify with the most?

    Pam: I would say a cross between Milly and Hazel. Hazel because she's most adventurous, and in my youth I did quite a bit of travelling but also because like me she's the youngest of four sisters. Always known as the baby of the family. Milly I can identify with as being a mother of three children myself, I can relate to the frustrations of her life.

    Lorraine: Mostly Hazel because she's a traveller and a commitment-phobe which I was until I got married 11 years ago. I borrowed from my experience working as a Beverly Hills literary agent's assistant for Avril but I was never that glamorous or successful. And although I'm not a perfectionist like Natalie I am the third child so I can identify with that aspect of her character. And Milly has the peacemaker role which I always felt was mine growing up.

  3. What's the best and worst thing about working with your sister?

    Pam: Best thing - shared ups and downs, shared book signings, radio and magazine interviews, etc. Lorraine constantly encourages me as a writer and I think by working together we compliment each other. We're always on the phone to each other, giggling away, having fun with our writing. I also love waking up in the morning, desperate to find out what Lorraine has written. I think she's a fabulous writer to work with. Worst thing I suppose is waking up in the morning and Lorraine has not written anything or commented on my previous day's work. Or I have a different idea about a scene and have spent hours writing it and then Lorraine decides she doesn't like it, or wants to go down a different route.

    Lorraine: Best - talking over ideas, getting excited as we come up with something new, having immediate feedback to anything you write. Also it's been fun to share the whole experience of getting published, meeting editors or journalists as a team. Worst - Not checking my email for two days and finding 15 new messages from Pam. Feeling responsible to someone besides yourself for whether you wrote today or not. Having my work edited before I'm ready to let go of it, we're constantly making changes.

  4. Who has the final say on plot and character decisions?

    Pam: Both of us. We discuss characters and plot lines in great detail and we both have to agree wholeheartedly on an idea before we put it in. If one of us writes something the other doesn't like, we might fight for it a little but at the end of the day it's got to feel right to both of us.

  5. Why did you decide to start writing together?

    Lorraine: It came about gradually. I'd worked in publishing and sold a lot of short stories in the past but had pretty much put that behind me to work on a novel when I settled in Colorado. Meanwhile Pam was selling short stories to some of the same weekly woman's magazines and sometimes she'd send them to me for an opinion. Then she wrote a first novel which received a fair amount of interest from publishers but she felt it needed a bit of a rewrite to make it work. She asked me to help her with it and although it didn't sell, it did get us an agent. We both then decided that we'd found the process of writing as a team such fun that we would write another book together from scratch and the result was How To Survive Your Sisters.

  6. How does it work with Pam in England and Lorraine in the US?

    Pam: I start work about 10am and continue through to about 3pm which is 8am Colorado time. I usually then give Lorraine an early morning alarm call, bursting with ideas, while she's groggily eating her toast.

  7. How did your book deal come about?

    Pam: Our agent, Caroline Hardman at the Marsh Agency, sent How to Survive your Sisters out to Emma Rose, at Arrow Books. Emma had liked our writing on the first book we wrote together (which didn't sell) and asked to see anything else we had. She came right back to us with a two-book deal.

  8. What's your next book, When Good Friends Go Bad, about?

    Lorraine: It's about four women who were best friends in school and what happens when they meet up again. It's also about first love, betrayals, marriage - we're still in the process of editing so are slightly reluctant to talk about it in great detail.

  9. Where did the name Ellie Campbell come from? Are you aware of the British singer of the late 90s?

    Lorraine: Campbell is our family name, Ellie was the name we chose as it's almost a bit of both our names Pamela and Lorraine and it's short and sweet. No, we hadn't heard of the singer Ellie Campbell when we picked the name. It was only when we came to developing our website that we realised there was another one of us out there. That's why we use rather than just elliecampbell.

  10. Who are your favourite authors?

    Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding, Jane Green, Ann Tyler, Fiona Walker - we both tend to enjoy the same books.

  11. Who is your favourite chick lit heroine?

    Pam: I liked Jemima J - Jane Green

    Lorraine: Beccy Bloomwood. - Shopaholic

  12. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt about publishing over the past year?

    Pam: That it's a highly competitive market and finding an agent and published is akin to winning the lottery. We feel very blessed to find such a great agent as Caroline Hardman and Arrow as our publishers. We couldn't wish for nicer people to work with - they are all so wonderfully supportive.

  13. What do you do to escape writing?

    Pam: Walk the dog, visit my allotment and am occasionally forced out on physical challenges by my husband, i.e. last one was cycling on our tandem from Surrey to the South of France.

    Lorraine: I have three horses and love to ride or walk the trails close to home - I live right on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. I also love oil painting but I don't seem to have much time for it recently.

  14. How have your travel experiences influenced your writing?

    Pam: I think travelling opens up lots of possibilities and broadens your mind. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to be self-reliant and hopefully develop a good sense of humour.

    Lorraine: The great thing about travelling is that every day is an adventure, you're constantly waking up in a new place, meeting new people, discovering all kinds of things, not only about the country you're in, but about yourself and how you deal with stress and change and sometimes difficult situations.

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