We are delighted to welcome authors Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell who write as Ellie Campbell to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating their current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find their schedule here.
Their new humorous PI mystery is Meddling with Murder (Across the Pond Press; April 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to spend some time with them talking about it.
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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about the setting for this series.
Photo provided courtesy of
Ellie Campbell: For the Crouch End Confidential series, we very much based it in, yes you guessed, Crouch End, a very cool area of north London popular with artists, musicians and creative types, such as Bob Dylan, Stephen King and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. It has its own special vibe and Pam lived there for almost fifteen years. We try and keep up to date by lots of trips back, visiting old haunts and letting our imagination run riot all over again. Is it essential to the characters or plot? No, but it’s fun to set your story in a place you know well and there is something about London generally that is special, a feeling you can be, look, or act any way you want and few people really will blink an eye. It’s a great city.
OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a story, where would it be?
EC: Pam — I would love to go back to India. I went there backpacking when I was younger, but it’s such a huge country and I only stayed a few weeks, nowhere near enough time to get a proper feel of the place. Our parents met there during Second World War and both of them loved the people and traditions. Just lately we’ve discovered that my husband’s uncle was buried there. He died very young and no-one from the family has ever visited his grave. I’d very much like to do that, might even drag my husband along.
OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?
EC: Wining and dining with friends, riding horses when we can and travel, lots of travel, for both of us. Pam’s leaving England for Colorado in March, Paris in June — supporting groups of insane bike riders trying to cycle 250 miles in a day, Italy in July — tandem riding across the Alps, then for August she’s planning a train trip from Finland to Russia. Lorraine’s off to Mongolia in late summer on a horse riding vacation around the same time. Perhaps we’ll even meet up. Before then she’ll be hiking, trail riding with her horses at home in Colorado and maybe taking up oil painting again.
As for our activities infiltrating our books, we used our backpacking experiences for the youngest sister in How To Survive Your Sister, our first novel, but so far we haven’t written the ultimate horse novel or a book about someone crazy enough to do all those long distance cycle rides that Pam does each year. They’re probably coming though.
OMN: Why did you choose to write under a single name?
EC: It wasn’t totally our choice. When we got our first UK book deal, the publishers thought it would be less confusing if we worked under one name rather than Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. However there are many advantages to a pen name and in fact Lorraine used to write all her short stories as Chris Grant so that she didn’t have to reveal her identity unless she chose to. If you’re shy, as most writers are, it gives you a persona to hide behind and our publisher’s point, I think, was that they didn’t want readers distracted or put off by the double author thing. Having said that our German and Italian publishers chose to go with our real names, believing it was a selling point. Go figure! As for disadvantages, well, I’m sure there are plenty of Facebook friends who wonder why we’re always posting stuff about this Ellie Campbell and never make the connection.
OMN: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
EC: We love all kinds of fiction — cozy crime, mystery, suspense, thrillers, chicklit, historical, literary — the problem is finding the time to read. Lorraine listens to a lot of books when she’s shoveling manure by the barn, popular bestsellers like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but also Lord of The Rings/Game of Thrones-type fantasy, because those series last forever. Pam favors biographies — be it movie stars, politicians, sports people, whatever — just fascinating to hear real life stories. Last book she read was A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington — a quadruple World Ironman Champion.
We’re also into non-fiction and our kindles are stuffed full of ebooks on horsemanship, gardening, zen, personal development, celtic mythology, art, psychology, cooking, etc. It’s all too easy to press that buy button on Amazon. Mind you, we both have walls of bookshelves, all crammed with the same.
OMN: Do those same interests extend to your choice of films or television?
EC: Pam — The three last great films I saw and loved were The Big Short about the financial crisis, Spotlight about the cover up of abuse in the Catholic church, and Room, which was amazing and I instantly regretted not reading the book first. Latest series which I’ve fallen in love with is a UK one called Happy Valley — starring a policewoman based in a small Yorkshire village. There’s a great plot running through it and it’s superbly written and acted. Apparently it’s now taking off in the US too, so watch out for it.
Lorraine — I haven’t seen any of those yet but I want to. I guess I don’t get out to the movies much but when I do I like action, suspense, adventure, romance, romantic comedy — anything not too gruesome or disturbing. I really like old classic films like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. And I love the Masterpiece Theatre mystery series with sleuths like Inspector Lynley, Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple.
OMN: What’s next for you?
EC: Well, this Spring all four Campbell sisters plus all their children — a group of eleven in total — will be meeting up at Lorraine’s Colorado ranch for a grand reunion. It’ll be the first time our immediate family has all been together in one place. Most are coming from different parts of England, but our nephew’s flying in from San Francisco, our sister Jo from Brazil and her son from China where he’s lived since he was nineteen. (We are an adventurous bunch.) So they’ll all be there for Lorraine’s birthday party — which also coincides with the publication date ofMeddling With Murder (and don’t think we won’t make our friends buy copies). It’ll be a big Tex-Mex bash with margarita, enchiladas, and a live band. But before that we’ll spend a couple of nights in Las Vegas trying our hand at blackjack and the craps table. Hopefully we might also be able to come up with a couple of acceptable publicity photos while we’re together. It’s tough to find any in which both of us look good!
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Ellie Campbell is a pseudonym for sister writing team, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. Running wild as tomboys in Scotland, playing imagination games, they couldn’t dream that one day they’d co-author novels despite an ocean between them. From boring clerical jobs in London to a varied life of backpacking and adventure travel, both started almost accidentally as short story writers, Lorraine when working in publishing, Pam as a fun hobby while an at-home mother of three.
When not hunched over computers, Lorraine, a certified ROTH “horse whisperer”, can usually be found messing about with her four rescue horses and Pam on a fund raising bike ride, madly cycling over mountains to Paris, Barcelona or Gibraltar on the back of her husband’s bone-shaking tandem.
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Meddling with Murder by Ellie Campbell
A Crouch End Confidential Mystery
Publisher: Across the Pond Press
Crouch End Confidential, the agency started by housewife and mother Cathy O’Farrell with ex-cleaner Pimple is failing badly. Hardly surprising when Cathy’s too soft-hearted to charge their only clients, little old ladies seeking lost pets and a school kid searching for his stolen bike. A new case involving a teenager in possession of an unexplained Glock pistol promises to change all that.
Quickly Cathy’s deep in waters over her head, forced with hilarious results to pose as a mathematics tutor, a subject of which she’s truly clueless. There’s also the tricky situation of best friend and new mother Rosa hiring her to investigate her fiancé, Alec, plus the mysterious sabotage of Cathy’s friends’ cycle shop and a gang of yobbos dealing drugs at her children’s primary school. Worst of all, an ill-fated trip to rural Norfolk has Cathy’s husband, Declan, intent on buying a post office and transplanting the family to safer climes, threatening to tear Cathy permanently from her beloved North London home.
Pretty soon Cathy’s risking her friendships, her marriage and even her life untangling all these messes. But that’s what you get for meddling in murder …
— Meddling with Murder by Ellie Campbell. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.