INTERVIEW WITH ELLIE CAMPBELL
PAM BURKS & LORRAINE CAMPBELL
What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Our names are Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, sisters writing together as Ellie Campbell. We were both born in Inverness, Scotland, although the family moved to Edinburgh and then when we were teens to the south of England. These days Pam lives in Surrey, just outside London and Lorraine lives in Longmont, just outside Boulder, Colorado.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
On one level, yes, it was always there in that we both loved reading, writing, creating fantasy worlds. But it never felt like a real option. Growing up, Pam wanted to be a farmer or work with horses and Lorraine wanted to be an explorer, or a sailor or a cowboy. Something adventurous. Of course we both ended up doing clerical and secretarial work on leaving school. We loved books but ‘authors’ were people who studied great literature and we just weren’t that academic.
When did you first consider yourself as a “writer”?
Probably, for each of us, when we’d had several short stories published and magazine editors were contacting us, asking for more work. We were writing separately in those days.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
We’d been writing shorter things for years before we even attempted a novel. How To Survive Your Sisters was the first book that we started to work on together from scratch. We had an agent by then and once our agent sent it to Random House, things seemed to happen quickly. But we both have at least one unpublished manuscript on our shelves so we definitely paid our dues.
How does the writing process work with two authors?
Well there are compromises of course but it’s actually great to have the support and encouragement of another person and we fire each other’s imaginations. We brainstorm by phone, email and Skype, throwing out ideas and then, when we’ve hashed out a basic story, we each pick a character or chapter, start writing scenes and send them to each other. We both add our input to every page and chapter so that by the end we can’t really separate who wrote what.
Do you ever disagree on the direction of a character or the plot?
Yes, sometimes – rarely – we get quite snappy with each other, especially if someone has spent ages on writing something and the other decides it should all go a different way. Luckily it doesn’t happen very often and it does help that we live thousands of miles apart. Usually we just need time to cool off and think about what’s best for the book. That’s really our main objective – since we’re both working towards a common goal, we make it about the work rather than about our egos.
If there’s a disagreement, say about plot, title, cover, etc how do you solve it?
We keep brainstorming until we come to a solution we both like, especially with something as important as titles. As far as plot, if one has an idea that the other really detests, then it’s out. It’d be pointless to try to force the case. Having said that though, partnership involves compromise. If we really can’t agree then one of us may have to concede in order to move the whole thing forward. Usually we’re not that stubborn.
Do you market the book any differently with it having two authors?
Not really, apart from the photos on our author pages and social media accounts are of two people. Really it’s the books that are talking. Hopefully it’s far more interesting than Lorraine and I could ever be.
Do you write alone as a sole author of a book too? If so which do you enjoy most?
We have written alone in the past, both novels and short stories. I think with short stories, it’s preferable to do it alone, especially if there’s a tight word count. But even when we work solo, we tend to give each other pieces of advice, and hopefully we both listen.
Do you get together in the same room to do the writing or is it all done via computers?
Living the other side of the world from each other, it’s hard to be in the same room. Our time zones are about 8 hours’ difference, so that complicates even Skype calls. On the rare occasions, when we visit each other on holidays, we always imagine we might get some writing done, but it’s never worked out. When we meet up in person, it’s just too easy to go off and have fun instead.
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