Tell us about The Aunt Sally Team.
On the surface, The Aunt Sally Team is a soap opera, written in a tongue-in-cheek style, about a group of disparate people coming together to play an ancient, traditional Oxfordshire pub game. It has a number of characters, and cuts from one to another like a TV soap, following their different story lines and relationships. However, the book tackles deeper issues such as alcoholism, racial prejudice, shyness and the perennial themes of love, sexuality and romance.
Here is the Amazon blurb, for further clarification:
When Bill Green puts a notice in a post office window in Oxford, he hopes for a group of intellectually stimulating companions with whom to share long summer evenings playing Aunt Sally, a quaint, traditional English pub game. Instead he gets a zany assortment of characters, not one of whom lives up to his preconceptions.
Diana craves excitement after ending a comfortable but unchallenging relationship. But is she heading for trouble when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Dante Blackthorn? He’s handsome, charismatic and a feckless alcoholic and compulsive gambler, though his devil-may-care attitude and hazy sense of boundaries mask a sensitive and complex personality. His dissatisfied ex wife Beccy still hankers after him and his self-centred but vulnerable daughter Lucy hates the idea of a new woman coming into her Dad’s life!
Best friends Lissa and Bethany are pagan teenagers who have their own coven but want to meet boys and have fun as well. Which is fine till Liss falls for someone and jeopardises the friendship.
Meanwhile, Jason, a delinquent eighteen year old, has been forced to play Aunt Sally by his Dad and Uncle, who hope being part of the team will keep him out of trouble. When Lucy and Jason are attracted to each other, things get complicated, especially as Beth has set her sights on him as well.
Elderly widow Vera needs to put the past behind her. Will helping Jason fill a gap in her life and begin the process of healing?
And Rashi’s family owns the George and Dragon pub where the Aunt Sally Team is based. He thinks his future is mapped out until he falls in love and is pulled between the culture he grew up in and the expectations of his Indian family.
With these and other characters thrown into the mix, the ensuing interactions and relationships become more and more entangled as the players progress through the season. From May Morning celebrations in Oxford to riotous Aunt Sally matches at idyllic Cotswold village pubs – with fun, drama, sex, romance and chaos along the way – by the end of the summer their lives will have been changed forever.
What genre is it?
It’s categorised as contemporary women’s fiction (what traditional publishers usually call commercial fiction). However, a number of men seem to have read and enjoyed it too. One review on Amazon UK says: It reminds me of some of the superior Chick Lit by Jill Mansell, though I would not describe this as Chick Lit because it lacks the tiresome obsession with Chick Lit-alia like shoes and clothes and shopping. I think that’s a fair assessment really, if you throw in a sprinkling of humour and don’t forget its underlying serious life topics.
What kind of readers will it appeal to?
I would expect it to appeal to women readers who like contemporary fiction though, as I’ve said previously, several men seem to have enjoyed it too. Readers of chick lit, romance, humour and emotional entanglements will probably feel thoroughly at home with The Aunt Sally Team, as will anyone who loves Oxford and the English countryside.
Complete this sentence for us: If you like____________ you’ll love The Aunt Sally Team.
fast moving, descriptive prose, drama, romance and a smattering of humour, all set in beautiful surroundings.
What is the Aunt Sally pub game? We had never heard of it.
It’s a traditional Oxfordshire pub game a little like a coconut shy with only one coconut and several throws. It’s a very old pastime which, (heaven forbid), may have originated in chucking missiles at a live cockerel. Another theory is that it had its basis in a fairground game involving a short skittle dressed in a bonnet and with an old woman’s face painted on: the Aunt Sally. However, nobody really knows and the game is thought to go back a long way.
The doll, as it’s called, is a short, wide skittle about six inches tall, three inches across and painted white. It sits on a swivel-topped iron so the top of the doll is about two and a half feet above the ground. The game is played by two teams of eight people. The aim is to throw six sticks each at the doll from thirty feet away, the sticks being eighteen inches long, two inches in diameter and of a weight of between one pound one ounce and one pound eight ounces. The player throws from behind a marker on the ground, called the ochee. The teams take it in turn and throw three sessions, or legs, each. A fourth leg is often played, called a beer leg, the losing team having to buy the winners a drink. A failure to score is called a blob.
Aunt Sally is taken seriously in Oxfordshire with league tables and trophies involved, though at the lower end of the league people often play for fun and as an excuse to socialise and get to see picturesque pubs during away matches. Many pubs in the region have their own Aunt Sally area and the local paper has a page dedicated to results and news every Wednesday throughout the season. The game is hugely popular and is played by people of both genders, mixed ages and from all walks of life.
You sometimes write using a pen name.
Some time ago, I had several books on paganism published by the big American Mind Body and Spirit publisher Llewellyn Worldwide. I used the name Elen Hawke for these books. When I began publishing fiction, I wanted to do so under my real name. However, I published my novel The Sacred Marriage as Flick Merauld writing as Elen Hawke as the book has strong elements of paganism and earth energies that I thought would appeal to fans of my traditionally published work – though the book itself isn’t specifically pagan.
Writing a book is never easy, but other than that, what has been the toughest part – editing or marketing?
Definitely marketing, which is pretty much a full time job. I have a blog, a Facebook fan page and I use Twitter, among other marketing tools. All that takes up a lot of time daily, though the process is thoroughly enjoyable as I interact with other writers and readers and meet new people.
The editing part is much easier. I tend to edit and polish as I write, and also after finishing sections, then go back and re-read the whole book several times, all of which I enjoy. In the past I’ve worked editing other people’s books too for a couple of publishers, so it’s something I’m used to.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve travelled widely and done a lot of different jobs, as well as training in graphic design, digital art and photography. My partner and family are extremely important to me and I enjoy living in Oxford, which is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. I’ve been an avid reader and a writer for as far back as I can remember and have a deep love of and interest in people, which I think tends to colour my novels. I’m also a Druid and have recently written part of a correspondence course in Druidry for one of the major British Druid organisations. I play wire strung Gaelic harp, something I began around eighteen months ago after a lifetime of thinking I wasn’t musical.
Photography and writing – do they both compete for your creative energies or do they complement each other?
Now there’s a question! I would say they complement each other and compete. I work in a very obsessive, focussed way so I find it impossible to divide my time between the two on a day-to-day basis. When I’m writing, I can’t do anything that pulls me away from my work…I’m not one of those authors who can write to a background of music, for example. However, I do snap the odd picture when I’m out with the dogs, usually on my phone. On the other hand, when I’m not writing I can happily take upwards of four hundred shots in one photography session. Speaking creatively, I don’t think you can really separate different modes of expression from each other – it’s all one huge well of inspiration that finds different outlets.
What kind of photography do you specialise in?
I’m a fairly eclectic photographer: my subject matter ranges from documentary, portraits, landscape and all sorts of odds and ends in between.
Have you got a site where readers can keep up with your writing? And is there somewhere we can discover your photography?
My photography can be seen here: http://pbase.com/flickmerauld
I don’t post samples of my writing as such, but my blog does cover news about the progress of various projects and topics of interest to fellow writers, along with some photos and snippets about my dogs and cats and life in general, and my Facebook fan page also has news about my own books and blog and those of fellow authors.
Where can we buy The Aunt Sally Team?
At present, I’m committed to KDP Select, so it can currently only be found on Amazon Kindle: UK – US
I’ve recently finished writing Aunt Sally & More, the sequel to The Aunt Sally Team, which follows the lives of some of the characters from the previous book and introduces one or two new ones. Hopefully it will be published in early December, but it depends on when Beccy Blake finishes the cover (there won’t be a third in the series, by the way).
Meanwhile, I’m several thousand words into a new novel, Angel In Between, which is linked to The Sacred Marriage but is far more chick lit in flavour than the previous book. After that, I shall just keep on writing. I love it.