A visit with Your Aunt Lola

January 31, 2011

Go for excellence, sweetie. It’s not a crowded field.

If it can’t apologize or heat beans, don’t marry it.

Sweetie, don’t pick out lovers or lipsticks in a dim light.

If you recognize these bon mots, chances are you follow Your Aunt Lola on Twitter or Facebook. Her piercing witticisms offer the kind of pointed advice you’d like to get from an experienced, much older aunt.

But alas, Aunt Lola isn’t really your aunt; she is a fictional character created especially for social media by British writer Deborah McKinlay. McKinlay’s new novel, The View from Here, comes out tomorrow (but can be ordered today).

Although her novel isn’t comic, McKinlay has a deft hand with the clever barb.

“I love those old movie broads like Auntie Mame,” she says. “I didn’t have any particular project in mind for Aunt Lola when I started but I was keen to understand Social Media and she was a good vehicle.”

I follow Aunt Lola on Twitter and am a Facebook friend, (and so should you) and notice that she’s an active tweeter.

“Social media give us the most fantastic opportunity to introduce ourselves to each other,” she says, and she’s right. It’s how she and I “met.”

Twitter suits her best, she says, because she loves jokes and one-liners and Twitter encourages that kind of rapid-fire communication.
The world of publishing is changing, McKinlay says, and she believes that social media are an important tool for today’s authors.

“It’s important to be prepared to give some of your work away so that readers have the chance to get to know you before they invest time and money in you,” she says.

McKinlay says Aunt Lola’s lines are all original but some are heavily influenced by old films and writers such as Anita Loose and Garrison Keillor.

“There is a lot of me in Lola, as much as she says things that I wish someone had told me when I was about 27,” she said. “I’m very touched by the messages I’ve received from women of all ages, who say that one of the tweets has helped them or made them laugh.”

The View from Here is her first novel, and she says that it reflects her belief that ideas about life change with age:

“As Aunt Lola says, ‘One day you’ll have been and done most of the things that bug you now, sweetie. Start lightening up and destroying evidence.'”

The story line pivots around a woman whose life is unraveling, which triggers an examination of a period in her past when she was briefly the mistress of a married man while staying with him, his wife and their rich and glamorous friends in a mansion in Mexico.

While it is not a comedy, McKinlay says some of the characters are witty and reflect some of Aunt Lola’s sharpness.

McKinlay tweets and writes from her home in the English countryside. Almost 50, she has a young son, and her life there keeps her busy.

“When I am not writing I’m washing, cooking spaghetti or pulling small plastic objects from the back of the sofa,” she says. “I like painting and gardening, but time for these things is a great luxury.”

Any advice for mid-life women?

“I wouldn’t say that I am just hitting my stride, but I do think that age can be terribly liberating. I am much more self-confident, while at the same time less brash, than I was at 30. I went back to Cambridge to study Psychology and had a child in my forties, and I think I am only just beginning to grasp the notion that life is a work in constant progress.Follow Aunt Lola on Twitter, friend her on Facebook and while you’re at it, pick up the new novel , The View From Here, on Amazon or at your local bookstore. I can’t wait to read it.

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