Edith WhartonYou may wonder how I came to write The Age of Desire.  It began one beautiful April day in Paris.  I was there on a business trip.  (For many years, I was a creative director at a large NY advertising shop.  I had a client in Switzerland who asked me to attend focus groups in Paris and Lyon.)  Because I arrived a day early, to shake off the jet lag before the groups, I took a walk.

Anyone who knows me knows that I walk every day.  Usually five miles a day.  It helps me think.  It makes me feel part of my environment.  It’s a wonderful way to observe details in buildings, plantings, seasons. That day, I walked through the Faubourg St. Germain for the first time and down the Rue de Varenne where my favorite author Edith Wharton once lived.  When I arrived back at my hotel room, there was an e-mail waiting for me from my agent, Lisa Bankoff.  She wrote: Call me.

Just two weeks before, I’d had lunch with her and said, “I’ve lost my way.  I don’t know what my next novel should be.  Give me an assignment.”  When I rang her back, she said.  “Jennie, Edith Wharton is your favorite author.  Write a novel about her life.”  The minute she spoke those words, my heart started to race.  I couldn’t sleep that night.  I knew nothing about Edith’s life, other than vaguely recalling she’d had an illicit affair.  I got out of bed and started researching and for the next few years I never stopped.  I spent hours in libraries with her letters in my hands.  I read her diaries.  I read every biography I could get my hands on.  Edith became my life, and I fell into hers.  That suggestion from Lisa was the greatest gift I’ve ever received.  I have never been so happy writing a book.