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With just over a month to the launch of The Age of Desire, I feel a tremor of anxiety. Not that people won’t be captivated by the story of Edith Wharton’s life – what a story she left for me to write! — but I worry as I send my characters out into the world just as a mother might worry shipping off her child for the first day of preschool. Edith, Anna, Teddy and Morton must now stand on her/his own. I can no longer change them, add words to explain them, or protect them from any mean boys and girls in whose judgments they will soon stand. (And kind ones too, I trust.)
It’s been more than four years since I embarked on this journey, reading through all the letters, diaries, autobiographies, birth announcements, death notices and ship manifests I could find to delineate the truth about what happened to Edith Wharton when she met Morton Fullerton and how it affected the people in her life. It has truly been a labor of love. I am sad to see these people now leave my daily world.
But they have imprinted me, each and every one. Edith with her phenomenal focus and brilliance, her surprising vulnerability in the face of love. Anna with her unshakeable sense of right and wrong. Teddy whose mental illness tainted his sweetness. And Morton, inexplicable Morton, born to be a lover, incapable of making it last.
They will soon belong to all of you. Treat them kindly. Like all human beings they are flawed. But I hope you will find them real. And like me, when you finish the book, I hope you will be sad to see them go.