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You 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.