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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"The Age of Desire" by Jennie Fields~Interview w/ Author!

For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.

             At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.
Published by:  Penguin Books
Pages:  352
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Jennie Fields
Website:  Jennie Fields
Find your copy:  Barnes & Noble
Praise for The Age of Desire

“Somewhere between the repressiveness of Edith Wharton’s early-20th-century Age of Innocence and our own libertine Shades of Grey era lies the absorbingly sensuous world of Jennie Fields’s The Age of Desire . . . along with the overheated romance and the middle-age passion it so accurately describes, The Age of Desire also offers something simpler and quieter: a tribute to the enduring power of female friendship.” —Boston Globe

“One doesn’t have to be an Edith Wharton fan to luxuriate in the Wharton-esque plotting and prose Fields so elegantly conjures.” —Kirkus

“Delicate and imaginative . . . Fields’s love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through." —Publishers Weekly

Beautiful ... an imaginative tour-de-force with the best-written naughty bits I have ever read." —UK Daily Mail

Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous . . . and sweetly melancholy.  It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women. —Bookpage

“A fascinating insight into the life of my favorite novelist. Fields brings a secret side of Wharton to life, and shows us a woman whose elegant façade concealed a turbulent sensuality.” —Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress

“With astonishing tenderness and immediacy, The Age of Desire portrays the interwoven lives of Edith Wharton and Anna Bahlmann, her governess, secretary, and close friend.  By focusing on these two women from vastly different backgrounds, Jennie Fields miraculously illuminates an entire era. . . . I gained insight into both Wharton’s monumental work and her personal struggles—and I was filled with regret that I’d finished reading so soon.” —Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance

“In the vein of Loving Frank or The Paris Wife, Jennie Fields has created a page-turning period piece. Fields portrays a woman whose life was hardly innocence and mirth, but passionate, complex, and more mysterious


Born in the heart of the heart of the country – Chicago -- Jennie Fields decided to become a writer at the age of six and produced her first (365 page!) novel when she was eleven.  She received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published her first short stories while spending a postgraduate year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.  But needing to feed her family  in the era just post-Mad Men, she became an early female copywriter at an advertising agency, soon rising to creative director and moving to New York.  In her 32-year advertising career, she wrote and produced many well-known and award-winning commercials.  People even now can embarrass her by telling her they grew up dancing to one of her McDonalds’ jingles. 

Still, fiction was her great love.  Writing during her lunch hour and after her daughter’s bedtime she penned her first novel, Lily Beach, which was published by Atheneum in 1993 to much acclaim.  Since then, she’s written three more novels including Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and The Middle Ages. Her latest, The Age of Desire, is a biographical novel based on the life of the author dearest to her heart, Edith Wharton.  An Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, it describes Wharton’s mid-life love affair with a you
nger, manipulative man.  Why the affinity to Wharton?  Because she wrote about people attempting to break society’s expectations for them – which is something Fields has been yearning to do all her life.


Jennie Fields has kindly agreed to be with us this morning with an interview and we so appreciate it!  Welcome and thank you for taking time from your schedule with chat with us, Jennie...  Let me begin the interview:

1)       Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you?

I think people would say I’m warm.  I love to cook, host people at my house.  I care a lot about my friends, my home.  I love to walk. I walk five miles a day on average.  I don’t know how to drive!  Most people find this odd, but I lived in Chicago and New York City for most of my adult life, and never needed to drive.  I’m married to my college sweetheart.  We broke up, married other people and both had kids.  And then years later after both of us were long divorced, we connected and fell in love all over again.  I had a big advertising job in Manhattan and he works at Vanderbilt University, so we commuted between NY and Nashville for ten years!  Four years ago I moved full-time to Nashville.   What a beautiful love story...


2)      Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel germinate?

From my agent!  I was stuck on what to write about next and I asked her to let me know if she had a good idea.  One day, while in Paris on business I got an e-mail from her asking me to call her.  She had no idea that I was in Paris, or that that very afternoon, I’d walked down Edith Wharton’s street for the first time.  When I called her back, she said, “I have an idea for you.  Why don’t you write about your favorite author, Edith Wharton?  The serendipity gave me the chills.  I felt it was meant to be.   Amazing, I could really feel Edith speaking through your book.


3)      Who first told you you could write well, and how did it affect you?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer – since the age of six.  I wrote my first “novel” at ten!  But in freshman year of high school, I had an English teacher, Mr. O’Neill, who told me, “You really can write, did you know that? You could be a writer.”  I felt so honored, it made me determined to make him right.  Of course, I’ve never forgotten his name.      Teachers make such a difference in our lives.  He was right, of course!


4)      Which contemporary authors do you most admire?

I just finished Khaled Hosseini’s “And The Mountains Echoed.”  It was so extraordinary, I wept while reading the last thirty pages.  I also admire Ian McEwan, Sue Miller, Barbara Kingsolver and Mark Helprin.  I don’t know if you’d call them contemporary, but I love John Updike’s short stories – though, not many of his novels.  And John Cheever’s short stories are brilliant.  “Something Happened” by Joseph Heller haunted me for years after reading it.
Gorgeous writers...


5)      Which are your favorite classical authors?

Well, Edith Wharton, of course!  I also love Charlotte Bronté, early Henry James, John Steinbeck and Willa Cather.      Any Bronte lover is a friend of mine!!


6)      Jump into any book~which character would you be?

Jane Eyre.  I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was nine and I loved it.  Still do.  Her life wasn’t easy, but I’d like to have her pluck! 


7)      If you could have 5 historical people to dinner, who would they be?  What would you have to eat?

Tough question!  Well, let’s see: I’d like to invite Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker, John Lennon, Oscar Wilde and Gregory Peck.  I suspect they might not get along, but I’d love to talk to each of them!  It would be hard to please that crowd with a single dish.  Perhaps, I should cook a buffet.

8)      Read any good books in the past 6 months?

Many good books, actually.  I mentioned Hosseini’s book, I also loved Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, and Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara.  I reviewed "Cascade" here this year.  It's an extraordinary and wonderful book, I agree.


9)      Favorite two tv shows:
 Homeland and every season of Mad Men but this past one.


10)   Favorite movie of all time:
 That’s easy.  Rear Window.  I could watch it a thousand times.  I’m a peeping Tom at heart.  I think all writers are.  When I lived in Brooklyn, I had a view from the back of my brownstone just like Rear Window.  And in every window was a story.


11)   Are you working on a new book?  
Yes, another biographical novel about a real woman who lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  A champion for women, an important art collector.  With a nice love story.

12)   Anything else I forgot to ask you?
No, but I’d like to invite readers to visit my website at jenniefields.com where they can look at photos of the real characters from The Age of Desire.  There’s also a page where you can sign up for me to join your book group to discuss The Age of Desire, (via Skype if you’re far away.)  I hope readers will also “like” my Facebook page for updates on my new book, or connect with me on Twitter: @jfieldsauthor

Thanks so much for your great questions!         Thank you, Jennie!  Loved your answers, and I can hardly wait for your new book to come out.  "A champion for women an important art collector." Hits some good bases for me!
Ms Fields reads one of her favorite passage from her book:


Needless to say, I found "The Age of Desire" completely captivating.  Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors, and I wanted to know more about her, so tripping the fantasy seemed a good way to enjoy her life.  Jennie Fields, I found is the perfect author for this voyage into Mrs. Warton's life because she seemed to climb into her persona with ease.  I was mesmerized by this beautiful book.

The novel was written in influence of the style of Mrs. Wharton's Age, I felt.  There was a tightness to the writing and a certain flow to it that put me in mind of her writings, as well as that of Henry James.  Mrs. Wharton, herself, was never far from being controlled in her emotions, and the novel itself was written in this tone.  It created a setting for the story that held it true to the places and times the characters lived and loved.

There is a tension in the love life of Edith and her journalist love interest that caused me to be in mind of my first loves.  That push-pull of great passion with an uncertainty of the other's feelings.  And, when the great love develops, there is the ever present desire never to be parted from him no matter what the cost.  In Edith's life there was a cost but never one she wasn't willing to pay.

Running in tandem to her affair with the journalist, Morton Fullerton, is the deep love/friendship connection she has with her secretary, Anna.  This other love is beautifully and stealthily handled by Ms Fields, and is deeply moving.  Her husband, Teddy, is the other link in the chain featured in the book.  His life ran the borders of both these capable and beautiful women.

I couldn't put this book down.  It walked me through the life of Edith Wharton and her ever valuable "secretary" and best friend Anna, who was the help and assistant for her wonderful books.  I loved that Ms Fields was so adept at capturing the spirit of the Age and of the primary characters.  I felt I knew Mrs. Wharton better and came to understand her in a different way.

You'll enjoy this novel.  It's a serious book in many ways, as is any book that seeks to display the truth about its characters and provide a living, important storyline.  Jennie Fields is a fabulous author; capable, interesting and worthy.

I cannot say more than to highly recommend this sensuous, secretive novel to you!

5 stars                  Deborah/The Bookish Dame

This interview and review are brought to you in cooperation with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Reviews.  All of the opinions are strictly my own, however.

Please follow the entire tour:   Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theageofdesiretour/
Twitter Hashtag: #AgeOfDesireTour



Great review and interview. The Age of Desire was one of my favorite books this year!


Nice Blog
Thanks for sharing... Keep sharing more
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