In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Jennie Fields’s fascinating novel about Edith Wharton, The Age of Desire is now out in paperback. Rich in period detail and colorful characters, The Age of Desire concerns itself with a scandalous affair which threatens here relationship with one of the closest people in her life. Here is what Jennie had to say about reading, writing, and the tenet she always adheres to when writing.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
My fourth and most recent novel is The Age of Desire, based on the life of my favorite novelist, Edith Wharton, who’s wild mid- life love affair with Morton Fullerton changed her view of the world and her writing forever.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old. Books have always been a life-saving escape for me. (The name of your blog, Linus’ Blanket rings a real note of truth!) By writing, I was able to go beyond just reading and actually create the stories into which I wanted to escape. By fifth grade, I wrote a 365 page novel. It’s somewhere in my basement. I’m afraid to look at it. I majored in writing in college, and I received my MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Since then, I’ve published many short stories and as I said, four novels. All of them have a similar theme: women struggling between a sense of duty and the permission to seek one’s own joy. I think it’s a universal issue for women in particular.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
I write in the afternoons. It’s the time I’m most creative. I always have to walk my puppy, Violet Jane until she’s absolutely exhausted first so she lets me write for a few hours without needing anything. I walk her about five miles a day. I make a cup of tea – this is my very favorite indulgence. I love Lady Grey by Twinings. And I enjoy a piece of really good chocolate. If you haven’t tried Lindt Sea Salt Dark Chocolate set aside time to swoon! (When the sea salt crystals assert themselves over the bittersweet chocolate, you will be hooked.) And then I read for a while. The reason I read first is to put myself in the mindset of a reader, not an editor. I’m less self-critical when I read first. When I was writing about Edith, I always read a passage from one of her books. I find her so insightful, endlessly inspiring.
My writing room was built as a sleeping porch off the back of our 1930’s stone bungalow in Nashville, Tennessee. Imagine how hot it used to be in the South in summers before air conditioning! To counteract Nashville’s prodigious heat, my writing room was built with windows on three sides –twelve windows and a glass door to a deck. When someone opened every window on steamy nights back in the thirties and during World War II, this cross-draft set-up would have provided desperately needed relief to someone trying to sleep. It’s a huge room. You could have put a bed for every member of the family out there. These days, the house is surrounded by big shade trees and a bamboo grove so it’s very green all around. And God bless air conditioning! I settle into my comfy chair, a MacBook Pro on my lap. True to the spirit of my room, Violet sleeps at my feet on the ottoman. Birds whistle in the branches. In mid-summer, a red-orange trumpet vine blossoms on the deck and hummingbirds hover all around drinking the nectar. It’s pretty heavenly. I covered the only wall of the room that isn’t windows with bookcases and filled them with my favorite books. I walk into my writing room, and I’m ready to write.