Kelly Killoren Bensimon’s varied career has taken her in a stunning number of directions. She has been a model, studied literature at Columbia University, starred on reality TV, written three lifestyle books and, as of this week, published a novel. “I have a lot fear, and I have a lot excitement,” the 48-year-old beauty says, nervous about people taking her seriously as a writer. “But I really think people are going to respond well to it.”
Bensimon’s debut novel is called A Dangerous Age, and it’s a depiction of what happens to four women as they go from being Manhattan it-girls to being, well, former Manhattan it-girls. There’s Lucy, an ex-model in a lackluster marriage to a celebrity artist; Sarah, an Upper East Sider intent on becoming a reality star; Lotta, who has turned using drugs into a full-time job; and Billy, who has gone from wealthy socialite to struggling chef. The book follows in the footsteps of decadently powerful New York must-reads. But with modern twists including Tinder dates, Instagram photo-ops, and scandalous conversations held in the backseats of Ubers. Here, Bensimon talks to DuJour about what inspired her to write A Dangerous Age and just how much of the book is actually fiction.
What made you decide to write a novel?
I actually started the book at Columbia when we had an assignment to write a mini-memoir. It was called One Year and was initially about one girl and how she came from Illinois and navigated the world of modeling. Now, it’s about four women in their forties and their perspectives on men, work and New York. I like to say it has legs now.
Are there any specific people or events that inspired the novel?
Everyone keeps asking me that! I’m an obsessive voyeur, listening to people’s conversations and constantly observing. It’s not someone specific. All the characters are extensions of me and all of the conversations are ones I have heard, with embellishments.
In that case, which of the four girls do you connect with the most?
I can empathize with Lucy a lot. The one great thing about her is whatever story you give her, she’ll take it and run with it.
What’s your writing process like?
I’m a single parent with two kids, so I have to be very strategic about when I write. But this is a story I know, so it’s not like I had to be very inspired to write it. New York inspires me. I’d walk outside and be like, “Oh! Let me write that down!” All you have to do is stand on a street corner and listen to a conversation and boom! You’ve got a novel! You can’t make this stuff up.
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I want women of all ages and shapes and sizes to be proud of who they are and what they have to offer and to celebrate women and not take away from each other. The basis of the book is this TED talk by Esther Perel. She says women have to show off their superpower and that’s what a lot of women are scared to do. They’re scared to be their best selves. The women in this book are all encouraging each other to be their best selves.
What’s on your summer reading list?
I just finished Baywalker. Love it. Also, whatever my kids are reading, I’m reading. My daughter is re-reading all the Harry Potter books so we’re having an obsession with that right now.