Why not Paris? by Kate Furnivall
Why not Paris? That’s what I say. Paris has a knack of being the best answer to most meaningful questions.
“What would you like for Christmas?” Paris.
“Where do they mix French 75 (Soixante Quinze) cocktails to die for?” Paris.
“Which is the most romantic city in the world?” Paris.
And “What did Bogart promise the wobbly-lipped Ingrid Berman they’d always have?” Yes! That’s right. Paris.
When I start a new book I first have to decide on the location where I will set my story. And I’m very picky. There are lots of requirements to take into consideration. It must possess inherent drama (St Petersburg), a traumatic history (Naples/Rome), a moment of terror (Cairo), an appealing geography (Bahamas) and lots of fabulous shops. Ooops! That last one just sneaked in under the wire. The fact that Paris flaunts some of the most gorgeous magasins in the universe did not influence my decision one jot, I swear. (C’mon, have you seen Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann?)
Oh yes, Paris ticks all those boxes.
Before I begin to write I have to undertake a research trip. Absolutely have to. To learn the smell and feel of the place, to get its dirt under my fingernails and to unearth the unexpected gems that only boots on the ground can provide. Now, the big question is: do I want to spend a week or two researching in rainy Manchester or in gay Paree? No contest, I’m afraid. Don’t get me wrong, I love Manchester. (Never actually been there but I love the concept of Manchester!) But hey, Paris wins hands down.
So July last year I packed my bag, retrieved my shades from under the cat’s cushion (don’t ask) and jumped on Eurostar. However, when I jumped off two hours later, Paris was a ridiculously sweaty 40c and rising, and worse was to come.
I had booked myself into a tiny fin-de-siècle hotel in a backstreet in Montmartre where much of The Betrayal takes place. It will provide great authentic 1938 atmosphere, I told myself. It will be invaluable, I said. My bad! Quaint would be a kind word for it. Bloody-horrendous would be a more accurate one. And for nearly 24 hours the hotel lost all electricity, which made using the windowless bathroom something of a challenge. But relentlessly it spun its period web around me, and as I explored Paris I viewed the city through the eyes of my main character Romy in 1938.
The gaudy ooh-là-là delights of Moulin Rouge. Lovers’ walkways along the Seine. The breathtaking Impressionist beauty contained within the Musée d’Orsay. Street-musicians on the Left Bank. The glorious rose windows of Notre Dame. My favourite pavement café for people-watching in Montmartre.
All spine tingling stuff.
So when I finally jumped on Eurostar once more and waved au revoir to the City of Light, it was with a sharp heart-wrench of regret. I had been bewitched. Not by the elegance of its shops. Nor by the exquisiteness of its menus. It was the magical soul of Paris that had beguiled me.
So yes. You want a great knock-your-eyes-out setting for a book? Why not Paris?