Why Paris?

I’ve been fascinated with Paris for a long time. I’m not sure what first interested me, but once I started working on my BFA, Paris was always there.  It helps that the city has been a centre for the arts for centuries. One of my larger essays for my Canadian art history 300-level class was about Canadian artists that traveled to Paris to learn (and then usually came home again.) Conveniently, my character Sophie has a similar focus for her art history thesis.

I’ve traveled to Paris, just the once. If I had the money I’d go back regularly. There’s something about having all these fantastic museums in the same city, just waiting there for your visit. It’s also one of the most walkable cities. When I was there I walked from the Arc de Triomphe and avenue Wagram down to the Ile de la Cite and back. I don’t know about where you live, but it’s tough to cover that sort of ground in most cities without being detoured by freeways or other pedestrian-unfriendly areas.

But that doesn’t answer the question, Why Paris?

There was no way that I was going to be using my hometown for a setting in my novel. I just don’t think that there’s enough about it that is interesting. If I lived in a larger centre, that might be a different story altogether. I could see setting something in Vancouver, or maybe Toronto or Montreal… but not here. Some authors seem to do really well with novels set in their hometowns. Laurell K Hamilton comes to mind, with St. Louis. And Anne Rice with San Francisco and New Orleans.

It was the club and cafe culture that drew me to using Paris as the setting in my novel. The artsy culture that, (mostly) unlike my hometown, thrives and is right out there with everything else. It’s visible, it’s accepted, it’s part of life. It’s not tucked away in some hidden little cranny for only those ‘in the know’ to enjoy. And, most importantly, how many different types of people can you have encounter each other in a jazz club? The possibilities are endless.

2 thoughts on “Why Paris?

  1. Interesting and thoughtful post. I have only been to Paris once, but I’ll never forget it. And every time I think about going on vacation, France is the first place that pops into my mind, even when there are hundreds of other places to go.

    That being said, I pretty much always use my hometown (or a neighboring town) as the main location in my stories. So many little quirks and hideouts to draw from.

    But I’ve always wanted to write a book set in France, and considering the amount of memories I have (and photos!), I bet I could. :)

    • I have a half-finished short story (set aside when I started working full-time on my novel) that is set in Calgary, but aside from that I’ve never really been inclined to use my hometown as the main setting. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’?

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