When we think Paris, certain images immediately come to mind: cafés, croissants, champagne, romance, fashion… All of the things that make us smile. All of the things that make us dream. But Paris is more than the glossy and beautiful. There is a depth to the city, a sadness, a seriousness, a pensiveness. I see this through conversations at the local café, through the eyes of the homeless, through the countenances of students as they smoke between classes at the Sorbonne. So it’s no surprise that someone who enjoys putting pen to paper would want to capture all that is the City of Light through the written word.
As an American writer in Paris, I never planned on only writing books set in this city, yet two of the four books I’ve written do indeed take place in Paris. And as co-founder of Velvet Morning Press, I never intended to publish only books set here. Yet, the charm of Paris draws me in. Nine of our 30 titles have a Paris or France theme. For one simple reason — we love Paris, and so do our readers!
Vicki Lesage, my fellow author and co-founder of Velvet Morning Press, and I wanted our company to be the publishing house we’d always dreamed of: one that would bring an author’s work to the bookshelf in a timely fashion, provide good marketing advice and general support.
The very first book we published was a tribute to the City of Light and its expats. We enjoyed featuring many Paris-based authors in our anthology That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light. As expats for about a decade, it was natural for us to start our new venture with a tribute to Paris and its people.
My first novel, Paris, Rue des Martyrs, captures one of the elements I most love about this city — the feeling of a neighborhood. Paris is a big city, yet neighborhoods feel like small villages. You get to know the baker, the pharmacist, the fishmonger. On a walk to the grocery store, you stop to chat with neighbors or parents of your child’s classmates.
And then there are those people you pass every day or see at the café every Friday morning. You’ve never exchanged a word. But what if you did? Could it be life-changing? That’s how Paris, Rue des Martyrs was born. Four strangers in Paris whose lives entwine at one crucial moment in time. The idea fascinated me as I walked around my own Parisian neighborhood and wondered what would happen if I struck up a conversation with various characters who silently inhabited my space. For my book, I chose a Montmartre neighborhood, not too far from my own. My inspiration? The real Paris, the real people.
Other authors have written about the real Paris and its people using a style completely different from mine: humor. Yes, Paris can be a hilarious place, especially for an expat. Vicki Lesage writes about the trials and tribulations of a young American woman trying to find love in Paris in her memoir Confessions of a Paris Party Girl. Misinterpretations, mishaps and misunderstandings offer expat writers plenty of material.
And finally, who isn’t inspired by the food of Paris? In The Paris Effect (Velvet Morning Press, June 2016), author K.S.R. Burns’ protagonist, Amy, is obsessed with food and her weight. So imagine what happens when she comes to Paris. Writing about food and wine is almost impossible to avoid when setting a story in this city. So clearly, if you’re a foodie who likes to write, you’ll find plenty of inspiration simply by walking along the street and inhaling the fragrance of rotisserie chicken, its delicate juices dripping onto deliciously caramelized potatoes.
So I think the question isn’t “what inspires us to write about Paris?” but instead “how could a writer NOT write about Paris?”
This city has quirky and interesting characters, beautiful and dingy spots, everything to delight your taste buds, and subject matter that will incite your emotions. The perfect recipe for a book.