For anyone that's read my retelling of Romeo & Juliet, By Any Other Name, you'll know that I remained faithful to Shakespeare's original. Down to the fact that each chapter is a scene from the play, everything happens at the same point it does in the play, and the ending remains the same (that is, unless you've read the alternative ending! There was a part of me that just couldn't do that to my characters!)
So you may be wondering why on earth I chose to set this book in Paris and not in Verona. Well the answer is actually super simple...I know Paris.
I spent six months living (and working) in Paris, and I believe that that gave me a knowledge that I could use in my book. Certainly more so than Verona. I've only spent a total of three days in Italy in my life (though will add another 4 to that when I go to Naples later in the year!) and I just didn't feel that I could do it justice.
Admittedly, Paris doesn't actually feature too much in the story, much like Verona actually doesn't in Shakespeare's original. But there were a few things I threw in there, just to give it some more character .
The first time that we meet Romain (the Romeo character*) he's on the Pont Des Invalides, and looking out at the Pont d'Alexandre III. Now these are real bridges in Paris, and really are next to each other. More than that, Benoit's (the Benvolio character) opinions on the Pont d'Alexandre III actually mirror my own somewhat. I can see why they liked it at the time, but the gilt statues are a bit much for me!
I only mention them a couple of times, but one of my main concerns about publishing was the mention of arrondissements. The best translation I have is that they are like neighbourhoods, but to anyone that has lived in Paris, they just are! When I say something is in an arrondissement, then it really does exist there! For me, that was an important part of the story.
And finally the church! An important part of the story, and the home of Father Lawrence (though I did take artistic license and have him live next door to it! This probably isn't accurate! However, the Eglise Saint-François is a real church, and a small one at that, and really is in the 17th arrondissement. While I haven't been to this one in particular (though I might have passed it, it was fairly close to where I lived!) I did go to a lot like it, and that's what inspired it!
* My Romeo & Juliet characters (Romain and Josie) couldn't keep their own names because I already have a character in a different book called Juliet. Her book isn't published yet, but is too written to undo it! Plus, once a name takes hold in my head, it just doesn't let go! Other names that were changed were Benvolio (Benoit), Tybolt (Tristan), Mercutio (Marc), Paris (Pierre), Escalus (Etienne) and the Nurse (Adrienne). Minor characters also had some name changes, but some remained the same, included Capulet, Montague and Father Lawrence.
Sorry, I couldn't go through a whole post about Romeo & Juliet and not include a photo of Juliet's balcony!
For anyone interested, when I lived in Paris, I lived in the 18th, within walking distance of Montmatre and Sacré Coeur. My favourite photo (which I'm going to try and find in a minute) was of Sacré Coeur in the snow, apparently something that hadn't happened in about 20 years (and I was lucky enough to both see it and take a photo!) I also got to see some Nuns singing in a choir at Sacré Coeur, which was hauntingly beautiful!
Less exciting, but I worked in the 8th, and often spent my lunch hour on the famous Champs Elysées!