19th Century Paris

As you can imagine, writing a novel set in 1870 Paris requires lots of research. Historical events are critical, fashion is important, issues of the day, culture, social norms and so on. But what about the homes where Parisians lived?

Ian and I had a research trip to Paris that involved 3 weeks in an AirBnb apartment designed to provide an experience that was closer to living in the city, rather than staying in a hotel. Three weeks of walking the streets gave me a different appreciation for how Parisians live.

Of particular interest were the hotel particuliers – grand homes – we visited: Musée Cognacq-Jay, Musée Jacquemart-Andre, Musée Carnavalet, and Musée Nissim de Camondo. I wanted to understand how my two main characters, both from well-to-do Parisian families, might have lived including the layout of such homes, the décor, the furnishings, the paintings and other accoutrements of their lives.

Museee Jacquemart-Andre – Paris

The splendour and luxury of these grand homes were astonishing, and although they inspired relatively brief descriptions, they gave me images to carry in my head as I wrote.

Musee Nissim Camondo
Musee Carnavalet

At one point in the writing process, I became obsessed with understanding the layout of Camille’s and Mariele’s homes. A search brought forth some floor plans which helped me add further details.

Mariele’s home – principal rooms
Mariele’s Home – adjoining suites for her parents

Gardens, kitchens, breakfast rooms, wardrobes, beds, desks, chairs and more created a world in which I and my characters lived quite comfortably together while I wrote their story.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS  is available for pre-order on AmazonUSAmazonCanadaKobo and Barnes & Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A map, a map, my kingdom for a map

Well, all right, the title is a bit over the top, however, I wanted to tell you about one of the best gifts from our recent trip to Paris …

My husband and I were in Musee Carnavalet – a museum dedicated to the history of Paris – and very disappointed that the entire section on the 19th century was closed for renovation. I knew this in advance, but hoped there would still be some items on display. No such luck. In fact, Musee Carnavalet is in such a state of renovation, the entrance is currently free.

We did find some wonderful street signs, the kind retailers would post above the doors of their establishments to draw customers in – an early form of advertising used when there were no street numbers on the avenues and boulevards of Paris. You know, walk along Rue de Rivoli until you see the funky red rooster, turn left and look for the green tankard, the one with a large gold key underneath. That sort of thing.

1871-map-of-ParisWe enjoyed the section on 18th century Paris and took a lot of photos of furniture and household items, the sort of thing my characters might have had handed down to them by their parents or grandparents – relevant but not essential.

After our visit, we browsed the museum gift shop and on a whim, I looked through a series of posters placed in a large container, the kind you can flip through easily. And there is was, an 1871 map of Paris!

Absolutely essential for someone writing a novel that begins in 1870. And now it’s framed and hanging on the wall next to my desk.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.