The idea for After Paris came while I was writing my debut novel, Everything’s Perfect. I suspect this is a frequent problem for novelists, it certainly is for me; the temptation to lose focus on a current project for a shiny, bright new idea. I had a few such ideas while working on Everything’s Perfect but After Paris was the one I kept coming back to. I like to write about women and friendship and where Everything’s Perfect is about the first heady rush of love in a friendship, in that respect After Paris is its opposite: the challenges – and triumphs – that come with decades’ old friendships. I have been blessed with close friends since primary school (indeed After Paris is dedicated to those friends), and it fascinates me, the elasticity and endurance of such relationships which are often the backbone of our lives but are often overlooked in favour of romantic connections. In After Paris, I put long-term friendships to the test and ask: if everything were stacked against it could twenty years of friendship be undone in one weekend?
Paris was the obvious setting as it’s a place I’ve spent many an hour – in rowdy bars, on walks along the Seine, in low lit restaurants eating delicious food – with my girlfriends. Before writing I was a lawyer and I spent four months working in Paris on secondment in my mid-twenties. I lived in a little apartment on Rue du Bac, with three friends stationed in nearby apartments, one of which – with its views over Le Bon Marché to the Eiffel Tower and beyond – inspired Nina’s apartment in After Paris. I spent hours wandering around the food hall of Le Bon Marché (akin to the Selfridges food hall) and selecting cakes and pastries to share with my friends, as Nina and Jules and Alice do, and pondered the meaning of life on sticky pavements after too many Kir Royales. After my secondment I returned whenever I could; even organising two hen parties there (at the respective brides’ request!).
I have walked in the same steps as my characters but fortunately share few of their life experiences. What is universal though are the challenges we all face when spending time with our friends sometimes, no matter how much we love them, and especially if things aren’t going so well for us – the jarring feeling of lives moving in different directions, the worry of being left behind, or not being good enough in some way – and the juxtaposition of the joy, nonetheless, that those interactions can bring: comfort and sustenance and the feeling of being known and understood. Love stories are all around us in the friendships we make and keep and what better place to pay tribute to them than in Paris?
After Paris by Nicole Kennedy was published on 21 July in hardback for £20 by Aria, Head of Zeus