What is Stories Under Paris?

I’ve fallen in love with the names of the Paris Métro and RER stations.  Named after people, places and events, they are a gateway for the curious into the history and culture of Paris.

Stories Under Paris is a collection of fictional stories inspired by the Paris Metro, which will eventually include a story for every station in the Metro and RER networks.  The stories are inspired by the names of the stations and by the history of Paris, though they will not be true histories. Instead, I hope to create an underground landscape, a world of historical figures who interact with fictional characters to create the histories that might have been.  Some of the stories will be linked, others will stand alone, and the stories will span a range of genres, including ghost stories, historical fiction, fantasy and fairy tales.

As the story network grows, readers will be able to navigate from story to story along the lines of the Metro, exploring this fictional world as they might the real Paris. I will also include short essays on the actual history of each station and what it is named for.  My goal is to create a half historical, half magical world based on a city that I love very much.

At this stage, all the stories will be in English, as my French is really not good enough to write the sorts of stories I want to tell.  I’m also hoping to write a handful of multimedia stories as the project progresses – as a singer, I am very tempted by the possibilities inherent in Opéra station, to say the least!

About me

I’m an Australian with virtually no French background, unless you count the fact that my parents met at their University’s French Club and my mother was a French teacher.  As a result, studying French was very nearly compulsory when I was at school, and I wound up majoring in French at University (though I did not find my husband that way). I’ve visited Paris only a handful of times, but it is a city I love nonetheless, for its history, its food, its people, and, because I’m a bit geeky like that (did you guess?), for its awesome public transport.

Back in the real world, I work at a medical research institute, where I look after about 90 scientists, assisting with things like grant-writing, conferences, and travel, so that they can spend more time curing cancer.  I am an obsessive baker, a professional singer, and an occasional choir conductor.  I also write several other blogs, so if you enjoy my writing, you might like to visit my food blog over at Cate’s Cates, or my politics blog at Cate Speaks.  (The latter is very opinionated and Australia-centric, and I am way over on the left side of politics, so if you think that will just raise your blood pressure for no good purpose, maybe give it a miss.)

Why stories?

After blogging regularly for several years about food and politics, I realised that I never had time to write fiction any more, and I really missed it.  With more than three hundred stations to write about, I feel that this little project should get me back in the swing of things nicely!

Why Paris?

The short answer is because I love Paris and don’t get to visit anywhere near often enough. It’s so full of history and beauty, everyone I meet is so kind, and I always feel as though something amazing is about to happen when I’m there.  Visiting in my imagination is one way to get a few more Parisian holidays than I could otherwise afford!

The long answer is that on my last visit to Europe, a couple of years ago, I found myself on an all day journey from Mont Saint Michel in Normandy to Trier in Germany.  There was a bus to Rennes, a train to Paris, a Métro ride across Paris to, I think, Gare de l’Est, another train to just over the German border, a train to Trier, and then a bus to our hostel.  At some point in the Parisian leg of our journey, we found ourselves passing a station called Château d’Eau, which translates to Castle of Water, and I spent the rest of my journey writing a convoluted fairy tale about a heroine with skin like clear water, and contemplating a collection of stories about different Metro stations.  Then I got home to Melbourne and was promptly buried in Centenary celebrations at my workplace, so the project went on hold…

I hope that any Parisians reading this will not feel that I am being presumptuous in making up a history and mythology for their Métro stations.  Much as I love my home city of Melbourne, our station names are sadly mundane by comparison with those of the Paris Metro.  It is hard to find inspiration in names such as Flinders Street, Richmond, or even Southern Cross (though I admit that Batman is not bad).  Perhaps the familiar is intrinsically less romantic?

Thank you for visiting!

Catherine Héloise
January 4, 2016

PS – If you are enjoying this project and would like to support my writing, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon.