Sylvain Reynard’s trilogy, Gabriel’s Inferno, is creating enough buzz of late to rival E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Both series have roots in Twilight fan fiction but that’s where the similarities end. Reynard’s series stands on its own and bears little resemblance to the Twilight saga. Gabriel’s Inferno casts a spell that is distinctly its own romantic potion of style and syntax. A spell that both USA Today and The New York Times have fallen under, not to mention the hordes of readers around the globe who are bewitched by the story of Professor Gabriel Emerson and his beloved Julianne. If you haven’t had the pleasure of getting acquainted with these characters you’re missing out on a compelling love story with themes of hope, forgiveness and redemption. The trilogy also pays homage to one the greatest works of the Western World –– Dante’s Divine Comedy. Through Gabriel and Julianne we get to rediscover Dante’s love for Beatrice and the idea that all deep love is tinged with regret, nostalgia and loss, but also hope. Gabriel’s Inferno is a story that will touch you to your core and leave you wanting more, a story that is smart, fully formed and with enough depth and insight into the human condition to make the reading experience resonate and linger.
Who is the man behind the curtain, the mastermind behind this great work? No one knows. Sylvain Reynard is a pen name. “Sylvain” is Latin for woodland, “renard”is French for fox. Beyond the pen name, we know he’s Canadian, a tad shy and kind to a fault. I’ve never witnessed an author more accommodating to his readers. We also know he has the gift of snark. You have to love that. What more do we need to know? The important thing is the art of his creation. The man can write fiction that enthralls. Keeping his identity a secret is ingenious, sly as fox., even if he’s shy as a rabbit. There’s the allure of the unknown. Look at the cultish adoration J.D. Salinger elicited by being private and inaccessible. The readers can make Sylvain Reynard whomever they want him to be. The mystery only creates more buzz for the trilogy. Who among us doesn’t like a good puzzle?
Reynard, Sylvain Reynard (shaken not stirred) was gracious enough to agree to a written interview with yours truly. I’m not sure if it was out of the goodness of his heart or because I stole his argyle sock collection and am holding it for ransom. (Fans of the books will get that). At any rate I was delighted. I’m in awe of his intellect and his word-building expertise. Reynard is top drawer. Prepare to be dazzled.
SR, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s begin with how does it feel to go from writing Twilight fan fiction to being a bestselling author? (And by the way were you Team Edward or Team Jacob?)
Hello Tosha. It’s a pleasure to be with you and your readers. Happy New Year.
I’m very fortunate to have been part of a writing community that was generous and supportive. Many of my fan fiction readers are still reading and supporting my work. Of course, I’m grateful for all my readers, both long time readers and new ones.
(Parenthetically, it should be noted that I was a Volturi supporter and longed for a greater back story on those characters …)
What’s been the most challenging and rewarding elements of writing the Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy?
I’ve really enjoyed interacting with readers from around the world – some of whom are reading the books in other languages – and listening to their reactions. On most days, I interact with readers on all the continents except Antarctica. (And if you are a reader in Antarctica, please drop me a line. I’d like to hear from you)
To what extent do you feel your fiction is autobiographical? How do your life experiences, impressions and emotions impact your writing?
Certainly my life experiences shape my writing. But I wouldn’t say my novels are biographical. Think of me as the quiet person in the railway station or airport who is watching everyone else with curiosity, wondering what their stories are.
How has your writing evolved since the first novel of the trilogy? Would you like to branch out into other genres down the line?
Hopefully, my writing has improved technically while maintaining my uniqueness. With my next project, I’m moving into the paranormal genre, but I have a couple of other projects I’ve been working on as well and one of them is a young adult novel.
Gabriel and Julianne spark so much passion in your readers. What it is about these characters that resonates so strongly?
Both characters are imperfect and in some cases, their imperfections can be frustrating. But human beings are frustrating. We’ve all encountered those who don’t behave the way we would wish them to, but somehow if we care about them, we want them to find happiness and redemption. I think it’s the same with Gabriel and Julianne. Readers are cheering them on.
You were able to incorporate the arts, literature and cultural references into the books in a masterful way. Did you hope to not only entertain but educate through your work?
Usually when I add these references to the narrative it’s to illustrate a point. But I’ve heard from a lot of readers who were unfamiliar with some of the art and music mentioned in the narrative and were interested in learning more about them. I’ve had some great discussions with readers about the cultural references.
If Gabriel’s Inferno is made into a feature film, would you write the screenplay? If so, I know that often in film, the movie ends up telling a very different story than the original screenplay. Would you be worried about maintaining your authentic voice with your characters?
I can’t comment on film at the moment. But I think most authors would agree that if you partner with a producer who shares your enthusiasm for the subject matter, they will treat the characters and the narrative with respect.
Now for what everybody wants to know about any good writer: Who do you read? Not in a causal “I’ll get back to this book in a few days” but, in “I must breathe, eat and sleep this novel?”
I tend to favour nineteenth century fiction. I also read non-fictional historical and cultural works. I enjoyed Steve Jobs’ biography, for example. But one of the best books I’ve read in the past ten years is “Shake Hands with the Devil” by Romeo Dallaire. It’s his account of serving with the UN Mission to Rwanda in the 1990s. It really affected me and changed my outlook on peacekeeping, the UN, and the western world’s attitude toward Africa.
Tell us about your upcoming paranormal romance book The Raven?
Thanks for asking about it, Tosha. “The Raven” is set in contemporary Florence and focuses on two worlds – the world readers were introduced to in The Gabriel Series – and the dark, secret underworld that lies in its shadows. Readers can learn more about it here:
I know you have several charities that you are involved in? Could you expound on that please.
Thanks for mentioning this. I try to use my platform as a writer to raise awareness of various causes and charities. Two organizations that I support are The Salvation Army and Covenant House. Both groups go places many of us can’t or won’t go, to bring hope and help to those in need. They’re worth supporting and they always need donations of goods and time.
And now for a few questions to satisfy our readers’ curiosity, and by readers, I mean me.
Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
Lord of the Rings
Heathcliff or Mr. Darcy?
I’m closer to Superman, I think, but I appreciate the compliment.
Swann’s Way or The Picture of Dorian Gray? Neither 😉
Literature of pleasure, of utility, both or neither? Both, in balance.
What‘s your greatest extravagance?
Usually it’s books. But I have a terrible weakness for Apple products.
Describe yourself in three words, omitting the word private and its synonyms
I’m quite average.
How would you rate this interview on a scale of argyle socks? 1 being these don’t match my suit, they’re hideous, take them away, to 10 being dear Lord, what a lovely pair of socks. I’ll be sure to wear them again.
I’d rate it 10/10. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and your readers. Thank you for the kind invitation and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2014, SR.
There you have it folks. I have to extend my thanks to SR and to the lovely Nina Bocci for setting the interview up.
You can find the mild mannered man of steel on the web at the following locations.
And his official fan page
You can purchase the trilogy through Amazon and Barnes & Noble
“Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well-respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption.
When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide.
An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love, and redemption, Gabriel’s Inferno is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible—forgiveness and love.”