What do you get when you cross Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, Dante and Beatrice’s love story and a hot picture on a Twitter account? You get the first two installments of the Gabriel series, Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture, the latest erotic reads in this sex-filled year of “mommy porn.”
Sylvain Reynard’s two books were originally published with Omnific Publishing. Publicist Enn Bocci from Omnific was kind enough to help with getting this journalist an interview with the publicity-shy Sylvain Reynard, until Reynard migrated to Penguin. Reynard’s stories are similar to Fifty Shades of Grey since they are fan fiction stories based on the Twilight series; however, that is where the similarities end.
Who is Sylvain Reynard ? Good question, tough answer. Well other than a bestselling author with a nice big bank account now, Sylvain Reynard was a Semifinalist for Best Author in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards and Gabriel's Inferno was a Semifinalist for Best Romance. The rights to both Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture have been bought in the 7 figure range. All that’s been uncovered about that fact was that it was more than what E.L. James received for her 50 Shades Of Grey trilogy.
There is something of a literary mystery regarding Gabriel’s Inferno. It was originally titled The University of Edward Masen and was published under the pen name Sebastien Robichaud, but the story and website for Robichaud have since disappeared from the Internet. This is yet another cause for curiosity about the author.Regardless of the mystery surrounding Reynard’s true identity, the books are taking the title of the thinking man’s literary porn for 2012.
PLAYBOY.COM: What’s your take on the mommy porn misnomer?
REYNARD: I read a couple of articles in which readers expressed their resentment over the label, which they felt was patronizing. I think a more helpful title for the literary genre would be crossover fiction, where the line between romantic or mainstream fiction and erotica is intentionally blurred. The phenomenon itself is much more interesting than the label.
PLAYBOY.COM: Like every good writer, you have striven to get readers to read your novels. Did you expect the outpouring of support to be the way it is?
REYNARD: In no way did I expect to garner so many enthusiastic readers. The main characters of my novels, Gabriel Emerson and Julia Mitchell, have been very well received and I’m grateful for that.
PLAYBOY.COM: Behind every good writer is an even better editor. How was your relationship with your editor during the writing of your novels?
REYNARD: I’m fortunate to have had more than one editor during this process, and I’ve also relied on the comments of trusted friends. In an early draft there was one scene in which I had the Professor engaging in a particular — ah — activity, and my friend wrote in the margin, “No. Absolutely not. Over my dead body.” With friends like that, you can’t go wrong.
PLAYBOY.COM: What about the Twilight series got the creative juices flowing for you?
REYNARD: Twilight is a retelling of the classical myth of the monster and the maiden. So is the love story of Dante and Beatrice. I took the elements of the myth and expanded on them, experimenting with placing Dante and Beatrice in a university setting in Toronto. Professor Gabriel Emerson is the monster of the novels — he views himself as a sinner beyond redemption. And the lovely Julianne Mitchell is the maiden-as-graduate student. But I was equally influenced by Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair.
PLAYBOY.COM: What about Dante’s love for Beatrice inspired you?
REYNARD: Dante’s love for Beatrice is passionate, all consuming, poetic and chaste. I find the juxtaposition between passion and chastity to be particularly compelling. I explore those themes in my novels.
PLAYBOY.COM: Did you originally set out to write erotica, or did the story just become it after many rewrites and edits?
REYNARD: I don’t think readers categorize my novels as erotica, although they are sensual. But perhaps this brings us to your previous questions about crossover fiction. My novels include elements of literary fiction, romance and sensuality, so it’s a crossover work in that sense.
The relationship between the Professor and his graduate student is forbidden by the university and frowned upon by society. If we add to that some of the Professor’s sexual proclivities, in contrast to the more sheltered life of Julia, we can see why the sensuality of the novel tantalizes the imagination. As always, seduction begins in the mind.
PLAYBOY.COM: Did you intend to blend the arts and music into your story or did it naturally grow into that?
REYNARD: I intended to feature the arts in the narrative from the first draft. Part of my reason for doing so is that the story of Dante and Beatrice has been told through paintings. I wondered what would happen if the Professor and Julia saw a painting of Dante and Beatrice and how they would react to it. So at key points in the novels, art plays a crucial role.
With respect to the music, I chose pieces that would lend themselves to the setting of a scene. The Professor’s first dance with Julia, for example, is set to Diana Krall’s performance of “Besame Mucho.” Many readers have written to me asking for a soundtrack, which I’ve posted on my website.
PLAYBOY.COM: How much of you is in Gabriel’s character? Or vice versa?
REYNARD: This is a dangerous question. Of course, all characters come from the mind of the author, and so I am “in” all of them. But Gabriel is a special case. There are some similarities, not least of which is our fondness for single malt Scotch…
PLAYBOY.COM: What’s your scotch of choice? I’m a 16-year-old Lagavulin kind of guy.
REYNARD: I can’t disagree with you about Lagavulin. It’s excellent. I favor Laphroaig and am currently writing my way through a very fine bottle of it. Cheers.
PLAYBOY.COM: You’re very interactive with your fans and readers; not many authors are as engaged as you are. Is this something you always set out to do?
REYNARD: I’m lucky in that my readers are charming, so it’s very easy (and very pleasurable) to interact with them.
PLAYBOY.COM: The idea of redemption seems to be a very strong one in your novel. What about this transformative power drew you to write a story that has redemption as a huge part of it?
REYNARD: We live in a society that seems to thrive on two lies. One: you can be perfect, and two: your imperfection will damn you to a miserable life. The whole point of redemption is to accept your imperfections and try to overcome them with grace, recognizing that there can be joy and happiness in an imperfect life. But the key ingredient here is grace — grace from god, grace from others and grace from ourselves. Many people simply can’t forgive themselves for the wrongs they’ve done. And that’s why they’re miserable.
Before we cast a stone at another human being, we should think of the stones that we deserve to have thrown at us for our myriad failings. We all need forgiveness.