Interview with Sylvain Reynard

Posted by Goodreads on February 9, 2015
Sylvain Reynard It's no surprise that the lush, richly imagined work of early Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli plays a pivotal role in Sylvain Reynard's new paranormal romance, The Raven. Though Reynard insists on keeping his identity veiled, he continues to make a name for himself with books that live up to their inspiration, like his bestselling debut, Gabriel's Inferno, which centered on a dark and uninhibited Dante scholar. In The Raven, we follow an art restorer named Raven Wood who works at Florence's Uffizi Gallery. After a confusing attack, she finds herself transformed, and soon becomes involved in the ancient city's dark underworld. Read on for the Goodreads Romance interview with Sylvain, plus an exclusive deleted scene from The Raven! You’ve said that Gabriel’s Inferno is about forgiveness and redemption. What big theme is The Raven about?

My new novel, The Raven, is about mercy and justice and the uneasy tension between the two. My interest in forgiveness leads naturally to the question of how to uphold justice while at the same time being open to mercy. I recognize my own need for forgiveness and mercy, which prompts me to recognize it in others, including fictional characters.

The main character in The Raven transforms physically—she goes from being overweight to slim, plain to beautiful, and her disability disappears. Does she ever return to her original form? What does her transformation symbolize?

Yes, she does. This was a plot development I placed heavy emphasis on in the novel. I wanted to make the point that Raven’s unconventional beauty exists and remains even after her transformation is reversed. I also wanted to make the point that disabilities don’t diminish beauty; if anything, they add to a person’s own unique beauty.




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Some Botticelli works are a big part of The Raven. What is it about Botticelli that inspires you?

Simply put, his paintings are beautiful. I like the way Botticelli plays with light and color. I like the way he paints female figures. In the context of The Raven I wanted to focus on a piece of art that had multiple, controversial interpretations. Botticelli’s Primavera provided me with exactly that, and so I used it for my own purposes in the narrative.


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What paranormal romances would you recommend to people who love your books? These novels are very well known already, but I’d recommend Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, and I’d also recommend Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day…what is the most romantic thing you have ever done for someone or had someone do for you?

Usually it’s the small, thoughtful, sincere gestures that have had the most impact. In my view romance is all about paying attention to the person you love and focusing your creative efforts on celebrating that person. It’s about spending time together and enjoying one another, wherever or however that may be.

Does knowing that most of your readers are women affect the way you write your sex scenes? Which of them is your favorite?

I write for my readers, and certainly this affects how I approach those scenes. But my purpose with sex scenes is to illustrate something about the characters and how they relate to each other.

There’s a love scene in The Raven that takes place on top of a loggia, with the Duomo visible in the distance. I think that passage is particularly sensual and beautiful.

Why has beauty been so important in your life?There’s a lot of ugliness in the world: violence, abuse, wars, racism, genocide, and religious persecution. You can focus on the ugliness and despair or you can choose to look for beauty.

I don’t turn a blind eye to the world’s ugliness, but I choose to focus on beauty to remind myself that not all the ugliness in the world can eliminate the goodness and beauty that exists. This simple truth gives me hope.

How would the Snarky Narrator describe your decision to remain anonymous?

SN: Let’s just say some people are better off living as hermits, and leave it at that.

SR: (sigh)

Goodreads Romance Exclusive: An Outtake from The Raven
The city of Florence changed after sunset.

During the day, the streets teemed with people. The great architectural structures almost shone, soaring against azure skies.

After sunset, those same buildings absorbed the dark, their colors muted. Citizens and tourists alike kept to the main streets and piazzas. Quaint alleys took on a sinister appearance while monuments and statues almost seemed to draw breath before one’s eyes.

To Raven Wood, the city streets grew ominous in the evenings following her confrontation with the intruder. It was as if every shadow, every dark corner had eyes that peered out at her, marking her every movement as she walked from the Uffizi Gallery and across the Ponte Santa Trinita to her home in Santo Spirito.

On this particular evening, she felt certain she was being watched. She hurried, avoiding eye contact with passersby and electing not to take the short cuts she usually used. It was only after she’d ascended the staircase to her apartment and successfully entered and locked the door that she allowed herself the luxury of a deep, relieved breath.

She dropped her knapsack to the floor and flicked on the light switch.

Nothing happened.

She tried the switch again but to no avail. The apartment was swathed in blackness.

"I know it's you." Raven stood, her back against the door.

Her ears strained for the sound of any movement, even the shallowest stirring of breath, but as during the previous home invasion, she heard nothing.

"You must be the only burglar in Florence who can see in the dark. Why do you keep shutting off my electricity?"

"Why don’t you do as you’re told and leave the city?" An angry voice, all too familiar, snapped at her from the kitchen.

She heard his shoes tap impatiently across the floor, the sound drawing nearer.

"I am waiting." His imperious tone brooked no evasion.

"You gave me two weeks. It's only been one since you asked me to leave."
"I didn’t ask you; I told you." He came nearer still and she was struck with his scent, a combination of citrus and the woods.

Unlike the intruder, himself, the scent was not unpleasant.

"You told me," she amended. "I thought you were a man of your word."

"The city is dangerous. You must leave at once."

"The only person who has threatened me is you."

She couldn’t see him but she could hear him draw closer, his voice sounding a few inches from her ear.

"If you want proof of my claim, go stand in the center of the piazza. You'll find out soon enough what dangers lurk the city streets."

"You promised you’d help me."

"I promised nothing. I foolishly decided to warn you, on a whim. If you won't do what you're told, I'll withdraw my assistance. You can fend for yourself."

His footsteps retreated, sounding as if he was headed for the bedroom and perhaps, to make his escape through the bedroom window.

"I don’t even know your name," she called.

The footsteps stopped.

"Why do you need to know my name?"

"I need to know who you are. I need to know if I should trust you."

The man laughed and it was not a happy sound.

"I am the darkness made visible. And you should never, ever trust me."

An icy finger of fear ascended Raven's spine. "Then why should I leave the city?"

"I may not be trustworthy, but I am never wrong. You are in danger and from more than one group. Leave Florence before it’s too late."

Raven exhaled in frustration.

"I came here to start a new life. I work at the Uffizi, restoring paintings so people can enjoy them for years to come. I can’t abandon my work."
"I believe they have something they call art in America. Restore that."

"I wasn’t happy there."

The footsteps drew nearer once again.

"Why not?"

Raven wasn’t about to confess her secrets to a stranger.

She changed the subject. "You say I'm in danger. You say you know who wants to harm me. Instead of telling me to leave the city, why don’t you turn them over to the carabinieri?"

"The carabinieri." He chuckled darkly, as if he found her suggestion amusing.

He touched her face, the gentle contact at odds with his harsh and commanding demeanor.

"Those green eyes of yours are dangerous. A king would give up his kingdom for a pair of eyes like that."

His fingertips traced her cheek.

"It would be a tragedy for Florence to be robbed of such beauty," he whispered, drawing nearer.

He seemed to bring his face inches from hers, examining her in the dark.

"It would be a greater tragedy for the world to be robbed of you. If you don’t leave the city, you will die."

He withdrew his hand and his voice grew as cold as an autumn stream. "This is your final warning."

Before Raven could respond, she heard loud, retreating footsteps and the sound of a window being opened.

A few moments later, the lights came on.
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