Sylvain Reynard on redemption, Superman and Gabriel’s Inferno Part 2

Sylvain Reynard shared some insight ahead of Gabriel’s Inferno Part 2.

New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard is someone who has a lot of layers. In addition to the success of Reynard’s novels, the first installment of the Gabriel’s Inferno movie on Passionflix was met with enthusiastic praise.

Now, ahead of the release of Gabriel’s Inferno Part 2 on July 31, FanSided had a chance to speak with Reynard about Comic-Con at Home, Superman, redemption and (of course) Gabriel’s Inferno Part 2.

(FanSided): Have you ever been to a big pop culture convention?

Sylvain Reynard: I haven’t. I’ve been near them … for example, I was in the Netherlands once in a train station and a large group of elves ran through the station, racing to catch a train. I kept looking behind them for orcs …

That is awesome. That’s like seeing Jesus at the ATM with a Klingon. So that means you’ll probably be enjoying the content coming out of Comic-Con at Home. What are you excited to see at the event?

You posted an announcement about an event with Max Brooks. I thought World War Z was brilliant, and it’s probably my favorite book on zombies. He raises so many interesting issues. In terms of fandoms, I’m fond of Tolkien, of course, Star Wars and the extended universe that includes The Mandalorian. I’m sort of an amateur when it comes to the Avengers. I also appreciate the DC Fandom.

Do you have an all-time favorite superhero?

Superman. And it isn’t just because he’s Canadian.

Love it! (And Professor Emerson does resemble Superman…)

This gives me a chance to talk about Robert Benton. On Sundays, I tend to post things related to faith and spirituality. And recently I posted a short meditation on the final scene of Places in the Heart, a film written and directed by Robert Benton. He also wrote the script for Superman in 1978, based on a story by Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather.

Superman, The Godfather, Canada, the golem myth in Judaism, they’re all connected.

Given the themes that serve as the foundation of your writing, do you think supervillains (and even characters in your stories like Simon and Christa) can ever achieve true redemption? I think of morally ambiguous characters like Loki. We want to love them but we also have to consider what they have done. 

The question of redemption is really important for storytelling. Perhaps it’s the case that there are two kinds of narratives — those that believe redemption and those that believe that it isn’t. I belong to the first camp. I think redemption is possible for everyone and this ties into my identity as a writer in the Catholic tradition. But I believe human beings make their own choices. So the question of whether Loki, Simon or Christa can be redeemed is partially up to them and the choices that they make.

There’s a conversation in Gabriel’s Inferno (which readers will see in Part 2), that highlights this, I think.

Julianne is lamenting her scar and wanting to have it erased. Gabriel reminds her (through the analogy of a painting by Caravaggio) that scars are permanent. Even if they are removed from the skin, they still remain part of our life and our lived experience. This is true not just for the recipient of a scar, but for the agent of the scarring experience. All of this is to say that redemption can sometimes only go so far because of the choices we have made and that we continue to make.

And this ties in with why I really like the final scene in Places in the Heart, and I admire Robert Benton’s storytelling. He is telling us in that scene that he believes in redemption. And he’s showing it to us by showing us humanity, seated together, passing the peace and partaking in a sacred meal, together.

That sheds a whole new light on the Christopher Reeves Superman movie, as if it wasn’t already perfect. Benton’s contributions really shine through. 

I think this is why as readers we gravitate to particular storytellers. I tend not to read novels that aren’t redemptive because they push a vision of the world I don’t accept.

And I’d add that 2020 has been difficult enough for humanity; we can all use a little redemptive storytelling right now.

That’s certainly true, and it really speaks to why so many of your fans say they have been re-reading your books lately. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating. It not only kills, it isolates us from friends and family, from locations we love and draw strength from, it has caused discord, etc. I’m grateful just to offer one small piece of happiness in the middle of all of this.

In keeping with our comic book theme, when working on new projects now do you think about things like hiding Easter eggs in your stories? (Especially now with the Sylvain Reynard Cinematic Universe)

I’m an Easter Egg writer. In the beginning, I used to do it to test if anyone was paying attention. (They always were; my readers are very smart and never miss anything.) Now, it’s more of a tribute to the readers and to the characters they love.

I’m writing something new at the moment and the location itself is an Easter Egg.

So… you’re the Easter Bunny?

(Sighs.) I’ve been outed. Yes. Yes, I am.

Don’t worry, I still think you’re Batman. Or maybe Flash. (I have a working theory that you’re more than one person, or you have superhuman powers, to keep up with everything that you do.)

I’d like to be more than one person. It would be very helpful.

If you had to assign superlatives to your characters — Julia, Gabriel and Paul — and to actors Melanie Zanetti and Giulio Berruti, and to Passionflix CEO Tosca Musk, what would they be?

Superlatives. That’s a good question.

Tosca: Brilliant.
Paul: Steadfast.
Julianne: Angelic.
Gabriel: Mercurial.
Melanie: Gifted.
Giulio: Charismatic.

I think both Melanie Zanetti and Giulio Berruti are extremely gifted and charismatic and that’s why everyone enjoys watching them on screen.

I agree completely. And Part 2 will no doubt be beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. How would you describe Part 2 in one sentence?

Part 2 is dramatic and sensual.

The seminar scene in particular is especially tense and dramatic. It’s so well done. It’s as if the words from my pen were made concrete in that classroom.

What has it meant to you to connect with new fans who only recently became familiar with your work because of the movie?

It’s been fantastic. I’ve been hearing from readers all over the world, including Egypt, Pakistan, Central and South America, Indonesia. And many online groups have been created for readers to be able to discuss the films and the books in many languages. It’s a truly international and global community.

And that truly cheers me. Because as I said, COVID-19 has brought so much isolation and discord. I’m so glad readers have something to bring them together that makes them happy.

Your fandom has always been a special one, and it is truly shining through right now. And July 17 has a special significance for your fandom. 

Thank you. I’m grateful to be a part of this fandom. It’s a really special place.

Yes, July 17 is Gabriel Emerson’s birthday, and it is marked by several celebrations online.

How did you pick July 17?

I think there is a line in Dante about being born “Sub Julio” but at the moment, I’m forgetting it exactly. But it was related to that, I think. (Now I’ll have to go look it up…)

As a Cancer myself, I see so much of myself in Gabriel. As much as one might argue he’s a Leo, he’s not. 

No, he isn’t. I’m not as well versed in the signs and their meanings as others, but Gabriel seemed to be a born in July kind of person.

Also, the symbol of Cancer is a crab. Kind of says it all when applied to Gabriel.

As you know, I asked fans for some questions and I picked a few that stood out. Here’s the first one: Is there a writing challenge, a particular kind of story or character, that S.R. finds tough to tackle?

I think this goes back to our earlier discussion about redemption, Sarabeth. I can’t bring myself to write something without a redemptive arc. So if I were to try to write something that ended in abject despair, I couldn’t finish it.

Will your new project(s) have a direct or indirect link to one of your previous stories?

Yes, there will be some kind of link. But it’s early stages yet so the link may be minor.

What was the most challenging scene you ever had to write in Gabriel’s Inferno?

It’s the scene where Gabriel explains the origin and meaning of his tattoo. (I don’t want to describe it more explicitly since it’s a spoiler.) But I can tell you it was challenging to write and even now, I find it difficult to read. But I can also tell you that I’ve seen Giulio’s performance of that scene and it’s absolutely brilliant.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

For me, writing has always been about a need to create. Writing enables me to channel that need into something constructive. And it brings with it the added bonus of a reading community that I’ve been blessed to be a part of.

And finally, do you have a message to your fans? Anything you’d like them to know?

Gratitude. Not all communities are peaceful. But in general, this reading community is kind, inclusive and positive. I’m grateful for the support of all readers, longtime readers and new readers, and I’m especially grateful for the support everyone has given the film. Their support for me, the cast and crew and for Passionflix is recognized, valued and appreciated. I just want to be sure I say it regularly: Thank you for reading and thank you for watching.

Related Story: Interview with Mary Pocrnic, Gabriel's Inferno screenwriter

Our conversation with Sylvain Reynard will continue after the premiere of Gabriel’s Inferno Part 2 on July 31.

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