vampyres

The Prince Speaks: An Interview with Sylvain Reynard’s Vampyre Prince of Florence

Recently I had the incredible honor of interviewing the Prince of Florence.  If you’re not familiar with his story, I urge you to read his introduction in Sylvain Reynard’s novella The Prince, as well as The Raven, which is the first installment of the Florentine Series.  The Prince also appears briefly in Gabriel’s Redemption; unbeknownst to Professor Gabriel Emerson and his lovely wife, Julia, the Prince is tied to the Emersons in ways they cannot yet comprehend. 

I would like to thank the Prince of Florence for agreeing to do this interview, and many thanks go out to Sylvain Reynard for making it possible.

Without further ado, I present to you the Prince of Florence.

Would you do us the honor of introducing yourself?

(The Prince looks around, obviously uncomfortable with his surroundings)

 I am the Prince of Florence.

How would you describe yourself?

As the darkness made visible.

 Is there anywhere else in the world that captures your interest as much as Florence?

I have a fondness for Rome and the city of York but for various reasons, I rarely leave the confines of Florence.

 What is your favorite book?

Lately, I’ve been entranced by “A Discovery of Witches.” It was very educational. (Author’s note: Deborah Harkness is the author of A Discovery of Witches and her All Souls Trilogy is soon to be featured on the BBC)

 You’ve been around since the 13th century.  In your estimation, what has been the most significant historical event you’ve witnessed?

I never discuss the event that had the most personal significance to me.

 But I can tell you the rise of the Black Death was incredibly significant for Florence and for my brethren.

 I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare.  In Sonnet 116, the Bard talks about the human frailty and the passage of time.  Love, however, is immortal.  “Love alters not with its brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”   Your thoughts?

 I’m afraid I’m new to the subject of love. My kind know little enough of it. But for the sake of a particular pair of green eyes, I’m willing to learn.

 Did you know that there is a whole genre of fiction, called paranormal romance, which revolves around women and vampires as lovers?  Would you have ever thought such a thing could be?

 I have a difficult time imagining such a thing.  If this kind of literature truly exists, it would pose a grave security risk.

 I must inform the other principalities …

 What would you like your legions of fans to know about you?

Fans?

 What is your definition of beauty?

I think women are beautiful. I like their softness and the way they smell.  But a woman who lacks intellect and a strong character is unattractive.

 “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Your thoughts?

It’s certainly true. But the question is what is one willing to do in order to maintain one’s power …

 Should humans fear vampyres?

Without qualification.

 You rule over the beautiful city of Florence.  Are there places in the world that are not good environments for vampyres?

Sunny climates are not especially conducive to vampyres, nor are areas built atop consecrated ground.

 Are there things you love about being a vampyre?  What don’t you enjoy?

We have time enough to spare and we heal quickly.

 I have trouble remembering what it was like to be human.  I miss the ability to sleep.

 In Interview with the Vampire, the reporter Daniel asks Louis if he can look at crucifixes and whether or not he sleeps in a coffin.   We know you’re very special (we won’t tell anyone, Mr. York!), but are there traits that all vampyres share?  Can you give us a primer?  Vampyres 101?

Vampyres are a kind of animal. They prey on humans and reproduce through the exchange of blood.  They have enemies, as every predator is prey to something.

 Your relationship with Raven is very special.  Why Raven?  What draws you to her?

In short, she’s beautiful and she has an exceptional mind. I’m drawn to her character and her very being.

 What does Raven mean to you?

It can’t be put into words.

Raven was able to get you to watch a film with her.  The Godfather.  Has she been trying to introduce you to other modern wonders?  What has captured your interest so far?

The film was interesting, to a point. She tried to get me to watch Star Wars, which reminded me very much of the Middle Ages. Jawas are Franciscans and the Jedi are Jesuits. I had trouble identifying the Benedictines and Dominicans.

When did you learn to ride a motorcycle?

 Many years ago.

What made you choose a Triumph as your motorcycle of choice?

A respectable vampyre wouldn’t choose anything else. It has to do with the way the bike handles and also the sound of the motor. Ducatis and Harley Davidsons simply can’t compete.

 Do you ever drive cars?  Which would you prefer—an Italian car, like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, or a British car, say, an Aston Martin or Lotus?

I’ve driven cars in the past – I favour Ferrari. But I prefer my motorcycle.

 Quickfire thoughts on the following:

 Anne Rice – Gifted

Bram Stoker – A paid propagandist

Women’s Fashion – I am more interested in what my woman looks like under her clothes …

Honor – Priceless

Love – Immortal

I can only imagine that Sylvain Reynard is a wonderful guide through your adventures.  We know you’re not fond of Dante, but SR does resemble Virgil in his own way. Can you describe your relationship with SR?

If he were the one responsible for revealing our secrets, I’d say his life would be very short-lived. Perhaps someone ought to advise him of this.

I’d like to thank the Prince for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview.  If you’ll excuse me, I think I might need to send a note of warning to Mr. Reynard….

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Book Review: The Raven, by Sylvain Reynard

The Raven

By Sylvain Reynard

Publication Date: February 3, 2015

Review by Sarabeth Pollock

 

When the sun goes down in Florence, the Prince of Florence awakens.

In Sylvain Reynard’s novella The Prince, we met the mysterious Prince of Florence.  Now in The Raven we learn more about the mysterious Prince and we also meet a woman who captivates him in a most unexpected way.

It’s May of 2013 and the Prince of Florence has just retrieved his prized collection of illustrations from the Uffizi Gallery.  They’re not copies, as Professor Gabriel Emerson believes.  They’re original drawings by Sandro Botticelli, and they had been stolen over a century prior.  But just as the Prince is about to celebrate, he hears a woman’s screams and he smells blood.  The vampyre rushes off to make sure he’s the first one to find her.

Raven Wood is an art restorer at the Uffizi Gallery.  On this night she’s walking home from a party when everything changes.   A week goes by that she can’t remember.  Raven wakes up and is literally a completely different person on the outside.  She also discovers that the Uffizi has been robbed, and she’s at the top of the suspect list.  It isn’t helping things that her disability no longer exists and she looks like a completely different person.

In the meantime, the Emerson Family-Professor Gabriel Emerson, wife Julianne, and daughter Clare-have arrived in Florence as the police search for clues in the robbery.  Little do they know, they’re being watched by a dark presence who presides over Florence when the sun goes down.

The Raven is a departure from the paranormal romance genre in that while the love story between Raven and the Prince (whose true identity is revealed in the book) is a large part of the plot, there are many other elements that come to the fore.  Salvation, hope, redemption, faith…these all play a central role in the story.  There’s also the political system at work in the vampyre world; the Prince of Florence reigns over the Consilium, a council of vampyre elders who serve their Prince much like a presidential cabinet.  There are rumors of hostility from neighboring provinces that keep the Prince in a state of constant vigilance, and when he finds himself falling for Raven, he knows that she will always be a target among his kind.  However, the Prince finds that his Cassita is worth fighting for.

The best thing about having my own blog is that when I write a review, I can say whatever I like.  Normally I try to stay as objective as possible.  But not today.  I love this book.  This book appeals to me on so many levels.  I love the characters, I love the story, and I love how the story is woven within the history of Florence to such an extent that Florence herself has become a central character.  Sylvain Reynard’s writing is magical that way. I’m not even sure that paranormal romance is a suitable descriptor for this new series.  It’s literary fiction, with a splash of paranormal romance, intermingled with historical fiction.  The lush prose and vivid imagery are utterly captivating.  The only real comparisons I can draw to other authors in the genre who write with such attention to detail are Anne Rice and Deborah Harkness.  I have spent the past weeks imagining the Prince and Raven and wondering what will happen next.  It isn’t often that characters capture my imagination so thoroughly, but Raven and the Prince have.

I am eager to see what Sylvain Reynard has in store for his Florentine Series.

 

Click here to read Part One of my interview with Sylvain Reynard

Click here to read Part Two of my interview with Sylvain Reynard

Click here to buy The Raven

Click here to buy The Prince

An Interview with Sylvain Reynard, Author of The Prince

I had the pleasure of interviewing New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard about his new Florentine Series, debuting with The Prince on January 20, 2015.  He was kind enough to provide some insight into the creation of The Prince and the Prince’s world, as well as a glimpse of what’s to come in The Raven (released February 3, 2015).

 

Your novels are incredibly detailed and thoroughly researched.  Clearly, research is a labor of love for you.  What was your favorite subject growing up?

Thank you for the invitation to talk with you, Sarabeth. It’s a pleasure to be with you and your readers. I’ve always enjoyed literature and history and any opportunity to combine them.

How did your passion for art, art history, history, and Italy begin?

It probably began with my family. Over the years, my interests have developed through my travels. I enjoy visiting museums. I enjoy reading about art and history. I’m always eager to spend time in Italy.

 If you were hosting a dinner party and could invite any five people from any point in time, dead or alive, who would you invite and why?

I really like these kinds of questions.

 Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Mother Teresa, and St. Francis of Assisi. I have no idea what kind of dinner conversation would emerge out of such a diverse group, but I think the discussions about literature, culture, religion, and history would be well worth listening to.

 After writing a very successful trilogy of romance novels, what led you to venture into the world of paranormal romance?

The Florentine Series began with the city of Florence.  The city is filled with alleys, and at night the dark corners and shadows seem to move …

 Now that you’ve entered the realm of paranormal romance, which genre do you enjoy writing more?

Truthfully, I enjoy them both. But the paranormal world allows greater freedom for the imagination.

Some authors see vampires as a metaphor.  I like to think of vampires as a narrative tool to explore history from a first-person perspective.  What made you decide to write about vampires?  

I’ve always been fascinated about the science fiction aspect to vampire transformations – how a vampire is made, what a vampire is, how they feed, etc. The series gave me an opportunity to develop my own answers to these questions.

In the Gabriel Series there are no traces of the supernatural (with the exception of a few very realistic dreams/visions), and with the Florentine Series you’ve created a whole new supernatural world that exists parallel to the human world.  Your novella,The Prince, serves as an introduction to the Prince while we also get to see another side of the Emersons’ trip to the opening of their exhibit at the Uffizi Gallery.  (We saw the mysterious Prince meet the Emersons’  in Gabriel’s Redemption) What inspired you to bring these two worlds together as opposed to writing a standalone series?

I have a slightly different take on The Gabriel Series. While it’s written as contemporary romance, there are supernatural elements in it if the reader chooses to accept them as such. It’s just that those elements can be interpreted without invoking the supernatural.

From that perspective, then, it wasn’t a stretch to delve more deeply into the supernatural in The Florentine Series. But my starting point was the way the city of Florence changes after sunset. I wanted to move from light to darkness and explore what was going on in the shadows and the hidden passages beneath the city …

With the release of The Prince, you create a new world that’s not simply a group of vampyres trying to blend into their surroundings, but a complex society with rules and a governance structure of its own.   I’m always intrigued with the process authors use to build the canon that shapes these worlds.  Can you talk about the elements you considered when creating this new world, and what factors were most important to you?

I read an article some time ago about world building, which I found extremely helpful. It reminded me that when you construct a fictional world, you have to pay attention to details. You have to think through various problems and their solutions. You have to be thorough.

 So I wanted to be clear on what vampyrism is, how it occurs and how it works. I wanted to figure out what the connection was between sex and feeding and if a vampire could feel love.  I was also concerned with the way vampires constructed their societies and why they kept out of sight.

Vampires (and vampyres) have been heavily featured in popular fiction, especially of late; Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris have all created worlds in which their vampires coexist with humans.  In some of these worlds the supernatural beings blend in and go unnoticed, while Charlaine Harris’ vampires have been “outed” and flaunt their preternatural prowess.  The Prince lives in the shadows and has very few interactions with humans.  He’s aloof and doesn’t seem to care about the human world around him inasmuch as human affairs don’t interrupt his life.  (Until his stolen property resurfaces and Raven comes along…) Which elements of vampire lore were important for you to keep in your world?

I wanted to take much of the physical traits of the standard myth and incorporate them into my narrative, while allowing myself freedom to explore different social organizations and behaviours. So, for example, the covens I envision exist in cities for the most part, and they’re organized into principalities, not democracies.

I also believed it was essential to have an explanation for why vampires hadn’t taken over the earth and enslaved humanity. Something or someone had to keep them in check.  As the Prince says, “Every predator is prey to something.”

The Prince is a complex character.  While he enjoys his power as a vampyre and his role governing Florence, he is also conflicted.  “The Prince retained some vestige of a moral code…He possessed a moral code because he’d never been able to abandon aspects of the code he observed when he was human…More specifically, he did not take goodness from the world.  At least, not intentionally.” (The Prince, p. 13)  Can you talk about how you developed this character?  Was he modeled on anyone in particular?  Why was it important that he possess a moral code?

Part of the Prince’s biography and personal history explains why he has a code. But from my perspective as an author, I wanted to explore moral ambiguity in his character. On the one hand, the Prince is a villain. On the other, he has many admirable and you might even say virtuous qualities. He has moral rules that he follows and he imposes those rules on his citizens.

I think that makes him more interesting (and hopefully more compelling to readers) than a completely amoral villain.

 He’s a creature of my imagination but he has features in common with several of the historical figures mentioned in the novel.

Whose voice is more fun to write, Professor Emerson or the Prince?

 They’re both fun in their own way. But there’s something about writing the Professor when he’s offended or angry that truly gives me joy.

Are there any aspects of your personality in Gabriel or the Prince?

Many.

From where did you derive your inspiration for the Consilium?  Will we learn more about the other council members and the mysterious Curia? 

Yes, absolutely. As the series progresses, both the Consilium and the Curia will become increasingly more important. 

I was trying to imagine what a wise ruler would do when he’s inherited a principality while at the same time human history (at least in the west) has long since moved past that institution. It occurred to me he’d try to include some measure of shared governance and so the idea for the Consilium was born.

As someone who keeps a copy of Machiavelli’s version of The Prince on her desk (I find it helps me deal with my students…), is that really Niccolo Machiavelli?!  How did you come up with that?

I’m glad you noticed that. I was wondering if readers would pick up on it.

Machiavelli and his writings provide a lot of inspiration for The Prince and The Raven.  Just as Dante guided The Gabriel Series, I wanted to choose a famous Florentine to guide my new series. For some time, I debated including Botticelli on the Consilium but in the end, he wasn’t as compelling a character as Machiavelli.  And so, for fun, I included him..  But you’ve probably already picked up on the fact that the Prince and Machiavelli have their differences …

In early January you announced a project with Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James.  Is there anything you can share about this project? 

 Last year, she and I collaborated on a short writing project. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed writing it with her. She’s a great friend and we worked well together.

It’s wonderful, as a fan, to see how you frequently interact with your fans through social media.  You also use your platform as an author to promote charitable organizations that you support, which is incredibly refreshing and admirable.  There are some pop culture “icons” (envision me saying this with a lip-curling sneer) that use their celebrity to promote their shoe lines or sell products.  You’re very different.  What are some of the ways you would encourage the people reading this interview to get involved in their communities?  (Might I suggest organizing a blood drive in honor of The Prince?)

I’m in favor of organizing the blood drive. That’s a great idea. I tweet about the Red Cross and their services around the world because they do good work.

In order for community involvement to be successful and sustainable it has to come from the heart. Choose a cause you’re passionate about and use your gifts to support that cause. It’s that easy.  Forced charity isn’t sustainable. But giving to an organization your respect and admire is. And your gift doesn’t have to include money. Most charitable organizations are in need of volunteers or gifts of talents and services.  Give of your time and your talents because those are the unique way in which you can help your community.

Lastly, I want to thank you for writing books that are driven by so much more than sex.  (Though parenthetically it must be said that your sex scenes are incendiary)  I stand by the notion that your books transcend classification; they’re much more than simply romance or paranormal romance.  Your erudite writing style entices readers into the world of Dante and the city of Florence.  Can you recommend a few books for those of us who would like to learn more about the Prince’s world?

There are a lot of books about Florentine history and culture. You can read Vasari’s “Lives of the Artists, or Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” or various histories of the Medici family. I’d also recommend the works of Ross King, who wrote about Michelangelo and Brunelleschi. 

 There’s a great documentary about the Medici produced by PBS entitled “Godfathers of the Renaissance.” I recommend it.

 Thank you so much for doing this interview, Mr. Reynard!                                                                

It was my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me and all the best to your readers, SR

 

Part 2 of my interview with Sylvain Reynard will be posted on February 3 to coincide with the release of The Raven.

To purchase The Prince, click here.

To pre-order The Raven, click here.