Anne Rice revives vampiresin new book

Anne Rice began writing vampire books long before novels about blood-drinking immortals became a major category.

Her first, “Interview with the Vampire” begun more than 40 years ago, was published in 1976, three and a half years after her 5-year-old daughter succumbed to leukemia.

During the past decade, as the “Twilight” series spawned a reawakening of the dark genre, Rice has been eerily absent on the vampire front. That changed this week with the publication of her first Vampire Chronicles book since 2003’s “Blood Canticle.”

Rice hasn’t been exactly silent: She’s written books about everything from Jesus Christ to werewolves. The new book, “Prince Lestat,” released Oct. 28, is narrated by Lestat, one of Rice’s strongest and most charismatic vampires.

A native of New Orleans, Rice attended San Francisco State University and lived for several years in San Francisco. She appears in conversation with her son, Christopher Rice, author of “The Vines,” at Santa Rosa High School’s auditorium on Nov. 11 as part of a book tour.

Rice, 73, spoke with the Press Democrat by phone from her home near Palm Springs earlier this month. Here are highlights from this interview with the vampire author.

On why Rice’s vampires returned: “I wanted Lestat to come back, and he came back with a vengeance. I would say he came back with a great deal of passion and strength. I was really delighted.

“I wanted this to be a big book, a book about the whole tribe, not just him, but about all the vampires and what they’re doing in the present time. This book is about the present moment. It’s about 2014 and what’s going on the world and how my paranormal characters are dealing with that.

“My earlier books were often set back in the past where they (the characters) were completely confined to a historical setting. But now I’m interested in bringing all my characters into life as we know it.”

On Lestat’s will to live: “Lestat is very special. He’s a character that I can’t really force to come through. I have to really court that character, and then when I really get with him, his voice will just pour out of me as though I’m channeling it from someplace else.

“He’s a character of my imagination, but it feels like he’s talking through me. He’s out there... and when he decides to show up, he won’t be denied.

“You never know at the start of a writing career what you are going to discover. For me it has all been an adventure, and what I have discovered was these characters. And he is the strongest of them all.”

On the humanity of her characters: “I care very much about connecting with the reader. And I love writing in the first-person voice of a character, whether it’s Jesus in my Christ novels or Lestat in The Vampire Chronicles. I love appealing to the reader in a very warm and direct way.”

On Dickens’ influence: “I first encountered (first-person narration) when reading Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations,’ when Pip starts telling his story.

“And ‘David Copperfield’ (was) a huge, huge book in my life. David starts talking and says: ‘Whether I will be the hero of my own life.’ And he pours out his story.”

On growing up around books: “We did have a lot of books in our house. My father was an avid reader; so was my mother. My father took me the library when we were little kids and got us library cards. My mother read poetry to us. She read novels.

“And then in the school library I discovered the work of the Bronte sisters... I did finally encounter a bookstore when I was 16 or 17, but I don’t think I could afford anything in it.”

On whether her spiritual life affects her work: “Oh definitely, definitely, especially with Lestat. He’s always asking: ‘Why are we here, what are we doing, (and) are we doing the best we can?’

“He refuses to accept the idea that he is condemned or a monster. He knows these things are true, but he refuses to accept that definition of himself.

“He’s always looking for some sort of personal redemption, some way to pay homage to the fact that life is beautiful and worth living, and he doesn’t want to die. And to me, that’s the heart of the book.

“(Spirituality) just comes out, and a lot of readers don’t like it. You see criticisms of my books by people who say she puts too much God stuff in there.

“I can’t help it. It’s always going to be in what I write, whether it’s a bang-up vampire novel or a rip-roaring novel about a mummy that’s come back to life and having a romance with a woman in London. It’s just part of who I am, and I’m glad.”

On how losing her mother at an early age, the death of her young daughter and the passing of her husband have affected her work: “The loss of my mother when I was 14 or 15 was a deep, deep blow. I wanted to be a writer even when I was a child and my mother was the source of that inspiration.

“And I think I have always been writing for my mother in some way. Writing to be the writer that she wanted me to be. She brought me up believe that I could do anything.

“You become the writer of your dreams by living, suffering, losing, and breathing, and triumphing and surviving. It’s all part of it. I believe in writing instinctively and emotionally, and going where the pain is... and going where the pleasure is, too.

“I’ve never shied away from the pain or made it shut me down or let it stop me from writing. I go on writing no matter how bad it is. I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Michael Shapiro writes about books and entertainment for The Press Democrat. Contact him via his site:

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