She’s written a series of vampire novels that plunge her
readers into a darkly sensual world. She’s written what she
freely calls “hard-porn” novels. In The Witching Hour
and the just-released Lasher, she follows a line of incestuous
witches who are haunted by a centuries-old spirit.
It all may sound like unlikely material for best-selling novels,
but she has over 150 million books in print as well as a three-book,
$17 million contract with her current publisher, Knopf.
Her name is Anne Rice, and her recent Edmonton appearance at Greenwoods
Books drew upwards of 500 fans. The store and the publicists were
pleased, but so too was Rice, whose humble background can be traced
to “an intensely old-fashioned, Irish-Catholic” family
in New Orleans.
Wanted to play violin
“We went to mass every day,” Rice recalls during an
interview at the Hotel MacDonald, in front of a magnificent fireplace
she wishes were hers. “We had the Latin mass then. A couple
of aunts of mine were nuns. I had a cousin who was a priest, a
Rice says she was interested in vampires, witches and ghosts but
that she was by no means obsessed with the supernatural.
“I had many obsessions. I wanted to play the violin. I was
passionate about that, read every book in the library on violins.”
On a whim, Rice wrote a story told from a vampire’s point
of view in the mid-1970s. That story turned into the best-selling
Interview with a Vampire. Three more vampire novels followed: The
Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned and The Tale of the Body Thief.
“I had no idea there would be four vampire novels,” says
Rice. “I never thought of myself as one who would be writing
series of books. I thought of series as things like Edgar Rice
Burroughs and Tarzan. I realize that there’s a lot more to
it than that.”
Although Hollywood producers have long wanted to capture Rice’s
vampires on film, it wasn’t until this summer when David
Geffen and director Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves, The Crying
Game), that the project finally got under way.
Tom Cruise was chosen to star as Lestat, the “Brat Prince” of
vampires. Brad Pitt was cast as Louis, Lestat’s vampire friend
and narrator of the story. Rice’s opposition to Cruise as
Lestat has been widely publicized. She says the studio still has
not convinced her he’s right for the role, but she has softened
up on Brad Pitt.
“(Pitt) would not have been my first choice because he looks
so distinctly boyish in a Norman Rockwell way, but he’s wonderful,” Rice
says. “There’s a charisma and excitement and a mystery
in his eyes. I think he’s going to steal the picture. Well,
I wouldn’t say steal, he’s the star. Louis is the starring
role in Interview with a Vampire.”
Rice’s books appeal to teenagers, academics and everyone
in between. One of the reasons is her books are both brainy and
In the witch books, Rice explores the role of genetics in determining
— or not determining — our personalities. She explains the
spirit entity Lasher using cell biology, and traces the genetic
of the Mayfairs, an inbred family of witches.
“We’re finding out more and more in studies, but it’s
still a wonderfully delicious mystery as to what’s determined
and what’s inherited and so forth,” Rice says. “I
think there’s no accounting for people’s reaction to
their genetic heritage.”
This does not mean Rice thinks we aren’t responsible for
“I think we have to operate as if we have free will. That’s
the only honorable, creative, moral way to go through life.”
Sex is a featured element in all of Rice’s work. She says
she’s proud of the explicit novels she wrote under the names
Anne Rampling and A. N. Rocquelaure. One of those books, Exit to
Eden, is being made into a movie by director Garry Marshall.
“I wrote what I couldn’t find in the bookstores. I
wrote the erotica I believed in,” Rice explains. “I
had read a lot of pulp pornography and I was appalled at the guises
that the sensuous scenes were slipped under. (My books) were playing
with sexual fantasies in a safe context.”
Long time Anne Rice fans will notice that the vampire books and
the witch books share more than philosophical themes and sexy scenes.
Characters and storylines cross over. Look for a meeting of Lestat
and the Mayfair witches.
“I think of (William) Faulkner and that huge world he had,
that county, and the way they would live and how they would crop
up in his stories and novels, and I like to work with a huge world
That huge world has yielded an impressive output for Rice, who
has published sometimes gigantic books (the hardcover edition of
The Witching Hour was 961 pages long) at a rate of one a year.
Could it be the Queen of Immortality senses her own mortality?
“I want to do a book a year,” says the 52-year-old
writer. “That’s the schedule I put on myself. I want
these years to count very, very much. When a boxer’s in good
shape, he should box. When he reaches a certain age, he’s
not going to be able to do it, and there will definitely come an
age when things will be harder for me to do. I want to write when
my head’s teeming, and the fingers are moving. So I speed
up the schedule, even a little uncomfortably for my publisher at
Rice has already completed a sequel to Lasher, called Taltos.
She’s planning a sequel to her 1989 novel The Mummy and she
wants to write a book on the Talamasca, the secretive, fictional
organization that studies Lestat and the Mayfair witches.
“I’m besieged by images and ideas,” Rice says. “I’m
actually frustrated. I’m backed up. I’m behind in the
things I envision and want to do. It hasn’t always been that
way. Sometimes things have come more slowly. There was more fear
and insecurity on my part about being able to execute the vision
I saw, but now, I feel like a sports figure. It’s extremely
easy to perform while I have the capability.”
Random House Canada Ltd.