Anne Rice is without a doubt one of the most iconic authors of modern day. Her works ranging from gothic fiction, erotica, and Christian literature have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Her latest installment in The Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat, is slated for release October 28, 2014.
What was it like growing up in New Orleans? What are some of your most fond memories of those days?
I was born in 1941 and it was another world — before electric refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners or air conditioning in homes. And my fond memories revolve around seeing the great changes that shaped the later Twentieth Century. I remember the first television introduced into our home with its tiny 6 inch screen, and little black and white picture. I remember when the great screen porches on Southern houses were removed or glassed in as air conditioning took over. New Orleans is a city of 18th and 19th century architecture, and it has an extraordinary atmosphere for an American city, and feels in ways like a Caribbean port. All that filled me with delight.
Can you tell us a little about Alice Allen? Did she leave a lasting impression on you in regards to being strong when faced with the challenges of the world?
My grandmother Alice Allen was a great role model, a strong elderly lady who worked tirelessly in the home squeezing oranges, preparing vegetables, sweeping, cleaning, cooking the daily meals, ironing the sheets, and the clothes, and she was very refined and very proper. She wore only black, or black and white dresses, and usually a black straw hat with flowers when she went out. She was a staunch Catholic, and gentle and loving with children. She invited us to help with the chores, made it fun, and provided love and security. She was an anchor in the home, always there. Yes, her strength has influenced my entire life.
What was it like when you first met Stan in High School? What did you love about him most?
He was handsome and brilliant, uncommonly brilliant. Unusual. He had elfin features, and was very tall and had an athletic grace. He was a fine student. I found him enchanting. I think “unique” is the word that captures him perfectly. There simply was no one else like him, no one who spoke so fluidly and with such crisp articulation, who read interesting novels, who questioned traditional religious beliefs with such intellect. He was sixteen, you understand. He swept me off my feet.
As someone who has lived through the death of both their soul mate and their child, what advice would offer others when it comes to dealing with such deep loss? Do you think love is the one thing we both leave behind and take with us when we go?
Losses are part of life, and we learn this more truly with each one. Seeing someone die is perhaps the only really supernatural event we witness in our lives. When life goes out of the person, it is truly all over in some unfathomable way. We have to be strengthened by this experience, and we have to let the grief flow. Modern life is too hard on the grieving. Grief is important. Yes, love is essential to a well lived life, but I do believe in an afterlife, and that it is a place of understanding and answers.
Do you think love is a must when dealing with the hardness of the world today?
Without question. As W.H. Auden wrote in his poem, September 1st, 1939, “We must love one another or die.” In the West we are now in an era where the dominant theme of life is love, and how to love effectively. Competition for resources, resolving political conflicts, all is now being tempered and tested by standards that involve love.
What do you enjoy most about the act of writing?
I love most creating fictional worlds in which I can feel vital and work out all the problems of my life without thinking about them consciously.
What does it take to bring worlds to life by using your words? Is that a difficult task to learn?
I never learned how to bring worlds to life with words. It’s always been natural to me. I have a good ear for speech, for stories being told, a good “ear” for the prose I read, the storytelling in books, and when I write, it just pours out naturally. I fall into storytelling as if I was born to do it.
Are there any little known things about yourself that your readers might be surprised hear?
Not sure. I tend to post about just about everything that interests me on Facebook. I think my readers are used to hearing me hold forth on my obsessions. They know I love hard rock music and TV shows like The Waltons. They accept me for who I am. My fiction is shocking. But they accept it too.
Your work touches on the occult and things that cannot be explained. Why do you think such things appeal to so many people?
We ourselves are “occult” mysteries. We feel immortal though we are not; we sense that we have souls though we cannot prove that we have souls; we are witnesses to the process of a vast universe, yet we ourselves are so tiny as to be less than a nano particle in the universe. So “occult” literature is about us in symbolic ways. We are all vampires, ghosts, monsters.
Are you excited to be releasing Prince Lestat onto the world? What can the reader expect from this one?
The reader can expect a book set right now in the present time, and a book of huge scope. It’s not just about my beloved hero, Lestat. It’s about all his fellow vampires in the Twenty-first Century and the challenges they face in the information age, an age of ubiquitous video surveillance, and internet investigatory power. It’s a novel of love and loss and also modern challenges for my romantic characters.
What was it like to have Universal acquire to movie rights for The Vampire Chronicles? Any chance we will ever get to see the Mayfair Witches on screen?
Any license of movie rights is exciting but involves risk. The readers are passionate and want any movie to be faithful to the books; they look to me to see that this is done; and that means I must not betray their trust. I must do my utmost to do what I can to see the films are faithful. I love film and I want to see great films made based on my work. There is interest in the Mayfair Witches. Perhaps something will happen soon.
Of all your series do you have one you hold most dear or do you like them all equally?
My two Christ the Lord novels contain the best writing I think I’ve ever done. But my Vampire Chronicles series is dear to my heart for its intensity, the long continuity of experience I’ve had with it, and my deep devotion to my hero Lestat.
How have you changed most as you have grown older? What words of wisdom would leave to others on the subject?
I hope I’ve learned to be more patient with others, not to be so angry and irritable with those I don’t understand. I am an optimist, and as I advance in age I really do feel ever more strongly that most people, as Anne Frank said, are basically good. We have to allow our opponents their good intentions. We have to love. We have to acknowledge that kindness, no matter how hard or how mundane it seems, can save this world.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My friend, novelist, Floyd Salas, told me as a writer to “Go where the pain is.” This was the best writer’s advice I ever received. As for life itself, my mother’s advice, that pain could make you callous to the suffering of others, or highly sensitive to the suffering of others….this was an excellent and helpful observation. I believe with my whole heart she wanted me to be highly sensitive to the pain of others. And though I fail at this, I keep trying.
What do you think is the key to a life well lived?
To love deeply and as Hemingway said, to know when you’re getting your money’s worth. Know how to be happy. Know how to recognize happiness when you are experiencing it. Know how to relax into love and into happiness. If you can’t do that, you may miss the greatest experiences and rewards of your life.
What are your personal feelings on ghosts and such? Do you believe the essence of a person lives on long after their body ceases to do so? What are your feelings on the afterlife?
I don’t know the truth on any of it. This is what I believe. Yes, there are ghosts. So many have seen them and reported on them throughout history, that we can conclude, yes, there are ghosts. My personal belief is that we are body and spirit; and when we die, our spirit ascends to another realm. However in some cases, the spirit may remain earthbound. It may remain earthbound as a ghost, and it may haunt or it may linger for any number of reasons, both positive and negative. But with most people, the spirit leaves the earthly realm. However it can at times still communicate with those on earth, and this sometimes happens. But what really happens after death? I have no idea.
The Near Death Experience research gives us very interesting clues into what may happen after death —- that we pass into a realm where we learn new things, reunite with those we loved on Earth, learn answers to questions that tormented us, and have new opportunities to develop. The most interesting thing about the Near Death Experience material worldwide is that it points to a “beyond” which is a place of change, and advancement. This is the opposite of the Christian Belief system which sees all learning and advancement as finished at death.
How do you hope to be remembered when your own time comes?
I hope I’m remembered for my novels, for writing books that had a strong impact on people, novels that transcended any genre and will live on in people’s minds and hearts.
Anything you’d like to say in closing?
Only that my appreciation of the Gift of Life increases every day. Once I heard a woman say on television, “Life is hard but life is worth it.” I never forgot that. She is so right. I’ve lived an extraordinary life and I continue to have extraordinary experiences. I’m grateful for all of it.
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