Anne Rice Interview: "Vampire Chronicles" Author Returns to the Big Story of the Tribe in "Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis"
Image attributed to Michael Lionstar
New Orleans native Anne Rice has authored over 30 novels, and is perhaps best known for her popular and influential series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, revolving around the central character of Lestat. Two of the books in this series, Interview with the Vampire (1994) and Queen of the Damned (2002) were subjects of film adaptations.
Rice has also authored Christian literature with the novels Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, fictionalized accounts of certain incidents in the life of Jesus, the former adapted as the film The Young Messiah, which was released in early 2016. Rice’s books have sold about 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history.
“I think what your readers always want from you is for you to do your best, but there’s no question that they like some books better than others. So, it’s going to be exciting. There’s nothing like it. It’s the most fun gamble in the world, to write a book, to put it out there and to see how people respond. It’s very much fun. It really is.”
The bestselling author and her beloved Prince Lestat return with a new mythical setting in her 36th book, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, to be released November 29, 2016.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anne, is Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis the book that was originally titled Blood Paradise?
Anne Rice: Yes. I should stop giving out titles early on (laughs). The titles change, and I get so enthusiastic and think, “Oh, this is the title!” Then, of course, it changes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was your vision for this book?
Anne Rice: First and foremost, I wanted to pick up the story of my vampire hero and the whole tribe. I didn’t want to go back to the kind of memoir books I’d written where I focus on one vampire and how he or she became a vampire. I wanted to move forward with the entire tribe. Lestat’s now the Prince, and he’s accepted that, and he’s got the responsibility. So, I was looking from the get-go at a novel about the challenges he now faces, and I had been working in the meantime on a novel about Atlantis for years.
I had a lot of material, a lot of characters and a lot of scenes that I really loved, but I wasn’t able to find a way to present the novel. I could go into it at length, but it has to do with effective point of view and effective storytelling. I had the story, but I just didn’t know how to deliver it. Then, I began to think about combining the two worlds, and magic happened for me. It all caught fire. I saw immediately how to do it.
I saw how to introduce my strange, immortal survivors of Atlantis to the world and introduce their point of view to the world. It just was like magic for me. All the material I had on Atlantis went right into this book. It’s all there, and I was able to combine it with a story I thought that was exciting for me and suspenseful about how the vampires coped with this new passel of information, this new threat to their survival.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That is why you describe the book as one of your greatest personal adventures?
Anne Rice: Yeah. It really was. This happened to me once before. It happened with the book Memnoch the Devil. I had a novel there in my heart and soul about a man recruited by the devil to be his helper. It just hadn’t worked. It hadn’t come together. Then, when I thought of Lestat being the person to be recruited by the devil, the same thing happened. Magic. It all came to life. So, this was a bit like that.
Another thing that I found very satisfying about this was that it took me back to the big story of the tribe. I had tackled the whole tribe in Queen of the Damned, and then I veered away from that responsibility again and had written individual memoir books. This took me back to that moment.
I really wanted to do a big book that was exciting, thrilling and suspenseful with a big cast of characters. I wanted that storytelling, that spectacle. For me, that is why this is so exciting because I was able to do all of that or even able to attempt it. You never know really what you’ve succeeded in doing until your readers tell you, but I feel like I got a chance to attempt it like mad all over the place, and I was thrilled.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You took a break from the vampires for several years?
Anne Rice: Well, Prince Lestat starts it off. It really does. But, before that, I had given up on my vampires. I’d sort of moved away from them in 2003. I couldn’t think of any new stories for them. They weren’t speaking to me. I associated them with a depression, a lot of suffering and personal darkness, and that changed. Over by about an eight-year period, it changed dramatically. I began to see all kinds of new possibilities, and Prince Lestat was the result of all that.
The thing that made it possible to go back to that was bringing them into the modern world, the world of the Internet, the world of Internet radio, Internet surveillance and the digital world. I was able to say, “Well, okay. What are they doing out there? If the Internet is helping everybody else to come together, if it’s helping everybody else to reach out and lock hands all over the globe, what’s it doing for immortals? What’s it doing for ghosts and vampires and werewolves? If these creatures are living in the dark all around us, how’s it impacting them? Think of this tool. We’re using this Internet to reach an immortal you’ve lost contact with 500 years ago that still might be out there.” This has been a very exciting reboot of the whole thing for me, Prince Lestat and this book.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): On Facebook, you wrote, “I developed a theory that the author must kill one person if they are to survive the end of the book. If they don’t kill someone, they themselves will sink into a deep depression and may not survive.” Is this something you believe?
Anne Rice: You know, that was something I believed early on. I don’t know if I believe it now. But, I believed it early on when I wrote Interview with the Vampire. I was thinking about how depressing it can be to withdraw from a book. Tolstoy wrote about this after he finished Anna Karenina. He went into a deep, dark depression, and it was during that time, I think, that he converted to Christianity.
I often wondered about that, about the depression that can overcome you. This wouldn’t be true of Tolstoy because Anna Karenina died, obviously, but it would seem to me that when I tried to make Interview with the Vampire work the first time before it was published and everybody survived, that I had been deeply, darkly depressed. When I went at it the second time and faced the deep roots of the story and that Claudia had to die for me to be an honest novelist, I was able to get out of the book with a little better frame of mind.
So, that was a theory. That was about the creative mind’s ability to create a universe, and then withdraw from that universe when a book is finished. I’m not sure I was right. It was just a very dramatic way that I could talk about my feelings. If you look at all the novels you love and enjoy, a lot of those novels do involve a death. It’s very hard for the story to come to a conclusion without somebody perishing, even with Jane Eyre, that book I love so much. Essentially, the woman in the attic perishes dramatically and horribly, and that’s the only way Jane and Rochester can go on.
If you look at a book like Great Expectations, the other novel I love with my whole heart, Miss Havisham perishes, and that’s the way Estella and Pip can go on. So, I was thinking a lot about that, about how you manage it psychologically. But, I don’t know that I was right with my iron clad rule there. I guess you could say that rule was indicative of how I think about these things. I’m always asking myself these questions.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know you supported Hillary Clinton for president. What are your thoughts on Donald Trump’s victory?
Anne Rice: I don’t have any right now. I think I have to take a deep breath. I’m not eager to hear everybody’s immediate explanations. I turned off the voices on the news for a while. I’ll go back in a few weeks when we’ve had time to digest things. I think we’ve got some great political commentators in America today. We call them pundits and get flippant about them, but they often keep us sane, trying to interpret for us what’s going on.
It’s too soon to know why he won. I think the main thing right now is to cope with the fact that he did win, and we have to go forward. I’m already thinking about who’ll crop up in four years, and what do we do with the mid-term election? I’m a committed Democrat. I’m a progressive liberal. I come from the working class. I’ve always seen being a Democrat as being the right response to my working class roots. It’s rather odd for me to be faced with the idea that the Republican Party speaks for the working class because that’s not been my experience in America. It’s kind of curious to see that connection now.
With regard to Trump, I think one thing that’s very clear is the man really isn’t a Republican. He’s not. So, he may not feel bound at all to any platform of the party. That may be good and that might be bad. We’ll have to see how willing he is to actually speak for the people who put him in power. He may surprise everybody. He may prove more progressive and liberal than people expect.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): He was a Democrat for many years.
Anne Rice: Oh, sure. It was clear that he ran on a Republican ticket, but he wasn’t a Republican. I don’t know. Right now, for me, the important thing is we come together, we acknowledge that he won, and we find a way to go forward. We are still faced with the same problems. How do we get people universal healthcare? How do we get people a good living wage? How do we help people to share in the American dream? Those things are the same now as they were before the election.
We’re confronted with all that, and I’m a very practical person at root. I want to see the system work. I agree with Obama. We want this man to succeed because if he succeeds, America will succeed.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Right now, there’s a divisive atmosphere with some protesting Trump’s win, so unity may not happen in the near future.
Anne Rice: I tend to take a long view of those things, you know? I see protest as part of America. It has been a part of America all my life. I came of age in the 60s in California, and I saw anti-war protests and Civil Rights protests. That’s part of America. That’s natural. People are going to protest. I hope they do it non-violently. I hope they do it in a law abiding way, but I’m not unhappy to see that. It’s part of the process. It means they care.
The main thing is we will have an orderly transfer of power. We always do. That’s what keeps us who we are, 240 years of a peaceful transfer of power every four or eight years or whatever. I’m fine with the protests. I just see that as part of America, part of what we do. Do I sound too optimistic? (laughs)
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, you do sound quite optimistic (laughs).
Anne Rice: I’ve been accused of it. I’ve been called a Pollyanna. But, I really do see the bright side of all this. I’m 75 years old, and I remember when we had riots all over this country, when the national guard was stationed in Berkeley, California, by the thousands. We’ve been through worse times than this. We’ve been through more divided, more polarized times than this. I think we will get through this.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about your book tour.
Anne Rice: We’re going to New York to do some signings there. Then, we’re coming to San Francisco and down to Los Angeles to do more. We’ll also go to Arizona. That’s basically it. It’s New York first, and then the west coast, even eventually San Diego. One problem with this tour this year is this book being published so late in the winter.
It’s close to Christmas, and the bookstores do their greatest businesses this time of year. They’re really not eager to have a lot of signings because they have so much foot traffic anyway, and I think, for that reason, we’re doing a kind of brief tour. We know that the readers really do want signed books, and I love that and I love seeing them. But, we don’t have the opportunity to do the longer tour that we might’ve done at a different time of the year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you make it to New Orleans?
Anne Rice: No, not this year. I was there the last three years. I went to the Vampire Ball that my wonderful fan club puts on. It’s actually Lestat’s fan club, but they put the ball on every year, as they have for decades, and they do a beautiful job. They’ve already had their ball. They did it Halloween weekend. I just didn’t get to go, and I won’t be going down there for any signings, but I did sign a whole passel of books for Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, so they will have those signed books to offer. That’s my old neighborhood bookstore.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have an idea for the next Lestat book?
Anne Rice: Oh, yeah. I wanted to go right on with the story of Lestat and the tribe and how he deals with the people from Atlantis. I feel that this book, The Realms of Atlantis, opened a lot of doors, and I want to just go right on. I love writing what I call the “big” books. By big, I don’t necessarily mean they’re that much longer, but that it has many different characters, many different points of view. I want to keep working with all that. There are characters that were born in this book that I really want to carry to the next one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any updates on the whole series of Vampire Chronicles coming to the big screen?
Anne Rice: I just know what everybody else knows that Universal has the rights and that they’ve hired Josh Boone, a wonderful director and screenwriter, to do a script, and Josh is working on that script. I don’t have any private intelligence, just what everybody knows. Josh Boone is the director of the movie The Fault in Our Stars, which was very successful. He’s that wonderful combination of script writer/director, so you’ve got great creative hope wrapped up in that one person. But, I don’t have any updates. I know the studio is committed, and Imagine Entertainment (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer) are the producers, and they’re very committed to this project.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): These things move very slowly, unfortunately.
Anne Rice: They do. And, you hear a lot of Internet rumors, but they’re just rumors. I don’t really know any secret thing about casting or plans. I do get the vibe that they want this to be a big movie. That’s what the studios are doing now, what they call tent-pole projects and this franchise is a big tent-pole project.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you found a new favorite guilty pleasure since Downton Abbey ended?
Anne Rice: (laughs) Yes, I have. I tell you what it is. It’s a British detective series where they drink a lot of tea out of bone china cups. I just went through a lot of Inspector Lewis, the episodes that take place in Oxford, England, and now I’m into Midsomer Murders. It’s wonderful. The series started in 1998, I think, and I just went back to season one, and then finished it.
I’m deep into it every night, and it’s taking my mind off the world by watching DCI Barnaby in Midsomer County in England solve some ridiculous, dramatic, over-the-top murder in some small village (laughs). It’s just wonderfully distracting. What would I do without the Brits?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Indeed (laughs). How’s your son, Christopher?
Anne Rice: Christopher’s doing great! He’s working on a new novel, and he’s going to travel with me on this tour a little bit. He’s traveling on the California leg with me. When we go to Arizona, I’ll be with him and also in San Diego. He’s just doing very well.
I’m so thrilled that my son went into the family business. We’re fellow writers. We have this wonderful bond. I’m very proud of him and all he’s achieved. He’s just now really at the age that I was when Interview with the Vampire was published. He’s a little older, but he’s just now in his mid-30s, and I didn’t publish anything until I was 35. He has a track record already, so that’s kind of interesting.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Final thoughts on Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, Anne?
Anne Rice: Well, this is a suspenseful period for a writer. I’m eager to see what happens. My readers will tell me. They’ll tell me in a very short time how they feel about this and how they respond. I’ve learned enough over the years to know you get that response and feedback over a period of time. It doesn’t come to you the first week. It doesn’t come the first month. You get it over a period of maybe a year. You get to see how your readers have responded.
I think what your readers always want from you is for you to do your best, but there’s no question that they like some books better than others. So, it’s going to be exciting. There’s nothing like it. It’s the most fun gamble in the world, to write a book, to put it out there and to see how people respond. It’s very much fun. It really is.
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