Anne Rice Interview: "Prince Lestat" Marks Renowned Author's Return to "The Vampire Chronicles"
Image attributed to Derek Shapton
Anne Rice was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the French Quarter provided the setting for the author’s first novel, Interview with the Vampire, published in 1976. The book was followed by a large number of widely popular sequels, collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles. A film adaptation was released in 1994, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Books from The Vampire Chronicles were also the subject of two film adaptations, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles in 1994 and The Queen of the Damned in 2002.
Rice was raised Catholic, but later became an atheist as a young adult. In the mid-2000s, following a return to Catholicism, she published 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. Several years later, Rice distanced herself from the church, but pledged that God remained central to her life. A film adaptation of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt is currently underway.
"I felt that when I finished Blood Canticle (2003) that I was finished. I thought that was it. I felt I didn’t have any more stories to tell for Lestat, and I associated him with a lot of different things that happened to me over the years, and I was moving on from that. I don’t know how to explain it except that I made a conscious choice to go back, to re-read the books, to think about him again and to see if his voice would come back to me if I had new stories to tell."
The bestselling author has also written two historical novels, The Feast of All Saints and Cry to Heaven, along with three erotic novels, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release (under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure). It was announced in September 2014 that Televisa USA had obtained the rights to adapt the trilogy into a television series.
Songs of the Seraphim and The Wolf Gift Chronicles are other series written by Rice in addition to several miscellaneous novels. Rice’s books have sold about 100 million copies. With her newest offering, Prince Lestat, to be released October 28, 2014, she has returned to The Vampire Chronicles. Rice is currently living in California only a few hours away from her son, Christopher, who has also authored several bestselling novels.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anne, I believe this is definitely your year!
Anne Rice: (laughs) There’s a lot happening.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you ever remember a time where so many things were happening for you at once?
Anne Rice: Well, this is extraordinary. No, I don’t think there has ever been a time before when this much has happened at the same time. It’s kind of nice.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have said that Lestat was an “alter-ego” of yours who is never far away in your thoughts, so why wait over ten years to continue the story?
Anne Rice: It’s hard to sum up in a few words. I felt that when I finished Blood Canticle (2003) that I was finished. I thought that was it. I felt I didn’t have any more stories to tell for Lestat, and I associated him with a lot of different things that happened to me over the years, and I was moving on from that. I don’t know how to explain it except that I made a conscious choice to go back, to re-read the books, to think about him again and to see if his voice would come back to me if I had new stories to tell.
I discovered that I had a ton of new stories to tell. I think it was good to lay off for ten years and to let the world change and let myself change and pass through a period of grief and spiritual exploration, and then go back and take a fresh look. I actually just about read all the Chronicles over again. I went through all the books, and it struck me right away. I was off and running with a book. If anything, it was too much material, too many things happening. Even now as I’m writing the next book, there’s just so much going on that I have to … it’s hard to choose a path.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is Prince Lestat actually a sequel to The Queen of the Damned as rumored?
Anne Rice: No. It’s really a sequel to everything. The vampires are in the present time, and it’s about how they’re coping with the year 2013, how they’re coping with everything going on right now. It’s a sequel to everything, but it’s the first book since The Queen of the Damned that actually takes up the entire tribe worldwide.
Many of the other books just dealt with one vampire’s life and one vampire’s memories and how he came to meet the others and so forth. This book is different in that it’s like The Queen of the Damned. It has a huge cast, and it goes all over the world. It really talks about all of them and how they’re dealing with a crisis at the moment.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The publisher has been attempting to keep the premise a secret, but that’s difficult to do in the Digital Age.
Anne Rice: Well, it is, but I haven’t seen any leaks I can truthfully say. If there are any, I haven’t run across them. Have you run across any leaks?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I did hear there were a couple of copies that showed up on eBay.
Anne Rice: Yeah, that I heard, too.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Other than that, most of the news articles cite, “the vampire world is in crisis,” to describe the story.
Anne Rice: That’s the summary the publisher released early on, and now they’ve released the first chapter. The first chapter is in the back of new paperback copies of the first three Vampire Chronicles, so a number of people have read that first chapter, but it’s really just the same as the summary. Lestat’s talking about what’s going on in the world at that time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The Vampire Chronicles will be coming to the big screen and produced by Imagine Entertainment?
Anne Rice: That’s the plan, yeah. That is definitely the plan.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would the film feature all of the books?
Anne Rice: I don’t know at this point exactly how they’re going to go reboot the series, but they do have access now to all of the books. This is something I felt very strongly about that if they were going to do this, they had to have access to all of it, and they do. This is what’s happening, and we’ll see. It’s in the early stages yet. It’s really early. They will probably be in some creative talks after Prince Lestat is published on October 28.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also have Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which has been filming for the past several weeks.
Anne Rice: Right. I am so excited about that. I cannot tell you how happy I am about that. To make an independent movie about Jesus as a little boy, that is not an easy thing to do in today’s world of Marvel comic book heroes. But that movie is rolling. They started principal photography a few weeks ago, and they were filming before that, getting various scenes in order. I am so excited! I wish I could drop everything and go to Rome and see what’s going on. These are wonderful people.
Cyrus Nowrasteh, the director, did this beautiful film, The Stoning of Soraya M, which I saw right before I got the call that they were interested in Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and I was so thrilled. I had just actually seen that movie and written a review on Amazon for it, and the phone rang. They said, “Cyrus Nowrasteh.” I thought, “I know who that is.” (laughs) The script was written by Betsy and Cyrus, a husband and wife team, and it’s a wonderful script.
They’re completely faithful to the novel, and they understood all my concerns that this be biblically faithful, that it be theologically faithful and that it be a movie that Jews and Christians could embrace, a movie about Jesus as a young Jewish boy growing up in a Jewish family in a Jewish society and what his world must’ve been like at age seven. I am just so happy about it. I’m totally thrilled!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You made no changes to the script?
Anne Rice: Oh no. They wrote the script, and then they conferred with me. They were wonderful in listening to my concerns, and frankly, I thought the script was just marvelous. I had a few comments about this and that or the other, and they were totally receptive. They did a terrific script. It’s just wonderful. I’m just delighted.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there a scheduled release date?
Anne Rice: They’re talking about releasing it in Easter 2016. Of course, I had hoped they’d release it in Christmas of 2015, but it takes time to do it and everything, so I don’t know. We’ll see what happens, just as long as it makes it to theaters. This is a movie that children can enjoy about Jesus. People have real doubts about taking children to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It was such a bloody movie focusing on Jesus’s passion. That was an understandable thing, but this movie is really about a little boy and his world, and he happens to be God and man. He happens to be Jesus. I hope it will be a movie that kids will really enjoy as well as families and everybody.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I don’t believe a film solely about Jesus as a little boy has ever been done before, so it also has that going for it.
Anne Rice: That’s true.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, let’s move to erotica (laughs).
Anne Rice: Oh certainly. Let’s move to erotica.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The Sleeping Beauty trilogy is coming to television, and they’re calling it “the new Fifty Shades of Grey.” Have you worked out how to show the graphic sexual acts without evolving into porn for television?
Anne Rice: I’m really leaving the TV creative side of it to Rachel Winter, and she’s the producer who did Dallas Buyers Club, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Rachel is really a dynamo of creative energy and thinking. I’m in awe of Rachel. She’s one of those women that I truly totally admire, and she’s got ideas about how to do this, and I trust that’s going to work. I will be consulted all the way along and will be involved, but again, this is in the early stages. She’s talking about writers at the moment.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will there be any more books in that series?
Anne Rice: There might be. There just might be. I’m not saying “no” to anything anymore (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s probably a good idea. If you’d said “no” to something, you might not be enjoying this huge year (laughs).
Anne Rice: Yeah, exactly.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You wrote The Sleeping Beauty books in the 1980s. Are they still popular today because of the genre?
Anne Rice: Asking that question kind of puts the author in a tricky position. I’d like to believe they’re popular because they’re really well written, and they’re fun (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I should’ve asked, “Other than they are very well written, why are they still popular today?” (laughs)
Anne Rice: Yeah (laughs). They set out to make domination fantasies and S&M fantasies actually playful and fun. It all happens in a fairytale kingdom where nobody’s really hurt. Of course, it’s a fantasy about being a slave, of being coerced and made to have orgasm after orgasm after orgasm, but it’s a fantasy that many people enjoy.
They want to imagine that they’re being carried away by a gorgeous prince who then makes them a pleasure slave. I tried to make that fun for readers and safe for them, no literal violence, no killing, no murder, no bloodshed, no knives, no burning, nothing horrible. Leave all of that stuff outside the kingdom. It’s just a lot of dominance and submission and being ravaged and claimed and owned and so forth. Also the novels include men and women in all combinations. These are not fantasies in which men are on top and women are on the bottom. There are all kind of match ups and mix-ups, and I think they’ve endured because people enjoyed them. I hope.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Recently on your Facebook page, you asked, “Why do women read more novels than men?” Underneath, I noticed that a man answered and said that many men think reading is juvenile and unmanly.
Anne Rice: I saw that comment. I don’t know that that’s true. I tell you the truth, when I read that comment what popped into my head was, “Well, maybe I don’t know such men because I grew up in a world where men read all the time.” My husband was an English professor, an English major. All the friends we had in college, all the men we knew were readers. They all read constantly. They lived in a world with books, arguing about philosophy, literature and poetry and so forth. My father was that way. Our house was full of books, so I certainly never thought that boys didn’t read for any particular reason. I don’t know.
I do know that women outnumber men in reading, and I noticed from publishing talk that even, as I mentioned in my comments on Facebook, the big male writers like Tom Clancy have huge female readership. If they didn’t, the books would not stay at the top of the list. You may think an author is a man’s author, like Stephen King or Clancy or Patterson, but they all have huge female readership or they just wouldn’t be up there. I’ve been told that by editors and booksellers. It’s hard to say.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are you reading right now, Anne?
Anne Rice: It’s interesting that you would ask that because I just got this novel today. It’s coming out next year, and it’s by a Louisiana author named M.O. Walsh. It’s called My Sunshine Away, and it’s a wonderful novel. It’s about a crime that happens in 1989 in this neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and I’m enthralled with it. I’ve never heard of this author before. This is brand new. Somebody just sent this to me.
The author’s name is Milton O’Neal Walsh, and he’s really just dynamite. I will recommend it on Facebook and put it on the site so people can preorder from Amazon because I think this is really good prose. Really good. When I go on tour, of course, I’ll take the latest Jack Reacher novel called Personal to the airport. I don’t fly without Jack Reacher in my pocket.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s the first stop on the Prince Lestat book tour?
Anne Rice: New York at 192 Books on October 28, and Thursday we go to New Orleans for a signing at Garden District Books. I’ll be appearing with my son Christopher in a few places, and I’m really thrilled about that. He has a new novel called The Vines coming out right at the same time. It’s a supernatural thriller set in Louisiana, and it’s very frightening, and I think it’s his best writing yet. I read it in one day, and I’m thrilled that he and I will be appearing together on this tour.
I think we’re going to do some appearances with my editor, Vicky Wilson. Vicky has known Christopher since he was a baby (laughs). I can’t wait for the three of us to get on a stage together and start talking about writing. She watched Christopher grow up.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Oh that's great. Tell me about the Vampire Ball on October 31.
Anne Rice: Yes! Can’t wait. They’re amateur affairs just like Mardi Gras is an amateur affair. The people get together to do it, and they love it, and nobody gives a party like New Orleans gives a party (laughs). This year I think the Ball will have at least a thousand people. I don’t know if they can admit more than a thousand, but it’s going to be held in a great big place. People come in unbelievably wonderful costumes.
They come from all over the world to be at the Ball, and this year there will be a Lestat lookalike contest or impersonation contest, so there will be a lot of Lestats walking around with golden hair, contact lenses, gorgeous velvet coats, lace and boots and the whole thing. It’s going to be really fun to see this. I enjoy it. They’ve been doing this for twenty-six years down there, and I’ve attended many of those twenty-six Balls. I have been so frightened and just stunned by some of the guys in costumes. I really just jump out of my skin sometimes to look at some of these beautiful vampiric men. I remember a guy one year that had cat eye contacts, and he really just scared me (laughs). They’re genuinely beautiful, and these are ordinary people.
These are people from all walks of life. They’re brought there by the fact that they have a streak of romance in their souls, and they’re fans of the Chronicles and fans of Lestat. Of course, many couples are together, whole families, lots of older people and young people. It’s really fun, and the music will be great this year. I’m not up on some of the latest rock, but they have really good bands. Mary Fahl will be there, a singer I dearly love. She wrote a song to go with my novel, The Wolves of Midwinter, which is a beautiful song, and I think she’ll be performing that at the Ball.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are you writing now?
Anne Rice: I’m working on the second Prince Lestat book now. The tentative title is Blood Paradise. My editor came up with that title, and I think that’s very good, but it won’t be ready to go until next year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Final thoughts?
Anne Rice: I’m very happy about everything that’s happening. Somebody told me years ago that things in my life happen in clusters, and I think that’s true. I’ve had a lot of bad things happen in my life, a lot of tragedy and a lot of loss, and it has happened in clusters. Right now I’m having a really good cluster (laughs). I’m very grateful for all that and just thankful that they still know my name and that they still know who I am. That’s nice.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Wishing you continued good clusters, Anne, and thanks for taking the time.
Anne Rice: It was a delight to talk to you. I love hearing your voice. I love hearing the accent, this beautiful accent you’ve got. I just love it, so it has been a real pleasure. Take care and thank you.
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