Anne Rice Interview: "Vampire Chronicles" Author Talks Latest Installment, "Blood Communion," and Catholic Clergy Scandal
Image attributed to Michael Lionstar
Anne Rice’s books have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history. She is perhaps best known for her series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, revolving around the central character of Lestat. Two books, Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned, were the subject of film adaptations, and her Vampire Chronicles has been put into development at Hulu for a television series.
The Vampire Chronicles continue with Rice’s latest offering, Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat, released October 2, 2018. In this riveting, rich saga filled with adventure and suspense, Lestat tells the tale of his coming to rule the vampire world and the eternal struggle to find belonging, a place in the universe for the undead, and how, against his will, he must battle the menacing, seemingly unstoppable force determined to thwart his vision and destroy the entire vampire netherworld.
"I think you always feel love, love of Jesus, love of God. You don’t lose those things, but faith, real belief, theological faith, that died for me. It really did."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anne, what was your vision for Blood Communion?
Anne Rice: Well, I needed an adventure where Lestat really had to confront an enemy that was not going to go away, this ancient immortal Rhoshamandes who was just not going to accept Lestat as the prince with a new organization of vampires. So Lestat, against his better judgment, is forced to confront this guy. That’s really what the book is about, trying to not yield to all these different things he had to do as a ruler and how he ends up yielding to them one by one really.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): This is a Lestat memoir, but he has also authored previous books such as Prince Lestat and Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. So what makes this one different?
Anne Rice: What makes it very different is that there are no chapters in the third person. Those books both included chapters that were from other people’s points of view. Those books had a large cast, and you saw from different people’s points of view how the tribes of the undead were affected by the modern age, and everybody was drawn together eventually by the figure of Lestat. But it was a long road, and there was a lot of chaos along that road and misunderstandings.
Communion is a more intense book, it’s shorter, and he tells the tale entirely from his point of view. And I enjoyed writing it that way. I really did. I had tried it the other way, and I put those plans aside and just wrote it from his point of view. Usually, you work these things out intuitively. You find your voice for the book. You go that way, and it works. That’s what happened here. It worked.
There’s quite a bit of suspense in this book more, I think, than in the other two really. That’s why I keep telling the guys on Facebook, “If you possibly can, don’t read any summaries or reviews because this book can be ruined for you.” If you read the reviews, it can be ruined for you because there is suspense, and it’s not good to know what’s going to happen down the road. That’s the big difference. Lestat tells it all from his point of view, and he’s really in the dark about a lot of it until the end.
And it’s about the reality of what people face when they govern. It’s what we see all the time, what we’ve been seeing for 250 years in our own country. When you govern, you face some horrible realities, and Lestat faces those realities. If there’s going to be a court, if there’s going to be a prince, if there’s going to be an enduring government, there are some ugly concessions that have to be made, and it’s his story of how he comes to terms with that.
He’s warned in the very beginning that there’s something he’s not facing. The older members tell him that there’s something he’s not facing, that these are blood drinkers, these are vampires, and he’s become too much like Louis in Interview with the Vampire. He wants to be too optimistic about all this, and they tell him that he’s going to have to realize that’s what the court is made of. By the end, he knows that, and he’s sadder, but there’s some understanding.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mark Edward Geyer’s illustrations in the book are incredible!
Anne Rice: Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that. I was so thrilled. I could not believe it. I mean, when Vicky told me … you know, I just adore Vicky Wilson. I’ve been with her over 40 years, and when she told me, I was just over the moon. When I finally saw the first hardcover, I was so thrilled. I was just unbelievably thrilled.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I believe they definitely add to the story.
Anne Rice: I’ve always wanted this ever since I saw the early Sherlock Holmes illustrations, you know, the Strand Magazine drawings of Watson and Holmes. I have always wanted this. I’ve always longed for this, and I hope they will continue this with books in the future. I really do.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Geyer also did the illustrations for Vampire Chronicles An Alphabettery by Becket Ghioto, with you writing the foreword.
Anne Rice: Right. I haven’t seen the finished copy, but what I’ve seen of the illustrations, they’re marvelous. That book is going to be such a feast. It’s really going to be delicious.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of Becket, do you miss your longtime assistant?
Anne Rice: Well, I do miss him. I miss him very much. I don’t have an assistant right now. I have two beloved assistants here that have been with me for a long time, but they’re different. Their talents are different, and they can do quite a bit. But Becket was Becket, you know. There was nobody quite like Becket. We did a lot of traveling together that was marvelous. We traveled to France, to England, to Brazil, and going quite far back, we went to Jerusalem.
When Becket first came on board, I took him with me to the Holy Land. We had a long history of traveling, so I do miss him. But I know he’s happy. He’s doing what he wants to do, and he and Christina are happy, and I’m happy for them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You dedicated this book to your mother. Is this the first time for that?
Anne Rice: No. I’ve included her before in various dedications, but I wanted this to be for her and also my friend Carole Malkin.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why?
Anne Rice: The content of a book doesn’t always have a lot to do with the dedication for me. It’s more my thinking about her and all she taught me. She was my first teacher. I mean, the book I’m working on now, I’m going to dedicate to her. And again, I’m not so much sure it’s the content of the book. It’s just thinking a great deal about her and the lessons she gave me early on … to believe in myself. Things of that kind. More like that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were raised Catholic and the church had an impact on you and your writing. But you’ve struggled with your Christian faith over the years, so where are you today with your faith?
Anne Rice: I would say that I’m pretty much an agnostic now. I don’t think I have any religious faith. I have a strong sense of ethics and morality. A very strong sense. I’ve never really changed in that regard. But I don’t any longer have a religious faith. I think studying the Bible through and through for 12 years just about finished off my Christian faith.
I came to see that the Christian faith, as I had known it, was not based on the Bible, and if it wasn’t based on the Bible, what was it based on? In my view, it was based on the work of theologians, and I came to lose faith in that body of work. Gradually, I could not really find any real faith in God in any way that remained for me after those years of study. I think you always feel love, love of Jesus, love of God. You don’t lose those things, but faith, real belief, theological faith, that died for me. It really did.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I am excited that The Vampire Chronicles are coming to Hulu!
Anne Rice: Oh, yes! My son, Christopher, is working on the scripts, and I am so thrilled with what he’s doing. I don’t think I would have ever sold the rights if it hadn’t been for Christopher willing to really be the captain of this project, and it’s working out really, really well. I’m very proud of him and very happy with what’s going on.
He’s a lot more diplomatic, amiable and creative in a collaborative way than I have ever been. He’s working very well with the Hulu people and the Paramount Studios people. Paramount Studios are still our producers with Hulu, so they’re all working together on this project.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you and Christopher ever collaborate again on another book?
Anne Rice: You know, I don’t know. With the TV project right now, we’re both so busy. I have time for my own writing. I’m doing this book right now, but really the project is quite demanding and certainly taking everything from him. He has a book coming out soon. But it’s a full-time job right now for him in Los Angeles. I’m sort of 24-7 out here available for consultation to drop everything and read every script as soon as he sends it. So we’re really giving it everything we’ve got. I’m thrilled. I’m really thrilled with what’s going on.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’re working on two more books in The Vampire Chronicles series?
Anne Rice: No. It’s something else, but I know my beloved editor will be very upset if I say what it is. She always wants to be the one, with reasons, to announce the book. But it’s certainly another supernatural novel.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In June of 2017, Donald Trump blocked you on Twitter. Did he ever unblock you?
Anne Rice: Oh, God. No. He never did unblock me. Apparently, he has no obligation to unblock those already blocked. Legally, he can’t block any more. The court case resulted in that. But those of us who were blocked are not unblocked. So every day, if I want to check on what people are responding to, I have to go look and find news stories about what he’s tweeting.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does writing help you cope with what’s going on in the world today?
Anne Rice: It does. Yes. It’s a great escape. Writing has always been my redemption. It saves my sanity. It saves my patriotism. It saves everything. But again and again, I go to my desk, and I start to post on Facebook. Then I start seeing the Twitter feed, and I start seeing the news, and I wind up just sort of paralyzed. It’s so discouraging. This has been a really bad period, and I hope it will resolve itself. The midterms are coming.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): With #MeToo and other movements against sexual harassment and sexual assault prominent in the news right now, is this a turning point or defining moment for victims of abuse?
Anne Rice: Yes. I think it is. I think it’s a remarkable moment. I mean, watching the people who are going down, to see Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves, men of that kind of power, it’s quite remarkable really what’s happening. I never thought it was possible that men with that kind of power would be shaken by accusations. I’m just amazed. I’m watching it all with a kind of wonder and actually satisfaction.
I’m almost 77, and this is quite a change. I was brought up as a little girl and a young woman to regard the male erotic drive as sort of like Niagara Falls. It was a force of nature. You just had to be aware of it and take care of yourself. You were never taught there was much you could do about it. Of course, you assumed criminals would be prosecuted, but you never had any illusions about the rich and powerful or even people with limited power being brought to justice. You were taught how to be savvy and careful and conduct yourself so that you didn’t get caught or you didn’t get in a compromising situation.
You weren’t taught what to do about being mistreated in a workplace situation. You weren’t taught how to avoid being actually assaulted. That was the way we were brought up, you know, and it’s quite something, at the age of 76 now, to see what’s happened. I’m quite amazed. I think it’s an interesting time, and I think there’s more to come. The clergy scandal in the Catholic Church is shaking the church from the rafters to the foundation. It’s as important now as it was five, ten, fifteen years ago, and they are being forced to take stock and to provide answers. So, yeah, I’m quite amazed with it all. I really am.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Pope Francis has been accused of covering up sex abuse for years in the Catholic Church. That seems to have rocked the Catholic world also.
Anne Rice: Yeah. That kind of astonished me because I always assumed that the popes knew all of it but that they, with their absolute power, decided what they would do regarding maintaining the reputation of the church. So it quite surprised me to see anyone question the pope as to whether he covered something up. I always thought we knew, as Catholics, that it was his prerogative to handle things in any way he chose. He was the pope. He was the infallible monarch. So it’s interesting that he’s being attacked in this way by a bishop. It’s interesting because I don’t doubt that he did know more about it than many people knew.
But again, having his authority questioned like this openly is interesting. I will tell you my two theories about it. What caught the church unawares in the 20thcentury wasn’t so much feminism. It was the rise of the child, the rise of the child in the 20thcentury with child labor laws, child psychology, pediatrics, the juvenile courts. All of that was new in history. The church just wasn’t prepared for that, and they didn’t acknowledge it, and they went right on trucking with their old laws and had no idea that they weren’t going to get away with their abuse of children both physically and sexually. That is what is bringing them down now. They were caught, and really they stumbled over the rise of the child. It’s the rise of the child that caught them with their ancient ways and is bringing them to their knees actually. It’s one of the things that’s happened.
I also think it’s corrupt theology, a lot of old theology about sex that should have been cleaned up and edited away a long time ago. It does not come from the Bible. It comes from people like Saint Augusta, and it is corrupt theology that paints sex as evil and the body as evil. When you grow up hearing that in your ears night and day, you get numbed to that. I think these priests, these educated priests, who molested people, were numbed to it and deaf to it. So were those bishops who covered it up. They knew all that was garbage, and they didn’t think it would ever be changed. That’s why they could be so corrupt, so hypocritical and so blind. And I think it was those two things, the corrupt theology and the rise of the child that brought them down.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Very interesting theories, Anne. It has been over 40 years since Interview with the Vampire was published. What can you say about the long ride from there to here?
Anne Rice: Thank God for Vicky Wilson, and thank God for Knopf, you know. I have been with the same publisher and the same lady for so long. She has been like a stabilizing influence in my life, a mentor, a friend. And the journey continues. It’s a remarkable story when you consider what has gone on in publishing, the houses that have gone under or changed names, the authors that had to go from house to house. I’m thankful that it has been a steady journey for me. I really am thrilled that it’s been with the same group of people. It’s a wonderful, stable place to be in publishing. It really is.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you be going on a book signing tour for Blood Communion?
Anne Rice: Not this time. Not this year. I’m so deep in the book I’m working on, the TV series and never knowing what minute I’ll have to astral project to Los Angeles (laughs). It’s just for any number of reasons that I want to sit this one out.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anne, this is our 7th interview together over the years, and I’ve so enjoyed each one. I’m looking forward to the eighth.
Anne Rice: Well, so am I, Melissa. I really am. This has been a pleasure. It really has.
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