Becket Ghioto Interview: Longtime Anne Rice Colleague Authors "Vampire Chronicles" Compendium
Image attributed to Stina Ghioto
Becket Ghioto is the author of eleven books, including three books of poetry. He was a diocesan seminarian for three years and a Benedictine monk for five. From 2005 until 2017, Becket was the personal assistant to Vampire Chronicles author Anne Rice.
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles an Alphabettery is an annotated cosmology of Anne Rice’s vampiredom from A to Z detailed by Becket. It tells the who, what, where, why, (and often) how of her beloved characters, mortal and immortal, and it is all brought together in a book for the first time. We also see the ways in which Rice’s vampires have evolved from warring civilizations to isolated covens to a unified race of blood drinkers led by their hero-wanderer and sole monarch, Price Lestat. The book is released on October 23, 2018.
“We were together for 12 years, and we developed such a wonderful friendship. We’re still wonderful friends to this day. I’m so blessed to have had that experience to work for her, to know her mind.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Becket, what a huge undertaking Alphabettery must’ve been! How did the idea come about?
Becket Ghioto: Back in 2016, when Anne finished Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, she gave it to her agent, Lynn Nesbitt. She told Anne that she loved it and that it was wonderful, and it is. Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis is just a wonderful addition to The Vampire Chronicles. But the subject came up of how many characters, how many subjects, how many locations there were to keep in mind. It was suggested that maybe an encyclopedia would be really helpful for The Vampire Chronicles. So Anne turned to me and asked, “Would you be interested in writing it?” I said, “I’d be happy to.”
So we contacted Anne’s editor, Vicky Wilson, and proposed the idea. Vicky said, “I think it’s a great idea, but send me a first chapter about what you’re thinking about.” So I took about a week or two to assemble the “As.” It was every “A” that I could think of and every “A” that I could give a cursory research to, and it was probably about half of the number of “As,” that are in there now, maybe even less than that. But I gave it to her. It probably totaled about 10,000 words at that time. She got back to me in a couple of weeks and said, “I really love this. I’d love it if you would write out the rest of The Vampire Chronicles.” So I set to work doing research.
I began in 2017, and it took me probably about four months to get done with the first draft. After the first draft had been seen by the editor, and I got her suggestions back, it was a few more months to finish the second draft because her suggestions broadened it a little bit probably by about 20 or 30,000 words. So after some back and forth, we finally got it into what it is today. So, yeah, we’re all very happy with it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What can Anne Rice fans expect when they read the book?
Becket Ghioto: It’s an alphabettery, so it does go from A to Z, or from Aaron Lightner all the way to Zenobia. But what we’ve also done is underneath every name, we have categorized them into what they are. So some people will have the category of “Mortal” such as Agatha, and Agatha is Claudia’s mother. She’s mentioned twice. She is mentioned in Interview with the Vampire, and she’s mentioned also in Merrick. Aaron Lightner, for instance, is Talamasca.
We also categorize it in various other things too, like we have the “First Street house,” which is a residence, and we can compare that also with another item that’s mentioned, the “Sixth Street house,” and that’s only mentioned once in The Vampire Lestat, and that’s the house where the band Satan’s Night Out was encountered by Lestat. Satan’s Night Out was the band that brought Lestat out of his torpor, and they were practicing at the Sixth Street house.
Now, we have other things such as “Sanctuary,” and these sanctuaries are places where vampires can gather together. We also have the category of “Immortal,” which will be for things like Replimoid, which comes up both in Blood Communion and in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. The other thing that people can expect is that when an entry is presented, generally what happens is that they’re going to get a brief synopsis in the very beginning, and then they’ll have a summary of what that entry is all about. At the very end, the entry will also provide cross references for which book the entry can be found in. For instance, Garekyn is an Immortal and a Replimoid, and it will begin with just a brief identification of who Garekyn is, and he also appears in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. Then after that, we have his entry, and at the very end, we also have cross references for who Garekyn interacts with and where we can also see him in the entire Vampire Chronicles. We also have “Vampire Ability,” and “Coven,” so we’ve characterized it in various ways.
One of the things I did when I set out to write the Vampire Chronicles is to gather everything that may have been of interest to Anne Rice fans. So if it’s a name, it was written in this alphabettery, and if the name was an alias, we brought that in, too, and we identified it as an alias, and we talk about when Lestat used that alias. So we have “Aliases” in there. We also have characters. For instance, if the subject was brought up of the Talamasca, of course, we brought that up in there, too.
But we also have characters like Aaron Lightner who isn’t so much in The Vampire Chronicles as he is in The Witching Hour books. We talk about how Aaron Lightner is in both. Rowan Mayfair is also another character who crosses over. If they happen to bring up a subject matter that’s in The Witching Hour, we also bring that into the Vampire Chronicles to help clarify certain issues such as “Walking Baby,” for instance, which is a reference to a Taltos. When a Taltos is born, they start to walk almost immediately, and they’re fully grown within an hour. So we talk about that. Even though we don’t actually see Walking Babies in The Vampire Chronicles, they’re mentioned, and if they’re mentioned, we bring them in and bring some Witching Hour material, too. So it’s not a full Witching Hour treatment. It just happens to touch into Witching Hour categories.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also have “Locations” in the book such as the Bela Lugosi Bar.
Becket Ghioto: Right. Yeah, when we talk about the vampire connection, which is the series of bars. They’re all connected. And yes, Bela Lugosi is one of them. As I said, if it’s mentioned in The Vampire Chronicles, we’re going to see how interconnected it is. For instance, the Bela Lugosi Bar is connected to the Carmilla Bar as well as the Dr. Polidori, Dracula’s Daughter, Lamia and Lord Ruthven. So we talk about how all these vampire bars are connected together in this one vampire connection.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is Lestat the longest detailed entry in the book?
Becket Ghioto: (laughs) I think so. I think it’s about nine or ten pages.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): For anyone left in the entire universe that does not know who the hero of The Vampire Chronicles is, please give us a short synopsis.
Becket Ghioto: Yes. Lestat is the hero of The Vampire Chronicles, although from the outset from the very first book, Interview with the Vampire, it doesn’t quite seem that way. He is the antagonist. But when we meet him in the second book, The Vampire Lestat, he becomes the hero throughout all the books.
You know, we get character biographies not necessarily in chronological order but in chronicle order, I guess you could say. The chronicles don’t quite provide Lestat’s chronology or the chronology of many characters. For instance, we don’t get Pandora’s chronology either according to The Vampire Chronicles. So I wanted to take their entries in The Vampire Chronicles and make it chronological entries.
So with Lestat, we don’t begin his entry with Interview with the Vampire, but we begin it with the beginning of his life, born on November 7, 1760, in Auvergne, France, and we go from there. From Lestat’s birth, we then progress all the way though his relationship with Gabrielle and with Nicki. We end really with his activities in the most recent book, Blood Communion.
We first encounter Pandora in The Queen of the Damned when the council of vampires comes together at Maharet’s compound. When she gathers everyone together to tell them the story of her life and the story of Those Who Must Be Kept, we encounter Pandora for the first time but we don’t really get her story. We don’t encounter her story really until into the book Pandora, but more of her story also comes out a little bit more and fleshes out even into Blood Communion. So we get the fullness of her story throughout all these books, but again, some comes a little bit here, another comes a little bit there. So what I wanted to do was take every entry from every book for every character and make it as chronological as possible.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When people hear the name “Anne Rice,” they immediately think of vampires, but her books are so much more than that.
Becket Ghioto: Absolutely right. Many interviewers, when they have spoken with her, have introduced her as “the vampire lady.” She is sort of stereotyped as the author of only vampire novels, but they’re so much more than that. It’s interesting to note that Richard Matheson’s book, I Am Legend, came out the same time that Interview with the Vampire was published, but they both approached vampiric origins from entirely different perspectives. The one that has lingered longest and the one that has had the most profound effect on vampire culture is Anne Rice because her spin on vampires is such a beautiful perspective that the vampire becomes really a sympathetic character, an antihero.
She looks at vampires not as villains but as misunderstood heroes. We can say the same with all of her characters, too, from The Witching Hour to characters in The Feast of All Saints to her characters in Cry to Heaven, even to some of the characters in her Christian books, too, like Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. She takes characters that are misunderstood, and she brings them into an entirely new life to make the reader love them in a way they never thought possible. So, yes, she does have the stereotype of being a vampire author, but she’s a quite uncommon vampire author, and I would say she’s one of the most copied vampire authors today and one of the most respected vampire authors today.
Without Anne, we wouldn’t have the Twilight books. Without Anne, we wouldn’t have the Sookie Stackhouse books or numerous other vampire iterations out there today. Anne is really the progenitor of our take on contemporary vampire culture.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did your relationship with Anne begin?
Becket Ghioto: We’ve known each other since 2000. I first started reading her books probably around 1991 when I was a freshman in high school. It was a Catholic school, and a friend of mine in history class had a very well-loved paperback under the desk. She said, “Here. I think you’re going to like this.” It was Interview with the Vampire. She was absolutely right. I fell in love with Anne Rice’s writing from the outset, and I gobbled up as many of Anne’s books as I could.
She had such a profound influence on me that when it was time for me to go to college, some of the colleges I was thinking about going to were in New Orleans. I am Catholic, and I was discerning at that time the priesthood. When I discerned my way into the priesthood, they gave me the option of going to seminary in a couple of places, and one of them was going to seminary in New Orleans. So I ended up going to New Orleans and becoming a Benedictine monk all because Anne, many years earlier, helped me fall in love with that city. So I moved from Florida to New Orleans to start studying for the priesthood and became a Benedictine monk.
In 2000, while in my monastery, we got a message from Anne Rice who, at that time had published Merrick. She said that for her book singing in New Orleans, she wanted a harpsichord. My monastery had a harpsichord, and because I was also musically trained, the abbot of my monastery turned to me and said, “Brother Becket, I’d like you to take a harpsichord into New Orleans and deliver it to Anne’s book signing.” So I did. I made sure the harpsichord was in tune when I delivered it for her book signing, and that’s when I met Anne.
Now, we developed an email rapport that lasted for the next five years until in 2005 when I discerned. I was given the option of making solemn vows in the monastery, that is, making kind of like a marriage commitment to the monastery for the rest of my life. That’s what solemn vows are. That means you are going to commit yourself to the monastery. I discerned that I wasn’t ready to make that kind of lifelong commitment to the monastery. Anne and I had been writing for five years at that time, so I wrote her and told her about my decision to leave the monastery. I also said, “Do you have any openings on your staff?” She said, “Yes, I do. Come out to California.” So I did. I moved to California and started working on her staff. I began working for her in August of 2005, and I worked with her until October of 2017.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You two became close friends?
Becket Ghioto: We were together for 12 years, and we developed such a wonderful friendship. We’re still wonderful friends to this day. I’m so blessed to have had that experience to work for her, to know her mind. There’s a little bit of our personal relationship in the Alphabettery. It’s one of my favorite entries. Anne would always share little stories with me about The Vampire Chronicles or about her writing or her influence on writing, and there’s an entry in the book called “One Fine Blow.”
When she first approached me about writing this book, one of her requests was, “Please don’t do anything subjective. Don’t do any character interpretations. Just make it completely objective.” I totally agreed that’s how it should be done. However, in keeping with that, I did put in one personal thing with “One Fine Blow.” It’s an idiom that returns in almost every single one of her Vampire Chronicles. It’s almost like a character that pops up his head.
When Anne gave her first book to her father, Howard O’Brien, he read Interview with the Vampire and noticed the phrase, “one fine blow.” He gave her many comments on that book and how much he loved it, and one of the comments was that he loved the phrase, “one fine blow.” The quote in Interview with the Vampire was, “What happened then is not clear to me. I think I grabbed the poker from her and gave him one fine blow to the side of the head.”
The next time it occurs is in TheVampire Lestat, “He had dealt me one fine blow in the middle of the back that sent me flying out the door and onto the stones at the square.” It even comes up twice in her most recent book, Blood Communion. So it’s a beautiful little phrase that comes up in almost every single one of her books. The only time it doesn’t occur is in Queen of the Damned and Vittorio the Vampire. It’s just a wonderful little phrase that she shared with me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you leave Anne’s employ because your career went into another direction?
Becket Ghioto: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m still Catholic. My wife and I have a very rich prayer life, and we enjoy deepening our relationship with God. One of the things we wanted to do was to be more active in our church, and that’s what we did. We talked to Anne and said we discerned that we wanted to work more with ministry. We wanted to work more in the faith. She was totally understanding about that, and we had several conversations about it. In the end, we both discerned that I should enter more fully into a more ministerial role. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve been working more deeply in Catholic ministry.
Anne and Christopher are going to to so many wonderful things with The Vampire Chronicles. I can’t wait to see what happens. As many people know, they’re coming out with a Vampire Chronicles TV show. I’m so excited to see that, and I’m so thrilled for Anne and for Chris.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You and your wife are still newlyweds.
Becket Ghioto: Yes. December 12, 2016. So we’re coming up on our second wedding anniversary soon. She was also one of Anne’s assistants.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Love at first sight?
Becket Ghioto: It was, indeed. We’ve loved each other ever since.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What else is going on with you, Becket? I know you’ve written some children’s books.
Becket Ghioto: I did the Steampunk Sorcery series. It was illustrated by Raven Quinn, a magnificent illustrator, and the audio books were recorded by the late Katherine Kellgren, just a brilliant narrator who won several awards. Unfortunately, she passed away just a few months ago from cancer. So, yes, six children’s books. I still continue to write.
Right now, I’m working with the Catholic author Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center and their publishing house. I work with them in publishing Catholic books now. I do have a couple of non-fiction works out right now. One is called This Year of Holy Love, which is a meditation on Paul’s passage in Corinthians: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” But I also have a book called American Monk, which is my autobiography of the years I spent in the monastery.
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