Acclaimed writer Anne Rice, author of “Interview with the Vampire” was interviewed by her son, fellow novelist Christopher Rose, at International Thriller Writers on Friday, July 12, 2013 in New York City. Both mother and son have new books coming out October 15th (“The Wolves of Mid-winter,” in the case of Rice, Sr., and “The Heavens Rise” for Christopher.)
Young Christopher first asked his famous mother if she foresaw the cultural phenomenon that writing about vampires would become when she first published her first novel, “Interview with the Vampire” back in 1976. The book gave rise to the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt movie vehicle. Anne Rice disclaimed any precognitive ability to see a future that includes such staples as the “Twilight” series as well as television series like “True Blood” or movies like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer.”
Ms. Rice said, “I wasn’t aware that all that would be going on. I wanted to tell it (the story) from the vampire’s point of view. Early films in black-and-white always showed werewolves and Frankenstein as beings filled with remorse and despair. I wanted to know, ‘What would it be like to have to kill the thing you love to survive?'” She felt that creating her famous vampire, Lestat, was simply “another stage of telling the story.”
Eight years passed after that first book, during which Anne Rice wrote on other topics, completing two books. Then she revisited vampires with “The Vampire Lestat,” which she said was really the beginning of the series. Both mother and son revisited her joy at learning by phone that “Interview with the Vampire” debuted at Number 9 on the New York Times’ Best-seller list. Christopher, who was then a young boy, said, “She was screaming ‘Nine! Nine!'” I didn’t know what she was yelling about. I wanted to scream, ‘Eight! Eight!’ Then I thought, ‘Are you all right?” (Audience laughter).
Rice related how, just like Rodney Dangerfield, she got no respect for her work. “There was a lot of scorn for storytelling then. They (the publishers) wanted pedestrian realism about the middle class. They wanted a small novel with a character who had a small epiphany, which would be relatable to the middle class. I just couldn’t get to pedestrian realism.” She added that she “just wanted to write what I wanted to write.”
Her son, Christopher, mentioned Facebook and Anne Rice’s current devotion to social media telling the audience that Rice calls them “the people of the page.” Rice mentioned one ‘friend’ in particular, who always asks her the most detailed questions about her writing. “I suppose he’s planning on doing something with it,” she added, with a laugh.
LOCATION INFLUENCES LITERATURE
Anne Rice said that her move from San Francisco back to her native New Orleans (when Christopher was about two) after 22 years in the city by the Bay fueled a very creative period. “I had been cold in San Francisco for 22 years. Once we moved down there (New Orleans) in 1988, it was as if my vocabulary doubled or tripled.” Mother and son related how she wrote 1500 pages in 5 months. Anne Rice also related that she is an “intense session writer” (as am I) who does not write every day. She bemoaned the fact that early instructors and reviewers discredited her work method, saying that she couldn’t be “a real writer” if she didn’t write every day.
Son Christopher alluded to Stephen King’s oft-repeated advice to write 2,000 words a day and you’d have a novel in 40 days. Christopher humorously added that he had seen a recent statement by King that he wrote “1,500 words a day.” “He’s dropping!” said Christopher, to the audience’s amusement.
Ms. Rice defended her writing method (which is also mine) saying, “Research can be writing.” Countered her son, “Yes, but you have to be careful because research can turn into procrastination.” As “research,” son Christopher mentioned traveling to the locations used in her books, looking at the audience of writers to say, “Oh, come on, we all use that tax write-off. Let’s be honest.” He asked his mom if she had ever set a book in an area she had not visited. Rice admitted that she had not traveled to the Himalayas she used in “Queen of the Damned,” but defended her love of travel, in general.
GAY REFERENCE RE RUSSIA
“I won’t go to Russia, though,” said Ms. Rice. “They recently announced that they are going to prohibit any ‘gay-looking fellas’ from entering the country.”
Christopher’s response, which brought a huge laugh, “Come on! That’s every man in New York City!”
He added, in an aside, “Stay put, fellas!”
INSPIRATION FOR HER WRITING
Ms. Rice said that she can be inspired by something as mundane as a TV commercial. “A story will come into my mind from a TV commercial.” She went on to say that she was very interested in how a commercial can convey a story in just 30 or 60 seconds, adding, “I write about things I am afraid of.” While admitting that the loss of her young daughter, Michelle, at age 5 from leukemia (Christopher’s sister), as well as her own sister Alice and her husband of 41 years, Stan, in 2002, were blows, she disagreed with the critics who analyze her writing as stemming from those life events.
“JUST A HORROR WRITER”
She also said that, originally, she was dismissed as “Just a horror writer,” but that, “I don’t care any more.” Your readers help you get over it” Son Christopher rapidly added, “A negative statement can obliterate 20 positive statements.” Anne admitted this was true, and said, “I don’t think I could have done Facebook when I was younger.” She bemoaned the lack of tone on the Internet, with mother and son commenting on “flame-outs” and other unpleasantness that can occur.
Fellow novelist Christopher said he had always wanted to write about aliens. One day, when he heard his mother talk about perhaps writing about aliens, he said, “You have everything else. Give me aliens!” Christopher added, “You always said the problem with aliens is that they always look like fish and they’re hungry.”
WEREWOLVES AS SUBJECTS
So, how did Anne Rice come to write about werewolves?
One answer might be that her sister, Alice, (who had written two books about them), had passed away, so Anne didn’t feel she was treading on another’s territory. Anne added that her “Manwolf” had to walk upright (as Lon Chaney always did in the old movies—adding, “He even wore a shirt and pants!”). She said that she has to convey individual sensitivity in her writing. However, with werewolves, she hopes to write in a more positive Superhero way about the creatures. “With vampires, I was wrestling more with alienation and despair. I wanted to get away from the negative. I wanted to write about the Superhero aspects of the Manwolf. My Manwolf will experience his ‘change’ in a sensual, pleasant way, not the way their change has been portrayed in movies before this. And he will be conscious of the change and fully enjoy it.”
NEW “GOLDEN AGE” OF TELEVISION
Speaking about the film adaptation of her book “Interview with A Vampire,” she gave full credit for the lavish adaptation to David Geffen, who produced it, but felt that “Queen of the Damned” had been given short shrift. She said, “Right now, I would rather work with TV,” and commented on the many fine series now in existence, including “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “The Borgias.”
Rice went on to talk more about Neil Jordan’s work on “The Borgias,” noting that his film “Byzantium” while good, was not as good as his work on “The Borgias.” She described her experience with Hollywood adaptations as “abyssmal,” describing “two or three movies that never got made.”
Asked Christopher: “Do you feel the process is incomplete without a movie tie-in?”
Anne Rice’s answer? “No.”
As the interview wound down, son Christopher asked her if there was an area of the supernatural she had not yet visited. Anne Rice described reading many psychics’ writings about “the other side” and said that her motto for writing, these days, is: “Go where the pain is. Go where the pleasure is.”