Anne Rice published "Interview With the
Vampire" in 1976, she didnít just launch her own
vampire series ó her sexy tragic vampire antiheroes
launched an entirely new genre.
phrase paranormal romance "didnít exist when I
wrote the vampire novels in the beginning," Rice
says. But the genre, she adds, "is here to
stay." Indeed, after an 11-year break, the grande
dame of vampire fiction has revived her famous vampire
clan with "Prince Lestat," (Alfred A. Knopf:
458 pages, $28.95).
supernatural romance has become a flourishing part of
pop culture has been a blessing and a curse. The field
is crowded with hits like "Twilight" and
"True Blood," and countless other television
shows, movies, graphic novels and books, and for a long
time, Rice avoided it all. "I was always frightened
of being too influenced, and I would get blocked,"
up lunch on formal china in her house, she explains that
she thought she had closed the book on her "Vampire
Chronicles" with 2003ís "Blood
Canticle." After that, she allowed herself to enjoy
other peopleís vampire stories. "I got less
scared in my 60s. ... I came to realize we all make our
own cosmology, and there are certain traits that are
common to all of the fiction in this area. I just grew
maturity aside, the 73-year-old author has some of the
habits of a teenager. A poster-sized picture of actor
Matt Bomer hangs on her bedroom wall ó "because I
think heís gorgeous, and I like to look at him,"
she trills ó and she spends hours a day on Facebook.
most teenagers, her Facebook page has 1.1 million fans.
Rice is so engaged ó linking to news stories, asking
provocative questions and responding to comments ó
that some donít believe itís actually the author.
Other writers who have sold more than 100 million books
worldwide may have assistants taking care of their
social media presence.
totally me," she confirms. "Iíve had some
pretty nasty exchanges on the page with people who didnít
believe it. I remember one woman came on, she said, ĎI
know Anne Rice, Iíve been in her house in New Orleans
and you are not she.í .... I finally got angry enough
to block her."
Anne Rice of today does seem different from the one a
fan might have met years ago. She sold her grand New
Orleans mansion, the three-story, 47,000-square foot
former orphanage sheíd restored, and lives in relative
quiet in Palm Desert. Rice is petite, more than 100
pounds lighter than she was at her heaviest (she was an
undiagnosed diabetic and has since had gastric bypass
surgery). Sheís surrounded herself with paintings by
her late husband, Stan, forsaking many of the gothic
antiques and religious artifacts she once owned.
was raised Catholic in a working-class family in New
Orleans and has had an intense, on-again-off-again
relationship with the church. Sheís a believer and
admires the churchís centuries of history, the sense
of social justice and its art, architecture and music.
she says, she "suffered agonies" as a teenager
over her priestsí declaration that kissing and necking
were a mortal sin. "Iíll never entirely get over
the damage done to me by the Catholic attitude toward
sex. The hatred of sex, the loathing of it and the
denial of the loathing of it," she says.
seems unusual, perhaps, for someone who writes erotica.
"Thatís protest," she says, laughing.
"Iím very proud of my erotica."
published under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure, her
Sleeping Beauty trilogy is an explicit S&M fantasy.
"What I write is out-and-out pornography," she
says. "I think itís a fine word. The only reason
I donít use it more often is it gets all
misunderstood, and people want to call it erotica."
success of "Fifty Shades of Grey" has brought
renewed attention to Riceís Sleeping Beauty books.
"They went mainstream because of it. The publishers
reissued them for Wal-Mart and Target," Rice says.
"It was a riot, really."
of course, has thought a great deal about the erotic
element of her vampire myth. "The vampire is
hyper-romantic, a Byronic hero ó a larger-than-life,
extremely strong, mysterious, tragic personality,"
she says. "Itís Mr. Rochester and Jane [Eyre]
over and over again. ... Basically the vampire is
untamed mystery, and thatís what men seem to women. Itís
a deep, deep metaphor for sexual difference. Every manís
a vampire to us, in a way."
makes the reader not the victim but the chosen partner.
"Iím sure every boy and girl out there reading a
vampire novel is convinced that the vampire would never
bite them," Rice says, rapping at her table on the
last three words: Never. Bite. Them.
her new novel, vampires live in the modern world,
listening to Internet radio and ducking cellphone
paparazzi. Most of them have figured out how to use
immortality to their financial advantage, and live in
luxurious surroundings. And yet there is a threat that
seems to be converging on them from all sides ó crowds
of young vampires keep getting torched, a terrifying and
agonize over some of the dark and cruel things that I
write. I want them, for me, to be effective and
authentic and dramatic and moral, I guess," she
she lived in Berkeley in the 1960s and í70s, Rice
says, she used to debate with her friends about the
demands of art. "If great art is really great art,
it shouldnít depress you. We would argue about, like,
the movie ĎThe Blue Angelí: Is it depressing or is
it uplifting? If itís great art, it should be so
uplifting that you come out of it feeling joy."
explains that she gave up on "Breaking Bad"
because it was too depressing. So is she in the
necessarily. I canít resolve it," she says. That
kind of tension ó between tragedy and transcendence
ó is what it takes to spend half a lifetime writing
stories of the glamorous undead.