With vampires and witches descending on SDCC today, we squeezed in a few moments with someone who knows a thing or two (or 20) about both types of creatures: author Anne Rice, in town to promote Prince Lestat.
Since “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Salem,” and “American Horror Story: Coven” were all in town, Saturday was the perfect time to head over to the Hyatt for a quiet one-on-one with Ms. Rice, one of the forerunners when it comes to stories about these two uber popular supernatural beings.
We dug right in to find out all we could about Prince Lestat. With so much time having passed since her last entry in The Vampire Chronicles and considering all the various incarnations of vampires over those years, we first wanted to hear from Anne about what excited her most about reconnecting with her muse, Lestat. What was her favorite reaction to revisiting this familiar character in her new novel?
“Exploding with a whole bunch of new ideas,” she answered. “I didn’t know whether I could. I wanted to get back, I wanted to talk about him again, and I started reading all the books. Right away I thought, ‘Of course, of course. I want to do this, I want to do that. I want to take this further, I want to go there.’ All this came to me, and that’s [why] taking ten years off from the Chronicles has worked out well for me because Prince Lestat couldn’t have been written ten years ago. I didn’t have it in me at the time. I hadn’t gone to those places yet.”
“In the book he is coming out of his depression. He’s coming out of his exile so I’m accommodating that long delay. Nobody’s heard from him in a long time.”
We mentioned that she’s said before Lestat simply wasn’t talking to her anymore, and she agreed, “He wasn’t. In a way, he really wasn’t. And I associated him with some of the most painful and dark periods in my life. He was very much associated with that, and what I had to do was go and ask him, ‘Can you talk about something else besides pain and darkness?’”
“And the novel shaped up with the vampires all turning to him and saying, ‘Come back. We need you. We need you as the leader. We have to have some kind of new faith in what’s going on.’ And that’s really what the novel is about; it’s about how he becomes ‘Prince Lestat.’ How he lives up to that title, what that title means.”
What sort of surprises might there be for the fans along the way during Lestat’s new journey? Rice was pragmatic. “I can tell you this: From the very beginning the audience has always been polarized on every book from the start.”
She has no illusions of pleasing everyone. “There were people that hated the second novel [The Vampire Lestat] and felt it was not as good as the first. There were people that read the second one first and thought the first was not as good as the second when they read it. There were people who hated the Queen of the Damned and people who loved itâ€¦ Every single book that happens.”
“Some people are very disappointed, and they say it’s not what they wanted. That’s one of the first, loudest things you hear. And I think that’s inevitable, that’s going to happen. But I certainly put everything into it that I wanted to be in it, and I certainly have found it very satisfying to take Lestat into new areas and to revisit old characters and bring in new characters. Some people, again, it’s not going to be for them, and that’s inevitable.”
Anne’s next remarks were music to my ears as she compared Prince Lestat to my most favorite chapter of The Vampire Chronicles, the aforementioned Queen of the Damned. “It’s definitely the most like Queen of the Damned. It’s the only one other than Queen of the Damned that really talks about the whole tribe being in a crisis, more or less – several crises actually – and demands from the young ones for the Old Ones to please come forward, come out of hiding, and take over and lead.”
“The young are very dissatisfied that Mekare and Maharet, the eldest of the tribe, are in hiding, in exile, unreachable. They summon people to themselves every now and then. It’s Maharet really; Mekare is not doing anything except holding the Sacred Core inside her. It’s about the proliferation of the young vampires in 2013 all over the planet needing somebody to be a leader. They are a leaderless tribe, a leaderless people. The threats they are mainly facing are from one another. They are battling over territory in the cities, they’re squabbling. Different things happen and they don’t know whether it’s the Old Ones targeting them or other young ones. There’s a lot of chaos. They want somebody to step up; they want somebody to be a leader. And that’s what it’s really about. It’s whether or not Lestat will come forward and whether any other of the ancients is willing to come forward and give up their sort of sublime solitude and their sublime exile to come into the fray, more or less, and be seen and be heard and so forth.”
THE WOLF GIFT, THE MAYFAIR WITCHES, AND MORE!
With a lot of chaos in play and Anne’s own Facebook post back in March of this year that she was already formulating ideas for the sequel, which the author confirmed for us will be titled Blood Paradise (conceived by her editor, Vicky Wilson), we wondered how many more novels about the Brat Prince there might be on the horizon.
The potential is “unlimited right now,” according to Rice, “unlimited. The second one I hope to have finished by October. It’s just boiling over with materialâ€¦
“When I finish it, I’ll know. There’ll be a period of exhaustion, but then I’ll know if there’s going to be a third right away or if it’s going to take a little time. But I would say it’s unlimited right now; I don’t see closing it out. I never really wanted to close it out anyway. When I stopped, I left it open; that’s why a lot of people were disappointed in Blood Canticle back in 2003 because there was no real finale. It was just Lestat went dancing off into the night. *laughs* I left it open. I didn’t resolve things… I liked the idea of them all existing out there and all moving through time and making new connections and making new vampires.”
With new connections being mentioned, we asked Anne, now that Lestat is back in her life, does she still have time for Reuben Golding and his Wolf Gift cohorts? “I’ll get back to them soon,” she promised. “They’re just a different language and a different kind of pleasure to write.”
What sort of differences are there when writing about vampires versus werewolves? “[Wolves] are a lot of fun… to me it’s a different story [to write] about immortals in the modern world and how they adjust. The wolves are different because, you know, they’re really human most of the time. Fully, completely human. So in some ways it’s a lot of fun to write about them because they can function so well in the human world. With the vampires, it’s always after dark. And it’s always titanic powers: mind-reading, flying, defying gravity, being able to burn someone up with your mind.”
“When you deal with characters who are that powerful, it takes a lot of negotiation. How do you find a plot when you have a houseful of people who can all read each other’s thoughts? You have to find some way to describe how they shut one another out or confuse one anotherâ€¦ with the wolves I don’t have to do that so much.”
With witches being so ubiquitous these days, especially on TV, we had to ask Anne about any progress being made with regard to James Duff’s adaptation of her The Lives of the Mayfair Witches novels, a project that first sprang to life over five years ago. You’d think HBO, Showtime, or even upstarts like A&E or WGN America would snap it up. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
Rice explained, “The actual, practical reason [is] Warner Bros. owned two of The Witching Hour books for ten years, and when they reverted back to me, they reverted back to me with a lien against them for a certain amount of money. It’s that that’s hanging things up. The rights are available; they’re mine, I own the rights, but whoever steps up to make a movie or a miniseries has got to pay Warner Bros. that moneyâ€¦ It’s a fairly large lienâ€¦ they paid me quite a bit for The Witching Hour and for Lasher, the second novel. But there is a lot of interest… I think things will move. Let’s hope that Prince Lestat, even though it’s not about the witches, will help.”
As for any of the latest reboot/remake/reimagining rumors about the granddaddy of them all, her classic Interview with the Vampire, Anne acknowledged, “There’s a lot of movie interest. Let’s hope… It’s always a matter of hammering out the contract, and it’s so complicated. I do think it’s a golden era though. We have never had fantasy and the supernatural on TV like we have today of the finest qualityâ€¦ It’s just a banquet table right now of unbelievable entertainment. It’s really greatâ€¦ Today we have this feast, and we have this archival culture where you can find anything of any age, too. It’s just a great time.”
It certainly wasn’t always that way. Genre films and TV shows of any sort were few and far between back when Anne was growing up and starting her career. She told us how impactful NBC’s 1973 TV movie “Frankenstein: The True Story” was on her writing back in the beginning. “That had a big influence on me,” she reminisced. “I saw that and wrote Interview with the Vampireâ€¦ it was so well done and so beautiful, so romantic and so rare, at that time, that it just sent me right in to my desk to write Interview with the Vampire. And now we’ve got 20 times that happening.”
With Prince Lestat hitting bookshelves October 28th, Halloween 2014 is sure to be one to remember for Rice, and she’ll be celebrating in style at the Lestat Coronation Ball (hosted by Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club) in New Orleans on October 31st.
Anne extended us – and our readers – an invitation: “If you’ve never come to the Ball, think of coming because it can be quite wonderful. It also can be a lot of fun to be in New Orleans and in the French Quarter for Halloween!” Be careful what you wish for, Anne. We just might take you up on your offer!
Our thanks to Anne Rice for her time, Becket for his camera work, and Josh Zajdman at Penguin Random House for coordinating.
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