Anne Rice. (Public Domain)
Anne Rice, prolific writer of the supernatural genre, recently passed away at age 80. While best known for her Gothic tales of vampires, she had a varied oeuvre that alluded to a vast imagination. She was married to the poet and painter Stan Rice for 41 years, who passed in 2002 at the age of 60. She is survived by her son, writer Christopher Rice.
She grew up in a fairly unconventional household in New Orleans surrounded by three sisters who enjoyed making up stories. She was born Howard Allen Frances O'Brien, named after her postal worker father who enjoyed writing fiction. Her older sister, Alice Borchardt, also wrote fantasy and horror fiction. In grade school she adopted the name “Anne” and she initially planned to become a priest (before knowing that wasn’t allowed), or a nun.
Though primarily known for her ties to New Orleans and sizable doll collection, she also briefly maintained a pied-a-terre in Manhattan with her family. She mentioned it while promoting her novel Taltos: "You feel embraced by New York when you're there," she said. "You can turn off all the lights, and all the buildings around you are lit up and you feel comforted and not alone." (source: NYT) Her childhood home on St. Charles in New Orleans served as the primary setting for Violin. (source: NYT)
For those interested in Anne Rice’s works, we’ve put together a reader’s starter guide to her imaginative worlds.
The best place to start with Anne Rice is her breakout bestsellerInterview with the Vampire (1976) which was later made into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. This novel is constructed around the reporter's attempt to tape the vampire Lestat’s recitation of his life while relying on her excellent descriptive prose. The Vampire Lestat (1985) and The Queen of the Damned (1988), also made into a film starring Aaliyah, round out the trilogy, though she did not stop here and continued with the Vampire Chronicles for many years. Though most of her works from these chronicles focused on the main character of Lestat, she later branched out into focusing on others like the vampire Armand and standalone titles like Pandora, featuring a vampire chronicling the stories of the eldest vampires, and Vittorio the Vampire.
While Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel, Interview with the Vampire introduces the reader to vampire reportage through the medium of audiotape. One can only imagine what technologies are in store for future vampire series. Rice also introduces us to the idea of vampires as performers with Lestat’s musical career and to the idea of a council of watchers that keep an eye on the supernatural world called the Talamasca. These, and other ideas, have so informed the modern idea of vampires that it’s hard to imagine many popular vampire retellings without Rice’s influence.
Her early works are quite varied, ranging from erotic novels under the pen names A.N. Roquelaure (The Sleeping Beauty quartet) and Anne Rampling (Exit to Eden) to her 1982 standalone novel Cry to Heaven about the career of two castrati.
The aforementioned selected writings, while by no means comprehensive, give an overview of the author’s myriad writing styles and interests. Several of her works have also been adapted for comic books and manga, including Servant of the Bones in 2011 and Interview with the Vampire: Claudia’s Story from Yen Press.