Anne Rice wrote about vampires decades before the “Twilight” trend and now the queen of gothic fiction is releasing her “The Wolves of Midwinter,” the sequel to her popular book, “The Wolf Gift.” Metro spoke with Rice about her work and pop culture’s gothic renaissance.
Metro: What do you think of this huge resurgence of vampires, werewolves and everything supernatural?
I really don’t know what to make of it. I’ve been watching it now for a number of years. It’s like horror fiction finally went mainstream. I think it’s good; it means more and better authors are writing more and better books about supernatural entities and that’s great. It wasn’t like this 20 or 30 years ago, so I’m quite delighted. I think it’s a golden age for us readers who love supernatural fiction and films and TV. Great shows – unbelievable, wonderful shows – are happening with vampires, witches and wolves and I’m hoping my stuff will be on the small screen soon, too.
Will we see any of your work on TV anytime soon?
“Angel Time,” the novel I wrote about Toby O’Dare working for the angels, has been optioned by CBS. I’m very excited about it. The producer, Carl Beverly, is first rate and so are his associates: They have some of the best shows on TV right now.
Do you watch horror TV shows?
I’ve enjoyed a lot of it. I protect my mind from what’s too close to my own turf. I enjoy “True Blood” because it’s so different. I love watching that wonderful, fictional town of Bon Temps, La., come to life. Charlaine Harris and Alan Ball have done a wonderful job of it for HBO. I enjoy that enough so I feel entirely comfortable sitting on the couch and watching it. Sometimes if I feel it’s too close to my turf, I wish people well but I’m not going to watch it because it’s too painful.
I also love “Game of Thrones” – I’m a huge fan of that. That’s fabulous.
Do you feel like other people have taken advantage of your ideas?
I wouldn’t assume that they’ve stolen my ideas. I wish them well – it’s just a personal decision on my part that I don’t want to watch it but this is a crowded field. We all influence each other. There are a lot of people writing these things now. I wish everybody well.
You used to have a home in New Orleans and the city has a strong influence on your work.
I’d love to get an apartment in the quarter so I could be there part of the year. I was just looking at some of the apartments for rent. I’d love to spend one month out of the year there. Anyone who’s lived in New Orleans misses it terribly. If you don’t, something’s wrong with you.
You’ve had a complicated relationship with religion. Can you tell us more about that?
I walked away from all religion two years ago. I came to the conclusion that God isn’t owned or controlled of any one product, religion or church. I want to talk to God on my own. I think many, many people have come to that conclusion. We’re a growing majority.
Was there a particular event that sparked that?
My decision was the result of years of theological investigation and Bible study and prayer. I felt I couldn’t believe in the whole belief system anymore.
I think the social pressure is what put me over the edge, especially the relentless persecution of gays and women. I could have kept quiet about having any faith in any church, but when they are spending millions preventing Americans women from accessing contraception and gays from getting married – I’ve said enough. The real breakthrough was theological.
Do you label yourself at all?
I am a believer. I believe in God and Jesus, but I don’t want any label. The labels have too many bad associations.
You’ve published 32 books since 1972. How has your writing changed over the years?
I feel that my writing gets cleaner and more controlled over time. You learn how to do better, which you want to do as the years pass. There are always some people who prefer the way you did it when you started out and they may not like the way you change. I don’t think there’s much you can do about it. I enjoy it a little more now than ever.
You don’t feel burnt out?
Good heavens, no. I’m on fire. I want to do two new books about ghosts and I don’t have time do to them. If anything, I feel like I’m totally on fire. I’ve done the second book in the second book in the “Wolf Gift” series and the third with “Angel Time” and I want to go back and look at some of my older books. These two ghost ideas are driving me crazy. I’ve been trying to find the time for two years to put them down on paper. I’m going to get on that. You can’t plan for this: It just so happens that you have down periods and fertile periods. I happen to be in a manically fertile period.
Can you give us the scoop on these ghost stories?
I wrote about ghosts in “Servant of the Bones” and I created a cosmology of ghosts that I want to continue. I want to write about a ghost in modern New York and a ghost in the old West.
What do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot. I don’t enjoy sports. I’m not somebody who can flop before a football game. I really enjoy watching high quality TV: generally narrative dramas and series. I’m reading “Dr. Sleep” right now by Stephen King: I read that for three hours last night. I enjoy reading what doesn’t threaten me. I would say that’s my hobby; that’s how I get away from it all. I read a lot of old bestsellers. I read “Kings Row” by Henry Bellamann and “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious. I read a number of old bestsellers to see how things change over the decade. I read a lot of Jackie Susann. I’ve always been intrigued by other writers.
Which books have influenced you and your writing?
“The Godfather” had a lasting influence on me and really spurred me to try to do the big books, which I’ve done in the past with different sections and personalities. I think “The Godfather” is a real underrated. It’s brilliantly written. Mario Puzo didn’t get the praise he deserved. I’ve been influenced by Norman Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song.” I usually read things that can teach me something new.
Your latest book, “The Wolves of Midwinter,” is a sequel and you mentioned earlier that you might revive and continue some old characters. Do you enjoy writing serial novels?
I wrote “The Wolf Gift” without knowing it was a series. It was complete in itself. It’s the story of Reuben discovering he could be a werewolf and finding the answers of where his power came from. I wanted to continue it because I loved the characters and I loved the whole story. If you finish the first book and you want to talk more about it, you have a series or at least a sequel, and I think I want to go into a third book. I don’t ever intend on writing a series: I don’t think I ever hold back information thinking it will be revealed in the sequel.
Do you have any characters in particular you want to revisit?
A lot of times, people want me to go back to “The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned,” but I don’t really know. I might just go with the ghosts because they’re new.
Are you working on something right now?
I’m ready to go on tour so I’m sort of in between. I wish I could when I’m in between but I’m never able to.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It really depends. It can be two months, sometimes less. It depends on how much preparation there is and how much research has been finished. I would say my best books are done between six weeks and three months. If it goes longer than that, they’re real problems.
Are you able to write book after book without a break?
I try to go into a new book, but it rarely works. I have to watch some TV, take walks, eat chips and drink some diet cola. I need to recharge.
What has been your favorite book to write?
“Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.” I think I was able to pull together something in that book that was just joyful and difficult and challenging and for me, very, very exciting. It’s written from Jesus’ point of view. He’s about to go into public life and daily life in Nazareth and it was a huge challenge to make that character real to myself and have it be biblically and theologically accurate. I’ve never done anything like that except for the earlier “Christ the Lord” book. I also think it’s extremely successful. It’s short, it’s tight and I think that has worked for a lot of reasons. There are a lot of my readers who will never read it and I understand how much people hate Christianity and religion but I hope that book will always be out there standing on its own and that people will read it, even people who hate me. Every book I write somebody hates. When I was writing about vampires, some people thought I was a devil-worshipping monster and wouldn’t read them even though some English teacher was giving them out in class. My work was always polarizing to people. It’s always been that way.
Does that bother you?
It used to but I’m resigned now. I know it’s just going to be that way. Any book I write, you can go on Amazon and see the reviews and somebody has called it the worst book ever published. You read a great review and you think, “Oh wow, great, how generous” and the next review is, “How could she publish this drivel?” and there you go again. I’m told I should be thankful that people are not indifferent and I am.
What do you like to do for Halloween?
I like to stay right here in my house, opening the front door for itty bitty kids and smiling at them in a big witch’s cap. This year, I’ll be in West Hollywood for Halloween. We’ll be landing after my tour is over and I have an apartment in West Hollywood so I’ll just stay there. I understand it’s a real big deal in West Hollywood – it’s huge – so I’m looking forward to peeking out the window. My son lives there. He just published “The Heaven’s Rise” and we’ll be doing this tour together. We’re going to be signing together. I don’t know if we’ll go out on Hallowentogether or not. He probably has young man plans.
Does he ask you for help?
Not at all. We’re real writing buddies. We share manuscripts when we’re finished and discuss the ups and downs of writing but we don’t help each other. I give comments when he gives me manuscripts and vice versa but we’re very respectful of each other’s integrity.
It sounds like he’s a peer and not a mentee.
He’s definitely a peer and his new novel is very exciting. I’m so glad he’s broken into the supernatural because we have that in common and it’s going to be fun to tour with him. His book is set in New Orleans and he spent a lot of his youth there. I’m glad to see him go back to that turf.