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Anne Rice Talks Inspiration, Atlantis, and, Yes, Vampires

An interview with the famed author ahead of the release of her upcoming novel “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.”

Anne Rice, author of the acclaimed <em>The Vampire Chronicles</em>
Anne Rice, author of the acclaimed The Vampire Chronicles Rob Kim/Getty Images

Before the often-cheesy vampires of modern teenage literature, there were the beautifully dark and complicated vampires of Anne Rice’s novels. These vampires not only reflect a rich and complex inner life that is in constant flux, but also serve as a stand-in for the human condition. Long after we’ve forgotten about Twilight, it’s likely Prince Lestat and his world will continue to populate our imagination.

Rice has written eleven books in her series The Vampire Chronicles, which began in 1976 with Interview with the Vampire. That series will expand further with the 12th installment of the series, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, set to go on sale later this month.

The new installment of <em>The Vampire Chronicles</em> will be on sale on November 29th.
The new installment of The Vampire Chronicles will be on sale on November 29th. Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Ahead of the book’s release, Atlas Obscura spoke with Anne about her work as a writer, the future of the Chronicles, and her sources of inspiration:

What kind of documents or books do you read while researching for your books? Do you read other vampire literature?

I read and enjoy history, archaeology, mythology, anthropology and religious reading all the time. This feeds continuously into my stories and my plots and my characters. I research on every level: finding out what the interior of a famous Paris cafe looks like by googling for the info; reading books by Graham Hancock on catastrophe theory, or the idea that the world suffered a huge shift in sea level 12 thousand years ago; reading current literature for stimulation. There is just so much reading that goes into my daily life. But I do avoid vampire literature.  I don’t want to be distracted by other people’s vampires. Exception: Charlaine Harris. I found her Sookie Stackhouse characters stimulating and fun.

You’ve said that you keep up with investigations into ghosts and spirits. What are the most interesting and obscure things you’ve found?

I read the reports world wide of ghost sightings and I read of near-death experiences world wide, and I’m impressed by the patterns that emerge, because those patterns are not easily explainable. Like why do near-death experiences always involve seeing dead people? If they were pure hallucinations, would they not be random?

Have you ever had a supernatural encounter? Do you believe that it’s possible?

No, I’ve never had a supernatural encounter. My mind is open on it. But nothing has ever happened to me to indicate that there is anything supernatural out there. Never.

The loss of your daughter prompted you to start writing. How did the birth of your son change your relationship to literature? Did it affect your books at all?  

Actually, I have always wanted to be a writer, and was writing a novel and short stories long before my daughter became ill. I was majoring in Creative Writing when she was born. When I set out to write Interview with the Vampire after her death, I drew on my earlier short story with that title. I can’t say my son’s birth changed my relationship with writing at all. Certainly experiencing his generation, meeting and getting to know his school friends, confronting a younger generation every day with him, all this influenced my confidence in being able to write about young people and from their point of view. All of my life goes into my writing, including my experiences as a parent. Right now one of the joys of my life is that my son is an novelist, that we are fellow novelists.

What is the hardest scene you’ve had to write? And the most enjoyable?  

The hardest was the rape of Marie Ste. Marie in Feast of All Saints. I hated it. The most enjoyable? Hard to say. It’s hard work to write any scene, even the most optimistic or the most pessimistic. Some books of mine have been written in periods of optimism and joy, like Blackwood Farm for instance. Other books, like Tale of the Body Thief in dark depression.  

This book changes everything for vampires, and introduces a new species with which they will have to live now. Is this the start of a new era in the Chronicles? Can we expect more books in the future?  

For me Prince Lestat was a personal reboot of the Chronicles. I am in love with Lestat as the leader of the tribe, in love with what he’ll do as Prince as the tribe confronts challenges. And yes, I will write a new book flowing directly out of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. I want very much to go on with the story of the survivors of Atlantis and the vampires. I’m loving doing these books, loving working with suspense and a large cast of characters.  

Why do you think the world needs fantasy fiction?

The world has always needed art in all forms including sculpture, painting, architecture and poetry and prose stories. Most of the great literature of the world is fantasy fiction. We’ve only known a short time in history when anyone thought “realism” was a practical idea for great literature. Literary history is dominated by Homer’s heroes and heroines, Virgil’s heroes and heroines, Shakespeare’s kings and queens, and gods and goddesses,  and his witches and his ghosts, and the brilliant fantasies of the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. Fantasy fiction embraces the highest literary values: plot, spectacle, suspense, great persons, tragedy, pity, catharsis.

What places on earth do you think we would most likely find vampires?  

We find vampires in great dense cities where they can pass for human and feed off the population. Also vampires love beauty. With their heightened senses, they have a deep appreciation for the grandeur of Rome and Venice, of the historic buildings and monuments of Jerusalem, and Cairo, and the natural beauty of New Orleans and the Caribbean, of India, Peru, Brazil … all the dramatically beautiful and enchanting places.

Vampires don’t love conformity or sterility, and are not too comfortable with things that are uniformly modern.

Are there any real places that inspired Atalantaya?

Not really. All I have ever known and seen went into my Atalantaya. It is my utopia, my idea place.

What are your favorite places in the world?

My favorite places in the world include New Orleans, Rome, Florence and Venice, Paris, London, and Jerusalem. I long to see India, and very much want to go to Peru. I have loved Rio de Janeiro, too. I love to travel. I want to get back to England. I want to live in Oxford for a while. I want to visit Scotland. I have so many dreams.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

*Update 11/22/16: An earlier version of this article misspelled Sookie Stackhouse’s name. We apologize for the mistake.