I thought this was a nice short interview with Anne Rice to share. It reveals some insights into Rice’s personal struggling with religion throughout most of her writing career. This is something that I’ve previously noticed, and it is very easy to see in her books. Many of the main characters have religious struggles, mainly they have a hard time accepting that they are damned beyond redemption. Rice also talks about her new series Angel Time. Anne Rice has been my favorite author since I was a young teenager. I have read (or at least own, yet to read) most of her books. There is no author who is more descriptive. I have yet to read any of her books post conversion back to Catholicism. When I do, I will review them, of course.
‘Called out of darkness’ and into light of Christ
Anne Rice tells how her evolution of writing about vampires to angels reflected her spiritual journey from atheism to the Catholic faith
For years, Anne Rice, author of “The Vampire Chronicles” series and creator of the infamous vampire Lestat, was identified by the dark world of her own imagination. In 1998, however, she returned to the Catholic Church of her birth and in 2002 consecrated all her writing to Jesus Christ. Since then she has gone on to write two books in the “Christ the Lord” series, her spiritual confessions in “Called Out of Darkness” and the first book in her new “Song of Seraphim” series. “Angel Time,” a story of redemption wound around a metaphysical thriller, will be released Oct. 27.
Rice spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about the current pop-culture obsession with vampires, the spiritual dimensions of vampire literature and her own journey from atheism to faith.
Our Sunday Visitor: Why do people find vampires so fascinating, and what was it that drew you to them when you first started writing “The Vampire Chronicles”?
Anne Rice: I always found them fascinating because they were supernatural monsters that had been human beings and were still human to a large extent. I always perceived them to be powerful metaphors for the lonely one in each of us, or the alienated one, or the one who feels like a monster. I think that’s how vampire literature functions. It’s really about us, about our consciousness, our ability to contemplate our own death, and we use the vampire as a mythic figure to talk about our own selves. That has always been the case, and that is probably true of all supernatural fiction that pertains to monsters. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is really about us and what we do with our creative power and whether we misuse it or use it correctly.
I think the vampire myth is particularly flexible and potentially profound, so it’s going to keep exciting people each time a new author comes along and uses it in a different way. Bram Stoker obviously being the first, and Sheridan le Fanu, one of the others of the 19th century. … I brought something new to it in the minds of the public, and now at the present time we have new writers like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer bringing their new wrinkle to it all. I’m not surprised that people are interested. I think it’s built into the story itself of the vampire, the human being who becomes a monster who feeds off fellow human beings and who is doomed really to live in both worlds — the world of the living and the world of the dead. I think a lot of us feel that’s what we’re doing, and so we identify with the vampire; we respond to him with sympathy.
OSV: Today’s vampire seems transformed, less monsterlike and more sensitive friend. What is the significance of that shift?
Rice: Certainly these new books are embracing the vampire and dealing in a very direct way with our fascination with him. It’s people trying to get very close to the vampire, very close to his allure and his charm and human fascination with him. It’s just various degrees of intimacy in a way. That’s what’s happening.
OSV: There seems to be a younger audience for the new books and movies — preteens and teens. Do parents need to be concerned with their children’s vampire obsessions?
Rice: I don’t think parents need to be worried at all. I think kids are very aware of what’s a fantasy and what’s not a fantasy. I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil in vampire fiction. We know that vampires don’t exist, and the kids that write to me certainly know that. Their e-mails indicate that they’re responding to the romance in my books, to the glamour, to the beauty of the vampire, but they know perfectly well this is a mythic figure. I see it as a relatively harmless thing. In fact, I think there might be something good about children reading a lot and in understanding symbolic literature and speculative literature.
OSV: In an essay on your website, you talk about your work — from “The Vampire Chronicles” through the “Christ the Lord” series — as reflecting your journey through atheism back to God. How is your earlier work part of that spiritual journey?
Rice: As I was writing “Interview with the Vampire,” I knew that I identified with Louis the vampire and that I felt like a creature of the night and a creature who was separated from God and a creature who was lost and pretty miserable. The book is really a meditation on misery, on the misery of being separated from God. I felt very comfortable writing it because it allowed me to express my sorrow. It’s only years later that I realized the book is about the loss of my Catholic faith. It’s about a fall from grace, about leaving the Church, about roaming in the darkness of atheism for many years and feeling as obsessed with God as ever.
OSV: You have said that you cannot write any more vampire books but that you could never renounce your earlier works because they were so much a part of you. Can you talk about that?
Rice: I really don’t have any more stories to tell from the point of view of the vampires, because faith did come back to me and I felt that I found what those characters were always searching for. When faith came back, I wanted to write a new kind of fiction, a different kind of fiction, a fiction that I could dedicate directly to God. I would not go back to writing from the point of view of the vampires because the metaphors don’t work for me anymore. I feel I live now in a universe in which salvation is a possibility for everyone. The promise is there for everyone. So the dark fictional world of the vampire doesn’t have any validity for me now. But I certainly don’t want to renounce my earlier work, because I think it’s a perfect reflection of the struggle I was engaged in. I was searching for God and not willing to make the leap. To turn on those books, to decide they weren’t important now, would be completely dishonest because I think those books do mirror the search for God. I have no more stories to tell about Lestat. I love him. He is still part of me. He was my hero throughout the writing of the “Chronicles.” I still think of him all the time and picture him all the time, but I have no more stories to tell. I’d like to think wherever he is, he’s finding what I found.
OSV: In “Called Out of Darkness,” you write powerfully about Eucharist and Incarnation. What is the significance of your renewed faith in your life now and your decision to consecrate your writing to Christ?
Rice: One of the first things that happened to me after I made the commitment to go back to my Church and when I consecrated my work to Christ — told him that I would write only for him — was that there was this huge upsurge of energy in my writing. I don’t think I had ever expected life to be so interesting and so challenging at this point. It was like a renaissance for me. I was able to envision all kinds of new stories. “Angel Time” is an example. And writing the life of Christ, getting the two books done — “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” and “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana” — was a great adventure. It was very difficult, it was very challenging, and it was very thrilling. I felt suddenly that I was driving on all eight cylinders. I’m a little surprised when readers turn away and say, ‘We won’t read those books because they’re about Jesus.’ But what I’ve come to realize is that this is the same kind of prejudice I’ve confronted all my life. For years people said, ‘We won’t read her books because they’re about vampires.’ They would just dismiss them out of hand. It was the ultimate judging a book by its cover.
OSV: In “The Vampire Chronicles,” you were exploring life in a godless world. Now in your newest book, “Angel Time,” that spiritual quest has shifted. What was it like to write a book that is still a metaphysical thriller but this time with a focus on redemption?
Rice: The possibilities of Toby O’Dare [a contract killer who is the protagonist of “Angel Time”] are unlimited. He’s really on the side of the angels, and it’s tremendous fun to write about somebody on the side of the angels. I was certainly able to explore a lot of darkness, because darkness has been a part of my life and it’s going to come out in any book I write. I was able to explore that in Toby’s past — how he became an assassin, what happened to him, his suffering and his childhood. But then to have that hero turn around and get a possibility to do good instead of evil was tremendously exciting.
OSV: Is your work, your writing, part of your prayer life in a sense?
Rice: Definitely. Writing the “Christ the Lord” books was very much part of my prayer life, because it was so important to me that they be biblically and theologically accurate, that I began writing about Our Lord as I perceived him through faith as a Catholic, as a Christian. So a great deal of prayer was always involved as well as a close study of Scripture. I love reading Scripture. It’s been one of the great delights of the last few years for me, sitting down and having no distraction from just reading the Gospels. Very much my prayer life was involved. With “Angel Time” I have to think a lot about what Toby’s life is now and how a person does good and what is good as opposed to evil. He can’t just go out into the world and just do stuff to help people. He has to maintain his own commitment to God and his commitment to the angels who have recruited him. And so, yes, it’s part of my prayer life, definitely.
OSV: What has been the reaction among fans and colleagues to your transition from atheism to Catholicism?
Rice: I think people are pretty accepting. One thing is that my writing of the last few years has brought me much closer to my fellow Catholics and to many, many non-Catholics too. I feel a communion with everybody that shares my values. When I was writing “The Vampire Chronicles,” I was pretty much a loner. Certainly, there were a lot of people who shared my views then too, but we were all loners. That was our definition of ourselves. We were alienated. We weren’t members of anything. Now I feel like I’m a member of something, and it’s a very good feeling. (From:http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/5504/Called-out-of-darknessand-into-light-of-Christ.aspx)