As a teen, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (then just the four, in paperback) were my first introduction to a worldview outside of my home. I had never, for a second, questioned my religious upbringing, or even dared to question the existence of a male, omnipotent, vengeful god. What those books brought me was nothing short of a massive shaking, and an ability I pride myself on to this day - the ability to hold two opposing viewpoints in my head at the same time, drilling down on both.
Throughout the rest of my life, Anne Rice would remain a favorite author, and her myriad vampire histories made the rounds with me to all my living situations, to the dismay of any helping me move because I refused to own any after the initial four in anything other than hardback. I recall with striking clarity moving into my college dorm with all of her books, a blue clamshell mac laptop, and nothing else. I would end up writing and rewriting a paper on Louis' conversion to vampirism contrasted with Saint Augustine's conversion to Jesus for the professor who introduced me to the concept of feminism.
So, imagine my joy when it was announced Anne Rice would be returning to the Vampire Chronicles--characters I, as all readers who immerse themselves in truly great fiction do -- considered my friends. And with Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis the second book in the newly revitalized series, which sees our Brat Prince Lestat dealing with the perils of his reign, I was fortunate enough to get to ask Anne Rice some questions I've been pondering over for quite some time.
Regarding The Vampire Chronicles with Prince Lestat, what was it about these characters, Lestat in particular, that compelled you to return to writing them?
Lestat has always provided the most intense fictional experience for me when writing. Why is a mystery. He represents the outsider in me, and my being an outsider is probably the dominant characteristic of me that made me a writer. I love the vampire world around Lestat and find it the most comfortable place in which to "live" fictionally. Lestat's reflections and adventures are always allegorical for me without my even thinking about it. In sum, the Vampire Chronicles have always been deep waters psychologically and morally for me, for complex reasons that I perhaps cannot explain, but to which I pay a lot of attention. When I sink into Lestat's world, I feel that I'm talking about my reality on all levels. I can't resist it, really.
What role do you see the element of magic playing with the world of The Vampire Chronicles?
In so far as magic means the unexplainable, I avoid magic. I've always worked with the notion that there is a biological reality behind ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, etc. --- that the astral plane, the soul, apparitions, the human mind.... all of this involves a subtle biology that we cannot detect or study YET with our given instruments, but which we will someday be able to see and study. I loved developing these ideas, and spoke about them in "The Witching Hour," and in "The Wolves of Midwinter" and I am always speaking about them in the Vampire Chronicles. I see the spirits and ghosts of Earth as evolving and learning, as surely as human beings are evolving and learning, and I think their behavior follows discernible patterns. I think Near Death Experiences, ghostly apparitions, reports of spirit contact, the astral plane, et al follow discernible patterns, all indicate a subtle, mysterious physical reality behind what seems purely "spiritual" to us. No magic. ------- In other words, my vampires don't run at the sight of garlic, they are reflected in mirrors, they cannot disintegrate and restore themselves physically, though many of my incarnated spirits can -- for physical reasons. ----- In so far as magic means the ability to control and manipulate unseen forces, I do believe that there are sensitive people on earth who can communicate with spirits, but it's not magical. They for knowable yet unknown reasons can see and hear spirits and spirits like to be seen and heard and they respond. Magic... pure magic... is not something I believe in.
To what extent do you feel the dark gift is a magical process, and to what extent do you consider it religious?
I have, through the years, likened Louis’ conversation in Interview to St Augustine finding God and was curious on your take on that. It's neither religious or magical. It is purely physical, but it is baffling and mysterious to us today because we cannot see the subtle subatomic particles involved when Vampiric blood floods human blood and the human body. It is a discernible physical thing. Louis sought desperately for religious implications to what had befallen him with the Dark Gift, but essentially he found none. Lestat on the other hand, who never saw the Dark Gift as magical or religious (in fact, early on he disproved the magical and religious claims to his satisfaction) sought to find the oldest vampires of the world, and in finding Marius, got the answers to many of his questions about the history of vampires. Unfortunately he couldn't share these secrets with Louis which doomed Louis' quest and eventually led to Louis and Claudia nearly destroying Lestat as they set off to find answers in Europe. ------ An undercurrent of all my books is that superstition and ignorance surround our humanity, our intelligence, our sense of having a soul, and that in the preternatural realm --- the realm of ghosts and spirits and vampires --- the same superstition and ignorance rules. But it's not magic. It's not religion. It just seems that way when you don't know the science behind it. A major theme of "Prince Lestat" is that you can find the science behind it though you cannot see the vampiric cells under a microscope. A major theme in the Chronicles is that attempts to surround the Dark Gift with religious mythology and rules is doomed and produces horrific violence and evil as witnessed in the Children of Satan and their attack on Marius, and their enslavement of Armand and others. In other words, the supernatural world as we see it is looking for answers just as we are. We are all earthbound, seeking to know what lies beyond, but we can't. At least we can never be entirely sure.
I’m curious, after your lengthy spiritual journey, where you currently find yourself in terms of personally held faiths and beliefs?
I have rejected all religion as I know it. I retain a great love for God and the story of God Incarnate in Jesus, but that love persists without belief or theology. I studied Christian belief intensely for over 12 years and came to hold that the rules and theology of the belief system were the work of theologians who came after Jesus. The rules and theology are not even supported by the foundational documents (the bible) let alone the natural world. And the bible itself is a deeply flawed document. I reject all of it. I retain a love for God and a hope that He exists. I remain grateful for a rich, European influenced religious heritage that shaped me as a thinker and an artist and a writer. But I believe in nothing but us, and our capacity to love and be good.
What’s your next adventure going to be?
My next book continues the story of Prince Lestat, and the challenges facing him and the tribe. His realm now includes the Replimoids of Atlantis, and he will confront a huge threat in the next book that will surprise both groups as we know them from the current book. Central to the book will be the same theme: that there are no sure religious answers to our moral questions, and we must work out ethics for ourselves in a godless universe. We must ask of ourselves what we hoped in the past to find in gods. This has been the theme of the Chronicles since the beginning.
Visit Anne Rice's website for more information about the author and her books.