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Anne Rice.  One need only to hear or read the name and the mind is filled with visions of gothic estates, ancient chateaus, New Orleans, Egypt, and the beautiful vampires who walk their halls and stalk their streets.  In the 40 years since Interview with the Vampire was first released, she has managed to carve out her own niche in genre fiction, creating something that is horror, thriller, fantasy, and romance.  Something that fans will tell you transcends those labels in the process.

I first encountered Interview in high school shortly after the film was released and I quickly found a copy of the book and devoured it in a matter of hours.  To say that I’m an Anne Rice fanboy would be appropriate, and so you can imagine the sheer joy I experienced when she agreed to answer a few questions for me about her latest book Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.  

The latest book in her Vampire Chronicles tells a story that many of her fans have wanted to hear for a long time, delving into the backstory of the mysterious spirit Amel who actually created the first vampires when he fused his essence into the blood and bodies of King Enkil and Queen Akasha after they were betrayed by their followers.  It was a story 40 years in the making, and yet, until her recent Prince Lestat and its followup, the author says, she had not really considered telling his story beyond what we already knew.

“We’ve known him through many books as the spirit that animates and connects all vampires, but for centuries he was believed to have lost his individuality on all levels,” she began. “Residing in Akasha, the Queen of the Vampires, he appeared to have no will or voice of his own. Even after having been taken into a new host in “Queen of the Damned,” Amel still seemed an unconscious being. And all vampires knew that the death of the host would mean the death of Amel and the death of the entire tribe, as if all vampires were blossoms on a vine connected to Amel.”

“Well, all this changed in “Prince Lestat” when Amel began to speak telepathically to and through different vulnerable vampires and eventually was taken willingly into Lestat who became the host and the prince of the tribe,” she continued.  “In “Realms” we discover a whole lot more about Amel, his nature, his personality, how he came to be a spirit and such a powerful spirit etc.  I did not plan this from the beginning.  Nothing about my vampire novels was planned from the beginning.  I identified with Lestat as he moved along through the years seeking answers and encountering opportunities to have different adventures.  Each new book evolves from the book before it.  I love this process, frankly.  I love being Lestat.  I love asking the questions and imagining the answers.”

As you might conclude from the title, Amel’s story is directly tied to the lost island of Atlantis and the great mystery that has surrounded its origins and its fall since the time of Plato. It was a risky endeavor, but Rice says, it’s one that seems to have paid off.  The book has the highest rating on Amazon of any of her books from the last 20 years.  She’s delighted by that response, and she points out that the public ultimately decides if a book works or not.  She’s also not deterred by the lack of enthusiasm from some readers.

“Of course there are some who do not care for the book. This is always the case.  And there are a few who criticize its science fiction element;” Rice points out, “but for me the vampires are very much part of it, as well as the speculation about Atlantis, and Lestat is at the center with the glittering vampire court in his chateau in France, and for me it is a satisfying blend of gothic romance, science fiction elements, and the traits that for me make the Vampire Chronicles unique and unclassifiable.   If I had to classify the book, I’d call it a metaphysical thriller.  All my books are metaphysical thrillers as I see them.”

Telling Amel’s story took us to new and exciting places and Rice introduces us to a brand new breed of immortal.  They are wholly different from the vampires in their biology and method of procreating, and some of the most fascinating creatures to appear in Rice’s books.  She points out, however, that really their story is just as human as the vampires and their motivations are really the same as our own.

“Procreation is indeed a theme of the Chronicles just as immortality is a theme.   How do these immortal beings procreate? And they always feel a great need to do this.  Of course all this is metaphorically about us, about our feeling that we are immortal, our faith that we have immortal souls, and our desperation to procreate through love.  I am obsessed with these metaphors,” she says.  “But it is always about us.  All good supernatural and fantasy novels are about us, about the human condition.   All good science fiction I ever read is about us, about the human heart and soul.”

The author made one of the boldest moves imaginable in telling Amel’s story and as her vampires came to terms with their origins.  With the stroke of a pen, the evolution and future of the vampires was completely turned on its head.  It was jarring to read and I could not imagine writing it, but once again, the author approached the subject from a different perspective and gives another glimpse into her process at the same time.

“It took nerve.  Yes, I do change things dramatically for Lestat and the tribe.  But I see this as opening more than one door for Lestat and the vampires, for more books about the adversaries and the challenges they now face,” she explained.  “It all felt quite right when I did it.  I am a person who works instinctively, trusting much to the process, putting myself into Lestat and seeing the world through his eyes… and if it doesn’t feel right, well it just doesn’t get written.  This all felt quite right.”

The change does indeed open doors for her vampires and the new immortals that grace the page.  The two are inextricably bound to each other, Rice points out, and she’s excited about the prospects of where the story may lead in the next book which she is already writing.  The focus will remain on her beloved Lestat and the vampires we have all come to love over the last four decades and focusing on the tribe as a whole rather than the single memoir books such as Pandora and Blood and Gold that we’ve seen in the past.

The new novel wasn’t the only big news that Rice revealed to the world recently.  Fans were also treated to the news that she had regained the theatrical rights to ALL of the Vampire Chornicles.  It was an announcement that was created quite a stir in her fandom with speculation to format and casting when she also announced that she would like to see an adaptation as a television series, rather than only a series of films.

“Right now, we are extremely grateful for the interest shown by many in a Vampire Chronicles television series and we are carefully weighing the offers we’ve received or the overtures that have come our way.  Tentatively, my ideal for the series would be with a production entity that orders an entire season’s worth of episodes and offers an entire season to the public at one time,” she told me. “But there are other possibilities.  I hope for very high production values, and for a commitment to telling the story of Lestat from the beginning–from his early manhood in France right up to his discoveries in the 21st century of the links connecting the vampires to the legend of the lost kingdom of Atlantis—Lestat is made a vampire in the late 18th century in Paris, and almost immediately he sets out to discover the origin of the species, and what other vampires there are in the world.  Lestat’s quest created the series.”

Fans of the novels were seriously put off by the film Queen of the Damned because so many liberties were taken with the story and so many elements were changed to create a single movie from two novels.  The author wants to assuage those fears as much as possible, though, saying she is inspired by the type of television series that have become available in the last decade.

“We are committed to fidelity to the material, and faith in it as a story that is profoundly compelling and need not be watered down in any way or distorted in any way to accommodate “contemporary concerns.  We want the sort of faith in the material that David Geffen and Neil Jordan displayed in making the film Interview with the Vampire in 1994.   And we long for the dazzling  production values and fine acting we’ve seen in  “Game of Thrones” and “The Crown.”  Television is in a golden era right now with some of the most creative storytelling we’ve ever seen on film. The art direction, the cinematography, the acting…all incredibly fine now.    I’m delighted, delighted, to be working on this.   Other series that have profoundly inspired me over the years include “The Tudors,” “Deadwood,” “Six Feet Under,” “Carnivale,” Neil Jordan’s “The Borgias,” “Hell on Wheels,” and “Penny Dreadful” which I have just begun to enjoy.  There are too many others to name.”

To stay abreast of all the latest news, you can follow Anne on her very active Facebook page and on Twitter @AnneRiceAuthor.  You might also want to check out the Facebook page for The Vampire Chronicles.adaptation set up by Anne and her son, the talented author Mr. Christopher Rice.

As we wait for the next course in the sumptuous feast that is the Vampire Chronicles, it’s never too late to catch up.  Pick up a copy of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis today!

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