Okay, I have a confession. My love of vampires didn't start with Bram Stoker's classic Dracula but instead with the blonde haired, blue eyed, brat of the great Anne RIce's imagination. Although written to be self-loathing Louis's first hand account of his trials and tribulations as a vampire, Lestat's bombastic, defiant, beautiful devil was the character that skyrocketed to the top of the food chain in Interview With the Vampire, scratching, clawing and biting for supremacy all the way. Penned in the late 60's and originally published in 1976, Interview with the Vampire proved to be a life changing event for me once I got my hands on it, my trajectory as a reader and would-be writer irrevocably changed. Rice's language was florid and fascinating, filled with long descriptive passages on everything from art, to history, to mythology, to religious dogma. Her human (and not so human) relationships were written with genuine heart and a very concise understanding of a being's insecurities and darker nature. In my opinion, her men were always more fully realized than her women characters, the males of her creation leaping off the page and grabbing you right away. They were sensual and self assured, conflicted and arrogant, learned and fragile all at once. But no male character in her repertoire ever leapt or grabbed more aggressively than her Lestat.
I've said many times over the years that Rice not only loved the fair-haired Adonis of her machinations, but also remained, after nearly forty years, madly in love with him. Which is why it was sometimes hard to stick with her in later works, since no one cared for Lestat nearly as much as his creator did, or needed to continue to suffer through his cruelty and mad, self involved tangents on the page.
After years of leaving Rice's novels behind, trying and failing to get fully hooked on her tales of witches, and then completely bailing out when she attempted writing Christian novels (in the voice of Jesus Christ himself no less!) I was convinced by a good review on the Nerdist to give her new novel, Prince Lestat, the ole college try. And, I have to admit, I'm happy I did. Prince is back to basics for Rice, her writing as sharp and as entrancing as ever. She seems to have loosened up a good deal, writing her muse Lestat, in particular, in a voice that's modern and witty, while staying true to his basest belligerent, self absorbed, unlikeable self. While relatively common place as far as plot (there's a Big Bad that needs to be stopped or the world as we know it will end) the execution is pure, classic Anne Rice. The book reads like a Greatest Hits album, including all your favorite characters, the most stunning gothic locals, and even her own career and legacy as a writer thrown in for good measure. Interview With the Vampire, the book within the book, is as big a part of Prince Lestat as Lestat himself, and it really is an ingenious, fun way to delve back into the author's vault -- a vault that inspired not only my love of all things sexy, damaged, alpha male vampire related, but also of the supernatural genre as a whole.
I was lucky enough meet Ms. Rice at The Book Review in Huntington several years ago, where she signed my shiny, new copy of Queen of the Damned (which I loved by the way, and will still sit through the movie adaptation every single time it comes on without fail). We, the adoring throngs, were allowed to ask one question of the author when we got our chance up to bat and it was like I had just been told I was about to accept a major award. After obsessing over what I could possibly ask the woman who had affected my life so profoundly from afar in sixty seconds or less (something akin to torture, I might add), I pondered and thought and pondered again. In the end I stuck to what I hoped was the most genuine, heartfelt inquiry, something that'd truly been niggling in the most creative and insecure parts of my artist's brain. I simply asked her what advice she would give to someone who wanted to write. After putting down her pen and pulling off her reading glasses, she actually looked at me square in the eye and seemed to be seriously considering her answer, despite the fact that I'm sure she'd been asked that exact question roughly five hundred times that day alone. "Jenn," she told me, "Never let anyone tell you shouldn't or you can't. Write what you want to write and don't listen to what anyone else has to say about it."
I'll admit, some days that advice is harder than others to follow -- even though they came from the very mouth of a woman I believe to be a bit a living legend (JK Rowling, you're next baby, so lookout). But I try to remember these sage words when I fail to get a review that I need, or see my already minuscule sales flagging. At the end of the day, I'm doing what I love to do. I'm creating something that means something to me, and I plan on doing exactly that for as long as I have a glimmer of a germ of an idea left rattling around in my brain. And maybe, just maybe, someday I'll be lucky enough to find my own Lestat; truly come to love something vital that I alone created on the page -- unfailingly, unflinchingly, and for years and years to come.