Anne Rice, Mother of Vampires

 

She is the mistress of the macabre, the weaver of witch tales, a native New Orleanian who may never have made her mark in the world if it weren’t for her near blood thirsty curiosity about what it would be like to interview a vampire.

We are only twenty seven days away from Halloween, and no countdown would be complete without a tribute to Anne Rice, my all-time favorite living author!

Luckily, today happens to be her birthday.  (I’m sure it is no coincidence that this woman came into the world so near to Halloween.)

Anne Rice was born on October 4, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the second of four daughters. Her parents, Howard and Katherine O’Brien, were of Irish Catholic descent. The family lived in the hard-scrabble, impoverished section of town known as the Irish Channel, where they rented a 3-room shotgun house. Most of Anne’s childhood was spent dealing with the hardships of poverty and her mother’s alcoholism.

Curiously, Anne is not her real name – her parents actually named her Howard, after her father.  Regarding her unusual name, Rice has said:

“My birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father’s name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world.”

In their defense, it is true that women with androgynous names sometimes do get certain advantages in life. This idea of boy-girl names for little girls became more popular in later decades. Consider Taylor, Beau, Ricki, Sammie, etc.  In the 1940’s, however, it must have been a pretty shocking thing to do.

Little Howard did not like her name at all. When she went to first grade at St. Alphonsus School, the nun asked her name and she replied. “Anne.”  It stuck. Her parents agreed to legally change her name in 1947.

New Orleans is a spooky and beautiful town, known for its ghosts and cemeteries. The dead are famously “buried above ground.” This is not so appalling as it may sound – it simply means that New Orleans adapted the French-Catholic custom of burying the dead in above ground in tombs and mausoleums, rather than underground coffins.

The cemeteries of New Orleans are legendary, hosting tales of folklore sure to fire any imagination. The Louisiana government takes no part in maintaining the tombs, so the upkeep of a deceased loved one is purely a family affair. This leads to a certain beauty – each tomb is personal, a work of art.

Here I am with my niece at St. Louis Cemetery #1 in the French Quarter.  In the tomb behind us lies none other than New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau!

New Orleans Cemetery

The O’Brien family lived right around the corner from Lafayette Cemetery #1. This was Anne’s childhood playground. It was in Lafayette that Anne would later place the tombs of her characters Lestat the vampire and the Mayfair witches.

Anne’s childhood was heavily influenced by her Catholic religion.  Black cloaks, dark confessional booths, rosary beads, candlelight vigils and marble statues that seemed to come to life were all part of her sensibilities. Not to mention symbolic blood drinking as designated by the sacraments.  Mix that with extreme poverty, family dysfunction,  cemeteries, voodoo, hoodoo, Mardi Gras – and we can easily see what fueled Anne’s wicked imagination.

When Anne was just fifteen years old, her mother died due to complications of alcoholism. Her father, unable to cope with four daughters, placed the girls in foster care at Saint Joseph’s Academy.  According to Anne, Saint Joseph’s was: “something out of Jane Eyre … a dilapidated, awful, medieval type of place. I really hated it and wanted to leave. I felt betrayed by my father.” Charles Dickens was Anne’s favorite author, and it seems her own childhood was a bit of a Victorian Bleak House.

Saint Joseph’s Academy

Two years later, in 1958, Howard Rice retrieved his daughters and moved the family to Richardson, Texas. There, Anne met her future husband Stan Rice, while both were students at Richardson High School. Although Anne left Texas after high school and moved to San Francisco, she remained in touch with Stan.  While Anne was in California, Stan sent her a telegram asking her to marry him.  She said yes! The two were wed in Texas in 1961 when Anne was twenty and Stan was just eighteen. They were married for forty one years until Stan’s death in 2002.

While living in San Francisco in 1973, Anne wrote her first novel Interview With the Vampire.  She has stated that vampire literature was nearly nonexistent at the time, but she thought it would be “fun to interview one.”  The novel was published in 1976 and quickly became a best seller. Anne then wrote The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. The Vampire Chronicles had begun!

In 1988 Anne moved back to New Orleans with her husband and son, Christopher. Having become wealthy from her book sales, Anne purchased a mansion in the garden district. She then began writing The Witching Hour, the first of the Mayfair Witch Trilogy. The house that Anne lived in was located at 1239 First Street. It is the coolest house ever! It became as much a character in the books as the Mayfair witches themselves.

Here’s me in front of the magnificent house — a must-see if you are ever in NOLA!

New Orleans Anne Rice House

In 2004, after the death of her husband, Anne moved back to California and has lived there ever since.

Interview With the Vampire was made into a movie in 1994. It starred Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kiirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. The movie received critical acclaim. Three more of Anne’s novels were made into movies – Queen of the Damned, Exit To Eden and The Feast of All Saints.

For many years, Anne had given up film rights to her own novels, because movie studios had optioned them.  In 2015, Anne regained the rights and set about trying to turn the entire Vampire Chronicles into a television series. In 2017, Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books. The series was picked up for broadcast on Hulu, and should be premiering sometime in 2019. I can’t wait!

Fun Facts:

  • To date, Anne has written 41 novels.
  • In addition to Gothic and horror, Anne also writes erotic novels under the pseudonyms A. N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine called her “the queen of sexy vampire fiction”.
  • Although her vampires are known for their charm and sensuality, none of them actually have sex. Because they are, you know, vampires…

  • Anne tried reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a teenager and was too terrified to finish the book. As an adult she attempted it again and loved it.
  • Anne became a self described “Atheist” after leaving the Catholic Church at age 18.
  • In 1998, Anne returned to the church. After twelve years as a practicing Catholic, she renounced Christianity, stating: “I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity.”
  • Anne almost joined the world of the dead herself, in 1998, when she fell into a diabetic coma. She came close to death once again in 2004 when she suffered a bowel obstruction and surgery.
  • For several years, after her return to New Orleans, Anne held an annual Halloween vampire ball at the mansion on First Street. The ball is still going strong, now operated by the Anne Rice/ Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

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  • The Rice’s first child, a daughter named Michele, died from leukemia when she was just six years old. The loss devastated them.
  • Anne, a self-described ‘alcoholic’, stopped drinking in 1979 after the birth of her son Christopher. She has stated that she did not want him to have the same childhood she did, in dealing with an alcoholic mother. Anne has made public service announcements regarding alcohol and sobriety.
  • Anne has stated that she chose vampires as her means of self expression, because she was facing painful issues which she could not discuss directly.
  • Regarding the movie Interview With the Vampire, Anne claims “Brad Pitt played me, because I am Louis.” Louis, as you may recall, was the most ‘human’ and conflicted of the vamps.

Happy Birthday Ms. Rice! Wishing you Immortality 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Halloween Quiz! Which Vampire Are You?

 

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Vampires are the quintessential outsiders. Often beautiful and ruthless, they will stop at nothing in their quest for survival.  Although some mortal folk become squeamish at the idea of blood drinking, there is no denying that blood is the life force of all humanity. We should welcome rather than fear it.

Personally, I feel there is a bit of vampire in everyone.

If given the chance to become immortal, would you accept it? Which vamp lifestyle would you prefer?  Are you southern charmer Bill Compton of True Blood fame? Perhaps the treacherous Lestat of Anne Rice’s lore? The horrifying Nosferatu? Or the indomitable Eric Northman?

 

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Find out your undead identity!

CLICK HERE to take the quiz.

(If ads come up just skip them and go to the next question)

Let me know who you get!

As for me, no big surprise!  Having read so much Bram Stoker, such was my fate 🙂

You got: Dracula

You’re the quintessential vampire—snarky, wise beyond your years, and resourceful. You have a dramatic, commanding presence, a flair for throwing grandiose parties, and a way of charming the opposite sex. Just be careful not to abuse your immense power.

 

 

 

 

 

When Darkness Falls Part 2

 

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Please read Part One here.

 

The silver chain inside me is painful, nearly unbearable. With each step I feel it rub, shredding the walls of my vagina. I had envisioned it to be no worse than a tampon or a diaphragm, but this?  It is thick, akin a chain link fence or a bicycle’s lock.  Yet I’ll need its weight, the rough grid of it, to bring him down.

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I plan to wrap it around his neck, tie it in a knot if need be.  Under such duress the great and powerful Eric will certainly do my bidding.  I have not spent a lifetime studying vampirism only to be turned down but the illustrious Mr. Northman!

Finally darkness falls and the moon appears in the sky, a waxing crescent.  I drive my car to Merlot’s. First stop on the adventure. Here I will pick up my friend Lucy. Lucy, although she does not realize it, is going to be my secret weapon.

Getting past the strong-arm bouncers at Fangtasia will be no problem; this I know because they are human. They apparently get a kick out of working for Eric and Pam, hanging out in that atmosphere of death and ripe blood.  Oh, but they are cowards compared to me!  For all their brawn and bravado they would never imagine crossing the line, asking Pam or Eric to actually turn them permanently.  They do not intimidate me in the least. Best of all they will have no inkling of the silver I hide inside myself.

But also there is Pam. Bothersome little bitch. Nothing gets past her.

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She could be a problem. I have, of course thought of a solution.

My friend Lucy is beautiful. More like cat-walk gorgeous. Long legs, silky red hair and cheekbones to die for.  When Lucy enters a room, she turns the heads of men and women alike. And Pam?  Queen of the lesbian vampires?  She’ll never be able to resist Lucy.

Lucy, of course, thinks this whole thing is a game. I have offered to pay her one hundred dollars to seduce Pam. It won’t even be difficult. All Lucy has to do is walk into Fangtasia, toss back her hair, catch Pam’s eye and it will be as good as done. With Pam thus engaged I will smuggle in my silver chain and approach Eric. I will then make my offer.  It is, as I have become most fond of calling it, ‘An offer he can’t refuse.’  A brilliant scheme. My own cleverness surprises me.

With delighted anticipation I drive to Merlot’s.  Lucy waits for me in the parking lot. Ever the fashion icon, she is dressed in black hose, stiletto heels and a filigree blouse, breasts pouting through the lace and gauze.   I nod approval as she tumbles into the car. “Easiest hundred bucks I’ll ever make,” she quips.

 

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If only she knew. When we leave I will not be driving her home as a human being, but as a true creature of the night.  We pull up to Fangtasia. “OK Luce,” I say. “Just remember, Pam must be NOWHERE near the door when I enter.”

“Will do!” Lucy nods and gives me a mock salute. “This will be fun.”

“You have thirty minutes. That should be plenty of time.”

“In thirty minutes I’ll have Pamela whisked away to the Isle of Lesbos.” Lucy winks. She loves every minute of this.  She walks away from the car swinging her purse and strutting her heels.

Impatiently I watch the hands of my dashboard clock. Ten minutes. Twenty Minutes. The silver chain scrapes inside of me. I can’t wait to get it out.  Finally the clock reads 10:30 pm and I open the car door. I wince as I walk to the entrance, chain snagging at the tender skin of my vagina. Damned thing!  I plaster a look of stoicism to my face. Never let them see you sweat. 

Smoothly I flow past the bouncers. One frisks me, big meaty hands against my rib cage and ass. Another peeks inside my purse. “Clean,” he mutters, and I pass through.  Once inside, I glance around the club. Goth kids stand in groups, whispering like secretive birds, mascara streaming across their eyes, faces powdered pale.

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A band called Night Prowl plays on the stage, the lead singer clearly a wanna-be Lestat. He is dressed in French cuffs with a lion’s mane of blond hair that hangs to his waist. Girls jump and gawk at the front of the stage, nearly fainting before him.

Lestat-de-Lioncourt

 

 In the middle of all this chaos, Eric Northman sits upon his throne. (Yes a throne. That ought to give you an idea of his arrogance.)  He looks at me, slightly annoyed but also amused. “What brings you back?” he asks. “I thought I deemed you unfit!  Don’t take that personally, of course. I am just not in the habit of turning mortals into vampires without good reason.”

Oh the stubbornness of him!  But still.  I gaze into his glacier blue eyes and imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with him. I long for his darkness, his  eclipse   of my own humanity.  I must have him! That is final.

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“I have given up on the idea of being turned, Eric,” I answer flippantly.

Folklore claims that one can never lie to a vampire, but I have practiced this routine time and time again in my mirror. I am able to actually slow my own heartbeat, lower my own blood pressure, and convincingly lie through my teeth to anyone.  I return him the same cool serene look he gives me.

“Then what brings you here?” he asks. “The band? You are partial to Lestat Lioncourt?  Or perhaps you require a shot of V.”

“I am no junkie, Eric Northman,” I say, pressing my face close to his. “I come bearing good news. Tidings of great joy.  Something you may be quite interested in.”

“I am seldom interested in the dull affairs of humans.” He smiles, one side of his mouth dimpled in sarcasm. He looks at me as if I were a lost dog.

“This is not news of a human affair!” I peer at him, narrowing my eyes.  “I was just at Merlot’s. The local vampire council had a meeting there. I heard rumors. It seems  you are being considered for a promotion. That is — if you play your cards right — you may be moved from Area 5 Sheriff to President of Louisiana. The position right under the Grand Vampire King himself. What do you think of that?”

Eric arches an eyebrow, now fully interested.  I KNEW this would get him.  Eric Northman may be able to resist my feminine charms, even my blood itself, but one thing he CANNOT resist is a chance at acquiring more power.

“Would you like to hear more?” I tease.

He rises from his throne. He leads me to the same underground chamber where we had been the night before. Ah, but little does he know. This time the result will be much different.

As we walk down the corridor I feel the chain move,  now near to my uterus.  Somehow, Eric has not yet figured this out. I have the silver buried deep, and mixed with the secretions of my body fluids he cannot smell the poisonous metal. Not yet. But Eric is clever, with a thousand years of vampire sensitivity under his belt.  It will only be a matter of minutes before he detects it. I must act fast!

Secluded in the basement chamber I bolt the door. I reach to my crotchless panties and in one millisecond I pull out the chain. It stings, but like a quickly pulled bandage, I ignore the pain.  Then, while he is still gawking at me I wrap it like a lasso around his neck. His eyes bulge in  terror.

“Sneaky fucking bitch,” he hisses.

“Now will you do it? Turn me into one of your kind! I command you.”

He lowers his head. The silver has already begun to make a mark in his skin. It has weakened him and he is now powerless under my grasp. He sinks to the ground, long legs splayed yoga style on the concrete floor.

“Will you do it?” I persist.

“You have no idea what you ask,” he says. His voice is dust.

“Oh but I do! I have done my research Eric. Immortality is my goal, no matter what the price.”

He glares at me, a blood tear falling from his eye. “You ask for a living hell. You ask to be a predator, a killing machine with no choice but to prowl night after night with an endless hunger that will only be satisfied by another’s death. And for us there IS no death, only the disgraced wasteland we leave behind. You think this is some game, some lark, some —  fashion statement?” He spits the words. “Do you realize I have been upon this earth for twelve hundred years? This earth!  And it gets no better. An endless barrage of human stupidity. Wars and fighting and sex and bloodlust. All to no end, all for what?  I am only an observer. An observer of  hell, who night after night is forced to feed on the likes of you.”

 

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I watch the blood tears  trickle down his cheeks. My throat clenches and I fear I too may cry. But no. I will not show him my sorrow, will not show any emotion. I tighten the grip of my chain. Large welts have now begun to form on his back and shoulders. “Remove it!” he groans. “Please remove it.”

“Give me your word!” I shout.  “Say you will turn me! Say it!”

(I also happen to know that once a vampire has given his word to transform a human, he cannot take it back.  This is a little known fact that only those privy to the grand teachings of Vlad Dracul would be aware of. As I said, I have spent a lifetime studying this stuff, and with good reason.)

He looks at me in astonishment. “How do you know that?”

“You think you are the only one who reads Vlad’s Sacred Book of Secrets? Come on now Eric. Just about anything is available on the internet these days.”

He scoffs in anger. I force him to lie on the floor. He stretches beneath me, his six foot four inch frame cowering like a beaten animal. “Say it!” I scream.

He says nothing but only nods with a sigh of resignation. That is fine. I do not need the words, only the action!   I know he is too weak to puncture my jugular, so I reach for a razor blade in my purse.  I slash my own neck and bend into him. Finally!  I will now enter eternal life, bound forever to this  glorious Scandinavian god.

Just then the door bursts open with a flash of white light so powerful it knocks me to the ground. Near blinded, I squint through the blur. This is not sunlight, of course it is not!  But what?  A rich silver glow, such as could only come from the stars or the moon. In the platinum mist I see her. The outline of her hair, Merlot’s waitress uniform, her fingertips radiating the light.

Sookie Stackhouse? Sookie Fucking Stackhouse?  The fairy girl. What is SHE doing here?

“I read your thoughts a mile away,” she says coolly. “Hell, I even read Lucy’s thoughts at Merlot’s two hours ago. But I didn’t think you’d have the guts to go through with it. No one has ever defeated Eric Northman.”

I feel nauseous, still half blinded by the fairy light. I squirm on the floor. Sookie kneels and removes the chain from Eric’s neck. Lamely, I reach to stop her but the silver light holds me back.

Within seconds Eric’s welts disappear. He is restored to his former strength. Standing, he towers over me, extends a hand to help me to my feet. “I think you’d better go now Mina,” he says. Oddly, his voice is patient, not unkind. This is the very first time he has ever called me by my name. Mina.

Oh, he is KILLING me. The wheels of my brain churn. It cannot be finished, it cannot be over!

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Sookie  then nods in agreement. “You’d better go,” she repeats. She waves her fingers and I know if I do not leave I am in for another dose of her fairy light.

 

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Dammit! After all my meticulous research, only to be defeated by that mind reading fairy? Ha. That is what they think.  I will go now, but Mr. Northman has not seen the last of me. Reluctantly, I plod upstairs. I walk toward the exit door. In one dim cobwebbed corner I see Lucy and Pam, shamelessly groping one another, back buttons of Lucy’s shirt undone.

“Hey Luce!” I shout. “If you want a ride home you’d better step to it.”

But no. Lucy looks at me, her eyes half lidded. I see the trickle of blood where Pam has taken a gouge from her neck. Lucy parts her lips in a smile.

Then I see them. Lucy gapes her mouth wider. They glint in the darkness, white as pearl and sharp as my own razor blade. Proudly, Lucy displays her brand new set of fangs.

 

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