Tag: #annerice

Book Review: An Interview with Anne Rice

Book Review: An Interview with Anne Rice

Riley, M. (1996). Conversations with Anne Rice. Chatto and Windus.

Anne Rice burst onto the world literary scene in 1976 with the publication of her first novel, Interview with the Vampire. The book had a very simple premise: a young reporter interviews a mysterious stranger, Louis, who recounts his life story. Louis, it turns out, is a vampire, and has been alive since the 1700s. He was turned by the vampire Lestat, who over the years evolves from lover to mentor to tormentor.

The novel brought the vampire genre, popularised by Bram Stoker but long since interred in a coffin of dirt, to a whole new generation of readers. There were a number of sequels and eventually in 1994, a movie. The casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat was highly controversial at the time and even Anne Rice weighed in to say it was wrong. His clean cut image was the antithesis of the debauched vampire. But after having lost weight and thrown himself into the role, Cruise won over his critics. Even Anne Rice changed her mind and felt he had done the character justice.

The movie also cast River Phoenix as the reporter, but he died of an overdose before he could undertake filming. Christian Slater took over the role, and donated his entire salary to two charities that Phoenix had supported. This month streaming platform is releasing a revisioning of the book as a series.

Four books lying on a purple and blue silk scarf. The books are 3 novels by Anne Rice, and the non-fiction book Conversations with Anne Rice.
Conversations with Anne Rice

Conversations with Anne Rice was published in 1994, not long after the release of the movie, so the latter part of book discusses bringing the book to the screen, Rice’s thoughts on casting and the audience response. Riley conducted several interviews with Rice. The rest of the book is a record of these wide-ranging conversations.

Personal Influences

Part 1 focuses on writing as a craft and business. The first 2 sections talk about Rice’s books, their impacts, and what influenced her to write them. Biographical information weaves through all of this. For fans of her work these chapters are particularly interesting when she talks about what underpins her stories and characters.

In a similar vein, Part 2 discusses San Francisco and New Orleans, the places that have had the biggest impact on Rice’s life and writing. She also discusses philosophy, the church, God and the devil. This exploration of good and evil delves into extremism, death and dying, meaning and absurdity, guilt and doom, and how these relate to the choices we make in our lives. She relates these ideas back to her writing at various points. In the final chapter of the book, Rice returns to discussion of the supernatural, as well as outlining where her stories will go next.

The Movie

A man sits on a bench. A child in a cloak stands nearby. Overhead is a large image of the face of a man with vampire teeth. The whole is in  sepia tones.
The original movie poster for Interview with the Vampire (1994)

As mentioned previously, the final third of the book focuses on the movie. Rice outlines the long, arduous process from page to screen. She mentions that at one point there were tentative plans for a Broadway musical. On the surface that might seem an absurd idea, but I for one would love to see the intensity of a duet between Lestat and Louis. I also imagine creepy music box melodies following Claudia whenever she is onstage.

Rice goes into quite a bit of depth about the original casting ideas for the 1994 film as well as her response to Cruise and Brad Pitt’s performances. What I found particularly interesting as a writer however were her thoughts on whether you can really hand over your creative baby to others. As with the rest of the book, buried gems of writerly wisdom emerge from biographical and philosophical meanderings at unexpected moments.

The Publishing Industry

Whilst Riley’s book makes for interesting reading for fans of Rice, her books, or the movie, books about writing always attract readers amongst aspiring authors. For them, the third chapter of the book will no doubt be the most interesting. Here, Rice talks about the publishing industry and what drives it. There are real insider insights into industry realities such as who gets published and why. Although the book is nearing thirty years old, much of what she mentions is not only still relevant, but has become even more central to publishing since the 1990s.

Interestingly, Rice demolishes the idea of the industry’s deterioration, noting that it is a good thing that more people know bookstores exist and that publishers do bigger print runs. She does suggest an over-saturated industry means outstanding new writers don’t get the attention they deserve. I wonder what Rice would think of the massive rise in self-publishing facilitated by Amazon and print-on-demand. Unfortunately, we will never know, nor will we learn what she thinks of the new incarnation of Lestat and Louis in AMC’s series as she passed into the immortal realm herself in December 2021. For myself, I am definitely looking forward to seeing Lestat once again stepping out of the shadows.