Anne Rice passed away at 80 following complications from a stroke. She was one of the most successful novelists of her time.
After many rejections from publishers, Rice found fame with her debut novel Interview with the Vampire. She expanded her world of vampires with The Vampire Chronicles, writing hugely successful novels like The Queen of the Damned and The Vampire Lestat. She brought gothic fiction back into the mainstream, developing a devoted fanbase in the process.
Rice was one of the first mainstream authors to place LGBT+ characters at the heart of her work. Although she was straight, writing about the desires of bisexual vampires came very naturally to her. She even penned a trilogy of erotic novels under the nom de plume A. N. Roquelaure.
Her books went on to sell over 150 million copies, making her one of the most popular writers ever to put pen to paper. Sometimes literary critics called her out for her purple prose style and heavy reliance on the supernatural. But that was always the point: she wrote gothic fiction in a full bodied prose style. You either liked it or you didn’t. Judging by her bank balance, a lot of people did like her work.
Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt starred in the 1994 adaptation of Interview with the Vampire. The film was a critical and commercial triumph, bringing her work to a whole new generation.
Rice was a charismatic figure who played the role of literary celebrity with panache. She would often dress in lavish gothic outfits, as if she was a character from one of her books. Despite being raised a Catholic, Rice lost her faith as an adult. She later noted that all of her novels were about her conflicted relationship with faith and morality. Like all good writers, she was a conflicted person.
In later life she had a dramatic Damascene conversion. Rice renounced her atheism, her vampire novels and began to write religious novels about the life of Jesus. I remember walking into Waterstones and seeing the first edition of her Jesus books. I thought, isn’t she the gothic lady who writes about queer vampires? It didn’t quite add up.
Rice would later reject the Catholic church once again, saying “I felt like I was in bed with the devil.” The main thing she couldn’t contend with was the church’s institutional homophobia. Rice’s son is gay and she had always championed gay rights. She returned to the vampires, writing her final instalment of her series in 2018, Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat. She continued to be an outspoken critic of the church.
Her son Christopher Rice wrote this tribute to her on Facebook:
“As my mother, her support for me was unconditional — she taught me to embrace my dreams, reject conformity and challenge the dark voices of fear and self-doubt. As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions. In her final hours, I sat beside her hospital bed in awe of her accomplishments and her courage, awash in memories of a life that took us from the fog laced hills of the San Francisco Bay Area to the magical streets of New Orleans to the twinkling vistas of Southern California. As she kissed Anne goodbye, her younger sister Karen said, ‘What a ride you took us on, kid.'”
Whether you were a fan of her books or not, it’s safe to say there won’t be another Anne Rice.
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