Authors: Anne Rice

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist


Anne Rice, the second of Howard and Katherine Allen O’Brien’s four daughters, was christened Howard Allen O’Brien but began to use the name Anne when she started school. She, like her sisters, showed an early interest in writing, her postal worker father’s avocation. One of her sisters, Alice O’Brien Borchardt, has published detective novels. Another sister, Tamara O’Brien Tinker, became a poet.{$I[AN]9810001629}{$I[A]Rice, Anne}{$S[A]O’Brien, Howard Allen[OBrien, Howard Allen];Rice, Anne}{$S[A]Roquelaure, A. N.;Rice, Anne}{$S[A]Rampling, Anne;Rice, Anne}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Rice, Anne}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Rice, Anne}{$I[tim]1941;Rice, Anne}

Anne Rice’s interest in occult topics was initially aroused by her mother, who was an inveterate storyteller and wove fantastic and supernatural occurrences into her stories. In one of her tales, she described a woman brushing her hair when it burst into flame. After her mother’s death from complications associated with alcoholism, the family moved to Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. Her mother’s death led Anne, then fourteen years old, to abandon her Roman Catholic faith. She worked on the high school newspaper and became a voracious reader of books, particularly of those proscribed by the church.

While still in high school she fell in love with Stan Rice, who was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and after marrying when Anne was twenty, they both entered San Francisco State University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1964 and a master’s degree in creative writing in 1971. During those years she also studied at the University of California at Berkeley. Stan Rice, meanwhile, who had begun publishing his poetry, was appointed to teach creative writing at San Francisco State University. A turning point in the couple’s life occurred in 1972 when their daughter, Michelle, died after a two-year struggle with leukemia. Anne Rice finally realized that the best escape from her sorrow was writing, which she thereupon began to pursue with the full encouragement of her husband.

In the first months after Michelle’s death, Rice took up a short story about Louis, a New Orleans vampire, which she had begun in the late 1960’s. She now began to humanize this grotesque figure and to transfer to him some of her own pain. The result was her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, the first in what became the Vampire Chronicles.

This book, like most of her subsequent books, deals forcefully with alienation and with the compulsion to sin. One character, five-year-old Claudia, who resembles Rice’s dead daughter, Michelle, is given the gift of eternal life when she is turned into a vampire. For two years Rice tried unsuccessfully to interest a publisher in her manuscript. Then Alfred A. Knopf’s Victor Wilson accepted it, acknowledging that the novel was quite unlike anything he had ever seen. His judgment was vindicated when Interview with the Vampire immediately gained a cult following.

Rice’s novels have delighted the reading public more than the critics, many of whom have expressed disapproval of the focus on sex, sadomasochism, homosexuality, and the occult. Although a novel like The Mummy: Or, Ramses the Damned is clearly a potboiler, critics had to agree that The Witching Hour, which appeared the following year, is rich in mythology and well written, as are Lasher and Memnoch the Devil, which deal with diabolical spirits. In reading Rice, the sensationalism of her occult elements may blind readers and critics alike to the metaphoric level in which she explores her psychological and philosophical themes.

Some critics have acknowledged that Rice is a gifted, resourceful, and innovative writer. Her Beauty series, which is among the most erotic writing in late twentieth century literature, deals with underlying human sexuality much as Vladimir Nabokov had done in Lolita (1955).

Rice has written her historical (The Feast of All Saints, Cry to Heaven), vampire, and witch novels as Anne Rice; her convention novels (Exit to Eden, Belinda) as Anne Rampling, and her erotic novels as A. N. Roquelaure. All, however, are infused with a dark side and delve into psychological issues.

In 1994, both Exit to Eden (directed by Garry Marshall, starring Dana Delaney and Dan Ackroyd) and Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise) were adapted into successful feature films. In December, 2002, Stan Rice, her husband of forty-one years, died as the result of a brain tumor. In February, 2003, Anne Rice announced that she would finish her hugely successful Vampire Chronicles and Lives of the Mayfair Witches series with the publication of Blood Canticle later that year. She promised, however, to continue writing for her legion of fans worldwide.

BibliographyBadley, Linda. Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Badley examines horror fiction as a fantastic genre that distorts the images of the body and the self. She looks at these three authors and their approach to horror as a dialogue on the anxieties of American culture.Dickinson, Joy. Haunted City: An Unauthorized Guide to the Magical, Magnificent New Orleans of Anne Rice. New York: Citadel Press, 1995. Chapters on the city’s Creole history, the French Quarter, the Garden District, the cemeteries and tombs, the churches, swamps, and plantations, and the nineteenth century milieu of Lestat.Hoppenstand, Gary, and Ray B. Browne, eds. The Gothic World of Anne Rice. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1996. Essays by the most important Rice critics on all aspects of her fiction: the Vampire Chronicles, the romances, and her stories of the supernatural.Keller, James R. Anne Rice and Sexual Politics: The Early Novels. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000. Addresses early works in terms of gender identity and sexual issues. Includes bibliographical references and index.Ramslund, Katherine M. Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice. New York: Dutton, 1991. Written with her cooperation, this is the most complete source of information about Rice and the first serious attempt to assess her critically and in a broader context.Ramslund, Katherine M. The Roquelaure Reader: A Companion to Anne Rice’s Erotica. New York: Plume, 1996.Ramslund, Katherine M. The Vampire Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. New York: Ballantine, 1993.Ramslund, Katherine M. The Witches’ Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches. New York: Ballantine, 1994. Three books, by an author with close access to Rice, that closely looks at Rice’s most notable novels.Ramslund, Katherine M, ed. The Anne Rice Reader. New York: Ballantine, 1997. Part 1 concentrates on interviews with Rice, her personal essays, and articles about her life and career. Part 2 focuses on literary critiques, assessing Rice’s contribution to the literature about vampires, her relationship to the gothic tradition, the film of Interview with the Vampire, and her other horror novels.Rice, Anne. Conversations with Anne Rice. Interviews by Michael Riley. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996. Rice discusses her writing, career, and women, horror, gothic, vampire, and erotic literature.Roberts, Bette B. Anne Rice. New York: Twayne, 1994. A solid introductory study with chapters on Rice’s life and art, her relationship to the gothic tradition, her vampire series, her historical novels, and her erotic fiction.Smith, Jennifer. Anne Rice: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Provides criticism and interpretation of Rice’s work in the context of women and literature, fantasy fiction, horror tales, the gothic revival, witchcraft in literature, and vampires in literature. Includes bibliography and index.
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