Night Out: Anne Rice Finds Inspiration Amid Taxidermied Animals

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Night Out: Anne Rice Finds Inspiration Amid Taxidermied Animals

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Night Out

By KATIE ROGERS

On the eve of her latest book release, Anne Rice did not lurk online reading early reviews. She examined a set of taxidermied kittens, posed into a Victorian wedding scene, at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn.

“It’s like making a vampire against its will,” she said with empathy. “Somebody made these little kitties into art against their will.”

Surrounded by the dead (sailfish, squirrels, pheasants), Ms. Rice, 75, suddenly found inspiration. “There have to be kitties on the astral plane,” she said.

This is what it’s like to hold a conversation with Ms. Rice, a person whose work is often inspired by what could happen to us in the spaces between life and death. She is an author who delights in the intensity of her subject matter — she has found art in the macabre since wandering through the cemeteries of her native New Orleans as a child. But in person she engages easily.

Ms. Rice has written more than two dozen books, 12 of which comprise the series known as “The Vampire Chronicles,” which began with “Interview With the Vampire” in 1976, a book that later became an A-list-heavy film in 1994. Her book signings have been spectacles stocked with exotic dancers and fans in costume. She has ridden in closed coffins to these signings, with ice to keep her cool.

Ms. Rice’s cadre of sexy vampires evolved from pop-Gothic fantasy creations into figures so complicated they required their own glossaries in later novels. Perhaps it was time for a new scene. She had been working on a novel about Atlantis for years, but when it didn’t panning out, she turned back to her hero.

“When I put Lestat and the vampires into the mix, it really came to life,” she said. “And all of the problems were solved immediately.”

The result is “Prince Lestat and the Realm of Atlantis,” which was released Tuesday.

Moving on from the kittens and a perturbed-looking preserved monkey, Ms. Rice visited the museum’s library, which contained art fashioned out of the hair of the dead and a few objects of Catholic art that caught her eye. Ms. Rice has a fraught personal history with religion. In 2010, she announced that she had quit Catholicism, saying she objected to what she called anti-gay and anti-feminist views. Her feelings on the faith today, she said, remain the same.

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“I see myself as a follower of Jesus Christ but not of his followers,” Ms. Rice said. “I think many people feel that way today.”

Gazing at a portrait of Jesus, Ms. Rice said she was reminded of her late husband, Stan Rice, a poet who died in 2002.

“My husband grew up in the protestant tradition in Texas,” she said. “He was always astonished when he saw a picture like that, with Jesus’s sacred heart blazing in his chest. But I grew up in New Orleans, in an intense Irish-Catholic community, and that was par for the course.”

Aside from religion, another topic that animates Ms. Rice is anything involving her fans. She has worked to tighten her bond with readers online. Almost 1.2 million fans follow her on Facebook.

She can be sensitive about how her work is perceived. In 2004, Ms. Rice posted a 1,200-word admonishment to critics on Amazon who had given her book “Blood Canticle” poor reviews, saying those people had used the site as a “public urinal.”

On one recent evening, Becket Ghioto, her fan-turned-assistant for more than a decade, traveled with her. The two met when he was studying to become a Benedictine monk. (Ms. Rice needed a harpsichord at a book signing party in New Orleans, and Mr. Ghioto was one of the monks who carted the instrument over from the local monastery.) Having left the monastic lifestyle, Mr. Ghioto now helps operate her Facebook page.

These days, Ms. Rice is most interested in conspiracy theories, reading spy thrillers and watching what she calls “high quality TV” like “The Crown” on Netflix. She and her son, the novelist Christopher Rice, are exploring how to develop “The Vampire Chronicles” into a television series. “Game of Thrones” is the template they would like to follow.

When she’s not touring, Ms. Rice writes constantly from a 12-foot-by-12-foot room in a house in La Quinta, Calif. Paradoxically, the writer whose name is synonymous with vampire fiction said she moved from New Orleans to California for the sunlight.

She has also written about ghosts, witches and even her cat. But there is one territory of the undead she said she’ll never visit.

“I can’t get with zombies,” she said. “I love dealing with a hypersensitive werewolf. Zombies are at the opposite end of the spectrum.”

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