Anne Rice and her Supernatural New Orleans

By Allison Siegel

Anne Rice was born October 4, 1941, in the Irish Channel section of New Orleans, Louisiana.  She was the second of four daughters born to parents Howard and Katherine O’Brien, who originally gave her the name Howard Allen O’Brien, but she changed it to Anne in the first grade because she hated it so much (“Rice, Anne”).  Her interest in writing appears to be inherent because both of her parents pursued creative writing in their spare time when away from their actual jobs.  Rice described her childhood family dynamic as something like the Bronte sisters, everyone always telling each other stories and making up fantasy worlds.  Her mother often often told Anne ghost stories that related to the mysticism of New Orleans.  This sparked Rice’s obsession with the odd, leading her to an enjoyment of wandering around graveyards and watching horror movies as pastimes as a young girl.

Anne Rice

Author Anne Rice is best known for her series novels dealing with New Orleans and the supernatural, The Vampire Chronicles.

Although the family was eccentric, Rice was raised as a strict Catholic and attended Catholic school growing up.  The nuns at Holy Name of Jesus Elementary called her “unholy” because of her strange childhood interests (“Rice, Anne”).  Rice was persistent in her faith though and strived to become a saint after learning about them.  She even made a chapel out of an outhouse, hanging pictures of saints all over the walls and spending time there praying and reflecting as a young girl.  Her faith was first shaken though at the age of 14 when her mother died of alcoholism in 1956.  By the time she was 18 she no longer found a reason to believe in God or heaven (“Rice, Anne”).

After her mother died, her father, Howard O’Brien, decided that the family would pick up and leave for Richardson, Texas in Dallas County.  Anne lead a surprisingly normal life there – editing her high school newspaper, meeting her high school sweetheart and later husband, and leaving for university in 1959.  Rice attended multiple universities – Texas Woman’s University, San Francisco State College, and Berkeley – before she finally received her M.A. in creative writing at San Francisco State.  During her time in college, she married her high school sweetheart, Stan Rice, and they pursued literary careers together throughout their years at university.

In 1966 Anne and Stan had their first child – daughter Michelle.  Michelle was diagnosed with adult leukemia in 1970 and died in 1972.  It is when this happened that Rice turned to her writing and began her journey into the world of supernatural series stardom.  She had been trying to get back to her New Orleans roots while finishing at Berkeley and had started writing a story about a vampire named Louis living in 18th century New Orleans.  After the death of Michelle, Rice expanded on this story and started to make Louis’ character more human and pitiful without realizing at the time that she was putting her own feelings into the character.  When the addition of the character named Claudia – a young girl who is changed into a vampire so that she can have eternal life – Rice had subconsciously found a way to deal with her grief (“Rice, Anne”).  The booked was published under the title Interview with the Vampire in 1974 and had a large cult following by the early 1980s.

Rice received a lot of criticism on the novel for the way that it dealt with the themes, many critics claiming that they were trivialized next to the sexually racy content and the over the top supernaturalism.  Rice was highly embarrassed by these reviews and avoided the genre of supernaturalism for a long time after that (“Rice, Anne”).  She published many other works in the following years, the first of which were novels that dealt with New Orleans and race, and with socially outcast members of society.  Rice is notorious for sexually explicit topics.  She published many novels that can be considered erotica, but used the pen names of A. N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling to save the reputation of her other works from the stigma attached to that kind of writing  (“Rice, Anne”).

Rice could never get away from her first major work, and the voice of the vampires in New Orleans.  Something about the haunting personal closeness that she felt drew her back to the characters of Louis and Lestat.  In 1985 she continued the series by publishing the novel The Vampire Lestat to show the more tragic side of the sadistic character from her first novel (“Anne Rice”).  By 1995 Rice had completed five novels to make up The Vampire Chronicles.  In 1994 the movie version of Interview with the Vampire was released, which Rice wrote the screenplay for and which starred Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst.

During this time period, Rice, her husband, and their son Chris moved back to the neighborhood that she grew up in in New Orleans.  Rice returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 after having some sort of epiphany and began writing religious novels.  She claims to still stay faithful to her supernatural fans although her newfound reconnection with religion causes strife between the beliefs in both.   Her husband Stan died in 2002 after an acute onset of brain cancer, and Rice decided to move out to the California desert area so that she could remain close to her son Chris who lived only a short way away in West Hollywood (“Anne’s Chamber”).  Rice still resides there today and continues to publish new novels.

Illustrations

Anne Rice. Widimedia Commons. Digital image. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Anne_Rice.jpg

Works Cited

“Anne’s Chamber: Biography.”  Annerice.com. Annerice.com. May, 2008. Web. 29 March 2013.

“Rice, Anne.” Current Biography (Bio Ref Bank) (1991): Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 31 March 2013.

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