We sat down with the lengendary Anne Rice to talk about the new graphic adaptation Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story, Lestat and Louis as same-sex parents, advice for aspiring writers, and how she feels about the vampire invasion.
Rice answered questions in a candid conversation with io9. At 71, she has sold more than a 100 million copies of her novels, which include The Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches series, and she is a spirited and gracious subject.
Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story is a graphic novel adaptation by Ashley Marie Witter of Rice's 1976 classic told from the perspective of Claudia, the child-turned-vampire. Rice prefers to be hands off when her work is licensed for adaptation, and once she approved of Witter's selection and depictions, she was content – and excited – to wait for the results, giving little feedback.
She is wholly enthusiastic about the results. We pored over the initial pages together: Witter's art is delicate, with a baroque manga feel. An evocative choice was made to print the book entirely in sepia, with the only color coming from scarlet blood (of which there is a lot).
Louis and Lestat's lovely faces come to life, collars are fluffed with detailed antique lace, and many bites are bitten. Most effectively drawn is young Claudia, flashing from innocent to monstrous by the panel. Ms. Rice commented that she thought the book "spectacular" and "there's never been anything quite like this."
io9: Why Claudia's story? Was Interview something you had wanted to explore from her perspective?
AR: They [Yen Press] suggested doing the adaptation. They wanted to do it from Claudia's point of view, and I thought that that was great. It's an adaptation just as a screenplay is an adaptation, or a play, or the script of a musical. Those are all adaptations, and I felt that it was completely legitimate for them to do that. And they've done a beautiful job. Just a beautiful job.
io9: What has the collaborative process been like? Did you write notes for her, were you working with her –
AR: No, not really. You know, I'm not a really good collaborator, and when I license something I usually stay out of it. Except the movie of Interview With The Vampire, I did write the script for that. But once they started changing and shooting it, I was out of the process. But I trusted Yen to do the right adaptation with this.
io9: What do you think about the graphic novel as a medium?
AR: I love the graphic novel. I wish all of my works were in this form. I love that they can be so much more than what they usually are. There were earlier adaptations of Interview With The Vampire and The Vampire Lestat – they were by companies that went out of business. I remember at one point, one of the artists bragged about the fact that he hadn't read the book. It was just a very wild kind of thing.
io9: How do you feel about the explosion in the popularity of vampires, even in just the last decade?
AR: I'm puzzled. You know, kind of puzzled. When I came up, it wasn't that way at all, of course. There was a lot of dismissal, whereas these days, there seems to be this unabashed market.
io9: I think there're a lot of properties that would not have existed without you blazing the trail, but now it seems like there's a different vampire movie each week. I was curious if you felt like a proud parent in terms of that, or of you were ready for something different supernaturally to —
AR: If I've been an influence, I'm happy. I think the vampire is such a wonderful concept, such a rich concept. I'm not surprised if other people who have mined that concept have come up with different characters, different cosmology, different mythology. That's bound to happen. I guess we'll have vampires with us now for a long time, kind of like the Western and the detective novel. It will be just sort of an unending story.
io9: Speaking of being a proud parent, your son Christopher is a writer. Did you encourage him in pursuing the family business, or did you warn him off from the lifestyle?
AR: Oh no, no, I would never warn him off. But actually he surprised me when he wrote his first novel. I didn't know he was working on it, and then he came out of the bedroom with this novel in his hands, and we were just blown away. He had always been into acting, and screenplay writing, things like that. In high school he was very much an actor, and so I thought he was going to go in that direction. But suddenly he came out of his bedroom with a novel. And I was happy that he had chosen my profession. I was thrilled.
io9: Did you have words of wisdom to give him for him, that we could extend to our readers? What is your advice for the young writers who ask for it?
AR: Well you know, I do give sort of the same standard advice over and over again. You have to go where the pain is, go where the pleasure is, and you can't be afraid. And you have to write the book that you can't find in the bookstore, the book that you really want to read. And you have to write a book that you yourself would love to read, and a book you want to live in, you want to be in. It has to be.
I don't think I ever had to tell him that, I think he just sort of did it. But I think that helps to focus. When you say that to yourself, I'm writing the book I want to write, the book I can't find, the book that hasn't been done yet the way that I would like to do it. And of course, we always have to remember that the world doesn't want someone who sounds just like somebody else, they want an original voice. The world is always crying for original voices.
You could go and and you could discourage any writer that ever wrote by saying, "Who needs another novel? What makes you think you can be writing more about that?" You've just got to just totally ignore it. The world always is hungry for a brand new way to look at something. Nobody could have predicted Interview With The Vampire would have been a hit. Nobody could have predicted Harry Potter would have been a hit. If you went and ran these ideas past an editor, they'd probably tell you to give up. You have to ignore people.
io9: That may be the key line.
AR: You have to ignore critics. Critics are a dime a dozen. Writers are unique.
io9: Lestat is one of your most well-known creations, and he looms large. How would Lestat feel about right now, today's world? Would he be moved? Detached? Has he seen it all?
AR: I think he would be dazzled by the technology. He always is dazzled by those things. He's always got one foot in the 18th century world, and he remembers what it was like living there, and I think he's always dazzled, enchanted, by what's going on. Going into an all-night drugstore and just looking at the colors of all the bottles of shampoo, and how beautiful they are, you know, that's very much what he does. And I think he would be even more dazzled, because the world gets more interesting and more exciting all the time. I know he would feel that way.
io9: He'd probably he on line for the latest iPhone.
AR: I don't know if he'd be on line, but he'd drift into the store and pick one up.
io9: We heard there might also be a graphic adaptation of The Wolf Gift. Is that a secret, or can we –
AR: No, Yen [Press] is going to going to do it. I don't know if the same artist is going to do it, whether it's going to be the same group, but Yen wants to do it, so I'm very thrilled.
io9: There's the concept of Louis and Lestat as Claudia's "parents," which we see in the novel, movie and now in the graphic novel. When you know the narrative, it's not quite the modern statement it could appear to be visually, in the adaptation. Are you okay with that as an idea for the new century?
AR: Sure! [Laughs] Sure! I never thought of it, they were the first vampire same-sex parents.
io9: I had wondered if that had been a thought on your mind before.
io9: That's the way that it seems to be shown, it's very much "she's our daughter now." So I can say, they're a same-sex couple with children?
AR: Absolutely! Claudia! She's their daughter.
[We discuss Anne writing the screenplay of the film version of Interview With The Vampire]
AR: I like to go on Amazon now and see people discovering now, what they're writing about it.
io9: So you do peek behind the curtain? You look at what fans and reviewers have to say?
AR: Oh, sure, I do. Yeah, I read everything once, at least. I don't recommend writers do that, though, some writers can't take that. It can be very painful to read some of the very unfair things that people say. I don't think that you should ever do anything that hurts your writing. I was talking to a best-selling author not too long ago, and she was said she never goes to Amazon, she never looks, and I understand. You can't do anything that hurts you. You have to do what's best for you.
io9: You've lived such an interesting life that has taken you to so many places. You told The New York Times, "I was known as my own square" when you lived in San Francisco in the Haight-Ashbury in its heyday when you were young.
AR: I was not a hippie. But I was in the very midst of it all.
io9: A witness to history.
AR: Yeah. It was kind of fun. But I was going to school, and sort of struggling to be a writer, and I really wasn't interested in dropping out. They were all dropping out around me.
io9: You've written under the pseudonyms Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. Do you ever feel like creating a new pseudonym and running wild with it?
AR: Sometimes. Sometimes, I'd like to break off and maybe write some new erotica where nobody knew it was me! That's what I did, the pseudonyms gave me this wonderful anonymity to just do what I wanted, because it wasn't Anne Rice doing it. And then of course, I acknowledged them immediately, and told everyone they were mine. But I was finished, I was done, and the freedom had been very helpful.
It was like if you were a rock singer and you were well known, and you were driving through the country in your limousine and you see a little tavern, and you think, "Well, I'll go in there," and you go in there and there's a stage and a mic a piano, and you just sit down and you sing for about four hours, whatever drifts in and out, it's kind of like that. And you don't have to be your rock-star self, you know. You can sing some old songs. And stuff you never get to sing onstage.
io9: Since we're at Comic Con, and you have so many ardent fans here, we have to ask: have you had experiences that have either dazzled you in a good way, or made you take a step back?
AR: No, they're always wonderful. There were a few people in line who had great fangs, and cat contacts, and they were lovely. I've always loved all that. I've always been honored by it, and I think it's wonderful.
Speaking with Ms. Rice was illuminating, and we're excited for the new graphic novel adaptations, as well as the potential Lestat movie she let the panel know was in progress from Imagine Entertainment. We also hope she also goes ahead with the erotica. Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story will be available from Orbit/Yen Press November 20th. Previews can be seen on Ms. Rice's Facebook page, which she frequents.