Anne Rice, the trailblazing writer of popular vampire fiction widely known for her best-selling novel “Interview With the Vampire,” died late Saturday at age 80.
The author died from complications of a stroke, her son Christopher Rice, himself a writer, announced on her Facebook page and his Twitter page.
“In her final hours, I sat beside her hospital bed in awe of her accomplishments and her courage,” Christopher Rice wrote in his statement.
“As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions. … Let us take in the shared hope that Anne is now experiencing firsthand the glorious answers to the many great spiritual and cosmic questions, the quest for which defined her life and career.”.
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Anne Rice was famed for her book series “The Vampire Chronicles,” which launched with the 1976 novel “Interview With the Vampire,” later adapted into a Neil Jordan movie starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst (with a script by Rice) in 1994. The book is also planned to be adapted again in an upcoming TV series on AMC and AMC+ set to premiere in 2022.
“Interview With the Vampire,” in which reporter Daniel Molloy interviews Louis de Pointe du Lac, a mortal man who later becomes a vampire, was Rice’s first novel but she would go on to write more than 30 books and sell more than 150 million copies worldwide. Thirteen of them were part of “The Vampire Chronicles.” Long before “Twilight” or “True Blood,” Rice introduced sumptuous romance, female sexuality and queerness – many took “Interview With the Vampire” as an allegory for homosexuality – to the supernatural genre.
When Rice’s daughter, Michele, died in 1972 at age 5 of leukemia, Rice conjured up the vampire Lestat out of her grief.
“Vampires for me started as a whim. I was thinking one day, what would it be like if you could get an interview with a vampire? I got carried away with it,” she told The (Palm Springs, California) Desert Sun, part of the USA TODAY Network, in 2010. “I discovered when I was writing those novels about vampires I could access feelings in a way I couldn’t in any realistic novel.”.
The book was a huge success, and her influence on storytelling – and Hollywood – was evident instantly.
“Anne Rice basically rewrote the rule book for vampires,” Jordan told USA TODAY in 2013. “She said this thing of vampirism and eternal life is a metaphor for something, and in her case, it was a metaphor for subdued sexual longing and eternal guilt.
“Once you’ve done that with a creature who was generally played by Vincent Price or Bela Lugosi, it frees people up to do other things.”.
Born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien in 1941, Rice grew up in New Orleans, where many of her novels were set. Her father worked for the postal service but made sculptures and wrote fiction on the side. Her older sister, Alice Borchardt, also wrote fantasy and horror fiction. Rice’s mother died when Rice was 15. She married poet Stan Rice, who died in 2002, in 1961.
Raised in an Irish Catholic family, Rice wrote about her fluctuating spiritual journey, including the 2008 memoir “Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession.”.
“In the vampire books I was writing about lost souls looking for answers, so in a sense I was always on this journey back,” she told USA TODAY that year. “I do get people saying, ‘How can you be such a fool to believe in God?’ I sense many are young Goth kids who feel abandoned. I just say, look, you’re looking for the same things that I was, transcendence and redemption. I found what my characters were looking for.”.
But two years later, she announced that she was no longer Christian, saying in 2010, “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control.”.
“I believed for a long time that the differences, the quarrels among Christians didn’t matter a lot for the individual, that you live your life and stay out of it. But then I began to realize that it wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Rice told The Associated Press at the time. “I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t make this declaration, I was going to lose my mind.”.
Rice was expected to be interred during a private ceremony at a family mausoleum in New Orleans, according to the statement. A public celebration of life was to take place next year.
“Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris,” a novel Rice wrote with her son, is slated for publication in February.
Contributing: Brian Truitt, Marco della Cava and Kim Willis, USA TODAY; Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun; and The Associated Press.
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