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Anne Rice | Biography

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Early Life and Family

Anne Rice, the second of four daughters, was born on October 4, 1941, and named Howard Allen Frances O'Brien after her father. She grew up in a devoutly Catholic household in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rice changed her first name from Howard to "Anne" in the first grade. Throughout her childhood, Rice was completely sheltered from the secular world and later saying, "I didn't know anybody who wasn't a Catholic." Rice's mother struggled her entire adult life with alcoholism, eventually succumbing to the disease when Rice was 14: "I was very aware that her life was being destroyed," Rice said, "and that normal life was impossible." Many of Rice's characters struggle to overcome personal pain and to keep their demons at bay. In additional to religious texts, Rice grew up reading the works of British novelist Charles Dickens and the gothic stories of the English Brontë sisters, as well as a slew of ghost stories in the New Orleans public library: "I am the product of New Orleans ... and [I wanted] to write creepy, horrible, wonderful stories and scare people."

After moving away to college, Rice struggled to understand how her atheist classmates could still be good, moral people. This was particularly true of Stan Rice, a poet she had known since high school, whom she would eventually marry. Stan Rice, she once said, "felt he had almost a revelation there was no God." Rice abandoned religion during college: "I convinced myself it was realistic to be an atheist." Everyone around her was atheist, yet they managed to remain thoughtful, moral people. Rice herself lived a very quiet life, studying and writing: "My behaviour has always been ultra-conservative ... but my imagination is ... just rampant with mavericks."

The newlyweds settled in California, and Rice pursued her literary career. Rice's own religious outlook was challenged when her six-year-old daughter, Michelle, died from leukemia. The loss pushed Rice further into atheism as she refused to believe her child's death could be part of a divine plan. Michelle's death also pushed Rice into alcoholism, which she claims would have consumed her as it did her mother had her second child, a son named Christopher, not been born in 1978.

Rice began writing diligently after Michelle's death in 1972, explaining, "[I] realised I was nobody and nothing. I wasn't even a mother any more. I had nothing." Rice channeled the grief of her loss into Interview with the Vampire, expanding a previously written short story and adding the five-year-old character Claudia. Little fuss was made over the novel until the third book in the series, Queen of the Damned, rocketed to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list. She and Stan moved back to New Orleans, where Stan worked as a poet and painter, and Rice worked the literary circuit. As Rice's novels gained popularity, she regularly splurged on expensive houses, amassing a vast real estate portfolio, and she hired a staff of 49 to manage them. When her husband died from a brain tumor in 2002, Rice began scaling back her lavish lifestyle.

Religion

After 38 years as an atheist, Rice rediscovered Catholicism in 1998 while reading the Bible as research for her writing. At the time, Rice struggled with depression: "my misery began to deepen and I realized I was very arrogant to go around saying, 'there is no God.'" Although overwhelmed with sociological questions about evil in the world, Rice knew, "I didn't have to have answers to these questions." Years later she would explain that all her dark novels were metaphors for her exploration of faith. In Interview with the Vampire Louis spends the entire novel asking if anyone has any knowledge of God or Satan. Rice claims, "That was me. That was Anne asking the same questions." Vampires proved to be the perfect metaphor for religious outsiders because they "live in the darkness with no promise of God, no promise of salvation."

Rice's writing changed after rediscovering her faith. She distanced herself from her wildly popular erotica, and her Vampire Chronicles series. She wrote two novels about Jesus Christ: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2005) and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (2008), unique for being written in the first person from Jesus Christ's point of view. Although a devout Catholic for 10 years, Rice ultimately abandoned organized religion a second time, very publicly, in 2010. In a Facebook post, Rice wrote, "It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group." Rice cites the Catholic Church's notoriously "anti-gay ... anti-artificial birth control ... anti-feminist ... [and] anti-science" stance. Although divorced from the church, Rice says: "I found what the characters in the vampire novels were looking for. They were groping in the darkness; they lived in a world without God. I found God, but that doesn't mean that I have to be a supporting member of any organized religion." Since leaving the Church, Rice returned to supernatural characters in her novel The Wolf Gift (2012) about werewolves. Rice's Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra was published in 2017.

Literary Legacy

Although she's published novels about werewolves, angels, and even Jesus Christ himself, Rice remains best known for her multi-book Vampire Chronicles series, which began with Interview with the Vampire. Her complicated vampires, with their melancholic search for meaning in immortality, transformed the vampire genre, which had previously featured many mindless, evil creatures. Rice acknowledges the genre standards in the creation of the Varna vampire, whom Louis battles in Interview with the Vampire, whose sole purpose is to terrify and kill villagers. Once Rice transformed the vampire character, the doors were open for an entirely new genre.

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