Anne Rice Gave New Life To Vampires

Author Anne Rice wrote more than 38 novels, but is best known for "Interview With a Vampire." Rice died Dec. 11 at age 80. / Animated illustration by Dexter Urias

Writer Anne Rice, whose books ushered in a renaissance of romanticism for vampire fiction, has died at age 80. Rice died at a Rancho Mirage hospital Dec. 11 due to complications from a stroke.  

Though she authored 38 novels and four short stories during her five-decade career, she is best known for the first of her 13-book Vampire Chronicles series, Interview with a Vampire, which was also made into a hit film. 

Born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien in New Orleans in 1941, she grew up Irish Catholic in the Irish Channel section of New Orleans and in her teens, moved with her family to Texas after the death of her mother from alcoholism.

Rice renamed herself Anne on her first day of school, when her teacher asked Rice her name and her mother, aware of her daughter’s discomfort with her real name, said nothing. 

In the 1960s, she married Stan Rice and moved to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco where she graduated from San Francisco State University. Rice’s first child, Michelle, would die from leukemia in 1972, but the grief of her death allegedly spurred Rice to write Interview with a Vampire in 1973. The book wouldn’t find a publisher until 1976. At the same time, she struggled with alcoholism and obsessive-compulsive disorder in the mid-1970s but the birth of her son Christopher would help her quit drinking and refocus her life. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rice authored two historical novels, three erotic novels under the pen name A. N. Roquelaure and two other novels including Exit to Eden — under the name Anne Rampling — with some success, but it was her return to vampires in 1985 that made Rice a star. The Vampire Lestat, followed by The Queen of the Damned in 1988 were the second and third installments in her Vampire Chronicles and both quickly became bestsellers. 

Rice moved back to New Orleans in 1988 and continued with more Vampire Chronicles as well as producing the Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy. She also added a ghost story, Violin, to her oeuvre. 

In 1994, Interview with a Vampire became a hit movie with Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and a young Kirsten Dunst. The film’s success made her a national celebrity, but following adaptations of her work, including Queen of the Damned, Exit to Eden, The Young Messiah and others fared less well. A Broadway musical version of Lestat also failed. 

After nearly dying from a diabetic coma, she returned to Catholicism in 1998, then nearly died a second time from a bowel obstruction in 2004. The experiences lead to her writing two fictional books on the life of Christ, while at the same time, struggling to maintaining a certain distance from the Catholic Church because of her support of gay rights, abortion rights and birth control. 

She eventually moved back to California and continued to work, including more novels in the Vampire Chronicles series as well as a trio of mummy books and two werewolf books. Though never a critical darling, her work has maintained a large and fervent fan following. 

Not the only author in her family, Rice’s father had a book published posthumously and her older sister, Alice Borchardt, was a successful writer later in her life, while Rice’s son, Christopher, began a successful writing career at age 22.