Vampire Daze

11.23.11

Anne Rice on Sparkly Vampires, ‘Twilight,’ ‘True Blood,’ and Werewolves

A Facebook post by 'Interview With the Vampire' author Anne Rice poking fun at 'Twilight' caused a furor among Team Edward. Rice tells Marlow Stern about her 'Twilight' 'beef,' her thoughts on the movie series and 'True Blood,' why teens are obsessed with vampires, and her upcoming book, 'The Wolf Gift.' 

The Twi-Hard’s proverbial fangs came out. Anne Rice, the renowned author behind the Vampire Chronicles series of novels—Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned—made a post on her Facebook fan page earlier this month poking fun at Twilight.

The post said her vampires would “feel sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun” and “would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high-school over and over again in a small town,” while adding, “My vampires possess gravitas. They can afford to be merciful.”

The rabid fans of Stephenie Meyer’s series of novels and the subsequent film adaptations were incensed, flooding the 70-year-old author’s Facebook page with hateful comments.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, the "queen" of vampire fiction, Anne Rice, opens up about her Twilight “beef,” her feelings about HBO’s True Blood, why she thinks teens these days are obsessed with vampires, and her upcoming foray into the world of werewolf novels, The Wolf Gift, which will be released Feb. 12.

Rice: It must be nice to work for something like The Daily Beast! I admire that name.

Thanks! So what first attracted you to vampire stories?

As a child, I saw this beautiful film, Dracula’s Daughter, and it was with Gloria Holden and was a sequel to the original Dracula. It was all about this beautiful daughter of Dracula who was an artist in London, and she felt drinking blood was a curse. It had beautiful, sensitive scenes in it, and that film mesmerized me. It established to me what vampires were—these elegant, tragic, sensitive people. I was really just going with that feeling when writing Interview With the Vampire. I didn’t do a lot of research.

How did you develop your set of vampire “rules,” so to speak?

I went along with what I inherited from Hollywood—that vampires burn up in the sun. I didn’t know that wasn’t part of the original Dracula. And the rest I sort of made up. I thought if they responded hysterically to garlic or crucifixes, that was not as interesting as their being nihilistic and atheistic, and not having a “magical” response to something but having definite limitations and rules.

So what’s your take on the Twilight series? It really does seem to go against the grain in its depiction of vampires.

I think the concept is so rich in itself. It’s like the concept of the cowboy or the detective. Vampires have become almost like a genre, like the Western. What I see happening, with writers like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer, is the domestication of the vampire. I was more interested in a powerful, Old World figure that had a lot of knowledge, experience, and was surrounded by a lot of glamour and mystery. I wanted to keep the romance. I loved the idea of these people gaining wisdom as they aged, and how that might cause them to be ever more tormented by the fact that they don’t really belong in the world and they prey on human beings, who they’ve really come to appreciate. Charlaine Harris is doing something different by imagining what it’s like if vampires are legal and you have them living in your Southern town, and I think she gets a tremendous amount of energy out of that. She’s very witty—there’s a lot of satire there—and on the HBO show True Blood, there’s even a romance with Vampire Bill.

'When I write and assume the point of view of the vampire, I understand the agony of being a public outcast.'

True Blood is set in your native Louisiana, and it really uses vampirism as a metaphor for outsiders, including the gay community. What are your thoughts on using vampirism as a metaphor for the disenfranchised?

It’s a given! The vampire is an outsider. He’s the perfect metaphor for those things. He’s someone who looks human and sounds human, but is not human, so he’s always on the margins. When I write and assume the point of view of the vampire, I understand the agony of being a public outcast—someone who doesn’t belong anywhere, yet longs to be part of something and gravitates to other outcasts of his own kind. I remember the year Interview With the Vampire was published, a young man came to me at Berkeley and told me he thought Interview With the Vampire was “the longest sustained gay allegory in the English language.” I was kind of amazed and honored that he was unpacking that from it, but it wasn’t a conscious thing.

Have you seen all the Twilight films?

I saw the first two and then I saw part of the third one on TV. I can see why the kids like them. What I say right away is they take the formula of women’s romance that was used by Jane Eyre, and they put it in a new context. You have the young girl, Bella; she falls in love with this mysterious figure, and he’s menacing just like Mr. Rochester was in Jane Eyre, but he’s protective. I think it’s an enduring formula.

I do get a sense that the Twilight films are proselytizing in a way, because they do seem to promote abstinence.

I didn’t notice that, really, but I can understand that, sure. But what I mainly saw was that romance—how everything revolves around Bella the same way it revolves around Jane Eyre. The kids I’m in contact with are reading all of it. I wouldn’t say its been co-opted, its just what’s successful right now. There’s room for all of it.

I saw your cheeky Facebook post about how your vampires would “feel sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun.”

[Laughs] Oh, I was just joking. People ask me what I think about that, and I finally pretended that Lestat and Louis were real and gave their opinion on what they thought of the vampires in Twilight. Unfortunately, I think some of Stephenie Meyer readers took it the wrong way, came to my Facebook page, and were quite unpleasant. But I think they’re very … young. It was quite a ruckus!

Back to True Blood, how do you feel about the show’s depiction of vampires as these uninhibited, primal, sexual beings?

I’m a fan of the show. I see it as a logical part of it all. [Harris] has expanded the sexuality that’s inherent in that idea. I didn’t think of that, but as my books went on, I involved my vampires in more sexuality. But I couldn’t go as far as Charlaine Harris did, because I had said that my vampires can’t have sex; that the act of drinking blood is orgasmic for them. She’s doing it a different way. She’s saying that this blood drinker must also be dynamite in bed. Makes sense!

Let’s talk about your upcoming book, The Wolf Gift. What inspired you to take on werewolves?

It started on a whim. I got an email from a TV producer friend who mentioned he’d seen a show on werewolves, and he said, “If you ever decide to write about werewolves, I’d buy it.” I started to think about the whole genre, talked a little bit about it on my Facebook page, and what they thought was always lacking in what they had seen. I wanted a werewolf hero that remained conscious while he was in the wolf state, and retained his personality and his conscience, to some degree, so he could be a coherent hero right through the transformation. I sat down and wrote up a treatment for a TV series called The Wolf Gift, and I decided to adapt it into a book. I would be very happy if it would also be developed into a TV show or a film.

One of the elements of the Twilight films that really doesn’t work is its depiction of werewolves. It’s almost like a pack of shirtless Abercrombie models.

Oh, I agree. I prefer to go with the idea of the man-wolf that remained a man, but became very powerful and strong. He doesn’t turn into a four-footed animal that lives in a pack.

I think True Blood does werewolves justice with Alcide.

Oh, yeah, I like Alcide. I like that actor [Joe Manganiello] a lot, and I think the character’s hot.

I’ve always been curious about the origins of Goth fashion or the “Goth look,” and I tend to think it’s because of stories like yours. Do you see a connection there?

I felt from the first moment I saw people identifying as “Goth” that what they wanted was romance and beauty, and that they associated with the 19th century and with vampires; I think they craved that, and found their lives rather sterile. They started appearing at my signings in the 1980s wearing beautiful Victorian clothes, old lace, fangs, and white makeup. I think it was born out of a desire to have something beautiful and immutable in their lives. I was delighted!

Adolescence is an awkward time and many times you do feel like an outsider, but why do you think teens in particular have taken such a huge liking to vampires—with Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, etc.?

It’s certainly the time of life when you start realizing what you have before you, and you start really dreaming in an agonizingly painful way about what you might become, what you do in this world, and what you have. I think the vampire continues to be associated with beauty, glamour, elegance, great strength, a secret benevolence, and goodness. I think all of that is so appealing to young people. I don’t really know the deep reason. I hear they’re going for the mystery, and maybe it’s the mystery of sexuality, maturity, and life and death. I don’t think it’s connected to immortality. Teens already feel immortal and like they’re not going to die. Feeling mortal comes with years of living, I think. [Teens] are entranced with the power of the vampire—that he doesn’t have to play by all the rules that are driving them crazy. And he’s a secretly good guy. I think every teen thinks that if they could be alone with some powerful vampire, from any of these books, that powerful vampire would fall in love with them and protect them. And that’s exactly what Twilight is about.

What are you working on now?

Oh, I’m interested in exploring Atlantis. I’m working on a novel now—I was working on it before I broke off to do The Wolf Gift—and it’s called Born for Atlantis, and it’s about several immortals sent to the planet during the time of Atlantis and it tells the story of what happened. They’re now still alive in the modern age and they’re facing a crisis. I’m also working on something to do with aliens.