This past year has been a significant one for celebrated author Anne Rice, who released her 35th novel -- and 14th in her overall Vampire Chronicles saga -- Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis in 2016. A departure from her previous books about the undead, this new novel traces the lineage of the vampire species even further back than was previously know before, tying it to the lost kingdom of Atlantis. In addition to Atlantis, Anne Rice gave fans an early Christmas gift by revealing that her Vampire Chronicles series will soon be adapted as a television series, hopefully giving a fans the proper adaptation they've always wanted to see.
Update: As of April 2017, Deadline reports that Paramount TV and Anonymous Content have optioned the series, with Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice, at the helm.
With all of this big news, Rice took time to chat with us about not only the new novel and television series, but also her thoughts on the current nostalgia boom in pop culture, her series of S/M pornography, and modern feminism. (Stay tuned for part two of our interview, coming to Nerdist next week.)
"I felt the need, after a long hiatus, to return to Lestat. I missed him. He came alive for me again. He began to speak again."
Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis drops a major bombshell reveal when it comes to the origins of the vampire species. We won't explicitly state the entire plot here (though there are some spoilers in this interview), but it leans far more into the realm of sci-fi than it does into traditional fantasy. Though the book has only been out a short while, I had to wonder: what has been the early reaction from fans so far to this big reveal?
"Judging from Amazon reviews and my page, the response has been remarkably positive, giving the book the highest number of positive reviews for a new book on Amazon that I've received in years," said Rice. "However it is clear that the negative reviews largely come from people who do not care for the inclusion of the Atlantis mythology or the story of alien influence on Earth. There were bound to be some who simply would not like this. But again, over all the response has been remarkably positive."
With 2014's Prince Lestat, Rice returned to the world of her Vampire Chronicles after 11 years away. And in the pop culture landscape, there has been a huge surge of creators returning to older, iconic properties after decades away (David Lynch with Twin Peaks, Ridley Scott with Alien and Blade Runner, etc.). While some people may dismiss it as nostalgia or a "cash grab," some creators do organically take a moment to reflect on their most popular works once they've hit a certain distance from it. Rice shared that though she can only answer for herself, saying, "I felt the need, after a long hiatus, to return to Lestat. I missed him. He came alive for me again. He began to speak again. I had left him during a period of grief and sadness in 2002-3, but years had passed, and I was intrigued and excited about how my vampires might be fairing in the modern world."
"However," Rice continued, "perhaps in general there is an awareness on the part of creative people that books and movies --- thanks to the internet --- have no shelf life now, that our internet archival culture has created a situation in which new people are discovering old books and films and series all the time, and wanting more from their creators. That, I suspect, is the real bottom line reason behind so many revivals of creative material today. Before modern technology created the endless archive we have today of creative work --- through video, laser discs, DVDs, CDs, and Amazon with its endless bookshelf, and Amazon streaming, interest might die away in older works if they were not revered as classics in their particular genres. With a few clicks, you can open up the entire output of a novelist, and order paperback copies, or used copies of out of print books... It's all there like never before."
Rice isn't only returning to work on her vampires in novel form, though; just recently, she made another huge announcement... that she and her son, fellow novelist Christopher Rice are planning to produce a Vampire Chronicles TV series. This is the news Rice fans have been waiting years for, especially after The Queen of the Damned. In creating this new series, did Rice see it as kind of chance to "do the classic novels over" in a way, maybe change things she didn't like in retrospect, or add new scenarios and characters into the mix? Not so much, according to the author. "What I want to do more than anything is deliver The Vampire Lestat to viewers in a way that has never been done, to explore fully the birth of Lestat as a supernatural hero, a brave, rebellious young man who refuses to become a victim, no matter what life does to him."
Rice definitely has a long term vision for this series. "I can see at least two seasons rolling out from the material in that one novel --- as Lestat is made a vampire, and orphaned at once by Magnus, his maker, to discover vampiric powers alone, and to discover the other vampires of the world who mark him at once as a rebel for destruction," she explained. "I want to move on into Interview with the Vampire from there in a third season of the series, and into Queen of the Damned after that, and then on through Tale of the Body Thief, and Memnoch the Devil. Ideally, the series will keep going right up into the Prince Lestat books, which represent a reboot of the series. The theme will be Lestat's quest, Lestat's search for the origin of the vampiric species, Lestat's search for meaning in a world that sees him as irrelevant and a monster. I think not so much of changes, but of the joy of NOT having to make changes to meet the demands of a movie studio, bur rather having the freedom to mine the existing material without compromise."
The new Lestat TV series will be a family affair, as Rice's son Christopher will be actively involved. "[He's] already working on the script material for the pilot, and we hope to develop several other complete scripts before we discuss anything with different production entities," Rice shared. "Christopher will be at the helm when we go forward as the chief executive producer, but I will be at his side. I'm outlining the seasons for the series now in great detail. But Christopher will bring his special skill as a script writer to all this. He is much more of a natural script writer than I am. His script for Tale of the Body Thief, was what brought Universal Studios to the table to work with Imagine Entertainment on a movie."
A movie reboot of The Vampire Chronicles very nearly happened, but the studio never fully committed to the project. "Universal and Imagine had the Vampire Chronicles in development for 18 months. But this did not work out, and Universal did not renew the option," admitted Rice. "When the rights reverted to me, I realized, more than ever, that television was where the series belonged. I love movies, and always will, but with a series of books like this, television is undoubtedly the better place, offering far greater flexibility and opportunity. Television is in a new golden era where fantasy, historical drama, costume drama, science fiction and horror are concerned. Top actors, directors, and writers are working in television. And entities like Netflix and Amazon as well as HBO and Showtime are displaying tremendous imagination where series are concerned. It is all very exciting."
"In the last ten years, Hollywood has come to recognize the importance of the fans; it has come to see we are living in the age of the nerd, the geek, the fanboy or fangirl, the avid devoted reader."
The Rices have recently set up a special Facebook page just for fans of The Vampire Chronicles, looking for their input as the show goes into pre-production. But a close relationship with her fans is nothing new to the author, who reminded us "I have always been very close to my readers. From the beginning, they gave me immense support. I loved meeting them at signings over the years, listening to their responses, answering their questions. Social media expanded all this enormously for me, and it is very important to me to stay in contact with them and to learn from what they tell me."
Times have certainly changed since Warner Brothers made a movie version of Queen of the Damned in 2002, one that bore little resemblance to the novel. "Hollywood in the last ten years has come to recognize the importance of the fans; it has come to see we are living in the age of the nerd, the geek, the fanboy or fangirl, the avid devoted reader. Hollywood has stopped dismissing and condescending to this audience and has started to respect it, only perhaps because Hollywood has no real choice. The immense success of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones has made it clear: fidelity to the books is where success lies."
She continued, "This is a wonderful time to be making a TV series of The Vampire Chronicles. I get brilliant suggestions and ideas every day from the readers who post on our Vampire Chronicles series page. They have introduced me to musical composers, actors and actresses I hadn't seen before, and they have generously talked about the situations and scenes they value in my books and want to see on the screen. I love all this. I don't want to let them down. I won't let them down."
Come back next week for part two of our comprehensive interview with Anne Rice, where we talk about her erotic Sleeping Beauty series, modern feminism, and the 40th anniversary of Interview with the Vampire.
Images: Alfred A. Knopf / Innovation Comics