It’s been almost nine years since Anne Rice ventured into the world of Gothic horror. Today, she brings back her trademark dark prose with the release of The Wolf Gift, a book about a young reporter in Northern California that transforms into a werewolf. The Wolf Gift is Rice’s first novel incorporating today’s sophisticated technology, so if you’ve ever wondered how a werewolf might fend in a world with YouTube and Google at its heels, now is your chance to find out.
Rice will sign copies of The Wolf Gift at Barnes and Noble (555 Fifth Avenue) at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. Runnin’ Scared chatted with Rice about her latest work.
Runnin’ Scared: You’ve spent the past few years publishing books for your Songs of Seraphim and Life of Christ series — a serious departure from Gothic horror. What made you decide to return to it?
Anne Rice: The principle reason is, I saw a way to write a werewolf novel. Novels just don’t get born until you see a way to do them. It’s more like this theme was suggested to me, and the suggestion sparked a vision in my mind of what I’d like to do with it. Many people probably won’t notice this or care, but for me, the writing is really a synthesis of experiments and things I’ve done in the past. I learned a lot writing the two novels about Jesus, and writing contemporary novels with Toby O’Dare in the Angel Time series, and I sort of bring that into what I learned years ago writing about the vampires and the witches. So to me it draws on both kinds of writing, and it was very exciting to me.
Runnin’ Scared: The Wolf Gift is set in an entirely different world than anything you’ve written.
Rice: Well, that was part of the fun of it — the challenge to think, well, you have this man-wolf, and he changes shape, and he’s extraordinary. How is he going to function in the modern world, where we have Google Earth and security cameras everywhere? Scientists are going to naturally want to know what he’s about. Once the scientists believe in something like a werewolf, they’re going to want to track it down, get it in a laboratory, and experiment on it and find out what there is there to share with the rest of the world. I’ve done many novels where vampires talk about their quest for meaning, but I’ve never really addressed that question of what happens when you have this monster walking around in our world today. Who’s going to be a threat to him? I really think scientists and the government.
Runnin’ Scared: Vampires are a hot topic in pop culture right now. Do you see your influence in the current vampire trend at all?
Rice: No, not really. I’m not sure who’s influenced what. There come moments in a culture where a lot of people write about similar themes. And there are many reasons why I think vampires are so popular. The basic reason is that it’s a very interesting [and flexible] concept. My route was to mythologize the vampire somewhat — to have him talk to you in an intimate voice, but still he was a mythical monster. And then, I think Charlaine Harris, Stephanie Meyer–they’re more domesticating the vampire. He’s the boy next door, or the guy at the corner bar. And that’s a very different approach from mine, but I think it’s fun! And I love reading their stuff, actually. I’m not a real fan of Twilight, but I am a fan of Charlaine [Harris]. I think she’s very clever, and I really love True Blood. But I understand why people admire Stephanie Meyer and really enjoy her books. She puts vampires in high school, same as the Vampire Diaries, apparently. And that has been very appealing to young people. I don’t know how much I’ve influenced these people; it’s hard to say.
Runnin’ Scared: What is it about Gothic horror that is so timeless?
Rice: I think we’re basically creatures made up of body and soul. We’re fascinated with horror because horror talks about that — it talks about the spiritual dimension of life, the mystery of life. Why do we have consciousness, why do we know that we are going to die when no other animal on the planet seems to be aware of that? I think people are always going to love Gothic horror because Gothic horror is talking about that tragic dimension of the human personality. We are the monsters in Gothic horror — they’re us. The vampire is a perfect metaphor for the outsider, and for the predator in all of us. We’re all predators. We’re all basically using resources on this planet that other people could use, and we all face the crisis of our needs clashing against someone else’s needs. These are the realities of human life, and Gothic horror is just one wonderful way to deal with all that.
Runnin’ Scared: You’re known for interacting a lot with fans on social media sites, particularly Facebook. Thoughts on that?
Rice: I enjoy Facebook an enormous amount. And it’s certainly wonderful for me to interact with my readers on Facebook. I think before the age of the Internet and Facebook, I was a much more isolated writer. I did see my readers at signings, and I loved it, and I did get fan mail, but it was very, very different from interacting on Facebook. I love hearing people’s contemporary thoughts right now on a whole variety of subjects. And I love it that I can go on the page and ask a question and I’ll get a thousand answers. It’s really thrilling to me. I don’t know why more authors don’t do it.
Runnin’ Scared: Have reader comments influenced your novels?
Rice: Well in a way, all the feedback affects it. But I’ve been a writer for over 33 years, and I’m very inner-directed. So nothing is really going to subvert what I’m going to do. It’s going to be an influence, yes. But I’m sort of the captain of this ship for better or for worse and I have strong ideas where I’m going. But I really love the stimulation and the insights, and you never know what casual remark is going to cause you to go in a certain direction. It’s the most exciting thing about art, really.
Runnin’ Scared: Christ the Lord was initially slated for production in 2007, but never took off. What happened with that?
Rice: Christ the Lord has just been bought again for production. It’s in the hands of Chris Columbus and 1492 Pictures. And they’re definitely going to make Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt into a movie. That’s going really well. The old production that fell apart, that’s history.
Runnin’ Scared: Any word on movie adaptations of any other books?
Rice: Yes. Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer, and Ron Howard — their company has auctioned the Tale of the Body Thief, one of the Vampire Chronicles, and they are developing it now.