Anne Rice is an American writer. Born in New Orleans on October 4, 1941, she was named Howard Allen O'Brien. Her parents believed that with a strong name like Howard Allen she would be able to get ahead in life. However, at school she presented her name as Anne.
Rice's upbringing was steeped in the Catholicism and voodoo cultures of New Orleans. She was baptized and raised in a religious way, but grew up in an environment where there was an implicit belief in witches and ghosts. Rice was encouraged to write from an early age. She read prolifically, and watched horror films where she was introduced to vampires. The film Dracula's Daughter and the story The White Silk Dress, about a little girl who is a vampire, had a profound influence on her.
Anne Rice's life experiences are inextricably bound up in her work. Her video biography, entitled Anne Rice: Birth of the Vampire, details her child memories about Judgment Day. The idea of being conscious in a coffin as she awaited the "event" appeared in her vampire stories later. Rice's mother, a once deeply religious woman, was an alcoholic. She professed to crave drink as a yearning in her blood, and told her daughter that it is inherited and passed on genetically. This too became part of the vampire myth addiction, loss and despairing that she incorporated into her writing.
After her mother's death as a result of alcoholism, Anne, aged 14, abandoned religion. The family moved from New Orleans to Texas, where she met Stan Rice, who later became her husband. She went to Texas Women's University from 1959 to 1960, and departed for San Francisco when the hippies culture was arising. Her first unpublished novels around this time include The Sufferings of Charlotte and Nicholas and Jean.
Following her graduation with a degree in political science in 1964, Rice began to publish her writing. Interview with the Vampire, one of her short stories, appeared after the birth of her first child in 1966. A novella, Katherine and Jean, formed her master's thesis.
The premature death of her young daughter in 1972, following a serious illness, plunged Anne and Stan Rice into alcoholism. Both claimed to pull through via writing. In 1976, Rice published what was considered to be an innovative book detailing addiction, despair and loss. The book was titled Interview with the Vampire. Anne appears in the guise of the narrator, Louis the Vampire, in a state of misery. His opponent, Lestat the Vampire, fights against Louis' desire to deny the loathing he feels for his vampire status. Claudia, the daughter of Lestat and Louis, dies at the age of five, giving Rice the opportunity to work through her anguish related to her daughter's death, and the questions and despair that aroused. The writing of this work marked a period of recovery for Rice and her husband. The book was extremely well received, and was featured as a film. Christopher, the Rices' son, was born in 1978, beginning an uplifting time for the couple.
In 1979, Rice's first historical novel and second book, The Feast of All Saints, was published. This traced her New Orleans heritage and celebrated the lives of the Free People of Color (descendants of slaves from Africa, Spanish and French traders and Haitian immigrants). Although the book was not favorably received, Rice was not deterred. Her next historical novel, Cry to Heaven, was published in 1982. Set in 18th century Italy, this story described the castrati, choir boys who were castrated to maintain their youthful voices. The press reactions ranged from positive to fiercely critical.
Rice withdrew and began to investigate the writing of sexual fantasies, which she did under a pseudonym. Exit to Eden and Belinda were published in 1985 and 1986 under the name Anne Rampling. These were followed by three erotic fairy tales exploring sadomasochism: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty in 1983, Beauty's Punishment and Beauty's Release in 1984 and 1985 -- all published under the name A.R. Roquelaure.
Rice reentered the world of the supernatural and vampires, featuring the villain Lestat from Interview with the Vampire in her 1985 work The Vampire Lestat. Here he became a rock star and a mythic hero. A mythology of vampires, Queen of the Damned, was published in 1988. The book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list almost immediately. While the public often perceived these to be horror stories, Rice intended the vampire as metaphor, and the supernatural characters as representations of the human condition.
Her return to New Orleans revived previous motifs, in The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (1989); The Witches Chronicles, showcasing The Witching Hour (1990) with the Mayfair witches; and Lestat‘s reappearance in The Tale of the Body Thief (1992). Another witches' story, Lasher (1993), and Taltos (1994), were written as part of the Mayfair legacy. Lestat appeared in his final role in 1995, in Memnoch the Devil.
The writing of Anne Rice goes beyond the mere telling of gothic or horror stories. Rather, she explores the human psyche and contemporary social issues through the language of literature.