Anne Rice: The Wolves of Midwinter, co-presented by the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts, Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at West Vancouver's Kay Meek Centre. $35 (includes a copy of her new book)/$10 (general admission). For more information visit kaymeekcentre.com or capilanou.ca/blueshorefinancialcentre.
The first book in Anne Rice's latest series, The Wolf Gift Chronicles, got started the way many of her novels do, "on a whim, kind of a what if," she says.
The celebrated bestselling writer of gothic fiction explains she was inspired to turn her pen to lycanthropy following a comment from a friend (TV producer Jeff Eastin) who, in an email told her if she ever wrote about werewolves he would most certainly buy the book.
"That email just came at the right moment," says Rice. "I was sitting at the machine at my home in Palm Desert, (Calif.), and I thought, 'What if I take a crack at this, what if I do something entirely new, what if I try werewolves?' And so I did and it worked out. I try a lot of things and they don't work out. But this was something that did. The novel started to roll and Reuben was born, my hero, and suddenly he was being bitten by a mysterious werewolf and there he was changing and the whole thing was working."
Rice published the first book in her new series, The Wolf Gift, in February 2012. Set in Northern California, the novel focuses on a young newspaper reporter named Reuben Golding who's on assignment in a secluded mansion when he's bitten by a mysterious creature in the night. The action follows Reuben as he comes to terms with his new reality as a "Man Wolf" and is forced to lead a double life. Reuben is compelled to act as a violent vigilante to protect the innocent, raising questions about his true nature - good or evil - and searching for the truth of what he has become.
Rice's second book in the series, The Wolves of Midwinter, was released Oct. 15 and continues Reuben's story. Set during the Christmas season, Reuben is invited to experience the Yuletide rituals with his own kind, the Morphenkinder, and comes to face a ghost, a spectre, from his past, raising further questions about the world he thought he knew.
The North Shore News caught up with Rice, 72, Monday, reaching her at a Dallas, Texas hotel. Touring in support of her new release, she was scheduled to speak at an area Barnes and Noble Tuesday evening. Rice will take the stage in West Vancouver next week, Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Kay Meek Centre. A Pacific Arbour Speaker Series - Live on the Mainstage event, the talk is being co-presented by Capilano University's BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts, part of the Cap Speakers series.
Rice is pleased The Wolf Gift Chronicles has been garnering positive reviews and, known for her vampire fiction (particularly The Vampire Chronicles, a series she started in 1976 with the release of her debut Interview with the Vampire), has been enjoying her first foray into werewolf lore.
"I really love working with new characters and a new cosmology and my man wolves, my new heroes," she says.
She also enjoyed the opportunity to write a "Christmas ghost story," she says, a nod to the long history in England of Christmas being associated with ghosts (Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol as one example), and the belief that they walked at Christmas, as well as primal customs related to the feast of midwinter.
"I thought it would be wonderful to play with all of those traditions along with werewolf mythology and to do it in a contemporary novel set in the Northern California woods," she says.
Rice has tackled the holiday season in previous books, The Witching Hour and Lasher included, so had a base of knowledge to draw upon.
"I can't get finished with Christmas. I'll be writing about it in other books. There's just so much that fascinates me about Christmas and the way the English in particular celebrated it for many, many centuries, the kind of wild festival that it was," she says.
Rice says she's drawn to the festive season from a personal perspective as well. She based her new novel's communitywide Christmas party, hosted by the werewolves - their shape shifting reality unbeknownst to their human neighbours - on parties she used to present while living in New Orleans. Rice would invite huge numbers of people, sometimes thousands, to St. Elizabeth's orphanage, a big building she owned, modelling the festivities after a Christmas banquet she saw at Louisiana plantation Madewood.
"I tried to imitate Madewood for the whole 15 years that I was there, trying to give parties with a lot of beautiful music and operatic singers and violinists, and beautiful decorations, and to feed the whole neighbourhood, all of that. So I had a lot of fun putting that in the novel," says Rice who dedicated The Wolves of Midwinter to Millie Ball, one of the owners of Madewood.
For Reuben's character, Rice found herself in similar territory, once again interested in writing about "outsiders" and "exceptional people."
"For some reason it seems every character I get into is some sort of an outcast and Reuben's no different," she says.
Just as she is compelled to write about outsiders Rice is compelled to tackle tough themes and raise hard questions about human nature, morality and our beliefs. Interview with the Vampire was all about good and evil, questions of the meaning of life and whether there's life after death. Rice raises similar themes in The Wolf Gift Chronicles, something she felt was important.
"It gives me the hope that the novel will transcend the genre, that it will be something really meaningful to people. That it will be adventurous and fun and a good werewolf novel, but that it will also have a great deal more to it and they'll want to go back to it," she says.
Desire is another aspect of the new series, consistent again with Rice's previous works. "I have a great belief in our erotic nature and a great belief that we redeem ourselves through our erotic love for others and that all love is to some extent erotic," she says.
She finds it natural to write erotica (which she continues to do under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure) as well as the love scenes found throughout her books.
With two Wolf Gift Chronicles books under her belt, Rice plans to keep the number of novels in the series open ended, though is already dreaming up the third. As The Wolves of Midwinter was so centred on Christmas, she didn't get to some of the other characters she would have liked to. "There's a lot there. I want to do a really big third novel," she says.
Having just sold Angel Time, her novel about Toby O'Dare, a young man who helps angels answer prayers, to CBS for a series, she is similarly receiving a lot of interest in a television adaptation of The Wolf Gift.
"When I wrote Interview with the Vampire, people didn't know what to make of anybody writing a book about vampires. Nobody thought such a book would ever be on the New York Times bestseller list. Vampires were just late late show stuff or comic book stuff and now supernatural novels have gone mainstream and there are all kinds of writers, as we know. We're being flooded with novels about vampires, werewolves, all kinds of stuff," she says.
That said, the increased popularity of supernatural stories in pop culture doesn't impact her in any way.
"I am aware that it's a very crowded field for other people. I just don't worry. I feel like I was here in 1976 and I'm still here you know and I'm going to go right on. But when people say things like, 'Well, maybe you shouldn't write a werewolf novel because it's so crowded,' and I just think, 'Are you kidding? I'm not going to stop what I'm doing because other people have done it.' I always do what I want to do, whether nobody's doing it or whether everybody's doing it," she says.
When asked where her motivation for her craft comes from, Rice says it's always been as natural to her as walking.
"There have been a few times in my life when I've known writer's block and I know how abysmal that is, but that's rare and most of the time I've got stories inside of me that are just dying to come out. So I keep doing it. As long as my health holds out I'll keep doing it. I don't think of it as work, I think of it as a great kind of joy and I'm very grateful that I've been able to do what I love for a living and to do it all my life," she says.
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