Small talk: Anne Rice

What is the strangest thing I’ve ever done in the name of research? Going to the morgue in New Orleans to look at dead bodies

From tales of vampires and witches to a series on the life of Christ, Anne Rice’s 30 novels have sold more than 100m copies worldwide. In 1994 her first book Interview with a Vampire was made into a film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Born in 1941 to a Catholic Irish American family in New Orleans, Louisiana, Rice studied at San Francisco State University before returning to New Orleans to marry the poet and painter Stan Rice. Her son, Christopher Rice, is also a novelist. She now lives in California.

What books changed your life?

Great Expectations by Dickens and Jane Eyre by Brontë had a profound influence. I’m not sure any book has ever changed my life.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I wanted all my life to be a writer. I didn’t know I would be until 1970 when I left the PhD program at Berkeley because I wanted to be a writer, not a literature student.

What’s your daily writing routine?

I try to write in the early afternoon and early evening. The morning is devoted to the newspapers, Facebook and answering e-mails.

Where do you write best?

In my office at my computer. I need to be away from stimulation and distraction.

Do you snack while writing?

I’m a type-one diabetic and I eat at fixed times. If I snack it’s on candy, which helps me to keep my sugar levels up.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

Going to the morgue in New Orleans to look at dead bodies, a very illuminating and humbling experience. I saw several bodies and will never forget it. I described it later in one of my novels.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

My mother led me to believe I could do anything I wanted to do.

What are you scared of?

I’m scared that the universe might be meaningless, loveless, without purpose.

How do you relax?

I watch high-quality television drama and films, classics, old ones and new ones. This is a very important part of my life.

When did you last cry?

Two nights ago, listening to “Ode to a Nightingale” by Keats at the end of the film Bright Star. The tears just flowed.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

The Garden District of New Orleans.

What does it mean to be a writer?

It is a vocation, a way of life, a commitment to creativity, an effort to do good in a very special way.

Anne Rice’s latest novel is ‘Of Love and Evil’ (Knopf)

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