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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 770

Anne Rice, the second of Howard and Katherine Allen O’Brien’s four daughters, was christened Howard Allen O’Brien but began to use the name Anne when she started school. She, like her sisters, showed an early interest in writing, her postal worker father’s avocation. One of her sisters, Alice O’Brien Borchardt, has published detective novels. Another sister, Tamara O’Brien Tinker, became a poet.{$S[A]O’Brien, Howard Allen[OBrien, Howard Allen];Rice, Anne}{$S[A]Roquelaure, A. N.;Rice, Anne}{$S[A]Rampling, Anne;Rice, Anne}

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Anne Rice’s interest in occult topics was initially aroused by her mother, who was an inveterate storyteller and wove fantastic and supernatural occurrences into her stories. In one of her tales, she described a woman brushing her hair when it burst into flame. After her mother’s death from complications associated with alcoholism, the family moved to Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. Her mother’s death led Anne, then fourteen years old, to abandon her Roman Catholic faith. She worked on the high school newspaper and became a voracious reader of books, particularly of those proscribed by the church.

While still in high school she fell in love with Stan Rice, who was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and after marrying when Anne was twenty, they both entered San Francisco State University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1964 and a master’s degree in creative writing in 1971. During those years she also studied at the University of California at Berkeley. Stan Rice, meanwhile, who had begun publishing his poetry, was appointed to teach creative writing at San Francisco State University. A turning point in the couple’s life occurred in 1972 when their daughter, Michelle, died after a two-year struggle with leukemia. Anne Rice finally realized that the best escape from her sorrow was writing, which she thereupon began to pursue with the full encouragement of her husband.

In the first months after Michelle’s death, Rice took up a short story about Louis, a New Orleans vampire, which she had begun in the late 1960’s. She now began to humanize this grotesque figure and to transfer to him some of her own pain. The result was her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, the first in what became the Vampire Chronicles.

This book, like most of her subsequent books, deals forcefully with alienation and with the compulsion to sin. One character, five-year-old Claudia, who resembles Rice’s dead daughter, Michelle, is given the gift of eternal life when she is turned into a vampire. For two years Rice tried unsuccessfully to interest a publisher in her manuscript. Then Alfred A. Knopf’s Victor Wilson accepted it, acknowledging that the novel was quite unlike anything he had ever seen. His judgment was vindicated when Interview with the Vampire immediately gained a cult following.

Rice’s novels have delighted the reading public more than the critics, many of whom have expressed disapproval of the focus on sex, sadomasochism, homosexuality, and the occult. Although a novel like The Mummy: Or, Ramses the Damned is clearly a potboiler, critics had to agree that The Witching Hour, which appeared the following year, is rich in mythology and well written, as are Lasher and Memnoch the Devil, which deal with diabolical spirits. In reading Rice, the sensationalism of her occult elements may blind readers and critics alike to the metaphoric level in which she explores her psychological and philosophical themes.

Some critics have acknowledged that Rice is a gifted, resourceful, and innovative writer. Her Beauty series, which is among the most erotic writing in late twentieth century literature, deals with underlying human sexuality much as Vladimir Nabokov had done in Lolita (1955).

Rice has written her historical (The Feast of All Saints, Cry to Heaven), vampire, and witch novels as Anne Rice; her convention novels (Exit to Eden, Belinda) as Anne Rampling, and her erotic novels as A. N. Roquelaure. All, however, are infused with a dark side and delve into psychological issues.

In 1994, both Exit to Eden (directed by Garry Marshall, starring Dana Delaney and Dan Ackroyd) and Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise) were adapted into successful feature films. In December, 2002, Stan Rice, her husband of forty-one years, died as the result of a brain tumor. In February, 2003, Anne Rice announced that she would finish her hugely successful Vampire Chronicles and Lives of the Mayfair Witches series with the publication of Blood Canticle later that year. She promised, however, to continue writing for her legion of fans worldwide.

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