“As we move on year by year in this life, we learn that telling doesn’t necessarily purge; telling something is merely a reliving, and it’s a torment.”
– Anne Rice, Blood Canticle
When I was thirteen years old I picked up my first Anne Rice book, Interview with the Vampire. And I knew then, as clearly as know now that the sun will rise each day, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to write vampire novels, and I wanted to write vampire novels where the vampire is so near to human that they suffer from human weaknesses, driven by human emotions, both vast and petty. But also, I wanted to write vampire novels that made others feel the way hers made me feel, like the supernatural could exist. Like vampires are not just restricted to myth and hype, intended to tantalize and unnerve us.
I read that first novel in the Vampire Chronicles series nearly twelve years ago. I was a typical teenager – angst-ridden, and certain that I was alone in the world. Her descriptions mesmerised me, I felt certain that what she wrote could not have simply been pulled from the air, from the annals of imagination. It must have been a product of experience. The characters she moulded could only have been drawn from reality, from something palpable. This sensation stayed with me through each and every one of her vampire chronicles, right through to Blood Canticle. When I outline a character, it is to the words of Anne Rice that I turn for inspiration, not to compare and recreate, but to garner inspiration.
It has been asked of many people, including this famed author, what the intrigue is surrounding vampires in society at present. And the answers seem varied. But one thing does seem clear; vampires are an excellent means to explore taboos that one would normally steer as far from as possible. The vampire, it has been theorised, is a symbol of the outsider that every individual senses inside of themselves at some point in their lives. As such, readers can sympathise with the plight of the vampire, but is the vampire not a monster? Not quite. It is apparent, when we explore vampire literature, that the vampire has become almost human in its portrayals. And, intriguingly, this is what makes such a figure more terrifying than most.
It is the thought that the vampire can manipulate, seduce, and then destroy that piques the interest of readers. Well, it certainly piques my interest, and has done so for over twelve years of my life.
After I read Interview with the Vampire, I virtually devoured the following eleven books, constantly using the words I lapped off the page as a means to carry me through my days. I was always in love with at least one of her many enigmatic characters, never certain which one I found to be the most perfectly crafted. I switched frequently between the breath-taking madness of Armand and Louis’s sweet sadness. Sometimes, I even found Marius’s constant nature to be more of a lure than any of the others. But I always returned to Lestat.
“It was as if the empty nights were made for thinking of him. And sometimes I found myself so vividly aware of him it was as if he had only just left the room and the ring of his voice were still there. And somehow, there was a disturbing comfort in that, and, despite myself, I’d envision his face.”
– Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
Lestat de Lioncourt. Who has to be the most complete of literary creations. From the desperate recitation of his personal history in The Vampire Lestat, trying to repair the damage done to his name by his beloved Louis, attempting to draw out his old compatriots, to the self-assured lord (still carrying his childish, naughty streak) in Blood Canticle, Anne Rice imagined a daring character. With each new book told in Lestat’s own words, the reader felt as though they were falling into a much-loved rhythm, embracing an old friend after months apart.
But, back to the topic of taboos. One element that I have always found both enticing and freeing about The Vampire Chronicles is the security of intimacy. The fact that affection is not limited to gender. That the vampires which are her creations are not restricted by sex and deviancy. I loved then, and still do, the idea that vampires are not bound by sexual attraction as they have ascended past such physical constraints.
But I do believe that many people (those that have read the books but fail to truly comprehend them) still cannot come to terms with the notion. To this day, homophobes and individuals bent simply on bashing Anne Rice’s genius accuse her of rampant sexual deviancy in her novels, as well as labelling all her characters under the flag of ‘homosexual,’ as though it were some dirty word.
Firstly, how can a creature be homosexual if it is no longer bound by sexual drives? And secondly, so what? Characters in the novels deliberate often over the virtues of men and women. Occasionally the conclusion is in favour of one or the other sex, but it still stands that preference over a single one does not make them. They adhere to beauty. And, as the author describes it, for her vampires, beauty is a fluid thing. For a creature that can see the tiniest of imperfections and is lost in the most miniscule of adequacies, beauty can be found in everything.
“If I am an angel, paint me with black wings.”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand
In short, Anne Rice’s vampires revolutionised the monstrosity of these creatures, illustrating how their nightmarish qualities could also be considered their most poignant charms. If I can evoke even a fraction of the emotion in my readers as what her novels drew from me, I will be thrilled and ecstatic.