For Books’ Sake Talks To: Anne Rice

11th Jan 2013


Since its publication in 1976, Anne Rice’s gothic, homoerotic tale Interview With a Vampire, featuring Louis, Lestat and their adopted daughter Claudia, has taken on an afterlife of its own.

Whilst angst-ridden blood-suckers might be ten a penny in books these days, when Rice wrote the original novel in the 1970s they were still the campy Hammer Horror villains of the silver screen.

“I saw my vampires as tragic heroes,” she says. “I think that was new.” So too was the relationship between the two heroes – and the family they create. Long before queer families were commonly represented in literature, Louis and Lestat sire a young vampire they raise as their own – and now she gets a book to herself.

Immortalised by a young Kirsten Dunst as an undead Lolita in the 1990s – Rice points out that the Claudia of the novel is younger – the centuries-old demon in a child’s body was one of the most haunting characters in the novel.

And although Claudia may have met a messy end, you just can’t keep a bad girl down. She tells her side of the story in Ashley Witter’s new graphic novel, Interview With a Vampire: Claudia’s Story.

“I didn’t really revisit it,” Rice explains, admitting that exploring Claudia’s perspective wasn’t something she had ever thought about. “I licensed Yen to adapt it.”

It was a good move on Rice’s part – this is Witter’s graphic novel début, but she handles her task like a seasoned pro. In lusciously detailed sepia drawings that mix manga and Grand Guignol with splashes of crimson blood, a dying Claudia is rescued from the arms of her dead mother and given a new existence.

An eternal child, she eventually grows bored of her cosseted, doll-like existence as Louis’ plaything and begins to resent her fathers.

I saw my vampires as tragic heroes. I think that was new.In a series dominated by brooding men, it’s refreshing to find a female character taking centre stage. The pretty, spoiled pet of the novel is given new depth by Witter – Claudia permanently teeters on the edge of an adolescence she longs for but will never reach.

The claustrophobia of a woman trapped in a little girl’s body and the isolation of being kept from her own kind are vividly captured by Witter.

Delving in to the motivations of the child bride of darkness might have taken a back seat in Rice’s novel, but it’s perfectly in keeping with the way she resurrected – sorry – the vampire myth and made it her own.

“I made vampires living breathing characters with emotions, with souls – with a capacity to suffer and transcend,” says Rice. “I went into the ‘back story’ of the monster.”

In Claudia’s Story, the real threat comes not from her demonic nature, or even from the increasingly reckless and dangerous Lestat, but from the torpor of spending an eternity patronized, underestimated and never allowed to fulfil her true potential.

Popular culture might be saturated with bloodsuckers and fangbangers, but – as Louis and Lestat know – sometimes the old ways are the best. The combination of the queen of the damned and some fresh blood has given us what modern vampire novels have been sorely lacking – a heroine with bite.

Interview With a Vampire: Claudia’s Story can be purchased as a hardcover at Foyles or try your local independent book store.

Kaite Welsh

(Photograph of Anne Rice by Matthias Scheer 2012)