Born in New Orleans, Rice spent much of her early life there before moving to Texas, and later to San Francisco. She was raised in an observant Catholic family, but became an agnostic as a young adult. She began her professional writing career with the publication of Interview with the Vampire in 1976, while living in California, and began writing sequels to the novel in the 1980s. In the mid-2000s, following a publicized return to Catholicism, Rice published the novels Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, fictionalized accounts of certain incidents in the life of Jesus. Several years later she distanced herself from organized Christianity, citing disagreement with the Church's stances on social issues but pledging that faith in God remained "central to [her] life." However, she now considers herself a secular humanist.
Rice's books have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history. While reaction to her early works was initially mixed, she became more popular with critics and readers in the 1980s. Her writing style and the literary content of her works have been deeply analyzed by literary commentators. She was married to poet and painter Stan Rice for 41 years, from 1961 until his death from brain cancer in 2002 at age 60. She and Stan had two children, Michele, who died of leukemia at age five, and Christopher, who is also an author.
Born on October 4, 1941 in New Orleans, Rice is the second of four daughters of parents of Irish Catholic descent, Howard O'Brien and Katherine "Kay" Allen O'Brien. Her father, a Naval veteran of World War II and lifelong resident of New Orleans, worked as a Personnel Executive for the U.S. Postal Service, and authored one novel, The Impulsive Imp, which was published posthumously. Her older sister, Alice Borchardt, later became a noted author of fantasy and horror fiction.
Rice spent most of her childhood and teenage years in New Orleans, a city that forms the backdrop against which many of her works are set. Her early years were marked by coping with the family's poverty and her mother's alcoholism. She and her family lived in the rented home of her maternal grandmother, Alice Allen, known as "Mamma Allen," at 2301 St. Charles Avenue in the Irish Channel, which Rice says was widely considered a "Catholic Ghetto". Allen, who began working as a domestic shortly after separating from her alcoholic husband, was an important early influence in Rice's life, keeping the family and household together as Rice's mother sank deeper into alcoholism. Allen died in 1949, but the O'Briens remained in her home until 1956, when they moved to 2524 St. Charles Avenue, a former rectory, convent, and school owned by the parish, to be closer to both the church and support for Katherine's addiction. As a young child, Rice studied at St. Alphonsus School, a Catholic institution previously attended by her father.
About her unusual given name, Rice said:
"Well, my birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father's name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world."
However, according to the authorized biography Prism of the Night, by Katherine Ramsland, Rice's father was the source of his daughter's birth name: "Thinking back to the days when his own name had been associated with girls, and perhaps in an effort to give it away, Howard named the little girl Howard Allen Frances O'Brien." Rice became "Anne" on her first day of school, when a nun asked her what her name was. She told the nun "Anne," which she considered a pretty name. Her mother, who was with her, let it go without correcting her, knowing how self-conscious her daughter was of her real name. From that day on, everyone she knew addressed her as "Anne", and her name was legally changed in 1947. Rice was confirmed in the Catholic Church when she was twelve years old and took the full name Howard Allen Frances Alphonsus Liguori O'Brien, adding the names of a saint and of an aunt, who was a nun. "I was honored to have my aunt's name," she said, "but it was my burden and joy as a child to have strange names."
When Rice was fifteen years old, her mother died as a result of alcoholism. Soon afterward, she and her sisters were placed by their father in St. Joseph's Academy. Rice described St. Joseph's as "something out of Jane Eyre ... a dilapidated, awful, medieval type of place. I really hated it and wanted to leave. I felt betrayed by my father."
In November 1957, Rice's father married Dorothy Van Bever. On the subject of the couple's first meeting, Rice recalled, "My father wrote her a formal letter inviting her to lunch which I hand-delivered to her house ... I was so nervous. In the note he enclosed a pin which she was to wear if she accepted the invitation. The next day she had the pin on." In 1958, when Rice was sixteen, her father moved the family to north Texas, purchasing their first home in Richardson. Rice first met her future husband, Stan Rice, in a journalism class while they were both students at Richardson High School.
Graduating from Richardson High in 1959, Rice completed her freshman year at Texas Woman's University in Denton and transferred to North Texas State College for her sophomore year, but dropped out when she ran out of money and was unable to find employment. She soon decided to move to San Francisco, and received permission from her friend, Dennis Percy, to stay with his family there until she found work as an insurance claims processor. She persuaded her former roommate from Texas Woman's University, Ginny Mathis, to join her, and they found an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district. Mathis acquired a job at the same insurance company as Rice. Soon after, they began taking night courses at University of San Francisco, an all-male Jesuit school that allowed women to take night courses. For Easter vacation Anne returned home to Texas, rekindling her relationship with Stan Rice. After her return to San Francisco, Stan Rice came for a week-long visit during summer break. He returned to Texas, Rice moved back in with the Percys, and Mathis left San Francisco in August to enroll in a nursing program in Oklahoma. Some time later, Anne received a special delivery letter from Stan Rice asking her to marry him. They married on October 14, 1961, in Denton, Texas, soon after she turned twenty years old, and when he was just weeks from his nineteenth birthday.
The Rices moved back to San Francisco in 1962, experiencing the birth of the Hippie movement firsthand as they lived in the soon-to-be fabled Haight-Ashbury district, Berkeley, and later the Castro District. "I'm a totally conservative person," she later told The New York Times, "In the middle of Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s, I was typing away while everybody was dropping acid and smoking grass. I was known as my own square." Rice attended San Francisco State University and obtained a B.A. in Political Science in 1964. Their daughter Michele, later nicknamed "Mouse", was born to the couple on September 21, 1966, and Rice later interrupted her graduate studies at SFSU to become a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. However, she soon became disenchanted with the emphasis on literary criticism and the language requirements. In Rice's words, "I wanted to be a writer, not a literature student."
Rice returned to San Francisco State in 1970 to finish her studies in Creative Writing, and in 1972 graduated with an M.A. Stan Rice became an instructor at San Francisco State shortly after receiving his own M.A. in Creative Writing from the institution, and later chaired the Creative Writing department before retiring in 1988. In 1970, while Rice was still in the graduate program, her daughter was diagnosed with acute granulocytic leukemia. Rice later described having a prophetic dream, months before Michele became ill, that her daughter was dying from "something wrong with her blood." On August 5, 1972, Michele died at Stanford Children's Hospital in Palo Alto.
Rice's son Christopher was born in Berkeley, California, in 1978; he would become a best-selling author in his own right, publishing his first novel at the age of 22. In mid-1979, Rice, an admitted alcoholic, and her husband, Stan Rice, quit drinking so their son would not have the life that she had as a child.
Rice has stated that Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, John Milton, Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Henry James are writers who have influenced her work.
In 1973, while still grieving the loss of her daughter, Rice took a previously written short story and turned it into her first novel, the bestselling Interview with the Vampire. She based her vampires on Gloria Holden's character in Dracula's Daughter: "It established to me what vampires were—these elegant, tragic, sensitive people. I was really just going with that feeling when writing Interview With the Vampire. I didn't do a lot of research." After completing the novel and following many rejections from publishers, Rice developed obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). She became obsessed with germs, thinking that she contaminated everything she touched, engaged in frequent and obsessive hand washing and obsessively checked locks on windows and doors. Of this period, Rice says, "What you see when you're in that state is every single flaw in our hygiene and you can't control it and you go crazy."
In August 1974, after a year of therapy for her OCD, Rice attended the Squaw Valley Writer's Conference at Squaw Valley, conducted by writer Ray Nelson. While at the conference, Rice met her future literary agent, Phyllis Seidel. In October 1974, Seidel sold the publishing rights to Interview with the Vampire to Alfred A. Knopf for a $12,000 advance of the hardcover rights, at a time when most new authors were receiving $2,000 advances. Interview with the Vampire was published in May 1976. In 1977, the Rices traveled to both Europe and Egypt for the first time.
Following the publication of Interview with the Vampire, while living in California, Rice wrote two historical novels, The Feast of All Saints and Cry to Heaven, along with four erotic novels (The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty's Punishment, Beauty's Release, and Beauty's Kingdom) under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure, and two more under the pseudonym Anne Rampling (Exit to Eden and Belinda). Rice then returned to the vampire genre with The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, her bestselling sequels to Interview with the Vampire.
Shortly after her June 1988 return to New Orleans, Rice penned The Witching Hour as an expression of her joy at coming home. Rice also continued her popular Vampire Chronicles series, which later grew to encompass ten novels, and followed up on The Witching Hour with Lasher and Taltos, completing the Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy. She also published Violin, a tale of a ghostly haunting, in 1997.
Rice calls Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, published in 2005, the beginning of a series chronicling the life of Jesus. The second volume, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, was published in March 2008. The third book in the series, Christ the Lord: Kingdom of Heaven, has been postponed.
After moving to Rancho Mirage, California, in December 2005, Rice wrote Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, Angel Time, and Of Love and Evil (the latter two being the first two books in her Songs of the Seraphim series), in addition to her memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession.
On March 9, 2014, Rice announced on her son Christopher's radio show, "The Dinner Party with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn", that she had completed another book in the Vampire Chronicles, titled, Prince Lestat, a "true sequel" to Queen of the Damned. The book was released on October 28, 2014.
Following its debut in 1976, Interview with the Vampire received many negative reviews from critics, causing Rice to retreat temporarily from the supernatural genre. When The Vampire Lestat debuted in 1985, reaction—both from critics and from readers—was more positive, and the first hardcover edition of the book sold 75,000 copies. Upon its publication in 1988, The Queen of the Damned was given an initial hardcover printing of 405,000 copies. The novel was a main selection of the Literary Guild of America for 1988, and reached the #1 spot on The New York Times Best Seller list, staying on the list for more than four months.
Rice's novels are popular among many members of the LGBT community, some of whom have perceived her vampire characters as allegorical symbols of isolation and social alienation. Similarly, a reviewer writing for The Boston Globe observed that the vampires of her novels represent "the walking alienated, those of us who, by choice or not, dwell on the fringe." On the subject, Rice herself commented, "From the beginning, I've had gay fans, and gay readers who felt that my works involved a sustained gay allegory ... I didn't set out to do that, but that was what they perceived. So even when Christopher was a little baby, I had gay readers and gay friends and knew gay people, and lived in the Castro district of San Francisco, which was a gay neighborhood."
Rice's writings have also been identified as having had a major impact on later developments within the genre of vampire fiction. "Rice turns vampire conventions inside out," writes Susan Ferraro of The New York Times. "Because Rice identifies with the vampire instead of the victim (reversing the usual focus), the horror for the reader springs from the realization of the monster within the self. Moreover, Rice's vampires are loquacious philosophers who spend much of eternity debating the nature of good and evil."
In addition, Rice's writing style has been heavily analyzed. Ferraro, in a statement typical of many reviewers, describes her prose as "florid, both lurid and lyrical, and full of sensuous detail". However, others have criticized Rice's writing style as both verbose and overly philosophical. Author William Patrick Day comments that her writing is often "long, convoluted, and imprecise".
In June 1988, following the success of The Vampire Lestat and with The Queen of the Damned about to be published, the Rices purchased a second home in New Orleans, the Brevard-Rice House, built in 1857 for Albert Hamilton Brevard. Stan took a leave of absence from his teaching, and together they moved to New Orleans. Within months, they decided to make it their permanent home.
Rice returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 after decades of atheism. On December 14, 1998, she fell into a coma, later determined to be caused by diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), and nearly died. She was later diagnosed with Diabetes mellitus type 1, and is now insulin-dependent. In 2003, following the recommendation of her husband and shortly after his death, Rice underwent gastric bypass surgery and shed 103 pounds.
In 2004, Rice nearly died again from an intestinal blockage or bowel obstruction, a common complication of gastric bypass surgery. In 2005, Newsweek reported, "[Rice] came close to death last year, when she had surgery for an intestinal blockage, and also back in 1998, when she went into a sudden diabetic coma; that same year she returned to the Roman Catholic Church, which she'd left at 18." Her return did not come with a full embrace of the Church's stances on social issues; Rice remained a vocal supporter of equality for gay men and lesbians (including marriage rights), as well as abortion rights and birth control, writing extensively on such issues. In October 2005, while promoting her book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, she announced in Newsweek that she would now use her life and talent of writing to glorify her belief in God, but did not renounce her earlier works.
In the Author's Note from Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Rice states:
I had experienced an old-fashioned, strict Roman Catholic childhood in the 1940s and 1950s ... we attended daily Mass and Communion in an enormous and magnificently decorated church.... Stained-glass windows, the Latin Mass, the detailed answers to complex questions on good and evil—these things were imprinted on my soul forever....
I left this church at age 18.... I wanted to know what was happening, why so many seemingly good people didn't believe in any organized religion yet cared passionately about their behavior and value of their lives.... I broke with the church.... I wrote many novels that without my being aware that they reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God."
In her memoir Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, Rice also states:
In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from [God] for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I'd been, all of my life, missing the entire point. No social paradox, no historic disaster, no hideous record of injustice or misery should keep me from Him. No question of Scriptural integrity, no torment over the fate of this or that atheist or gay friend, no worry for those condemned and ostracized by my church or any other church should stand between me and Him. The reason? It was magnificently simple: He knew how or why everything happened; He knew the disposition of every single soul. He wasn't going to let anything happen by accident! Nobody was going to go to Hell by mistake."
On January 18, 2004, Rice announced on her website that she had made plans to leave New Orleans. She cited living alone since the death of her husband and her son moving to California as the reasons for her move. On January 30, 2004, Rice put the largest of her three homes up for sale and moved to a gated community in Kenner, Louisiana. "Simplifying my life, not owning so much, that's the chief goal", said Rice. "I'll no longer be a citizen of New Orleans in the true sense." She sold her New York City condominium on January 20, 2005. In 2005, after completing Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Rice left New Orleans, shortly before the events of Hurricane Katrina in August. None of her former New Orleans properties were flooded, and Rice remains a vocal advocate for the city and related relief projects.
After leaving New Orleans, Rice settled first in La Jolla, California. In November 2005, she described the weather in La Jolla as "like heaven." However, she left La Jolla less than a year after moving there, stating in January 2006 that the weather was too cold. She purchased a six-bedroom home in Rancho Mirage, California, in December 2005, allowing her to be closer to her son in Los Angeles.
On July 18, 2010, Rice auctioned off her large collection of antique dolls at Thierault's in Chicago. Beginning in mid-2010 and continuing through early 2011, Rice also began auctioning off her household possessions, collectibles featured in her many books, jewelry, and wardrobe on eBay. She also sold a large portion of her library collection to Powell's Books.
On July 28, 2010, Rice publicly announced her disdain for the current state of Christianity on her Facebook page, stating, "Today I quit being a Christian.... I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." Shortly thereafter, she clarified her statement: "My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."
Following her announcement, Rice's critique of Christianity was commented upon by numerous journalists and pundits. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rice elaborated on her view regarding being a member of a Christian church: "I feel much more morally comfortable walking away from organized religion. I respect that there are all kinds of denominations and all kinds of churches, but it's the entire controversy, the entire conversation that I need to walk away from right now." In response to the question, "how do you follow Christ without a church?" Rice replied: "I think the basic ritual is simply prayer. It's talking to God, putting things in the hands of God, trusting that you're living in God's world and praying for God's guidance. And being absolutely faithful to the core principles of Jesus' teachings." In 2011, Rice participated in the "I Am Second" project, with a short documentary about her spiritual journey. On April 14, 2013, Rice stated in a Facebook post that she was a secular humanist. On July 28, 2014, Rice stated in a Facebook post that Christ is still central to her life, but not in the way he is presented by organized religion.
In 1994, Neil Jordan directed a motion picture adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, based on Rice's own screenplay. The movie starred Tom Cruise as Lestat, Brad Pitt as the guilt-ridden Louis, and a young Kirsten Dunst in her breakout role as the deceitful child vampire Claudia.
A second film adaptation, Queen of the Damned, was released in February 2002, starring Stuart Townsend as the vampire Lestat and singer Aaliyah as Akasha. The movie combined plot points from both the novel The Queen of the Damned, as well as from The Vampire Lestat. Produced on a budget of $35 million, the film recouped only $30 million at the U.S. box office. On her Facebook page, Rice distanced herself from the film, and has stated that she feels the filmmakers "mutilated" her work in adapting the novel.
The 1994 film Exit to Eden, based loosely on the book Rice published as Anne Rampling, starred Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd. The work was transformed from a BDSM-themed love story into a police comedy, and was widely considered a box-office failure, receiving near-universal negative reviews.
A film adaptation of Christ the Lord was reported to be in the early stages of development in February 2012. It was reported that Chris Columbus had signed on to produce, and that Cyrus Nowrasteh had already completed the script. On November 8, 2014, during an interview with her long-time editor, Victoria Wilson, at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Rice revealed that filming had finished on the movie and was going into post-production. The film, titled The Young Messiah, was released in 2016.
In August 2014, Universal Pictures had acquired the rights to Rice's Vampire Chronicles. However, in November 2016, when Universal Pictures did not renew the contract, the film and television rights reverted to Rice, who began developing The Vampire Chronicles into a television series with her son, Christopher.
In 1997, Rice wrote the story for a television pilot entitled Rag and Bone, featuring elements of both horror and crime fiction. Screenwriter James D. Parriott penned the screenplay, and the pilot ultimately aired on CBS, starring Dean Cain and Robert Patrick.
The Feast of All Saints was made into a Showtime original miniseries in 2001, directed by Peter Medak and starring James Earl Jones and Gloria Reuben. As of 2002, NBC had plans to adapt Rice's Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy into a miniseries, but the project never entered production.
On November 26, 2016, Rice announced in a personal statement on her Facebook page that the film and television rights to the entire Vampire Chronicles franchise had reverted to her and that she and her son, novelist Christopher Rice, would be "developing a pilot script and a detailed outline for an open-ended series faithfully presenting Lestat’s story as it is told in the books, complete with many situations that readers expect to see.”
On April 28, 2017, Rice released on her Facebook page the press released stating that the Vampire Chronicles have been optioned by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content.
On April 25, 2006, the musical Lestat, based on Rice's Vampire Chronicles books, opened at the Palace Theatre on Broadway after having its world premiere in San Francisco, California, in December 2005. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin, it was the inaugural production of the newly established Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures. Despite Rice's own overwhelming approval and praise, the show received disappointing attendance and largely negative reviews from critics. Lestat closed a month later on May 28, 2006, after just 33 previews and 39 regular performances. The release of the cast recording of the show is reportedly on hold indefinitely.
Several of Anne Rice's novels have been adapted into comic books. Below is a list of adaptations to date, along with their publishers and years of publication.Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat #1–12 by Innovation Comics (1990), compiled into one volume by Ballantine Books (1991)
Anne Rice's The Mummy or Ramses the Damned #1–12 by Millennium Publications (1990)
Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned #1–11 (#12 was never published) by Innovation Comics (1991)
Anne Rice's The Master of Rampling Gate (one-shot) by Innovation Comics (1991)
Anne Rice's The Vampire Companion #1–3 by Innovation Comics (1991)
Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire #1–12 by Innovation Comics (1992)
Anne Rice's The Witching Hour #1–5 by Millennium Publications (1992), #1-3 compiled into Anne Rice's The Witching Hour: The Beginning by Millennium Publications (1994)
Anne Rice's The Tale of the Body Thief #1–4 (numbers 5–12 were never published) by Sicilian Dragon (1999), completed in one volume by Sicilian Dragon (2000)
Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones #1–6 by IDW Publishing (2011), compiled into one volume by IDW (2012)
Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Yen Press (2012)
The Wolf Gift: The Graphic Novel by Yen Press (2014)
Rice initially expressed an adamant stance against fan fiction based on her works, and particularly in opposition to such fiction based on The Vampire Chronicles, releasing a statement on April 7, 2000, that disallowed all such efforts, citing copyright issues. She subsequently requested that FanFiction.Net remove stories featuring her characters. In 2012, Metro reported that Rice developed a milder stance on the issue. "I got upset about 20 years ago because I thought it would block me," she said. "However, it's been very easy to avoid reading any, so live and let live. If I were a young writer, I'd want to own my own ideas. But maybe fan fiction is a transitional phase: whatever gets you there, gets you there."