Initial Revision: Saturday, November 07, 1998 at 3:20 PM
Approximate Word Count: 3,500
The Writers Neurosis
Continuing The Story
Pandora & The Vampire Armand
How Close Is Close
Spot the Mary Ann
Postscript on Vittorio
Support Our Specs New, 4/15/2000
I was never prepared for the response Ive received to the Louis Stories. Not its timbre, not its sheer volume. At times I could only stare, gaping at my in-box and thinking, My God, how am I to reply to all that.
You all made me blush. In humbled awe. Many, many times over.
And you asked for more, you asked about whats next.
There were moments when I considered it, certainly, writing more about Louis. Document exactly what Lestat did to Chéries house, what mischief he got into experimenting with his new vision. Perhaps write about Louis and Chéries adventures in Europe, how they walked hand-in-hand and in utter silence through le château délabré de Lioncourt in Auvergne. Invent a birthplace for Louis; hardly daunting as most indigo was farmed in the south and shipped out of Marseille. But it would take more research into what records survived the Terror and, though there was little chance of Ms. Rice refuting my conclusions, it was more than I was willing to invest in a story that would never earn me a solitary sou.
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Another Interview was a fit of passion. It was the first bit of fiction that came to me whole -- the scope of it rather, where it would start and how it would end, not every word in between -- and demanded to be written.
Odd, when I didnt get interested in the Vampire Chronicles until the films release was imminent. At that point I had to decide: pick up the books and read them quickly, or wait until after Id seen the film. I chose the latter, the path of least disappointment; films often leave you wanting more, and this way I would indeed have more.
Oh, Id followed the furor over casting Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and so knew my images of Louis and Lestat would likely be colored by their portrayals. But I trusted my readers eye and the fact I had no strong feelings about either actor. Pitt, I thought of as a baby Bobby Redford, an image that stuck from A River Runs Through It; Cruise, arrogance and ego masquerading as the boy next door, though I admired his work in Ridley Scotts Legend.
Interview With The Vampire changed those opinions, however. The movie stunned me. Very little of the actors was visible in their performances, only a few lazy, trademark gestures got past Neil Jordan, to the directors credit. I didnt see Brad Pitt on the screen, I saw Louis; I didnt see Cruise, I saw Lestat. Thats my gauge of a good director and the highest praise I can give any actor.
Cruise was good casting for Lestat. Hes well known for his overwhelming presence and demanding smile, and that was needed for Lestat. He had that razor edge, balancing whim and mirth with danger and ruthlessness. Cruise would be hard pressed to come up with a better signature scene than when he counters Claudias demanding with observations about her tattered dolls. Pure Lestat, in that place and at that point in the Chronicles.
Much of Pitts Louis indeed stuck with me, particularly his patterns of speech and the manner in which he carried himself. Pitt indelibly projected the languidity of practiced grace, absent in this century and so underscored in the modern Louis. Every gesture, every stride, every word from his lips spoke of manners learned centuries ago. It is that modern Louis, so emphatic about his detachment you suspect hes holding onto it by his glassy fingernails, who left the deepest mark. Pitt showed his true acting muscle as Louis, in scenes such as the circuit around the Paris hotel suite. Faced with a mortal Madeleine, Pitt runs through gentle and weary, fierce and ruthless, and finally resigned. Madeleine is rightly tentative in approaching Louis, for Pitt leaves no doubt: Louis is a killer.
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Circumstances kept me from seeing the film until it hit pay-per-view, in June of 1995. I had all five books read by mid-July (heaving Memnoch the Devil across the room more than once), tossed and turned for another week, and then had Another Interview underway before months end.
By the by, I had the title before ever setting a word down. The Introduction and Epilogue were written solely so I could keep the title. I dont recommend going to such lengths. But what was indulgence became a lesson in framing, something Id not done before. Its different than writing flashbacks, which I had some practice in from when I wrote for Connor Macleod of the clan Macleod and Highlander fame.
Another Interview ran to short-novel lengths, about one hundred pages in manuscript form (and I always write in manuscript form; even this article was written so). I spent about two months writing the initial version of the story, posting it to the alt.books.anne-rice newsgroup in September 1995.
That was that, I vowed, relieved Id gotten it out of my system. Then someone on the newsgroup relayed a too-offhand comment Anne Rice made at a book signing, how no immortal had witnessed Armands death.
Trust me, I groaned loudly at that. I have witnesses who will attest that I did not want to write Resurrection. I had several story ideas in the hopper, one of which was very promising, that I needed to flesh out. But it wouldnt bloody well go away! So I started on the story that should have ended that first night on the Night Island, after Daniel and Armand were reunited. Another two months, I figured, what harm in that?
Consider it a wedding gift.
I was happily typing the next paragraph before I was jolted by the enormity of the words Lestat had uttered. My jaw hung slack, fingers poised but lifeless over the keyboard. Oh God, the ideas were a blizzard in my mind! Just how could vampires get married, really married; what about taking the Sacrament, Louis wouldnt do it halfway; the other vampires would retch surely, or would the memory of desires ingrained throughout their mortal lives let them swallow something so sickly sweet.
Sick was how I felt. No, no, I tried to convince myself, Lestat was referring to their immortal mating and nothing more. Fat bloody chance. You dont know how Lestats giggling redoubled with every rationalization I tossed out.
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A written character can become a tangible presence. Ive discreetly polled other writers and learned they too have experienced this, else Id have sought out professional help the first time I felt Louis standing at my shoulder, felt the touch of his fingers there, so lightly offering his encouragement. Louis I know within and without, seeing from his height as well as knowing his company. He was the first character I felt this connection with. Its as eerie as it is comforting.
Lestat is another matter. He stands out in the yard, on the walk or crouched up in the walnut tree, a taunting grin ever on his face. His eyes light up so when he laughs. He may jump down and step close once in a while, but usually he keeps that intimate distance. This sense of Lestat came gradually, a slow dawning that he was never far.
The great surprise was Armands appearance. I first got a sense of him near the end of writing Resurrection. A disembodied entity shaking his head. His displeasure prickled and I subsequently rewrote that storys Introduction, all of his scenes, and entered into revision on Another Interview because of him. Then he blindsided me one night, his approach violent and sudden. I was not aware of him until his face was a scant inch from my own. A brush of lips and then I felt the searing tear of his fangs. Pulling back, his face was blank, eyes a mask of caution and curiosity in their study. I leapt straight from my bed, heart thundering, but Armand was gone. He gifted me with the one violent kiss and vanished. But in that instant at the waking edge of sleep, I saw him vividly. He never returned.
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The details I set down in Citadel of Grace came to me just before I started my final proofread of Resurrection and the revised version of Another Interview. It was almost as if Louis nodded once and said, Now you are ready.
Within a week all three stories were done. It took another week to convert them to text and split them into post-sized pieces; Another Interview ran to seven parts and Resurrection to twenty-six when they were posted to alt.books.anne-rice in January 1996. Citadel of Grace ran to three parts, but it wouldnt make it to the newsgroup until I reposted the lot of them in October 1997 to help bring the alt.books.anne-rice archive up-to-date. (Last I looked, the archive still had a mismatched version of Another Interview, with pieces from three different postings. Have friends get the story here instead.)
A lot was invested in writing the Louis Stories. They pervaded my life for more than seven months. Louis remains a comforting presence, a reminder of what Im capable of achieving. I close my eyes and he is there. Lestat is a thorn, and I can hear him laugh at me from time to time. As much as I enjoy their company, however dear they are to me, I cannot let them consume my consciousness again. The steps I needed to take, the steps they helped me take to advance my craft, have long since been taken.
I have Jacques and Robert, and others, to tend to now. But that is another story, as they say.
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Perhaps the more prevalent reason for not continuing the Louis Stories is that the vampiric landscape has again changed.
Pandora offered nothing that affected my stories and did little to move me. Even with the new book, I have almost no feel for Pandora and scant sympathy. Yet another contradictory image of Marius was raised, insightful but not earth-shattering, and there was too much preaching for my stomach. But perhaps it was a good waystation, a winding down from the atrocity of Memnoch the Devil to the divinity that is The Vampire Armand.
Not since Interview with the Vampire has one of the Chronicles so touched me. Sure, Lestat has his moments: the reunion with Louis in The Vampire Lestat, the scenes in St. Louis Cathedral in Tale of the Body Thief. Lestat acknowledges the simple beauty around him every so often, but it undoubtedly pales next to the Brat Princes own magnificence.
The Vampire Armand made me cry, and not from the over-deification of Every Significant Phrase (is that distracting, or what). The book returns to the lush, humid prose of Interview and the rank aroma of the Venetian canals permeates the telling as distinctly as did the fragrance of old roses beyond the Quarters banquettes. I refrain from other comparisons as they would give away too much when my point, rather, is how the book affects the Louis Stories.
In a nutshell, greatly.
While certainly doable, it would take considerable effort and a complete rewrite to bring my stories into line with the latest events in the Vampire Chronicles. Strike the Introduction to Resurrection, come up with another reason for the gathering on the Night Island, reframe Daniels reunion with Armand (though Ms. Rice seems resolute that their split cannot be breached), and draw in the new vampires. Change the tone of Marius, perhaps.
Its not a matter of inserting new events alone. Armands resurrection (there goes the title) takes place while Lestat is still catatonic. Most of those I dont have meeting until the gathering on the Night Island are standing watch over Lestat in the convent. (Dont notice that Lestat had risen from that state at the end of Memnoch.)
Of course, I can drop the idea of Armands return completely and say that once Armand was on the spot and Lestat had roused himself enough to safely curl up in Metairie, Louis wandered off, distraught over Lestats continued funk (mobile but far from lively), and it was in the year after that he chanced upon Chérie.
But saying that, I think Ill let it suffice.
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With no small trepidation did I pick up The Vampire Armand. How close was I, after all, in my suppositions?
In all fairness, I knew if Ms. Rice ever chanced upon my stories, shed heave; Ive not the feel for the aesthete she has, nor do I believe any creature can be truly unchanging. The notion of a pesty spirit giving rise to a new order of creature still makes me gag. Its too convenient and as pointless as dating the Renaissance; there is no one day of which can be said, here, everything changed.
Of course, Im no stranger to convenient plots. My original, nagging question that resulted in Another Interview was, How could you meet Louis, and live to tell the tale? Putting Louis on wobbly ground emotionally was about the only way hed let love sneak up on him, and even thats reaching. Lestats concession would undoubtedly come with a butchers bill that demanded a hefty reckoning. And with The Vampire Armand, it might not have been possible at all; no one may ever drink from Lestat again.
It should not surprise anyone that, seeing as the tale of Armand was written at all, he was around to tell the tale. I must admit I kept waiting for Armand to turn out to be some ghost only David could see. I dreaded the possibility of that vicious twist. But thankfully it never came, and yes, Armand had his resurrection. His reason for immolation was indeed impetuous, but I wasnt even close on the why of it. (I fall back on what I said before: Perhaps its what he wanted me to believe.) He was indeed in New York and needed concealment, though his pain was not so great as to warrant going underground. His recovery didnt require anywhere near as much time as I supposed without the aid of healing, immortal blood (yet another contradiction), which he did not seek out.
Louis continues to be ignored, though Armand voiced a few new endearments for him. The resurrection Id hoped for for Louis fell to Armand instead, and I was glad to tears for it. It felt so familiar. Armand is alive again, in more than body alone, and I rejoice! I still hope for Louis, but Im no less happy for Armand, and Marius for that matter. I hope for Daniel too, of course, that Armands new outlook might envelope his only fledgling.
I had to chuckle when Armands maker did the making for him. At the same time, I was astonished Marius did it at all, considering the tender age of one of the initiates and the fact that Marius was always so gung-ho about thou shalt make no more of our kind.
Figuring Louis for 6'1" (Lestat looked up at him once when they were on a level) and Armand at 5'9", I was off a bit there, though pretty darned close to their 5'11" and 5'7" heights.
Dora, thankfully, got no more than an expositional rehash. Would I kill her off again, if I was to rewrite the Louis Stories? Oh yes, with unconcealed gusto. I called Memnoch an atrocity and my opinion is unchanged. Too much happened that will forever affect Lestat and getting around that, especially now that his blood rejects drinkers, requires a lot of rationalization and, bluntly put, revisionist history. Ive tried my hand at it with Resurrection, picking and choosing which details to purposefully overlook, and its no simple task. The Chronicles were already fraught with petty contradictions, no more were needed.
Killing off Dora is a catharsis, in essence killing off Memnoch. Dora is so much a Mary Ann, the fan fiction term for a personification of the author, and the grand irony is that the working title for The Vampire Armand was Symphony for Mary Anne.
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So what, you may ask. Didnt I do the same thing with Chérie?
To some extent, yes. (And thats the first time Ive admitted that, thank you.) Chérie looks like me, sort of, and lives in my house. Shes cursed with my gestures and nerdish bent. The opinions she voices are mine as is her general outlook.
But thats where it ends. Im never so clear-headed as she, nor am I as quick to puzzle out a problem. Her delight in the world is a constant struggle for me. Only in writing am I as sharp or as graceful; in person, I still fight the cynicism of my age and battle for every ounce of self-worth. My failures far exceed my successes and I yet fear the cost of real feeling.
No, Chérie is you, the reader. She is a placid vehicle giving you entry into the behind-the-scenes lives of the vampires, not just the spectacles Lestat chooses to document. She asks the questions you might well ask, or at least as many as have sprung to my mind.
Then who am I in the Louis Stories, if not Chérie? Why, thats the simplest thing.
I am Louis.
San José, California
November 8, 1998
Postscript on Vittorio the Vampire: This turned out to be a rather interesting read. My buddy Román, who did his thesis on Fra Angelico and has a bit of an angel fetish, found it fascinating, in fact. There was some encouragement for liberties Ive taken with the Vampire Chronicles, and on matters of faith Vittorio is far closer to Louis than any other of Rices vampires. There was a familiarity to many scenes, smacking of events surrounding Louis and Lestats separate meetings with the Paris coven, and a flagrant distrust of the reader that yielded much undue repetition. Even so, I recommend reading VtV; his very different point-of-view is refreshing.
In April 2000, a statement appeared on the Anne Rice website disallowing fan fiction and demanding respect. Ms. Rice, when asked her opinion of such fiction in years past, always encouraged writers to create their own characters and stories, but never forbid fan fiction or demanded compliance.
In support of all fan-fiction writers out there, I have withdrawn the respect that previously had been freely given to Ms. Rice and display the Support Our Specs ribbon.
Learn more about the Support Our Specs campaign....
April 3, 1999: Film Review added.
May 19, 1999: Note on VtV added.
April 15, 2000: Support Our Specs section added.
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