Saturday, December 19, 2009

Author Anne Rice finds inspiration at the Mission Inn for new series

From Southern California's Press-Enterprise --

Author Anne Rice finds inspiration at the Mission Inn for new series --

December 12, 2009 --

Best-selling author Anne Rice sat before a fire blazing in a stone fireplace at the Mission Inn in Riverside on Saturday, readying for her first book signing in four years.

Outside, hundreds of stalwart Rice fans stood in the chilly rain waiting to meet the author who has sold more than 75 million copies of her books worldwide and is considered by many to be among the top fiction writers for adults in the century. Her best-sellers include "Interview With the Vampire" and "The Witching Hour." On Saturday, she was signing copies of "Angel Time."

The novel, which was released in October, is the first in her new series titled "Songs of the Seraphim" and is set at the Mission Inn. Rice said inspiration for the setting struck her during her first stay shortly after she moved from New Orleans to Rancho Mirage in 2006.

"We came and I fell in love," Rice said during an interview in the Keeper of the Inn suite at the historic hotel. "I thought right away, I'm going to put my hero here. That's a great thing for a writer ... when you see a place sparks your imagination."

Mission Inn owners Duane and Kelly Roberts had no idea the makings of a book were going on under the Inn's roof until it was a completed product.

"I sent them the book, but only after it was set in type," Rice said. "I thought, maybe they won't like this ... but they were wonderful. They invited us to do the signing. We're really enjoying ourselves."

While researching and writing the first two novels, Rice spent a great deal of time in the Inn's Amistad Suite, which is where most of the book's action takes place. The suite already bears a dedication to Canadian author Anne Cameron, and the owners decided to surprise Rice with a similar dedication on the other side of the suite's entrance.

"They've been very gracious," Rice said. "I'm so honored."

signed copies

Starting with Saturday's book signing, the Inn's gift shop began selling signed copies of "Angel Time."

"Since she moved to the Palm Springs area, the Mission Inn has been a great getaway for her," said Duane Roberts. "It's really very exciting having an author of her stature write about the Inn."

"Angel Time" follows the story of Toby O'Dare, an assassin with a tragic past who often takes refuge at the Mission Inn and visits surrounding real missions like the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Throughout the book are vivid descriptions of the Inn, including the Amistad Suite, scene of O'Dare's final murder.

Rather than vampires or witches, the book focuses on a different host of supernatural beings -- angels. O'Dare is given the option of returning to his lost faith and becoming a helper to a very powerful type of angel called a seraph who goes by the name of Malchiah.

He makes the leap and soon finds himself in 12th-century England, charged with the task of saving two Jewish settlers who have been wrongly accused of ritualistically murdering their own daughter.

Character connection

Rice feels a strong connection to her lead character, as she has in the past with several others.

"I don't think a book is going to be very good if you don't identify to some extent with your characters," Rice said. "He's from New Orleans and has a past that's very troubled; he's very conflicted. So I see continuity between the book and other books I've written.

"It's really fun to write about him because he has a bright future now. He has real possibility. That's what challenges me and gives me a new creative energy."

The sequel to "Angel Time" has already been completed and Rice has begun working on the next in the series.

"The second book is set at the Mission Inn, and in the third, I'm sure it will continue to be a really important place," Rice said.

Rice plans to continue telling O'Dare's story for quite some time, and with the way the plot is set up, there are seemingly infinite possibilities.

The seraph Malchiah will send O'Dare all over history, each time tasking him with a mission that utilizes the skills he once used for evil.

"I really like to do historical research and I really like to wander through history," Rice said. "I did it in the 'Vampire Chronicles.' In this ... the angels can take him to any time and place in history.

"I want him to go to Renaissance Italy, and I want him to go back to England in the later Middle Ages. I want him to go in Elizabethan times and who knows where."

While writing of O'Dare's adventures, Rice will continue visiting the Mission Inn for meditation and inspiration.

"I'll come here often," she said. "It's really nice to get away and come here."

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