Q&A with Anne Rice on 'Angel Time' --
By JENNIFER DEAN --
December 12, 2009 --
Bestselling author Anne Rice held her first book signing event in four years Saturday at The Mission Inn. Her new book, "Angel Time" is set at the historic inn and is the first in a new series called "Songs of Seraphim."
While writing portions of the novel, she stayed in the Amistad Suite - where much of the action in the book takes place.
Before the signing event, we met in the Keeper of the Inn suite next door to the Amistad suite to discuss how "Angel Time" came about.
Dean: What made you choose The Mission Inn as the setting for the novel?
Rice: We came and I fell in love with it. I thought right away, I'm going to put my hero here and have him experience The Mission Inn. That's a great thing for a writer, when you see a place sparks your imagination and you begin to think of a story in details. And, I really didn't have any thought before that. I just fell in love with the place and I stayed in the Amistad Suite, which they've renamed the Anne Rice suite. So this became a big part of the book for me. And I think loving New Orleans as I do, it was natural for me to fall in love with this place. It has history, it's charming and excessive and all that. This is the Inn Keepers. I was in the Amistad both times and I wrote quite a few notes and plans and stuff. And did a lot of thinking and dreaming and meditating. Taking photographs and so forth.
Dean: How long have you been in Rancho Mirage and what made you choose the area?
Rice: Since 2006, spring. I left New Orleans because my son had moved out to New Orleans and my husband was gone. And I wanted to be closer to my son. He lives in LA. The weather was a big deal to me because I'm a Southerner and I really like the sun and warmth. Christopher suggested that Palm Springs - that area - would be perfect and we've found it to be really nice. And one of the great things about being there, of course, is you can take all these side trips - there's the snow in Big Bear and Idyllwild, and you can come here for something completely different. We've been enjoying that aspect of California.
Dean: Do you identify with your main character, Toby O'Dare?
Rice: I don't think a book is going to be very good if you don't identify to some extent with your characters, even though they seem extravagantly different. He's 28 years old, but he's from New Orleans and he has a past that's very troubled , he's very conflicted. So I see continuity between the book and the other books I've written. And I see the same concerns. It's really fun though to write about him because he has a bright future now. He has real possibility. And that's what challenges me and gives me a new creative energy.
Dean: Do you know how many novels will be in the "Songs of the Seraphim" series?
Rice: I'd love to just do a continuing series with Toby. I'd never really planned a series before. I've done books that turned out to be series, but they were never planned that way. And when you plan it, you can develop all kinds of wonderful themes that move book to book to book and I'm really enjoying that.
Dean: Will the other books in the series be set at The Mission Inn as well?
Rice: The second book is set at The Mission Inn too and the third, I'm sure it will continue to be a really important place.
Dean: Was there a lot of research involved in "Angel Time?" I understand the story of little Saint William of Norwich was real.
Rice: I made a fictional story about that community but there really was a little Saint William and the Jews were accused of killing him ritualistically. That was the first time they were ever accused of that in the middle ages and that became a common accusation in Europe for a long time. And I thought, I didn't feel I could do justice to that story so I made up a similar story.
Dean: Is Malchiah modeled after a Biblical figure?
Rice: He's a fictional angel and his name is fictional but we do know about the Seraphim from the Bible. There's a beautiful description by the prophet Isaiah of seeing the Seraphim singing before the throne of God. So of course I read a lot of theology, a lot on angels and what we believe about angels. It's always been believed that maybe special people could have special guardian angels ... that a special angel might come to recruit somebody as special. He'd have a guardian angel too, but he has come to the attention of this higher angel. But all angels are constantly answering prayers. That's what the Bible tells us, that they are looking out for people and answering prayers.
Dean: What is a Seraphim? Are the terms angel and Seraph interchangeable?
Rice: It's a choir of angles. There are archangels like Gabriel who serve certain functions and then there are the Seraphim who are before the throne of God. I love that name, Seraphim, and I love the idea of them singing constantly before the throne of God. I think it's beautiful.
Dean: How does it feel to write about angels rather than vampires and witches?
Rice: It's very energizing because for me, writing about vampires and witches always had to do with the sadness and grief and searching for faith, yet not finding faith ... and struggling in a kind of nihilistic darkness and I really did enough of that. I felt I had no more stories to tell with those characters. On Facebook my readers are always asking, "Will you write one more book with the vampires? Will you write one more book with the witches?" But I can't. I really don't see the world that way anymore and that universe is not my universe anymore. It used to be. I used to feel that way before my faith came back to me and it was natural to talk about it in that way. And I loved those characters. But this is to me much more exciting and in some ways this is a huge challenge. I mean, it's hard to make an angel interesting. I'm not sure that Malchiah is at all as interesting as he will get in the books as they go on. If you are trying to make him true to the Biblical idea of a powerful angel, it's quite a challenge. It's easier to take a vampire and make up anything you want for that character.
I'm kind of enthralled with that. And I'm curious how it'll work out, whether other angels will come into the picture.
Dean: What do you think of the current vampire types like those in "Twilight" and "True Blood?"
Rice: It's fun. I think there's nothing there to be frightened about or upset about. I've seen both the "Twilight" series and I think they were just romances for young teens. I mean, it's the same formula as "Jane Eyre" basically. The young girl ... the other mysterious figure takes an interest in her and is both protective and yet is a threat. And it's kind of, I think, Stephenie Meyer hit on that formula and it's a formula that always works. She's just done it in a new way. I'm amazed that parents are kind of frightened. I think the kids reading the book know that it's fiction. There were people a hundred years ago frightened when people were reading the book "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë. There's nothing to be frightened about. It's just fiction.
And I think "True Blood" is very clever. I really like Bill Compton. I think he's a nice, really melancholy, tormented vampire. I think Southerners really like "True Blood" because they got the South right. It took a vampire show to get it right. So often they get it totally wrong, but somehow or another, it totally works.
Dean: How have you felt while writing this series? I understand how close you must get to the characters and storyline. Can you describe the feeling?
Rice: I get into that character and I start seeing the world from his point of view and the roadmap for the book kind of goes out the window and the book becomes a series of discoveries and surprises. I really enjoyed it, very, very much. As I said, I felt a huge surge of energy that Toby had hope and would be doing things and one thing that means a lot to me is I really like to do historical research and I really like to wander through history. I did it in the vampire chronicles and I really, fixing this device the angels can take him to any time and place in history. Well I was setting that up for myself because I really love that. I really love that. I want him to go to Renaissance Italy and I want him to go back to England in the later middle ages. And I want him to go in Elizabethan times and who knows where. Ancient times and some modern times. But he probably won't go into the future just because that's not something that interests me. But there's no telling where he could show up.
Dean: Why did you decide to do a book signing again after four years?
Rice: The mission inn invited us to do a signing and we thought it would be a great idea. They've been very gracious to us. I never expected them to respond this way. I sent them the book, but only after it was set in type, so I thought, maybe they won't like this. But they were wonderful, they were very gracious. They invited us to come and they've treated us wonderfully. We're really enjoying ourselves. We're enjoying the Festival of Lights. We really love the hotel, I mean, you can tell by the book. So this is really fun. The next book is written. I'll come here often. It's really nice to get away and come here.
Dean: Have you ever thought of writing children's fiction?
Rice: I have. I just haven't developed anything, but I've been invited to do that by my publisher and I'm thinking about it. And one thing I'd really like to do is write a very big Christmas book. But I don't know yet when I'm going to get that done. There are so many things I want to do.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Q&A with Anne Rice on 'Angel Time'
From Southern California's Press-Enterprise --