Anne Rice on Prince Lestat’s journey to Atlantis: 'It felt inevitable'
Anne Rice and her beloved vampire, Prince Lestat, who has starred in four decades’ worth of gothic horror novels, will return to your bookshelves in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (out Nov. 29). After she announced her new book, EW spoke with Rice about picking Lestat’s story up once again, and creating her own story of the mythical lost city of Atlantis.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Lestat end up in Atlantis?
ANNE RICE: I was working on a novel called Born for Atlantis, and I just couldn’t get it to work. I thought, “What if I could somehow combine this with Lestat and the vampires?” And it was like, everything worked. Something happens to me when I write from Lestat’s point of view. There’s no question about it. By the time I was done, it felt inevitable, like it always had been…. It was a rare experience.
How does it feel when things click that way?
It was the kind of writing I love with my whole heart: imaginative world-building. And as much as I love writing about Lestat’s personal agonies as he roams the world, I also love telling tales. I want the next novel to flow right out of this one.
When did Atlantis start to fascinate you?
Well I’ve always been fascinated by the legend, and always a little bit uneasy about the way people have treated that legend in fiction. I’ve enjoyed it, but I always wanted to do my version. I have a close relative who reads very widely in all the channeling books about Atlantis—you know, the different psychiatrists who claim that their patients are reincarnated Atlantians and they’re channeling information. And we talk a lot about Edgar Cayce, and these different people, Ruth Montgomery, people who have claimed to have channeled ancient Atlantis. That obsession was always there with me.
What was it that made you want to write your own version?
I guess what bothered me the most about the Atlantis material [that already existed] was the idea that the Atlantians themselves had committed some great sin, and thereby brought about their own ruin. I always questioned that, and why Plato felt that he had to present it that way, as a moral tale of over-reach, misuse of power. I just felt like I wanted to explore the myth myself, and create what I thought Atlantis might have been, and that’s what I did.
I think anybody who writes about Atlantis is always going to be talking about her own time, you know? You can go back and read the guys in the ‘30s or the ‘40s and what they wrote about Atlantis, and it has a lot to do with whatever was going on politically in the world at that time. How they envision a utopia, their utopia or their repressive, evil Atlantis will reflect whatever was happening in Europe, with the World Wars, the rise of Communism, that type of thing. And somebody will say that someday about my version, if it’s still around.
What kind of research did you do?
I think the first thing to do is to read Plato’s account of it, and see what he actually says in his work about Atlantis. … and then the other thing, to me, that was important, was to read what any other ancient writer said about it. That, to me, is the rock bottom, core research. Once you’ve done that, you have the foundation to do your own Atlantis.
Another thing I think that’s really enjoyable is just to read all the fictional treatments: the comic books, the early weird stories in pulp magazines about Atlantis. I looked at a lot of that just to make sure, as I always do, that I’m not repeating what somebody did.
What’s the best writing advice you ever got?
In 1977 I heard George Lucas say about Star Wars, “We made the movie we couldn’t find, the one we wanted to see.” And I thought, “That is a rule I have to remember: Write the book you can’t find, that you really want to read.”
Is there anything else you want readers to know about Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis?
The one thing I do want to emphasize is for the Atlantis readers, the people that read everything on Atlantis, and for the vampire readers, that this is really a novel that embraces both. It’s not just a nod to Atlantis or a tricky mention of Atlantis to try to arouse expectations that won’t be met. If you’re a fan about Atlantis ideas and fantasies, you will find a full-blown Atlantis in this novel. And it’s also a real vampire chronicle about my vampire Lestat and his tribe.
A version of this story appears in the August 12, 2016 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Pick it up on stands now, or subscribe online at ew.com/allaccess.