The publication of a new novel by Anne Rice is always an event, and especially when she begins a new series. The Wolf Gift is a werewolf novel that displays her unique combination of philosophy, sensuality and gothic horror.
I was thrilled to interview Anne Rice for the AB4T blog, and Random House is also featuring a giveaway of the novel — be sure to read to the end.
Without further ado, enjoy!
The Wolf Gift combines philosophical questioning and headlong action. Is this a balance that you consciously nurture in your writing? How do you maintain the story’s pacing so effectively?
I go by instinct when writing. I pretty much focus on my main character, on his point of view, his journey, and the philosophical questioning takes care of itself. I can’t stop my characters from searching for meaning. It happens. My books have always been a mix of plot, spectacle, character and philosophical questioning. I write about what I feel and know and care about. I don’t really think about the pacing, so much as I think about what interests me as I write. If I’m bored, won’t the reader be bored? It’s that approach.
What compels you to use monster literature to examine deeper issues of the human experience?
I discovered as soon as I turned to the vampire, that this was the way in which I could discuss what mattered to me. I didn’t get anywhere with pedestrian realism. But when I started with fantasy, with monsters, suddenly I was talking about all my human concerns. I think all monster fiction is really about us, about the predator or monster inside of each of us. I feel so comfortable with it. It is so intense for me. I love experimenting with other types of fiction, but I always come home to the monsters because, well, maybe that is where I belong.
As Reuben learns more and more about the Chrism, the Wolf Gift, the novel delves into the origins of his kind. Do you work out the mythology of your books before you begin writing, or does it come into being around the characters and their actions? How does that evolve?
The mythology develops as I’m writing the novel. I might stop, collect my thoughts on it, and ponder how to introduce it, etc., but usually as I follow a character on his quest, origin stories and cosmology and such develop. I cannot think out a whole novel in advance; the best thing for me is to start writing, start exploring with my hero or heroine. And of course I go back and forth through the pages as I write. I might begin the writing day by going back over earlier chapters, deepening, enriching, editing — before I move forward. As you go along, you discover things, and those things require that you go back to the earlier chapters and add and subtract. For me, what matters is to keep it all fresh in my mind, and to work rapidly before ideas and developments are lost to memory, or the texture of the novel becomes uneven.
Apart from simply being a great werewolf story, what other elements of The Wolf Gift do you believe will appeal to young adults? What are you excited for teen readers to discover in it?
I believe that young adults today want deep fiction that allows them to ponder the mysteries of the world in which they live. Look at their response to The Hunger Games. Young readers have come to me and told me how much they love Memnoch the Devil, which is the most philosophical of my vampire novels. At first I was amazed to see 11 year olds telling me at signings that this was the book they loved; amazed to get their emails talking about how they responded to Lestat’s journey to Heaven and Hell in the novel. But I’ve come to realize the book gave them away to talk about life and death, eternity, mortality through story and through a hero. I’ve been on a book tour, and over and over again people come up in line and say, ‘I started reading you when I was twelve,” or eleven, or nine, or even eight. It’s really giving me pause. I’m grateful. I’m grateful that my books reached these young readers.
Reuben always struggled with his identity; even before his transformation, Reuben’s family and his girlfriend saw him differently than he saw himself. Might you consider this novel a coming-of-age for Reuben?
Well, I do think it is a coming of age novel for Reuben. He so wants to be taken seriously and he isn’t, mainly because he is very good looking and well off. And it hurts him. I think a lot of people identify with a character like that. A lot of women and young girls can identify because all too often they are seen entirely in terms of how well they dress, and how pretty they are. And it’s frustrating. But boys can feel this too. We all want to be taken seriously, to be loved for what we do best. So all that is working in The Wolf Gift. And yes, Reuben does come of age. Through the “wolf gift,” he moves away from the family that has been so dismissive of him towards a new home and new family that see him in another light. (It has been interesting to note that some negative reviews of this book begin by condemning Reuben as a spoilt rich kid who is handsome — in sum, these reviewers are acting just like his family. They’re saying his story doesn’t matter because he’s good looking and has money. What an irony. It’s particularly mind boggling for me because I have always written about empowered characters and how they face the supernatural. And no one has ever condemned Louis in Interview with the Vampire for being a plantation owner, or Lestat for being an aristocrat, or the Mayfair Witches for being rich.)
What led you to write a werewolf novel? Did you research the tradition of werewolf literature before writing? What were your principle influences?
Right before plunging into the novel, I did go over the material on werewolf legends, but I’d long been familiar with this from my research into the supernatural in general. And I reacquainted myself with the great werewolf films from Lon Chaney, Jr. to the Howling, and American Werewolf in London, and Ginger Snaps. It was fun. I realized I wanted a fully conscious, fully aware werewolf hero who could take us with him into the transformation; and of course I viewed the transformation as highly sensuous and highly pleasurable. I never did understand why films presented it as painful. It seems to me it would be wonderful to feel muscles increase in size and strength, to feel hair coming out all over your body, to feel your height increased and to realize you could bound over the rooftops of a city, leaping across streets and into the tops of trees. But I was always conscious of the great aspects of werewolf films. Lon Chaney jr was more a “man wolf” than a four footed animal and I liked that a lot. And werewolf films have always presented the sensuous side of the full beast even if he is unconscious when he becomes the beast.
Are you planning to continue the story of The Wolf Gift? I am especially interested to know if 16-year-old Stuart will reappear. His fate seems uncertain at the end of this novel.
Actually I did not think much about a series when I wrote this. I held back nothing. I told all I had to tell. I felt the novel come to a finish, and of course I knew the characters would continue for me, but I did not plan the first novel of a series so much as I yielded to a new world and new cosmology. Of course I want to go on with Stuart, my gay boy wolf, and I want to follow up on all the characters. I foresee all sorts of stories, and challenges for the Morphenkinder. Surely Stuart is going to long to see some of his old friends. Surely Reuben and Stuart both are going to have moments when they rebel against the pack, or need to go out alone into the world as man wolves. Who knows? And who knows what enemies are lurking out there. And of course Reuben has yet to face a real dilemma regarding good and evil and his powers.
And now for the giveaway — if you are a librarian serving teen readers and would like a copy of The Wolf Gift, please fill out this form. The first 25 respondents will receive a hardcover copy of the book. Good luck!
Adult/High School–Reuben, dubbed “Sunshine Boy” by his celebrated and wealthy parents, is just out of college and working as a reporter with the San Francisco Observer. On assignment, he travels north to research a famous Mendocino Coast property coming on the market. He is captivated by the house and grounds, and by Marchent Nideck, the striking heiress who shows him her uncle’s estate. That night he is the only survivor of a horrendous attack on the house, during which he is bitten in the face by a savage beast. Nothing can explain his incredible recovery; within two weeks he leaves the hospital unscarred and stronger than ever. Even before his release, Reuben is tortured by the cries of those in harm’s way. Eventually, his need to save them brings about the change and he leaps across city rooftops to rescue a woman from her rapist, an old woman from a younger woman’s torture, and a gay teenage boy from bullies, brutally killing their attackers in the process. When he learns that Marchent has left him the Nideck estate, he escapes there, where the surrounding redwood forest shields him from what has become a national obsession with the “Man Wolf.” What begins as a thriller morphs into an origin story that reveals the mythology of the creature Reuben has become. Wrapped up in the action are musings on human nature, justice, good and evil, the existence of God, and the importance of family. In pondering his own monstrous actions and reconciling his human and wolf natures, Reuben moves beyond his family’s expectations and comes into his own.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City