“That this is why we write; to have places of our own. Places we can share, but places we ultimately own completely.”
Author Christopher Rice is New Orleans royalty, son of the gifted poet/painter Stan Rice and the first lady of Gothic literature, Anne Rice. Remarkable in his own right, Christopher had written four New York Times bestselling novels by the age of 30, received a Lambda Literary Award, been twice nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, and made the list of People‘s Sexiest Men Alive. Christopher is co-host of the live comedy variety radio show, The Dinner Party Show.
Christopher is a special guest of UndeadCon of New Orleans Q&A event, An Evening with the Angels & Saints of St. Alphonsus Church. From 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, Mr. Rice will moderate and select written audience questions directed to his mother. The event will take place at the beloved church of Anne’s childhood, located at 2025 Constance Street. Christopher will also share the spotlight with his mother during what will possibly be her last appearance at the world-famous annual Vampire Lestat Ball held in New Orleans at Generations Hall on the evening of Friday, Oct. 30. The 2015 ball theme is the Gathering of the Ancients. The events are hosted by Sue Quiroz, Anne’s personal assistant of 15 years.
Christopher’s 2014 release, The Vines, is a Bram Stoker Award nominee. The mastery of Rice to cocoon a reader within the descriptive surroundings of his written world is prevalent in this tale of nature versus Southern nurture in a case of gardening gone wild. The topics of Christopher’s books range from the erotic to the suspenseful to the supernatural. Rice graciously took some time out of his very busy schedule to eloquently answer a few questions for atombash.com New Orleans Literature readers on his writing, his City, and the people he cares about.
Dionne Charlet: Christopher, Sue Quiroz always speaks so fondly of you. She recently told me she ‘still thinks of [you] as a young boy.’ Sue reminisced about when she used to drive you around and take you to the movies. Do you feel growing up in New Orleans has given you a unique perspective in a world of writers?
Christopher Rice: “Sue is such a sweetheart. New Orleans is a very spiritual city, a city of storytellers, a city where people preserve history through the art of narrative. It holds on to its traumas and its glories in this way which makes it a very powerful place to grow up, if you’re a good listener.”
DC: I understand you attended one of the annual Vampire Lestat balls as a child. Sue tells me the event was held at the Amelia St. house. What are your memories of that Halloween?
CR: “I attended many of the balls when I was a child and they were magical. Surreal, but magical. I remember attending the one held at the Amelia Street House dressed as a hospital patient. I even drew a black eye on myself. I probably looked very out of place amongst the vampires and watches, like some kid who had just escaped from the psych ward after a tussle with the security guards.”
DC: Christopher, you are an UndeadCon icon and a beloved guest of the Gathering of the Ancients Ball. As fans look forward to An Evening with the Angels & Saints of St. Alphonsus Church, where you will moderate crowd questions fans will write down for your mom, what kinds of questions would you particularly like to come across?
CR: “I think writers always love the unexpected questions. The ones that are sometimes very specific about the work, but not so specific that you can’t remember what you’re being asked about. Which is a hazard when you’ve written as many books as Mom has. I hope people catch her off guard and I hope they tease her into revealing some tasty details of some interesting projects she has on the horizon. There are many. She can’t talk about all of them yet, but I’m sure she can give a hint here and there.”
DC: I know there are a lot of questions continually asked about how your writing relates to your mother, and that you are often reviewed or interviewed with your mom in mind. In your own words, how does your style, your voice, differ from that of Anne Rice?
CR: “My style is more contemporary. It’s more rooted in the crime drama or the suspense story. When I’m writing on my own, at least. Recently I launched an erotic romance series which is available digitally, The Desire Exchange, and it was wonderfully liberating to write about sensuality and intimacy without having to hold back the pivotal pieces of information the way you do when you’re crafting a mystery or thriller.”
DC: What do you love most about writing?
CR: “The escape. Being able to inhabit your own world for extended periods of time. Being able to, years later, play a piece of music you listened to while you were writing the story in questions and having its notes instantly transport you back to that world, that alternate reality. I have to remind myself of this when I got caught up in talk of sales and marketing. That this is why we write; to have places of our own. Places we can share, but places we ultimately own completely.”
DC: I wonder if you might indulge this interviewer with some of your reflections on your father’s poetry. As I read pieces from his The Radiance of Pigs, I was awed and amazed at the skill and talent of Stan Rice, and touched by how often he alluded to his family.
CR: “He was a wonderfully talented man. The best thing about his poetry was the best thing about him in everyday life; his belief that ordinary things could seem magical when examined in the right light. He had a professor’s spirit until the end. A desire to teach, a desire to enlighten, but also a desire to share. I miss him very much and I often wonder what his opinion would be of certain movies and television shows. I’m sorry he didn’t get to witness social media. I think he would have been fascinated by it.”
DC: Please tell our readers a little about your radio show, The Dinner Party Show. How did you come to find a niche in radio, and especially comedy? What is most fun about ‘fielding everyone’s inappropriately personal questions for a full hour’ and, of course, about working with your colleague Eric Shaw Quinn?
CR: “Eric is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, and it’s been a joy to help him publish his first murder mystery, WRITE MURDER. (We’ll be celebrating its release with a cocktail party during Halloween weekend in New Orleans.) As for The Dinner Party Show, Eric was planning to do a one man show, a kind of Tracey Ullman-style variety format, and I had always wanted a radio show, so we basically combined the ideas, added in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and came up with The Dinner Party Show. We have some exciting new things planned for 2016. Stay tuned!”
DC: A Density of Souls, The Snow Garden, Light Before Day, Blind Fall, The Moonlit Earth…your novel titles are so beautiful and they are each a literary entity of their own. As you revisited New Orleans through your first supernatural suspense novel, The Heavens Rise, a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, did you make any re-discoveries of the city as you explored the characters, or as the plot of your book evolved into the supernatural?
CR: “Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I had to rediscover New Orleans post-Katrina. The Heavens Rise is a supernatural thriller, but it’s rooted in the post-Katrina realities of the city. I moved away long before the storm, so I had to make many trips home to re-connect with the place, to experience how it had changed. If you go back and read the writing, the op-eds, especially, from around that time, many of them written directly after the storm hit, most of them read like death knells for the city. We forget that there was a real widespread sense the city was dead, that it was never coming back. But it’s still vibrant, still very much alive, years later. Capturing that survivor’s spirit was essential to the book.”
To read more about Christopher Rice, and for information on his novels, go to his website. To listen to free recordings or live broadcasts of The Dinner Party Show, hosted by Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn, go to thedinnerpartyshow.com. For ticket and other information on UndeadCon, An Evening with the Angels & Saints of St. Alphonsus Church, and the Gathering of the Ancients Ball, click here.