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A VAMPIRE'S BEST FRIEND : Author of 'Chronicles' Finds New Blood Lines Back in New Orleans

August 18, 1988|ELIZABETH MEHREN | Times Staff Writer

To Rice's devoted readers, her vampires are, at their core, credible. Of course they have egos and hobbies and interesting taste in clothes. Naturally they quarrel, fall in love, debate the meaning of eternity.

Yet Rice would be the last to say she believes in the existence of vampires.

"I believe in everything else in the occult except vampires," she said. "I think there is abundant evidence for astral projection, out-of-body experiences. I think the near-death experiences that you read about are fabulously well-documented. I believe there is abundant evidence to substantiate that there are apparitions and ghosts. But the one thing I find no evidence for are vampires. That is pure mythology, pure dream."

She writes about them, Rice said, "because they offer the perfect image of the outsider."

A Nasty Habit

Maybe she knows they don't exist, but still, Rice's vampires have a naughty habit of crowding her cranium.

"Like this morning, I was lying in bed and I was thinking about Santino," Rice said of her Roman-born vampire. "I was thinking, now Santino needs his own story."

Then she began worrying about the blood drought that may affect her characters as they invade "Chronicles."

"It just hit me, they're going to be experiencing a severe thirst," Rice said.

Her voice made it clear that this could be a major catastrophe with potentially cosmic consequences that should be obvious to any vampire fan.

Rice's pixie side crept in.

"This is a big responsibility, carrying around the history of the universe," she said. In the next book, "I was hoping not to take on all of Western civilization."

New Age Stores

The books in "The Vampire Chronicles" are sometimes sold in New Age bookstores, a fact of marketing life that sometimes perplexes the author.

"If you read the new book," she said, "it presents a skeptical view, a very nihilistic view of the spirit world. There was something there, a spirit, but what it was saying was largely nonsense."

This should surprise no one, Rice said, since spirits "are mainly idiots."

Grateful for the generosity and success of a husband who "allowed me to be the mad one in the family," Rice found fame, fans and financial remuneration when "Interview With the Vampire" was swallowed up by a public that had apparently been thirsting for vampire blood.

"I have to answer yes," Rice said when asked if she thought she might ever grow up to be the proverbial rich and famous author. "But let me qualify. I dreamed it. And my dreams came true."

A Crucial Lesson

Rice admonished, "You have to realize, I am not in the category of Stephen King." But the success of the series has taught her one crucial lesson: "to continue."

She has a problem, after all, that many writers would envy, in that "I don't have the time for all the ideas I get. So I write every chance I get."

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