In the mid-nineties, I was a creative, angsty, depressed teenager living on a steady diet of grunge and existentialism, feeling perpetually misunderstood—something familiar to many, I think, especially in my Xennial generation. Books were my only effective outlet in a childhood with shifting stability, and they shaped new worlds for me, ones I could escape to when needed, which was often.
When I came upon Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, subsequently devouring everything else available that she’d ever written, that escape took on more substance. Here were characters who were also perpetually misunderstood, but had found acceptance and clarity as lovable misfits. They were imperfect, sometimes evildoing, and often sympathetic in spite of their choices. Anne’s use of language as a lyrical journey painted the backdrop to a world I wanted to live in. I’d never wanted to trade places with anyone real, but I often dreamed of being a Mayfair.
Anne led me down the path to my writer’s voice. Though I had been writing since I was seven (saucy little shorts that were ahead of my time, but that’s another story, for another post), in her bold choices I saw a path I was meant to take; a place for my own dark and strange heart to find voice and audience.
Anne introduced me to New Orleans. A lush, wondrous world that sits within ours but somehow exists entirely separate of it. An old soul of a city, with a pulse that ripples through the live oaks and the upturned sidewalks, and the cities of the dead. Where second lines sing and dance the background of the culture of celebration, of the living, of the dead. A place where dreams are born, and live on forever, long after the dreamer is gone.
My House of Crimson & Clover series was a love letter to Anne, in many ways. I found my own words, my own voice, but both were birthed from her courage, her daring. I sought to bring New Orleans to a new generation of readers, as she once had with me, and for those who already knew it well, to feel as if I’d done their beloved city justice. That though I’d never lived there myself, I understood it to be a living, breathing thing that would outlive us all.
Anne gave me community. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to be a featured author at her Halloween-time Undead Con event two years in a row, of which her long-running Lestat Ball was part of. It was there that my world blossomed, meeting even more wonderful people, people who I bonded with because of our love for Anne, but who became something more than that, bigger than that. I discovered my best friend Shawn through this community. I met my soul sister, Raven. My co-writer and dear friend Becket, and his lovely wife Stina. Anne’s son, Christopher. I met the people who I would come to know as my family. They are too numerous to name, but they know who they are. We’ve all been holding each other extra close through this loss.
Anne gave me mentorship. Indirectly, as a result of this community, where she was so generous with herself, and her time, and her wisdom that could be summarized, quite simply, as “to be a writer, just write.” Directly, in the treasured moments I got to speak to her one-on-one, to try (and fail) to articulate the impact she had on me, and why I could never repay that.
Anne saved my life as a teenager. She gave it meaning as an adult. Now, coming into my middle age, these impressions have offered me the path I want the rest of my life to take.
The loss of Anne Rice is devastating. It’s total. It marks the end of an era that meant so much, to so many.
But, as a dear friend of mine said, Anne is timeless. She is bigger than the eighty years she gave us, and her work and impact will transcend whatever comes next.
This same friend also referred to Anne as my “Literary Mother,” and that felt right. Anne had many, many literary children, who are all feeling orphaned and unmoored at the loss, but we’ll find our way. We have each other. We have her words, which will live on forever, in all of us. Beyond all of us.
If you have ever enjoyed my books, know that they would not be here if Anne hadn’t opened my world up to new possibilities, almost three decades ago.
Thank you for reading.