"She is a vision in black from head to toe from the severe, blunt-cut hair to the laced boots, with the blue-and gold glint of an Egyptian scarab necklace providing the only trace of color. Anne Rice appears to h
ave a firm grip on her image. During this interview in Toronto the photographer offered to brighten the picture with a colored scarf. ?No,' she said, laughing. ?This is the way I am (Johnson, 68)."
This is one of the many images of Anne Rice, who is often characterized as the "Queen of the Night". She lives in the Garden District lair of New Orleans which is the seductive setting for the majority of her novels and sitting on her porch is an artifi
cial German shepherd. When Rice has a book signing she makes quite a unique entrance, she will arrive in a horse-drawn coffin. On her more understated she may wear a beaded head dress (Lopez, 4). Rice has even been known to give her fans the opportunity
to ?live it up' for a night and become anyone or anything that they want when she throws a ball. For example she had a Memnoch Ball in 1995.
Anne Rice is quite an attention getter with her uninhibited nature, but nothing compares to the attention that she has captured with the imaginative characters and worlds that she has created in her novels throughout the years.
Anne Rice has come a long way in the literary world as a writer of gothic fiction. She once struggled to be recognized as a "serious writer" and was often subject to harsh criticism despite her growing readership. Rice still has the support of her loyal
fans, which continues to grow with each novel, and now she has become a main stay in the world of literature.
One reviewer with the New York Book Review said, " There are many authors who write for commercial genres, but only a very few who succeed in creating successful genres based on themselves alone, and fewer yet who manage to follow that up by then cre
ating a series of thriving subgenres, each one of them highly profitable (Wilson, 82)."
There are many reasons for why Rice has become so successful and one can analyze that by paying attention to one of her bestsellers, The Witching Hour. The Witching Hour is the story of prominent and wealthy Mayfair family, a clan of witches,
who for five centuries, has cavorted with a supernatural entity known as Lasher that has brought them both great bounty as well as abject misery (Altner, 106). The Mayfair family has its roots in Scotland and the family traveled to Haiti and then to the A
merican South in New Orleans.
The Witching Hour as Anne's most ambitious novel to date..(Ramsland, 21) and the novel was received well by the audience, but the reviews were mixed.
The Witching Hour is not just a work of fiction that incorporates fantasy, sexuality, and horror, but there is also an incorporation of social commentary. Rice is popular because she injects some sense of reality into her work, which is inspired b
y her life, and the fans can relate to this. This use of realism is also what makes her a powerful, yet "dark", force in popular culture and the literary world.
Anne Rice biographer, Katherine Ramsland, characterized The Witching Hour as Anne's most ambitious novel to date...(Ramsland, 21) and the novel was received well by the audience, but the reviews were mixed. One reviewer said that the novel was a bit
long winded at times, but still compelling which was attributed to Rice's powerful writing and strong imagery (Altner, 106).
"In 1990, Anne Rice told Susan Ferraro that she was annoyed by a reviewer's dismissing her as a strictly a popular writer. Two years later, in a television interview she again expressed her eagerness to earn an academic audience, but she no longer fe
lt the same frustration with her lack of serious critical attention, she had come to appreciate the enthusiastic response from a wide popular audience and enjoy a special relationship with her readers (Ramsland, 124)."
This was the period in which Rice's level of seriousness and respectability was questioned and this can be disheartening to any writer, but Rice soon realized that her selling power and fan base would be the "proof in the pudding" in later years to c
Rice now has the attention of a large readership and finally that of an academic audience (Ramsland, 124). No other writer of popular fiction has drawn as much academic attention at the National Popular Culture Association conference meetings as she
has. There is typically at least one panel of essays offered annually on Rice's work and they are well attended (Hoppenstand, 1)
Rice is somewhat in a league of her own, but she has been compared to other authors of gothic fiction and popular horror fiction. The comparisons range from Horace Walpole's seminal gothic tale The Castle of Otranto (1764) to Anne Radcliff's massive
gothic romances such as The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) to Bram Stoker's masterpiece, Dracula. She has also been compared to her contemporary peers, Clive Barker, Robert. McCammon, and Stephen King (Hoppenstand, 1).
One would wonder what is it about The Witching Hour that compels readers to be so intrigued and therefore give Rice a high rate of success with her other novels. Although Rice is a fictional writer, her work is drawn from reality and her life is the
inspiration for much of what she writes.
"As a child Rice was encouraged by her mother to develop a complex fantasy life for her entertainment. She often walked past the large, deteriorating mansions of New Orleans, peering inside to catch sight of a female ghost with flaming hair or the De
vil himself... She would write about these childhood fantasies in her first published short story (Ramsland, 6)."
For Rice The Witching Hour is eerily close to home. She shares the same house that her characters do on First Street in the elegant Garden District, but her home is not haunted and instead is filled with sun. Like Rice, the hero of the novel, Michael
Curry, is an Irish New Orleanian who comes home after years in San Francisco (Gates, 76). These are just a few of the parallels to Rice's life.
One of the most important themes that runs through Rice's work and particularly The Witching Hour is that of family connection. Rice said that this is a theme that will always be a part of her work because as a child she took a strong interest in the
members of her extended family. She has always cared about family and as she learned more about her own family, the "fictional" Mayfair family also swelled in size and history (Ramsland, 21).
Rice also said that, "The Mayfair trilogy works as a whole. It is about the Mayfair family struggling through time to survive. The Mayfairs represent an ideal for me of a clan that stays together. These books contain very heartfelt ideas of mine abou
t how we struggle for survival, how we fear other races, and how the more aggressive tribes wipe out the gentler ones (Hoppenstand, 38)."
Rice's work goes deeper than just fantasy, horror and sexuality. There is the gritty truth of realism that is personal to her and it also reaches to the heart of her fans.
Evelin Marie, a mother, wife, and fan of Rice from Jackson, Mississippi said, "...If you've never read a Rice book, don't think of it as some kind of sci-fi novel. There's a lot more in her writing then just fairy tales. There's a lot of real human e
xperience that can bring people to an understanding of life and spirituality of human experience (Marcus, 33)."
Mark, a 31 year-old Corporate Lawyer from Vancouver, Canada said, "When you are actively looking for someone to share your life [with], you wonder if you are going to be alone, or find someone in this world you can be in love with. In The Witching Hou
r you have Rowan and Michael who were these lonely lost souls, having one night stands, and never in relationships of duration, and then they meet and find that they are soulmates (Marcus, 35)."
Anne Rice has taken what life has offered her and incorporated it into captivating works of literature. Her work is more than just horror, fantasy, and sexuality, it is also full of realism and social commentary. One example of this is The Witching
Hour and this successful novel reaches down deep into the soul. It was and still is a work that is so compelling that its growth was inevitable. Rice has struggled from the beginning to make those in the world of academia realize that she is indeed a "ser
ious" writer. That approval and respect took a long time to come, but this approval is not what is most important to Rice. It is not only the quality and imagination within her work, but the appreciation of it by those fans who have been loyal since the
beginning and take away the deep meanings of life that are embedded in The Witching Hour and the other works.