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"Why don't you write any strong female characters?" Anne Rice answers e-mail from her readers

By Anne Rice
Published September 2, 1996 11:19AM (EDT)

Why don't you write any strong, unusual female characters? All of the
important vampires were male, and even the all-female Mayfair witches were
subservient to the male spirit Lasher. Your female characters are either
silly cartoons (like Mona Mayfair) or stereotypes (the battered woman
syndrome of Rowan Mayfair). Your best female protagonist to date has been
the vampire-child Claudia, but she still didn't have the depth and range
of your male characters. The absence of strong women in your
fiction is rather sad, considering you're such a successful woman

-- Trystan L. Bass

I do write strong unusual female characters. Perhaps you
aren't really reading my words and/or judging my females in terms of your
stereotypes. I see nothing "silly" in the dilemma of precocious Mona Mayfair,
sexually mature at 13, yet a prisoner of childhood. From her alcoholic
parents, Mona learns to parent herself; from Gifford Mayfair she imbibes what
she needs of conventional and tender femininity, and from Ancient Evelyn she
receives invaluable insights which contribute to her mysticism, her faith in
herself, and courage. There are thousands of Mona Mayfairs in America. I meet
them at my autographings. Mona's isolation and unrewarded brilliance were
prefigured by the heroine of my novel, "Belinda," another teenaged woman who
refuses to accept the hypocrisy, stupidity and sheer destructiveness of
American adolescence. Mona Mayfair is, next to Lestat, my own favorite

As for Rowan Mayfair, I see nothing that characterizes her as
suffering from what you call the battered woman syndrome. A scientist, a woman
of powerful sexual desire, unusual gifts and a keen conscience, she loses
control of the "miracle" of Lasher. When she realizes she must destroy him and
whatever knowledge he may promise for human kind, she severely wounds him,
accomplishes her own escape and is once again overwhelmed by a scientific and
paranormal miracle, the birth of her daughter, Emaleth. I don't know what the
battered woman syndrome to which you refer is, but I do know you are
expressing hostility and prejudice toward these woman characters.

The writing surrounding Dara in "Memnoch the Devil," Ancient Evelyn and Gifford and Mona in
the "Mayfair" books, and Belinda represent for me some of my most skilled and
inspired writing. The strength of Maharet, Jesse, Mekare and Akasha is fully
developed in the Vampire Chronicles. Whatever your gender, let me suggest you
have a real problem with women. And allow me to add that Louis, the
passive-aggressive "male" hero of "Interview with the Vampire," is probably my
most nearly autobiographical portrait of a woman.

The student tone of your question seems appropriate to a misogynist. Those who look down on us females usually lecture and insult. Read with more care, more thought, more focus.
There is a great deal more I say about the rich backdrop of varied women
characters throughout my books, including Christina in "Cry to Heaven," but
frankly I think you have a personal problem. I love Mona Mayfair. I know her.
I know Gabrielle de Lioncourt just as well. Mary Jane Mayfair, I adore.

In the end, you had high praise for Neil Jordan's "Interview" movie
and so I'm curious about your taste: what are your top 10 favorite movies
of all time?

-- Todd Hughes

Yes, I did indeed praise Neil Jordan's film version of
"Interview with the Vampire," and still maintain that David Geffen and Tom Cruise
were the guiding angels of the film. I can't list 10 top movies for you but
will soon collaborate with my friend Professor Michael Riley of Claremont
College on a book about film. Let me suggest that "The Red Shoes," "The Tales of
Hoffman," "The Godfather I & II," "La Dolce Vita," a Polish film
called "Ashes and Diamonds" and the recent films, "The Piano," "Braveheart" and "The
Bad Lieutenant" are all masterpieces. David Lean's "Oliver Twist" and Tim
Burton's "Batman II" were also genius, especially in the use of the visual
without narrative. Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" was dazzling. Mel Gibson's "Hamlet"
was also a triumph. "Natural Born Killers" I thought was a
masterpiece of craft on the part of Oliver Stone. Gary Oldman's performance in
anything makes the film worthwhile.

To return to "Braveheart," it seems almost a miracle that a
film of that scope, perfection, restraint and moral vision could get made in
Hollywood today. It alone will ensure the immortality of Mel Gibson, just as
"Raging Bull" ensures that of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

What was the historical or mythological basis (if any) for your story
of the Taltos. The name stirs bats in my belfry, but I can't, for the
life of me, get a handle on why. Or why their poignant tale should strike
a chord on my heart-strings.

-- Richard Wheaton

In the work of Carl Ginsburg, a historian and scholar in
the field of witchcraft and legend, I found the world of Taltos. Ginsburg
describes a creature by that name which is part of European folklore. I built
my own history on the data collated by Ginsburg. I'm glad the Taltos story in
my novel touches your heart. Over and over in my work, I am compelled to
return to the "gentle giant," a creature of extraordinary height and goodness.
Richard Lermontant, Tonio Tresshi and Mr. Ash share these traits. Also in the
story of Ash's people, I described a situation we have seen over and over in
history -- the more aggressive species survives. The
Taltos, in their gentleness, were no match for the sheer ruthlessness of human

Knowing how involved in history you are, I wonder if you
have ever contemplated writing a book about the Mayan religion. I have
visited the Ruinas de Copan in Honduras, and when I visit this sacred place I get shivers. If
nothing else, take a trip to this off-the-road place and see if
inspiration strikes you there as it does me. Antonio Banderas would fit
right in too. The Hondurans for the most part are lovely people.

-- DeeAnne Bale

Thank you for your recommendations on the Mayans. I read
everything I can on Mayan research, but it is the Almec who hold the greater
fascination. I will surely at some point yield to all the inspiration I've
received from studying South and Central America.

Do you think the novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is of the horror genre? I ask this because I have, what I
suppose, is the same condition that Quasimodo had and I have had the
experience of the villagers rioting at my gates, but it has not happened
in a very long time. I remember the Revell plastic model kits of
Quasimodo that were sold along with Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and
the Wolfman, and I have always questioned who and what constituted a
monster. To me, Quasimodo's skeletal structure has always been a human
metaphor for the beauty of the cathedral, but perhaps that is wishful
thinking on my part.

-- Rebecca Anne Edwards Johnson

You give me a precious insight into
Quasimodo, with your question. It is not a horror story for me, but a story
about the fear and the isolation in all of us. To see "the other" as a monster
is as human as the perpetual fear in one's self that one is a monster and
sooner or later others will find out. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is about
heroism. All heroes are monsters. Only some horrify us and even then -- as with
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- the horror is mixed with compassion, insight and
an increase of understanding of human pain. Thank you for your lovely words.

Anne Rice


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