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"Can vampires get infected from drinking AIDS-tainted blood?" Anne Rice answers Salon readers' questions.

By Anne Rice
Published September 9, 1996 5:47PM (EDT)

You are well on your way to being a full-blown national celebrity,
rightfully so. In what way has your commercial success affected your
personal life? Also, how do you deal with the more zealous fans? On your
signing tour for "Lasher" here in Phoenix, I noticed you were very
tolerant of people touching, almost mauling you.

-- Tracy Owen-Jones

My personal life is not much changed by the popularity of the books. As always, I spend most of the year at home in New Orleans,
reading and writing in my own office library, ordering tons of books on
philosophy, archaeology, history, UFO's, etc., by mail. My family is in New
Orleans -- including my husband's people and cousins of mine beyond count.
Mardi Gras and Christmas mean big
reunions and parties. I almost never go out for dinner. All this is very
much as it was before. Only the scale has changed. In the old days, my near
relatives in San Francisco were only a handful; my parties were simpler and
cost less for food and drink. But in many respects , it's the same life.

The house I live in is huge and beautiful -- and will be long after I'm
Having never learned to drive, I love my long black limousine. But the
of the car aren't tinted and I frequently wave to people as I ride through
town, even strangers. Most everybody waves back.

My readers have increased astronomically, but they are all gentle people. Last
night I signed books in Louisville, Kentucky from 5:20 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. I loved the
handshakes, the conversations, the occasional hugs and the picture taking. I
am walking on air. Throughout Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, I've met readers
from all walks of life -- as always -- families, students of all ages,
struggling writers, romantics in black velvet and white lace.
People seem full of love and enthusiasm.

All that has really changed is that I've learned to relax and be part of a
gathering of people. When I last came to Phoenix I was still timid, awkward and
afraid. Now I know that I'm blessed to have people there. I've loosened up.
I wear velvet and gold because I love it, and my readers have shown me the
wisdom of dressing in dreamworld clothes, and how much fun it can be.
I'm very aware of my freedom -- that I do not work for a company that might
fire me for wearing gold tennis shoes or beaded headdresses.

Commercial success has given me the power to buy books, beautiful fabrics,
of all kinds of music. It has allowed me to live in beautiful houses.
Commercial success makes you really think about what you want because now you can
have it. I can buy gorgeous houses and direct the renovation. I can go to
Vienna for a week to see where Beethoven lived.

But basically my life is family, writing and an obsessive love for New Orleans.
People in New Orleans are used to celebrities and colorful characters. They
are very respectful of our privacy.
I'm infinitely happier among the oaks of the Garden District than I ever was
in San Francisco. It's all a matter of warmth, sunlight, a caressing
moisture in the air and the greenery everywhere. Houses delight me like music
or painting. New Orleans has countless houses in all styles. I'm home
of commercial success.

But having experienced all this -- family, the big pre-Civil War house,
around in velvet and gold slippers -- I understand how success could destroy a
person. What if you had no dreams, no plans, no visions? Then the wealth
would be empty.

I am an endless schemer. I am working on a new book, planning the Cafe Lestat
restaurant and forming a corporation with my family to give tours in New
Orleans, so I can open my houses safely to others. My cousins run
I dream constantly of our new corporation, Kith & Kin, and try to learn all I
can every minute I'm alive. If I have one problem, it's private inconsolable
isolation. I don't know anyone else like me. But that is nothing, those
moments of brief, biting loneliness. I love my life; I love above all having
irons in the fire, books to write, parties to give, visions to see.

There is one other bad aspect to celebrity that I should mention. People tell
lies about you; they feel free to lie about celebrities on TV and in
But I am on this tour to meet my readers face to face, I have my own
and I work all the time. So the lies are cast off.
I worry more about the lies told about President Clinton than the lies told
about me.

I love it that my books grab people. It's a dream to see
"Servant of
the Bones" on the bestseller list.

Being an art major in college, I am coming across more new and
exciting work constantly. The dreamy attraction of J.W. Waterhouse's
paintings, the worlds he created with his media, it all has the swooning
romance that I also love in your books. What type of art do you love? The colors in your
words speak of a love of beauty, and I wonder.

-- Nathan Charles Boles

My tastes in art are very broad. I'm oversensitive to
shape and color, so architecture is terribly important to me. Modern
architecture seems a horrible failure. I exhume ornamented surfaces from the
past. I wish each country in the world would design its own ornamental
or highway signs and overpasses.

In painting I love Botticelli and Frangelico as much as Rembrandt. My
modern artist is probably the German Expressionist Emile Nolde.

My husband paints great works. I feel the light of New Orleans has enhanced
his passion for brilliant colors. He uses a lot of figures in his "post
primitive" paintings and I respond to this more strongly than I do to abstract
art -- no question. I seek for the human face or form in jewelry -- the
cameo, the crucifix -- and in painting. Tintoretto, Veronese, Monet, Picasso -- I love
them all -- but an extreme and recognizable expression of human emotion
moves me more than a pattern. I love my husband's violent, splashy, reckless canvasses. I do not
Mondrian, period.

I've talked a lot about Rembrandt in my books. In my mind, he is as great as
Shakespeare and therefore a mystery. I crave the heroic and the monumental.
I've spent hours studying cave paintings, the tomb paintings of ancient Egypt,
the sculpture of ancient Greece.
Only the modern film satisfies me like "old art."

I love the atmosphere and surroundings you create within your novels.
I find it very similar to the "embrace" I receive while reading classics
by Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and Henry James. In which authors do you
find inspiration and did they lead you to your writing style?

-- Catharine Turner

You've got it right -- I formed a firm link with 19th century
writers, not modern ones. I claim Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Poe, Dickens, the
Bronte sisters -- all these as models and guardian angels. I find the
inspiration in Shakespeare, especially in "MacBeth" and "Hamlet." I love the
translations I read of Stendahl and Flaubert. I have studied "Madame Bovary" for
years, off and on, as I write.

But I have to confess I learned a lot from
Carson McCuller's novels and Hemingway's works. The most nearly perfect piece
of 20th century writing I've ever read is the second part of Faulkner's "The
Sound and the Fury," the section in which Young Quentin prepares to take his life.

The blunt and unapologetic spirituality of the Russians -- Tolstoy, Dostoevsky
-- have also influenced me powerfully. I read Tolstoy for courage to deal
anything. I read Hemingway for his simplicity; I occasionally wallow in
Nabokov -- especially "Lolita."

But right now, it's Shakespeare. I was very happy to hear over my message
that Kenneth Branagh has made a new "Hamlet" and that the film will be released
on Christmas Day. This is Headline News to me!

I enjoy your books and was wondering: If you could be any character
from any of your books, which one would you be and why? Also, which one
wouldn't you be and why?

-- Erik Dial

I'd be Lestat if I could be any character. Yes, Lestat. I couldn't
pass up
his endurance, power, beauty and immortality; his pain is mine already. The
character I'd least like to be is Nicolas in "The Vampire Lestat" or Deirdre in
"The Witching Hour." Nicolas doomed himself by founding his entire life on
resistance and rebellion. Deirdre was trapped, suffocated and destroyed.
never had a chance. That could have happened to me for various reasons. I
escaped the dark spells cast on me in youth. Deirdre couldn't.

I am curious, having followed Lestat's journey through the years and
in particular the last two decades, why no mention has ever been made of
HIV-tainted blood. Other authors of vampire epics have presented
contradictory information regarding the effects of HIV on a vampire who
ingests the infected blood, so I would like to know your thoughts (and
facts?) on this. In particular, what would happen to a vampire who drinks
of an HIV-infected mortal, and would it be possible for such a mortal to
be brought into the Dark Gift (perhaps curing the disease)?

-- Diane C. Stapley

I've answered this many times before. Within my "Vampire"
framework, no human illness has any impact on the vampires. They are immortal
and constantly resilient. No plague affects them.
The only tainted blood that could affect my vampire is poisoned or
alcohol-filled blood -- but the effects are only temporary. It's intoxication
and they throw it off.

I am obsessed with mortality, have lost beloved friends to AIDS and
cancer, and
I write all the time about our struggle against all the natural forces
that can
accidentally or deliberately destroy us. I talk about plague. I talk about
injustice. But as far as any illness affecting my vampires? No way.
They can
be wounded but they heal. They are my dark questing angels, doomed to suffer
fatal illness of the soul, but not mortal illness.

Anne Rice


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Aids Books New Orleans