Born on this day in New Orleans, writer Anne Rice (1941-) was named Howard Allen O'Brien, after her father. She had a Catholic upbringing, daydreamed in school, and was called "weird" by her classmates.
She wrote her classic first novel, Interview With the Vampire (1976) in five weeks, in a grief-ridden haze after the death of her daughter, Michele, from leukemia. In remembrance, Rice created the character Claudia, a six-year old vampire child parented by Lestat and Louis, who is granted immortality.
"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6... When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is." she told People magazine in 1988. In her exploration of evil, death, and faith, Rice's books propel readers into a sensual world of danger and delight.
"Evil is always possible. Goodness is a difficulty," said the popular novelist who married her childhood sweetheart and continues to live and write in New Orleans, a city she honors passionately.
Her novel, Merrick (2000), again rose from her own personal crisis, this time a near-fatal diabetes attack in 1998. "For several months afterwards I was traumatized and could hardly function," she said. "It was writing Merrick that got me out of it."
Rice believed it is a "wonderful compliment" to be called a popular writer. "If people only read my books for entertainment, if they only read them to take their minds off their troubles, that's fine. Charles Dickens is my model. He was a popular writer whom everybody respected."
Welcome the magic of eccentricity.