Anne Rice from vampires to Jesus

It's Halloween, and Anne Rice has a new book — a memoir in fact — that's climbing best-seller lists. Everything is normal, then.

Normal if it were 1994 — the height of Rice's megaselling fame as a queen of Southern Gothic pulp.

For those who haven't been paying attention lately to vampire lit, America's most famous chronicler of bloodsuckers doesn't live in New Orleans anymore — and hasn't since before Hurricane Katrina hit — and she's riding new waves of enthusiasm: the memoir and Christian lit.

Her memoir, "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession," is the latest piece of evidence that Rice is reinventing herself in an attempt to build a reputation as a serious Christian writer.

In the memoir, the 67-year-old writer doesn't disavow the two decades she spent churning out books on vampires, demons and witches — with a batch of S&M erotica thrown in — following the breakout success of her first novel in 1976, "Interview With the Vampire."

But she's clearly moved on.

In a telephone interview from her mountain home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Rice laid out her goal:

"To be able to take the tools, the apprenticeship, whatever I learned from being a vampire writer, or whatever I was — to be able to take those tools now and put them in the service of God is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful opportunity," she said. "And I hope I can redeem myself in that way. I hope that the Lord will accept the books I am writing now."

The memoir follows the release of two books in a planned four-part, first-person chronicle of the life of Jesus.

And in this new 245-page memoir, Rice presents her former life as vampire writer as that of a soul-searching wanderer in the deserts of atheism; as someone akin to her most famous literary creations — Lestat, her "dark search engine," Louis the aristocrat-turned-vampire and Egyptian Queen Akasha, "the mother of all vampires."

"I do think that those dark books were always talking about religion in their own way. They were talking about the grief for a lost faith," she said.

In 2002, Rice broke away completely from atheism — nearly four decades after she gave up her Roman Catholic faith as the 1960s started. It happened when she went off to college and found her peers talking about existentialism — Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre. Religion, she writes, was too restrictive to the young Rice. Too out of step.

Yet, religion had to come back into her life, she writes. For her, it was something she'd have to face up to again like an absent parent or a long-lost love child or Banquo the ghost in Macbeth.

By the late 1990s, when she went back to Mass, Rice — the author whose books sold in the tens of millions and who had recharged Hollywood's appetite for vampire-inspired horror — had fallen on hard times.

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