‘To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself,’ – Anne Rice
Writing has always been my passion and my gift. It is the most effortless way I can express myself and every time I sit down to write, I experience pure happiness. Growing up, I admired many novelists and read their complete works with avid enthusiasm but no author ever made me feel the way Anne Rice did… I remember growing up hearing about the infamous Vampire Chronicles and my friends at school would discuss Interview with the Vampire and the iconic Vampire Lestat but I never bought in. When I was 18, somebody gave me the first 4 books of the Vampire Chronicles for Christmas and I fell in love. As soon as I had finished devouring them, I bought the rest of the series and continued my love affair. A few years later, the Twilight Saga was released and vampiric fiction became the genre to pen. Bookstores worldwide were exhibiting their very own sections dedicated entirely to Vampire Fiction. I however wasn’t interested in these new authors and series…I just continued to buy Anne’s works and read.
This was when I realised how much of a true fan I was.
Sure the Vampire Chronicles are classic and who doesn’t adore Lestat but I actually found her other works more compelling. I read up on who she was as a person and not just the series she became famous for. I was swept away by the true love she shared with her late husband Stan Rice. I grieved for the death of her daughter Michelle and I applauded Christopher Rice for coming out and becoming a well-known erotic horror novelist of his own. I watched Anne embrace the Catholic Church and renounce it years later when she could no longer tolerate the homophobia and discrimination. I delighted in her stand-alone novels such as Violin, Ramses the Damned & Pandora. I absorbed The Songs of the Seraphim and The Wolf Gift not long after they were released and I fell head over heels in love with her trilogy The Mayfair Witches which was and will continue to be some of the best writing I have ever read. Anne not only spoke to me through rich, vivid imagery & description, she taught me to love everything with a whole heart. If you read any of her books you will notice that every single one of her characters is bisexual. She doesn’t believe in labeling gay or straight. You love who you love and you desire who you desire. Her characters are unbelievably flawed and unwavering in their attempts to discover their true selves. You can feel the outpouring of her heart and soul in every sentence and every word. This is particularly evident in her love for her place of birth, New Orleans, which is the setting for the majority of her works. Whenever I read about The Big Easy, I found myself being called. I wanted to soak up the Southern Sun. I longed to stroll down Magazine Street. I craved the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street and I yearned to dance in The French Quarter. After my first book Astrology Pond was published, I decided it was time to visit a place I had read about for so many years and retrace the footsteps of her characters: the charming Lestat De Lioncourt, the ever-faithful Michael Curry, the elegant Rowan Mayfair & the innocent Tarquin Blackwood. My partner had never read any of Anne’s books but he supported my need to fulfill a lifelong dream and explore New Orleans to my heart’s content.
In October 2014, our plane touched down in ‘Nola’ and we had seven days to explore. It was like a dream. I felt like I knew every restaurant, cafe & park thanks to her works. We roamed the French Quarter, strolled hand in hand along the Garden District, navigated through the bayou swamps, participated in the crazy Bourbon Street atmosphere & held each other tightly during the Ghost & Cemetery tours.
Every single day was more perfect than the last. A few days in, we went on theGardenDistrict Tour and the guide was incredibly fond of Anne himself. He pointed out places where Interview with the Vampire was filmed and took me to Anne Rice’s former house on First & Chestnut Street which was also the inspiration for the Mayfair Mansion in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches. I stood in front of her house, holding her biography and tried not to cry. None of it seemed real. The tour ended at the Garden District Bookstore where posters for her new book The Prince Lestat adorned every surface. She had her own section in the bookstore and I bought some more of her books plus her son Christopher’s latest novel The Vines.
The rest of the trip flew by in a glorious blur. On October 29th, I was lying in the hammock of the house we were staying and flicking through Facebook. My heart stopped when I read that Anne was going to be in New Orleans the following evening at St Alphonsus (the church she was baptised in) signing copies of her new book. Our flight to return home was on Halloween so if I didn’t try to see her the next day, I never would!
I frantically tried to score a ticket to the event online and was deeply saddened when I realised that it was obviously sold out. Francis comforted me and suggested we visit the church on Halloween Eve and try speaking to whomever was there. The next day, I power-walked to St Alphonsus and entered the most beautiful church. There was an older lady setting up for the event and when I introduced myself, she reciprocated by telling me she was the owner. Without shame, I poured my heart out to her, expressing just how much I loved Anne and wanted so badly to just see her. The lady told me I reminded her of her daughter and to come back at 7pm that night so she could let me in to have a glimpse of Anne. Needless to say I was speechless. I couldn’t believe I was going to see Anne in the most amazing city, in the church where she was baptised and on Halloween Eve. I couldn’t relax all day. Francis and I boarded the Steamboat Natchez and sailed along the Mississippi River. It was incredibly romantic but I was itching for the evening to come. That night, I dragged Francis to the church decked out in my most gothic apparel and we sat outside while a long line of ‘vampiric guests’ waited to go in. I was scared that the lady would have forgotten me or that she had changed her mind about letting me enter. At that moment, a minivan pulled up and Anne stepped out looking so elegant for a woman in her 70’s. She held the arm of her son Christopher and Beckett (her personal assistant who is the only person I’ve ever been jealous of!) They walked up the stairs and entered the church. At this point I had tears streaming down my cheeks. The lovely church lady came out and ushered me through the side entrance whilst Francis waited outside. I entered through the side and she sat me literally several metres from Anne’s table. My heart was beating wildly and I watched in awe as she showed Christopher and Beckett around. When she sat down I felt a sense of urgency like I had come too far not to speak to her but at the same time I didn’t want to rush forward and scare her off. One of the caterers must’ve noticed me fidgeting and approached me. When he heard I had travelled all the way from Australia to be here, he walked up to Anne and began speaking to her and pointing at me. She smiled warmly and beckoned for me to approach. I had jelly fused to my limbs as I wobbled over to her table flushing bright red. She told me she was impressed that I had come all the way from Australia and I spluttered like a raving lunatic what a huge fan I was. She was so kind and introduced me to Christopher. She told me to take care and travel home safely. I ran out of the church with adrenaline pumping through my entire nervous system and Francis laughed as I skipped all way back to the house. Unfortunately, it was a no photography event but I snuck a blurry one in when she wasn’t looking.
Sometimes, when we meet our idols, it can be disappointing and not how we imagined it. For me, it was the exact opposite. She was kind, gracious and a true lady. Words will never express just how grateful and lucky I was. I feel like my Nonno (grandfather), who also loved to write, was looking down on me and made it so I could have this opportunity. I dream about the hauntingly beautiful New Orleans all the time and have fantasized about living there on so many occasions. I know I’ll return one day but for now I’m going to hold this memory in my heart forever and never let go…
Anne is still writing and I’m still buying – as you can see I have an entire collection dedicated to her on my bookshelf. She truly is a remarkable woman.
Have you have ever met your idol? What was the experience like? I welcome all feedback and comments. Peace and Love xoxo