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Anne Rice on the writing process

Anne at Work
Anne at Workwww.annerice.com

In the history of great literature, there are those authors whose work is so compelling, so fulfilling that readers are often left with the impression that they must be divinely gifted and their ability to write as simple a task as turning on a computer or putting pen to paper.

Anne Rice, best-selling author of over thirty novels including “The Vampire Chronicles”, “The Lives of the Mayfair Witches” and “The Wolf Gift Chronicles” has always been this type of author. Her fascinating books, whether about vampires, witches or werewolves, are filled with interesting characters, extraordinary locations and some of the most beautiful prose ever written.

And now, with her latest novel, “Prince Lestat” scheduled to be published on October 28th, 2014, and the copy-editing process for this book finally complete she, once again, awaits public reaction to her return to the vampire world she first created over thirty-five years ago.

But, what is her writing process? Does she plan out her stories or let the characters take her where they will? The “Anne Rice Examiner” decided to ask the author these questions and more. Her answers, as always, are honest, insightful and provide the reader and fledgling writer with a treasure trove of useful information and a greater sense of Anne Rice, the writer.

And now, Anne Rice:

1 - Do you plot out or story board your ideas for a book before you begin or just let the characters take you where they will and correct plot issues later?

I have never had any one hard and fast method. No storyboard, no. But I do think a lot before "plunging," and do work out a crude road map of sorts, but I revise constantly, moving back and forth in the growing draft as I work, and sometimes throw out great chunks of material and start over when I feel I should. But I have written whole books with no real plan ---- just a concept or a character ---- at the beginning. ---- There's just no hard and fast rule at all. Whatever works, whatever causes the prose to flow, the characters to begin talking and walking, whatever makes a world slowly form all around the characters.

2 - Do you edit your work daily or chapter by chapter or just wait till the end?

I always edit as I go along. I never wait until the end. I revise daily. Hemingway said that before he began writing new material, he copied over all he had done the day before. I don't really do that, but I often go back over what I did the day before, deepening, expanding, exploring, giving the prose the benefit of what I've thought of overnight. But I never create a tentative draft. I work in fair copy and final draft always ---- again moving back and forth, back and forth --- until I reach that last line. ------ I don't know any other way to work. I can't move on to the next paragraph, or page or chapter until I feel that what I've done is ready to go out that night to the great printing press in New York. It's a method.

3 - Is there a particular manuscript program you prefer using?

I use MS Word. For years, I used a marvelous program called WordStar, and as WordStar gradually became obsolete I did everything in my power to keep using it, keep adapting it to new equipment. Finally, I just gave up. WordStar is now gone from the world, I think. And adjusting to MS Word was a nightmare. WordStar was a marvelously efficient menu driven program with perfect logic, and perfectly clear commands. (It was actually designed I think for skilled female secretaries) MS Word was a nightmare by comparison, made perhaps for students and men who liked to "play" with a mouse." Learning it was like learning something thrown together by maniacs. But eventually I did learn it thoroughly and how to adapt it for my purposes, shutting off its "outlining" and other dizzying and distracting features and getting it down to just what I wanted for the writing of a novel. ----- Of course computers today with MS Word have immense power compared to the old computers on which I used WordStar. I work with one huge "document" or "file" for my novel, and I "save" reflexively all the time, and email the file to myself over and over during the day, so I've never lost a novel or even a chapter into cyberspace. You don't have to exit Word to email. You do it from within the program. Emailing your work to yourself is one of the safest ways to save. You can open your emails with their attachments anywhere in the world, and have your "document" or novel there. But I don't really work away from my desk in Palm Desert. Can't. Have to be in my room, at Command Central here, on my Logitech keyboard with my powerful Mac, and my three monitors. Not only do they allow me to display character lists and such as I write, they keep out all distractions. I do have the same set up in my LA apartment, but I've never actually written there. The one place away from home where I did write in years past was my condo in Florida. I had the same office set up there and I blazed away in that glorious Florida light and warmth, with the Gulf sparkling beyond the glass wall. I wrote "Blackwood Farm" in Florida and also a lot of other novels.

4 - What time during the day do you find you're most creative?

I'm definitely more creative as the day goes on ----- late morning or early afternoon are best for getting started. Late afternoon is good and early evening. I no longer write all night simply because I physically can't take the hangover in the morning. But the night has been a great time for me to write in years past. I wrote "Interview with the Vampire" entirely at night, often not even starting till 1 a.m. And I wrote both the “Christ the Lord" novels entirely at night because I had to have perfect peace to do them, to be in Galilee in my imagination --- away from all distractions. ------ I’m not a morning person, not at all. I have to warm up with the day. I have to warm up with coffee and food. I guess the absolute optimum time for me now is afternoon and early evening. ----- I would write at night again I suppose if I didn't have obligations in the day, phone calls that have to be answered, routine doctor visits, social commitments, that kind of thing. When you get totally off schedule with the world, people around you don't like it. They hate it. And that's what happens when I do all night writing.

5 - In a recent post, you said that the copy-editing process can be the most creative, yet challenging, part of the process; why?

When I send the manuscript to NY, I'm finished with it, having done my best. The copy editor there goes over it for spelling, punctuation, inconsistencies, dropped words, any "problem" in the text. But my good copy editors never "re-write." They don't strike out phrases or rearrange sentences or try to creatively "correct" my style or teach me how to do it. Again, they correct mistakes only, and then return the manuscript to me. I go over it word by word and not only approve or reject their corrections, but find all kinds of things to change on my own, phrases I want to perfect, sentences to strike out, inconsistencies that no one else perhaps can notice. It can be grueling. But it's always a wonderful opportunity to enhance, to add, to refine. ----- You’re looking for errors, but you're also seeing your prose after a time of rest and thought, and you're seeing things you might have missed earlier. There have been times when I added whole paragraphs and pages to the copy edited manuscript. Other times, no --- simply small things. Then when the galleys come --- the first print run with all your copy edits ---- you can go through this all again. It's your last real chance to add something here or there, or refine, or cut, etc.

6 - Do you believe the indie author is under more or less pressure to produce a perfectly edited book or do you think there audience doesn't expect the same standards that they do from a mainstream author?

Indie authors have to produce a perfectly edited book. Readers require a near perfectly edited book for them to sink into it and enjoy it or accept it as a professional product. If readers are confronted with errors in spelling, grammar, formatting etc., they simply cannot enjoy the book. They begin to see it as unfinished, not professional, etc. They can't get swept up in it, can't believe it, can't love it. So indie authors have to manage to do what the big New York houses do, and that means hiring a skilled editor to do the copy editing, and skilled people to get formatting perfect. There are so many little things. Like do you cap H for heaven and hell in casual speech? Do you cap "S" when you refer to the sheriff, or p for policeman, and so forth. Have you spelled all the names of cities right? Have you been consistent with the hair and eye color of your cast of characters? You want your manuscript to look absolutely professional. I think indie authors know this now, and they're taking the time to get their work into perfect shape. More and more indie editors are offering their services. ----- Nevertheless errors still pop up in New York published books and in indie books. And the great thing about indie work today is you can catch those. You can correct your kindle version after you get an email from a reader on a problem. You can correct your print on demand book. It's kind of wonderful.

7 - Considering that Interview with the Vampire was repeatedly rejected by publishers, and if you wrote it now during such an upswing in self-publishing, do you think you would have considered doing it yourself?

I knew the night I finished "Interview with the Vampire," that I'd publish it myself if no one else did. I wrote that in my diary at about 4 a.m. that morning ---- that if no one else wanted it, I'd have it printed and bound, and sell copies out of a shopping bag. There was a poet in those days who sold her books that way on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. And I knew I'd do that if I had to. But in truth, I never really had to worry. "Interview" was accepted after five rejections. That's not many. And I was so blessed. Knopf, one of the most prestigious publishers in New York, bought it and there began my long creative romance with my editor Vicky Wilson. Knopf is publishing "Prince Lestat" and Vicky is still my editor. ---- But yes, I would have published IWTV on my own. Most certainly. I've always had, for better or for worse, a lot of self-confidence. Low self-esteem, cosmic fear, yes, but a lot of stubborn self- confidence. I was thirty-four when I wrote IWTV; I was committed; I'd been through all those adolescent and college girl doubts. I knew I was a writer and I did not intend to let anyone stop me from getting my work out to the world. ------ In fact, I knew that was all I was. I'd lost a daughter so I was no longer a mother. I had no job, no real skills, no career, had never taught college or high school, etc. But I was a writer... a crazy, stubborn writer. That's what I knew, all I knew. And I did have another priceless advantage. My husband, Stan, who was a recognized poet, an admired poet, and a college professor and did bring home the bacon and did cover the medical insurance and all that ---- he believed in me, believed in what I was doing, and was there every minute confirming for me what I believed about myself. We'd been married for 14 years. He knew I was crazy but he knew there was something to what I wrote in my pure craziness. It might have been a hell of a lot harder if I had not had his faith and patience and love. And I believed in him creatively too, so when he said he thought the work was great, I listened. -------