Forty-five years after its publication, Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire stands as one of the most influential bloodsucker tales ever published—second only, perhaps, to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Rice’s debut novel is almost single-handedly responsible for the image of vampires that dominates pop culture today: conflicted, brooding, and oozing sex appeal from every moonlit pore. There had been angsty, romantic vampires before, but even Barnabas Collins seemed like a relic from another time. Rice gave Nosferatu a modern makeover, imagining vampires as literal rock stars.
But the influence of Rice’s novel doesn’t stop at setting the stage for vampire yarns like The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and True Blood. LGBTQ+ readers embraced the book for its queer subtext (which just became, well, text in later series installments) and its depiction of vampires as outsiders feared by mainstream society. It also became a seminal work for the burgeoning goth subculture; Liisa Ladouceur, author of 2011’s Encyclopedia Gothica, calls Interview With the Vampire “a goth bible of sorts.” The novel kicked off a decades-spanning, 13-book series, inspired a hit film and multiple comic book adaptations, and established the template for a popular vampire trope.
With vampire fiction back on the rise and a new television adaptation in the works, here are 11 things you might not know about Interview With the Vampire.
1. Anne Rice wrote Interview With the Vampire to cope with grief.
In August 1972, the author and her husband lost their 5-year-old daughter, Michele, to a rare form of leukemia. The following year, Rice, who had recently completed a master’s degree in creative writing, quit her job to focus on writing. “I pitched myself into writing and made up a story about vampires,” Rice told The Independent in 2014. “I didn't know it at the time but it was all about my daughter, the loss of her and the need to go on living when faith is shattered.”
2. Interview With the Vampire was written in about five weeks.
Rice first explored the idea of a reporter interviewing a vampire with a short story called “Interview with the Vampire,” which she revised several times. After her daughter’s death, she pulled the story out again, and over the course of five weeks in 1973, expanded it into a full-length novel.
3. Interview With the Vampire was heavily influenced by the 1936 Universal horror film Dracula's Daughter ...
Rice saw Dracula's Daughter when she was a kid and was captivated by its portrayal of the title character as a tormented artist who longed to be human. “It established to me what vampires were—these elegant, tragic, sensitive people,” Rice said in a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast. “I was really just going with that feeling when writing Interview With the Vampire.”
4. … But Anne Rice was not a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
In fact, she hadn’t even read Stoker’s seminal vampire novel when she wrote Interview With the Vampire.
5. The name of Interview With the Vampire’s most famous character was the result of a misspelling.
When Rice named the character who would go on to star in the 1985 sequel The Vampire Lestat and headline the rest of the Vampire Chronicles series, she was misremembering a common Creole name. “I actually thought I was using an old Louisiana name,” Rice said in a 2014 interview at the Chicago Humanities Festival. “But I was misspelling it; the old name is ‘Lestan.’” It was several years before she realized her error.
6. After it was rejected by several publishers, Interview With the Vampire’s fortunes changed at a writer's conference.
Rice submitted her novel to several agents and editors in 1973, but there were no takers. The following year, she attended a Squaw Valley writers conference where, according to The New York Times, staffers read her manuscript and got excited enough to talk it up to Knopf editor Victoria Wilson, who was also in attendance. Rice landed an agent at the conference, and that agent happened to be a friend of Wilson’s. Wilson loved the manuscript, and before the year was over, Knopf had picked up hardcover rights to Interview With the Vampire, paying Rice a reported $12,000 advance—considerably more than most debut novelists were being paid at the time, according to Rice.
7. Interview With the Vampire landed Anne Rice a stunning paperback rights deal.
Rice’s $12,000 advance was nothing compared to what lay in store for her in the months leading up to her novel’s publication. First, the Literary Guild mail-order book club paid $7500 to add the book to its selections; then, things got serious when Paramount optioned the film rights for $150,000. With paperback rights still on the table, other publishing houses were scrambling to find Xeroxed copies of the manuscript, and after several rounds of bidding, Ballantine scored paperback rights to Interview With the Vampire for a whopping $700,000 (the equivalent of more than $3 million in today’s market). For comparison, Stephen King’s now-legendary paperback rights sale for Carrie netted him $400,000 just three years earlier.
8. Anne Rice undertook a substantive rewrite of Interview With the Vampire after she sold the manuscript.
According to Rice’s website, the book changed dramatically between the initial sale in 1974 and its publication in 1976. Her editor thought the novel “peter[ed] out” toward the end, and asked Rice to rework it—so Rice wrote an additional 200 pages. The entire sequence involving the Theatre of the Vampires was added during the rewrite, as was the return of Lestat; in the original version, the flamboyant vampire died in the fire set by his protégé, Louis. In what Rice describes as “a very amicable process,” she worked with her editor to whittle the manuscript down to the version that would eventually be published.
9. Anne Rice balked at the copy edits she received on Interview With the Vampire.
The publishing process is a notoriously lengthy one that involves several stages of editing, including substantive edits that address issues such as plot, character, and structure, as well as copy edits, which pertain to things like grammar and sentence structure. Rice was fine with the upper-level edits she received on Interview With the Vampire, including the aforementioned rewrite. But she took umbrage at the copy edits that would have, in her view, dramatically altered the book’s tone and style. In a process she has described as “harrowing,” Rice went through the extensive copy edits with an ink pen and “changed them all back.”
10. Contrary to popular belief, Anne Rice did not base Interview With the Vampire's Lestat on Rutger Hauer.
In an oft-repeated bit of Interview With the Vampire lore, Rice supposedly named the Dutch actor as the inspiration for Lestat, who played a supporting role in Interview With the Vampire but has since become the star of the ongoing Vampire Chronicles series. But while Hauer certainly entered Rice’s mind during Interview With the Vampire’s lengthy trek to the big screen, the character was not based on him. “I didn't encounter [Hauer] till after I'd written Interview With the Vampire in which Lestat sprang to life pretty much on his own,” Rice wrote in a 2015 Facebook post accompanied by a photo of the actor from the 1973 film Turkish Delight. “But this is surely how I see my beloved Brat Prince hero.”
11. Interview With the Vampire is being adapted again—this time for television.
Fans who were disappointed by Neil Jordan’s famously troubled 1994 film adaptation should take heart; Interview With the Vampire is being resurrected as a TV series that will hopefully kick off a flurry of new Anne Rice adaptations. AMC, which acquired the rights to 18 of Rice’s novels in 2020, has ordered eight episodes of an Interview With the Vampire TV series that will star Game of Thrones’s Jacob Anderson as Louis and Australian actor Sam Reid as Lestat. According to the Hollywood Reporter, AMC plans to premiere the series in 2022 as an effort to “launch a franchise universe based on Rice’s novels.” The network is also developing a series based on Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy.