Last October, Yale lecturer Erika Christakis sent an email questioning whether university administrators should advise students on what Halloween costumes to wear. It resulted in protests on campus and a heated debate around the country.
In the new book, “Of Love and Evil,” Tobey O’Dare is a former government assassin who changes his life by working for angels. The story is part of Anne Rice’s series “Songs of Seraphim.” Rice changed her own life when she devoted herself to Catholicism twelve years ago. She suddenly renounced organized religion last summer and left the church. A look at the role faith now plays in Rice’s life and writing and how she made the transition from vampires and witches to writing about angels.
- Anne Rice author of thirty books, including "Interview with The Vampire" and "The Vampire Lestat." Her new novel is "Of Love and Evil."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Anne Rice is known for her vampire chronicles and her stories of witches, but these days she's writing about beings of a higher order. The "Songs of Seraphim" series are the adventures of Tobey O'Dare. He's a former government assassin who seeks redemption by working for angels. The second book in the series "Of Love and Evil" has just been published. Anne Rice joins me in the studio and of course, you are welcome, too. Join us on 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter.
MS. DIANE REHMIt's so good to see you again.
MS. ANNE RICEThank you for having me back. It's good to see you, too.
REHMIt's been a long time, Anne.
REHMAnd when we last talked, you were still living in New Orleans.
REHMIn 2005, I gather you moved to California.
REHMI'm surprised that you left your beloved New Orleans.
RICEWell, I think it had a lot to do with my husband dying. I lost him in 2002 at the end of the year and my son, Christopher, my only child, had been living in California for some time and I was alone in this great big beautiful house that had been so full of life for 15 years and one night, it occurred to me. You can leave if you want. You've had a wonderful 15 years, you've done everything you wanted to do here. You've had family reunions with 1,000 people, you've had Mardi Gras open houses with thousands. You've done it. You've had a wonderful time, but you can go now if you want.
RICEAnd I decided to move to California where I had lived for 30 years, northern California. And I thought I would go back and live close to Christopher and close to cousins and family I have in Los Angeles.
REHMBut then you found it little too chilly for you.
RICEWell, (laugh) right. I chose San Diego and I had been there on beautiful days, La Jolla (laugh). And then the marine layer rolled in and I was cold and I am a southern girl. I had been cold in northern California and I thought, gee, this is as cold as San Francisco.
RICEAnd Christopher said, why don't you try the Palm Springs area? It's really beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, the 360 blue-skied days a year. Try that. And I -- it turned out to be exactly the right thing. I moved to Rancho Mirage and I've been very happy there.
REHMDo you miss New Orleans?
RICEOh, terribly, terribly. I miss New Orleans, but I'm content that this is a time for me to be here and I'm really -- in California and I'm really enjoying that, but I will always miss New Orleans. I mean, how could I not? I mean (laugh) I miss Mardi Gras, I miss the St. Patrick's Day parade, I miss the St. Joseph's Day celebration, I miss the Jazz Fest, I miss everything about New Orleans. All my big family there, all my many, many cousins. Our reunions, as I said, we'd have 1,000 people and all interrelated, knew each other. All very close.
RICESo I miss that very much.
REHMAnne, tell us about this new series, the "Seraphim" series and how it came about. This is the second in that series.
RICEWell, I had wanted to write about angels for a long time and this idea had come to me several years back, what if the angels enlisted people on Earth to help them answer prayers? What if they see all of time as happening right before their eyes and they could pick you up, say, out of the 21st century and move you back to the Middle Ages to play a particular role that you were suited for to help them answer prayers? Wouldn't that be an exciting thing to write about (laugh) ? And I actually first envisioned the book in 19 -- I think 1998, but I couldn't get it together. I had to mull it over. And finally, it occurred to me just a couple of years ago, this is the time to do it.
RICEAnd a new hero came to my mind, Tobey O'Dare, this young man whom the angels would enlist for special reasons and then the angel, Malchiah, came to mind, a Seraph, say, who came to Earth specifically to enlist people to become children of the angels to help in angel time, which means any time, basically, Middle Ages, ancient Egypt, whatever, Renaissance Rome, so forth and so on. So I really thought, okay, do this and make it a series. It always turns out to be a series anyway when you write it, so.
REHMOh, what an extraordinary leap from vampires and witches to angels.
RICEI finished the "Vampire Chronicles" in 2003 and really did not want to write anymore about the vampires. They were a wonderful metaphor for me for years for the lost one, the lonely one, the outcast in all of us. All of that worked fine, but I had experienced a dramatic conversion, or reversion, in 1998. I'd gone back to the Catholic church, I'd gone back to my faith in God and the metaphors just weren't working for me anymore. I didn't feel lost anymore. I didn't feel lost in the darkness and all of the things I had written about in "The Vampire Chronicles" were changing for me and I wanted to move toward a much more positive kind of fiction. A fiction really first and foremost about Jesus Christ.
RICEI wrote two novels about Jesus, "Christ the Lord Out of Egypt," "Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana" and those were very important to me and that was the really dramatic transition, going from the vampires and the witches to writing about Jesus himself and striving to make that, those novels, absolutely biblically correct, but very, very alive for readers so that, you know, if they'd never thought he was a real person, maybe they would after reading those books.
REHMAnd Tobey O'Dare has undergone a real conversion.
RICEYes, yes. Tobey has and I'm sure that mirrors my own conversion. I was never a hit man, Tobey is supposed to be a hit man (laugh) and to have something of a tragic life, but to be a good person, a potentially good person. I wanted to write about someone that was basically good, but whose life had gone off track dramatically because of personal tragedy. His mother's suicide, his mother's murder of his brother and sister. Tobey repents, the angels come to him. Malchiah comes to him and says, why don't you stop all this? Come back to God. I mean, you know you still believe in God in your heart and soul. And Tobey does exactly what Malchiah suggests and he signs up to work for the angels and to spend the rest of his life working for the angels.
REHMAnd spiritually at least, in this book, reuniting with the woman of his love, the love of his life and their only son, Tobey.
RICERight. That happens in this second book, "Of Love and Evil." He finds out from -- directly from Malchiah, the Seraph, that the girlfriend he left behind had a child and that little boy is now 10 years old and...
RICENamed little Tobey (laugh). And so Tobey immediately connects with them and of course, there gonna be dire consequences for Tobey pertaining to the way he's lived, even though he was a -- was told he was a government assassin. You know, he's taken life willfully year in and year out really for money, for the people who hired him. And now that he wants to reconnect with that girlfriend and reconnect with that beautiful little boy, he's realizing his vulnerabilities. He's a person that might be arrested at any moment. He might be assassinated himself by someone connected to one of his victims and that's sort of a back story in "Of Love and Evil."
RICEAnd also, he's sent by the angels on a special mission to Renaissance Rome and there he's to answer the prayers of a young Jewish physician who is about to be persecuted, really, and accused of causing a death, which he's not causing.
REHMAnd there in lot is a story of Jewish persecution.
REHMIn 15th century Rome.
RICERight. I am very much of a Jewish history buff (laugh), you know, and I -- in the first novel, "Angel Time," Tobey went back to the Jewish community in Norwich, England in the Middle Ages and had to answer a prayer there. A Jewish family was being accused of killing their daughter because she had converted and it was about to destabilize the entire community there. There would might be riots, there might -- anything might happen and that was Tobey's first mission. And now in the second one, he's going to Renaissance Rome and it's again the Jewish community and I love working with the material in that way, having the angels send him back to answer Jewish prayers. We are all the children of God.
REHMAnd you're looking at historical fact that you're incorporating into this fiction.
RICEOh, very much so. I love doing research for the books, always have, and very much part of this series is the fact that it'll give me opportunities to research different periods and to take Tobey to those periods. And as I said, I'm very enthralled with Jewish history in particular and all the incredible things that we really aren't too familiar with from Jewish and Christian history. I think sometimes people who don't know that history have no idea of the kind of interchange and exchange of ideas that went on between Jews and Christians all through history, in spite of persecution.
REHMWere, in fact, the Jews of 15th century Rome required to wear the yellow...
RICEYes, they were.
RICEThey were required to wear the patch. They had large communities, they were very well respected for their knowledge, particularly the physicians. The Pope had a Jewish physician at this time. Often, physicians could obtain an indemnification from their Gentile clients that if something went wrong in the treatment, you cannot sue me. A lot of Christian scholars at that time sought out Jewish teachers to teach them Hebrew and to learn ancient languages from them and to understand some of the ancient knowledge.
REHMSo they were respected, but nevertheless set apart by...
REHM...this yellow patch?
RICEAbsolutely and there was great money and prestige and learning in the Jewish community, but it was always precarious. At any time, a riot could erupt, there could be a wave of persecution and the Jews could lose everything that they had.
REHMAnne Rice, her new novel is title "Of Love and Evil." We'll take just a short break and look forward to hearing your questions, comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnne Rice is the author of 30 books including "Interview With The Vampire" and "Queen of the Damned." Her new novel is "Of Love and Evil." Here's a message on Facebook from Jonathan. "I'd like to know if the death of Anne Rice's husband had any effect on how she writes now."
RICEWell, that's an interesting question. I'm not sure that it did. I mean, it...
REHMIn what year did he die?
RICEHe died in 2002 and I was already working on "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" when he died. And I don't know -- I think anything you experience like that, when you lose your husband of 41 years, is going to affect everything about you.
RICEAnd with me, my work's always been pretty cathartic. I mean, I pour whatever I'm feeling into my work, so I'm sure it informed my work in many ways, but I can't say that it changed my direction or my style.
REHMThere has been a fair amount written about your reconversion. I'd like to hear about it.
RICEWell, I -- I had been an atheist for about 30 years. I had been brought up Catholic, I had left when I was 18 when I was a college student. I'd been an atheist for 30 years, as I said, and in 1998, I experienced a resurgence of faith in God. But it was also more an admission that I had never lost faith in God, that I'd always believed in him and that I loved him. And I wanted to go back to believing in him. I wanted to surrender, basically, to that belief and that love.
RICEAnd I returned at that time to the Catholic church because that was my childhood faith. That was my mother tongue, the Catholic Religion. And it was, in some ways, a very, very, joyful thing, but it was also in some ways a painful and frightening thing. But I was changed at that moment the day I decided to go back, the day I affirmed my faith by going back to the church and really it was a great day for me.
RICEIt wasn't maybe for a couple of years before I decided to write about Jesus Christ and to approach trying to do his life in some form or his early life in some form. It didn't immediately affect my writing, but it began to gradually affect my writing. I didn't really want to write about the vampires anymore. I'd kind of done it. I'd written many, many novels with my heroes, Lestat and Armand and Louis. And by the way, they were always talking about faith in God and how they have suffered from not having it and how they were searching for it and how they struggled against being defined as creatures of the dark side and struggled unsuccessfully. You know, never able really to give up their vampire nature, never being altruistic enough to face annihilation rather than be vampires.
RICEWell, in any event, after my conversion, I really wanted to write a different kind of fiction, a fiction that expressed my optimism. I went from being a pessimist to an optimist. That's what really basically happened. I believe that we -- as an atheist, I believed we lived in a meaningless universe where everything was random and we had to make the meaning. When I converted, what I realized was I believed we lived in a universe made by God in which God knows the answers to everything.
RICEEven if we don't have an inkling as to why something happens or can't figure out all kinds of things, there is a God who does know the answers. There is the promise that when we close our eyes on this life, we will be welcomed into another life where we will know why there was so much suffering here. We'll know why things happen, we'll know why we were born, we'll know the answers. And when you go from that kind of pessimism, what can you call it but optimism? You suddenly believe there is a loving personality in charge of this life.
REHMWithin the Roman Catholic Church, which eventually, you decided to leave.
RICEWell, when I returned, I certainly thought that I knew what the church taught. I had grown up Catholic. I felt I was -- I had been well taught and I went back with a sincere heart. But I was assuming at that time that this was a fine religion, that it was honorable and honest in its theological investigations. And that whatever my problems with it were, things would work out. That it really didn't matter, that I would surrender to God. I didn't have to know how this was gonna work out, God knew. But I didn't stop studying at that point. I went on studying.
RICEIn fact, I began my intense study of scripture at that point and I studied a great deal of theology and I studied the social history of the church. I read the biographies of the recent Popes. I studied everything about it for 12 years and I really don't know how to say this without offending people and it distresses me because I don't want to offend them, but I came to the conclusion that it was not what I thought was an honorable or honest enterprise. For me, it was not and that I had to leave the church, that I had to leave for moral reasons, that it taught many things which I thought were immoral.
RICEWell, for example, I -- I don't feel -- see, it's so hard to discuss this without offending someone. I don't feel there's any scriptural basis for an anointed hierarchal priesthood. I didn't find any scriptural basis for women not being priests. I didn't find any scriptural basis for the prohibition of artificial birth control. There were many, many things like this. I didn't find any scriptural basis or theological basis for the persecution of gay Americans in the secular arena.
RICEI can't see any justification for the American Bishop spending -- or allowing the Knights of Columbus to spend $1.9 million in the State of California to support a ban on same sex marriage. I mean, the Catholic Church doesn't recognize anybody's civil union, so why would they spend that kind of money to stop gay Americans from contracting civil unions that aren't recognized by a church? I mean, things like this. I began to see all kinds of problems from the most complex theological problems to social problems. And then, of course, for me, there was a very painful experience when the Bishop of Phoenix, Ariz., Thomas Olmstead, publicly condemned a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, for providing a lifesaving abortion for a dying mother in a -- in a Catholic hospital emergency room.
RICENow, this was a mother of four children, she was 11 weeks pregnant, she was dying and the hospital felt that if they okayed that abortion, they would save her life and that's what Sister McBride did. And that was in keeping with her reading of Canon law. She felt she was doing the right thing as a Catholic nun and an administrator. Well, the Bishop came out and said, that woman should've been allowed to die with her unborn child. And he said, Sister McBride had excommunicated herself. This was a deeply disillusioning thing for me personally right at the time when I was wrestling with all of these other problems.
RICEAnd of course, no small part of my struggles was the clergy abuse scandal. The fact that the Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles had paid out $660 million to settle the claims of victims of clergy abuse. And the church, on many levels, was vilifying these victims, fighting them in court, trying -- you know, questioning their statements, battling with them and had been for years. And there was a public denial policy with regard to all this. I mean, that was very disillusioning for me to see.
RICEAnd I finally reached a point where I felt because I had become such a public Christian, that I had to walk away publicly. I had to say to my readers, I am no longer complicit with these things. I can't be a member of this anymore. I can't support this. I believe in God with my whole heart, I believe in Jesus Christ, the second person of the blessed Trinity with my whole soul, but I cannot support these kinds of things. I refuse to be anti-gay, I refuse to be anti-woman, I refuse to be anti-secular humanist and I walked away.
REHMWhat kinds of reactions have you gotten to these public statements?
RICEWell, first of all, it made news, which I never expected. I mean, I was telling my readers -- I have a Facebook page that I really love and I was telling them. I never expected anybody in the outside world to notice this anymore than any other statement I made on Facebook. And it actually made news for about a month and it made news all over the world. And there were many blog posts about it, there were many articles, there were editorials. All kinds of news came in. A lot of the support I got -- a lot of the response I got through e-mails were supportive. Thousands of supportive e-mails mostly from believers saying that they, too, had walked away from organized religion for various reasons of their own.
RICEAnd I realized that I had left one group to become a member of a very, very large group of another kind (laugh), and that was quite surprising. I did get some negative e-mails. I got amazingly generous e-mails from Catholic clergy, Catholic clergy whom I knew and didn't know wrote the most generous, kind e-mails, I mean, saying, we understand. We know how difficult it is. We hope you will come back. Is there anything we can talk about? Can we talk about this with you? Is there anything we can do?
RICEI mean, just some astonishingly kind, kind e-mails saying, this doesn't make any difference in our friendship with you. We would love to talk to you. I was quite amazed by that. I expected to be stoned (laugh), you know. I didn't expect -- I did get very hostile e-mails from some rank-in-file Catholics, but not really from the clergy and I was quite surprised.
REHMAnne Rice and her new novel is titled "Of Love and Evil." We're going to open the phones in just a moment. Here's an e-mail from Jabedia who says, "I come from an anti-dogmatic organized religion, Unitarian Universalism. So I was interested in your relationship with your religion and your recent comments on organized Catholicism. Do you think religion is just a personal choice that involves fulfillment of the individual on a particular spiritual path in whatever religion works best for him/her or is there something fundamentally wrong with organized religion that its followers should be aware of?"
RICEWell, that is a wonderful question. First of all, I'd like to say that my study is ongoing. It'll be ongoing 'til I die (laugh). And for me, the important thing was to step away from all organized religion and to clear my head of all the voices I was hearing that were making me so angry so that I could talk to God in a way without those voices and discover what I felt he wanted me to do. But I don't deny that there are many, many, many wonderful churches that people go to and they have a wonderful experience. I received e-mails from all over the country and from Canada, from people saying, come to our church, come to the Unitarian Church, come to the Episcopal Church, come to the United Church of Christ. We have gay clergy, we approve same sex marriage, we are an inclusive community, come to us.
RICESo I can't say that my experience with organized religion is going to be everybody else's. Myself, I think God and Jesus Christ are infinitely bigger than any one religion and I don't think any one religion owns them.
REHMAnne Rice and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to go back to your novel "Of Love and Evil," because in that novel is this argument between good and evil in the form of brothers, one of whom is jealous of the other. So much so that he poisons him...
REHM...laced with a fictional seed that is also black and it struck me that this was an absolutely lethal murderous kind of evil that one might find in the Bible.
REHMA brother taking the life of another brother, watching him waste away...
REHM...from the poison because the father has given the love of...
REHM...the murderous brother...
REHM...to the younger brother.
RICERight, right. You know, in making that plot, I followed my instincts, I followed my deepest concerns. I didn't ask myself, what has that to do with my life and what I've witnessed. But to me, it was a very believable plot that someone -- it's believable in the sense that I know people do this. It's not believable in the sense that I don't think I could do it, you know, take a human life, but I was trying to deal with the psychology of someone that felt that he could. And I get the impression that poisoners have their own way of doing things. They seem to like to cause people's deaths in stealthy ways over time. I mean, we see this over and over again in the news that people poison slowly with arsenic or poison in very subtle ways. And so obviously, they derive pleasure from feeling very superior to that victim.
REHMAnd watching that person wither.
RICEExactly. And knowing they have all the cards in their hands and that they're controlling that situation and I wanted to get into that with that brother, how he could do something like that. And what was Tobey to do, put in this situation? He comes in as a -- as a Jewish friend of the Jewish physician and he doesn't identify himself as a child of the angels, he just comes in as a human being but he knows right away what's happening because he's a poisoner himself.
RICEHis -- that's what he's done in his career is actually do a kind of needle sniping job on his victims, poisoning them and causing heart attacks and strokes. He recognizes what's happening right away, but as you know, he doesn't handle it to the -- he tries to handle it to the best of his ability and something unforeseen happens and then he's pitched into the depths of despair. Has he failed in his mission? Well, you know, the plot continues to unfold.
REHMThe plot continues, but at the end, without revealing the end, we're very, very much led to believe that Tobey's whole being is put at risk, not only because of his DNA material, but because there is someone waiting for him.
RICEWell, somebody -- yeah, what I was getting at was that he may be at peace and he may be feeling wonderful as a child of the angels. He's just gone to church. I mean, you know, he's...
REHMHe's made a great confession.
RICE...he feels he's back with a human family, he feels he's a human being again and suddenly his past starts to catch up with him.
RICEAnd I did leave it as a cliffhanger.
REHM...and we would certainly look forward to the next in the Seraphim series. The book we're talking about now, Anne Rice, her latest novel "Of Love and Evil." When we come back, we'll open the phones, 800-433-8850.
REHMAs you know, Anne Rice is with me. She has a brand-new novel out, it's titled "Of Love and Evil." It's the second in her Seraphim series "The Songs of Seraphim." Let's go first to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Henry.
HENRYGood morning. How you doing? I wanted to say hi to Anne. I have every single one of her books and I've read all of them very many times, can't wait for the new Toby book. And I wanted to thank Anne for all her great, great books and all the hours of entertainment she's provided to me and tell her that I am one of the daily users, one of the people of the page and that all of us love her for her interaction with us. And I personally love her for everything she's personally given to me as one of the greatest authors of our kind.
REHMThank you, Henry.
RICEWow, thank you very much, Henry. And of course, Henry's referring to our Facebook page. I frequently address the people as the people of the page. I'll say good morning, people of the page.
RICEAnd he -- Henry made a reference to that and I love it. There are about 155,000 on the page.
RICEAnd we have rousing discussions about politics, religion and literature books all the time. It's just wonderful.
REHMAnd you're on that page...
RICEOh, yeah, I go to my computer every morning and I...
RICE...check in and I start off with links to stories in The New York Times, the LA Times or wherever that I've read that morning. And then we start talking about different things. And they make the page wonderful because they come on and they comment. I may put a link to an editorial from The Times, but they start the back and forth and the comments.
RICEAnd it's just fabulous. And they're always giving me great recommendations for books, for musicians, for artists, for -- and they bring their own links to the page.
REHMHow long do you stay at your computer?
RICEWell, actually, I work all day at the computer writing.
REHMBut how long do you stay on your Face page?
RICEI go back and forth all day. I check in.
RICEI may stay for maybe five or 10 minutes posting the initial links. Then I may come back an hour later and go through their posts of the day under Anne Rice and others. They'll post, you know, links to stories they've found in the local news. I'll answer their direct questions on that section of the page. And we'll talk about their links. And sometimes I move a new story that they've linked to, I move it to the top and make it one of my links.
REHMGive me the link so that we can attach it to our web page.
RICEI think if you Google Anne Rice Facebook page, it'll come up. You'll go right to it.
RICEAnd anyone can join. You don't have to be a friend, you know, you just...
REHMAll right. And let's go to North Wales, Pa. Good morning, Justin.
JUSTINOh, hi, Anne Rice. First of all, I wanted to say that I am a frequenter of your Facebook page. And also, I'm the one who made Anne Rice's "Old Curiosity Shop" on my book blog that's promoting the new book "Of Love and Evil." My question involves did any time when you were writing "Of Love and Evil," did that help clarify some of your questions and -- wait, not questions, but did it clarify your decision to leave the church?
RICEWell, you know, I finished the book before I realized I was gonna take that step of leaving the church, but certainly things I wrote in there about Tobey wanting to go to confession, wanting to go to mass, wanting to be with his fellow Catholics, all that was very deeply felt. And it's very sad to me that I stepped away not too long after that, that I felt that I couldn't continue as a Catholic. I have a great love for all my Catholic brothers and sisters and the church the world over. And that certainly comes through in the book. I don't know that it helped me clarify anything. I think I was in a state of confusion and some of that comes through.
RICEOne thing in the book that I think is very true to the way I felt, Tobey has seen angels. He's experienced a conversion, yet he still realizes that he has doubts and fears and that was certainly an expression of what I was going through, realizing that even though I'd experienced this wonderful conversation, I still had doubts and fears, that it was human basically to have doubts and fears.
REHMDo you think there are angels on earth?
RICEYes, I do. I do believe in angels. I don't know that it's a crucial belief. I think it's fine to go through life without believing in angels, but I do. I believe they're there. I see that is entirely possible that there are angels.
REHMYou ever see angels?
RICENo. I have never had a supernatural experience of any kind.
REHMHave you ever felt the presence of an angel?
RICENo. I haven't, but there have certainly been times when people have stepped up and helped me that have been extraordinary. And you wonder later what would've happened if that person hadn't appeared out of the darkness and helped you.
REHMGive me an example.
RICEOh, lost one night in Houston in a car, trying to find a hotel in pitch blackness in the worst neighborhoods and a car appeared out of nowhere and basically said, we will lead you to the hotel. This person led us to the hotel and then took off before we could say thanks. Why? Why did that person approach us in the pitch darkness in Houston and do that? But I think many people have encounters like that. And of course, many people insist that they have indeed seen angels and been helped by angels. I can't -- you know, I can't point to an instance and say that was an angel, but it might've been.
REHMI have a dear friend whom I call my angel.
REHMIsn't it wonderful...
REHM...to have those friends?
REHMAnd they are angels.
RICEYes, yes, and they're angels. That's true.
REHMLet's go to Columbus, Ohio. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEHi, I just had a comment for Anne. I had gone through the same process you described where I -- you know, I studied other faiths and then actually ultimately separated from Catholicism and thought about it on my own terms and grappled with all those social and, you know, political issues you had talked about. And ultimately, I was able to come back to it and to personalize it -- you know, I -- to really separate myself from the larger institution that is run by people, humans and to just take it on my own terms.
MIKEAnd what I ultimately concluded is that the fundamental value of the Catholic church is the sacraments. And it's really the -- you know, it facilitates the experience of the sacraments within a group or community. And I think those sacraments, you know, they're really designed to transform the individual's spiritual consciousness and try to approach the ideal that Christ gave us. I just wanted to make that comment, that that's what's allowed me to stay within the church and not be moved by the other political and social issues that are sort of, you know, causing problems with a lot of people.
REHMDo you miss the sacraments?
RICEI do. And I do know what Mike's talking about. I know exactly what he's talking about. It was the Eucharist that drew me back the church. And there is that moment in every Catholic church at every Catholic mass where everyone falls quiet and we focus entirely on receiving the body of Christ. And we file up to the altar and we take the body of Christ and we kneel down and quiet and we experience that union with Christ that's so incredibly special and transformative. And we go on our way after that. And that is a powerful, powerful, powerful sacrament. That is the central sacrament of Catholicism and it meant the world to me and still does really mean the world to me.
RICEAnd I understand exactly what Mike is saying. For a very long time, that was certainly enough for me, the sacraments, the belief. I had a good friend and I remember complaining to her once about Rome. And she said, I gave up on Rome a long time ago. I go to church for the Eucharist and I remember that sustained me for years.
RICEYesterday I went to the basilica of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington and as so often has happened in my life, we walked in right at the moment when the service was to take place, complete coincidence. It wasn't mass of the sacraments, but it was vespers. And there was this -- we were kneeling in the first pew, my assistant, Beckett, and me and out come the acolytes with the incense and the priest and the choir was already in the sanctuary.
RICEAnd suddenly, this beautiful vesper service began and we had an opportunity to sing not only in English, but to sing in Latin, which we -- I hadn't done since my childhood, the "Magnevicot (sp?)," that beautiful hymn in Latin. And I thought -- I felt this overwhelming sense of joy. I thought, thank God these Catholics are here and they're still doing it, you know, and they're still preserving the ancient eternal church with their faith. And it was very special to me because right before the ceremony, before I even knew there was to be a ceremony, I had said, God, please, let -- if this is not wrong to ask you, let me hear your voice. Would you let me hear your voice?
RICEAnd suddenly, these people came and the singing began. And I was standing there looking up, you know, at this beautiful mosaic roof and thinking, is God trying to tell me that this is his voice? It's magnificent, it's huge. It's bigger than all the doctrinal differences or what you don't like about the hierarchy or what corruption there might be or what social issues, this is what it's about. And I felt like an incredible sense of joy in that church and certainly felt the presence of God and just an overwhelming gratitude. And that is certainly something you feel in one sacramental ceremony after another in Catholicism.
REHMAnd when you left?
RICEI was overjoyed. I walked out the door feeling that I had been given something very, very precious, a really precious gift in answer to my prayers. I can't...
REHMEnough to bring you back?
RICENo. I can't go back to the institution, but I was given something to sustain me there and to humble me and to remind me that maybe it's not so important to get angry with hierarchy, that you can do just what Mike just said in that call, you make your personal accommodation with it. And frankly, I think that's what millions of believers do in many churches.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Alan who's in Plano, Texas. He says, "I'm a brown skin man -- sorry, I'm a brown skin black man married to a light skin French Creole descended black woman. I was quite struck by your book "The Feast of All Saints" because of how it addressed some of the issues that my wife's family had with me in the past. Please talk about the research you did to support your writing of this book and where you think this book fits into all your literary works."
RICEGreat question. Well, I did years of research to write "The Feast of All Saints." And it was about the free people of color in New Orleans before the civil war. The large community of free black people who call themselves the people of color and they were free. They were descendants of the colonists who had come there and the African slaves they had brought with them. And they themselves were free, but they were very circumscribed. There was a lot of pressure on them. They couldn't enter certain professions. Of course, they couldn't vote. They had very limited rights, but they managed to accomplish many wonderful, wonderful things.
RICEThey were artists, they were writers, they published the first literary magazine that Louisiana ever saw. It was Free Men of Color and it was a magazine of poetry and French. And there were many sculptors who worked and did beautiful marble work in the cemeteries. There were many craftsmen, great craftsmen who were great plasterers, great builders. Great builders of staircases in particular, they were famous for this. And of course, the women, some of the women were famous for being the beautiful sirens at the quadroon balls where the whiter planters used to go to find sophisticated mistresses and so forth.
RICEAnd it was a wonderful thing to research, it was a wonderful thing to write about. I wrote about a fictional family. And that book meant the world to me. And the way it fits in with my other fiction is -- I didn't know it at the time, but I would always be writing about a group within a group, whether it was Castrati opera singers, free people of color, vampires, witches, a group within a group, individuals who are outcast, but have their own group of outcasts. And I would always be writing about that feeling of being marginal, et cetera.
REHMAnne Rice, her new novel "Of Love and Evil" and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show. To South Bend, Ind. Good morning, David.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm fine, thanks.
DAVIDGood. I'm a big fan of the show and I love this show especially because I have a big affection for Ms. Rice. I love all your work, Ms. Rice.
DAVIDMy question was, there was some stories circulating when "Interview With the Vampire" was being cast and Tom Cruise was the choice that the studio finally made for the -- to play Lestat. But I wonder what your true feelings were on there and how much of it was hype and how much of it was your actual feelings. Can you give us a little insight?
RICEWell, I was very unfortunately frank about not wanting Tom Cruise to play the role.
RICEAnd I didn't feel that he was the type for Lestat. I felt that Lestat was tall, lean, feline, blond, French and that it was a mistake to get an all American boy like Tom Cruise to play the role. And I made the mistake of being very vocal about that and the studio and David Geffen, the producer, of course went right ahead and so did Tom Cruise and they made the movie. And then when I saw the movie -- David Geffen sent me an early tape of it, even though we weren't speaking. And when I saw that movie and saw what a fabulous job Tom had done, of how he had owned that part and really given, you know, Lestat all the dash and glamour and power that I wanted my character to have. I picked up the phone and called David Geffen at his house in Malibu and said, it's just great. I just love it.
RICEAnd then I made a public statement supporting the movie, so I think whatever you read in the news was probably the truth (laugh). I'm mean, it was - it was just up and down situation and...
REHMYou are vocal about...
REHM...likes and dislikes.
REHMAnd I think that that's why so many people follow you and perhaps are wondering about the next novel.
RICEWell, you know, I'm gonna write a novel now that I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm gonna let Tobey wait for one novel.
RICEAnd I'm gonna write a novel about ancient Atlantis and a tribe of immortals that has been on the planet since ancient Atlantis. And I'm loving doing this because these are immortals that don't drink blood and don't kill people. (laugh). They're good immortals, but they -- I get to look through their eyes and look at our world and the rise of Christianity and our history and all of our problems through their eyes and get to talk about what they see and what -- and I get to do my version of ancient Atlantis and why it sank and all that.
REHMAnne Rice, her new novel is titled "Of Love and Evil." It was such a pleasure to see you again. Thank you.
RICEOh, thank you very much. I loved being with you.
REHMMy pleasure. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is email@example.com and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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