- Forbes one's called her the "Warren Buffet of vampires", but American author Anne Rice has established herself as the literary queen of monsters of all kinds over her four and a half decade career.
Besides her 15 novels of the world-famous "Vampire Chronicle" series, she's also written 21 other books featuring all your favorite dark, supernatural, and undead beings, witches ghosts, mummies, werewolves, angels, demons, aliens, Jesus.
But the works of Anne Rice aren't just light, pulpy, fun monster books.
Her vampires changed the landscape of genre fiction as we know it.
(mellow jazz music) Rice calls her novels gothic epics.
Her groundbreaking genre-blending style combines literary fundamentals with dark supernatural elements and fantasy tropes.
Some are sweeping historical epics or ancestral family sagas, while others lean much towards the action adventure category.
The prose can go from exceedingly indulgently purple to short and choppy, sometimes even in the same book.
In 1968, Anne Rice penned the short story about a vampire, wait for it, being interviewed, but she wasn't having much luck establishing a literary career.
As she pursued a master's degree in creative writing, she found herself frustrated with the repeated advice from her mentors that if she ever wanted to be successful, she needed to write serious literature about typical middle-class people in everyday life.
Said Rice, "anything other than stories "of ordinary people was considered 'fantasy' "or science fiction or perhaps 'romance' "and decidedly of lesser value.
"Such genre fiction could not hope to be mainstream."
Despite this discouragement, Rice kept being drawn to the supernatural and monsters, but she didn't find her calling until she tied those monsters in with her own personal tragedies.
While grieving for the death of her five-year-old daughter to leukemia in 1972, Rice sank herself into her writing and she revisited that old short story about the vampire.
She added in a tragic little girl vampire character and finished her first novel, 1976's "Interview with the Vampire", the life story of the melancholy reluctant vampire Louis and his extremely gay vampire family.
But the journey to publishing was a struggle because the book didn't fit into any established genre.
It was fantasy, but also serious.
Its prose and style read like literary fiction, yet it featured supernatural characters and events.
It's perhaps because of that that "Interview" ended up being a literary sensation that shocked publishers.
She followed up "Interview" with two historical novels that had absolutely no supernatural elements at all and found out the hard way that historical fiction was also looked down upon by all those serious literary snobs just as much as fantasy and romance.
So she decided that if she was going to be pigeonholed, she might as well follow her passion.
She spent some time writing erotica under pseudonyms, some supernatural, some not, and through that found the bravery to go back to writing about the dark theme she had always been drawn to with vampires and witches and ghosts and mummies and aliens and werewolves and Jesus.
In 1985, "The Vampire Lestat" was released.
A sequel to "Interview with the Vampire", it tells the story of Lestat, a major supporting character from "Interview" who thenceforth took over as the series hero.
This time, the critical reaction was much more positive and "The Vampire Chronicles" was born and continues to thrive.
The 15th book in the series, "Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat", just came out in 2018.
Says Rice, "on vampires, they are the most powerful metaphor for the outsider I ever encountered."
As her books became worldwide bestsellers, the outcasts Anne Rice wrote about resonated widely with audiences who saw themselves depicted in the characters, despite their supernatural natures, or maybe even because of them.
Again says Rice, "vampires are great metaphors for us "because secretly we all feel a bit like a monster.
"We're all predators in our own way.
"We're all outcasts to some extent."
And it's easy to forget in our current vampire scape, which ranges from zombie demons to sparkly heroes in romances to loving fathers in family films to comic leads and mockumentaries to whatever this was, before Anne Rice, vampires were rarely to be sympathized with.
Like all the various kinds of monsters in Rice's books, the vampires feature as the protagonists and are sympathetic and complex characters, despite being murderous creatures of the night.
These are no vegetarian vampires.
And the stories themselves don't follow the classic human-versus-monster conflict, but instead are monster-versus-monster, monster with feelings versus monster with different feelings, having ideological differences and conflicts of morality.
Says David Punter and Glennis Byron in their book "The Gothic", "'Interview with the Vampire' "offers one of the most significant rewritings of the traditional myths since it was established by Bram Stoker in 'Dracula'.
"Shifting the narrative perspective to the vampire himself, "the text begins to dissolve the conventional boundaries "between the vampire and the human."
And says Milly Williamson in her book "The Lure of the Vampire", "the vampire is no longer predominantly a figure of fear "in Western popular culture, but a figure of sympathy.
"Thus, rather than a manifestation of our grisly nightmares, "the vampire today speaks instead to our undead desires."
The sympathetic, complex, sensitive, and sexy way Rice wrote vampires was hugely inspirational for the vampire genre.
Many authors and filmmakers that came after were directly influenced by her specific vampire mythology and philosophies.
The literary vampire can be used as allegory for just about every social/socio-political issue you can think of.
After Rice, vampirism became a metaphor for such varied topics as queer identity, drug addiction, AIDS, and the general selfishness and narcissism of the baby boomer generation.
But one of Anne Rice's biggest recurring themes is the use of the supernatural as an exploration of grief.
She started off using writing as a catharsis for losing her daughter and processing the trauma of her alcoholic mother dying when she was a teen, as well as her own general of alienation from society.
Religion is also a major occurring theme in Rice's work.
Raised Catholic, Anne Rice became an atheist at the age of 18.
She returned to the Catholic Church in 1998, only to reject it again a decade later.
And the characters in her books often reflect her complicated feelings about her own spirituality.
We see the resolute atheist Lestat return to religion himself in 2003's "Blood Canticle", when Rice temporarily rejoined the church, but he's back to his old ways by the next time he appears in 2014's "Prince Lestat".
The early "Vampire Chronicles" especially feature the clash between atheism and spirituality and the moral approaches the different vampires take to reconcile their dark existences.
They're all killers, but they're often super sad and philosophical about it.
Characters with Catholic hangups, like the original reluctant vampire himself, Louis, living in guilt and self-loathing, butt heads against atheists like Lestat, whose joie de vivre give him the strength to bounce back from every tragedy that happens to him.
Says psychology professor and author Katherine Ramsland, "Louie is impelled to search for answers "to the ultimate questions of life "and is especially concerned to discover whether God exists, "and if so, if that makes him a child of the devil."
Another theme that rises throughout Anne Rice's work is that of the sensitive, lonely monster seeking connection with others of their kind as a metaphor for the queer experience.
And I mean, this isn't just me putting on my shipping glasses.
Nina Auerbach makes the point that "the fraught menage of Louis and Lestat "is a return to vampire beginnings.
"Their irritable mutual obsession "recovers literary vampires' lost origin: "the homoerotic bond between Lord Byron and Polidori."
Ah, yes, the original 19th century frenemies who gave us the very first literary vampire.
Isn't it ironic?
Even though her vampires do not have sexual intercourse, in "The Interview With the Vampire", Louis and Lestat are clearly married to each other and adopt and raise a daughter together.
The series also features many other explicitly queer vampires who are attracted to all genders, both when in search of a meal and romance.
This pansexual attraction is just something that happens to people when they become vampires, regardless of their orientation in life.
Says Rice, "I think the imagination is bisexual.
"Once you're 'out of nature', to use "Yeats's phrase, "you see all people as beautiful "and you make a bond to people of your own sex "as easily as to people of the opposite sex."
Which is ghosts, mummies, werewolves, aliens, vampires, Jesus, so serious.
And now, besides its popular success continually reaching the New York Times bestseller lists, Anne Rice's work is taught in universities and reference by academics the world over.
"What a wonderful thing," she says, "to have lived long enough "to see the power of labels broken, "the rules of genre thrown to the winds, "the bias of high culture ignored or stood on its head."
Except she didn't just live long enough to see it, she was instrumental in making it happen.
Her relatable and attractive monsters changed the landscape of supernatural literature and she accomplished it through sheer shamelessness.
She was bold enough to write her way about her grief, her spiritual struggles, her fascination with gender, and so much else.
And that vulnerability spoke to people, especially those who felt like outcasts, who felt like they weren't allowed to be themselves in the world.
Said Rice, "I had to follow my own eccentric path, "creating novels that no one could classify or explain.
"I craved the spectacle of historical setting "and the agony of tragic characters.
"And if my career proves anything, "it's that if a person fervently believes in her own vision, "no matter how eccentric or weird, "well, somebody else may believe in it too."
And with almost 100 million copies of her books sold worldwide, making her one of the most widely-read authors in modern history, yes, it turns out quite a few people did.