Anne Rice’s advise to young writers.
By Elizabeth Cutright
“You have to ignore critics. Critics are a dime a dozen. Writers are unique.” Anne Rice
I was not yet 21 when Anne Rice made a book-signing appearance at our local bookstore the Earthling (moment of silence, please, in memory of great urban bookstore lost to the wily whims of commercial real estate and online book sales). I remember dressing up for the occasion – not in costume, but in a “nice outfit” that, in that great era of grunge was bound to include black tights and Doc Martens. I was nervous and excited to come face to face with one of my favorite authors.
I’d originally discovered Interview With a Vampire in the paperback stand of our high school library. That rack was an unmonitored goldmine for the avid teenage reader. These books, donated by parents, teachers, community members and students, were unceremoniously placed on teetering racks that gave off a wailing metal moan with each turn. No library cards to sign, no due dates – it was a free-for-all. And because most of the books were “old” and therefore “boring,” I suspect few of my classmates ever glanced in their direction.
But there, amidst the faded copies of Tarzan the Ape Man and the Secret Garden, were some true gothic – and, frankly, quite adult – page-turners. I found Flowers In The Attic in that rack. And Go Ask Alice. Sensational and thrilling, I am forever grateful to that anonymous donor who supplemented by regular educational reading with these potboilers; because, let’s face it, Moby Dick, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Ethan Frome may be classics – and I’m glad I read them – but they hold little appeal to the average 16 year old.
And now there I was, a handful of years later, in line alongside folks wearing homemade vampire outfits and little old ladies clutching a pile of hardbacks hoping to get a signature on the inside cover of every edition. We got there early, which was wise because the line already stretched halfway down the block. There was a carnival aspect to the wait – the aforementioned costumes and the excited chatter of fans finding each other after reading, and loving, these books in a solitary, individual way. This was before the internet (I know…I’m sooo old!), before chat rooms and Facebook fan pages and websites (like i09) devoted to niche topics. The bookstore appearance was one of the few ways admirers of a particular author or genre could gather, discuss and create a (temporary) community.
Finally, I made it to the front of the line and there she was…. smaller than I’d imagined, and yet somehow brighter, more vibrant, than the mere humans surrounding her. Although she’d been at it for an hour or more by the time I reached her, Rice still took a moment to greet me with a smile before writing out short inscription on the inside jacket of her latest hardback.
“To Elizabeth, All the Best! Anne Rice.”
Short, sweet and ever-so-meaningful to a Vampire-fan girl like me.
Over at i09, you can catch a recent interview with Rice where she talks about the graphic novel adaptation of Interview with a Vampire and confirms that Louis and Lestate are, in fact, a same-sex vampire couple with an adopted vampire daughter. You can read the whole thing here, but the section that really spoke to me involved Rice’s answer to the question, “What is your advice for the young writers who ask for it?”
“Well you know, I do give sort of the same standard advice over and over again,” replies Rice. “You have to go where the pain is, go where the pleasure is, and you can’t be afraid.”
How many of us shy away from the really powerful emotions that lurk underneath the surface of what we are writing? How many times do we think, “Oh no…. I can’t go there. That would be too intense.” And so we pull our punches. We write vague descriptions and limit the personal growth of our characters, and then become frustrated when our work is not shaping up in the way we’d imagined. Transcribing an old short story the other day, I found myself cringing at a particularly intimate scene I’d written between two characters. Nothing pornographic, nothing titillating, just a paragraph so raw and authentic that I was shocked I’d had the courage to put that all down on paper. Where did that writer go? Where have I left my fearlessness?
And so, Rice’s advice could not come at a better time. It feels like a message from the ether-verse – write the scary parts…. write the cringe-worthy dialogue….and don’t hold back.
Equally important, and I’ve talked about this before, is cultivating your own voice and viewpoint. As Rice herself points out, the key is to “write the book that you can’t find in the bookstore, the book that you really want to read. And you have to write a book that you yourself would love to read, and a book you want to live in, you want to be in. It has to be.”
“When you say that to yourself, I’m writing the book I want to write,” continues Rice, “the book I can’t find, the book that hasn’t been done yet the way that I would like to do it. And of course, we always have to remember that the world doesn’t want someone who sounds just like somebody else, they want an original voice. The world is always crying for original voices.”
Rice is also quick to point out that there’ll be plenty of naysayers ready, willing and able to discourage you from embarking on a writer’s life.
“You could go and you could discourage any writer that ever wrote by saying, ‘Who needs another novel? What makes you think you can be writing more about that?’ You’ve just got to just totally ignore it. The world always is hungry for a brand new way to look at something. Nobody could have predicted Interview With The Vampire would have been a hit. Nobody could have predicted Harry Potter would have been a hit. If you went and ran these ideas past an editor, they’d probably tell you to give up. You have to ignore people.”
All original content is the sole property of Elizabeth Cutright and The Daily Creative Writer. If you are reading this blog on another website, it has been reposted without the author’s permission in violation of the DMCA. © 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
- Writers on how they write: Anne Rice (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- First Glimpse of the Graphic Novel that Retells Interview With a Vampire from Claudia’s POV [Anne Rice] (io9.com)
- From Lestat to Harry Potter: which characters should be resurrected? (guardian.co.uk)