Sunday, June 29, 2008

Interview with a Novelist:

Ann Rice on Spiritual Fiction

The Door's itinerant cub reporter, Siarlys Jenkins, recently snagged a direct interview with Ann Rice (or a long-fanged woman who said she was Ann Rice) concerning her latest speculative novel: Christ Lestat, Out of Transylvania. Better known for the stunning financial success of her first novel, Interview With A Vampire, and for a series of sequels exploring the esthetics of damnation, Rice made a modest splash among religious media with her announcement of a late-in-life commitment to Jesus.

SJ: So what qualifies you to write a novel about a segment of Jesus's life on which the gospels are almost entirely silent?

AR: As the gospels are silent, someone has to make it up if we are going to get a good story out of it. I feel myself facing the same dilemma as St. Christopher. Here was a big strong man who wanted to put his muscles at the service of the most powerful king in the world. Some old hermit tells him to fast and pray, which would ruin his abs and pecs. Eventually, the church found work for him ferrying pilgrims across roaring torrents, and even Our Lord took a ride on his back. My strength is imagining things that never happened. As a new-born Christian, I want to put that faculty to pious use.

SJ: Isn't there some danger that readers will think your words ARE gospel truth? Look how many people took LaHaye and Jenkins's speculative take-off on the Revelation to St. John as inerrant prophecy?

AR: Oh, come on. How many people believed in vampires any more or less because of my earlier novels?

SJ: So nobody is going to believe in Jesus as the Christ any more or less because of your latest novel. That's reassuring. Where did you get the idea that the Holy Family spent twelve years in Transylvania?

AR: There is a good deal of ambiguity in the reference to "Egypt." I mean, Judea was only a few days march from the Nile, and they were economically integrated provinces of the Roman Empire. Herod had lots of friends and business associates in the Nile delta and Alexandria. Whereas Dacia was a remote frontier province at best, not even fully conquered in the reign of Caesar Augustus. There are obscure semantical connections between "Egypt," "Gypsies," "Romany," and "Romania." It serves as a kind of prequel to the apostolic journeys of Paul in the same direction. Besides, I know a lot more about Transylvania than I do about the Ptolemy dynasty.

SJ: Apparently you know a good deal about the apocryphal gospels too.

AR: Certainly. The Lost Books of the Bible are much better drama than the Synoptic Gospels. I mean, I'm not trying to compete with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Everybody has read their versions. They don't agree either. Matthew doesn't give any special reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but tells how they fled to Egypt. Luke wasn't worried about Herod at all. He says they circumcised Jesus after the eighth day, waited for Mary to complete the days of her purification, presented baby Jesus at the Temple, and went home to Nazareth. Matthew says when they returned from Egypt, they went to Nazareth to fulfill a prophecy, like they didn't live there before. Mark and John don't mention the subject. So it's wide open for me to weave a tale.

SJ: Your book makes the little Jesus out to be something of a walking roadside improvised explosive device. People are always dropping dead for offending him. Why was his childhood such a marked contrast to his adult ministry?

AR: He didn't do those things when he was an adult? My next Jesus novel is going to be awfully boring if he can't miraculously slay thousands of enemies, awe the ignorant populace into submission. What is the point of being king? What kind of Lord allows himself to be insulted, beaten, spit upon, and doesn't retaliate gloriously? Isn't Christ the Lord far more powerful than a mere vampire?

SJ: Yes, you do share some problems with St. Christopher's early life. I take it you don't plan to serialize the Crucifixion.

AR: Well, that's already covered quite thoroughly in the Gospels, isn't it? My first vampire novel took off because it was a unique take on a familiar legend. I want my take on Jesus Christ to be a whole new twist that nobody ever thought of before. If it isn't, why would anyone buy my books? But how does this sound? To prove beyond all doubt that he is King of Israel and Lord of All, he steps down from the cross, a bevy of angels lifts him up to a burst of heavenly trumpets, his wounds heal instantly, and all the soldiers who have been mocking him drop dead of fright. Then...

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