By Paula Tutman
Anne Rice is doing it again thirty books later. Thirty-seven years after her first novel (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) reinvented vampires, she is reinventing werewolves in her Wolf Gift Chronicles series. The second installment, THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER, released October 15, 2013 by Knopf, takes readers into the life of Rueben Golding, a young journalist who’s recently received the gift of wolfen or Morphenkind powers and uses them to ferret out true evil.
Reuben is a thoroughly modern werewolf—the antithesis of the Lon Chaney Wolf Man most of us have grown up with. Reuben is a Man Wolf, not a Wolf Man. In 1940 the bite of a werewolf was a curse. Rice’s werewolf has received a gift with his infection. The Wolf Man was the very symbol of evil. The Man Wolf covets evil to erase it. The Wolf Man was a devil. The Man Wolf is an angel, of sorts. The Wolf Man was feared by all. Not so for the Man Wolf. Though Rice weaves fear and horror in the acts of being a werewolf—
He swallowed great mouthfuls of the man’s flesh, his tongue sweeping the man’s throat and the side of his face. He liked the bones of the jaw, liked biting into them, liked feeling his teeth hook onto the jawbone as he bit down on what was left of the man’s face. There was no sound in the whole world now except the sound of his chewing and swallowing this warm, bloody flesh.
—her characterization of this new breed of werewolf is feasting on evil instead of being the evil as Reuben hears the cries of a child being victimized in his soul and appears to devour the pedophile. Where Reuben is concerned, his nose is a weathervane that points towards bad deeds, and he races to them to right the evils of man. But that’s not the case for all thoroughly modern werewolves. And that’s the delicious rift that emerges.
In those great old movies we used to stay up and watch on Saturday nights, huddled with our siblings and a bowl of mostly burnt popcorn kernels, we loved fearing the Wolf Man and dreaded nodding off lest he visit us when we finally fell asleep. But the original Wolf Man was a victim, a slave to his impulses to kill and maim. When the full moon waned, he stood with the villagers aghast at the evil inflicted by some wild beast. The Man Wolf can direct his own actions.Reuben Golding is not a monster, he is a superhero.
Rice says she loves reimagining the monsters we’ve grown up with. “I love taking the classical monsters—vampires, ghosts, spirits, werewolves—and doing something new and fresh and different with them, doing them the way I want to see them done.”
With the paradigm shift the reader will root for many of the werewolves and not the villagers while still enjoying the primal pleasure of having their pants scared off of them. “I wanted to write a thoroughly contemporary supernatural thriller”, says Rice as she talks about the Wolf Gift Chronicles and her latest novel. “And I also was very excited about a conscious Man Wolf, a being who not only remembered everything he did as a wolf, but was himself and that wolf man at the same time. It all evolved from there”.
The werewolves of old would writhe in pain and fear what was about to happen as the moon turned full, but the new thoroughly modern werewolf has more control when he morphs and what he doesn’t understand he can look up—on the internet. He has instant information, instant far-reaching reactions to his deeds, and his lore is not confined to a small village, but to anyone with access to technology to like or not like. In other words, modern technology has played a huge role in the shift in werewolf roles in the world Rice is creating. “The biggest challenge was to write a romantic and somewhat gothic story in the world we live in today with modern technology and communications. I had to think: wouldn’t my new Man Wolf, a young man of 23, look up lycanthropy on the internet? Wouldn’t he photograph himself with his iPhone? After his attacks, wouldn’t law enforcement be looking for his DNA? It was thrilling to navigate all this.”
Rice has created a brave new world of characters—a fresh mythology with its own language. She’s changed the longitude and latitude of what it is to be part human and part something elsew ho lives forever in an ever-changing world. In 1940 having a cell phone, taking a picture with it, having a Skype conversation—those things would be magic. In 2013 those are the things that enhance the magic. “I’m excited by the idea of how the world as we know it is affecting immortals,” Rice says. “I love the challenge of keeping the romance and gothic elements in my novels while anchoring them securely in the realities of the internet, email, air travel, TV, and the like.”
Anne Rice has stamped-out the mold of a different treatment of beasts and spirits we’ve long feared and paved the way for others to follow. The Wolves of Midwinter is not just a second book in a finite series of novels. Rice is in love with this new world she’s created. She’s having a lot of fun conjuring her new species and their new laws of physics.
Technology has also been integral in the not-so fictional character named Anne Rice. An admitted news junkie and info-phile, she loves instant access to her readers. Her Facebook page is her Facebook page. There is no assistant thinking up pithy posts or answering comments. Her nearly 1-million Facebook fans get a personal piece of her. “I love FB. And yes, I do all of my own posting, visiting the page over and over for short periods all during my work day and in the evening.” She shares important moments in her life, allows her fans to keep track of her and has a one-keystroke research team at her fingertips at any given second on any given day. And it has the ability to stir her and steer her. She doesn’t have to wait for the Postman to ring twice. She need not sort through snail mail. She knows what her readers are thinking and if she doesn’t she can ask. “I am profoundly grateful for the People of the Page who have made my page with their posts, recommendations, questions and comments. I love them! And I consider as many questions as possible that are put to me. I’ve benefited from quite a few discussions on the page and some arguments. And of course, I can ask my readers anything and they will give me dozens, hundreds, even thousands of answers. What a resource. I love it. I’ve always loved my readers and this the best way I’ve ever found to interact with them and know them.”
We are in a new world of experiencing writing. And the writers we love have found new ways to shift the facets of what we’re living through. Anne Rice seems fearless, not greeting each new technological advance with suspicion, but embracing it. Her characters are not relics to be dusted off and walked away from with the safety of time as distance to keep us safe. Her characters are here, walking amongst us in present time. That’s what makes them more alive and more thrilling as we watch others try to exploit the evil that is good and turn it into something more nefarious and frightening—a battle of good verses evil verses true uber-evil.
The possibilities are endless and Anne Rice is going to let us watch as the world of the Morphenkinder gets bigger and even more defined so that we can not only see her characters as they define the very concept of good and evil, but we can taste it, as well. No doubt, Hollywood and legions of other writers will grasp this new world and spin it into their own. But for now, it is the maiden domain of Anne Rice.
Side note: October 15, 2013 is not only a big day for readers waiting to find out what happens to their new thoroughly modern werewolf—in a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up slice of real life, it’s also the day Christopher, Anne Rice’s son releases his latest novel, THE HEAVENS RISE. “Christopher is a profoundly talented writer with a different focus, different voice and different approach to speculative fiction. I’m kind of in awe of what he does. I’ve learned a lot from him. Principally, I have felt challenged, after reading his stuff, to turn my own experience into fiction more quickly. Usually it takes years for me to put a recent experience into a novel. Christopher can respond almost immediately to his environment — high school experiences, college experiences, life in California as opposed to New Orleans, etc. Also he does very interesting things with multiple points of view that I admire.”
Anne Rice was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in English and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Anne has spent more of her life in California than in New Orleans, but New Orleans is her true home and provides the back drop for many of her famous novels. The French Quarter provided the setting for her first novel, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. And her ante-bellum house in the Garden District was the fictional home of her imaginary Mayfair Witches.
To learn more about Anne, please visit her website.