When Anne Rice died on December 11, 2021, something even bigger died with her. By age 80, the literary superstar was more than just the bestselling author Vampire Chronicles Goth novel series – she was an integral part of American culture and for many readers the first writer they fell in love with, the one who showed them the power of books, who taught them that there is nothing wrong with being weird.

Tributes to Rice would pour in over the next few days, but none were as poignant as that of her son, novelist Christopher Rice, who announced her death on social media.

“As my mother, her support for me was unconditional — she taught me to embrace my dreams, reject conformity, and challenge the dark voices of fear and self-doubt,” he wrote. “As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions.”

In an interview with Kirkus just over a month after his mother’s death, Christopher says his grief comes and goes in waves. It is, of course, hard for him to forget – not only is Anne’s passing still fresh in his mind, but so is his second collaboration with her, Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris (Anchor, February 1), is in the bookstore.

“My mom and I were very close,” says Christopher, who is 43. “I’m not married. I don’t have a husband. And so was my relationship with her – which continued into adulthood, because we worked together, it wasn’t like we drifted apart. The older I got, the closer we seemed to each other to come—the extent to which she has guided my life and my memories is not something I fully prepared for.”

Anne’s readers were also unprepared for her loss. The writer made her literary debut in 1976 with Interview with the vampirebut after the publication of The Queen of the Damned in 1988, she became a citywide superstar in New Orleans, where she and her family lived, and a veritable literary celebrity across the country. Christopher remembers how his mother suddenly became famous.

“I went to the book signings with her and I saw people queuing for hours in the rain and snow,” recalls Christopher. “The other thing is – I learned this myself later in my life as a writer – it’s not often you see writers on television. So the fact that she was always on television during my high school [years], who was interviewed on talk shows, that made it clear that she was really a big deal. Someone in the house would say, “Your mom goes on the… late show tonight,” or “Your mother is here? Rosie O’Donnell again.’ That was really a reminder that her celebrity had almost transcended the books themselves.”

[Christopher Rice recommends five essential books by Anne Rice.]

Her fans were legion, and many of them happened to be LGBTQ+. After her death, readers reflected On the role she presumed to be a writer whose novels young gay people often strongly identified with. (In 2020, Christopher responded to a prompt on Twitter that read: “Tell me you’re gay without telling me you’re gay” with the comment: “I’m Anne Rice’s son.”)

“Back then [the Vampire Chronicles] books came out, someone told her Interview with the vampire was the biggest gay allegory he’d ever read,” recalls Christopher. “That was not her intention, but she wrote these outsider perspectives on these topics that were considered taboo. And she also wrote what it feels like to live with constant guilt and shame. I think when a writer is able to take the stance of a character that was previously dismissed as the monster, I think gays will respond positively. If you highlight depth and nuance and emotional intelligence in the monster when you go into their point of view, we’ll respond positively because we’ve all been called monsters by different people.”

Christopher dealt with gay issues in his fiction debut, A density of souls, published in 2000, which he wrote while caring for his mother, who was recovering from a bout of diabetic ketoacidosis that nearly killed her. He would go on to write several thrillers and novels, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he decided to collaborate on a book with his mother, who for years had urged him to write a screenplay based on her 1989 book. , The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned† Christopher wasn’t interested, so Anne suggested another idea.

“She basically said, ‘Let’s write a sequel to it,'” Christopher recalls. “At that time she was revisiting old buildings. She had left the Catholic Church. She returned to gothic, supernatural fiction, full bloom. She said, “This is a book I left on a cliffhanger. It’s been hanging there since 1990. It’s not really a finished story. Let’s pick it up again.’ †

They did so, exchanging ideas over tea and coffee. The result was: Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatrapublished by Anchor in 2017. The novel was a point of departure for Christopher, who hadn’t tackled historical fiction before and wasn’t used to writing about villains who weren’t “clearly defined” villains.

“Her books don’t often have villains,” Christopher says. “I softened that instinct in myself in response to working with her. And as a result, Cleopatra, who comes out in almost monstrous form in the first book for being brought back in such a brutal way, went from, into my thoughts, from this howling monster to a more tragic Anne Rice-esque Gothic figure, I think I walked away from being a better writer because of it.”

The collaboration was fun, Christopher says, but also intimidating. “You shouldn’t fight her like she’s your mom if you’re working together,” he says. “It has to be a working relationship. And so my tendency to have a tantrum and storm out of the room like a 9-year-old because she doesn’t agree with me on how a chapter should go — I had to put that away.”

Christopher and Anne’s second collaboration came out at the beginning of the month, but it’s only the first of many books he has planned this year – a thriller is also coming, Decimateand two romances, Sapphire Sunset and Sapphire Spring

He is also working on a much more personal project: organizing a memorial for his mother. On Twitter, he promised Anne’s fans that they would get the chance to enter, to write that “All the covens of the world will have ample time to come together.” Now he has to think about what kind of tribute his mother would have wanted.

“I think she would like to be remembered as someone who tried to fight back against mediocrity, someone who didn’t accept limitations,” he says. “I think she would like to be remembered as someone who refused to hear” new when her dreams were at stake.”

Meanwhile, tributes continue to pour in on social media from fans of Anne who are still trying to come to terms with her loss and still reflect on the author’s remarkable career who understood them when no one else did.

“To see the outpouring of that now, I wish she could see it too,” Christopher says. “I don’t know. Maybe she can.”

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.