So much of the literary successes of the late Anne Rice happened when she was in her 30s, but her influences in writing began in her early years in New Orleans and during her teen years in North Texas.
Rice, the Gothic novelist best known for Interview With the Vampire and its sequels, died Saturday from complications of a stroke. She was 80 years old.
Nineteen years before her bestseller, Rice arrived in Richardson from New Orleans in 1957, a year after her mother, Katherine, died, and her father, Howard, took a job with the U.S. Postal Service in Dallas.
Rice was raised in New Orleans where many of her novels were set. She wrote plays about ghostly images, and she and her three sisters would perform them for one another.
As a 15-year-old, her passion for writing continued while in Texas.
Her stepmother, Dorothy Van Bever O’Brien, bought Rice a portable black, noisy typewriter at a secondhand store in Dallas. At Richardson High School, Rice started writing as a features editor for the student newspaper. She later took writing classes at Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
Her work as a novelist blossomed when she moved to San Francisco while in college. But she has mentioned several times that her experience in Texas was a positive one at a formative time.
In 1991, former Dallas Morning News senior staff writer Joyce Sáenz Harris traveled to the Garden District in New Orleans to interview Rice for a Sunday arts cover story.
Rice told Harris that she experienced “a sense of severing” when she left New Orleans.
“But then I enjoyed Richardson a lot,” Rice said at the time. “Richardson really was America; New Orleans isn’t. It was like stepping into the television set and being in the world of Father Knows Best. It was brand-new, and everybody lived in three-bedroom brick homes with wall-to-wall carpeting and garbage disposals.”
Dallas did leave an impression on Rice, however.
“Dallas is so invented that you always have the feeling you’re in a theme park. It’s like something that’s been created,” she said. “It doesn’t have the same kind of character that Chicago has or New York or even Milwaukee. I do love it, though. It’s always been good to me.”
Harris, who is now a Dallas-based freelance editor, said Rice talked a lot about her teenage period in Texas because it’s where she met her husband, the poet Stan Rice, who was the editor of the Richardson High newspaper.
“I don’t think she felt as if she fitted in well in Texas, and she had just lost her mother recently — but meeting Stan made up for so much else,” Harris said Monday.
Rice said Stan was a year younger, and “we didn’t really go out until the following summer. But we were real close, and I was absolutely fascinated by him. I thought he was the cutest thing I’d ever laid eyes on.”
After Rice left for college, she and Stan dated others. She worked and went to classes but wasn’t making ends meet as a 60-cent-an-hour waitress in Denton.