Anne and Christopher Rice Talk About the Return of Ramses the Damned
In 1989, soon after the release of her novel The Queen of the Damned, author Anne Rice released another supernatural page turner about another immortal (but not vampiric) hero from ancient Egypt called The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. Much more of a period high adventure than her vampire novels, The Mummy was a success and instantly found fans. The tag at the end of the novel promised more adventures of Ramses to come, but for various reasons, those adventures never came.
Now 28 years later, the sequel has finally arrived in the form of Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra. This novel is special for another reason besides being a sequel long in the making: it's Anne Rice's first writing collaboration with another author, and the author just happens to be her son, novelist Christopher Rice.
"Fans had been asking me for a sequel to The Mummy for years," Anne said, "And I got this idea that I thought it would be wonderful if Chris and I could collaborate. As it turns out, he did most of the writing on the book and most of the heavy lifting in terms of the plotting. We had a meeting and made a road map of the plot, and he produced the first draft and the final draft. And then I went over it and added a number of things, particularly with the older characters from the first book. His focus was very much on the newer characters that he created for the sequel. Except for Cleopatra…he wrote a lot about her. He really came to understand that character, and it worked out really well."
On collaborating with his mom, Christopher Rice told us, "I wrote a draft, I submitted it to her, and she did a really intensive read. Then we sat down together and pulled it apart, talked about what was working and what wasn't, and she sent me off with marching orders to write the next draft. And a lot of those marching orders were to emphasize the mysterious nature of immortals and not have them flinch or react in the same way an ordinary human character would."
Of all of Anne Rice's worlds–vampires, witches, ghosts and werewolves—they chose a sequel to The Mummy as their first mother/son collaboration because of the fans. According to Christopher, "The reason it's The Mummy is that everyone wanted a sequel to that book, and there wasn't one. I was present, for year after year at my mother's book signings, and saw people come up and ask, 'When is the next Mummy book?' And her attitude was, 'I don't have the time to do it on my own.'"
Much like Anne Rice's second vampire novel, The Vampire Lestat, expanded upon the backstory of the vampires, it seems this second Ramses novel will expand upon the mythology introduced in the first book in a big way. "We do explore the origin of the Elixir of Life and where it came from, and the backstory of how Ramses got a hold of it" said Anne, "We love exploring the mythological background. Christopher was responsible for writing a lot of that."
The elder Rice has made a name for herself over the past 40 years writing about various kinds of immortal beings, but the kind of immortality Ramses has is more of a "no strings attached" kind of immortality. Anne explained, "It's very different. The vampires are very much a metaphor for the outsider and the outcast, and for people who walk in darkness, and that's not true for Ramses. The vulnerability for Ramses is that he can be captured, and somebody could force him to tell them the formula for the Elixir of Life and make other immortals. And also, he can't biologically have a child. He has to decide when to give this Elixir to someone, and it's not something that can be done lightly. To me, it's just a different way of writing about immortality."
It's a good thing Ramses is immortal, because more books are coming–it's just a question of when. Both Rices are working on developing The Vampire Chronicles television series, with Chris writing scripts for it. Anne is working on more books, and she told us there are more Vampire Chronicles books coming, including at least two more Lestat novels. But they'll get back to Ramses eventually. "We really enjoyed writing Ramses. We really hope we could do at least one more book in the series," Anne said. Christopher added, "I would absolutely do it again, and we do have plans for another Ramses book, it's on the schedule."
Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra is available on November 21, 2017 from Anchor Books
Images: Alfred A. Knopf / ChristopherRiceBook.com
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