When my wife and I made our foray to Tombstone, Arizona back in October, something unusual happened. We actually caught the debut of a new TV series. In this case, it was AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Interview with the Vampire. Overall, we were both captivated by the acting and storytelling in this new adaptation. Admittedly it’s been over thirty years since I’ve read the novel, but I clearly recognized the differences, the most apparent being the change in time period. The novel’s early scenes are set in the 1790s while the TV series opens in the 1910s. Also, the setting of the framing story changed from a sleazy hotel room in San Francisco to a luxury apartment in Dubai, although it’s noted a 1970’s interview did happen in San Francisco. Because we don’t subscribe to AMC, we didn’t catch any further episodes until its release through Apple in December.
Now that I’ve watched the entire first season, I see that the plot largely follows that of the book through roughly the mid-point. We follow Louis de Pointe du Lac as he balances family and work life until his brother commits suicide, throwing Louis into a crisis. At this point, the vampire Lestat, who has been hovering nearby through the early pages of the story swoops in and seduces Louis into life as a vampire. Louis’s crisis only worsens. The power of being a vampire is seductive, but the power exists to make him a predator on human life. Later, in the midst of tragedy, Louis stumbles on a moment of potential redemption. He finds a girl named Claudia on the verge of dying. He hopes to save Claudia and Lestat makes her into a vampire as well. At this point, we have the story of three vampires trying to survive both as vampires and as a family.
It’s interesting to compare and contrast my memories of the novel with the 1994 Neil Jordan film and the new television series. Obviously the series goes into much greater depth and even reminds me of elements of the novel I’d forgotten. It also expands on the novel and depicts scenes the novel didn’t include. As I say, the change in time period is an obvious difference, but I deliberately avoided referring to the time period in my description of the plot. In a way, the story’s backdrop is incidental to the core story, which is an exploration of relationships and what happens when one realizes one must prey on other humans to survive. It’s easy to dismiss that as just part of the vampire fantasy, but it’s also an apt metaphor for life in a capitalist society. The fantastic, Faustian bargain of the vampire is the real American dream, the notion of staying young and beautiful forever. Rice explores the flaws of that dreams and even explores the question of how young is too young.
I think it’s fair to question why one should adapt a story to different media. Why can’t a novel remain a novel? Obviously people like seeing favorite characters from books brought to life in media. Also, putting a story into new media takes it to a wider audience. Perhaps the best reason for changing formats from an artistic viewpoint is that it allows the people who adapt the work to explore what they found important about it. Although Anne Rice passed away a little over a year ago, she’s credited as an executive producer on the TV series. Anyone who has looked at how long it takes to develop, film, and release a movie or TV series, knows that such an enterprise can easily take several years, so there’s good reason to think she was heavily involved in the development of the script along with her son, Christopher, who is also credited as an executive producer. So, the series seems to give us another window into Rice’s viewpoint on her own work.
As mentioned, I’ve been in the throes of working on my third vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. You can get behind-the-scenes looks at my work and additional insights into the creative process by supporting my Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. Supporting my Patreon also supports this blog and keeps it ad-free.