Excerpted from Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice. Copyright © 2002 by Anne Rice. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Q: Unlike some of your previous novels, which take their names from central characters, Blackwood Farm takes its name from a place. Does this change mark a shift in your work from toward a greater emphasis on place?
A: Blackwood Farm is the perfect title for this novel because by the time you’re finished reading it, you realize that Blackwood Farm is not just a place but a state of mind. It’s a world in which a great many people live and strive together to create a house which is meaningful in people’s lives. The property encompasses the darkness and evil of the swamp and the brightness and promise of the house and its gardens. Love is the abiding theme of the family; yet there is menace among the spirits that haunt the place, and a dreadful secret lurking too near in the swamp. The novel ends on a note of suspense which takes place at Blackwood Farm.
Q: Blackwood Farm is so integral to the story that it seems a character in its own right. Did you take inspiration for it from any special locale in your own experience?
A: The whole concept of Blackwood Farm—this beautiful Bed and Breakfast Hotel where people go for regular feasts—the Christmas Dinner, the Easter Buffet, weddings, parties, things of this sort—was born out of my experience with St. Elizabeth’s, a huge (55 square feet) convent building which I own in New Orleans which has been the setting for such events. Run by my family it has been the scene of book parties for as much as 8,000 people, and for a grand wedding for my godchild that made the news as far away as New York. All my good experiences of St. E’s, as we call it, rolled into Blackwood Farm. Plus I put it out in the country very near where my beloved Aunt Pat lived, and used many of my impressions of that rural area to give it a special down home flavor.
Much of what I have experienced in the South is in the novel, and it represents a new commitment in me to the South. I hope after I’m gone, that people will remember me for
Q: Blackwood Farm is peopled with ghosts who practice both good and evil. What does this say about the nature of haunting?
A: The ghosts in Blackwood Farm are of varying kinds, but my own theories of ghosts have been fairly consistent throughout the Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches books as well. I think ghosts can be either good or evil. They can come down from Heaven to interfere for good. Or they can be Earthbound spirits who are restless for revenge or some participation in human life. It is almost impossible to know what the ghosts are up to. They can fool you. They can lie. They often don’t know their own motives, because they are fragile, partial beings.
Q: Can ghosts demand a relationship with the living? If so, do they seek out individuals of their own will, or does the past (or some other kind of connection) compel them?
A: Yes, a ghost can demand a relationship with some one who is living. I explored that in The Witching Hour. And I explore it again in Blackwood Farm. But the human being is under no obligation whatsoever to honor that demand. Quite to the contrary. It’s wise to exorcise that ghost. The ghost should be advised that it’s a ghost and told to seek The Light.
As to why ghosts seek certain people, how can we know? Of course Goblin, who is the evil ghost of Blackwood Farm seeks Quinn for a logical reason, but we don’t know exactly how or why until the end. That is part of the mystery and we don’t want to reveal it. But some ghosts just don’t know what they are doing.
Q: Tell us about Tarquin Blackwood.
A: Quinn Blackwood: Well, my hero is six foot four, black curly hair, blue eyes. He is in many ways modeled on my son, Christopher, except that Christopher is a blond. Quinn is highly intelligent and he does not fit in ordinary school. He blossoms under home teaching, the kind of home teaching and stimulation I wish that I had had as a kid. I give him what I wish I had had.
Quinn is really a young American prince—a kid who has everything—when he is kidnapped and made a vampire by the dark force that broods in Sugar Devil swamp. It is a tragedy that he ever went out into the swamp trying to solve the mystery of Sugar Devil Island. In so doing he drew the evil into himself, and was taken away. But he turns his back on the mysterious vampires who “make him a blood hunter” and he comes home to live with the family as closely as he can. When he runs into another awful tragedy with Goblin, the ghost who has haunted him since early childhood, he goes to Lestat. I love Quinn’s sparkling intelligence, his love for all at Blackwood Farm, including the black housekeeper Jasmine, who really transcends her role as a dependent to become an essential member of the family itself.
Jasmine was inspired by black people and some white people whom I know to hold themselves back. Jasmine won’t live up to her full potential. She is really capable of doing much more as Head Housekeeper, but she won’t give up the comforts of the servant life in which she participates. So she does some of everything.
Q: Are his ghosts an articulation of his interior life, or are they external elements acting upon him?
A: The ghosts who haunt Quinn come from outside. They attack him because he is “sensitive” to them.
Q: And is Goblin?
A: Goblin, the doppelganger ghost who is with Quinn since childhood is the essential mystery of the novel. We only come to understand him and what he wants at the very end.
Q: Surrogacy is so present in the relationships of these characters to one another. Why is this, and what is the import of the rearrangements of familial and sexual relationships in Blackwood Farm?
A: The truly great characters of the novel know how to love unstintingly and when a relationship fails, they fill the gap. So we do have surrogacy and we do have unusual relationships. In the world of Blackwood Farm, the good characters simply refuse to neglect each other. When it comes to the unloving characters, like Patsy, Quinn’s biological mother, the others do the best they can.
Aunt Queen, the matriarch of the family, is really Quinn’s “mother.” She tries to give him all the love and all the culture that she can. Even though she’s not there, she provides his teachers, and finally takes him traveling though Europe with her, revealing the world to him in her own way. Her love influences everything and everyone at Blackwood Farm. Patsy alone is untouched by Aunt Queen. Patsy cannot be reached by even the warmest love. She does not know about love.
Q: What is the role of illegitimacy in Blackwood Farm? Is it related to surrogacy?
A: Illegitimacy at Blackwood Farm. Well, of course it plays a big role in the miracle of Blackwood Farm in that two illicit relationships bring two boy children into the warm world of love that is the essence of the family and the household. One of these characters is Tommy Blackwood, the illegitimate child of Quinn’s grandfather, and the other is Quinn’s own child. I have written about all this in a positive light.
I have from my earliest work in Interview With the Vampire celebrated the blossoming of love in dark places, and in the shadows, and the nurturing of love under the most obscure circumstances. I have always believed that love can exist in the most treacherous of circumstances. So it is with these two relationships in Blackwood Farm.
Q: How do you envision Quinn’s relationship to Lestat, and vice versa?
A: Quinn and Lestat. Well, Quinn adores Lestat. He’s read of his adventure sand he worships him. He needs his help. Quinn seeks Lestat the way Lestat once sought Marius. Lestat reciprocates. He doesn’t at all mind coming to the rescue. The tale shows a whole new role for Lestat—playing the mentor to younger blood drinkers who need his wisdom. He can now move among entirely new characters.
Lestat has always spoken to the readers with an intimate detective novel voice. So now he can be the vampiric Philip Marlowe—coming to the rescue of young ones in distress. There would be twenty-five novels with Lestat in this new role.
Q: The epigraph is from the book of Job. What clues to the story does it hold for the curious reader?
A: The epigraph from the Book of Job reflects Quinn’s feelings at being taken out of mortal life and subjected to vampiric darkness.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My current work? I’ve just finished the novel Blood Canticle, which is the sequel to Blackwood Farm. Lestat is telling the story and it picks up at the very moment that Blackwood Farm leaves off—after a little characteristic prologue from Lestat, that is. He’s back at the wheel. I loved writing it. It’s his voice for the 21st century.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming film projects.
A: My upcoming film project: NBC will being doing a 12 hour miniseries of The Witching Hourbooks. It is the longest commitment from NBC since they did Shogun. John Wilder has already completed the teleplay outline, and it is simply fabulous. Very faithful to the characters and to the book.
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From the Hardcover edition.