I read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice when I was in my teens.
Reading that book was a revelation. In this gothic world of vampires, there was this undercurrent of homoeroticism between Lestat and Louis. As a young closeted gay kid, I had finally found a world, albeit fictional, that I felt at home in.
When I found the Sleeping Beauty series, my world was turned upside down. Here was a world where gay love was on the page. I had never read anything like it before or since and part of me felt like I was reading a secret codex of some sort, where love was this powerful magic that could heal hearts and destroy kingdoms. I knew in some abstract way that it was okay to be who I was.
I read anything by Anne Rice that I could get my hands on. I was entranced by Lestat and his misadventures. I fell in love with the Mayfair Witches, was thrilled by Ramses the Damned, I was enthralled by Cry to Heaven. Even her books about Jesus and his life held a lot of mystery and alure to me. The worlds that she created came alive around me when I opened one of her books. She wrote about themes of love, sex, religion, acceptance and diversity with such ease and confidence. Every time a new book by Anne Rice was published, I felt like I was reading a new missive from a friend. I felt like she was speaking directly to me in her stories.
I knew after reading her novels that I wanted to be a writer. Anne Rice was one of my main influences in my early stories. I wrote stories that delved into the power of the heart and what it could do, which seemed to be the undercurrent of all her stories. I learned through Anne Rice, all those years ago, that the heart was capable of an incredible kind of magic. Even now, my stories revolve around love in some way.
Though Anne Rice may be gone from us, the worlds that she created will live on forever. I know that inside of me, there will always be this little gay kid, opening Interview with the Vampire for the first time and finally finding a place where I belonged.