Or How I Finally Got Around to Writing The Prince’s Psalm
There are a lot of benefits to being good friends with Anne Rice.
I got to read Prince Lestat and The Wolf Gift a year in advance of their respective publications. Chatter at the dinner table really is as remarkable as you might imagine, and much funnier than you’d expect. Even though she’s my best friend’s mom, I never feel like I’m intruding when Christopher Rice asks me over (I actually have my own room at her house!) But beyond Thanksgiving bragging rights and witty banter, my dear friend Anne is an accomplished and experienced writer. She’s someone with whom I can commiserate about what a tough and underappreciated job writing is and who will never say to me “Well, maybe it’s time to get a real job.” I also have the rare privilege of having a friend I can ask for advice who not only knows the answers but who has succeeded as few others have in this career we officially share… even if we don’t quite bat in the same league.
So a few years back, I sought out her advice when I was trying to convince my agent to accept a book I’d not only written at his request but re-written to his specifications. The book ultimately grew up to be Write Murder, the first in a series of murder mysteries loosely based on my own life and some rather disastrous career choices I’d made. Anne, being the generous friend that she is, spent a half hour or more counselling me on how to respond effectively to my stubborn agent. I liked the agent, but he was acting like an editor, only he wasn’t doing any other part of the editor-gig aside from rejecting what I’d written.
Anne and I settled on a plan of action and we were wrapping up the call. I had a meeting to get to, she had dinner plans. We’d see each other soon when I came out for a planned visit. We said the sorts of things friends say when they wrap up a phone call. I thanked her for her advice and recapped the plan we’d made for me. She wished me good luck and then she said, “So this is the book of your dreams?”
It was an afterthought. Anne always says write the book you want to read, so it was just the sort of things she’d ask. But her timing was strangely perfect.
“No,” I said without needing to pause to consider. “There’s this other book that I’ve always thought of writing when I find the time.”
And I told her about The Prince’s Psalm.
“Oh my god, that’s brilliant. That’s the book you must write,” she gushed.
And it was on. Despite the fact that both of us had somewhere else to be, she began helping me to plan my writing process for The Prince’s Psalm. I tried to explain that I felt like it was too big an undertaking for that moment in my career. I told her my agent had already rejected the idea in favor of the book he was not accepting. She was having none of it. She pointed out in the nicest way possible that I didn’t actually have anything particular to do at the moment, so time was not a problem. Then she started telling me how to go about doing it. Not how to tell the story or what to write, she was far more respectful than that. But she began to pour out to me her vast wealth of experience on planning, researching and building epic tales and worlds, breathing life into them and then teaching them to waltz and dance en pointe.
It was like having the Wright Brothers call to tell me how to fly.
She believed so passionately in the idea that she would not let me off the phone until I agreed to write The Prince’s Psalm.
“If you don’t write it, I will,” she said, playfully. She never would have, of course, but she wanted me to know how passionately she felt about the story, and so she did so in a way a fellow writer would truly understand. She waxed poetic about the book of Samuel, speaking and quoting from it as though she’d only just read it — something I had not even done at that point. Eventually, with my agreement that I would seriously consider embarking on what I knew would be a long and difficult journey, we both had to go.
I was late for my meeting, as I vaguely recall. When I got home there were three or four more voicemails waiting for me, full of ideas and encouragements from Anne.
She also opened her library to me. Coached me on the rigors of doing the kind of research I’d never done before, the type of research in which many, if not all, of her works are richly steeped. She gave me notes. Read and re-read drafts. She even tried to help me sell it. (For those of you out there who think that having Anne Rice in your court will sell your book, I’m here to tell you that even that is no guarantee!) We didn’t succeed. But that’s another story.
The point of this story is simply to say that The Prince’s Psalm is a novel for a lot of reasons, but it might have remained only a dream project that I never quite got around to writing if it hadn’t been for a phone call from my dear, darling friend, Anne Rice.