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Anne Rice on Editing and Editors

Charlie Rose Interview

Aired October 23, 1997


Anne: Yeah. I usually come up with one fair copy at the end and that goes to the publisher. I edit and condense and cut and revise as I go along. I just work very intensely. And then, when I press that button and print it out, that's it. That's the only copy that really exists. And then off it goes.

Charlie: That's right.

Anne: And of course, I can keep pressing that button and keep pressing it--

Charlie: And you don't show it to anybody while you're writing these things?

Anne: Uh-uh. Uh-uh.

Charlie: It's just--

Anne: No. If I'm going to make a fool out of myself, I'm going to do it on my own. And I'm 56 and if I don't know how to write now--

Charlie: Yeah, I was going to say, if you don't know how-

Anne: It's time to--

Charlie: --to do it now, you might as well--

Anne: --you know, open a restaurant.

Charlie: Or something. You send it to the editor. Do they fool around with it much?

Anne: No, they don't fool around with it at all. I have a wonderful editor, Victoria Wilson, [sp?] and we came to an understanding a long time ago that she wouldn't touch the manuscript or change a word. And so---

Charlie: Now, wait a minute. Now, come on. See, there's something wrong here.

Anne: Well, no, no, no, no, no.

Charlie: There's something wrong here.

Anne: What do you mean? What are-- what are--

Charlie: You have an understanding with the editor she will not touch--

Anne: Absolutely.

Charlie: Why do you have an editor?

Anne: I have an editor to respond to the book, to--

Charlie: To tell you whether it's good or not?

Anne: --to publish the book, to produce the book, to fight for nine months through the house, whether it's Knopf or Random House or whatever it is--

Charlie: Yeah.

Anne: --to get the thing published, to choose that cover.

Charlie: She's like--

Anne: Look at that cover. Show that--

Charlie: She--

Anne: Victoria Wilson chose that. Now, that's nothing to sniff at.

Charlie: Oh, she did this?

Anne: That's Saint Sebastian. She didn't paint it, but she chose it.

Charlie: No, she chose it. That's what I mean.

Anne: Boy, you're being rough today. You're in a bad mood, aren't you!

Charlie: No, I'm not!

Anne: You're being a bit unusual.

Charlie: Now, what--

Anne: No. Look, editors don't have to change what you write. They really don't. Do you think-- do you think Pavarotti's voice teacher gets on the record with Pav? I mean, like it gets thin and the voice teacher jumps and goes-- [sings]

Charlie: No, here's what I think.

Anne: Uh-uh. Uh-uh.

Charlie: Every writer can be improved.

Anne: Oh, no! No. Not-- not-- I don't want to be improved, nor do I want to read and improved writer.

Charlie: Really?

Anne: When I read Hemingway, I want Hemingway. When I read Dickens, I want Dickens.

Charlie: Hemingway used to edit--

Anne: I don't want--

Charlie: --himself 32--

Anne: --some--

Charlie: Hemingway was one of the great editors of all time and he edited himself like crazy.

Anne: Hemingway, Anne Rice-- whatever.

Charlie: Anne Rice, yeah.

Anne: You know, sure.

Charlie: If Anne Rice-- if anybody's going to--

Anne: Look, let me ask you something--

Charlie: If anybody's going to touch your prose--

Anne: Where does this prejudice come from--

Charlie: Mine?

Anne: --that you need somebody to change your work? Because this surrounds the whole writing profession. Like, take-- let's take this violinist that inspired me, Leila Josefowicz.

Charlie: Yeah.

Anne: You know, the violinist I dedicate the book to.

Charlie: Right.

Anne: Do you think anybody jumps in and dubs in another instrument--

Charlie: No, I--

Anne: --with Leila?

Charlie: --don't. No, I don't.

Anne: That's what editing is. They want to change your words. You can't let them do it.

Charlie: I'll tell you what I do think. I do think-- I think probably she has someone that she can go to and listen to her play and make some--

Anne: Well, sure.

Charlie: --suggestions as to how she can--

Anne: Sure.

Charlie: --play it better.

Anne: Well, she's 19. I'm 56. No, I've got to do it all myself. It's just the way I am.

Charlie: Just drawing out of the side of your personality that we all know is there.

Anne: What about Enrico Caruso? I don't ever remember hearing about anybody telling him what to do.

Charlie: Oh, I bet you he--

Anne: You just stand there in the streets--

Charlie: --took suggestions--

Anne: --of Naples--

Charlie: Oh, come on!

Anne: Oh, what-- what are you-- why are you doing this to me!

Charlie: When did-- when did you get to be this prima donna that--

Anne: What-- what--

Charlie: When did you get to be--

Anne: Why are you doing this to me? Why did editing come up today? This is the 18th book. Don't you think you should have started this about-- about--

Charlie: No, we--

Anne: --book 12 or 13?

Charlie: I thought we'd talked enough about bisexuality in other interviews! All right.

Anne: Look at that cover again.

Charlie: I looked at that cover.

Anne: That's all the bisexuality you'll ever need.


(speaking of VIOLIN)

Anne: The woman in it is a person who's been through many deaths and griefs. She's a person who loves music and has no talent for music.

Charlie: Right.

Anne: Moi.

Charlie: Moi.

Anne: I would have needed a violin teacher forever if I had played the violin.

Charlie: Right.

Anne: Talk about editing.

Charlie: Did you know-- you knew-- I mean, you recognized that you had no--

Anne: Yeah, I was 15.

Charlie: --talent.

Anne: And I saw Isaac Stern at the Municipal Auditorium and went to heaven and the pawn shop and bought a violin.

Charlie: Yes?

Anne: And then I got the best teacher in New Orleans to teach me for almost nothing and she said, ``Honey''--

Charlie: Yeah.

Anne: --you know, "you can't hear quarter tones. You will never be a great violinist."

Charlie: Exactly.

Anne: She said, "You can join the orchestra by the time you finish college, but you will never be center stage."

Charlie: Yes?

Anne: And I wanted to be center stage and it was an agony and I gave it up.

Charlie: Right.

Anne: I would never have been anything but mediocre.


Anne: Would I write something that wasn't an agony? Would I waste your time.

Charlie: Exactly! What-- that ought to be paramount in your consideration.

Anne: It is, actually! It is.

Charlie: What--

Anne: It's not a bad exercise--

Charlie: No, it's exactly--

Anne: --to sit here and say, "What would Charlie Rose think of this?"

Charlie: Exactly right.

Anne: "What will we talk about"--

Charlie: Exactly right.

Anne: --"if I don't do a good job"--

Charlie: Exactly right.

Anne: --"on this book?"

Charlie: Exactly. You know?

Anne: And you still don't trust me? You want the editor to edit the book? I mean, you, of all people? Gee, it's disillusioning.

Charlie: I just never heard of an arrangement between an author and an editor which says, "You will not touch any word of my books."

Anne: It's not that uncommon.

Charlie: Is that right?

Anne: No. I mean, there are all kinds of writers. That's--

Charlie: Okay. I--

Anne: --the thing about being a writer. I mean--

Charlie: There are so many other things, I'm going to let that--

Anne: Let it go!

Charlie: --let it lie. I want to go back to the personal stuff. I want to learn something about--

Anne: Back to the personal stuff? Yeah.

* * * * * * * * * *
From October 23, 1997: Anne Rice on the Charlie Rose Show
Transcription by Lisa Rowe