We decided to do something a bit different this month—instead of just one Mind Meld at the end of the month, we’re doing four, covering four times as many of our favorite scary reads. We’ve asked our bookish friends near and far about their current favorite horror favorites, and are breaking them out by the […]
Welcome to Blackwood Farm: soaring white columns, spacious drawing rooms, bright, sun-drenched gardens, and a dark strip of the dense Sugar Devil Swamp. This is the world of Quinn Blackwood, a brilliant young man haunted since birth by a mysterious doppelgänger, “Goblin,” a spirit from a dream world that Quinn can’t escape and that prevents him from belonging anywhere. When Quinn is made a Vampire, losing all that is rightfully his and gaining an unwanted immortality, his doppelgänger becomes even more vampiric and terrifying than Quinn himself.
As the novel moves backwards and forwards in time, from Quinn’s boyhood on Blackwood Farm to present day New Orleans, from ancient Athens to 19th-century Naples, Quinn seeks out the legendary Vampire Lestat in the hope of freeing himself from the spectre that draws him inexorably back to Sugar Devil Swamp and the explosive secrets it holds.
A story of youth and promise, of loss and the search for love, of secrets and destiny, Blackwood Farm is Anne Rice at her mesmerizing best.
About the Author
Hometown:Rancho Mirage, California
Date of Birth:October 4, 1941
Date of Death:December 11, 2021
Place of Birth:New Orleans, Louisiana
Place of Death:Rancho Mirage, California
Education:B.A., San Francisco State University, 1964; M.A., 1971
Read an Excerpt
If you find this letter in your house in the Rue Royale, and I do sincerely think you will find it—you’ll know at once that I’ve broken your rules.
I know that New Orleans is off limits to Blood Hunters, and that any found there will be destroyed by you. And unlike many a rogue invader whom you have already dispatched, I understand your reasons. You don’t want us to be seen by members of the Talamasca. You don’t want a war with the venerable Order of Psychic Detectives, both for their sake and ours.
But please, I beg you, before you come in search of me, read what I have to say.
My name is Quinn. I’m twenty-two years old, and have been a Blood Hunter, as my Maker called it, for slightly less than a year. I’m an orphan now, as I see it, and it is to you that I turn for help.
But before I make my case, please understand that I know the Talamasca, that I knew them before the Dark Blood was ever given to me, and I know of their inherent goodness and their legendary neutrality as regards things supernatural, and I will have taken great pains to elude them in placing this letter in your flat.
That you keep a telepathic watch over New Orleans is plain to me. That you’ll find the letter I have no doubt.
If you do come to bring a swift justice to me for my disobedience, assure me please that you will do your utmost to destroy a spirit which has been my companion since I was a child. This creature, a duplicate of me who has grown with me since before I can remember, now poses a danger to humans as well as to myself.
Let me explain.
As a little boy I named this spirit Goblin, and that was well before anyone had told me nursery rhymes or fairy tales in which such a word might appear. Whether the name came from the spirit himself I don’t know. However, at the mere mention of the name, I could always call him to me. Many a time he came of his own accord and wouldn’t be banished. At others, he was the only friend I had. Over the years, he has been my constant familiar, maturing as I matured and becoming ever more skilled at making known to me his wishes. You could say I strengthened and shaped Goblin, unwittingly creating the monster that he is now.
The truth is, I can’t imagine existence without Goblin. But I have to imagine it. I have to put an end to Goblin before he metamorphoses into something utterly beyond my control.
Why do I call him a monster—this creature who was once my only playmate? The answer is simple. In the months since my being made a Blood Hunter—and understand, I had no choice whatsoever in the matter—Goblin has acquired his own taste for blood. After every feeding, I am embraced by him, and blood is drawn from me into him by a thousand infinitesimal wounds, strengthening the image of him, and lending to his presence a soft fragrance which Goblin never had before. With each passing month, Goblin becomes stronger, and his assaults on me more prolonged.
I can no longer fight him off.
It won’t surprise you, I don’t think, that these assaults are vaguely pleasurable, not as pleasurable to me as feeding on a human victim, but they involve a vague orgasmic shimmer that I can’t deny.
But it is not my vulnerability to Goblin that worries me now. It is the question of what Goblin may become.
Now, I have read your Vampire Chronicles through and through. They were bequeathed to me by my Maker, an ancient Blood Hunter who gave me, according to his own version of things, an enormous amount of strength as well.
In your stories you talk of the origins of the vampires, quoting an ancient Egyptian Elder Blood Drinker who told the tale to the wise one, Marius, who centuries ago passed it on to you.
Whether you and Marius made up some of what was written in your books I don’t know. You and your comrades, the Coven of the Articulate, as you are now called, may well have a penchant for telling lies.
But I don’t think so. I’m living proof that Blood Drinkers exist—whether they are called Blood Drinkers, vampires, Children of the Night or Children of the Millennia—and the manner in which I was made conforms to what you describe.
Indeed, though my Maker called us Blood Hunters rather than vampires, he used words which have appeared in your tales. The Cloud Gift he gave to me so that I can travel effortlessly by air; and also the Mind Gift to seek out telepathically the sins of my victims; as well as the Fire Gift to ignite the fire in the iron stove here that keeps me warm.
So I believe your stories. I believe in you.
I believe you when you say that Akasha, the first of the vampires, was created when an evil spirit invaded every fiber of her being, a spirit which had, before attacking her, acquired a taste for human blood.
I believe you when you say that this spirit, named Amel by the two witches who could see him and hear him—Maharet and Mekare—exists now in all of us, his mysterious body, if we may call it that, having grown like a rampant vine to blossom in every Blood Hunter who is made by another, right on up to the present time.
I know as well from your stories that when the witches Mekare and Maharet were made Blood Hunters, they lost the ability to see and talk to spirits. And indeed my Maker told me that I would lose mine.
But I assure you, I have not lost my powers as a seer of spirits. I am still their magnet. And it is perhaps this ability in me, this receptiveness, and my early refusal to spurn Goblin, that have given him the strength to be plaguing me for vampiric blood now.
Lestat, if this creature grows ever more strong, and it seems there is nothing I can do to stop him, is it possible that he can enter a human being, as Amel did in ancient times? Is it possible that yet another species of the vampiric root may be created, and from that root yet another vine?
I cannot imagine your being indifferent to this question, or to the possibility that Goblin will become a killer of humans, though he is far from that strength right now.
I think you will understand when I say that I’m frightened for those whom I love and cherish—my mortal family—as well as for any stranger whom Goblin might eventually attack.
It’s hard to write these words. For all my life I have loved Goblin and scorned anyone who denigrated him as an “imaginary playmate” or a “foolish obsession.” But he and I, for so long mysterious bedfellows, are now enemies, and I dread his attacks because I feel his increasing strength.
Goblin withdraws from me utterly when I am not hunting, only to reappear when the fresh blood is in my veins. We have no spiritual intercourse now, Goblin and I. He seems afire with jealousy that I’ve become a Blood Hunter. It’s as though his childish mind has been wiped clean of all it once learned.
It is an agony for me, all of this.
But let me repeat: it is not on my account that I write to you. It is in fear of what Goblin may become.
Of course I want to lay eyes upon you. I want to talk to you. I want to be received, if such a thing is possible, into the Coven of the Articulate. I want you, the great breaker of rules, to forgive me that I have broken yours.
I want you who were kidnapped and made a vampire against your will to look kindly on me because the same thing happened to me.
I want you to forgive my trespass into your old flat in the Rue Royale, where I hope to hide this letter. I want you to know as well that I haven’t hunted in New Orleans and never will.
And speaking of hunting, I too have been taught to hunt the Evil Doer, and though my record isn’t perfect, I’m learning with each feast. I’ve also mastered the Little Drink, as you so elegantly call it, and I’m a visitor to noisy mortal parties who is never noticed as he feeds from one after another in quick and deft moves.
But in the main, my existence is lonely and bitter. If it weren’t for my mortal family, it would be unendurable. As for my Maker, I shun him and his cohorts, and with reason.
That’s a story I’d like to tell you. In fact, there are many stories I want to tell you. I pray that my stories might keep you from destroying me. You know, we could play a game. We meet and I start talking, and slap damn, you kill me when I take a verbal turn you don’t like.
But seriously, Goblin is my concern.
Let me add before I close that during this last year of being a fledgling Blood Hunter, of reading your Chronicles and trying to learn from them, I have often been tempted to go to the Talamasca Motherhouse at Oak Haven, outside of New Orleans. I have often been tempted to ask the Talamasca for counsel and help.
When I was a boy—and I’m hardly more than that now—there was a member of the Talamasca who was able to see Goblin as clearly as I could—a gentle, nonjudgmental Englishman named Stirling Oliver, who advised me about my powers and how they could become too strong for me to control. I grew to love Stirling within a very short time.
I also fell deeply in love with a young girl who was in the company of Stirling when I met him, a red-haired beauty with considerable paranormal power who could also see Goblin—one to whom the Talamasca had opened its generous heart.
That young girl is beyond my reach now. Her name is May-fair, a name that is not unfamiliar to you, though this young girl probably knows nothing of your friend and companion Merrick Mayfair, even to this day.
But she is most certainly from the same family of powerful psychics—they seem to delight in calling themselves witches—and I have sworn never to see her again. With her considerable powers she would realize at once that something catastrophic has happened to me. And I cannot let my evil touch her in any way.
When I read your Chronicles, I was mildly astonished to discover that the Talamasca had turned against the Blood Hunters. My Maker had told me this, but I didn’t believe it until I read it in your books.
It’s still hard for me to imagine that these gentle people have broken one thousand years of neutrality in a warning against all of our kind. They seemed so proud of their benevolent history, so psychologically dependent upon a secular and kindly definition of themselves.
Obviously, I can’t go to the Talamasca now. They might become my sworn enemies if I do that. They are my sworn enemies! And on account of my past contact, they know exactly where I live. But more significantly, I can’t seek their help because you don’t want it.
You and the other members of the Coven of the Articulate do not want one of us to fall into the hands of an order of scholars who are only too eager to study us at close range.
As for my red-haired Mayfair love, let me repeat that I wouldn’t dream of approaching her, though I’ve sometimes wondered if her extraordinary powers couldn’t help me to somehow put an end to Goblin for all time. But this could not be done without my frightening her and confusing her, and I won’t interrupt her human destiny as mine was interrupted for me. I feel even more cut off from her than I did in the past.
And so, except for my mortal connections, I’m alone.
I don’t expect your pity on account of this. But maybe your understanding will prevent you from immediately annihilating me and Goblin without so much as a warning.
That you can find both of us I have no doubt. If even half the Chronicles are true, it’s plain that your Mind Gift is without measure. Nevertheless, let me tell you where I am.
My true home is the wooden Hermitage on Sugar Devil Island, deep in Sugar Devil Swamp, in northeastern Louisiana, not far from the Mississippi border. Sugar Devil Swamp is fed by the West Ruby River, which branches off from the Ruby at Rubyville.
Acres of this deep cypress swamp have belonged to my family for generations, and no mortal ever accidentally finds his way in here to Sugar Devil Island, I’m certain of it, though my great-great-great-grandfather Manfred Blackwood did build the house in which I sit, writing to you now.
Our ancestral home is Blackwood Manor, an august if not overblown house in the grandest Greek Revival style, replete with enormous and dizzying Corinthian columns, an immense structure on high ground.
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.