Another 5 Bolt Book!!
Publisher: Talk Miramax Books; ISBN: 0786868139
Christopher Rice’s new novel, The Snow Garden, is easily as readable as his first novel. Surpassing many thrillers of this genre, the story of a group of college freshmen, and the secrets of their pasts, is remarkable in every sense of the word. Beautifully detailed, and hauntingly resonant, this story of letting go and growing up hits its mark. Murder, past and present, play a role, but are almost secondary to the more important themes of dealing with one’s past and the all too often shattering effects of trying to hide from it. This novel comes highly recommended to any reader who appreciates a literary and compelling story. The finely drawn characters will draw you in, as well as the fast- moving plot. Almost impossible to put down, prepare to make a late night of it attempting to finish this beautiful second novel by an author whom we hope to read much more from in the future.
An interview WITH CHRISTOPHER RICE
Q: Is ‘The Snow Garden’ a sequel to your first novel ‘A Density of Souls’?
A: No, it isn’t. ‘The Snow Garden’ deals with an entirely new cast of characters living on a small college campus in the Northeast. While the majority of the characters are around the same age as the major players in ‘Density’, I feel they’re dealing with a different set of issues and moral dilemmas. Primarily, how do you keep from abusing the power you have to remake yourself when you are surrounded by new people who have no knowledge of your past? Where do you draw the line between holding back pieces of your personal history in the interest of privacy and guarding your past diligently because you’re afraid of how it might illuminate you in the eyes of your newfound friends? Dramatically, ‘The Snow Garden’ also takes place in a more claustrophobic environment, a small college campus, where characters are put on a collision course with one another by proximity and personal need. It was a challenge creating an ensemble cast that wasn’t tied together by the spider web of family ties strung throughout ‘A Density of Souls’.
Q: Your first novel ‘A Density of Souls’ was greeted with a lot of media attention, and some fairly mixed reviews. How did you react to both?
A: The media attention caught me off guard. I welcomed it, but never expected it. Maybe I was just being purposefully naive, but I thought the book’s homoerotic content would keep it from being a best seller. At most, I thought it would garner a small audience of primarily gay readers. I was surprised by the tremendous reader response that came from young readers of all stripes. I still receive many emails each day via the website praising me for capturing something about how miserable high school can be for everyone, not just young closeted gay men. As for the reviews, at the end of the day I was glad they were mixed. I’m always gravely suspicious when reviews run entirely in one direction. There’s something strangely gratifying about knowing you’ve delivered a fulfilling reading experience to half of the reviewers while the other half is calling for your head on a platter. There did, however, seem to be little middle ground when it came to ‘Density’. People either loved it or hated it, which tells me that I didn’t write something that would be easily forgotten by readers in either camp.
Q: Both of the central characters in your novels are gay men, Stephen Conlin in ‘A Density of Souls’ and now Randall Stone in ‘The Snow Garden’. Does this make you a “gay author”?
A: I’m not quite sure what a “gay author” is. Both of these central characters are grounded in a larger framework of characters straight and gay, young and old. I’m loathe to set a novel entirely in a gay subculture of urban ghetto. But then again, by not doing so I put my gay characters in environments where their sexuality will remain an issue and raise questions with the straight characters that surround them. I stand by my claim that the majority of ‘A Density of Souls’ was actually written from a straight point of view which focused on how the heterosexual characters reacted to and tried to make sense of Stephen Conlin’s sexuality. In ‘The Snow Garden’, our gay characters are gay from the get-go, same sex desire isn’t the same specter it was in ‘Density’, and the ultimate question of the book is how characters of any sexual orientation curb or obey their sexual appetite.
Q: How hard was it for you to sit down and write a second novel?
A: Hard. After touring through twenty cities for ‘Density’, all I wanted to do was lock myself in my room and turn off the phone. But I had to drive myself back to the computer. I had accepted a two book contract for that very reason; to keep myself going. But writing “The Snow Garden” was an entirely different process, a combination of learning from some mistakes I made in ‘Density’ and finding the discipline to write on a rigid schedule. Unlike “Density” where the intertwined plots were always tapping at my shoulder and begging to be put down on paper, “The Snow Garden” started with a single image; a young woman returning to her fraternity house after a vacation and finding all the members inside dead and disrobed. (I feel this image has been transformed enough by the story that I can share it without giving away a major plot point.) It took me a while, several months, to accept just how different the process was going to be, and that there was no way I could replicate that kind of fearless purging that was writing ‘Density’. I had been changed by the publication of my first book, and the way I write had been changed as well. This time I had to write with the fear and the joy that someone was actually going to read my words.
Q: Your mother is best selling novelist Anne Rice. It says so in your bio and the two of you have been interviewed together. Did you ever consider trying to play down this connection, and how do you react to claims that you’ve benefited too much from her fame?
A: I won’t play down my connection to a mother I love and have so much respect for just because I’m going to get some raised eyebrows, or present reviewers with any easy target. Many people suggested that I publish ‘A Density of Souls’ under a different name and the idea turned my stomach. Have I benefited from her fame? Absolutely. But taking steps to conceal that she’s my mother is a disrespectful pretense. Disrespectful to her and disrespectful to astute readers and reviewers who would figure it out anyway. While promoting ‘Density’ I was given access to major media outlets where I could discuss the book, but the fact remained that there was very little I could do as an author to control public perception of the book. The best I could do was show up and put a face to the words. Beyond that, once the signal left the television station, and the books were on the shelves there was only so much I could do.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: ‘A Density of Souls’ is being released in the United Kingdom this January and I’m going over there for a week to promote it. Soon after, I’ll be touring in the US for ‘The Snow Garden’. After that, I have no idea what’s on my agenda. And I’m enjoying that a lot.