When Sue Quiroz met horror author Anne Rice at a book signing in 1988, Quiroz got more than an autograph in her copy of "Queen of the Damned."
"I remember vividly what happened that day," said Rice from her home in Palm Desert, California. "Sue came up to me and asked if she could start a fan club for me, and I said, 'Not for me. But Lestat would love to have a fan club.' ”
Quiroz became chief of the fictional vampire's official fan club, and Rice got a lifelong friend and sometime personal assistant who heads up the annual Anne Rice Lestat Vampire Ball, now celebrating its 29th year in New Orleans.
The exact name of the ball can change to reflect Rice's most recent work: This year it's the Atlantis Ball, Oct. 27 at the Republic. The name is a nod to 2016's "Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis," the latest in the 12-volume "Vampire Chronicles."
The road to Rice's megawatt writing career began with the 1976 novel "Interview with the Vampire," which grew from a short story she wrote on a whim. "When it became so successful, I realized that the vampire was a perfect metaphor for the outsider, something many people can relate to," Rice said.
"The Vampire Lestat" emerged in 1985, launching the wildly successful "Vampire Chronicles" franchise. Paramount Pictures has just optioned "The Vampire Chronicles" for an upcoming television series.
These days, Rice lives in California and collaborates with son Christopher Rice, a well-known author of 12 books in his own right. The pair are working on a sequel to "The Mummy," the novel that ended with a cliffhanger when it was published in 1989.
"Fans had been clamoring for a sequel, but the vampire world so took off that there wasn't the space or time to continue on with 'The Mummy,' ” Chris Rice said. "Collaborations can be tricky, and every author is different, style-wise, but I was noticing more and more that famous authors were collaborating in the mystery and romance world.
"Author James Patterson is the most obvious. He has numerous collaborators. He couldn't crank out novels at the pace readers are hungering for them without collaborators. But a collaboration with my mom meant entering a world that had already been built and involved keeping a certain tone that longtime fans related to."
Added Anne Rice: "Our first step was to hammer out a plot with sketch pads and felt tips. It's never more than a tentative roadmap, but from this, Chris wrote the first draft of what would eventually become 'Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra.' ”
"The core of how we did it was passing it back and forth," Chris Rice said. "I don't think either of us could have endured sitting side by side in a room writing together. So we went back and forth, making modifications along the way. ...
"There was one place where Mom was certainly right. I thought Cleopatra should be a villainess, saying we had to have a monster in the story, but Mom thought she was much too complex a character to put her in a box like that ... and she was right. If left to my own devices, I could progress a whole story through action and violence, but that is not entirely what smacks of an Anne Rice novel."
Added Anne Rice: "There's been an incredible appreciation of my work, as evidenced by the wonderful fans, like those who come out for the Halloween balls in New Orleans. One year, we had around 8,000 people in the ballroom. People came from all over the world dressed as characters from my books. When I attended in 2014, I was just so impressed."
The mother-and-son duo are on a publicity tour for the new book, so she won't be at the ball this year. Quiroz is expecting about 1,200 people at this year's event at the Republic.
For fans of both the costume balls and the novels, there's not much longer to wait. This year's Atlantis Ball (tickets at arlsfc.com) takes place Oct. 27, and the new Rice collaboration, "Ramses the Damned," hits bookshelves Nov. 21.