Anne Rice opens up about her return to New Orleans, her supernatural writing roots

(CBS News) Author Anne Rice is doing what she does best: writing about the dark side. Her new book, "The Wolves of Midwinter," is taking her back to New Orleans. That's where she first conjured up some famous vampires, and where, recently, Rice sat down with CBS News' Michelle Miller.

Rice, the queen of vampire cult fiction, is something of an institution in New Orleans. Her fans there are deeply devoted, and now the daughter of New Orleans is planning to put down some new roots in the place that first inspired a legendary career.

Rice said in New Orleans recently, "I've been away too long. Just too long."

But while she was gone, the fans that helped make Rice a household name have been keeping her supernatural world alive. Rice recently visited the vampire ball inspired by her character Lestat in "Interview with a Vampire." She said at the event, "I was looking at all of the different people in costume, and I thought, they really know what matters. They know what matters to get out of yourself to just yield to the imagination."

It's Rice's very active imagination that's built a literary empire -- everything from vampires and witches, to her latest -- man-wolves. "The Wolves of Midwinter" is the second book in her new series about werewolves. Rice told Miller, "This was a lot of fun for me to do this, and to try to make it romantic and to try to make it spooky at the same time."

She credits the haunted history of New Orleans for her fascination with all things supernatural, but it's about more than just ghost stories. "To me, vampires ... witches ... werewolves are great metaphors for us -- for the outcast in each of us," she said.

Asked if she feels as if she is an outsider, Rice replied, "Oh, I always have felt as if I was an outsider. I never felt that I belonged anywhere."

Perhaps in her hometown of New Orleans. Walking around the city, Rice said, "I just don't feel normal any place else. I don't feel normal anywhere, really. But I feel more normal here. You know, in my old city."

It's a city that's welcoming her back with open arms.

Rice left New Orleans for California in 2005, after her husband died. But she grew up in a house on St. Charles Avenue, and lived in the Big Easy for much of her adult life. She says the city has inspired "practically everything" she has ever written.

And she's written a lot -- more than 30 books that have sold millions around the world. "Interview with the Vampire" started it all. The book, Rice noted, was turned down about five times. So how did the writer handle the rejection?

"I just kept going," she said. "I knew I was going to be out there, I knew the night I finished it. So I wasn't about to give up."

"Interview with the Vampire" became a best-seller, and later turned into a hit movie, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Nearly 80 years after "Bram Stoker's Dracula," vampires were back in vogue.

Miller said, "You made a business out of writing about the supernatural. First vampires -- witches, man-wolves, when nobody else was doing it."

Rice said, "Not too many people, not too many people at all."

Now everybody's doing it, from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "Twilight" to "True Blood" -- the undead have made a comeback.

So does Rice take credit for the resurgence? She said, "I leave it to other people to figure out why we all did this. Cultural historians will come along and they'll say 'Why suddenly, in the later part of the 20th century, did everybody go vampire crazy?'"

But at one point, she herself gave up vampires, saying she wanted to focus on religion. Rice said on CBS in 2006, "I went back to the Catholic Church after 30 years of being an atheist. And I realized that I wanted to write just about Jesus Christ."

Four years later, Rice turned away from organized religion again, citing its stance homosexuality and women's reproductive rights, though she hasn't abandoned her faith in Christ.

"I always want to have the courage to reverse myself," she said. "Now, if someone out there wants to call it flip-flopping, fine. You know, I looked up flip-flop, because some did call me a flip-flopper, and it says to make a complete reversal. Well that's what I did, so I have to say, 'Yes, I flip-flopped'."

The 72-year-old is anything but predictable. She's written several erotic novels, and doesn't hold back in her latest offering.

Miller remarked, "The sex scenes in the book are pretty racy."

"Are they? Good I am glad that you think so. I want them to be racy."

Asked what makes her blush, Rice said, "I don't know. In all of my novels, I enjoy exploring the erotic side of things. I have written erotica, and I may write some more erotica."

And she may not be finished with the walking dead, either.

She says she hasn't figured out zombies yet. "How do you make a zombie romantic?" she said. "I haven't figured that out."

Miller offered, "Or sexy?"

Rice said, "Exactly. Well that is a thought now. What if he is an absolutely beautiful guy. OK, I'm beginning to get it."

It doesn't take much for Rice to let her imagination run wild, Miller added on "CBS This Morning." Rice says she's planning to get an apartment in the French Quarter soon, and that the wolves in her next book in the new series may end up sharing her Louisiana roots.

Watch Miller's full report above.