Hello Readers,

Forgive me that it has taken me so long to get out a new message. I am more than ever thankful for all your calls, and for your prayers during my illness, and your well wishes.

As many of you know, I'd been very sick all during the Fall with an undiagnosed illness. I got acutely sick on December 14th. I went into a diabetic coma. I remember almost nothing of the day. If I had a Near Death Experience, I don't remember it. Apparently I made phone calls in the morning, complaining of terrible headache, but I have no recollection.

When it was discovered by Stan and my assistants Brandy and Ross that I could no longer speak or move, 911 was called and I was rushed to the hospital. I think I had a blood sugar reading of 800 or thereabouts, and I came within five to fifteen minutes of dying.

Well, I didn't die. I received excellent care and stayed in the hospital for ten days. My voice is still hoarse from the oxygen tube that was used in the emergency room. I have been convalescing ever since, reading up on the illness, learning to control the insulin, etc.

I have Diabetes I, which means I'll use insulin for the rest of my life. But I have come to terms with it, much encouraged by calls from you all reminding me that Diabetes is manageable and thousands of people live with it.

I'm back at work now on my new book, in which Lestat returns--Lestat is a marvelous healing character for me. Once I get into Lestat's voice, nothing matters. Lestat can rescue me from anything. And his return is inevitable in my heart and what must happen now to him.

I'm excited about the publication of VITTORIO THE VAMPIRE which will happen in March. This is part of the New Tales of the Vampires which we publish in the spring.

VITTORIO is in many ways my Romeo and Juliet of the vampires. Vittorio himself is very young, a Florentine boy, and he falls deeply in love with a vampire named Ursula who as Born to Darkness when she was hardly more than a girl. The whole tale is set in Renaissance Italy. I've been to Florence three times, and I did wonderfully fascinating research to make all the Italian details regarding architecture, art, and the ways of the century accurate.

These new vampires aren't connected with Lestat and his Coven of the Articulate (the vampires who have written the Chronicles) but they may become connected.

VITTORIO comes very much out of my deep love of Italy, the Renaissance with its magnificent humanism, sculpture, and painting, and also out of my desire to plunge deeply into my own Italian Romance.

Many English language writers go through this period. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of THE SCARLET LETTER, wrote several novels set in Italy. Hemingway loved Italy. Shakespeare of course gave us his Italian plays, of which ROMEO AND JULIET is the best known to the wide world.

Henry James was very much charmed by Italy, as far as I can see, and of course so was E. M. Forester. For centuries, it used to be absolutely essential for English ladies and gentlemen to make an Italian cultural tour. And of course today Italy is as beautiful as ever and crowded with art hungry tourists from all over the globe.

My new hero Vittorio has all the benefits of a spirited young gentlemen of his time, but disaster strikes when strange creatures of the night approach is father in his own country castle and demand a ghastly tribute from him. Vittorio is torn between the need for revenge against the vampires, and his love of one beautiful female vampire, Ursula. Other supernatural creates become involved as the novel moves to a close. The novel is compact and full of suspense for me when I was writing it, and I hope it will be for you too.

There are many things I want to tell you, which I will put into messages in the next few weeks.

Thanks for your warm responses to THE VAMPIRE ARMAND, and also to the first chapter of VITTORIO, which is out in the back of the novel PANDORA. ARMAND has done marvelously well. And I'm still a bit puzzled by why. I wrote it as if the other vampire tales hadn't been written, but I didn't know how readers would take to me going over the same ground from a new angle. It seems to have worked.

For me the heaviest theme in Armand was the question of Armand's religious view of the world, his going from a Russian Orthodox monastery in Kiev to the sensual splendor of Venice. I wanted to explore how Armand's understanding of mankind and art changed without Armand ever losing his fervor. I'm glad so many readers understood this. Also Armand was not a compact novel, it was sprawling. And it seems to me in retrospect that the sprawling, near formless novels work very well for me, perhaps better than more orderly books. Whatever the case I appreciated all your feed back.

For those of you who have read it, what do you think of the beautiful cover on the book? This was all arranged by my brilliant editor at Knopf who seems to have an intuitive sense of how to make cover art related to deep themes.

I'll have more news and thanks in a week.

I can't sign off without saying that I am still solidly behind President Clinton. I loathe Kenneth Starr and I think the man has done evil, whether he knows it or not. Starr and his cohorts have made fools of Congress. The House of Representatives has disgraced itself with a cheap partisan Impeachment of Bill Clinton, that sets a terrifying precedent.

It will take decades for the Republicans to live down the shame of what they have done out of hatred of Clinton. I think many Republican Senators know how unfair this has all been, and they are embarrassed, but it takes courage to say so.

As for the three ring circus now going on with Monica Lewinsky, I feel pity for her, but the press is too soft on her. They don't hold her to account for her irresponsible pursuit of the President, and her appalling gossip while her affair with him was in progress. Her carelessness and pettiness, her vanity in thinking she could separate the President from Hillary--all that is tawdry and ugly. Monica is a pretty sleazy lady, but Republicans talk about her as if she was a saintly victim. As for Linda Tripp and Lucy Ann Goldberg, I think we have a consensus that they are monsters.

Love to all, write to Congress protesting the Impeachment, if you can. I'll be back.

Anne in New Orleans.