Her books resonated not only with fans of gothic romance, but with readers who found a spiritual element in them, some gay and transgender readers who identified with their themes of isolation and alienation, and other groups. Critics may have sometimes been dismissive of her writing, but she aspired to more.

“What matters to me is that people know that my books are serious and that they are meant to make a difference and that they are meant to be literature,” she told The Times in 1990. “Whether that’s stupid or pretentious-sounding, I don’t care. They are meant to be in those backpacks on the Berkeley campus, along with Castaneda and Tolstoy and anybody else. When I get dismissed as a ‘pop’ writer I go crazy.”

Howard Allen O’Brien was born on Oct. 4, 1941, in New Orleans to Howard and Katherine O’Brien. (Oddly, she had been named after her father; by the time she was in first grade she had adopted “Anne.”) Her father worked for the postal service, and her mother was a homemaker.

She grew up in New Orleans, writing plays that she and her three sisters would perform, and imagining ghostly figures in the windows of the New Orleans mansions she would stroll past. Movies like “Dracula’s Daughter” (1936) made a vivid impression.

So did her Roman Catholic upbringing and education, full of imagery that played to her already vivid imagination.

“To sit and listen to the miracles that happened to this saint or that saint, or how somebody floated up in the air during prayer, I mean, that was just the normal fare in Catholic school,” she said.

When she was 15 her mother died; she said she believed the cause was alcoholism, something Ms. Rice would struggle with later, though in a 2008 video she said she had been sober for 28 years.

A full obituary will be published soon.

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