Son of legendary novelist continues best-selling family tradition

After four books, three of which made The New York Times best sellers list, novelist Christopher Rice is back with a new one, “The Moonlit Earth” (Scribner).

The book, Rice's first to include a female protagonist since his second novel, “The Snow Garden," takes readers on a globe-trotting ride through the lives of the Reynolds family, with daughter Megan at the helm. At the onset she's being interrogated by the police concerning an international terrorism incident that authorities believe involves her brother Cameron. She's there to convince them he's no killer or bombing mastermind.

The story then jumps back in time 48 hours to the point where Megan, fresh from a failed job and relationship, has moved back in with mother Lilah in Cathedral Beach, Calif.

Thus begins a tale that takes Megan from Cathedral Beach to Thailand and eventually Hong Kong as she tries to find her brother and prove his innocence.

Rice, the son of best-selling novelist Anne Rice, said in a recent phone interview that his own travels were key in writing “The Moonlit Earth.”

Among the first things that come to him in developing a new novel are the settings and atmosphere, he said. "I had gone to Thailand before, so I knew I wanted part of it to take place there. I traveled back and didn't really connect with it like I thought I would. I'd never been to Hong Kong before, so I decided to make a side trip there and I found another place I felt worked for the story.

“I also knew I wanted it to be about a relationship between people," he said. "In this case, it was the relationship between a sister and brother.”

Rice said he bases a lot of his characters on the people that populate his own world. “With this book I can see influence from my mother, who's always been a very strong woman, on Megan and Cameron's mom.”

Later in the book readers meet a young Saudi Arabian man named Aabid. “He's a decadent fellow,” Rice said. “Hanging out far away from his family. I see a lot of the same character flaws in him that I saw in myself as a much younger man.”

Presenting a woman's point of view wasn't a problem for him. “I didn't find any challenges writing in the voice of of the female characters. I don't know if that's because I'm gay,” Rice said with chuckle, “or because I grew up around so many females that I feel very tuned in to how they operate. I think all of the characters a writer creates are an extension of themselves."

Amid the mix of international espionage and intrigue there's one core value at the base of this tale that Rice said should resonate with almost any reader.

“In the end, it's all about family,” he said. I think a lot of people in the world are realizing the value of family right now. For Megan, in the midst of so much turmoil, she decides she's ... going to trust what she knows to be true about her brother.”

Christopher Rice. 7:30 p.m. April 13. Outwrite Books, 991 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-607-0082.